3. YOGA, PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

3. YOGA, PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

Whether we’re slipping into a burn out, are on the edge of one or are in the midst trying to scramble out, often we’re faced with overwhelming fatigue and muscle weakness. Yet letting go of physical strength adversely affects our physiology. This changes our hormonal balance, impacting energy, mood, emotions and mental health. Self-esteem, confidence and acceptance can be affected by this complex circuitry.

So we often feel like we’re stuck in a vicious cycle. And no one seems to have all the answers; something works for a while but then a few weeks later it’s no longer effective. For two years I was in this situation.

That’s why I’ve created these six steps to ensure we include all the aspects of self and each pillars to support healing and growth.

PHYSICAL STRENGTH & MENTAL RESILIENCE

It’s a fine line between growth and regression. So it’s vital to increase physical strength incrementally and improve physiology and bounce back without wearing ourselves out more. Nor allowing our physicality to whither away. We want to create a point of resistance in our physical body, a strong charge. This physical body map translates to mental and emotional bodies.

Physical strength makes us feel capable of meeting the demands of our physical interactions. Leading to self-confidence and lending itself to mental resilience. Knowing our needs, desires and abilities, discussed in step 1 on burnout, and how to relax deeply shared in step 2, creates a reservoir enabling us to build strength; step 3. One that resists external pressures, so we set up healthy boundaries, physical, psychological and professional, to further ensure wellbeing.

3 THINGS THAT AFFECT OUR RESILIENCE

  • Resilience depends on our autonomy; whether physical, emotional or mental, affecting our sense of self. Building any of these up affects our other layers. Leading to willpower, ability and confidence both mentally and emotionally.
  • People pleasing, perfectionism, overachieving, overdoing and burnout go hand in hand. These defence mechanisms to avoid facing our unconscious lack of confidence or self-worth, or maybe unacknowledged shame and low self-image, drain mental, emotional and physiological energy, making us reactive, irritated and exhausted instead of receptive.
  • Core strength rebuilds a strong centre from which we can see if we’re honouring our own worth or that of others. When we work with our physical body, the one we can easily study, see and experience with our five senses, it become a template to better understanding our subtler bodies of energy, mind and psyche. Which also have ‘limbs and organs’; diverse functions and abilities, as well as needs and desires; SWOTs.

RESILIENCE AS SELF-CONFIDENCE

Physical strength and physiological resistance are the solid container upholding our boundaries. The psychological bounce back to life’s challenges affect mood, energy and emotions. It’s our autonomous juice. This resilience gives us a physical and psychological sense of response-ability and with it returns our self-confidence.

EXERCISE: Now without changing your present posture in the slightest –

Feel your posture; become aware of your core strength, feel your energetic stance. Notice your emotional charge and perceive your mental space. Now become aware of your heart and deeper consciousness. Notice the qualities of each layer. Ask yourself, “What are the dynamics, movement and textures I find in each layer? Is it solid, fluid, full, spacious, heavy, light, vague, open, flowing, stagnant, numb, scattered?” Use descriptive words to name what you feel and experience.

Now for a few moments sit with energy, certainty and embody strength and concentrated emotional charge. Imagine being a solid mountain or very magnetic person. Now feel and note any difference in your centre. What kind of qualities do you experience different from before? Is there some form of resistance and containment? Where is it coming from and how did you create that? Allow that charge to sink in, absorb and embody it.

Now, imagine someone asks, or pressures, you to do something you really don’t want to do, how would you respond when feeling strong from within and embodying that posture?

STRENGTH IS THE GATEWAY TO SELF-CONFIDENCE

Building strength is the gateway to resilience. And strength requires us to resist. To push back and create a core centre of self.

You build strength and resilience incrementally with body-awareness, honesty and by adapt practices to present needs and abilities. The first two steps of trust in self and enjoyment in life are the building blocks to reclaim self-worth. They give us the juice and safety to dare and take up space, to walk out when someone steps over our boundaries. 

Shame and boundary invasion, the opposite of confidence, are patterns we perpetuate when we have self-worth issues. Making us do things we probably don’t actually want to do, if we’d listen to our inner wisdom; visceral cues.

Resisting what feels wrong is a sign of inner strength. Honouring that inner wisdom is a sign of psychological integrity and autonomy. Cultivating your sensitivity to what is healthy for you will rebuild a strong self-worth and mental and emotional resilience.

Dare to speak up, to feel bold and brave. People will respect you for it and you’ll feel alive and embody well-being. Being from our inner resource, not from outer approval and acknowledgement, we reclaim wellbeing.

Join the YOGA WELLNESS & RESILIENCE COURSE here.

Much Love,

Shira

Please leave your insights below and add to the conversation.

PELVIS, PLACE OF PLEASURE, PLAYFULNESS & PROSPERITY

PELVIS, PLACE OF PLEASURE, PLAYFULNESS & PROSPERITY

Do you ever wonder where your pleasure went? Did you know feeling rigid, controlling and critical often has to do with our pelvis? Or that feeling drained, disconnected or never … enough, is equally related to pelvic health. Because our pelvis is our place of pleasure, playfulness and prosperity, it’s integrity is essential.

Because the pelvis is linked to our emotions and our energy, pelvic integrity can amount to our life being fun, fulfilling and easy, or dreary or demanding.

Pelvic integrity is key to enjoying life’s gifts.

That sense of aliveness is born here.

To feel alive, joyous and at ease with whatever comes our way, pelvic integrity is es-sensual.

When our playful, go with the flow nature dries up, guilt, rigidity, disappointment, exhaustion, explosiveness, bitterness or feelings of never good enough, surface.

Each month I create a new sequence that honours the season and our body needs in accordance with that. I do this both to allow students to go deeper and explore a little further an area of the body, the emotions connected to it and the holding patterns we might have here mentally and energetically. And to be very honest and transparent, to prevent me going nuts trying to out do my last class. This month is water and the pelvis.

How Water and the Pelvis are Related to Pleasure & Prosperity

The pelvis, Latin for basin, in French le bassin, holds our joy and contains our pleasure. It’s our reservoir of energy and emotion. Ayurvedically, this area embodies and flows like water, and the ball and socket joint moves like a river. 

Because of our pelvis’ mobility, we dance with joy, shake our hips, move freely in a sensual way with pleasure. If my pelvis is stuck, or I can’t feel it, dancing just isn’t fun, freeing or fulfilling.

Playfulness, our ability to go with the flow, reflects our feelings about our relationship with the world. Do we feel free to have fun, do we always need to control, or do we just let it all go?

Water seeks the easiest course, finding joy and pleasure in whatever arises. It accepts and lets go of the illusion of mastery and control. Willing to see where experiences take us, without holding back or resistance. Water and pelvis are meeting points for inner and outer. 

They’re sensual.

  • Because all life starts in water and the pelvis, it’s symbolic of prosperity, abundance and pure potential
  • Water and pelvis flow like emotions, a constant ebb and flow, give and take, make or break, movement
  • Our pelvis- initiator of movement- connects our upper and lower body, the sensual self with the thinking self, which results in creativity
  • Feeling prosperous is an overflow of the movement between the two banks
  • Our sense of pleasure arises through the contact of inner and outer world, and the infinite possible combinations from these interactions
  • Because our original emotion is bliss, our part in the play, our movement or lack of it, determines the deviations of this original emotion

To flow fully the banks need to be firm and free.

Energetic Holding Patterns of the Pelvis

Excessive stress causes our tissues to tighten unnecessarily. Ease and our ability to flow, physically, energetically and mentally, become blocked. Chronic holding patterns might express themselves as guilt, feeling rigid, controlling, critical, self conscious, or lacking spontaneity and playfulness. The river of abundance, prosperity and possibilities dry up, along with our creative and joyful juices. 

Not enough stressors can leave us with excessive emotions as our energy reserve overflows. Without containment, we may feel overly emotional, watery, let our energy gush from us without discernment and end up feeling drained, lacking, down, lost; our energy and emotions lack direction. 

Our pelvic tissues might have a combination of both holding patterns simultaneously. 

Translated to our energy body, we don’t feel contained and able to respond with integrity to any given situation. Resulting in further controlling or flooding.

Because of unconscious guilt here, and emotions are energy in motion, both holding patterns waste immense, enjoyable energy, and we’re not even aware of it.

But we can learn to contain and live with pleasure 

Our rivers just need some TLC. 

Our golden womb needs to be honoured, heard and felt. 

Pelvic Flow is the Key to Pleasure

Releasing tension and creating integrity of our sense of self in relation to the world, feels like flow, fun, pleasure and prosperity naturally arising like a bubbling spring.

The key to pelvic health is movement. Like water, the pelvis loves to flow and move. To play out the constant ebb and flow, give and take. This ensures and allows us to contain our sense of delight and joy. It enlivens our abundance.

As babies, this free abode of joy and delight is with what we began to crawl. We use our pelvis to propel us forward and move into the world. This exploration of feeling for ourselves creates pleasure. 

When my toddler first picked up little pebbles in her chubby sensitive hands, there was sheer joy, wonder and excitement all wrapped into one. This is essence of water. It’s all emotions rushing from and back into bliss. 

This endeavour to sense the world also created our lumbar curve. Our ability to relate, connect and withdraw. And our first impressions of sensual experiences, plus the arising emotions, are all contained here. 

Create Pelvic Integrity to Enjoy Life More

To create pelvic integrity and enjoy life fully we need to get to know this area. We need to move past our guilt,  build body awareness, self acceptance, and begin to strengthen and relax this area, until all the tissues and energy rivers flow free and firm. 

You need to feel what holding patterns you have.

Are some muscles really tight and resist letting go?

Maybe you don’t contain but let it gush out, leaving you empty? 

After you feel if you hold or release excessively, you can build back the integrity of this area by doing strengthening, movement that warms up this area, and slow soft, stretching to open and release the tissues. 

Create firm freedom.

A sure way to ensure feeling prosperous and playful is being present with sensations, feeling this area’s ability to create another life, and all that being will co-create and experience through Her projects, ideas and senses. The potential combinations of the inner and outer world coming together in countless ways. The pure potential alive here.

It’s time we enjoyed what is instead of thinking what isn’t. It’s time to drop our uncertainty and walk into the world with a sense of certain fulfilment, pleasure and delight.

Joyous and prosperous in each moment, as water moves, content and playful. Our golden womb contains the feeling ‘I’m good enough’ and ‘there’s more than enough for all of us’ out there, and more importantly, in here, all the time.

Much Love,

Shira.

THE BEAUTY OF OUR BODY

THE BEAUTY OF OUR BODY

Have you ever stood still to wonder at the amazingness of our body? Do you know what it does every moment of every day for the entirety of your life? The beauty of our Body lies in it’s incredible, unbelievable intelligence.

Just think about this, with all its cleverness, innovation and exploration, science, technology and the medical world, with thousands of years of our human budding minds, we can’t, nor ever will, be able to recreate something as incredible, intelligent and alive as the beauty of our body. Our Earth Body. Made from Matter, with LOVE. How it functions and what it needs in order to become this body you live in for the rest of your living days, is a miracle. And this incredible body only needs a few things to live fully, ideally and prosper. If we learn to listen empathetically to our body beauty, with the intention to understand its’ messages, we’re already a long way on the path toward living a healthy life. 

We don’t need to read every book, theory and diet or exercise regime. We just need to know how it functions, what it needs and what can hinder its health and beauty. We only need to reconnect to our body beauty. The next 2 months will be in celebration of our Body Beauty. We’ll look at the five different bodies according to Yogic philosophy, and how to attune better to their needs. When we listen and learn to honour and relate to our body in an integral, responsible and responsive way, health and wellbeing naturally follow.

This short and sweet article celebrates our inherent and ever present Body Beauty.

Amazing Fun Facts about our Body Beauty 

  • The brain weighs 1.3kg but feels like 250g thanks to our cerebrospinal fluid. Do you ever stop to feel the brain in your skull?
  • The brain seamlessly orchestrates and harmonises a multitude of functions. Motor control; reasoning, planning, emotion, language, interaction, relation, innovation. Sensory reception, integration and response. Regulation of autonomic functions; homeostasis, heart rate, breathing, sympathetic/parasympathetic activation, digestion, metabolism, immunity
  • A brilliant brain equals a calm, reflective mind, which in turn affects our life
  • The brain and body are in constant communication
  • All our nerves strung out in a line amount to 99,200 kilometres! No wonder we are overly tired, sensitive and wired with kms of our nerves constantly exposed to all the stimulation of todays messages, conscious and unconscious
  • Every nerve has a corresponding artery
  • Our lungs breathe from the moment we’re born till our last breath, giving our vital body fuel. 600 million times a lifetime, our lungs are autonomous and yet we can extend or shorten our breath if we pay attention
  • Adult lung capacity is up to 5 litres. Most of us only use 0.3 litres per breath!
  • Loving our lungs and expanding our breath we massage all our vital organs, allowing them to absorb nutrients, oxygen and fluid
  • Our heart beats endlessly; 3 billion times a lifetime! Beating tirelessly if we give it rest when it whispers, move it when it yearns and allow it the space and time to dance and feel the emotions of life and living
  • The heart is the first organ to function. At 3 weeks the young embryo’s heart begins it’s dedicated beating, circulating blood! This is a miracle of cells coming together, quivering and then begins the journey of pulsing throughout life
  • The heart possesses its own command and nervous system, yet can be modified by the brain and central nervous system, CNS. The heart is directly influenced by emotions and perceptions of stress. The amount of oxygen in our blood affects our heart rate, and sense of wellbeing
  • A happy heart is a calm, curious, confident and creative body
  • Our gallbladder stores the bile from our liver, essential in digesting fats and eliminating unhealthy fats
  • A glowing gallbladder equals hormonal balance, immunity and brain health
  • Our amazing liver has more than 500 vital functions! Our liver is the heaviest organ and filters out all poisons. Playing a major role in hormonal balance, digestive metabolism, energy storage, balances sugar levels, neutralises toxins, eliminates excess hormones, synthesises proteins to repair and rebuild cells. It regulates blood clotting, resists infections, clears drugs, processes iron, carries away waste. Too much to name!
  • A lively liver equals vitality
  • Our incredible stomach pre-digests food in a particular order, first carbs, then proteins, then fats. It secretes a mucus protecting it from its own corrosive acidity. Hydrochloric acid destroys all bacteria and most viruses
  • A stomach heard equals complete absorption of vitamins, minerals and nutrients
  • Our spleen produces red blood cells, destroys blood cells we no longer need, defends against viruses, germs, bacteria and parasites
  • A vibrant spleen is a vibrant sense of self
  • Our kidneys distribute and maintain liquid levels, control our blood volume and pressure, maintain healthy levels of minerals and salts in our system to optimise our strength. They eliminate our wastes and produce hormones necessary for bone health
  • Kindness to our kidneys uplifts our strength, resilience and energetic bounce back 

Body Beauty Mystery

How does the body do all these things?! From one cell dividing into many. Each one taking another formation, performing another function, and eventually finding its’ vocation. A bit like we do as individuals. Needing to become separate to find our unique gift. That’s still a mystery, and always will be. That’s the beauty of our body. All our body does is sublime. And does it day in, day out. Without our conscious participation, or without it becoming exhausted. Its autonomous. Its naturally inclined to do this, because that’s its deepest desire, its’ purpose.

Your Body Beauty is interdependent; working with what you offer it, building its cells from the food, exercise, thoughts, experiences and relationships you feed it.

All these purposes are deeply affected by our posture, our mood, our wellbeing, our company and activities. We can enhance or extinguish our body’s incredible intelligence. We can learn to listen to our visceral needs. Remember visceral is deeply feeling, emotional charge is held here too. When we begin to become aware of our body, body awareness, then we can start this conversation and be an active partner in co-creating our health, wealth and wellbeing.  

Listening to our Body Beauty

Everything in the universe is in perpetual motion[1]. And our body is like a micro universe. Everything inside of us is also in continual motion, relation and transformation. And motion is lotion. Motion is life. Motion is the play of energy taking new formations. Motion creates freshness and leads to health.  The way Yoga, and that’s Yoga with a capital Y, as in mindful, intentional, breath orientated and consciously chosen according to our needs, caters to movement of all joints, organs, muscles groups and bodily systems, to reconnect our minds and feelings with our incredible, intelligent and inheritant aliveness.

“We have a natural pharmacopeia already within us”.

– Candace Pert.

We can orchestrate our own healing process through knowledge. Understading how to apply that through tools and practices that engage that system. Yoga therapy has the tools, teachings and practices to work alongside and engage that natural healing process. Next week we’ll dive into the five bodies, the Koshas, and how Yoga therapy works to reconnect and engage that natural healing cabinet of all those interdependent bodies. Love your Body, move your Body, and let that Beauty that only you have and hold, shine through, by practicing empathic listening. Love,   

Shira.


 [1] Jean-Pierre Barrel – Understanding the Messages of the Body 2007

MOODS, HOW YOGA UPLIFTS US

MOODS, HOW YOGA UPLIFTS US

So, the articles we’ve wandered through the body on a journey exploring the effects of our posture. We’ve seen how posture improvement is essential to our health and wellbeing, and how Yoga can affect that. Yoga can simultaneously improve posture and uplift our mood. This week we’re slipping into the movement of Yoga to uplift our moods.

Reclaiming Our Wellbeing

To be active participants in reclaiming our beauty, wellbeing and power, we need to understand the full potential and effects of posture. And see how the tools of Yoga in conjunction with Ayurveda can empower us. Looking at each facet of wellbeing we understand how each lets in lightness, strength and moves us closer to our whole Self. 

“We have a natural pharmacopeia already within us”. -Candace Pert

We can orchestrate our own healing process through knowledge and the application of tools built on that knowledge. Physiological health and emotional and mental wellbeing affects our mood. And Yoga therapy can deeply and positively enhance both. When we uncover what effects mood has on our health, and how we in-turn can affect and enhance our mood, we have some power tools at hand. Freeing us from the bonds of dependence, in whatever form or formation. 

Mood or Emotion

Mood and emotion are intimately connected but there are clear differences. Knowing these can help us see and separate ourselves from our mood and move us into wellbeing. Mood is something that lasts hours or even days, whereas emotions are more transient, passing within minutes, or hours.[1] Moods are vague and misty, there are no unique facial expressions assigned to them. And it’s not easy to put our finger on what actually triggered a mood.

Moods provoke their related emotions more easily.[2]  If I’m in an irritable mood, its highly likely that I’ll be quick to anger rather than become sad, if things don’t go as planned. Research has shown that lasting memories have a strong emotional component. The stronger the emotion, the stronger the connection between associated brain cells. This neural wiring, brain cells that fire together wire together, creates associations. Firing frequently, makes the associations stronger.[3]

The emotions that are strongly wired in the body-brain, become a neural pattern. The neural patterns form our beliefs, which in-form our perception and create a mesh or filter of ideas. Allowing in certain ideas and feelings, and dismissing others, these filters become the underpinning of moods. If we work consciously with emotions they are released. If we ignore them, or don’t know how to hold them without becoming overwhelmed or reactive, they remain stuck in our viscera, our deeply feeling inner body; organs. 

This is where Yoga can be such a powerful tool. We first arrive in our body. We connect. We see what arises with each breath, movement and pause of stillness. In these moments of deeply feeling, stuck emotions and their belief systems, moods, can come to the surface, to our consciousness. When this happens we release trapped energy. Emotions are just E-nergy in motion. If they, and we, don’t move, nor will the E-motion. Its that simple.

We don’t need university degrees to reclaim our health and wellbeing. We just need knowledge. And to proactively applying what we know. Only we can take those steps for ourselves.

Mood & Posture 

So let’s pause and take some time to know why posture affects mood and how Yoga can influence and enhance that. When I feel good and satisfied, I sit up straight with energy and ease. I walk with dignity and joy. I am fully present and receptive for my child, my projects and my goals. My body is fully attuned to their needs, desires and expressions. I radiate E-nergy and engage in a way that benefits those around me. I let my energy move through me.

My e-motions move uninhibited. When I feel crap, either because I’m sick or something happened that sets me back in my plans, I find myself slouching, my frontal body collapses and draws within to protect me from perceived threats; bacteria, or challenges that seem to big for me right now. My e-motions are repressed. So this state, positive or negative, which sometimes continues for days or weeks, becomes a mood.

If we linger long enough in any neural wiring of an E-motion, positive or negative, it moves into the subconscious and becomes a backdrop to our state of being, rather than present feeling. A mood. That mood will create a certain posture, an expression of the experienced energy state. Posture spills over into psychophysiological effects. Affecting our physical health, mental wellbeing and emotional vitality. So it’s a vicious circle. Ayurvedically, positive and negative moods, fall in categories of Doshas, Vata- Air, Pitta – Fire, or Kapha – Water.

Vata/Air

  • Balanced- Cheerful, light-hearted, hopeful, calm
  • Imbalanced- Lonely, fearful, nervous

Pitta/Fire

  • Balanced- Reflective, insightful, passionate, idyllic
  • Imbalanced- Irritated, tense, controlling

Kapha/Water

  • Whimsical, romantic, humorous, mysterious
  • Gloomy, melancholy, clingy

We can use the above to see what Dosha is imbalanced or excessive by use the principle of ‘Like increases like, and unlike decreases’. Meaning if our Kapha/Water is too high; melancholy, doing a practice or activities that create heat and lightness will bring back balance. Removing the stagnation of too much, or blocked Water energy. Now let’s get In The Mood we want to be in! And break that cycle.

 

3 Steps to Turning Mood into a Friend

As easily as we slip into the shadows of a mood, we can change our attitude to its presence. Seeing mood accompanies us much like a friend, what about asking this associate what she’s trying to tell us?! As soon as we know Mood is Here, we see her as a reminder, telling us we’re lost in the mist. Using Yoga’s tools and teachings we can redirect the energy/electrical currents of our body-brain[4] to uplift us when we’re down. To calm and ground us when we’re flying high and to centre us when we’re to externalised.

Awareness

Knowing that you’re in a mood is the first vital step. When you know you’re in the mire of some heavy mood, splash your face with fresh cold water. This releases endorphins, the joy hormones.

Discernment

Now you’re aware you’re in a mood don’t ask any question, except what is my mood? Depending on the mood, you adapt your Yoga practice, the the pace and rhythm of your daily activities.

  • If you’re irritable, do a smooth, satisfying practice at 70% of your ability[5]. Don’t DO too much. Over-expending is why you got here in the first place. DO Less.[6]
  • If you’re lethargic, do a strong and challenging practice. Move out of your comfort zone and expand your horizon. Doing to little, represses your E-nergy and ability.
  • If you’re nervous or agitated, do a smooth, rhythmic and grounding practice. Remind yourself, again and again to slow down, do one thing at a time, and bring your mind, awareness and concentration back to the present on sensations, breathing and emotions.
Moving

Moving the body in all its potential ranges, using all our limbs, joints and muscles, allows us to try out all our potential ranges. Shifting our bones and organs in different positions in space, frees our energy, helps us expand. Allows our Prana to move uninhibited, gives us a sense of freedom and spaciousness. Remember mood is the lack of movement of a certain quality of energy. So, movement is key in moving out of a mood. Once we move we’ll naturally stand different. Our posture and stance will embody radiance, vitality and wellbeing.

We will embody presence and inspired engagement. Meet life fully.

Our emotions need to flow. They are a guidance from our soul, reminding us to honour our path, our story, values and gift. Our mood reminds us we need to be willing to trust our emotions, and strong inner urges, to lead us to our goals and soul desires. Emotion is living Prana moving through us to benefit all beings. When we listen, life becomes a little more supple, flowing and easier. This doesn’t mean we never have challenges, it just means our stance is not rigid. Rather its one of being receptive, alive, and fully present.

Embody a posture that holds the mood of living fully, loving wholeheartedly and laughing at our perfect imperfections. Let emotions guide your embodied Soul.  

Much Love,

Shira.


 [1] Candace Pert – Molecules of Emotion

[2] Paul Eckman – The Nature of Emotion

[3] Hilary Jacobs Hendel – It’s Not Always Depression

[4] Lisa Feldman Barrett – How Emotions Are Made

[5] David Frawley & Sandra Summerfield Kozak– Yoga for Your Type

[6] Kate Northrup – Do Less

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

A BREATH OF FRESH AIR

A body is so complex, complete and incomprehensively perfect, alive and whole. An organism that regenerates, integrates, is self aware and self healing, self regulating and self conscious. A body that heals and knows what it needs to boost and nourish itself, on every level. Improving posture directly affects our breath and transforms our wellbeing.

THE BODYMIND CONNECTION

Here’s another article celebrating the natural beauty, intelligence and ability of our bodies. Science has no way of recreating such a perfect organism apart from the power of procreation. But science can help us understand its intricacy and teach us how to intimately work with it. Every challenge that arises in our life invites us to grow. The consciousness of our bodymind attracts these teachings, so we can step into a bigger, brighter and more brilliant version of ourselves. Whether we feel ready to take on the challenge depends on our self-image, self-confidence and self-awareness. These 3 self’s depend on our wellbeing. Our state of mind, emotions and stance of body Self-confidence and awareness are intimately connected to our breath. And our breath is affected by our stance in body, life and living. So how do we enable, or better said, reconnect to the intelligence of our body? How do we inspire that self-regeneration, self-regulating healing aspect?

Enhancing Wellbeing Through Posture

In Spinal Love we explored how posture improvement nourishes our spine and all our organs. Today we’re going to lunge into the lungs.  Many studies have investigated the relationship between posture and breathing and the spill over effects. What’s evident is posture affects not only the spine and organs but all the muscles of the trunk. Many of are directly related to our breath, some indirectly. And if you know, like I love to say, “All is connected”. Through fascia, and many other tissues and systems, then this affects all the muscles, nerves, joints and tendons, all the way down to your toes.[1] Think the diaphragm, intercostals, neck and shoulder muscles,[2] but also the pelvic floor muscles, right down to the legs and feet.

When we sit all day, without body awareness, our shoulders and head begin to round forward. The chest muscles are compromised and tighten over time. Especially if it’s a day in day out habit. Our lungs become limited, our breathing shallow and rapid.[3] This causing our nervous system to become overstimulated, fight or flight switches on. Our nervous system is constantly told, “a bear is chasing us”. While at the same time, our muscles, organs and limbs get less activity, mobility and agility. Sending another contradictory message to the rest of the body that says, “we’re disengaged, rest and digest”.  But our body can only choose one of these pathways at a time. So, its in a perpetual state of discomfort, confusion and compromise. I believe this is the cause of our species present epidemic of chronic, inflammatory, immune and misdiagnosed health issues. But again, THIS is the body’s natural beauty, intelligence and ability to speak to us. Asking us to seek new pathways of living, moving, breathing and being. Our body consciousness, neuroception, knows autonomously and ceaselessly communicates with us.  Whether we listen or not is a different story.

Studies on Breathing & Posture

A Yoga study explored the difference between breath centred yoga and yoga without breath awareness. The group with practices to extend breath and engage in breath awareness, improved not only their breathing, but physical functions of whole-body strength and flexibility, especially of the lower extremities![4] Breathing affects our nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive, immune system and eventually all these affect our endocrine system.[5] Imagine your lungs encaged in twelve pairs of ribs. And between each rib, many strong bands of muscle connecting one to another above and below it. These muscles, the intercostals, run diagonally internally, as well as externally,[6] like a grass woven basket. Intercostals pull and release our lungs, contracting and opening. The contraction pulls the ribs together, exhale. And on the release a breath of fresh air is drawn in, inhale. This constant and beautiful rhythm goes on, from the moment of our birth to the day we die. Our exhale clears toxins, calms the nerves and centres the mind. It’s dependent on our ability of muscle contraction. And just as important their ability to relax, allows us to take in that new, clear, lively breath.

Improve Posture – Breathe in Life

In Yoga we say of breath is our life. And within the breath lies our life energy. When we breath fully we live fully. When we breathe shallow we only live to that depth. And this ongoing relationship of the in and out, reflects of our way of opening and closing to the vicissitudes of life. So how does can we breath more fully? How can we live more completely? Improve posture! Yep, that simple. There are a few essentials to breathing fully.

Posture Improvement

And allowing our posture that open and free space of the chest, by slightly bringing the shoulder blades toward each other, and softly down the back. Lifting the ribs up and away from the hips so the abdominal muscles lengthen, and the diaphragm becomes free, are foundations of better breathing. Making sure when we sit that the sitting bones are more elevated than the knees and ankles ensures our belly muscles can relax. Only then can the psoas and back muscles release and give the space to the lungs. Did you know that letting the pelvic floor muscles soften even affects the lungs? 

Body Awareness

Connection to our body, it’s ability, it’s limits, it’s needs, desires and vitality, live in this part of yoga practice. Tuning in to our sense of embodiment takes time and it helps if you have a teacher who practices what she preaches, so she can guide you into your body deeply. So, you can attune with it intimately.

Muscle Stretch, Strength & Integrity

Again, movement can’t be overstated for improving breath, breathing and cardiovascular health. I used to think Yoga was the be all, end all pill for all life activities. But I’ve since come to realise we need to run, dance and swim to fully appreciate, celebrate and integrate who we are and what we’re capable of. Cardio is vital to heart rate variability, a response of our vascular system to environmental stimuli. So, get up and get your heart pumping! Remember what it means to be embodied!!!

Relaxation

Restorative yoga, Yin and any other gentle form of yoga, that allows the body to stay in a position for at least 2 minutes, allows muscles to relax which are tight, and/or weak. This retrains muscles that have adopted constricting and compromised holding patterns. So, here’s to our beautiful, intelligent and able bodies! Here’s to living fully, with integrity and ambivalence simultaneously. We’re only human, and yet that’s already so much… Breathe fully and with integrity of your entire body. Live and love yourself, no matter what!

Love to you, your body, your breath and the life you choose to live,

Shira.


    References 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ 

[2] http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/59/4/543 

[3]https://www.healthline.com/health/breathe-deeper-improve-health-and-posture#posture-and-breathing

[4]https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6329219/ 

[5] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/

[6] https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/intercostal-muscle

YOGA FOR SPINAL LOVE

YOGA FOR SPINAL LOVE

The last article was about posture improvement. A huge part of improving posture comes down to spinal health, or spinal love, as I like to call it. 

The spine is the centre of our body. It houses our central nervous system and supports our torso; organs and all our bodily systems. Actually if you think about it, the spine is core to our health and happiness. Back care isn’t just about being pain free. Spinal health equals wellbeing. Physical, mental, emotional and even psychological. Back care can literally change your life. Spinal love starts with understanding our spines needs and catering to simple but effective back care.  So what’s spinal love? Well let’s see how incredible our spine is and what it needs to keep being so amazing. 

Amazing facts about our spine

– The human spine starts to develop in utero at two months of development – It connects the brain to the body allowing the mind and body to communicate so that we can do all we want to do with our body in this world – The spine has over 120 muscles, 200 ligaments and 100 joints – Luckily the spine is incredibly strong and can hold hundreds of kilograms of weight – It’s also incredibly flexible, if bent forward and backward it does 2/3 of a circle – It can expand and contract, as well as, move in all direction because of all these muscles – The spine has an exceptional memory of posture, so what you create it will maintain – 80 % of all back pain can be relieved through improved posture and healthy movement patterns – Sitting puts around 100kg of pressure onto your spine. Bending forward from standing or sitting puts double that pressure on your back.

Healthy spine happy back, body and brain  

The wellbeing of our organs, digestion, respiration, and the entire muscular system, directly depends on spinal health and functionality to serve their purpose. Our immune, endocrine and neurological system all indirectly benefit from back and spinal health. The human spine is unique in that it’s upright in relation to earth and the force of gravity. So the way we care for it also unique. Our spine developed over millions of years of evolution to the way it is now as a culminative process. The four curves we have also developed according to our needs as bipeds. Each curve of our spine developed at a different stage of our development, accommodating differing needs and purposes. 

When we first get curious about the world around us and lift the head to see at 3-6 months, we develop the cervical and lumbar curve. When we start to interact and want to reach for and move toward other persons, objects and places through crawling, we further develop those two curves. Then as we begin to find our autonomy and start walking, the last curve, our sacral curve gives balance to our upright posture. The natural curves of our spine give both our bones and discs resilience and bounce back. They create the flexibility and strength for our back and all that’s attached to it. Think about it, these curves create the room for movement of both the discs and bones to slide, slip and transition, forward, back, sideways and even to twist.  So our aim is to allow these natural curves its full range of movement. Physical, mental and emotional health are depend upon spinal health. For a full description of the health benefits of healthy posture look click here.

Effects of an unhealthy spine

Without the room to move each movement would be painful, laborious and awkward. The natural curves help our back and spine withstand huge amounts of stress. Without these curves, and spinal health all the bodily functions; digestive, nervous, respiratory, cardiovascular, circulatory, lymphatic, urinary, and metabolic, are affected adversely. This in turn affects our hormonal and immune system, our sense of self as a whole connected and embodied person. This spills over to our sense of self and connection to others. Articles have been written on why back pain might be inherent to our upright position. But this misses the point that, we as a species developed to move, walk, run, climb and be active at least 6-8 hrs a day. In active and mobile cultures people don’t suffer back issues. And without daily activity our back and spinal health gives way to aches.

Symptoms of our back needing Spinal Love

– Pain, Tingling – Headaches, Migraines – Dizziness, Foggy brain – Restricted movement – Restriction of daily activites – Radiating pain in leg – Bony growth of cartilage in joint  – Fear of falling, Balance & Proprioception issues – Stiffness – Fatigue – Tightness – Inflammation, Fusion of vertebrae – Postural problems – Breathing difficulties – Altered cardiopulmonary function – Osteopenia, Stenosis, Spondilitis, Osteoporosis – Unbalanced spinal muscles, Muscular imbalance – Changes in bone density – Asymmetry causing degenerative changes in the spine and pelvis.

4 Ways to Spinal Love & Back Care 

If we don’t listen to the wisdom and wonder of our body’s natural intelligence we can end up with spinal conditions, back pain and problems. These changes are the body’s only way to communicate our unhealthy habit. And if we ignore this too long we will be hearing louder calls of communication, “Hey? Hello up there! This part of you needs some tender loving movement! It needs some attention!” So, Let’s listen to our body & give it some Spinal Love!

1. Move Daily

Most important!! Move. Whether its dancing to loud music when you get home, or going for a run, walking in the forest or Yoga practice, do it daily and do it with passion. Preferably a few times a day, get some real motion. Motion is lotion.

2. The Six Directions

Make sure to move the spine in its 6 direction everyday, a few times a day. Forward, backward, sideways L & R, and twisting L & R. That’s why Yoga is so amazing, and makes us feel so great. Because we take the time to do all the postitions and really squeeze, release, free and slide the spinal discs. This allows them to really absorb moisture, nutrients and blood supplies. Remember disc health from the last article. 

3. Body Awareness

Listening to our body is only an option when we have body awareness. Becoming aware of it’s language it a process. And it can be a playful process if we let it be a dialogue, a dance, a deliberate yet dallying of attention. It doesn’t need to be a chore. Again Yoga provides a perfect setting to cultivate this skill.

4. Hydrate

Drink. Drink. Drink lots of water. A hydrated spine is a happy, healthy spine. Tea, green, white or black, is dehydrating, so they don’t count 😉 It’s that easy, and dare I say even fun. So give that spine some TenderLovingCare, Spinal Love. It doesn’t ask for much, when you think of all it does in return. Spinal Love infleunces how we feel, think, move and live. Back care and health is intimately linked to our respiration. Respiration and inspiration come from the Latin root, spirare, to breathe. Spinal health revitalises and brings our whole body into physiological balance! So let’s celebrate the flex-ability, the strength and the amazingness of our spine with Yoga, which so easily caters to all the spine’s needs.  Namaste, and lot’s of love to you and your amazing spine,

Shira.

HOW YOGA BENEFITS POSTURE IMPROVEMENT

HOW YOGA BENEFITS POSTURE IMPROVEMENT

Improving our posture can benefit us on so many levels. Body, mind, energy and emotions all improve. And Yoga can support us in creating and even enhance these benefits. Yoga, when done with body awareness, alignment and understanding anatomy and physiology, not only improves posture, it improves our whole sense of wellbeing and living.

It’s obvious that improving our posture improves how we feel.
A healthy posture gives us resilience in our spine, the ability to breathe fully, move freely and experience wellbeing.


Posture improvement affects
  • Breathing
  • Flow of nerve communication
  • Health of organs
  • Digestive processes
  • Musculoskeletal health
  • Stress resiliency
  • Sleep
  • Hormonal balance
  • Feelings of wellbeing, wellness and energy

How bad posture affects our body

We all shrink as we age, but some of us not so old, are already shrinking due to bad posture. Now shrinking isn’t important to some of us, but it does have detrimental physiological effects.
One of the most important is that decreased height causes the vertebral discs to lose moisture and dry out. When our discs are plump and juicy, they keep our spine flexible and absorb any shock.
When discs dry out they become flat and thin, being less supple they are prone to injury and degeneration leading to chronic back pain, neck pain, headaches. This is the perfect setting for other issues related to spinal degeneration, think neck, shoulders, arms, hips and legs. As soft tissue weakens it’s less resistant to gravity and life’s push and pulls.

But have you ever stopped wander to what degree that spills over to, or how it affects every part of our, body, mind and self?
Well let’s only look at what benefits posture improvement has on our physical body.

The many benefits of posture improvement

When the trunk is well supported by strong core muscles, joints and ligaments, and the limbs work in congruency with each other and in conjunction with the core, all our vital organs are fully supported. This allows our organs to work in harmony with each other so that each is well nourished by healthy blood, oxygen and nutrient supplies.
Just think about the kidneys, adrenals, heart, lungs, and liver.
Healthy kidneys holds our sense of strength through clearing toxins and keeping us vitalised. Our adrenals fill our sense of ability through regulating our activity and resting times. They give us the courage to act when invited and the calm to know when we need to retreat.
When our heart is fully supported we have a good blood supply, circulation and sense of respond-ability. The lungs when totally supported can open fully to breathe deep and enliven our entire bodily system with breathe, oxygen and spaciousness. All the muscles around these organs are massaged and nurtured, which trckles down to all connected organs and tissues.
Our liver performs more than 3000 functions. 500 of those are essential tasks to keep us healthy. Giving our liver a wide range of movement through diverse exercise and bodily movement, our liver is more than happy to serve all it’s purposes. The liver directs all the metabolism and detoxification.


Primary tasks of the liver are:
  • Bile production and excretion 
  • Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs 
  • Metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates 
  • Enzyme activation 
  • Storage of glycogen, vitamins, and minerals 
  • Synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin, and clotting factors 
  • Blood detoxification and purification

Not only that but the surrounding tissues, joints and nerves, are also endowed with this generous supply of life giving properties. Every single cell and system of our body is affected by our posture. Each cell’s ability to regulate and maintain internal balance is affected, for better or for worse.

Movement, breath and Yoga for posture

Wide ranging bodily movement that caters to moving all the body parts in all directions creates for support of surrounding tissues and organs through healthy posture, and the nourishment from good circulation a a healthy heart. Allowing our muscles, bones, nerves and joints to get the right kind of movement and freedom which leads to general wellbeing and maintenance.
Any of these affect not just our physical sense of wellbeing but also our mood, energy levels and place in the world. When our hormonal and nervous system function well, we have strong immunity, we have a clear mind, our rhythms of sleep and wakefulness are in harmony too.


According to researchers John Lennon and Norman Shealy in their article in American Journal of Pain Management:
“posture affects every physiological function from breathing to hormonal production. Spinal pain, headache, mood, blood pressure, pulse, and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by posture.
The most significant influences of posture are upon respiration, oxygenation, and sympathetic function. Ultimately, it appears that homeostasis and autonomic regulation are intimately connected with posture. The corollary of these observations is that many symptoms, including pain, may be moderated or eliminated by improved posture.”


When we have a upright and harmonious stance in body, in relation to our world, we have a healthy stance in life.
Its really that simple and powerful.
Improve posture and improve your entire physiology.

So what is posture improvement?

Its an upright spine held, supported and lithe with all ligaments, tendons, fascia, and other connective tissue, working as one. Not just a straight back, but one who honours its natural curves. And a mind who can inhabit through awareness our embodied experience.
It’s a body whose many systems; nervous, endocrine, immune, digestive, circulatory, respiratory, muscular and connective, function as a whole. It communicates and integrates all experiences. It can express itself with as much ease as the spine is supple and juicy.
In yoga we say, We are only as healthy as our spine.


And our spine is only as healthy as we allow it to move in all its many directions; sideways, backward, forward, twisted or extended. That’s why yoga is so powerful, it moves the spine in all it’s potential positions, postures and the combined possibilities of these.
Just like our bodies and minds, our lives can only be as whole as its range of movement and freedom, so our posture leads to health of body, mind and soul, through every cell and system.

Let’s reclaim our wellbeing!

Namaste, and much love to You, your cells and your Soul,

Shira.