We have all been there and had those days when the thought of being a responsible, functioning adult is just draining,  especially when it comes to a fitness program. Yes,  mindset will determine success far more than work output.  I am reminded, almost daily, just how often our own fears, justifications and judgements of ourselves and others really impact the trajectory of success.  From the quality of the relationships we experience, as well as the level and speed of success in achieving life, fitness and body transformation goals.

Envisioning what we want and turning up to do the work required are only part of the equation. It is ‘Belief’ and an ‘unwavering emotional commitment’ to the outcome that  I feel is the most critical piece of the puzzle.

What links every truly successful athlete, musician, entertainer, business person, couple? At some point in their journey to achievement they stopped worrying about ‘the others’, they stopped worrying about the ‘what if it doesn’t work’ story, they stopped worrying if they were worthy of the work, worthy of the success,  worthy of the love.  They turned the fear of failure into the driver not to have failure as an option.  They committed every waking moment to the honest, uncensored pursuit of the goal. Devoting all physical, emotional, and psychological energy toward the outcome. Sounds exhausting doesn’t it, but in truth when we align with our passions we energise rather than deplete.

Judgement Detox

I recently began reading Gabriella Bernstein’s latest bestselling book Judgement Detox. An insightful read with a very spiritual inclination toward mental health and personal healing. She raises many wonderful insights and points for consideration. As I read the book and worked with my body transformation clients, I was struck with how often we all fall into self-judgment, belief justification and blame by default and usually as an avoidance technique. Avoiding change, avoiding facing our failings and primarily as a protection mechanism. No one likes to admit they screwed something up once, screwing up repeatedly is even harder to admit (cue thoughts of failed fitness attempts, failed relationships, failed projects) To do so exposes our vulnerability, our shame and our ‘guilt’.

Gabby highlights “The metaphysical teachers Abraham-Hicks  says ‘A belief is just a thought you keep thinking’. You create your reality with the thoughts you repeat and the beliefs you align with”. As humans we love to label, it provides safety and comfort to our pattern adoring minds. We label experiences, people, ourselves. We believe these labels  keep us safe, protect us from harm. They develop as coping mechanisms, ways to hide our fear and pain, guilt and shame by projecting it onto an external source.  The problem arises when the labels get stuck, when we stop evolving in our awareness and when the labels take on nasty overtones; resentments, jealousies and fear based actions like bullying.  Labels are simply judgements. Sometimes the attack is externalised; bullying, gossiping or violence and sometimes that attack is turned to self; depression, guilt, self deprecation, chronic body pain.

She makes a wonderful point about gossip. “Gossip is  a great example of  how we numb our pain by getting high on someone else’s. Gossiping about someone else gives us the opportunity to momentairly shift our focus away from ourselves and attack what is perceived outside ourselves…We perceive ourselves as the victim in the world we see. Judging ourselves as the victim feels safer than judging our wounds. “

One of the big points Gabby makes in her book and something that really resonated with me. I was struck with the simple eloquence of her explanation,  how powerful a willingness to witness our ‘wrong-mind’ pattern and to choose again.  A moment of awareness has the most profound power to shift outcomes. Being aware of the language we use about ourselves and others, the dialogue that goes through our heads every moment, the justifications we make to ourselves and others about any particular subject (some subjects will be more active for us in our awareness than others).

Gabby says “When we judge others we are really judging a disowned part of own shadow. Whatever we resent or dislike in another person is a reflection of something we don’t like in ourselves or a representation of a deep wound we are unwilling to heal. Often other people trigger our wounds. We judge them when that happens instead of accepting that discomfort is really about us. Beyond the wall of judgement lie our deepest feelings of inadequacy and shame. When we feel separate/ less than around others our shame is triggered. We feel alone, unworthy and not good enough.  Relief only comes when we are brave enough to witness the judgement and call it by its name: FEAR.  The root cause of all judgement is the fear of not being good enough, not being worthy of love, and not being safe. … [it is only in courage to look at this fear] can we begin to heal.”
In Part 2 we will deconstruct the Anatomy Of Beliefs and also looks at how the Pursuit of Excellence often gets confused with Perfectionism, why they are not the same thing  and how we can ease the pain and procrastination that comes from a perfectionistic belief system.

 

 

 

How functionally fierce in life are you? Could you run for the bus without exploding? Could you catch your 2 year old toddler running past you on the fly without slipping a disc? Can you bend down to tie your shoelaces? If you answered an emphatic NO to these questions then you need to take a look at this.

The ‘buzz fitness labels’ right now are ‘functional training’ and ‘primal fitness’. They are brandished about feverishly in the top fitness blogs and your local gym class descriptions. We all get the idea that they must be a great thing since we are seeing them everywhere.  Experienced a session? We always feel wiped out having sweated up a storm, right?  But what does it all actually mean? Where has this ‘trend’ come from and why is it so important to help you tie your shoelaces?

Having seen trends come and go, sometimes 2-3 times over the past 20 years that I have been sculking around gyms in the UK, Australia and the USA. I can tell you this ‘trend’ is going nowhere. So lets get to the core of this functional training and primal fitness business.

 

I have been a big advocate of ‘moving systemically’ (by that I mean ‘your whole self’ and as much as possible) for the majority of my career. I have used functional training in programming for a wide variety of client outcomes and goals; from rehab to fat loss, event preparation to anxiety management. I have seen the multitude of benefits from training in this way over traditional isolation training (so last decade, I know) and can attest to its benefits personally too.  At 40 I am fitter, leaner and (joy!) pain free. A far cry from the 20 year old ballerina that had to crawl on her hands and knees to the kitchen every morning to get breakfast because to walk was excruciating and impossible until my joints had warmed up a bit.

Athletic Coaches have been aware of the benefits of functional training for decades (Crossfitters, Olympic Lifters etc) in their programming with athletes. It is only in recent times that the general public has become more aware and educated around the WHY and the HOW of functional training for better health, better mobility, better pain management and stress management.

In this 2 Part post, we will look at just what functional training and primal movement is and why its so important. How you can make it work in your routine and ways that you can include it in your daily life with more awareness.

It’s time to get down and dirty on this ‘functional training’ & ‘Primal Movement’ trend…

What is Primal Movement?

US rehabilitation and exercise coach Paul Chek developed and popularised the concept of Primal Pattern Movements and trademarked them in 1998. He identified there to be seven basic movement formations or patterns from his studies of human evolution, anatomy, biomechanics, kinesiology and other related areas of human science. We all  develop these patterns from infancy which then become set neurologically as we age.

Repetition of poor movement patterning causes chronic pain and degenerative issues, but the good news is that through rehabilitation and awareness, some if not all, ineffective patterns can be reset and relearned. Chek almost single handedly turned the fitness industry on its head by bringing awareness to our movement patterns, the functionality of movement, efficiency of movement and pain elimination with the correction of imbalances. Many of the patterning being created by lifestyle related conditioning, we now clearly understand to be detrimental to our health and wellbeing; sitting at a desk all day and smartphone use.  ‘Most exercise prescriptions are not functional,’ he says. ‘For example, many exercises used to rehabilitate injuries are performed on isokinetic machines – producing constant speed – such as leg presses, knee extensions, hamstring curl machines, etc. [www.chekinstitute.com]

‘Primal movements are the most natural of human movements,’ says Nathan Helberg, creator of ZUU Fitness, an exercise system designed in Australia using the concepts of Cheks primal patterning. ‘They help people rediscover the principles of movement that come so naturally to children but are often forgotten by adults due to the sedentary lifestyle of modern living.’ Primal Movement Workouts are designed to develop mobility, agility, flexibility and cardio endurance, while strengthening muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and fascia – the tissue that surrounds muscles.

What are the  7 Movement Principles and 3 Directions of Movement?

PRIMAL PATTERN #1:HINGE

Hinge at the hip joint keeping back straight, hips will tilt lengthening the hamstrings, feet remain flat  on ground, toes pointing forward. Common variation is the deadlifts. Bend to extend movements work your Posterior Chain (glutes, hamstrings, lower back).

PRIMAL PATTERN #2: SQUAT

 

This is a hips down motion. Keep your bodyweight in its neutral gravity line with your back flat, developing range of motion through the hip girdle that will take you to ‘rock bottom’ or as I like to coach ‘ass to grass’.  There is no forward lean as your hips are more directly under you, and your spine is straight as your core activates to keep chest elevated.

PRIMAL PATTERN #3: LUNGE

A linear stride, lowering your back knee to ‘kiss’ the ground, no forward bend of torso as core is active. Longer lunges will work your quads more, a shorter range of motion lunge will focus more on glute and hamstring activation.  Lunges also highlight very quickly any glute weakness or hip to knee muscle imbalances in the legs that may require work to correct.

PRIMAL PATTERN #4: ROTATE/TWIST

 

How mobile are you when twisting your torso from your pelvis to your ribcage. Every step you take has rotation in the thoracic spine, as a matter of injury prevention, train it in your routine. Not only will it keep your core strong and mobile, unifying your body, but it will also switch on the midsection. Ladies! Anyone want a neat, tight waist?

PRIMAL PATTERN #5: PUSH

How is your upper body strength at pushing things in various directions?In the real world, you would have to do this with different objects, in different ways, quite frequently. Depending upon the lift this trains your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

PRIMAL PATTERN #6: PULL

How is your upper body strength at pulling weight toward you. This is often seen in a row or pulling your bodyweight up in a pull-up. Pulling trains your upper back, biceps, and grip strength. There is a version of pulling out there for everyone. This movement can also help correct the forward shoulder posture that has become so problematic for the desk bound and smartphone junkie.

PRIMAL PATTERN #7: GAIT

 

Walk, jog, run or sprint.  Training strength and mobility in the first six primal movements will allow you to enjoy exercises such as running with less likelihood of injury. We get fit so we can enjoy running, not run to get fit.  A generous amount of research has also shown that shorter interval runs such as sprints are more in sync with human biology and give better results than long distance running. Long distance running is more likely to stimulate unwanted stressors and overstimulate your sympathetic nervous system. Unless you are training for an event that requires this type of conditioning, there is little benefit in smashing out 10km or more, 3 times a week.

 

 

The 3 Directional Planes of Movement:

Taking all 7 movement patterns into consideration, we then look at the planes (directions) we can move in and how the body is designed to move for optimal efficiency and capability. In todays world I believe we have forgotten how to move and as a result when required are not conditioned to move at all well. Exercising with these key aspects in mind means we are reconnecting with the ways we are designed to function best. Which in turns equates to a stress free, mobile, detoxified, hormonally balanced, healthier and happier system.

  1. Frontal planes involve moving forward and backwards,
  2. Lateral (or transverse) is left to right and
  3. Sagittal is diagonal.
In Part 2 we will look at the key reasons we have forgotten to move effectively and how detrimental this is to the individual, especially as we age. We will also outline some key ways you can include functional training and primal movement into your life so you feel better and look better naked, oh and tie your shoes laces more easily.
Don’t miss the video demos that will be in Part 2.
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Tired of doing the same old routine at the gym? Getting nowhere fast with your current plan and need a bit of inspiration? Here are my twenty fitness tips honed over 20 years of coaching and competing to inspire your next session and go from marginal to magnificent?

Include some or all  in your planning to accelerate results and give you a more effective overall workout, increase your strength and fitness gains.

Ready to get fired up for the year ahead?

Remember, training smarter not harder is the key, maximise your output, keep workouts short, sharp and intense and you will stay injury free as well as have the time and energy to live a fuller life away from the gym.

  1. Try to mix weights and cardio work in 1 workout. I really like the combination of a weights set (squats with overhead press for example with intervals of skipping, rower or sprints). Your workouts become more effective, you manage time better, work varied energy systems to get faster and stronger results. This is really training smarter not just harder.
  2. Ditch machine weights in favour of free weights. This will activate your stabilisers and core more, you will build greater strength and the muscle fibre activation will be greater.
  3. Do ‘unilateral’ exercises; 1 side of the body at a time for core activation and improving balance, posture and muscle fibre recruitment. Plus any imbalances between left and right side f the body can be identified and improved.
  4. Always ensure you ‘warmup’ before workouts and ‘stretch’ after to avoid injury. Getting your core temperature up and blood flowing to working muscles is important to do before adding load. Matching your movement patterns in the warmup, to the work capacity of the workout is a great way to maximise lifting outputs. Remember: Never stretch before your workouts as this can promote injury and promote tissue strains and tearing.
  5. Invest in a good myotherapist and commit to seeing them about once a month. What is a myotherapy you ask? It is a form of body care that focuses on soft tissue rehabilitation and management. Modalities used in treatments range from dry needling, deep tissue, PNF stretching to align skeletal structures, prevent injury and correcting any postural issues that are pre-existing or may creep in over time. Dry needling is also very effective in pain management.
  6. Always eat a little something before a workout. This will spark plug the muscle to fire more effectively and also accelerate metabolic rate in the cells i.e.: burn more fat during and post exercise.
  7. Work more functionally for injury prevention, increased strength and cardio gains and better overall mobility. That means stop doing ineffective bodybuilding style 1 joint movement exercises. Stick to multi-joint movements and make sure you include twists, grounding and overhead load baring work.
  8. Increase overall body awareness; don’t just train what you can see in the mirror, remember your ‘posterior chain’ all the muscles and movement from the base of your head, along your spine, lower back, glutes, hamstrings, calves and into your feet. Your posterior chain is critical to not only looking good but also having a healthy and pain free body.
  9. Don’t neglect your feet. Correct footwear is vitally important to results and injury prevention. Wear the best option for the discipline you are undertaking; trail running, gym, hiking, cycling all have their specific footwear requirements and for good reason. Pay attention to your feet, your results will improve considerably.
  10. Hip and Shoulder mobility is critical. These are the 2 main areas that cause the biggest issues as we age and as we move less. Range of motion and flexibility will keep these areas strong and supple and improve your system overall. If you sit at a desk for 8 hours a day then stretching the chest and shoulder girdle and doing some squats will keep these important joints healthy and counteract the negative effects of being desk bound.
  11. Train your nervous system not just the muscles. Your body is a labyrinth of super highways sending and receiving critical information about the internal and external worlds you move in. Your muscles only respond to the messages received along these superhighways, so it makes sense to focus on the health of the nervous system to get best results in the muscle tissue, greater fat burning and stronger movement performance. By training for maximal muscle fibre recruitment and stretching the fascia (connective tissue throughout the body) you promote efficient signalling and an overall healthier system.
  12. Have fun with creating your own Routine within Routines. Being consistent and having a training and nutrition routine is vial to your overall fitness success. It is also important to mix things up within your routines. This will keep your head engaged and you motivated over time, as well as keeping your body fresh for the workloads you perform. Plus its fun to mix things up. Don’t get bored, boredom kills your mojo.
  13. Cycle macros (carbs, fats, proteins) and calories for best fat loss results. Personally I am not one for the ‘cheat meal’ concept, I have been eating to the SPBFitness Method for 20 years with consistent and excellent results and advise my clients to do the same Method. Cycle higher calorie and lower calorie days, and cycle carbs through the week, keeping nutrient intake and choices consistently whole food and unprocessed so the liver gets the best chance to burn fat efficiently.
  14. Suffer in Silence– a mantra used in the special forces and for good reason. You get what you focus on, so if you only focus on the pain, workouts become torturous and devastatingly long. Instead, focus on what the pain means- getting stronger, getting leaner, getting fitter, getting closer to your goal rep by rep. You build a stronger neurological pattern for physical strength and build resilience emotionally too.
  15. Keep movement dynamic and rhythmical. Slow and controlled on the ‘eccentric phase’ and explosive on the ‘concentric phase’. What does that actually mean? Basically, all push movements should be explosive and all return movements should be controlled. A pushup is controlled on the way down and then explosive on the pushup.
  16. Breath more and burn more fat. Oxygen is a critical requirement to the fat burning process, so deep strong breaths help to keep your system calm when training under effort and will accelerate your fat burning during and post exercise also.
  17. Lift consistently heavier to get stronger. By writing down your workouts and loads you will always stay accountable and striving for that little bit more.
  18. Lift weights to get ‘cardio fit’. You will burn more fat and improve your cardiovascular fitness by lifting weights functionally and with minimal rest between sets. Wear a heart rate monitor (#wahoofitness is my personal favourite in HR monitors)  to keep your zones on target and in check.
  19. Ditch the treadmill and get outside for your runs. Difficult in the depths of winter,yes , but for anyone that has suffered knee pain from running, this issue can be made worse by treadmills. Treadmill runs can cause tightness through the ITB and patella tracking issues as well as increasing shock loading through the spine. So avoid these issue by getting outside and getting that fresh crisp air into you.
  20. Include plyometric exercises (box jumps, pop squats, burpees) into workouts to increase strength, cardio output and core workload.

Try all or just a few of these tips and see how your enjoyment and results improve. Sign up to receive your FREE sample workout program now.

 

*Sara Picken-Brown offers online training, nutrition programs. SKYPE consultations and training sessions. Corporate fitness programs and 1-on-1 Personal Training are also available in London (Old Street and also Fulham/Parsons Green).

For more information on how you can get better results from your 2018 fitness focus email:spbfitnessmethod@gmail.com with your enquiry.

With the imminent seasons festivities upon us, swiftly followed by January’s month long self-flagellation. That mad scramble at resolution setting and guilt riddled and inevitable failures at their accomplishment.  I would like to invite you, yes YOU, to make a stand against doing what everyone else does at this time of the year.  Aiming to be smarter, more considered and achieving greater long term outcomes from shifting your habits a little and planning your party season a little more mindfully.
What if there was another way of navigating this tried and tested annual routine?
What if you didn’t gain the average of 5-8kg in 2 weeks over the festive period?
What if you still enjoyed your favourite festive season treats and still ‘celebrated’?
Sound too good to be true, huh?
Its frustrating to hear, but it happens like clock-work every year ‘I really want to loose X kg…BUT’….You know something? This year could be different, by ACTUALLY meaning it and by committing to different actions that will literally change your life.
When we understand the inner workings of achieving our desires, we make them real and therefore relevant. I believe much of the success an individual achieves in their health journey comes down to understanding what is really going on from the inside out. Ignorance is not bliss in my book and if your health and body are important enough to you, to express even a limited desire to create change, then it is important enough for you to get very clear in understanding what REALLY goes on when you eat and drink, certain things and action certain behaviours.
Over Christmas and New Years I would guarantee that no other organ in your body gets more punished that your liver. In an average day, the Liver performs over 500 functions in regulating the body and maintaining health. Any health promotion or fat loss program that does not focus first on super-charging the liver’s function is missing a key aspect of seeing you achieve lasting results. It is vitally important to clean your liver up before you get into the nitty gritty of your heath program. Here is why:

Liver Functions

As we have mentioned the liver is responsible for a lot of regulation within the body, I won’t list them all, but some important ones to consider as you go into ‘party mode’ are:
  • All blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver.
  • When that blood reaches the liver, it processes it, converting nutrients and medications into more usable forms.
  • The liver contains about 13 percent of the body’s blood at any given time. As the blood passes through the liver, the organ balances the blood’s chemical composition and produces bile from the waste products.
  • Bile carries those waste products away from the liver, allowing it to continuously detoxify the blood.
  • It is your body’s main fat burning organ, regulating fat metabolism and carrying fat out of the body via bile.
  • The liver produces blood proteins necessary for plasma.
  • The liver produces cholesterol. An important role in the body, cholesterol is a precursor for essential hormones, testosterone and eastrogen. Cholesterol also supports cell structure and helps maintain healthy neurological function. Note: This is different than animal product derived cholesterol present in the diet.
  • The liver further detoxifies by removing bacteria from the blood stream. This is essential for healthy immune function. A healthy liver produces immune factors that fight disease.
  • It regulates blood clotting. Inefficient blood clotting can lead to bleeding disorders and anemia, while overabundant blood clotting can lead to an array of health and clotting disorders including embolism and deep vein thrombosis.
  • It detoxifies, removing harmful medications and toxic substances from your blood.
  • The liver stores iron, which it processes from hemoglobin.
  • It converts blood sugar (glucose) to glycogen (stored energy), and then back to glucose (active energy).
  • It regulates amino acids in the blood.
Because the world we live in is riddled with pollutants and toxins we simply cannot avoid, it is important that we play the health game for ourselves wisely.
  • Nourish yourself well. Eat good-quality food when you are hungry. Avoid overeating (more liver burden) and refined or heavily processed food.
  • Remember that high-fiber diets help keep the bowels, liver, and blood clean by facilitating elimination.
  • Stay Hydrated especially in air-conditioned or overheated spaces.
  • Minimize exposure to chemicals of all sorts—from food additives and cosmetics to caustic cleaning agents. Remember that the liver needs to break down every chemical entering the body either for use or excretion.
  • Don’t use recreational drugs and use alcohol sparingly. If you must indulge then make sure you give consideration to supporting the liver and system post party time.
  • Use key liver cleansing herbs to support the health and function of your liver. For my top list of supplements  CLICK HERE
  • Take time to breathe deeply, relax, meditate, or pray. Stress can aggravate liver congestion.
Your liver is incredibly capable. With a little planning and awareness you can minimise the impact of the environment and also your lifestyle to support rather than stress, this ‘hard working’ organ, out.

Your skin reflects your liver health

Your skin is the biggest organ of the body, it is also the biggest indicator of what is going on internally, that glowing skin that a healthy lifestyle produces is a very real and tangible thing. So what does your skin tell the world about your internal state? If your liver is not doing its highly involved job of breaking down toxins efficiently, they will be eliminated from your body by other means – in many cases they come out through your skin and the stress the liver is experiencing reflects in hormone imbalances which unfortunealty reflect in the skin also. When excessive toxins build up in the deeper layers of the skin this causes inflammation and can manifest as:
  • Dermatitis
  • Eczema
  • Premature aging and wrinkling of the skin
  • Brown liver spots which make you look older
  • Red itchy rashes anywhere in your body
  • Deep painful rashes which may lead to ulcers
  • Hives
  • Psoriasis
  • Acne rosacea on the face – this causes small red pimples which affect the cheeks, the chin and area around the nose.
Toxic overload creates an acidic internal environment and has been impli­cated in a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic fatigue, allergies, skin conditions, asthma, mental illness, hyper­tension, gastritis, kidney disease and obesity. Studies are beginning to reveal that toxic overload contributes to more serious conditions such as autoimmune diseases, inflammatory/rheumatoid arthritis, and neuro­logical disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.” [http://www.primallyinspired.com]
Signs of a stressed liver:
  • fatigue
  • brain fog
  • headaches
  • chronic joint or muscle pain
  • digestion issues including gas, heartburn, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, and abdominal pain
  • insomnia
  • autoimmune diseases
  • hormonal imbalances like PMS or menopausal symptoms
  • acne or skin rashes
  • anxiety or depression
  • allergies
  • inflammation
  • chemical sensitivities
  • chronic bad breath – this can also be related to ketosis or the fat burning process, which has a metallic odour, increasing water intake can help with this.
  • weight gain

How do I fix a stressed liver, especially over the Festive Season?

The great news is that we can reduce and eliminate these unpleasant symptoms. By reducing our exposure to processed foods and chemicals, along with liver-supportive herbs (ask your Coach about these) and foods that support our body’s detox pathways, we can lower our total toxic load, making us feel better and experience more vibrant health and longevity.
This year aim to:
  • Plan the ‘blow out’ meals and keep them to a minimum.
  • Avoid 2nd, 3rd, 4th helpings of food. Listen to your body and if you are full don’t keep eating.
  • Aim to exercise between meals during the holiday season. This will help burn some of the excessive calories off and give you a little ‘wiggle-room’ for the yummies to come.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake, having a ratio of 1 water to 1 alcoholic beverage will help to limit the intake and hydrate you by supporting the liver and kidney function.
  • Avoid recreational drugs
  • Keep sugar intake to a minimum. Difficult yes at this time of the year, but be sparing with sauces, portions and ‘added’ sugars so you don’t completely blow out. Less is more, as they say.
  • When going to function after function pre Christmas, aim to eat before you go so that you don’t overeat the high fat and high calorie canapés that go around. You will be less likely to over indulge if you are not starving when you arrive.
  • Avoid beer and soft drink mixers. Aim for clean spirits and soda water or red wine. White wine and champers are sugar traps, avoid these at all costs.
  • When you get home make sure you take your supplements to support recovery, heal and repair and sleep (see the link above for the recommended supplement stacks).
Above all have fun this festive season, be safe and if you are going to go nuts n food and drink by choice, then enjoy it. Don’t go into a guilt riddled melt down afterwards, madly setting unrealistic goals for the new year, that are doomed to failure. Set you health path for the long term and systematically knock off mini, achievable goals each month or week if needs must. Make food your medicine and you will look, feel, think and be FABULOUS!

 

Ive recently moved to London from a comparatively sleepy Australian city. I say comparatively because Melbourne has approximately 4million people compared to London’s 8.7million, spread out over a greater area. Once you get over the initially overwhelming volume of bodies cramming themselves together, in what can only be described as an urban battle for space on trains, on the streets, in cafes, well,  basically everywhere. Its an ‘attack and defend’ experience in every aspect of existence. For me the yoga studio, gym and my apartment have brought the term ‘sanctuary’ into its own.

Living in London as a transplant, like any busy metropolis, requires some getting used to. The first few weeks I will freely admit I felt like i was swimming in people soup and it wasn’t pleasant. Now, 6 months in, I am still not a fan of the constant jostling about, but with a little stress inoculation to navigate the cavalcade of humans, their collective energy, insular focus, lets just say you tend to get on with it. Yes, I believe people get more self-enclosed the bigger and busier a city gets, more protective, more demanding, more arrogant and more fearful.

I find myself doing a very ’trainer-centric’ activity more and more. Perhaps because i have gone from driving my own car daily, to using the London tube system. I say ‘trainer-centric’, but this quirk relates to anyone that has studied movement and biomechanics. Indeed anyone that has an awareness of these aspects for their own training, body management or care. I learned very early on to analyse and problem solve peoples movement patterns/posture issues. Its a throw-back to being a dancer and a habit fostered through my personal training that comes in handy when idle and bored on a monotonous 30min train journey.

What have I discovered? Fear has a posture all its own. You can tell a lot about how a person lives, thinks and feels about themselves and their environment by looking at how they stand, sit and move. Body language experts have been telling us for years that you have seconds to make a great first impression. But are you aware of the signs and signals you are giving complete strangers every moving moment of your day?

Headspace

A study from the University of San Francisco has shed some light on how walking with a slouched, despondent body posture can lead to feelings of depression or decreased energy. Luckily, walking in a more upright position can reverse those feelings. Professor of Health Education Erik Peper found that altering body posture to a more upright position improves mood and energy levels. “We tend to think the brain and body relationship goes one way. In fact, the passages go both ways,” Peper said. “When you choose to put your body in a different mode, it’s harder to drop into depression.”

For anyone that exercises regularly, you will be acutely aware of how much better you feeling after moving. You have increased mental clarity, great sense of wellbeing and feel physiologically ‘charged up’ too. Movement and posture shifts can either change your mental state from negative to positive or visa versa. The key is being aware of it, which from my London Tube travel observations, most people are not.

Pain in the neck

More than 80% of neck and back problems are the result of tight, achy muscles caused by years of bad posture. Smartphone use has had a major negative impact on the number of neck related issues, particularly tight ‘scalene’s’ and that nasty neck tendon the ‘sternocleidomastoid’. When you have spent too much time hunched over your computer or smartphone, that sucker will be the source of your pain and boy do you know about it when you get it treated.

Stress

A study from Columbia University and Harvard University argues that stress is increased by bad posture. The study showed that people who adopted powerful postures, open shoulders, and straight spines had a 20% increase in testosterone levels and a 25% decrease in cortisol level. Those who slouched had a 10% decrease in testosterone and a 15% increase in cortisol. What do all of these changes in hormones mean? High stress and greater fat storage around the gut, so bad posture contributes to making you fat.

A hunched posture (cue the ‘smartphone addict stance’) directly impacts how we breath. Yogis and meditation practices have long extolled the virtues of deep belly breathing as a means to calm the nervous system, increase immune system function, lower blood pressure and regulate the hormones (lowering stress hormones and increasing serotonin, dopamine and endorphins which are positive mood regulators). The shallow breathing and carbon dioxide circulation that shallow breathing causes flips all those positives on their head, placing stress on the system and taxing the heart. The result is a vicious cycle where stress prompts shallow breathing and in turn creates more stress on the body.

Interestingly enough a lot has been reported recently about the increase in depression cases amongst teenagers correlating to smartphone use, is it the phone itself or the posture adopted in using the devices? Ponder, ponder!

Confidence

Poor posture can affect not only how confident you feel, but also how confident others see you. How often have you been in a new situation or meeting new people and you felt far from confident? Im sure we have all been there, what is the immediate response? Closing the body in and protecting your core (the vital organs). Here the old saying ‘fake it till you make it’ is so true and something that actors and dancers get taught very early on in stage craft. It does take awareness until it eventually habituates as your normal. Chin up, shoulders back, take a big deep breath and…GO!

So next time you are rushing to work on the tube, enjoying a brew at a cafe or even walking down the street, take a moment to reflect on those around you and their posture and movement patterns. How they walk; is it fast, even paced, or erratic tempered or perhaps more considered strides, do they stay their course and direction as others dodge them or are they constantly weaving out of others way? All these say so much about those around you and of course seeing these aspects in others brings greater awareness and understanding of our own internal states, external modalities and how we may be percieved.

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