Moving into the New Year:-)

Moving in lots of ways

Coming up to Christmas ‘18, I created a number of videos designed to get us moving.

On Social Media, I often feel like videos are fun, and can be a great way to inspire us to try different ideas. What I also feel is important is some context and information on what is involved in the movements and why to do them in the first place.

The movements I chose are mainly inspired by what I see in classes and one to one sessions. They are movements that I feel almost everyone can benefit from and often we are not stimulating in our daily lives of sitting etc. For any of you that attend Yoga or Pilates classes, or are involved in other activities, the movements are also an idea of how to diversify and balance our movement capacities to improve strength and mobility. These movements will add to a more rounded experience in your body and are a sample of how we can start to challenge and stimulate.

I will give a little more detailed description for each of the video links below and you can play around with following these or adding in some more of your own. If you have any questions, please do let me know:-)

1) For Hamstring Strength:

Often in Yoga classes there are lots of poses aimed at ‘stretching’ your hamstrings, eg standing forward bends, seated forward bends. You might feel like you have ‘tight’ hamstrings and need to stretch more and more. However, without developing strength these areas of the body will become weaker. Developing strength in the back of our body is important for overall equilibrium and reduce risks of imbalances and resulting injuries or pains.

3) For Glute Strength and Stability:

This movement is great for feeling the muscles around your hip joint. In order to find balance and react to a loss of support from the lifted leg, the muscles have to engage. Often in Yoga or Pilates classes you may practice poses or movements standing on one foot, this is a great variation to focus more on the hip muscles without your ankle or foot helping support.

6) Pelvic Movement Awareness and effect on your spine

So often there can be a lack of awareness or connection to our pelvis. As a result in lots of movements in Yoga and Pilates, we force movements through our spine in order to achieve a pose or task. Often you may not realise this is happening. This can happen in Downward Facing Dog, Lunges, Pigeon Pose, or Back bending poses for example. what you can do like the video below is explore and even video yourself or use a mirror.

8) Mobility

This word basically means your ability to actively move into a position, control yourself and move out of it. Often again in Yoga classes, we may think of using our hands or supports to bring our feet or legs where we want them to go. This can help develop flexibility or your ability to move into a pose, but for long term sustainable benefit in movements, it is important to explore where you can move without an aid. You could like this video, try any variation of going down to the ground and getting back up again, and if you think this is just for young, sprightly folk, check this VIDEO out

10) For your core

This movement is super for developing the ability to stabilise your upper body while you move your lower body. there is strengthening for the hip flexors, abdominals and all over. It is a good progression from lying down core movements you may experience in Yoga and Pilates.

2) For Hip Flexor and Quad Strength:

Just like the Hamstrings, the front of the body and legs need strengthening. Again, there can be a feeling that these areas are ‘tight’ because of sitting at work or generally during our day, so we may feel drawn to more and more stretching. Again, strengthening is important and when paired with hamstring strengthening can provide a sense of balance and help with lots of other movements around your pelvis where we need to flex at hips or extend eg like squatting and lunging.

4) For ankle and foot strength

This movement is great for developing balance and ankle and foot strength. It is important to keep the heels high. When you lift one leg, it is helping further strength development from the movement no.2 and also stability from the supporting side. As a lot of us wear shoes all day, our feet tend to get weaker as they are supported all of the time, it is really important to spend time barefoot and encourage movements around the feet and ankles.

7) Glute and Leg Strength Progressions

In this video, I move through a couple of variations of standing on one foot and moving the other leg forwards, behind and then a one leg squat. The more you add in or try here the better:-)

9) Scapular mobility, shoulder joint health and strength

Our shoulder blades should move, they have the ability to elevate (rise), depress (lower), retract (squeeze toward the spine) and protract (spread away from the spine) If we do not make our shoulder blades move, they will lose their range of motion. I show in this video full circles with the shoulder blades in both directions, you can do this standing, sitting or kneeling.

Hanging is great for our shoulder joints, developing strength and resilience in the tendons and ligaments. Adding in the pull ups, helps develop and build strength in the arms and shoulder musculature. There are a lot of pushing movements with the arms in Yoga so it is great to balance that with some pulling.

Move to Myself

The slap that landed on the right side of my face came strong and fast.  The sting and pain that remained in its wake lasted much shorter than the long drawn out emotional confusion, mis understanding of myself and how to navigate inter personal relationships.

It was Christmas day more than 20 years ago.  I had tested the boundaries for it.  In my early teenage years, I was a bundle of anger, rage, hurt, fear and frustration.  The physical impact of hurt and abuse was not something I ran from in that moment.  I went right towards it.

I did not understand then why I stood in the direct line of impact, all I knew in that moment was that I deserved it and it was the only way to feel something, anything, that could take me out of the deluge of mental suffering and inexplicable reality that we were all part of.  It took me years to feel any sense of love for what I was trying to do, and who I was trying to be.

Growing up as a child of an alcoholic and in a home that was soaked to the bones in it brought a cacophony of unhealthy developmental mechanisms.  That Christmas day was not one filled with cuddles and teddies, laughing and love.

Everything I felt in my youth was out of my control.  What mood we needed to be in, what mood we were to expect.  How the day would unfold, would it be filled with tension waiting for the volcano to erupt or would be spending the day running from the hot heat?

I cannot remember what proceeded the slap that day, I remember vividly that moment.

I did not deserve to be treated that way, but I did not know that at the time, nor did I for many Christmas days after.

Winter and the season around Christmas can be hard for many of us, with memories, pressure, expectations and stress making a perfect cocktail for inner and outer turbulence.  The reasons or uniqueness of our own particular situations can vary but in the dark days of winter there can be a resistance to oneself and others.

Following the pain of loss, maltreatment, neglect, abuse or conflict, I know what it is like to place those events in a place I would rather not look at again.  

Our make up and navigation through life and ourselves is so complex and vast.  I spent years looking outwards, perfecting all in my life or striving towards perfection with enthusiasm and passion.  I used to dislike the winter a lot.  The sense of turning in towards oneself did not bring heart warming feelings or a sense of joy.  There were elements I was so ashamed of and believed were mine forever to be held secret.

I am not scared of the dark any longer, for in there I know there is growth.  It is so hard to acknowledge memories like that Christmas Day, and have a sense that it is not something that I need to carry any longer as my burden to why I am not enough, do not deserve more or cannot be at ease.  That is only one memory, I could list many more.  Memories that built up over years and years, imprinting themselves bit by bit on my psyche.

There is no meaning in those memories, there is no figuring out why they happened.  They are raw, most certainly un glamorous and not ones for sharing around the dinner table.

Where there is meaning however, is in how we find ourselves in all of our memories, our past and our present.  Can we look those memories right in the eye, and find a way to accept, understand, forgive or let go?

I needed to release the stigma, the knots I held in my stomach for years that I would be judged, or seen in some way negatively for the actions of someone else.  It is not my fault my Father was an alcoholic and it is not something I need to hide down in the dark any longer.  This is not easy.

Approaching this years Winter Solstice, I have at this stage of my life come to embrace the dark and shine a light in there.

Over the last number of days, I have shared on social media some fun and beneficial ways to move physically that can help us in our bodies.  These moves are great for sure and provide great benefits but the real moves we need to make in life may need to be some move towards ourselves deep down and getting to know who we really are.

This does not have to be tragic or full of woes.  For me it certainly has been hard over the years, trying to develop and gain a healthy sense of myself.  An important part of this process is going right in where I think it is darkest.

I believe that doing this is possible and that no matter what, we can find ourselves and find a connection to others in ways that help.  It takes work, the same way developing physically does.  We have to put in the effort and believe in the outcomes. 

Where we fear so much may hold the keys to us truly finding freedom in ourselves, where there is really only love and potential.


Your Mental Health

I have been reflecting lately what mental health means to me and what helps me when I notice a cycle of negative thinking or feeling.  All thoughts are my own and not prescriptive, below are some of my reflections and thoughts.....

When thinking of, or taking care of our mental health, I feel we need to remember that it is not just a phase we go through.

If we feel negative or are thinking negatively, it is not a problem, you are not weird, and it is not something you have to ‘get over’.

Our thinking brains have the capacity for negative thoughts just as much as positive thoughts.  These negative thoughts can result in negative feelings and vice versa. You can feel insecure or overwhelmed.  You can feel unsure of yourself or down.  You can feel doubtful of your abilities or you can feel unconfident.

These feelings and thoughts will surface from time to time, they will ebb and flow throughout our days and our lives.

That is normal, and even more than 'normal, that is ok.

What can be destructive or detrimental to our health, is the layers of secondary thoughts that we create.  Believing that having these negative feelings or thoughts is somehow weird or out of the ‘norm’.  The thinking that somehow we need to be fixed or cured can cause us to chase perhaps unrealistic ways of experiencing and being our true selves.

Of course, negative thinking and feeling can cause, over time, associated ‘problems’ or difficulties but the original source is not a problem as such.  Think of it like this, when you are hungry, that is only a problem if you do not have access to food at that time.  You may get tired, weak, tense or moody, but if you have food, being hungry is not a problem, you eat!  

So likewise, feeling negative or thinking negatively is only causing us excess problems if we do not have the skills and tools to become aware of them, to navigate them or we have no access to support.

It is absolutely a great thing that we are becoming more and more aware of Mental Health in Ireland and its importance in our daily lives.  I feel part of our awareness needs to address the language we use and the perspective we have on what is ‘normal’ and ok.

Mental health just like our physical health encompasses the balanced functioning of our systems, our ability to perform tasks and to maintain equilibrium.

If we have a physical health issue, like getting injured or sick, it may knock us out of balance for a period of time.  We will notice symptoms, we can treat the symptoms, take care of them, rest and seek support.

With these physical symptoms, we do not assume we are broken if we get sick.  We do not jump to the conclusion that we are faulty or have done something wrong.  We do not necessarily think it is ‘weird’ to catch a cold or have a fear about talking about it.

With our mental health, we can do the same.  If we notice our thinking has become negative, or we are feeling down, we can begin to notice symptoms and take appropriate care.

It may feel hard to explain negative thoughts.  It may feel hard to describe negative feelings.  This is sometimes where we get caught and stuck in our heads not knowing what to say or how to say it.  Where it can feel straightforward to say you have had a flu for a few days, it can feel a little trickier to say you have being feeling insecure or down.  These caught up feelings and thoughts can begin to build up inside and then impact your work, your interactions with others and your activities or sports.

For years I felt the burden of locking my thoughts and feelings up inside. I held for a long time a deep shame that what I felt was weird or wrong and not at all the same as others. 

I grew up in with emotionally unpredictable and unstable dynamics, with fear and shame at the forefront of my everyday experience.  I became a master of the arts at hiding information from friends.  I learned how to tell white lies to make my life seem a little more ‘normal’ or appear better.  I did this for so long and so often, that at a certain point I didn’t even know how to be honest with myself anymore.

All of my buried feelings, all of my ‘real’ thoughts and experiences bubbled inside.  Unexpressed, they often turned to anger and I would lash out, causing hurt to myself and others.

What was wrong with me was not that I was ‘weird’ or that I had ‘a problem’ in feeling bad.  It was that I didn’t know how to express myself, I didn’t feel safe in expressing myself.  I didn’t know how to start those conversations, I didn’t know if I was allowed or if I would be accepted afterwards.  I didn’t know who to talk to, who would understand and I so much just wanted to feel ‘normal’.

What I didn’t know when I was younger was that I was normal.  The thoughts and feelings I was experiencing as a result of turmoil or negative relationship dynamics were absolutely normal and justified.

We all have thoughts and feelings.  We need to become aware of them.  We need to come to a place of understanding them and we need to learn how to navigate them and make healthy choices for ourselves around them.

We can learn to see our reactions and our habitual thinking patterns and begin to unravel out of what is unhelpful.  We can learn to sit with ourselves with out distracting or entertaining.  We can learn to talk or write to express ourselves. 

I have felt the clouds of internalising, feeling alone and stuck and I know how destructive and heavy that can all become.

Mental Health is the full picture.  Thinking or feeling negatively is part of that picture.  It is not part of us that will be eradicated forever or gotten rid of, but rather a part of our normal human existence that we can learn to live optimally with.

There is a lot of pressure in our current modes of living to overcome, to rise up, to be the best and maybe even be perfect.  We have to include in our perspectives of ourselves and others that whole and healthy means ups and downs.  It means achievements and failures.  It means maybe some boring and non eventful days even negative or down days.

There is nothing wrong with you or weird about you if you feel down or negative, if you slip up or even if you don’t know how to describe exactly what is going on.  What we need to do first for our Mental Health is include all of how we think and feel in the picture of ourselves, without any hiding or burying.

Pursuits and Perspective

If you are involved in any sports or activities and particularly if you have been for a number of years, you’ll be aware that you can go through phases.  Phases of high intensity, high motivation, high performance and similarly low motivation, low intensity and low performance.

What is significant here is that these changes are a natural ebb and flow.  Changes in circumstances, life duties, family, friends, work and finances can all influence your participation.

Acknowledging this you can begin to recognise that sports or your activities are a big part of your life, a big part that can have a huge influence on you, create opportunities, offer success and become a part of how you see and identify yourself in the world.

But…they are not your whole life.  yes, you cannot imagine life without them or you feel low when deprived of them but they are one segment of your whole life.

This is not in any way meant negatively or to diminish the importance of your chosen pursuits, in fact quite the opposite.

If you took a few moments to establish and connect with your priorities in life, how many would you list?  As we grow older and life events open our eyes, we get afforded opportunities to establish what is important to us.  It may be your lifestyle or your family, your partner or your friends.  It may be your career or your service to others.  It may be to be healthy, o be injury free and to be able to enjoy life.  Whatever is on your list can help you connect to the any things that make up your happiness, give you a senseof grounding in yourself and life.

Your Psychological Needs

In our lives we have to address our psychological needs as well as everything else.  In our pursuits this concept is as valid.  Addressing just physical needs for example may leave you feeling out of sorts and not fully content.

The psychologist Glasser stated that we have 4 Basic Psychological needs, Love and to be loved, Power, Freedom and Fun.  When these needs are met, we can enjoy a sense of stability and psychological well being.  If some of these needs are not met or are lacking, there can be a sense of being out of sync, feeling disconnected.  Our psychological needs are no different to our other needs-Its like if you had not had a good meal in a few days , you may feel slightly lacking in nourishment, a part of you would be craving and signalling to you to source a healthy meal.

Obviously at certain points in your life sacrifices will need to be made and some areas may not get addressed as well as others but in the overall ‘big picture’ it would be important that you feel you cater for everything well.  

Can you see how your pursuits serve these psychological needs or how you can address them in other aspects of your life around your pursuits?  This perspective can remind you of your original motivations in your pursuits, you original intentions and help you to make better serving choices and decisions.

Clarity

Having this clarity, this sense of knowing why you are involved in your pursuits can help feed back into your efforts.  It can help you see past specific set backs, obstacles, losses or failures to remind you of that ‘big picture’ concept.

To do specific sports or activities for a lifetime there must be an acknowledgement of the internal rewards you receive, the aspects of growth you feel, the positive effect on your psychological well being, your view of yourself, confidence etcWhen you can see all of this, no matter what the results are on paper, your endeavours are worthwhile and integral part of you.  If you are solely chasing numbers, it can be fun, but it can be short lived an unsustainable.

Standing back from the details of winning or succeeding helps you to see why you might continue something indefinitely and how that can be possible and with that sense of ease you will actually have more energy and enthusiasm without pressure and you'll find your performance improves.

'I've yet to see a guy lose his card/status or form from under practice.  they all lose it from over practice, making golf the most important thing in their lives, losing perspective....the simplicity and joy from the game is lost and its a straight downhill from there.'- Paul McGinley

Heart and Mind

Our pursuits, sports or activities can be passionate fuelled endeavours.  By their nature they pull on our heat strings and this can be a great thing.  We love our chosen activities.

There is an importance in being smart, in not getting ruled by our hearts.  We may love chocolate or cake but eat it all day everyday and we can feel sick!

Recognising the value of your mindset can help you make smarter choices for training, it can help you assess, evaluate and plan more clearly.  It can also help you to walk away or re focus when needs be.  Listening to your heart is important for sure, and it brings us great joy in life, its just a matter of not being ruled by the heart to the detriment of everything else.

Remember to play

At the end of the day, we need to play and have fun in our lives.  We need to feel power which can come through succeeding and achievements and we need to feel a sense of belonging which can come from our teams or communities.  When we address all these needs we will feel at most ourselves, settled and content.  

When you find the ego gnawing away at you with negative feedback, when you feel pressurised to perform despite your better judgement.  When you feel at unease with yourself or situations it is time to reassess, to remind yourself of what is important.  

When you are most grounded in yourself and your choices, your pursuits and your whole life will flow with greater ease and success.

Anger is ok.....

This week we are looking at Anger.  Even the word probably summons up an initial feeling of resistance and fear.  Anger can often be seen as bad and unproductive but if you listen and pay attention to anger it can often lead you to where you want to go and stay aligned to the person you want to be.

However we need to look at anger differently.  We need to stop resisting anger as something that needs to be driven away or diminished and embrace it as something we will always have to live with and consider the positive and productive outcomes to anger.

Anger can be felt through wanting change, wanting justice/fairness/equality.  The need to felt heard or validated can cause anger and anger can be felt from a desire to be independent, to feel strong or to feel like your individuality matters.  These ideals in and of themselves are warranted and needed in the world and for you and others.  I'm pretty sure we have all felt all or some version of the above list in circumstances in our lives.

What we need to do with these inner ideals and basic values is to recognise the egotistical tendency to get consumed by the need to be right, the need for external control or power, the need for external validation or recognition.

You may not believe it about a super calm Yogi! But I have had my fair share of interactions, debates, and clashes with my own inner anger for my whole life.  In my childhood and teens this anger was highly expressive and as I got older the anger remained as I learned to function a little more effectively in the world.  As an adult I became aware that expressing anger was not always useful or beneficial but it didn't get rid of the anger I had inside.  So what have I learned to do?

The original causes or thoughts that lead to your anger need to be addressed.  Your anger needs to be listened to.  Why is it there?

When you feel anger, it is important to know why is it there so you can address that issue.  In the heat of anger you do not necessarily have the best judgement for long term outcomes so it is better for you to return to a sense of calm before decision making or plans of action.  In the short term, getting out of situations, getting fresh air, cooling down is important.  In the long term meditation can be a hugely powerful tool.  Being able to sit and notice that thoughts are just thoughts, being able to remain anchored and steady in the rhythm of your breath, finding yourself in the present and immediate moment and recognising that you are ok.  Being able to establish a sense of self and appreciation for yourself from within.

With anger it is your job as an adult to become more finely tuned and refined about your relationship with it and the effect it has on you.  Anger is not something to get rid of, it is not bad.  What anger can do is take over and lead a domino effect of destructive and harmful thoughts and spiral out of control.  For your own mental health, take time to become more aware of anger, when it sparks, what thoughts it leads to, what effects it has on you and others.  Start to ask yourself how anger can benefit you more and help you manage and deal with situations in a better way.

Meditation

Find your seated position.  This week your Meditation duration will be 15 minutes.  Set your timer and attempt at least 3 seated meditations this week.

As you begin, make sure your body is comfortable, notice any sensations, any tension or discomfort and adjust or often accordingly.

let your awareness come to your inhale and exhale and it remains here for the time.  As you notice thoughts, that you have been thinking or your mind has wandered, bring your awareness back to your breathing.  You may have to do this once or 1000 times, it is all ok.

Reflective Journalling

Write down 3 occasions, situations or interactions with people where you felt angry.

Why did you feel angry?

What happened when you felt angry or how did you express it?

What feelings or emotions did you feel afterwards?

Acknowledging the reasons for your anger, can you write 3 positive words to describe your anger.

Can you write 3 perspective on the situations or issues above besides your own?

Can you think of ways you would like to now move forward and deal with the above or similar issues in ways that benefit you, that you feel calm and collected about and where there are positive outcomes.

Training your Mindset

I have written about the importance of mental mindset before and having recently read The Training Think Tanks's post on one of his clients which also reflected some of my own thoughts, I was inspired to put this post together.

You may have heard of the term 'Mental Strength' before but it is something I see missing in people's training regimes or approach to life, and I think it is often over looked, under valued or mis understood.

In your everyday life there are most definitely things you can do to enhance your mental strength and develop skills for dealing with ups and downs of life, of training, of performance etc.

To clarify in terms of this post, I will provide my own experiential definition of mental strength,

'An ability to think, feel and act in unison and an ability to maintain a clear perspective of reality and to remain true to your values/beliefs in the face of adversity or doubt whether from yourself or others.'

So to me I feel that mental strength is the ability to observe your thoughts and cultivate thoughts that are in line with how you feel and how you act and that these thoughts, feelings and actions match your true values and beliefs. In short-keeping it together!

That even when faced with obstacles from yourself or others you can keep the ability to do what you believe in or act in the way you value.

That an individual can remain clear on the present situation or the steps needed to be taken for progression without getting lost in hypothetical or drama.

Think about performance or training and how you approach these, can you look at your thoughts or reflect how you were thinking during a given session, did you think and act how you would have liked? If there were distractions such as a crowd watching, a bad day at work, or your training partner is late or you don't feel physically on form, did you respond appropriately to aid a positive experience and effective learning?

To further understand my definition a little more I will draw on a little yogic philosophy which shows that states of mind that put us at 'un ease' are those such as doubt, fear, anger, greed, bitterness, jealousy etc. So it can therefore be understood that we cannot stop ourselves from feeling or being in these states but what we can do is observe their occurrence and when noticed encourage a response that effects us moving forward in a positive, beneficial and helpful manner.

To apply this to your life or your sports or training, consider the following;

1. Can you notice if your thoughts or feelings that you have at a given time are creating a sense of 'un ease'?

2. Can you observe that sense of 'un ease' and then without putting any more thought of distractions, get to the root of why you feel that way.

3. Can you now acknowledge your feelings and accept them and without ignoring them or running away from them understand that it is completely human to feel different ways and then allow yourself to move on?

4. Can you keep your focus then on what it is you wish to do, how you wish to act?

Taking the above steps, for example in a training/performance context, as you begin, are you aware of how you are feeling? Are you aware of what thoughts are present? Are those feelings and thoughts creating a sense of 'un ease'? For instance are you nervous/anxious/ stressed? Are you thinking that you cannot achieve what you are about to do? Is there doubt? Are you distracted by others or your surrounding environment? When noticed we can see that perhaps these feelings, thoughts do not help us in a positive way.

Once noticed you could assess why you feel that way, 'ok I feel afraid because im trying a new skill or I feel doubtful because I'm not confident in my ability today or are you distracted by your friend who looks stronger etc

So here is where a lot of people hit the stumbling blocks, on noticing our thoughts or feelings of 'un ease' we create more un ease maybe because we are ashamed of thinking that way or embarrassed, or annoyed at ourselves for being that way. All that does then in the situation is create more anguish, perhaps anger or frustration. Another reaction here is to ignore those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings and not address them, but this is like avoiding that area under the couch every time you sweep and one fine day you find a big mess!

What will help you is in step 3, acknowledge the fear, the nerves, the doubt, whatever it may be for you and realise that is completely normal and in doing that allow yourself to now choose to adopt more productive, positive ways to think in the situation and move on to step 4. So for example a climber may have now noticed 'ok I am a little nervous and hesitant but that's ok, I've tried this problem before or I know my friends will spot me, or I'm confident I won't fall this time'.

Whatever solutions you create to the original feelings or thoughts holding you back is the key to your progression going forwards. Realising that it is ok to feel frustrated or doubtful or fearful but in that realisation not allowing them to consume you or your potential for learning and being involved in the situation.

In the realm of mental strength, this is where the gold is, how you can effectively listen to, move on from and learn to deal with unhelpful thought processes and barriers.

Think of how you have felt or thought about your body image for example, or your ranking in relation to your peers, often if negative thoughts around these issues go un noticed over periods of time or become more consuming they can play an adverse effect on your progress and experience and ultimately hold you back.

This is what is most amazing, we can choose how to think, we can choose how to respond to situations, we can choose how to deal with challenges.

A lot of emphasis is placed on our physical strengths, our physical training and approaches and I know a lot of people who talk about these topics and share knowledge, but how often do we address our mind set during a training session or during a performance? How often do you take time to notice what thoughts or mindsets you often have and maybe ones that could help you achieve your goals quicker or in a less stressful manner?

It is not about right and wrong, it is not about changing who you are, but about allowing you to enjoy yourself more and adopting attitudes and thoughts that will make things easier for you. 

Which way??? Our need for certainty....

Over the past number of weeks I have been learning a lot and taking in a lot from various different sources, from books, to workshops, to online reading and podcasts.  There is so much to learn!

One concept that seems to be coming up again and again for me is the concept of certainty and why we crave it.

I will not attempt to propose an answer as to why individuals seek certainty, but one thing I do know is that in many cases this certainty is an illusion and this certainty does not exist.

It is in almost all facets of our lives, perhaps in an effort to feel more continuity, more security, more understanding of ourselves and our environments.  We tend to navigate through our daily lives filtering and sifting through all the knowledge that is presented to us.  

In his book, 'Thinking fast and slow', Daniel Kaheman suggests that the mind has no capacity for processing the sheer uncertainty inherent in life.  Instead we cope by providing convenient explanations of past events, in which the cause neatly leads to the effect.  He calls this the 'availability heuristic'.  Often the world around us is not easily made sense of so we create a number of biases in our thinking. Sometimes some effects have no apparent cause and this leads us to telling ourselves some creatively crafted 'truths'.  Another shortcoming in our thinking is what Kaheman refers to as 'cognitive ease'.  We tend to choose explanations that come easily to our minds even when those explanations may differ from actual reality.

So where there is no apparent cause we create one to which we can understand and if we cannot understand an apparent cause we choose our own explanations that make sense to us.

Take for example the vast wonder of mechanisms, structures and systems that are operating and involved in our own bodies daily functioning.  Can anyone claim to even begin to understand everything in the body, its relationship to everything else and how everything works optimally- I would go so far as to say No!  There is so much information there, that no one person holds all the answers to every anatomical, biomechanical and health related query existing today.

What we need to be aware of here is those that claim they do!

'The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.'- Stephen Hawking

In the 'Fitness' world, these same cravings for certainty occur.  What will make me lose weight?  How will I get fitter, stronger, faster etc? What is the best form of Yoga?  Is Pilates better at strengthening my core?

I hear these questions being raised all the time, and yes there are answers to those questions, and yes there is research carried out that can substantially back up the answers which are given, but.....there is also a huge amount of variables, every individual will differ.  Adaptations to programming will differ from person to person, physical and psychological approaches will differ from person to person.  We are all different and it is all random...How well you can cope with one strategy is based on a system of trial and error.  

Research and findings can be best used to create methods following best practices to date and following specific principles.

“As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble.”- Ralph Emerson

In movement for example there are a number of widely acknowledged principles that govern human movement.  Dr. Even Osar states that if we follow these principles, if we ask questions with them in mind, we can begin to practice what is ideal and optimal in motion.

In we focus on principles and keep them in mind, the method we choose to learn them, the method through which we move our bodies, the method through which we gain a greater understanding does not really matter.  The method is completely unique to you, your personality, your lifestyle, your passions and what inspires you.

So what does all this mean to you?

You may feel stressed, or have an injury, or have pain in your body, or have many questions as to how you can become a better athlete.  The first thing to acknowledge is there is no magic pill for everyone.  

The latest fad is the latest fad because we want to believe it.  We want to believe it so much that we pay for it, we convince our friends, we preach to convert the masses.

We all want to know what works and there is no harm in that, it creates a life long journey of learning, of exploring and experiencing.  What is important to remember is the presence of constant change, of constant variables and constant surprises!

In my own body and my own life, I am always learning.  Last year my body experienced its first injury that Ive ever had (lucky me!) and I have been on a journey of questioning, learning, rehab, movement and fascination ever since.  I definitely started out wanting to know specifics and definitive answers and experienced at times frustration when they did not really exist.  I have learnt for sure that all I can do is continue with designed programmes, continue with rehab and combine that with all my knowledge of movement to continue to create awareness and alleviate any reoccurrence or further issues. 

In your life, the relationship you have with your body is life long, the questions you have will change, the experience you wish to have will also change.  What works at one time will not be a given forever.  What is important is that you cultivate a positive relationship, that you experience your body in enjoyable, nurturing and sustainable ways.  How you choose to do that is always entirely up to you.  

If we can acknowledge the randomness, if we can free ourselves from the constant quest for what is right or wrong or what creates success or failure and concentrate soley on the process of feeling, of experiencing, of observing, of listening to our own breath, we can free ourselves from the trap of self expectation, of results chasing and become more present.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It's time to take off your Yoga tinted glasses!

Over the last week or so, I have read a number of articles and spoken to a number of people on some different issues being brought up with regards to Yoga, the practice, the teaching, the 'industry' and in general our understanding of what it means to a person.

In all my reading and discussions, this is where I have to say before you formulate an ideal in your mind, before you find your definitive answers, try removing those Yoga tinted glasses.  Think outside the Yoga mat as such!

This is where I feel lucky to have a come through a range of learning paradigms physically and mentally, that I participate not only in a physical yoga practice daily but that I enjoy climbing, running, and in general moving.

The issues I notice being brought up online and in discussions are usually regarding best practice, safety for individuals bodies, alignment etc.  What needs to be understood here though is these discussions will continue to happen and they happen across the board in the 'fitness' industry and in any teaching/coaching profession as far as I can see.

I came across this one blog post last week 'Am I the problem with Crossfit?' , the author explores the idea that instead of finding fault with Crossfit practices or coaches or specific gyms or online promotion, question yourself and your approaches, question how you move, are you listening to advice, are you moving safely and without pain?

I loved this blog, I feel it accurately describes what a lot of us need to do in everything, and that is to take responsibility.  It also shows that a lot of us who question the specific activities that we are involved in can look to other activities and see that these questions are being raised in a range of different areas and between different communities.

Asking questions is a great way to learn, but can you reach an understanding of yourself without contradicting the viewpoint of someone else?  Can you establish how you learn, how you navigate through the movements in your body to find progression without feeling negative about someone else's practices or methods?  Can you see that how you move and learn is amazing and how they move and learn is amazing for them?  Can you learn to be so open that you can share your viewpoint and also listen to others?

Then......can you then let go of all the opinions and viewpoints and have a little fun and feel how moving is about connecting not disconnecting.  When we have so many thoughts swimming around we cannot just feel and be in the moment.  

An opinion is just an opinion it is not who you are and as your opinions will change over time as you learn try not to get attached to too many of them.

Yoga is great but it is one avenue, not the only avenue...if you feel stuck or feel you are not learning anymore, try another movement, try strengthening activities, try mobility, go dancing, get outside for a run!  With so many ways to enjoy your body and learn, all avenues can only help in bringing us closer to understanding of ourselves.  

There is no right or wrong, there is only learning, so with less thought and more action, respect the avenues and each other and forget about the rules and the definitions.

 

Choice

We find ourselves towards the end of January,  a great time, well it can only start getting better! Spring is on its way!

My last two blog posts to begin this year, have been on the concepts of Intention and Commitment.  Bringing yourself into 2015 and creating a strong vision, then creating actions and sticking to them to fulfil your vision.

I posted a video on Facebook about daring to dream last week which encompasses these ideas well. Considering how to really remind ourselves why we are doing what we are doing and what it is we would like to achieve.

Todays blog is then with regard to Choice…..

With all our intention and all our commitment, we are often faced with choices.  How do we choose???

Then, there are all those occasions where you think you have no choice…..I would go so far as to say You always have a choice.  If a family member is sick and you need to be there for them, you are still choosing, if you have a deadline in work that needs to be done, you are still choosing.  You are always making a choice!  There may be things you would rather do, or would find more enjoyable but in light of the factors taken into consideration and after weighing things up, you will have made a choice.

There is always a CHOICE.

Acknowledging this not only creates a sense of empowerment but more importantly I feel it creates Freedom.

Why is this sense of freedom important?  It is important because in the space of feeling freedom, you have space to choose what serves you best, you have space to be your best self, you have space to acknowledge the person you are and aspire to be.  In this space, you can find that even when you think there is no choice or there are only two opposites, that there may be an array of options, there may be choices you didn't even know existed or had not considered.

I recently watched the movie Wild, in this movie there is a constant referral to the theme of choice and self empowerment.  The lead character at a point is regretting many of the choices she has made and when she meets a man on her travels she asks if he would change things he has done or if he has regrets (video below at 1.29).  But to him, he didn’t have a choice. “Never been a time in my life when there’s been a fork in my road,” he says.  It seems to him that by feeling like he had no choice, he in reflecting can have no regrets.  However in this way, one would sort of live never knowing what could have been, never feeling their own strength, never feeling like the steps taken can be chosen and paved from your choices.

Sometimes we don't want to make choices because we are afraid of making the wrong ones.  Sometimes the fear of an unwanted result or outcome or the unknown prevents us from taking the lead in the choice making.  In wanting to stay safe as such, we avoid choices or acknowledging choices.

But…by taking a back seat, by being the passenger in choices as opposed to the driver, we risk never seeing or feeling our true potential.  We risk never truly knowing ourselves. Even our perceived ‘bad’ choices provide us with valuable lessons and maybe even more life learning than our perceived ‘good’ choices. 

Sometimes we have become so used to others making choices or being told which choice to make that we have forgotten how to decide for ourselves.

All choices are your own, OWN them, own yourself, learn from everything. 

As always, challenge yourself and grow…….

In moving forward into this year, create your vision, make your choices and Commit!

 

Intention

So how are you doing so far this January?  According to the media, yesterday was to have been our toughest Monday of the year-so you survived that!

In my last blog post I wrote about Commitment and the idea of staying true to your goals/intentions.

So today looking a bit more at Intention and what this means for you.

In my classes I speak a lot about creating the right intention but how do you know what the right intention is?

When you do take time to connect to yourself, to breathe, to sit, to let go of all the thoughts and distractions, you will find a space is created.  In that space and in those moments, there is an opportunity to feel, to be present rather than to think.

How often do we really feel? How often do we really connect to our hearts desire?  When you feel a fire light inside, an excitement, even a nervousness at the prospect of a new idea, a new challenge.

So often we wrap ourselves up in all the 'should's', the 'have to's', 'need to's', we see all the practicalities in our lives, the expectations of others, our image.  Pressure to excel in our careers, our sports, to perform or live in a certain way can create so many thoughts and cloud our sense of ourselves and connection to our true intention.

So when sitting in that space, in that time to yourself, pick an intention that excites you, that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes the action of going for that run, or avoiding that piece of cake can feel like a chore BUT if each action is so infused with your intention, you begin to live everyday in such a way that you do not even think about it anymore, you feel natural, you complete all your actions in tune with yourself and what serves you best.

If we create pressure around intentions, if we feel we are forcing, there will be a breaking point.  If however, we take the time to feel our intention, to understand why it is we want to complete certain actions, then they will become your entire way of behaving and being.

Intention is about reshifting your entire understanding and connection to yourself, about knowing how certain habits to date may have been unconsciously carried out over long periods of time but that with your intention and attention to your actions, you have infinite potential to redesign the way you move through life.