WITH FABIOLA AGUIRRE
(Physiotherapist at Fleur Wellbeing)
Injuries are no fun.. We can all most likely put our hand up and recall an injury that has occurred in our lifetime. For some, the injury may have lasted 2-3 days and you can no longer remember whether it was your left or right side! And for others, your injury set you back months, even years, and significantly changed your way of life. For most however, it usually leaves a lasting mark and changes the way we approach certain types of movement or exercise. And that is very normal and beneficial! It's our bodies way of protecting us.
But what if we could go that one step further and be that little bit more aware of factors that can double, sometimes triple fold our likelihood of having an injury. What if we took a few extra steps along our exercise journeys to help decrease our chances of an injury? Well let's explore the 5 key indicators that you can start asking yourself and doing from today.
1. KNOW YOUR LIFE STAGE
Sounds pretty basic, I know. But being aware of what is currently surrounding your life and what stage of life you are at will help to give you some awareness on what sort of things to prevent injury from.
There is so much change occurring during adolescence, and in particular from a musculoskeletal point of view, the changes in hormones that occur. At puberty and post puberty we see changes in neuromuscular control (ie. Jumping and landing technique), where boys undergo a significant neuromuscular control spurt whereas girls do not. For instance height increases (especially in leg length), strength increases (particularly in males), and ligament laxity is altered resulting in girls being more lax (loose) in joints. Many injuries occur for the first time during adolescence- and many of these can have long term implications.
The most common adolescence injury is patellofemoral pain – AKA anterior knee pain; followed by apophysitis of the lower limb (aka ‘growing pain’), ankle injuries, instability of the shoulder, neck pain, headaches and stress fractures (especially lumbar spine in gymnast and dancers). These injuries usually occur with the load that you are putting through your body- either by the amount of training or the amount of plyometric (jumping) activity their completing.
How to prevent an injury: Making sure you have a clear training plan that is an even mix of jumping/ strength/ stretching/ neuromuscular control (Pilates). Not doing too much of the one type of training- especially if you are going through a growth spurt. Also using a mirror or receiving feedback from your coach/instructor on ‘perfecting’ the landing from a jump. The aim is to land as quiet as a mouse and pretend the ground is made of soft foam and is melting your landing.
Now the importance here is not so much in the 20-22 gestation week mark, as most ladies will usually modify their exercise routine. I am talking more of the initial 6-20 week period where it's still early and most women have very few physical signs and restrictions to their exercise. But take note of these.
If persistent vomiting is present there can be dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and thus your body may feel not only the effects at a symptom level such as fatigue and weakness, but this also happens at a cellular level. Muscles will be more inefficient in exchanging nutrients and can lead to increase cramps and muscle strains. So simple measures such as natural or electrolyte drinks are a good alternative, but always chat to your GP or an accredited dietician if its persistent. Postural changes begin as early as week 8 and continue to change as the pregnancy continues. One of the biggest causes of pain and ceasing of exercise is lower back and pelvic girdle pain. This happens mainly due to the way our body moves with the new changes (biomechanics) rather than hormonal. Learning the ‘new ‘ safe and best posture to exercise in, in the early stages will allow you to exercise safely and pain free well into your 3rd trimester. Seeing a Physiotherapist to give you these postural strategies in the very early stages of exercises will ensure injuries are minimised entirely.
And lastly getting yourself a heart rate monitor watch or learning how to take your carotid (neck) pulse will allow you to monitor your heart rate.
MENOPAUSE + PRE MENSTRUAL
Exercise has a strong positive link with increasing bone density and decreasing the effects of osteoporosis in our 50-60+ age group. There is emerging strong evidence to show that stress fractures (which are fractures caused by maximal and repetitive loading on the long bones of the body) have a link to menopause and pre hormonal changes in the body. What does that mean from an injury prevention? If you are pre menstrual or irregular in your cycle, really focusing on good technique and not doing too much of the one exercise is important. Ladies going through menopause, it’s a good idea to check in with your GP and find your bone density measures prior to commencing new or repetitive physical exercise -moderation is key.
2. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
This may sound self explanatory and easy to do, but how many of us have pushed through our pain barrier to get to the last repetition?! Pain during exercise can be our single best indicator that your body is not enjoying the intensity/position/load that your body is being exposed to. Our bodies create pain as a warning flare to us that something is not right and could lead to injury.
Now let's not confuse fatigue pain with actual pain. Sorry everyone but that pain is good for us! Fatigue pain will almost always occur around the site of your body that you're working on and it will always settles with stopping.
The pain signs to watch for is if it is pain localised to an area of the body you're not exercising, for instance your getting back pain but your completing a clam exercise for your glutes. If your instructor has not told you what muscle group you should be targeting (which at Fleur Wellbeing, you always know) then ask them. Or stop...
Look for other pain signals such as sharp pain, painful clicking, pins & needles, or a burning pain moving from up to down (for instance from the bottom down to the ankle)
Sometimes stopping and changing your body positioning is the easiest way to avoid pain leading to injury. Always ask your instructor or a health professional if it keeps occurring.
3. WARMING UP THOSE TISSUES
Warming up before exercising has many well researched benefits such as creating vasodilation (widening) of the capillaries and arteries that feed into muscle and connective tissue. It essentially ‘wakes up the body’ and kick starts the engines for many of the muscle parts used in exercise. Another important wake up call it creates is the notion of wiring the brain to body connection. Better known as neuromuscular connectivity. This is an essential part of going into any exercise that involves plyometric, bounding, change of direction and large dynamic movements. When this doesn’t work well things like knee, foot and ankle, spinal and shoulder positioning can be put into injury provoking positions.
How to address this for injury prevention? There are many ways we can do this but 2 of the best ways are completing small to larger upper and lower body movements and increase the either speed/complexity/ range of the movement. So for instance to warm up before a walk we would want to warm up or ‘wake up’ our ankles, calfs, quadriceps, arms, glutes etc. And we would do that in small movements ie. A butt squeeze and release, to a large movement ie. Squat with knee lift. But if we were warming up to play a game of netball our body would need to wake up our body positioning and add some intensity and change of direction etc. Again your coach, trainer, Physiotherapist can give you a warm up routine that is specific to your sport/exercise routine.
4. UNDERSTAND THE INJURY CYCLE
Let's say its too late and you have already suffered an injury to your body. You definitely don’t want to hurt yourself again, but when is the right time to return to exercise, and how to avoid re-injury?
The best way to approach your injury is to understand a little about the tissue healing process and general timelines for injury recovery. Most injuries will follow this stage of healing: degeneration (actual injury), inflammation (the reaction to the injury- causing pain and swelling), repair (the magic window), and fibrosis (scar tissue formation).
Generally, muscular injury during exercise falls under muscle strain or ‘pulled muscle’ or a contusion (bruise) and the actual stages of healing mentioned earlier take up to 4-6 weeks before you reach the last fibrosis stage. The question can you exercise in that time? Of course you can!
The real question is what should I do at what stage. For most the first 24-72 hours can be quite painful and uncomfortable to do any form or exercise. So its crucial to use this window to reduce your swelling, maintain some gentle movement and loading of the muscle, and look at what factor/s may have caused the injury. If in this time the pain or swelling persists, then getting to your Physiotherapist sooner rather than later can help determine a more specific guideline for your injury. The ‘danger’ for most muscular injuries lies in that week 2-4 when your symptoms significantly reduce and sometimes go, so you return to exercise. The site of injury and the surrounding muscles may not have the strong scar tissue that forms after injury and the surrounding muscles are not strong enough to hold, so this is where you can end up with a re-injury or worse more injury.
So it's important to take note of your injury date, create a rough timeline, know your ‘danger window’ and progress your exercises accordingly to your injury window. So by the time you reach week 4-6 you want to be almost at full pre injury capacity and training. The good news is that you can and should continue training throughout your injury!
Again this is where your coach and Physio can guide you with specific exercises and tests to see where your injury and whole body is at, and help monitor your progress.
5. COOL DOWN THOSE TISSUES + RECOVER
Injury prevention also lies in not just what we do before exercise but also what we do after. All exercise goals will aim to create more muscle, change muscle to lean muscle, increase our fitness, flexibility etc. For this to happen, your body will actually undergo a very microscopic injury to the muscle (including our heart) and bones, in order for it to repair, change and improve. So it's important for us to understand and respect this process by way of gentle stretches, walking, foam roller, large (but slow) dynamic movements. Most of these are best done straight after your exercise but others can certainly take place at a later point in time. This is where recovery lays an important role in injury prevention.
A lot of our ‘repetitive strain’ or tendon injuries (achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, in children Oschgood Schlatters) come from too much load and not enough recovery phase. Allow your muscles and joints to have a day where you complete lots of different stretches, use your trusty foam roller, massage ball or exercise ball, and where you just take the intensity right out of your exercise of choice. Maybe you might choose to do all the easy modifications on one day and that’s all it can take for your body to recover and prepare better for the next time you go hard!
Well that’s it in a nutshell on injury prevention. I hope you can all take something from this and use it in your next exercise class or sport. Happy to answer any other questions regarding the above or something else you have to add or ask too!
Written by Fabiola Aguirre
Fabiola is available for appointments at Fleur Wellbeing on Monday & Friday's.
To make a booking please contact Fabiola directly
via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0423 684 052
We all know that having some well sculpted glutes looks great right? But have you thought about the real benefits of having a strong butt? How well activated glutes can affect your posture, improve your athletic performance and reduce your chance of injury? For many individuals their glutes remain 'inactive' or 'switched off'. Inactive glutes can mean that the muscles are weak and are not relied on as much as they should be during exercise.
Glute activation refers to 'activating' or 'firing up' the muscles in order to strengthen them. If you're keen to learn more we are holding a GLUTE ACTIVATION WORKSHOP on Wednesday the 26th June at 6:30pm at Fleur Wellbeing Newcastle, hosted by our lovely Instructor Cat Magin. During this workshop we will explore some simple biomechanical tests to screen for poor glute activation and then review myofascial release techniques, strength exercises and neurological cues to get this group of muscles working properly and getting you on your way to a better butt and essentially a better life!
WHAT ARE YOUR GLUTES?
Your 'glutes' or your 'gluteal muscles' refer to the muscles in your butt. Specifically there are three major muscles in this area: your Gluteus maximus (the main, large muscle that shapes your backside), your Gluteus Medius and your Gluteus Minimus (two smaller muscles that assist your body in moving your body). Together the glutes work with your other core muscles to support your spine and maintain your posture.
WHAT CAUSES WEAK GLUTES?
There are many possible reasons for why someone may have weak glutes, however one of the main causes is that many of us are living increasingly sedentary lifestyles. Many jobs now involve people sitting down for a large part of their day, or after a long day of work we come home and sit on the couch; this means that the glute muscles can become dormant more than they should be. Another reason why someone may have weak glutes is because of poor form and generally over-relying on other muscles during everyday movements, which contributes further to the muscles remaining inactive. Or the glute muscles may just be overtight due to either too much sitting, overuse or overexertion in athletic performance and so it is important to know how to release these muscles in order to relieve tightness and ensure proper muscle activation.
WHY IS GLUTE ACTIVATION SO IMPORTANT?
Learning to activate your glutes properly is important so that you can strengthen them. The strength of the glute muscles can have a major impact on the overall strength of your body; your glutes support your core, help to support a range of exercises and compound movements, as well as help avoid muscle imbalances which can lead to decreased muscle mobility.
With so many of us having to spend the majority of our day "glued" to a chair, we are in danger of contracting the "sitting disease" which can lead to muscle degradation and a bad back. By strengthening your glute muscles your spine will have more support and your pelvis will automatically begin to stabilize. Both of which are essential to improve posture.
IMPROVED ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
Your butt is actually capable of generating an incredible amount of power! Strengthening your glutes can lead to improved speed, acceleration and explosive power - athletes with stronger glutes are stronger and faster than those with weak glutes. The same goes for dancers, those with strong glutes can perform higher jumps and safer movements than those with weak glutes.
REDUCED CHANCE OF INJURY
Strong glutes play a vital role in reducing your chance of injury and having strong glute muscles can prevent serious injuries to your knees, lower back and hamstrings, all of which are essential to simple daily activities. Weak glute muscles can also cause poor lower back alignment which can lead to some serious injuries including sprains and tears in your back muscles.
So if you're keen to get working on those glute muscles and want to learn more, we'll see you at the Glute Activation workshop on the 26th of June, or in one of our many classes including Mat and Reformer Pilates, Barre or TRX where we will work closely with you to ensure proper technique, activation and alignment.
Written by Ellesse Hawkins
It's all too easy to burn the candle at both ends in this always connected world that we live in, & when energy levels are low we need to ensure we are fuelling our bodies with sustainable & natural sources of energy (not a dozen cups of coffee & sweets). So here are 5 of our favourite foods to fight fatigue & boost your energy. To learn more about eating with balance & the chance to chat with our beautiful Instructor & accredited Dietician Ruby Beezley, come along to our Nutrition W O R K S H O P next Tuesday the 21st of May at 6:30pm for our "Navigating Diet Culture Workshop" at Fleur Wellbeing. Tickets available for purchase through our Mindbody Booking system. (Click on the link on our homepage).
The next time you're feeling drained, have some H20! Dehydration may actually be the root of your fatigue & it can also lead to headaches, ruin your concentration & put you in a bad mood. Take a water bottle with you throughout the day & sipping on herbal tea in the cooler months is also a great way to stay hydrated.
These small & mighty little seeds are full of important nutrients. They are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants & they also provide fibre, iron & calcium. The combination of fat, protein & fibre in chia seeds means that they are digested relatively slowly, providing long, slow release energy to keep blood sugar levels stable.
This potassium packed fruit is an excellent energy boosting snack & is not only healthy but extremely delicious! Bananas are rich in Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, fibre & also rich in antioxidants.
Spinach is an extremely nutrient rich vegetable that is also loaded with antioxidants too. Spinach is an excellent source of many vitamins and nutrients including:
Iron - Helps to create hemoglobin which brings oxygen to your body's tissues, giving you more energy.
Magnesium - Important for regulating muscle & nerve function, blood glucose control, protein synthesis & blood pressure regulation. Magnesium is essential for energy production & muscle recovery.
Vitamin C - A powerful antioxidant that promotes skin health & a healthy immune system. Vitamin C is also essential for the proper absorption of Iron.
Green tea holds a whole range of health benefits as well as pepping up your energy levels. It is also packed with antioxidants & nutrients that have some powerful effects on the body.
The combination of caffiene & L-theanine found in Green Tea gives you a much more sustained energy without the jitters & research suggests that green tea can also boost your brain function & helps to reduce your risk of neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer's. Green Tea helps to lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and developing cancer.
Written by Ellesse Hawkins.
There are many benefits to regular stretching, and they're not all based on flexibility and touching your toes. Not only can stretching help increase your flexibility, which is an important factor of any fitness routine, but it can also improve your posture, improve your performance in physical activities, reduce body aches while allowing the body to move freely with no pain, discomfort or impingements, stretching also helps to heal and prevent back pain (and knee pain, and shoulder pain, and neck pain... I could go on and on).
Stretching has many physical benefits but also stretching is wonderful for mental health, stress relief and reduction, productivity, calming of the mind and also controlling emotions.
Not all stretching is created equal, and over the past decade there has been extensive research into stretching, the different types of stretching, when it's most beneficial to do each type of stretching to get the best possible results and recovery. These discoveries have changed the concept of stretching and really high lighted the importance of a diverse stretching routine.
There are several types of stretching techniques, including dynamic, static (Yin Yoga), passive, PNF stretching and active stretching. The most common forms of stretches are static and dynamic stretches, which we will outline below along with PNF.
STATIC STRETCHES involve holding a stretch in a comfortable position for a period of time, typically between 10 and 30 seconds. This form of stretching is most beneficial after you exercise. This type of stretching flows into the concept of Yin Yoga, where poses are held for a minimum of 3 minutes. That is the time it takes for the fascia (soft connective tissue that covers the entire body, kind of like a full body stocking, fascial lines can run from the big toe to the crown of the head) to melt away, and really get down deeper into the stretches and allow the body to soften and find flexibility naturally without force.
DYNAMIC STRETCHES are active movements that cause your muscles to stretch, but the stretch is not held in the end position. These stretches are usually done before exercise to get your muscles ready for movement for example: high knees, butt kicks, leg swings all warm up the hips and increase mobility around the joints. Flow Yoga is also a type of dynamic stretching.
PNF ( proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation ) STRETCHES are said to use receptors to improve the neuromuscular (related to nerves and muscles) response of the body. For example, to perform a hamstring PNF stretch, stretch until you feel a slight discomfort, contract the hamstring isometrically (without moving) for 3-5 secs, relax the muscle and slowly deepen the stretch using your quadriceps (opposing muscle). Repeat the cycle 3-4 times. PNF stretching is the fastest way known to improve the range of motion or flexibility.
More on the benefits of stretching
Regular stretching can help increase your flexibility, which is crucial for your overall health. Not only can improved flexibility help you to perform everyday activities with relative ease, but it can also help delay the reduced mobility that can come along with ageing.
Stretching can help to improve your range of motion and increased range of motion means more freedom in your movements as you are able to move a joint through its full range.
Stretching helps to improve Posture. Muscle imbalances and tightness are common especially in people who work desk jobs and can lead to poor posture. A combination of strengthening (such as Pilates) and stretching specific muscle groups can reduce musculoskeletal pain and encourage proper alignment, which in turn will help to improve posture. (This also helps to minimise risk of injury due to poor alignment).
And who would have thought that stretching could improve your mental health? When you're experiencing stress, your muscles are tense and tight. That's because your muscles tend to tighten up in response to physical and emotional stress. Focus on stretching areas of your body where you tend to hold onto stress such as your neck, your upper back and your shoulders. Stretching will help to calm your nervous system which triggers a physical response to "let go and relax".
Performing stretches on a regular basis will also help to improve your circulation which increases blood flow to your muscles. This can help to shorten your recovery time and reduce muscle soreness after exercise.
Overall, stretching has so many benefits for both the mind and body and can be done basically anywhere with little to no equipment. If you're new to a regular stretching routine, take it slow and give your body time to get used to the stretches that you are performing. You also want to make sure you are performing the stretches with proper form and technique to avoid getting injured.
On days you exercise aim for 5-10 mins of dynamic stretching prior to your activity (hip warm ups on the barre before class make your class much more enjoyable!) and then do another 5-10 mins of static or PNF stretching after your class.
On days that you aren't exercising, still plan to schedule at least 5-10 mins of time for stretching, I suggest before bed. This helps to improved flexibility, reduce muscle tightness and pain, and also slow down the mind and prepare you for a restful sleep.
Join Cat on Wednesday evenings at Fleur Wellbeing studio at 6:30pm for our dedicated "Simply Stretch" class which focuses on stretching your entire body from head to toe. A great addition to your workout routine and perfect for mid week. Please ensure to book ahead of time through our Mindbody booking system as places are limited. And the guys can join this class for only $10 cash on the night! So ladies, bring your hubbies, brothers and guy mates!
Cat is a trained stretch therapist, and has a world of knowledge on all things stretching, to find out more about Cat, visit our "About Us" page and "Meet our Instructors".
Written by Cat Magin.
There are so many reasons that people choose to take up Pilates. Whether it be that they are an athlete wanting more power in their sport, a new mum wanting to strengthen her pelvic floor muscles post baby, or an office worker suffering from lower back pain - Pilates can be beneficial in so many different ways and for so many different reasons.
Here are some of the ways Pilates can help you:
1. Pilates for Elite Dancers:
Dancers spend an enormous amount of time per day in the studio, honing their technique, pushing their bodies to the limit and dedicating their lives to their art form. It is important for dancers to re-balance, re-align and re-connect to their bodies outside of the studio. Quite often dancers can become asymmetrical due to technical habits formed in their dance classes or due to injury and Pilates can help to balance out these imbalances. Pilates training helps to build deep core strength and rehabilitate injuries to help prolong the career of a dancer and support the physical demands that they place upon their bodies.
2. Pilates for Back Pain:
Back pain is extremely common and quite often work related, whether it be an occasional niggle or a chronic pain that is ongoing, strengthening your deep core abdominals through regular Pilates training can really help to both alleviate and prevent this discomfort. Pilates teaches you to engage your deep core abdominals or Transverse Abdominis to support your spine, and engage the correct postural muscles to keep you in proper alignment. Pilates can also help to support more severe back injuries such as disc injuries, SIJ dysfunction, and scoliosis in a safe way.
3. Pilates for Pelvic Floor Strength and Pre/Post Natal Mums:
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles is super important both during and especially after your pregnancy. Having a strong pelvic floor will help to prevent pelvic floor prolapse after pregnancy, supports the pelvis and provides a strong base of support for your spine which can also assist in preventing and alleviating lower back pain. The pelvic floor or "stabilising" muscles support your bladder, bowel and uterus and provide lumbar-pelvic stability and there is a strong emphasis on pelvic floor activation along with deep core muscle activation in Pilates.
4. Pilates for Mindfulness
Pilates really requires you to focus on your breath as well as your body, and how they work together, so it's no wonder you leave a class feeling refreshed and a lot more "clear headed". There is no time to think of bills, to do lists, and other drama when each and every exercise requires so much focus and concentration. Focus on you for an hour, and forget about all the other stuff!
5. Pilates for Brain Power
The founder of The Pilates method, Joseph Pilates, once called his workout method "the thinking man's exercise". Research has shown that regular Pilates classes can help to improve neural network activity, cognitive function and memory performance and it is believed that Pilates may even hold the potential as a treatment option for people with brain-degenerative diseases and cognitive dysfunctions.
We have a range of Pilates classes at Fleur Wellbeing including both Reformer and Mat Pilates. Speak to us about your specific goals and how we can help you achieve success in your Pilates journey. For more info on our class times and descriptions please visit the Schedule + Classes tab on our website.
Written by Ellesse Hawkins.
Where is your ultimate place of calm and serenity? For me there is no place more peaceful than on top of a mountain. Whether I'm hiking or skiing I feel true bliss and inner calm when I'm on top of the world, with nothing but clear fresh air, wide open spaces & breathtaking views.
My husband and I just recently returned from a month long trip in the Canadian Rockies for our honeymoon, where we did nothing but adventure and hike to some of the most incredible places I've ever seen. The highlight was our multi day hike to Mount Assiniboine in the Kooteney National Park, South of Banff (pictured above). A place I will never forget and where I hope to one day visit again.
Now that we are home and back into the full swing of life, I often find myself reminiscing about that incredible place, where I felt so amazingly free and at peace. I immediately feel that sense of calm again, just from revisiting in my thoughts and remembering that I can feel free from stress no matter where in the world I may be.
How amazing it is to climb back into the resolve of my mountain, anywhere, anytime with no hiking required...
It is no doubt that the daily hum of life has us stressed up to our earlobes sometimes, we all feel that way and there's no denying it.
When we're stressed, hormones like cortisol flood our systems, producing the "fight or flight response" in which our heart rate goes up, we breathe more heavily (requiring more oxygen) and our blood vessels constrict. While in the pre-civilization world, the increased blood flow to our heart and muscles helped us escape from predators and dangerous situations, we find ourselves in a very different position now. Our bodies can't tell the difference between an approaching Grizzly Bear and a ticked off spouse or a particularly epic traffic jam, so our stress response is triggered when there's no imminent danger. Instead of helping us to escape, this can contribute to chronic conditions like hypertension and headaches, as well as mental health concerns like depression and anxiety disorders. What's more, stress can make other conditions like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and insomnia worse.
Our spinning minds, impossible expectations and run-away lives are fuel for chronic stress, and our pause on our mountain helps us find our way back to a healthy inner ecosystem.
The next time you’re facing a pile of house work, heap of laundry, have a particularly yukky meeting at work or find yourself on the precarious precipice of something new, remember your mountain. As the saying goes, “If you don’t climb the mountain, you can’t appreciate the view.”
Here's 10 simple ways to help keep your stress in check, and put you on a path to your "inner Mountain" or calm space.
1. Go for a 10 min walk
While just about any walk will help you to clear your head and boost endorphins (which, in turn, reduce stress hormones), consider walking in a park or close to "nature" (I personally love walking along Merewether Beach with my fur babies each day) which, in turn, can actually put your body into a state of meditation known as "involuntary attention" during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection. Watch the waves (spot a few whales!), breathe in the salty sea air and listen to the seagulls - its amazing.
2. Eat a snack (mindfully)
The connection between the gut and brain is huge - called the 'gut-brain axis' and lots of interesting data supports the idea that the gut is a major mediator of the stress response. After all, stress is a brain and immune system mediated phenomena, and your gut is the largest organ in your immune system. Pick a snack that will fill you up, like half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg - because nothing is more stressful to the brain, than feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment. Take your snack away from your computer and go sit someplace peaceful. Focus on your food: its texture, the way it tastes, how it makes you feel. Now you’ve turned your snack into a meditation. No wonder they're called "bliss balls".
3. Fill your home or Office with Plants
Houseplants aren’t just beautiful air purifiers - they can actually help calm you down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response. One Washington State University study found that a group of stressed-out people who entered a room full of plants had a four-point drop in their blood pressure, while a comparison group who didn’t see plants dropped only two points, Prevention magazine has reported.
Need some advice on what to buy? Peace Lillies, Rubber plants, Aloe Vera, Snake plant, Bamboo palm, Golden Pothos (devil's Ivy) and Philodendrons are some great plants to start with. I can't seem to help the ever growing collection of greenery in my house lately. I even have plants hanging from the ceiling in my bedroom and a plant in my bathtub!
4. Step away from your computer screen
Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women, according to a study from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. In the same study, late night computer use was also associated with stress in both men and women.
Make sure you take frequent breaks during your day of computer use, and try to shut offline at least an hour before bed time - same goes for your I phone!
Make a cup of herbal tea, light some candles and start to wind down instead.
5. Spend less time on your phone all together!
There's no doubt that our mobile phones stress us out. The constant dinging and ringing, notifications and reminders. Go to your notification settings and adjust them so that you're not getting constant pop ups all the time for unnecessary apps. You'll get to the important stuff in time, you don't need to be reminded every time someone likes your posts or comments on something you commented on and so on and so forth.
Better still, if you can keep your phone on silent then do it! And don't feel like you have to reply to messages straight away - remember the days when we just had landlines and didn't even know what a text message was? ahhh simple times.
Mindless scrolling of Instagram and Facebook fits into this category too...
6. Listen to some music
Classical music has a particularly calming effect, it slows your heart rate and decreases the levels of stress hormones in your body. Personally I love the "Chill out" or "Most Beautiful Songs in the World" playlists on Spotify, we often play them in our Pilates classes. Really any music that you love will flood your brain with feel good chemicals like dopamine.
Or try cranking up your favourite tunes on the drive home!
7. Get into Essential Oils
Essential oils are a great way to de stress and there are so many ways you can incorporate them into your daily life. Try diluting the oils with some fractionated coconut oil and rubbing a small amount on your pulse points, temples or into your palms and taking some slow deep breaths. You can also try adding a few drops into a diffuser, to your bath or on your pillow at night. Lavender, Bergamot, Lemongrass, Orange, Ylang Ylang and Frankincense are some of my favs!
8. Get creative and Crafty
Repetitive motions, such as the fine motor skills used to knit, make jewellry, paint or draw, can sooth anxiety and be a meditation in itself. When I'm feeling like a bit of chill out "me time", I love to make dream catchers for my friends, make soy candles or make beautiful bath salts and body scrubs with my essential oils and even sometimes coffee grinds! Plus the action of then gifting your gorgeous creations to the ones you love is even better! Don't say you're not creative or artistic, if you can make a cup of tea, you can mix some epsom salts, essential oils and coconut oil together in a bowl - voila!
9. Practice Yoga regularly and stand in Mountain Pose!
Exercise is a very useful way to relieve stress, but yoga is different from HIIT class or weight-lifting in that it powerfully combines both physical fitness with an underlying philosophy of self-compassion and awareness. One of the main concepts in yoga is being non-judgmental toward both yourself and others, which is a powerful tool for stress relief since much of our stress comes from us being hard on ourselves or frustrated with others.
I make sure that I get to at least one or two Yin Yoga classes a week, where I am able to really slow down, put my "to do" list aside, focus on my breath and stop "doing" for that hour that I choose to take for myself and my mental health. It really is incredible!
You can also try standing in "Tadasana" or "Mountain Pose". With your feet hip distance apart, your spine elongated, stand nice and tall with your shoulders down and back and your palms open at your sides - feel your feet grounded and connected into the earth as you take long, slow, deep breaths. Allow this to be your moment for pause and reflection. As you stand here, centered and grounded, the outside world continues to buzz and swirl around you. People come and go, clouds pass and the sun creates shadows and light. Yet your mountain remains unwavering in its stillness.
10. Do a Pilates or Barre class
This is where coming along to your regular Pilates or barre classes is so important. Pilates and Barre incorporate both mind and body to build strength, improve flexibility, restore proper alignment, and reduce stress by bringing you into a healthier and more positive emotional and mental state of mind.
Pilates and barre can improve your concentration and minimise distraction within the mind, teach you to breathe more deeply and intentionally, and also help you to practice mindfulness throughout class as you focus your attention on the present movement and moment!
Written by Ellesse Hawkins
The Pilates method is built upon 6 core principles which when applied create the foundation of the Pilates discipline. Once understood and practiced throughout your regular Pilates practice, you can quickly observe them flowing over into every day life becoming part of your lifestyle.
All Pilates exercises radiate from the center. This is a core-strengthening and conditioning program. It also serves to connect the body and give a focal point from which each movement comes forth. By ensuring this center is strong you can also provide good protection for the spine and pass on power to each movement. This is your Pilates ‘powerhouse’.
Joseph Pilates described his program as ‘Contrology’. This central theory is what umbrellas the other Pilates principles. The premise is that controlling your muscles and movements allows for you to better exercise and move in a way to benefit the body. This is basically the opposite of a chaotic approach where you exert lots of energy but don’t control the movements, thus weakening or losing any real benefits. Contrology is not just about the physical body either. It’s also about the mind and how to become body aware and let the mind take the lead.
You might enjoy mindless exercising while you watch a screen or listen to some music at the same time. Pilates however demands your attention. It is not enough to simply go through the motions. Because Pilates is all about how you do exercises it is vital that you keep your mind on each movement to ensure you are performing the proper form. Mindfulness can help relax the body as thoughts and judgements flow away. Joseph Pilates saw his techniques as “coordinating mind, body and spirit.”
Movement precision builds on concentration. Precision is achieved by clearly moving, directing and placing the body and its parts. Realise that every movement has a purpose and every cue or instruction is important to the success of the movement.
Pilates, like yoga, calls for complete, thorough and purposeful inhalation and exhalation. But in Pilates, unlike in yoga, inhalation is through the nose and exhalation through the mouth. Conscious breathing and specific breathing patterns assist movement by focusing the attention and direction of the body and by delivering oxygen to the muscles being used. Full breathing also assists in removing non beneficial chemicals that may be stored in the muscles (Pilates 1945) .
Pilates may have an emphasis on form but the movements are not robotic and there is a flow created which helps to build a workout that challenges the body. The breath sets the rhythm and this is used, alongside the sequence of movements, to flow seamlessly from one position to the next. The connection you feel during sessions and the momentum each movement creates gives Pilates a sense of flowing energy.
So next time you're in class, see if you can being to mind these 6 important principles and enhance your Pilates training!
Written by Ellesse Hawkins