Ever been told to ‘take a deep breath’ or ‘just breathe’, when you’re in a stressful state?
I know all your hands are up.
Chances are; you’ve heard it straight from my mouth too.
Believe it or not, there is good reason for it. And science is now backing up this ancient philosophy.
After completing the ‘Art of Breath’ clinic course, facilitated by the guys at powerspeedendurance.com on the weekend, my love and understanding of the physiology of breath mechanics has deepened and open up a whole new world of practical breath application, to promote optimal health & wellbeing through nervous system manipulation, enhanced physical performance, quicker recovery and improved neuromuscular connection & self-awareness.
The breath is an incredibly powerful tool, and governs not only our aerobic capacity, but also our perceptions, reactions, and actions of everyday experiences.
We all know what it feels like to get angry or frustrated leading to us huffing & puffing, then carrying that tension with us throughout the day.
This is because humans (unlike dogs) are typically not very good at transitioning between sympathetic & parasympathetic nervous system states (stress vs relaxed). Yet, we have complete control and power over changing this through the use of our breath; if we choose to.
However, many of us simply have lost the ability and innate know-how to “breath well” and are living in a constant heightened state, without evening knowing it.
Sympathetic nervous system reactions are amazing, but should be reserved for short term emergency use only. Like slamming the breaks (reaction) to avoid hitting a dog on the road, or pushing the prowler at the gym.
Between emergencies or chosen high periods of stress, we should be in a parasympathetic state allowing us to recover, digest and heal. It’s during this time, where healthy bodies and minds are made.
Generally if we are able to transition between these states optimally, while reducing our time in the sympathetic state, we can see huge improvements in sleep quality, physical performance, alertness, concentration, stress management, patience, fat loss, digestion, immunity, gut health, and significantly reduced levels of anxiety.
Fortunately or unfortunately we live in a world that promotes life in the fast lane leading to prolonged periods of stress (usually subconsciously); influencing poor breathing mechanics and negative physiologic reactions.
Think; high work demands, family commitments, relationships, traffic, study, over training, not enough training, social media, shitty bosses, and too much time in-front of a screen just to name a few.
They’re all guilty influences, and many of them unavoidable.
However, we can alter the way in-which we approach and react to them.
Most of you would have already experienced the use of breath with me at HS already, and will be familiar with some of the techniques used; before, during or post training.
Over the next few weeks / months, we are going to dive a little deeper into optimising our lung capacity and movement potential by using more advanced breath techniques during class, and ultimately providing you with some new tools to take away to use between your own life experiences, like between work and home, or tv and bed.
If you would like more information on how the breath can positively influence your life on a more individual level, whether you’re a shallow breather, have sinus issues, or have unresolved anxiety, you are welcome to get in touch for a 1:1 breath & movement session.
“The mind is the king of the senses, and the breath is the king of the mind” – BKS Iyengar
Can mindlessness help you become more mindful?
If you understand what mindfulness is, then yes. And unless you’ve been living under a rock over the past 5 years, then you are most likely aware of the term mindfulness.
The term mindfulness has been adopted worldwide for all ages to become more aware of the present moment, without being tempted by distraction.
As with all societal movements, it’s the conversation that holds the initial power for change. And this ‘convo’ of mindfulness is no different. It’s a big conversation, and is now encouraged in schools, large corporate industries, and the humble home.
The more we hear, read, watch and act on it, the more subconsciously mindful we become. In theory.
Theoretically mindfulness should be a life practice, consciously acting in a mindful manner without actually being mindful of it at all.
In an ideal world we would be mindfully driving, eating, resting, talking, listening, cooking, cleaning, working, studying, training, playing, and between the bed sheets.
But in reality, this isn’t happening.
So, the mindfulness movement is here to save us from our outrageously fruitful, overly connected, chaotic 21st century lives; and to bring us back to earth away from planning a work presentation, while cooking, helping with kid’s homework, making online purchases, and 4 Instagram checks in between.
The millennial multitasker is quite the phenomenon, but this way of living is far from sustainable and is coming back to bite us in the bum. By biting, I mean burn out, chronic stress, poor stress management, chronic fatigue, reoccurring colds, newly developed auto-immune diseases, low libido, depression, anxiety, relationship breakdowns, brain fog, poor memory retention, weight loss often followed by weight gain (fat gain). And you know what all of these lead to? Over eating, undereating, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative disease, suicide, cancer….Sound fun? I think not.
Everything we do in life has a ripple effect, everything is connected.
So you see why the conversation is so important?
Why this is more than just another health fad? Why living a more mindful life may save us, and the future?
But. There’s always a but…
Conversely, being too conscious, too aware and regimented with your mindfulness may just be having the opposite effect. Especially if you become obsessive and reliant on such practices, in the same way many of us do with nutrition or fitness. A poor relationship with our health practices has the potential to become ‘unhealthy’ if not managed well.
Just like all lifestyle habits, they should be approached with an open mind and flexibility. They’re a practice, and always a practice.
Each day will be different, and may present challenges you haven’t yet faced. You may miss a day, you may forget your headphones (and god forbid your mindfulness practice simply cannot go on without them).
Developing a regular mindfulness practice is important, and has countless benefits.
But is most beneficial when you can implement it into all areas of your life, and eventually becoming a mindless effort J
Where to begin?
Start with the breath. Learn diaphragmatic breathing through your nose
Stop eating at your desk, in the car, in front of the TV, while working etc.
Connect with your food, and consciously chew each mouthful before taking another. Mindful eating is an art that will bring you so much joy and appreciation. Whilst always supporting your sympathetic nervous system, reducing overeating, and other health risks. Take your time.
Look at people in the eyes, and put your phone away. Be present to the people around you. As they are ones deserving of your full attention.
In most cases, nothing is that important that it cant’ wait a few minutes.
And when you have time, you can then give the phone task your full attention.
Simple practices like this will enhance your relationships, memory and feelings of joy. Crazy I know 😉
Come join our Yoga or Mobility & Mindful Movement classes at Holistic Sister; and learn how to consciously connect to your movement practice. You’ll be amazed at how your body, mind and emotional self transforms when you become connected.
Body Love = A Lovely Body : #1 Freedom
How body love improves body composition.
There are a multitude of directions in which you can begin to honestly explore self-love and positive body image. But it’s not as simple as following a template, or just telling yourself you love your body.
It’s an infinite continuum of self-care, acceptance, accountability, hard work and freedom.
These simplistic ideals are easier said than done, and in most cases involve patience, a level of maturity, life experience and self-awareness.
But let me tell you. When you get there, your body will return the love with internal and external beauty & strength.
And notably, a lot more joy within the process.
Over the next few post I will share a few personal insights regarding body love, that I have personally found very valuable for myself & with clients spanning many years.
Today we start at the end. Freedom
Freedom. The icing on the cake when it comes to body love.
Freedom is releasing yourself from the shackles of self-limiting beliefs, mindsets, actions and a negative internal dialogue. When you set yourself free from these limitations, your providing opportunity. Opportunity opens doors to new experiences, challenges, pleasure, stimulating conversation & new relationships.
Freedom is giving yourself permission to enjoy and embrace these opportunities with an open mind and heart, without guilt shame or other negative behaviours.
When you free yourself from yourself, positive physiological responses cascade throughout; including hormone regulation, improved sleep, clarity, energy production and way more happy feels. All supporting healthy body composition.
Body Love = A Lovely Body : Self-Care
How body love improves body composition
Within these posts, we’re exploring how honest body love is one of the most valuable tools towards improving body composition. Feel free to check out Post 1. ‘Freedom’, and look out for more to come.
‘Self-care’ – is a set of regular practices that optimise our physical, mental, emotional & spiritual well-being. Each with significant purpose such as; nourish, enhance, uplift, inspire, rejuvenate, pleasure, even challenge.
Self care first requires a set of standard practices, ‘a basic human care package’ if you will (we’ll explore this in a moment). From there, the next step is self-awareness, followed by a healthy mindset that honestly & positively supports you.
It should come to no surprise that exercise, nutritionally dense food, clean water, love & friendship, time in nature, good hygiene and a healthy supportive home & work environments are all necessary for optimal health and body composition. This is your basic self-care package.
Self-awareness is the innate ability to truly understand what you actually need to thrive. Self-awareness is your greatest teacher, ultimately providing you will specific information about what you actually need, enjoy, when, whom with & how (this should be intuitive).
But.. is it that simple? Not quite.
I can hear many of you saying (A) “I do this already, my diet in impeccable, I bust my gut in the gym, I love my job and my partner, I have endless energy and don’t need much sleep… But i’m still carrying an extra 5kgs that I’d rather not have”. Or maybe, you’re saying (B) “As if. No one actually lives like that, you can’t have it all… I also have this shoulder thing from when I was 10, so I can’t really do XYZ… and my social calendar….and kids…I’m genetically pre-disposed to….my boss is a prick but I absolutely cannot quit, oh and I love wine”. Sound familiar? Both of these scenarios, or minor variations of, are very common and can both have negative effects on body composition.
So… where to from here? The next step to your self-care package is mindset.
A negative mindset is one that looks at your self-care package as a chore, a to do list, simply because dr. social media said so, or a means to keep up appearances against the world showing off their green smoothies and hot sweaty Bali bodies.
These types of mindset are often coupled with poor breathing mechanics, poor gut health, poor tolerance to stress, sleep disorders & chronic inflammation. Which all disrupt hormone regulation and optimisation, leading to unfavourable health outcomes, including poor body composition.
A healthy, supportive mindset is one that looks at your self-care package as a joy, and a privilege. Yet flexible and understanding. It’s all you, acting as your own personal empowering influencer.
A mindset that eyes the rainbow of vegetables on your plate with gratitude, not a form of punishment. A mindset that finishes every last challenging rep because you believed you could and resisted temptation to use your past limitations as an excuse.
A mindset that enjoys a pizza with friends guilt free, and takes pride in saying no when you’ve had your limit.
A mindset that enjoys running for the exhilarating feeling of freedom, not for the number calories burnt.
A mindset that can admit the most productive and rewarding experiences are the ones where you are mindfully present. Not the ones where you’re working on autopilot and simply existing, cementing the importance of active listening, deep breathing, and mindful living.
A mindset that honours your intuition and innate intelligence.
When you are willing and able to choose a mindset that supports you, the rest simply follows. Then, the self-care package suddenly evolves from a list of nagging chores into a fun, empowering, and fulfilling lifestyle.
With this new ‘mindset’ you can now see your limitations, past experiences, injuries & or traumas as privileged experiences, not defining moments that permanently shape you.
From here on in you can now cut the bullshit, shed the baggage (maybe some body fat too), and live in peace with pride knowing you are taking care of yourself the best you can with what you’ve got.
Body Love = A Lovely Body : Acceptance
How body love improves body composition
Acceptance throughout this journey for improved body composition holds many places, and is an essential companion to all other aspects in which we explore in this Body Love = A Lovely Body post series including; self care, hard work, accountability & freedom.
A good place to start with acceptance, is accepting that you are born with one physical body, in which you have sole control over.
If you struggle to honestly accept what ya mumma gave you, and are forever chasing someone else’s physical form, you’re going to have a real hard time making a change at all; and are potentially making yourself really unhappy while trying.
Self acceptance pairs beautifully with self care & accountability, as they support you to continually move forward with pride. And prevents you from succumbing to ice- cream & muumuu’s just because you’ve been told you’re ‘predisposed’ to type 2 diabetes or being overweight.
Acceptance in this story does not mean giving up. It means acknowledging the cards you’ve been dealt, and playing your very best hand, the best way you can. Which also means, accountability & hard work.
It’s accepting responsibility for your own self, and YOURSELF alone. Not someone’s else self.
Self acceptance requires you to REALLY know yourself, inside and out. Which can actually be quite confronting for a lot of people. But in doing so, you’re promoting positive self regard and positive ownership over your decision making. Which includes; reaching out for help, advice or educating yourself appropriately. Leaving behind uneducated & irrational judgements, purchases & self-diagnosing.
If this concept of self awareness before self acceptance is an area you struggle with, I would highly recommendation beginning a regular mindfulness or meditation practice. This may involve journaling, guided meditations, visualisations, floating etc.
Alternatively, if you need extra support, health professionals such; nutritionist, naturopaths, life coaches, well educated personal trainers, even reiki practitioners can be incredibly valuable in helping you uncover your true potential through acceptance…
Coming back to improved body composition. Acceptance gives you honest power to source and provide YOUR body with what it actually needs. Therefore, it reduces unnecessary stresses that have negative body comp outcomes, whilst promoting positive sustainable, physiological adaptations.
Accept, more forward, win.