April is Stress Awareness Month 2021 so let’s take this opportunity to talk a little bit about stress. Perhaps you’re feeling stressed right now. If you are, consider this question, ask yourself what does it ‘feel’ like to be stressed? What are you really feeling when you are stressed? What happens in your mind when you are stressed? And what happens in your body when you are stressed? What emotions do you associate with feeling stressed?
Stress is recognised as a contributing factor in all diseases. We are all exposed to stress every single day, therefore it is important that we have some simple and effective stress management strategies that we can use daily (or almost daily). The more regularly we manage and relieve our stress the less chance it has to build up in our systems and potentially cause or contribute to illness and disease.
Implementing a daily stress management becomes a total no brainer when you consider the sobering statistics below in regards to stress and disease/illness. (Source: webmd.com)
- 43% of all adults suffer adverse health effects from stress.
- 75 to 90% of all doctor’s office visits are for stress-related ailments and complaints.
- Stress can play a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety.
- The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) declared stress a hazard of the workplace. Stress costs American industry more than $300 billion annually.
- The lifetime prevalence of an emotional disorder is more than 50%, often due to chronic, untreated stress reactions.
So it would seem that if you can manage your stress you can stack the deck in your favour and potentially avoid, or reduce your chances of experiencing, a lot of health problems. But how? Well, a regular Somatic movement practice would be a great place to start. Stress is expressed in the body as muscular tension, and when practicing Somatic movements you learn how to release this muscular tension quickly and easily.
“You can’t save your stress management for the weekend, its’ gotta be something you do almost daily” Prof. Robert Sapolsky, – SF Being Human Q&A (this quote appears at around the 13:55 mark of this excellent conversation)
Wtih all that in mind, I’ve created another Somatic movement playlist for you that you can use any time to release any accumulated stress at the end of your day, or anytime for that matter. Give it a try and see if you don’t feel less stressed, calmer and more relaxed afterwards? I’d love to hear your feedback too, so don’t hesitate to leave a comment or get in touch via my social media channels. (links in side bar)
Thanks for reading and see you next time.
At this time of year many people start thinking about New Year Resolutions. Often these resolutions will involve getting fit or losing weight. Your success or ability to lose weight and/or get fit will be intrinsically linked to your ability to move well. We get fit by moving and we lose weight by moving. If we cannot move well and without pain our chances of fulfilling these particular goals are slim… pardon the pun!
So with that said it would make sense to address your ability to move and perhaps make improving your movement one of your new years resolutions. When you can move well and without pain you will be more inclined to continue with your chosen exercise regime/activity. You will also be less likely to pick up an injury that might scupper your progress.
Moving freely and without pain is the foundation stone upon which you can build your new healthier lifestyle for the new year. Somatics is all about improving your movement. A daily somatics practice will lead to;
Pain relief: You are unlikely to keep up a new fitness regime if you have pain. Somatics can resolve your chronic pain issues (read more here)…
Improved movement: Somatics improves your movement by eliminating Sensory Motor Amnesia leading to greatly improved movement (read more here)…
Improved posture: When you release and relax you muscles your posture improves automatically (read more here)…
Improved balance, coordination and proprioception: When you can contract and relax all your muscles voluntarily you will have better control of your whole body (read more here)…
Improved sleep: When your muscles are relaxed it is easier to fall asleep and stay asleep (read more here)…
All of these benefits will go a long way towards helping you achieve your fitness or weight loss goals for the new year. If you would like to learn some of the most fundamental Somatic Movements right now you can head over to the Learn Somatics YouTube Channel where I’ll be adding more movements weekly.
Or perhaps you’d like to learn from me directly. No problem, check out my online learning options here. I’d love to help you.
Whatever your goals, have a happy, healthy and active new year!
As always thanks for reading.
The human organism requires two things in order to survive, fuel (in the form of food and water) and oxygen. Without food we might live for a few weeks, without water a few days, but without oxygen we will expire in a matter of minutes. Our ability to breathe freely, dictates how efficiently we can take in oxygen and also expel carbon dioxide. So the purpose of breathing is two fold, to get oxygen into the body and also to get gaseous waste, in the form of carbon dioxide, out of the body. Anything that reduces the efficiency of this process will lead us to experience a certain amount of stress. The degree to which breathing is compromised is directly proportional to the level of stress experienced. If breathing is compromised just a little, we may not really notice it all that much, but it is certain to affect our performance and well being. Obviously, if breathing is compromised a lot we will certainly notice it.
Deep breathing has long been utilised as a means of alleviating stress and calming the mind and body. But what if you cannot breathe deeply? What if there was so much tension in your body that you could not fill your lungs to their full capacity nor empty them fully?
If you observe the breathing of an infant you will notice something. It is accompanied by very little effort and/or movement. Only the gentle rise and fall of the belly. Breathing in this way, the way we are designed to breathe, is effortless, requiring the work of few muscles but the relaxation of many muscles. The main muscle of inhalation is the diaphragm. In its relaxed state, it has a dome or umbrella shape. When it contracts, the dome flattens out downwards, this flattening out makes the thoracic cavity larger, creating a vacuum that sucks air in, expanding the lungs. The flattening diaphragm also gently pushes the stomach and intestines downwards to make room for this expansion of the lungs. When the the diaphragm relaxes back into its dome shape, it decreases the space in the thoracic cavity pushing the air out of the lungs again. Simple, elegant, efficient.
This free expansion of the lungs is dependant on many muscles being able to lengthen and relax fully. The ribs that form a cage around our lungs are all attached to each other by muscles called intercostals. When these intercostals are able to to relax and lengthen the ribs are free to spread apart like fingers accommodating the expanding lungs within.
The rectus abdominus, your ‘six pack’ muscle, connects the sternum to the pubic bone. When this muscle can relax and lengthen, the stomach and intestines can be gently pushed downwards and outwards by the action of the diaphragm to accommodate the expanding lungs.
The internal and external obliques which wrap around the space between ribs and pelvis also must relax and lengthen to facilitate the internal organs moving downward and the ribs expanding with each inhalation.
You cannot breathe as deeply and freely as possible if you have chronic muscular contraction in the muscles that attach to the ribs or cross the ribs. That is a lot of muscles.
1. Rectus Abdominus (addominals), 2. Intercostals, 3. External Obliques,
4. Internal Obliques, 5. Pec Minor, 6. Pec Major
By learning how to release and relax these muscles we can breathe easier, inhaling more air with less effort. This is a very important skill to possess as our breathing has such a profound effect on how we feel. When our breathing is weak and shallow, we feel anxious, fearful and fatigued. When our breathing is deep and free we feel relaxed, calm and content.
Releasing the muscles of Red Light Reflex greatly improves breathing as it involves most of the muscles mentioned above. Somatic movements such as Arch & Curl (see below) address these muscles. Arch & Curl is just one of the many Somatic movements that also allow us to gain greater freedom and control of the muscles that can restrict our breathing. By spending some time releasing and lengthening these muscles our breathing will be deeper and freer and require less effort.
So how does your breathing feel? Can you breathe deeply and freely into your belly? Or do you breathe into your chest? Do you think you would benefit from being able to breathe deeper with less effort?
Learn Somatics online with me, check out my online learning options here!
Or if you’d like to get started right now explore the Learn Somatics YouTune Channel.
As always thanks for reading
We all have a certain capacity for stress, some of us can handle more, others less. The one thing we all have in common though is that we all respond to stress in the same way. We contract, and our muscles tighten. If the stress is ongoing, the contraction and tightening are ongoing.
Let’s compare our personal capacity to handle stress to a bucket. Some people have large buckets, some people have small buckets, and some have medium size buckets.
When we experience stress, a little (or maybe a lot) of water is added to our bucket. Over time, we experience more stresses and our bucket fills up with water until eventually there is no more room for any more. The bucket is now heavy and cumbersome. At this point our capacity to handle stress is reached and then breached as represented by the water beginning to pour out over the sides of the bucket. We now have a very heavy and unwieldy bucket spilling water everywhere.
What happens when our stress levels exceed our capacity to deal with the stress?
We have all, at one time or another, experienced times in our lives when we underwent high or ongoing levels of stress. When we have to endure high levels of ongoing stress we inevitably get sick, we get tired, we age quicker, we become unhappy, we become irritable… So as the bucket fills up with water, our bodies become tighter and tighter due to the involuntary muscular contractions in response to the stress. Our bodies EXPRESS stress as tension, and they express excessive stress as excessive tension.
Unfortunately, stress is an unavoidable part of life, so the bucket is going to fill up in response to stress whether we like it or not. But! If we could empty the bucket somehow…
Well there is a very simple way to empty the stress bucket, a daily Somatic Movement practice.
Somatic Movements are simple floor based movement patterns that allow you to quickly and easily lower the level of tension in your muscles in a systematic way by pandiculating, effectively tipping water out of your bucket. An empty bucket can take more water if necessary (read handle more stress!) and in this way allow you to be more resilient to the every day stresses we all experience. A daily Somatic practice will allow you to start and/or finish each day, with an empty, light and easy to carry ‘bucket’.
If you would like to learn how to use Somatic Movements to manage stress, improve your movement and eliminate muscle pain, get in touch with me here…
Or you can start learning right now using my YouTube channel.