In 2017 many of my clients have made positive changes to their bodies and their lives. Some are only at the beginning of their journey to being happier and healthier. However they have made the first step by recognising the value of their own well-being and that we need to invest in ourselves in order to live life to the full.
One of my clients who really embraced this and was rewarded is Sinead. She kindly allowed me to tell you her story. I hope it will inspire those of you, who are facing the New Year with injury, pain, or a physical condition that holds you back from reaching for your dreams.
When I First Met Sinead
36 year old Sinead first came to see me in August this year. She walked into the room gingerly, as though scared of the impact her feet would cause on the floor. Her expression was one of doubt, hesitance and insecurity. She explained to me that her partner and her had booked a very special adventure for this November. They wanted to climb Mount Everest together. They had spend a lot of money on this trip and it was going to be an experience of a lifetime for their anniversary. They thought they were doing everything right, starting to prepare themselves early. Sinead had been seeing a Personal Trainer to get fit for the hike. As her sessions progressed Sinead started noticing some discomfort in her back, that soon develop into pain. She told her trainer “My back hurts.” Her trainer replied: “That’s normal. No pain no gain. Keep going.” Sinead kept going, until one day during her session her back went into spasm and severe pain started shooting down her leg. She could no longer hold herself upright.
Sinead was diagnosed with an acute disk prolapse in her lower back, which was pressing on a nerve and caused sciatica (nerve pain down her leg). Sinead did everything she was told by the doctors, to recover as quickly as possible. She also visited a Physiotherapist. The acute pain went away, but back ache and sciatica remained. As soon as she went back to the gym to continue her training the pain got worse again.
Making a Plan
Now, 2 months later she stood in my studio after someone had recommended Pilates to her to help with her recovery. She asked me: “Is it even possible that I can climb Mount Everest in 3 months? Do I have to cancel my trip?” I told her that everything was possible, however that I could not promise anything as her recovery depended on many things. Climbing Mount Everest in 3 months, when she could barely walk now, was an ambitious goal. I explained that ideally, she would not put herself under this pressure and allow her body to heal in its own time. Sinead explained just how important this trip was for her. She wanted to do anything she could to be able to go with her partner. She reassured me however, that she had no intention of taking a big risk on her health either.
Impressed by her clarity and determination I told her that she would have to commit time daily to her recovery. She would have to be very aware all the time about how to minimise stress on her body and her injury. I also told her that she should see me twice a week to give this a chance in the time frame we had.
Over the course of the next few weeks Sinead seemed to struggle with her dedication and with keeping her impatience at bay. Several times she cancelled her sessions with me because of having to stay late at work. She also did not pay enough attention to her back health, by sitting for long periods of time at work, making her back feel worse. She often admitted that she was not doing the gentle mobilising exercises I gave her regularly. To make matters worse she tried to make up for the lack of practice and care by going back to the gym again, trying to push away at more challenging workouts and hurting herself again.
It took her until beginning of September to realised that she was not helping herself. She realised that what I was recommending did work, but that she had to stick to it and that she could not force her body to heal faster by compromising on it and then pushing it.
From then on Sinead decided to see me 3 times a week and did all her exercises just as instructed. Her sciatica soon disappeared. By mid October her back pain was gone. Thanks to Pilates she had now learned a lot about how to use her body more safely and efficiently, and she was ready to return to the gym to carefully built her endurance and strength again. As November approached she was left with nothing but a slight feeling of weakness in her left leg and a slightly stiff hip. She still had to be careful to not overdo things, however she felt ready to go on her adventure.
During the last session we discussed what safety measures she could put in place, in case she had to cut her trip short. I wanted to make sure that she had a way out and would not feel stuck in the mountains or feel forced to continue in case she re-injured herself. I also gave her a tool kit of stretches and exercises she could do standing up, so they were practical during her hike when she felt her hip or back stiffen up.
Off I let her go to the Himalayas with a fierce hug. Over the time she was away I often thought of her and hoped that all would go well. I had asked her to let me know as soon as she could, how it all went.
Two weeks later I received an email from her with a photo of her partner and her, smiling broadly at Mount Everest Base Camp. They had done it! Sinead told me that it had not been easy for her but that the stretches I gave her helped her reach the top and she was now going to give herself proper recovery time.
I was euphoric for her. Sinead is a wonderful example of someone who did not let physical issues stop her doing what she wanted to do in life. Yet she did this responsibly, putting their health first. I think we all can learn from Sinead and her balanced commitment to her physical health and her life ambitions.
If a physical issue is holding you back from going on your personal adventures in life, contact Kristin to discuss your case and how she might be able to help you.
We all have heard of “body and mind” exercise such as Yoga and Pilates and most of us understand that the body and the mind are connected. Of course, where ever you perceive your mind to be, it is most definitely inside your body. However we do not always grasp just how completely inseparable mind and body are. They are not only connected, they are one. For example, the gut is sometimes called the second brain, because it inhabits some 100 million nerve cells. That is more than there are in the spinal cord. No wonder we tend to say “I have a gut feeling” when we have a strong intuition about something. Here are 3 reasons why we should consider our mental state when we seek changes within our body.
#1 Posture is not just a habit, it is an expression of how you feel.
Most of us are aware that our posture needs improving. We have desk jobs and slouch a lot. We get cold and hunch our shoulders. We consider it a physical issue and to some degree it is. Over time our chest muscles tighten and pull our shoulders forward. Our head gets pushed forward and the neck gets stiff. The upper back rounds and becomes weak.
However we also know that our posture suffers when we are stressed. We get more tense with stress and our shoulders rise. If we are insecure we also assume a hunched posture in a subconscious attempt to protect ourselves. When we are sad and depressed we look at the floor a lot and drag our feet. Think of someone you know, who you believe to be confident and relaxed. What is their posture like? You will most likely find them upright, open in their chest, relaxed in their body and with a spring in their step.
How we hold ourselves, how we move, and the degree of tension in our body is largely determined by how we feel. Are we confident or anxious? Are we stressed or relaxed? Are we happy or sad? This has an impact on our body and our posture. So why do we tend to always resort to fixing our posture by simply pulling our shoulders back or sitting more upright when we can remember?
How about we work on the cause of bad posture on the inside, as well as on the physical elements on the outside? Would that not mean twice the chance at positive postural change and a generally more comfortable you?
#2 Pain is our body's way of telling us that something is wrong.
Some of us are plagued with pain that comes and goes or has been with us for a long time. We may not even remember how or why it first appeared. We may have tried all sorts of manual therapy and rehabilitation exercise, but it just doesn't seem to make much difference.
Pain is the body's way of telling us, that something is wrong. It works pretty well when we have sustained an injury or illness. However pain is also sometimes experienced where there is no visible injury at all. The nerves that signal pain to the brain are embedded within the connective tissue, which spreads through the entire body. Since the nervous system and the connective tissue are so interlinked they affect each other. Many massage and movement professionals have seen clients spontaneously become emotional as an area of connective tissue is released. It is believed that emotional distress can be stored or trapped in areas of the connective tissue, which hardens or stiffens as a protective responds. Over time this starts to affect the nerves embedded within, to signal pain. Releasing the tissue however, does not resolve the problem permanently, because the cause is of an emotional nature and needs to be addressed too.
If you experience pain that has been investigated by health professionals to no avail, you may want to ask yourself honestly, how stressed or anxious you are in your life? Have you experienced any emotional upset around the time when the pain started? This does not have to have been a massive traumatic event. A generally hectic and stressful stretch of time can be enough to start overloading our nervous system to affect the body if we are already vulnerable in some way.
What you way need are 3 things:
2. Gentle mobilising exercises to increase physical healing.
3. A plan of how you can make the changes in your life that resolve the original cause and allow
you to move on with a more balanced lifestyle.
#3 If we can't eat well and manage a healthy weight, there is a good reason for this.
Most of us have a basic understanding of what foods are healthy and what foods are not. We also generally understand the balance between calorie intake and burning it off by being physically active. And yet many of us struggle with the discipline to stick to our healthy diet and gym regime. We easily judge ourselves as too weak to resist temptation.
If your cravings are overriding your conscious reasoning, that sticking to a certain diet and exercise plan would make you loose weight, ask yourself what you are getting out of eating when you think you should not. Our body is not looking for weight gain when it makes us eat more than we need. It is however looking for something. You may think you are gaining nothing useful from overeating, but what ever you are getting from overeating is powerful and more important than what you want from being slimmer, otherwise you would not do it.
You may need some help, identifying what it is that overeating is giving you. Once you have identified what it is, you can make changes in your life, so that you gain that very important, powerful thing in a different way. Then changing your diet and loosing weight won't be so difficult.
When we begin to work with the mind and the body equally, we also begin to appreciate all that we are, with all our complexities and all the potential we actually have to change.
If you would like help with improving your posture, reducing pain, shifting a destructive habit, that holds you back, or work on other physical goals together with your mind, you can get in touch with Kristin on firstname.lastname@example.org.