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Fresh Outlook For The New Year
The year 2020 has certainly not turned out the way any of us expected. We've had to make many changes. With the new year comes an opportunity to review what is working in our life and what isn't, and to choose what we want to carry with us into the cycle of renewal and what to let go of.
The action of reviewing and choosing, however, requires us to be conscious, to take time to think and reflect, and to be honest with ourself about what is going on in our life. The fear that has captivated so many of us this past year can impact our ability to objectively reflect on the realities of our experience.
Looking back at 2020 through an objective lens, the year has allowed us to shift our personal priorities, given Mother Earth a bit of a break from pollution, and brought social issues that need to be addressed to the surface for all to see. The question now is: what do you want to experience in 2021?
Setting a fresh outlook for the new year can actually be quite simple. Take time to honestly and consciously look at what you want more of in your life, set one goal with achievable action steps that you can easily implement, and then take committed action toward that goal each and every day. When we are clear on what we want and why we want it, we are more likely to achieve our goals.
Wishing you and your loved ones all the best for a happy and insightful 2021!
Getting through the "winter blues"
This time of year can be difficult for many people. The fact that there's less sunlight during the winter season and that we tend to spend more time indoors because it's cold can cause people to feel a little down. Add to that the fact that we are having less contact with loved ones due to the restrictions in place, our usual "winter blues" may feel more intense right now.
There are a few simple things we can do to help alleviate some of the depression we are all experiencing.
* Get some fresh air. Even though it's cold, the simple action of going outside for a short brisk walk can have a tremendously uplifting effect on our mood.
* Connect with others. If you're concerned about being around others at this time, find different ways to regularly connect with friends and loved ones. For example, early every Saturday morning a friend and I go for a walk. Even though we both live in Ottawa, we walk separately in our own neighbourhood while chatting on the phone. We've been doing this weekly since last spring and the only difference now is that we have to really bundle up well before heading out! :)
* Spend time every day doing something you love. Being stuck at home for so long, we can easily get caught in a "groundhog day" rut. Having something fun or exciting to look forward to each and every day can significantly improve our mood and perspective. For example, I came to realise a few months ago that I haven't been reading much lately. I've since made time every day to read for at least 60 minutes. I was surprised at how something so "insignificant" has made a huge difference to me and my happiness.
* Make your health and well-being a priority. This doesn't have to be time-consuming or overly involved, but it does require some focus and planning. It can be as simple as: scheduling a 10-minute break in the morning and afternoon during your work day; preparing a special meal for yourself filled with your favourite foods; supporting good sleep habits nightly; making time for a yoga and meditation practice, or any other physical and mental-emotional activities you enjoy.
Though "winter blues" are common, if you are experiencing severe depression, seasonal affective disorder or any other difficulties, please contact your health-care practitioner for personalised support.
Exploring and putting in place various supportive activities that resonate with you can have a very positive impact on your mood during the winter months and help improve your overall health and wellness.
The importance of having a healthy core
Why would we want to have a "healthy" core instead of a "strong" core? A strong core implies that the muscles are strong and stable. However, strength doesn't necessarily lead to the overall healthy function of the body.
To most people, the core refers to the group of muscles which include the abdominals, obliques and back muscles. However, the core is interconnected with the upper torso (chest, thorax) and the pelvis. So having a strong core doesn't mean that all of the connective tissues are interacting harmoniously for the body's proper function and mobility.
A healthy core means that all of the muscles of the torso and pelvis (including shoulder and hip joints) are working synergistically to perform various physical tasks, such as walking, lifting, bending, turning, balancing, and pretty much every other movement you can think of!
In our society, the most common physical pain people experience is lower back pain. I'm often asked what stretch is good to alleviate back pain. And here comes the problem: we tend to think that stretching our back is what is required because it brings immediate relief; but that relief is very temporary. Back pain occurs for many different reasons, including injury and poor posture, but bottom line the only real way to treat chronic back pain is by creating a healthy core.
So to create a healthy core, you need to address poor posture and physical imbalances in the body, increase movement and activity on a daily basis, and strengthen and stretch all the connective tissues in a functional way.
The importance of having a healthy pelvic floor
We're told that as we get older it's normal for us to pee a bit when we laugh, cough, sneeze or jump. Is it really? Well, it is common in our society for this to happen, but is it normal? No.
It's important to make the distinction between "normal" and "common" because our society has become accustomed to calling things normal when they're not. When we say that something is normal, what we usually mean is that it is representative of a norm, a standard or a rule; a natural occurrence. However, when we say that something is common, it usually means that there are other people who experience the same thing.
Incontinence, which is one of many symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunction, is not normal. My grandparents didn't wear Poise, Depends or other brands of incontinence support, and I'm sure your grandparents didn't either. It's not wrong or bad to use these products. My point is that we have normalized something rather than take a serious look at what is causing the issue in the first place.
There are many factors that lead to pelvic floor dysfunction, including: poor posture, lack of physical activity, injury, and birthing, just to name a few. And, in our society, it has become common to gloss over a problem thinking we can apply a quick-fix solution. But these quick-fix solutions don't work long term and can actually lead to more problems in the long run.
So, what are we to do? Through better understanding the pelvic floor and its healthy functioning, we can often begin to improve symptoms in a relatively short amount of time. Address your poor posture. Do physical activities (such as yoga, walking, etc). Take care of your body and mental health. These easy steps are sure ways to get you on the right track.
Increasing Your Productivity
Do you ever feel guilty when you take time for yourself and relax? So many of us are taught from an early age that we need to be busy and productive, and that anything less is us wasting time or even being lazy.
Most of us are currently spending all of our time at home, which makes it difficult to delineate our time and space regarding work and family obligations. Though we may feel like we have more time on our hands, the latest surveys show that people are actually putting in more time on the job and needing to spend more time supporting children's schooling or caring for elderly parents, which is creating increased pressure on adults trying to do it all.
Especially right now, it's important to remember to make time for yourself. Taking time to read a book, take a bath, go for a walk, do a yoga class, meditate, or chat with a friend, may be hard to squeeze into your schedule, but is crucial for your health and well-being. Studies show that watching tv may "feel relaxing," but will actually stimulate the nervous system rather than relax it and does not help your brain rest.
When we do nourishing activities (such as the ones listed above), we support our nervous system to shift into relaxation mode more easily and activate our immune system to keep us healthy. Even taking one minute to be still and consciously breathe, we automatically lower our blood pressure, release stress, stimulate our immune system, and allow our internal organs to function more efficiently. Doesn't sound like a waste of time to me!
Scheduling time for yourself to relax and do supportive activities will not only keep you healthy, it will also help you be more efficient and productive at work, and give you energy and presence of mind to be with your family in they way they need you.
Make slowing down a practice
Have you ever noticed that it's hard to slow down? It seems that there's always something that needs to get done and not enough time in the day to do it all.
When we're constantly going, non-stop, we keep our nervous system activated which creates stress, tension and tightness in the body. And that often adds to the already-existing stiffness and pain (not to mention anxiety, depression, overwhelm, etc) that we may be experiencing due to injuries or illness.
For optimal health and wellness, we need to practice slowing down and taking it easy. For many, taking it easy feels like laziness or slacking off. Why is that? Well, quite simply, it's because slowing down is not something we usually do.
Most of us have been conditioned to just go through the motions to get things done. Even in yoga class! We get into a habit of doing certain poses in a certain way and we forget to tune into our body and our in-the-moment experience.
Somayog, or Somatic Yoga, is a great way to practice slowing down. It focuses on connecting gentle therapeutic movements with the breath to help the body naturally readjust and realign the spine to reduce pain and increase mobility. Isolating the part of the body being worked on while allowing the rest of the body to remain relaxed: Somayog is a practice in perceiving subtle movements and shifts in the body while remaining in a relaxed state.
Though simple in theory, the Somayog practice is deceivingly demanding! It's really hard to completely relax the body and maintain that relaxed state throughout the practice. It's difficult to slow down and focus on doing a movement with no physical effort. But it can be done! With practice, slowing down and taking it easy will begin to feel more natural. It will create a noticeable change in your body, how you feel and how you experience your life in general.
Join Christie for her new Somayog (Somatic Yoga) class on Fridays at noon and experience this transformative therapeutic practice for yourself!