5 Ways To Pain Free Gardening

Yes, there are ways to pain-free gardening!

photo of flowers in the gaden
Photo: Unsplash, Richard Loader

It is time to garden!

Spring has finally decided to show up. The daffodils are turning their sunny faces to the sun, the peepers are peeping and my horses are shedding!

It is time to get out there and get your hands in the dirt.

It is also the time when many of my students show up at the Alexander Technique lessons with very achy backs, shoulders, elbows…you name it they hurt everywhere.

I get it! Gardening is challenging. First stooping down to the ground for long periods of time wreaks havoc on the back. Digging and pulling up weeds is difficult work and can result in sore wrists, hands, and elbows. Raking is actually a very complex motion and the repetitive movement can be hurtful. Then there is the fact that everyone wants to get their gardening done and that they work at it with a lot of intent or rather tension!

In short, gardening is a workout.

But, I would bet that you don’t go after your garden like you do a workout.

If you were to run a marathon you would never dream of just waking up one day and running a marathon! No! You would train for the marathon.

Then why do you think that you can just go out and garden for 3-5 hours without preparing for the garden workout? You need to train for your gardening hours just like you would train for running a race.

So here are your 5 ways to get out into the garden pain-free.

  1. Don’t bend or lean over from the waist instead squat. A squat is when you bend at your ankles, knees, and hips. Make sure that your feet are at least shoulder width apart. Most people stand with their feet too close together. So be aware of where your feet are placed and squat to prune the roses or to pick up the basket of flowers.
  2. Kneel on the ground to weed or dig in the dirt. (Again don’t bend at the waist.) Use a yoga mat and place it underneath you. If your knees hurt or you find it difficult kneeling take another rolled up yoga mat and put it behind your knees this will make the flexion of the knee less dramatic. when leaning forward be sure to bend from the hip keeping the back straight and not bent over.
  3. Crawl as you weed along the garden bed. Most people don’t consider crawling as a way to get from place to place. Crawling will eliminate the getting up and down that can be so tiring.
  4. Watch the time. Your body is designed to move and does not like staying in one position for any length of time. So mix up your position every 20- 30 minutes. You can just stop for a few moments and then continue or you can switch to another task.  This will make you less stiff in the long run and just make gardening more enjoyable. Also, ease into your gardening. Garden for half an hour one day, and increase by half-hour increments. Pace yourself and you won’t be so exhausted and physically wrecked. Don’t be a weekend warrior gardener!
  5. Do the Alexander Technique Lie-Down at the end of your time in the garden. Lying down in this way restores and refreshes you! I guarantee that you will feel better after practicing this lie-down! Click on the video to learn how! 

 

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

7 Movements To Keep You Young And Moving Well

Person jumping, & Movements to Keep you young.
Photo: Unsplash, Autumn Goodman

Movement is the number one thing that will keep you young and moving well.

Has something ever happened in your life that has made you feel less than?

Have you hurt yourself in some way that has made you feel older and no longer young?

Perhaps you have fallen or strained your back, or you have had an illness like a bad cold or the flu or much worse?

Because I predominantly work with Baby Boomers and older I often see this in my practice.

A debilitating event occurs such as a strained back and a common thought is “this is it, I will never play golf again or I have to give up my garden and I will only grow flowers in pots. It’s all downhill from here. I am just going to decline and soon I’ll be dependent on a walker!!!”

I understand I have been there too, we all have.

But here is the thing. You had setbacks when you were young in your twenties, your thirties, your forties but guess what? You figured it out. You maneuvered around it. You got back in the saddle, back in the race, leaped over the hurdles.

You didn’t quit. You started again. Age has nothing to do with it! You don’t have to be young to rebound. Youth is not a prerequisite.

You can get past a setback.

Here is a testimonial from a former student. It tells a very important story about what is possible.

“I was at a point where I thought that I would never play golf again. I was 76 yrs old at the time.

After I had tried many therapeutic modalities one of the therapists recommended that I should go to Mary Derbyshire to learn the Alexander Technique.

 We started the sessions in late June. We did two per week for about 8 weeks. I went away for a month and then we continued with 4 more sessions. By this time I was able to play golf again.

 The technique has kept at bay all other muscle problems not just the back but in the legs, knees, and ankles.

 As a result of what I have learned from Mary, I can make a swing with good turn in both directions and am hitting the ball better than I have in years. I expect to be able to do that for many years into the future.

Pip Danby, Golfer, 78

This is not an anomaly. Pip may have felt that his back was truly killing him, but it wasn’t. It was just a problem that needed to be solved. Pip learned how to move better and as a result, his aching back and legs went away and he could get on with his life and do the things that he loved to do. In his case it was golf.

I teach a fitness class that is influenced by the Alexander Technique. I have taught this class for 14 years. We may feel young, but we are not young. In my class, I have students in their 50’s, 60’s,70’s, 80’s and 90’s.

We all run, jump, skip, hop and stand on one leg. I once read an NYTimes article that said after 80 balancing on one leg was impossible. Well, we balance on one leg every single class and I have a lot of students over 80.

We defy the trend,  we defy the pre-conceived ideas, maybe we even deny the logic but the main thing is that we keep moving.

We move and we move well. We keep turning our clock hands backward even after an event may move the hands forward.

Here is a list of must do’s every day to get you back in the game and keep you active.

1. Walk. Take a walk. Start with a short walk if this is new to you. Increase your walking time gradually. Wear flexible shoes that do not have a thick sole. You need to be able to feel the ground. Sit less, walk more.

 2. Don’t spend your day sitting on a soft couch or soft chair. Instead, opt to spend some time sitting on a hard chair like a kitchen chair or dining room chair. And while sitting sit on your sitzbones. You can locate your sitz bones by sliding your hands palm side up under your bum. Feel those boney bits? Those are your sitz bones. In order to sit with any ease, you must be sitting on your sitz bones!

  3. Stand on one leg. As we age our balance becomes compromised but you can change that. Challenging your sense of balance will improve it. These are simple activities but do not underestimate their effectiveness, they work! If you are unsteady do these next to a chair or counter. Stand on one foot with your other foot just slightly off of the ground. Switch. Then stand on one foot with the knee bent and the foot higher. Switch. Next, walk the plank by placing one foot directly in front of the other. Do this going several steps forward and backward. Next, draw a semi-circle in the air with your foot. Do the other side. It is easier performing these activities while looking at the floor. It is harder while looking straight ahead. It is most difficult if your eyes are closed. Challenge yourself!

4. Heel Raises: Try this- take off your shoes and lift your heels off the floor so that you are standing on the balls of your feet. Allow the toes to splay. Lower the heels and repeat several times. You may want to put a chair in front of you for support if needed. This simple movement will encourage foot flexibility.

5. Head shoulder turn. Head rotation is another movement that can become compromised as we age. While sitting in your new way by sitting on your sitz bones think of softening your jaw, tongue, and neck and gently turn your head to the right then let your shoulders follow. Turn your head back to the center and just allow your shoulders to follow your head. Repeat this to the left. Practice this easily several times.

6. Cultivate a breathing practice. Exhale the air in your lungs, and then wait and wait some more. Then allow your breath to come in through your nose and mouth but only when you feel the need. You are not trying to hold your breath; instead, you are waiting for an impulse for the breath to occur.

Exhale, close your mouth and wait. Wait some more, and wait a little longer. Now let the air come in through your nose. Wait and then exhale. Close your mouth and wait, wait some more, and wait a little longer. Now let the air come in through your nose. Wait and then exhale. Close your mouth and wait, wait some more, and wait a little longer. Now let the air come in through your nose. Return to breathing normally. This is our easy-breathing practice. I call it Exhale and Wait to Breathe.

7.Alexander Technique Lie Down Practice. Check out the video. Lying down in this way 15-20 minutes is great for everything. The AT Lie is a cornerstone of the Alexander Technique. Click here for the video.

Move every day with ease and joy. You will be amazed how it will change your life in many wonderful ways!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

 

 

 

Why Positive Words Will Bring Positive Changes

Words MatterDo you use positive words to describe yourself?

In other words, when you think about yourself do you use constructive non-judgmental sentences that edify you or do you use words that judge and discredit your abilities?

With most of my clients sadly it is the latter.

Let’s just think about the language that surrounds working out: no pain, no gain, feel the burn, double down, boot camp.

No wonder so many people hate to exercise or are intimidated by working out! There is not one positive word in that sentence!

Here’s the thing, language matters! Language matters a lot! We need to cultivate positive words!Just by changing the language you use to speak to yourself can change the quality of how you move and how you feel.

Just for fun try this short game or exercise I learned from my colleague Nancy Romita.

You can do this by yourself, but it works even better with a partner. One of you is partner A, and the other is partner B. Both of you are standing up. Partner A put your arms around partner B, and try to move or lift him or her. Notice that you are able to move partner B.

Next, partner A, recite this script to partner B:

“Imagine there is a giant hole at the top of your head, and into this hole is poured wet, gray cement. This wet, gray cement is filling up your skull, traveling down through your neck and into your lungs and chest. This wet, gray, heavy cement is filling up your abdomen and pelvis. Heavy, wet cement is pouring through your thighs, knees, and lower leg. This heavy, gray cement is moving into the ankles and feet. Heavy, gray cement is surrounding the foot.”

Partner A then tries to move or pick up partner B. Partner A cannot move partner B. Partner B is so heavy that he or she actually feels as if he or she were full of cement.

We don’t want to leave partner B in the quagmire of cement, so let’s lighten him or her up. Partner A, recite this script:

“You are standing in a pool of water, and the water is fresh and clean and sparkly. Allow the sparkly water to fill your feet and move through your ankles. This bright, sparkly water is swelling through your lower leg and up into your thighs. Allow this fresh water to fill up your abdomen and move into your lungs and chest. This bright, sparkly water is swelling up into your throat and your skull and is bubbling out through the crown of your head.” Now, partner A, try to lift partner B! Ta-da! It is so easy to move partner A.

Do you see the power of language and how your words and thus your thoughts affect your physicality? Do you see how the positive words like bright and sparkly lightened you up?

There is scientific evidence that this is true. Neuroscientist and Alexander Technique teacher Rajal Cohen did a study using the phrase lighten up to see how it would affect posture, movement, and balance. Rajal runs the Mind in Movement Laboratory at the University of Idaho, where her work is “inspired by the idea that cognitive factors are important for controlling action.” In this study, her subjects were people with Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s is known for causing, among other things, rigid muscles, unsteady stance, and poor control of movement. Dr. Cohen found that when she asked these people to think about “lightening up,” (rather than “pulling up” or “relaxing”) their torsos became less rigid, their stance became steadier, and they were able to initiate movement more smoothly, indicating better control (Cohen 2015).

The cement game we just played demonstrates the importance of choosing language that benefits you. What old tapes are going through your head? What words do you use that just pull you down and compress you? Language is so important. Expressions liketry harderdouble downno pain, no gain; and pull yourself up by the bootstraps are not constructive or helpful. We need language that is kinder and gentler. We need positive words to encourage and build us up.

This game illustrates how simple it can be. So choose lighten up or allowfree up or let go. Your psycho-physical self will thank you!

Here is a link to a group of my students doing the Cement Game.

So choose positive words such as allow,, let go, lighten up, free up, easy dose it!How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling bookAgility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

7 Ways to Challenge Balance and Improve Balance

Man balancing on trapeze wire. Balance.

Maintaining a healthy and active sense of balance is imperative for living a dynamic life.

It is no news that fear of falling is one of the greatest fears for aging adults.

Have you ever tripped? It can be terrifying. Just think about the fear that rushes through your body when you start to fall!

Fear of falling is one of the strongest reflexes because your body will do everything in its power to prevent your noggin’ from hitting the floor!

The CDC reports that in the US alone we spend over 34 billion dollars in medical costs associated with falling. That says nothing about deaths, emotional trauma and the inability to get around and all of the lifestyle changes that ensue after a fall.

The CDC also says that 1 in 3 seniors over 65 will fall at some point in the course of a year. Clearly falling and balance are critical issues in our aging population.

Did you know that balance starts to decrease as early as our 20’s and declines with each passing year?

Depressing, I know, but here is some important knowledge- to improve balance you must challenge balance.

Our culture has become way too sedentary. We sit too much! We sit in our cars, we sit in front of the computer, we sit and watch TV. All of this sitting does not challenge balance and weakens or dulls the balance system.

Without getting too technical I want to briefly explore the three parts that comprise the balance system- the inner ear otherwise known as your vestibular system, eyesight, and proprioception. I call this the Balance Troika.

The Balance Troika.

  • Inner ear or vestibular system is made up of 3 semicircular canals. They kind of remind me of a roller coaster. The way the vestibular system functions can get complicated but let’s just say that it constantly measures the body’s position in relationship to gravity. Along with the eyes, it helps us hold a gaze even though the body is moving. Try this: Hold your hand in front of you and shake your head from side to side rapidly. See how your hand stays in focus. Maybe some small details are out of focus. Now do the reverse. Move the hand very quickly in front of the eyes. See how different that is when the vestibular ocular reflex is not excited.
  • Eyesight: Try this; stand up and stand on one leg. Then stand on the other leg. OK, now try standing on one leg and close your eyes. Aha, see how your vision affects your balance. It is incredibly difficult to stand on one leg with your eyes closed and not all that difficult to stand on one leg with your eyes open.
  • Proprioception: Close your eyes and wave your hands in front of you. See you always know where they are. So Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of neighboring parts of the body and the strength of effort being employed in movement.

Let’s Challenge Balance!

  1. Squats: Squats are great because when done properly they allow for free movement in the hips. Because we sit too much many of us have a very limited range of motion through the hips. Click here for the squat video.
  2. Lunges: The lunge can be a little more challenging. Click on my video here for instruction. If you are a little wobbly place a chair on either side of you in case you need a handle.
  3. Walk the Plank: Click here for more instruction on walking the plank! You don’t need to be a pirate matey! 
  4. Little Lifts: Click here for a video on what I call Little Lift balancing exercise.
  5. Lateral Lifts: The next two are in one video. Make sure that you do these near a chair or a counter in case you need support!  Click here for the instructional video!
  6. Semi-Circle: See above video!
  7. Heel Raises: Foot and ankle flexibility are very important for balance. Heel raises help with both! Hmmm. I don’t have a video for this but here is the sequence- it is very simple.You may want to do this at a counter or with a chair in front of you. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Raise your heels so that you are on the balls of your feet. Lower your heels until they just about touch the floor BUT do not touch the floor then raise the heels again. Do 5-10 of these.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

 

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Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_bolina’>bolina / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

How To Improve Exercise: The Mindful Movement Revolution!

I want to introduce you to a concept you may not have heard of- Mindful Movement!

                                                                      Photo: Unsplash: Emma Simpson

Yes, you read that correctly! Mindful movement.

I’m sure that you have heard about mindfulness and how it can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, lessen stress and overall make your life a whole lot more fun!

But did you know that you also can learn how to bring mindfulness to the way that you move?

When you create a mindful movement practice you get all of the benefits of mindfulness plus the advantages of reducing pain and stiffness, improved balance, mobility, and much more!

Here’s the thing. Most of us don’t think about how we move. (In fact, I believe, that most of us only think about our physicality in negative terms such as am I too tall, too short, too fat, too thin etc. But, that is another blog post.)

Learning how to move in a constructive way and paying attention to how you move is a powerful way to bring mindfulness into your life.

This is why I wrote my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.

The book is unique in that it comes with 40 instructional videos that you can access with your smartphone, iPad, or computer.

Even though the universe is abuzz with the mind/body connection it needs to be taken one step further.

Instead of thinking about the mind/body connection, think about mind/ body unity!

You are a unified whole. There is just you, with no distinction between the mind and the body. This is what F.M. Alexander- the creator of the Alexander Technique–called the psycho-physical.

Let me give you an example.

I want you to think of something that terrifies you!

For me, it is public speaking.

Right now as I am writing this article and thinking about getting in front of an audience to speak I am starting to feel anxious. My palms are starting to sweat, I feel a little uncomfortable, my stomach is beginning to clench, my mouth is dry and I feel a little panicky!

Just the thought of getting up in front of an audience puts my body in fight or flight mode. My thoughts about speaking in public are affecting me physically.

The reverse is true as well. You may be anxious and stressed about a situation but may be relieved just by taking a walk or going for a run. The physical act of walking or running calms you down.

As Caesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer once said: “The mental affects the physical and the physical affects the mental.”

So here is an example. The next time that you go to the gym or go for a walk or work out think this one thought. I’m not going to try so hard when I move. Instead, I’m going to think “how can I do this activity with less effort.” Apply this thinking to your workout and let me know how it goes!

Your thinking can change your physicality; this is the power of the psycho-physical.

So let’s start paying attention to how we move! Let’s start a movement revolution where the how you exercise is at least as important as the activity of exercising!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below and feel free to share this with your friends!

 

 

5 Ways To Relieve Jaw Pain

Jaw pain can be just annoying or incredibly debilitating. 

Horse with jaw pain
Photo: Unsplash, Dan Cook

Perhaps this is you. You wake up in the morning and your jaw just aches. Sometimes just touching your jaw can be sore and uncomfortable

Or perhaps you go to the dentist and you are told that you grind your teeth and that you should use a mouth guard. You know that you probably grind your teeth because you sometimes get sharp pain in your jaw during the day.

I’ve even had clients whose jaw pain is so acute that they have sinus problems and headaches. When we address the jaw pain both of these other problems have disappeared.

In this article, I want to teach you 3 simple ways that could help you relieve jaw pain.

And when I say simple I mean simple. I want to take a moment here and talk about simplicity. I feel that we live in a complicated world and we think that in order for solutions to be effective they need to be complicated. We may think that we need a complicated drug or another complicated solution. We are wary of simplicity. I have taught movement, fitness and a mindfulness practice called the Alexander Technique for over 20 years and my experience is that when applied simple solutions can be very effective! Are you with me?

So here are my suggestions to relieve jaw pain!

  • Know where your head is! Here is some knowledge. Your head rests on top of your spine but do you know the place where the head articulates with the spine? If you take your index finger and place it on the flap in front of your ears and place your thumb just behind your earlobe you can locate the place of articulation very deep in the skull. This is your atlanto-occipital joint. This is important because the way the head articulates with the spine determines how well you function. So what has this got to do with jaw pain? Your head weighs 10-15 lbs. It is like a bowling ball sitting on top of your spine. When your head is not relating well to the spine your body has to work overtime to keep it upright. This work requires a lot of excessive muscular effort. Excessive muscular effort means tension and pain.
  • Do not clench your tongue! That’s right! Your tongue is an extremely powerful muscle and when there is a lot of tension in the tongue there is a lot of tension in the jaw. Here’s the crazy thing about the tongue: not only does it rest in your mouth but it also goes way back into your throat. You can discover the attachment of the tongue by placing your thumb and index finger on either side of your throat just below your jaw. This is where your tongue attaches to a bone called the hyoid bone. If your tongue is plastered on the roof of your mouth then this indicates that you are carrying a lot of stress. So tell yourself to soften the tongue- the tip of the tongue, the middle part of the tongue and the back of the tongue that goes all the way back into the throat. Allow your tongue to rest on the floor of the mouth.
  • Let your teeth float. Here’s a tip. Your teeth should only be touching when you are chewing or if you are really angry! That’s a joke, the last part anyway. But really, you can think about your jaw releasing down away from your skull or your upper teeth. Like the tongue, the jaw muscles are incredibly strong and can carry a tremendous amount of stress. One good way to stimulate release is to first tell yourself to allow the jaw to release down then take the heals of your palms and gently stroke the sides of your face in a downwards motion.
  • Exhale and wait to breathe! Here is a short video that I recently made that teaches you how to breathe in a way to de-stress and release unnecessary muscular tension. This video demonstrates a breathing practice. This is not how you are supposed to breathe during your day. So, only practice this in short stints. 3-5X’s a sitting.

 

  • Stop trying! When you “try” to do things you are bringing too much effort to any given task and this effort tightens and shortens muscles. Shortened and contracted muscles bring about pain. (Think about carrying a bag of groceries for a long distance without shifting arms. It is painful. Correct?) Instead of trying harder tell yourself that you are going to allow yourself to perform a task. This is a mindset change. How you think about movement will actually change how you move. Your movement should be light, free and joyful!

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below.

How A Nursery Song Inspires Mindful Movement

Photo: Unsplash, Karl Frederickson

When I was a little kid there was a song that we sang in nursery school that makes me think of mindful movement. It went like this: “Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes. With your eyes and ears and mouth and nose. Head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes!”

Because we think A LOT about the head, a lot about the shoulders, a lot about the knees and depending on the person a lot about the toes, it is the perfect song for Alexander Technique Teachers or anyone who practices the Alexander Technique. (If you don’t know about the Alexander Technique it is a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move and live better.)

In fact, we think a lot about the whole body and how it moves through space. And if that isn’t enough we also think about the mind. In fact, we see absolutely no separation between the mind and the body. There is only mind/body unity so when you affect the body you affect the mind and when you affect the mind you affect the body!

I think that most of us don’t have really constructive ways to think about ourselves. Instead, if we think about ourselves at all, we think in very de-constructive, judgemental ways such as “am I too fat, am I too thin, am I too tall, am I too short etc.”

OUCH!This is not constructive thinking! This is not mindful movement.

The way that you think about yourself can change the way that you move, think, and react.

You can improve the way that you move by just thinking about yourself in a new and improved way. This is real mindfulness this is mindful movement.

So let’s learn new and constructive ways to think about yourself and practice mindful movement.

Sign up for my video course here!

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes!

  • Heads up! Your head matters! Here is some knowledge. Your head rests on top of your spine but do you know the place where the head articulates with the spine? If you take your index finger and place it on the flap in front of your ears and place your thumb just behind your earlobe you can locate the place of articulation very deep in the skull. This is your atlanto-occipital joint. This is important because the way the head articulates with the spine determines how well you function. So paying attention to this articulation will improve the way that you move.
  • “Sunshine On My Shoulders Makes Me Happy” sang John Denver and so it should, but the shoulders have so much to bear. How many of you out there have aching shoulders and bad necks? My experience has been that most people misunderstand how the shoulder moves. They think that the point of articulation is closer to the center of the upper chest otherwise known as your pecs. Often this is the case with someone with rounded shoulders. Instead, think of the shoulders’ movement originating much further out. If you take your finger and trace the top of your shoulder all the way to the top of the arm you will come to the juncture of the shoulder and the arm.  This is where the arm moves best. Moving the arm in this way opens up the chest and prevents the sloping forward of the shoulders.
  • Are knees important too? You bet! Bending at your ankles knees and hips is critical for agility and balance. As we age we tend not to move through these joints. Squats and lunges are a great way to reintroduce this mobility. To do a squat stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Think of your head resting on top of the spine and think of letting go of tension in your neck, tongue, and jaw. Now bend at your ankles knees and hips as if you were to sit in a chair in an exaggerated way. Then stand up. Make this easy you do not have to muscle through this for it to be effective. Repeat several times. The better you get the lower you can go but ease into it. To do a lunge stand with your feet shoulder width apart then just step forward with one foot and then return to standing. Again repeat several times.
  • Are you on your toes? Many people walk inefficiently with their toes up in the air. You definitely do this if you find that you are wearing a hole in the top of your socks, slippers or sneakers. When we walk well our weight strikes near the middle part of the heel, crosses the arch of the foot and continues to our big toe. The big toe has two jobs; it helps balance you and it propels you forward. So when you walk think of walking through the big toe. Now don’t overdo this. Allow it to happen. Allow your arms to swing. Think opposite arm to opposite leg!
  • And last but not least. Stop trying- bringing too much effort to any given task tightens and shortens muscles and makes you less agile and flexible. Instead of trying harder to move tell yourself that you are going to allow yourself to perform a task. This is a mindset change. How you think about movement will actually change how you move. Your movement should be light, free and joyful.

How You Move Matters! You can learn how to move better with my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence.  My book is illustrated with 40 videos that you access with your iPad or smartphone! You can purchase it here.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves! Let me know what you think or ask a question! I love to hear from my readers! Feel free to post in the comments section below.

4 Steps to Sleep Better

I think that we’ve all been there. You can’t sleep! Dreaded insomnia!

A worrisome thought, a stressful day, a difficult period of time in your life and you can’t sleep. Maybe you can’t fall asleep, maybe you wake up at 1 am and can’t get back to sleep, maybe you open your eyes at 4 am and that’s it you are up for the rest of the day or perhaps you sleep a full 8 hours only to wake up still feeling exhausted.

I understand I have been there.

The results of sleeplessness are significant and detrimental. They include risks of developing obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, increased anxiety and mental stress and of course the increased risk of driving a car and accidents.

In short, it is much better for your health and sanity when you get 7- 8 hours of shut-eye every single night!

  • Sleep helps boost your immune system and helps ward off the flu or cold.
  • Sleep improves your memory. Research demonstrates that sleeping after learning can improve memory retention.
  • Sleep can reduce anxiety and mental stress.
  • Sleep improves coordination.
  • A good night’s sleep makes you feel great.

So how do you improve your sleep?

  1. First and foremost you need to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day and this includes weekends. Did you know that you have an inner clock that determines when you feel energized and when you feel sleepy? For instance, perhaps you have noticed that at certain times every day you may feel more energized or less so. This is due to your internal clock called your circadian rhythm. By sticking to a consistent bedtime and rising schedule you will regulate this clock and increase the likelihood of better sleep!
  2. Exercise regularly. I know you have heard it a million times before but people who exercise regularly fall asleep faster and experience a deeper more restful sleep. What do I mean by exercise? Walk at least 30 minutes 5x’s a week. If walking 30 minutes is too challenging at first do what you can and work up to it!
  3. Make your bedroom a sanctuary. Get the TV out of the bedroom. Make your bed cozy and comfy. Use soft lighting. Try a sound machine to stifle disturbing noises. I use this one here is a link to AmazonListen to quiet music. It may sound crazy but I like to listen to soundtracks of distant thunderstorms! Avoid caffeine. Instead, drink herbal teas such as my favorite Celestial Seasoning’s Sleepy Time.
  4. De-stress before you close your eyes. I am going to teach you a very simple breathing practice that will calm you, reduce stress and anxiety and prepare you for a restful night of blissful sleep. I call it Exhale and Wait to Breathe. It is based on breathing practices developed by FM Alexander, the creator of the Alexander Technique. I have created a short instructional video that you can access below. Breathe like this 3-5X’s before crawling under the covers and closing your eyes.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves. You can get my Amazon best-selling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.

This post includes affiliate links to products that I use and reccomend.

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How To Lessen Anxiety With Mindfulness

Being with my horse is another way to lessen anxiety.
Me in my happy place with my pony Tonka.

Let’s talk about anxiety.

Do you get anxious from time to time?

I do. A lot.

This may come as a surprise to some, but I am an anxious person. Perhaps that is why I teach people how to move better and feel better. Have you ever heard the expression “You teach best what you most need to learn”?

I needed to learn how to be less stressed and anxious.

I have been teaching movement, fitness, and the Alexander Technique for many years. For those of you who are not familiar with the Alexander Technique, it is a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move and think better. Practicing the Alexander Technique is an exercise in mindfulness.

But let’s get back to anxiety.

You see people come to me to resolve anxiety issues. How could I be an anxious person if I truly practiced what I preached?

Well, the answer is simple.

Life is hard and at times life is incredibly hard for all of us.

I have discovered though, that the tools I have learned through the Alexander Technique have definitely made my life easier, less stressful, and thus less anxious.

I want to teach you these practices.

Here are three things that I teach my students to help them cultivate mindfulness and cope with anxiety. I have created three videos to make the instruction easier.

De-Stress With The AT Lie Down

  • The first video teaches the AT Lie-Down. Practicing the AT Lie Down once or twice a day for 15-20 minutes can be life-changing. Finding a quiet spot in your home or office and lying down in this way not only does wonders for your back, neck or whatever ails you but it also provides you with the opportunity to really stop and let go of emotional, psychological and physical tension. At first, if you cannot last the full ten-fifteen minutes, and most people can’t, then start off a few minutes at a time and increase the time incrementally. You may listen to quiet music if you like, but I prefer to practice in silence. There are many health benefits to being silent for extended periods of time. Silence can improve memory, regenerate brain cells, reduce stress, and increase creativity. You can click here for the video.

Reduce Anxiety With Mindful Breathing

  • The second video teaches you a very powerful way to calm down through breath. I call it Exhale and Wait to Breathe. Have you noticed that when you are stressed and anxious that your breathing becomes more shallow? For many of us, our voices go up a notch! Exhale and Wait to Breathe is the answer to that problem and many others. When we consciously attend to our breathing we can redirect our moods in a very powerful way. A breathing practice will improve your energy level, slow your heart rate and reduce anxiety. I always end my Alexander Technique sessions with this breathing.  Click here for the Exhale and Wait to Breathe video.

A Little Movement Refreshes

  • The third video is titled A Healthy Back is a Supple Back. This short practice revitalizes you in a couple of minutes. Sometimes just moving a little can make you feel much better and less pressed. This is an excellent movement series that is especially good if you have been sitting in front of your computer for a while. A mini-break if you will to de-stress and feel better. Click here for the video.

Here is another blog I wrote about how the Alexander Technique changed my life. Click here for the post.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a fitness and movement coach. My methodology is the Alexander Technique, a mindfulness-based practice that teaches you how to move better. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves. You can get my Amazon best-selling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.

My interactive book is jam-packed with instructional videos that you can easily access with a smartphone or with a Kindle, iPad or computer.

So I’ve just given you some good information about easy practices that can help you address anxiety. I have also created a course that teaches you how to sit better. If you would like some more instruction on how to sit better you can sign up for my FREE video course Sitting for Success here.

If you would like to learn more ways to improve mobility and get out of pain sign up for my course 5 Ways to Heal Back Pain here 

Please feel free to ask me questions.  I am passionate about teaching you how to move and live better. Moving well is a critical component of aging well.

XO Mary

 

This post may contain affiliate links. 

Do You Have Painful Posture?

This post may contain affiliate links. Everything I refer to I have created myself and can attest to its quality.

Do you have painful posture?

Or, in other words, is your posture causing you pain?

No, seriously. Have you ever stopped to think that perhaps it is not your back hurting you, but rather you hurting your back?

Perhaps this is you. You go to your doctor and complain of back or neck or even jaw pain. Your doctor says, “Let’s get some imaging to see what is causing the pain.”

You might have an MRI or maybe an x-ray but nothing can be identified as the source of your pain.

Maybe your Dr. will send you off to physical therapy and that might or might not help or maybe your Dr. prescribes some pain medication that just may have undesirable side effects.

Either way, things may improve or not.

But, maybe there is another way to address painful posture!

Very often it is HOW you move that is causing the pain. By learning HOW TO MOVE BETTER, you can greatly reduce or eliminate the pain.

I want you to think about how you move.

I bet it is safe to say that you do not move like you did when you were a child.

Think about how a small child moves; easily and effortlessly. Imagine her in your mind’s eye with her long upright back and her head beautifully poised on top of her spine.

Now, look at yourself in a mirror. Notice how you sit or stand. Observe how your head is in relationship to your spine. Is it poised beautifully on top of your spine?

How your head relates to your spine impacts how well you move. This is really important!

You can learn how to move better.

I have created this free short video course that gives you some helpful tips on how to sit better called Sitting for Success. You can click here to sign up.

 

Click here to access course!

Why do I start with sitting? Well, sitting is part of how you move. How you sit has a big influence on how you stand, walk or even run.

In fact, the habits that you have developed around your sitting are probably the habits that you also bring to every other way that you move.

Don’t let painful posture ruin your life. Sign up for my free course here.

And while you are at it download my free PDF on 7 Ways to Turn Back the Clock. This helpful guide gives you some important yet simple tips that you can apply to help you move more easily with less muscular stress and pain. You can find the sign up just to the right of this article.

You can also purchase my Amazon bestseller Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.

 

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a movement and fitness coach and Alexander Technique teacher. I teach people how to move better and to move more. When you move better you feel better and when you feel better your whole life improves!

 

 

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