Walk This Way! Why Your Big Toe Is Important.

When you walk or stroll well, your head leads the movement and your foot comes forward to prevent you from falling on the ground.

Have you ever heard that walking is “controlled falling”?

Toddler walking
Walking is controlled falling. Photo: Unsplash, Joao Alves

Imagine a child first learning how to walk.

Most adults shift their weight from side to side when they walk. If you were to exaggerate this movement, it would look like a waddle, but if you watch a child walk, they walk forward and straight.

Children don’t waddle when they walk.

One problem with the waddle is that you lose the momentum that each step generates. It’s as if you are applying a brake with each step. Instead, if you think of yourself walking forward and not side to side, you will discover that your legs and feet will dynamically flow underneath you. Walking dynamically with forward intention will make walking easier and more efficient.

Another problem with the waddle is that the foot doesn’t articulate with the ground in a dynamic way, thus having an undesirable effect on balance and stride. When your foot works well, it strikes the ground slightly to the outside and to the front of the heel. Your weight then crosses the large arch, the medial-longitudinal arch, over to the big toe.

Your big toe has two very important jobs. It helps you balance, and it propels you forward. Many adults do not engage the big toe at all. Instead, they hold the toe up and only walk on the soles of their feet. This inevitably results in the side-to-side waddle. People who do this to an extreme will create holes with their big toes on the tops of their sneakers and slippers.

If you were to exaggerate this movement, you would eventually shuffle.

The good news is that if you are shuffling now, with a little conscious thought, you can stop shuffling and move into a dynamic walk.

Shoes that fit well with a pliable and thin sole are essential for happy feet and dynamic walking. Here is a Keen sandal at Amazon. I absolutely love, love, love this shoe

Stay away from bulky, padded sneakers that, although comfortable, are not flexible.

Your toes need to be able to splay as you move. Your feet need to flex and adjust in order to keep you balanced.

Make sure that your shoes are large enough to accommodate this movement. Also, overly tight socks can impede movement and diminish balance.

If you are unsteady on your feet or you fear falling, hiking poles are a great way to ensure balance and gain confidence.

Whether you use one or two poles is up to you, but the added point of contact is a huge benefit. Used by hikers and climbers worldwide, the hiking pole is lightweight yet sturdy.

The pole height is adjustable, and it comes with a strap that goes around your wrist. To customize the height, hold your forearms at a right angle from your upper arm.

You can purchase hiking poles at many sporting-goods stores or at Amazon here.

Last week I talked about the benefits of turning your power walk into a stroll. You can see that article here.

Next week I will give  more instruction on how to improve your balance while walking.

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!

 

Walk? How To Turn That Power Walk Into A Mindful Stroll!

 


Do you walk or do you stroll?

One of the best ways to savor summer is to take a stroll.

Don't walk instead stroll and slow down to admire the beautiful hummingbird.
Slow down, take a stroll, and cultivate mindfulness.
Photo: Andrea Reiman

You may be wondering why I use the word stroll instead of walk.

Taking a stroll is much different than taking a walk. A walk implies purpose, a stroll implies less intent.

A stroll allows for wandering. Just the sound of the word “stroll” is easier on the ear.

Walking has a job to do. Strolling is like going on vacation.

The Merriam Webster dictionary lists stroll’s synonyms as to saunter, to amble, and to ramble.

Oh, I like the sound of those words!

To take a walk means something else. It has a goal.

One walks for fitness. One walks to lose weight. You take a walk to clear your head. Some people take walks to elevate their heart rate or to increase bone density. Others take their dogs out for a walk. And still, there are those who walk to “get their steps in!”

 

But what if you changed your mindset about walking and instead took a stroll?

Instead of walking briskly to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular system, what if you intentionally slowed down to a stroll and noticed the birds singing in the trees or your neighbor’s blooming sunflowers?

On your next stroll, you may notice that you are breathing more deeply, that you feel calmer or that perhaps those negative anxiety-creating thoughts have calmed down. Your stroll has turned into an expression of mindfulness.

Are we losing sight of the value of slowing down so that we can relish our world…stopping to smell the roses?

 

 

Don't walk instead take a stroll and smell the beautiful roses.
Stop and smell the roses! Photo: Unsplash, Osman Rana

 

According to the Positive Psychology Program, among other benefits, a mindful stroll can:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase immune function
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Increase awareness
  • Increase attention and focus
  • Increase clarity in thinking and perception
  • Lower anxiety levels
  • Increase experience of being calm and internally still
  • Increase experience of feeling connected

Doesn’t that sound great! Who doesn’t want REDUCED STRESS!!!

I say let’s change the emphasis and take a stroll. Let me know how it goes. What do you notice about yourself and the world around you?

My next article will teach you how to stroll and walk better.

Here is another article on savoring summer!

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!

 

26 Ways To Savor Summer

Sunset in summer
Savor summer’s sunsets

Do you want to savor summer?

If you are like me you absolutely love summer. The long hours of daylight, the balmy air, flip flops, iced coffee, fireflies- to name just some of my favorite things. There are many reasons why I want to savor summer.

But before you know it summer is gone and the calendar says September and I am replacing the shorts in my closet with long pants and sweaters.

So often summer escapes me. Not this year!

This year, by being more intentional and mindful, I plan to make summer linger.

By bringing mindfulness into my life I will slow down summertime and relish in every moment possible.

Here is my list of intentions to help me savor summer! What are yours?

  1. Go for a daily walk.
  2. Drink my morning coffee in my garden.
  3. Shop at my local farmer’s market once a week.
  4. Prepare at least 2 meals a week solely from our local farmer’s market.
  5. Garden 3x’s a week.
  6. Always have a book going.
  7. Dine outside as often as possible.
  8. Drink iced coffee in the afternoons.
  9. Wear sandals.
  10. Meditate daily.
  11. Knit.
  12. Go out for ice cream. Try different ice cream stands each week.
  13. Wear sun hats.
  14. Feed the hummingbirds.
  15. Wake up early for the sunrise as often as possible.
  16. Go to a 4th of July parade.
  17. Have friends over for a BBQ.
  18. Go to an outdoor concert.
  19. Stargaze at night and watch for falling stars.
  20. Watch each full moon rise.
  21. Wear sundresses.
  22. Make ice cream with my ice cream maker.
  23. Watch the bats at twilight.
  24. Grow tomatoes and basil.
  25. Celebrate veggies and fruits in season. For instance, strawberries are in season here now!
  26. Write in my journal daily.

Mindfulness matters. Bringing mindfulness to how you move is a powerful way improve your life.

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.

The author Mary Derbyshire savors summerMy 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!

 

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 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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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.

1.Copyright: <a href=’https://www.123rf.com/profile_chassenet’>chassenet / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

 

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. 

3 Ways To Mindfulness

This post may contain affiliate links.

Have you noticed mindfulness is all the rage right now?

If you are not familiar with the concept here is Wikipedia’s definition “Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.”

That may sound a bit obvious but we live in such a go-go world. We rush around as if we are skimming over the surface of life. A mindfulness practice will change all of that.

Some people cultivate mindfulness through meditation and bring their attention to the breath or a repeated word or mantra.

Alexander Technique practitioners practice by paying attention to ourselves. We pay attention to how we move, react, and think. This attention to self is a mindfulness practice.

In fact, it has been said that the Alexander Technique is Mindfulness in Activity!

So why would we practice mindfulness?

Well, it has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression.

Mindfulness also increases immune function, improves higher brain function, lowers the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, increases one’s awareness, increases clarity in thinking, and cultivates feelings of calm and peace.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

And guess what – no side effects!

But it is the way in which mindfulness brings about a deepening and a more meaningful existence that really inspires me. There is no doubt in my mind that practicing the Alexander Technique has completely changed my life. You can read about my first experience in this blog post.

3 very effective ways to bring mindfulness into your life. These are simple but profound. Do not underestimate their simplicity. Simplicity can ensure profound change. Simplicity is good.

  1. Stop! Really, really stop. Stop and pay attention to your senses. Notice what you see. Notice what you hear. Notice what you smell. Notice what you touch. Notice what you taste. Paying attention to your senses is a most effective way for you to slow down and take in your environment, live in the moment and bring about mindfulness.
  2. Exhale and wait to breathe. We Alexander Technique folk approach breathing very differently than other practices such as yoga or meditation. Instead of starting with a deep breath, first, exhale whatever air is in your lungs and wait. Wait until you feel a little tug in your diaphragm area at which point you allow the air to come in through your nose. You repeat the process several more times. You are not trying to hold your breath but rather are waiting to feel the need to breathe again. Here is a video I made about breathing.
  3. Practice the AT Lie Down. Lie down with your head on some books 2-3X’s a day for 15-20 minutes. Not only will this practice do wonders for your aching neck and back it will make you feel more at ease and connected with the world. Here is a short instructional video I made about the AT Lie Down.iframe src=>

So you have learned 3 very simple ways to improve your life.

My name is Mary Derbyshire. I am a movement and fitness coach and an Alexander Technique teacher and have been in practice for over 20 years. I teach people how to move better. HOW you move is at least as important as moving more. You can work with me in many different ways. You can sign up for my blogs when you enter your information in the 7 Ways to Turn Back the Clock. In my FREE video course Sitting for Success, you will learn how to sit better with improved posture and less pain. Click here for the FREE video course. I have also created a mini-course that addresses back and neck pain called 5 Ways to Heal Back Pain you can get that here. I have also written an Amazon bestseller Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence. The book is interactive with 40 videos that help you learn how to move better. You can access the videos with a free app called QR code reader or if you buy a Kindle version you can access the videos on an iPad or computer. You can purchase the book from Amazon here.


Let me know how you get on! I love hearing from my readers!

 

Stop Doing These 5 Things To End Back Pain

This post may contain affiliate links.

Back pain can be debilitating! If you have back pain and neck pain you are not alone. According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain is the 3rd top reason people see their doctor.

Doctors at the University of North Carolina state that “Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the United States and a common reason for missing work.”

We all know that back pain is incredibly painful and can disrupt life in immeasurable ways.

Many of the treatments for back pain, whether invasive or non-invasive, may not be successful and can have lasting side effects.

Perhaps a new approach is needed.

Perhaps we need to shift the paradigm.

Perhaps it is not your back hurting you but rather you hurting your back.

Think about this. How you sit, how you stand, how you move could be creating unnecessary muscular tension. Unnecessary muscular tension can cause pain.

So the answer is to address how you move and reduce the amount of muscular tension you use while moving.

Would you agree that you don’t move like you did when you were a child?

Think about how a child moves. Effortlessly. A young child runs, jumps, hops, skips and tumbles all day long and never complains about a bad back, neck or knee.

Think about how they sit and stand. Their heads are beautifully poised on top of their spines.

Look at this adorable girl. See how her head and spine relate in a unified and lengthening way.

Compare her to this young man. Notice how his head and spine are compressed and that his back is not straight. He is slouching and his head is not poised on top of his spine.

This was FM Alexander’s observation way back in 1890: the way your head relates to your spine determines how well you function.

Better functioning means better movement. Better movement means less muscular tension. Less muscular tension means less pain.

5 Tips On What NOT To To To End The Cycle Of Back And Neck Pain.

1.Don’t try too hard! Trying hard just gets in your way. Trying brings about more muscular tension.  Stop trying and start allowing. Just tell yourself that you are going to allow yourself to be right here and right now. Take a moment to let this sink in. Allow yourself to be where you are right now. What is that like?

2.Don’t slouch. When sitting, do you sit on your sitz bones? In order to sit up with any degree of ease, one needs to be sitting on the sitz bones. Do this: find a hard chair. A kitchen or dining room chair would be perfect. Sit on the chair and slide your hands palm up under your bum. Do you feel the boney bits? These are your sitz bones – otherwise known as your ischial tuberosities. Now slide your hands out. See how much better you are sitting? Many people sit back from their sitz bones and this forces them to slouch. So you see all the while your mother should have been telling you to sit on your sitz bones to improve your posture and not telling you to sit up straight.

3.Don’t clench your jaw, tongue, and neck.The primary principle in the Alexander Technique is that the relationship of your head and neck dictates how well you function and move. When you clench your jaw and tighten your tongue and neck you are interfering with this relationship and thus hurting your back. So tell yourself not to clench your jaw. Instead, tell yourself to soften your neck and tongue. See if this changes how you move.

4.Don’t try to sit up straight. If a parent or teacher ever told you so sit up straight you most probably very quickly felt pain, tension, and stiffness. You can’t try to sit up straight with any comfort or ease. Instead, pay attention to your head on top of your spine. Then pay attention to your sitz bones on the chair. Allow your spine to lengthen away from your pelvis towards your head. Remember don’t try! Allow instead!

5.Don’t go-go-go! Instead, stop and lie down. I would like to teach you a very simple practice that has a profound effect on how we move. It is called the Alexander Technique Lie Down. Lying down in this way resets you. It is kind of like rebooting your computer. We live in a go-go world and don’t pay much attention to stopping. Stopping is very important and lying down gives you the opportunity to stop and reorganize. It is preferable if you do this on the floor with carpeting or a yoga mat. If you cannot get down to the floor, no worries. You can do this in your bed but be sure to replace the pillows with books. Here is the sequence.

The Alexander Technique Lie Down For Back Pain and Neck Pain and Healthy Living

  1. Find a spot on the floor with carpeting or a rug. Place a pile of paperback books on the floor. This is where you will place your head.
  2. Sit on the floor with your back to the books. Lower your chin to your chest and roll down so that your head rests on the books. You should not have so many books that you tuck your chin, nor have too few books so that your head falls back onto the books. The book height is not a science. It may change throughout your lie down and it may change from lie down to lie down.
  3. Place your hands on your ribs. Bend your legs so that your feet are flat on the ground and your knees are pointing up to the ceiling.
  4. Lie this way for 15-20 minutes once or twice a day. If you cannot manage that length of time start with 5 minutes and build up.
  5. Think about allowing your head to release onto the books.
  6. Think about allowing your back to release onto the floor. This includes your upper back, your shoulders, your ribs, and your lower back. If you feel tightness in your lower back you can do a pelvic tilt.
  7. To get up off the floor, roll over into a fetal position and then get onto your feet.

I hope that you have found this useful. Let go of preconceived ideas about aging and free yourself up for easy movement.

Here is a link to an instructional video I made. Click here

So I’ve just given you a lot of information on what not to do to help your back pain. If you sit better, stand better and walk better you will move better. Better moving means less pain increased mobility and confidence. Better mobility is critical to living well. 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.

Or you can get my Amazon bestselling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence 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. You can get my Amazon best-selling book Agility at Any Age: Discover the Secret to Balance, Mobility, and Confidence here.

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