Thinking about the kids going back to school?
And you going back to work?
Worried about you (and them) going back to less movement?
We are just BIG Kids too. Many of us are facing the same issues as the school kids: going back to work with desks, rucksacks, packed lunches and LESS movement time.
This could be a PERFECT TIME to make some changes, and plan more movement into the day, however old you are.
START WALKING NOW… before you and they return. Not just planning but DOING! Begin your day by walking to work – work out what terrain you will cover and what clothing you’ll need. Or start slow and go around the block, round the park – BEFORE you sit down to start work at home.
INCLUDE THE KIDS… start a healthy walking regime for the kids too, by walking to school.
CARRY THEIR BAGS… if carrying the kids’ bags all the way to school puts them off, then help!
STACK IT UP... Maybe there are business calls you can fit in on the way home, a podcast you can listen to, or a friend you can meet up and walk with. Or plan your walk around the daily shopping.
SHOES… Are you ready for those tight, pointy shoes again or have your feet been able to breathe in lockdown?
REMOVE THE CLOTHING CASTS… Many people will restrict their movement according to their clothing. Have you ever tried to climb a fence in a pair of tight jeans? Raise your arms over your head in a slim fit shirt? Walk through some wet grass with sandals on?
FIX YOUR SEAT... Roll up a towel and place it behind your lower back in your car or at your desk. Not only will you tip your pelvis into a more neutral position you’ll align your core more easily, and your back muscles will work to hold you in place.
YOUR DESK... Don't just sit there - make your environment movement friendly. This, however, is a WHOLE story for another time.
MOVEMENT AND EDUCATION... And if you are still “teaching” at home, does everyone need to be inside and seated? Instead of dropping the kids off somewhere so you can go get some “exercise”, look for movement-based practices and get out in the park with them.
START SMALL… Even if you manage to start something once a week, you’ll have built more movement into your day.
Of course, these are only suggestions and I appreciate that they will not be feasible for everyone. However, perhaps some food for thought.
Feel free to share your tips too… just in case they are helpful.
Someone once told me that you should look back and reflect every 10 years – as most of us vastly underestimate how much our personalities and values will change over the next 10 years. It is only by looking back that we see how much change is possible.
It is called The End of History Illusion and I have re-visited that thought quite a few times recently.
Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of my first Pilates class. Woohooo!! A few brave souls – and some browbeaten friends and family - assembled together at the Girl Guide Hut, in Stirling, to bear witness to my first foray into teaching.
Nervous, over-prepared, naïve and excited… “Oh jings… what if I break someone? What if they find out I know nothing? Is Pilates really the best exercise in the world? This is going to be BRILLIANT and everyone will love it!”
So …. Ten years on …
I still have some of those wonderful and loyal brave souls with me. They have seen me grow and change, lose some of my nerves, be less tied to right and wrong, become a yoga teacher, a MELT Method teacher and even a Mindfulness Teacher. Bring blankets into classes (more on that another time), change my mind often and make LOTS of mistakes.
So what has been my biggest change? Hmmm…
When I decided to go back into self-employment, I was doing it part time while I struggled along with a PhD. Pilates was an adjunct to the life long dream to gain a Doctorate in Marketing, which would clearly open all doors and access me that easy kind of respectability that comes from having “Dr” at the front of your name.
That didn’t work out, as life shifted towards offering more classes (thank you, THANK YOU all for coming!) and then a period of fighting illness and looking after a growing family.
By then my yoga and mindfulness practice had taught me about “ego”, but it still took me two years to admit to myself that I wasn’t going to finish that treasured Phd, that I didn’t need it… that it was a vanity project and I should let it go.
I still work hard on the ego thing – it’s a constant voice of guilt and shame and judgement for most people, and I am no exception. But I think I am a better teacher for it – and certainly there is a great deal more gratitude in my days now.
My body too has changed. I’m older, wrinklier, fatter round the middle (thanks menopause) and stronger. I can run (a little – I’m working on it) and I can get my hands on the floor when I bend forward.
The work of Katy Bowman at Nutritious Movement has transformed the way I walk, stand and how I think about life: I hang off trees and I sleep on the floor. I donated all (well…nearly all…) my high heels to charity (See blog below) – I wear barefoot shoes and toe spreaders; and there is LOADS of room in my wardrobe, as I gradually got rid of clothing that restricts my movement. My ego lets my tummy relax (no it’s not as pretty but my organs love it) and I no longer suck in my stomach.
I became a pescatarian, then a vegetarian (for about 2 weeks) and, about two years ago, changed to completely plant based diet and a vegan lifestyle.
My interests have expanded too – my PhD experience taught me to be more critical in my thinking, and with that came the understanding that if it hasn’t been researched properly then it might be true. So I am open to ancient practices like yoga, like pagan ritual, standing stones, shamanism, myths and rituals, angels, crystals, tea leaves … you name it and I am happy to explore.
No longer so tied by certainty and the need to sound “knowledgeable” - My philosophy professor asked me “How do you know what you know?”, and I realised I “know” ... nothing. Seemingly many of us feel this way; as we get more educated, as we get older and wiser. It is surely scary and often I am on uncertain ground, but strangely freeing and empowering in a funny kind of way.
I got married, I dissected a cadaver, I lost all my hair and my dignity, I regained the hair and cared less for dignity; my mum moved in with us and my son moved out. I danced with wild women (yes really!), sometimes in tutus, sometimes dressed in jangly and glittery things... and once in a Pirate costume.
I have learned to respect the power of silence and of holding space for others to do the same. I go on Retreat each year and take others with me to watch the sunrise every morning. Massage is a regular maintenance essential rather than the occasional treat. And I have re-found my love of fairy tales.
I am healthier than I have ever been … and I didn't see THAT coming...
Thank you to EVERYONE who has touched my life in the last 10 years – some still with me and some who have drifted away. For all the inspiration and the teaching you have offered me and the laughs and tears along the way. It’s been some ride.
The next 10 years are going to be interesting aren’t they!
" When we tell stories some immortal part of ourselves is singing in time. When we tell stories the ages awaken. When we listen to stories our future takes clearer shape. That is because fear comes from unknowing, and stories help us know a little more."
Quote from https://www.terriwindling.com/blog/2018/09/ben-orki.html
I recently attended a course, in Glasgow; and here is how I managed to get lots of extra movement into my day.
I was 10minutes early for my train so, instead of standing getting cold, I walked round and round.
I ambled, but walking briskly you can get up to 1000 steps in 10minutes!
Sitting: The number 4 stretch is a good one - see how your clothes could be limiting your opportunity for movement?
Stretching hands on the train home. I was also stretching them behind my back - couldn't bring myself to work out how to take a photo of that 😳 Could have been a good movement opportunity though!
It seems like a lot of work but it’s not...honestly.
I managed almost 4miles walking and probably an hour or two of stretching and movement that I would otherwise have spent in a sedentary way. A pretty productive day altogether - and I was at work.
Key message here is to seize the opportunity for building movement into your day. Revisit your wardrobe and see what you could wear that would not restrict your movement; and then you can relax to eat your lunch and enjoy your evening when you get home.
Hope that helps.
I always feel a little bit like a fish out of water when I go on a "touchy feely" course - one that usually involves thinking a lot, spending time on my own thinking or (eek! I find it difficult) sharing my thoughts.
And I always feel fantastic afterwards and want to do more.
This time it was an Eco Therapy course with the wonderful inspiring Alastair at Earth for Life, at the Water of Leith Centre in Edinburgh.
Despite a high footfall and a few dog poo piles to negotiate, I connected and communed with nature and I learned just how significant this work is to mental health workers and the people they care for.
So today I was dreading it – 5 minutes. 5 WHOLE minutes! AND THEN, 4 sets of 3 minutes. FOUR SETS!
Yes shouting a little inside …
All weekend I kept telling my husband, who simply raised his eyebrows at me in support. Sigh…
It’s a big thing actually: I used to be a runner. I used to think I was pretty good at it. At school, I ran, jumped over things; even threw a few things, like a proper athlete. I had badges and medals and got upset if people beat me. My poor mother had to traipse to various stadiums and sit watching me throughout the season, usually in the rain.
I ran fast though…I didn’t like slow at all. I once ran a cross country at school and hurt my ankle, felt sick and didn’t win …so I never did that again.
In fact I haven’t run for about 30 years.
Many of you know that I try to follow the principles of a natural movement regime. In short, I like to evaluate everything with the thoughts “Would people do this naturally?” And, “What impact does it have on the mind and the body?”
Is being able to run a couple of miles a good thing?
Yes, I reckon so. Although I walk, and am walking further and further, my lungs feel the pressure of hills, my legs feel heavy and my energy is still low. I want to be fitter – Fitter for what? Fitter for life and endurance particularly.
I had been putting it off with various excuses like…my knee may not take it, I am too old, my heart may be too weak after my HER2 cancer treatment, I work in the fitness field so how can I let people see me huffing and puffing in public. Jeez! What will I wear?
But then I watched the first ever Stirling Marathon …and I saw the faces as they came in. I watched some of my clients and friends complete a MASSIVE challenge, and felt the tears come down my face with pride and joy for them.
And I was inspired...
Mindful Movement Course at Samye Ling, Dumfriesshire
I've always felt uncomfortable around religious places. Concerned I do the wrong thing, make too much noise, speak to someone when they are meditating ... you know...
And, I expect them to be basic, even threadbare... and struggling; and yet I find the ones that I have visited positively overflowing with carefully tended gardens, gold on almost everything and clearly some deep pockets.
Samye Ling has assaulted my senses: a full on colour bonanza with larger than life sculptures, floating on lakes of shimmer and meaning. (I should say that at this point I have no clue as to their meaning. But I'm hoping to leave more educated).
Last year was crazy. But this year was going to be different… a transitionary year. An evaluative year. A go-with-the-flow kind of year.
In 2015, I travelled everywhere, looking for answers… looking for the right way to do things, the one way, the perfect movement solution - and I had learned so much over that year that my head was spinning.
I wasn’t sure how (or even if!) all the training would come together in my head - far less how to pass this learning on. I needed time for reflection and for thoughts to emerge and consolidate...
I went through a stage of losing my Pilates mojo, of wondering whether I'm making any difference at all; and whether I am too old, too unfit, too...?? to be doing physical instruction. Do I KNOW anything at all?
I hurt my back and was reminded about acute pain. “But you’re a Pilates Teacher! How did that happen?” A long story of tension and unfamiliar movement (and not doing what I preach) ….but Yes I know… if you move then you risk hurting yourself - it was a lesson learned in humility indeed. Not my first and probably not my last.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and played with different training (I even became a dance teacher for goodness sake!).
I experimented with different styles of yoga, I deepened my knowledge of biomechanics, I re-examined the needs of special populations - scoliosis, osteoporosis, seniors, breast cancer and foot mechanics; and I started being interested in different forms of meditation.
At the same time, I continued to follow the principles of natural movement with Katy Bowman (Biomechanist and founder of Nutricious Movement) and I experienced some significant and wonderful changes in my body - strengths and flexibility, movement combinations and an ease I haven't felt before.
Things I thought I would never be able to do again had become possible.
But it was through my growing interest in Mindfulness that I found the connections I was looking for… the glue that holds my training and teaching together.
I think that I teach people to Notice. Notice tension. When, where, how and why. In bringing ourselves to the mat, we settle... we draw attention to the breath and we "notice" our movement.
So… thought I. How do I get better at teaching Noticing?
I took a course in mindful drawing which reminded me how much I like to scribble; I started a regular and formal mindfulness practice, and began experimenting with different types of guided meditations. Yoga Nidra helped me heal my back and Loving Kindness meditation taught me to forgive myself for hurting it; and now my beautiful cushions help me remember to practice everyday.
I started bringing yoga into my Pilates classes, designed some beautiful Retreats with my inspirational friend Sandy; and by the end of the year, I had (of course) started mindfulness teacher training.
During my first weekend of listening to my teachers, I realised that I had been teaching mindfulness all along, using movement rather than stillness to bring people to their bodies. This IS the right decision... for now...
Perhaps this is my contribution, this is what I can offer... to help people notice… to introduce people to different ways to think about their body, not just in class but at home, at work, at play. In the hope that by bringing it to the conscious, by noticing, you can somehow improve it in line with what you want to achieve - whether that's less pain, to move more freely, prevent yourself falling over, walking further, tying your shoelaces, running faster, preventing leakage and prolapse…whatever it is you need or you want… notice what you do first...
The process of reflection is an important one and writing this yearly piece has helped me to notice, to glue together… I am looking forward to more consolidation in 2017 and I hope some of you will join me in embracing a more mindful path...
Here are some suggestions for those of you interested in Mindfulness, new to being present, or just want to slow things down and find calm amidst a stormy mind.
Wishing you peace, health and happiness for the year ahead.
Last year was all about letting go. I did that ... and with a much lighter load ran headlong into 2015. This year was about restoration, moving forward and bringing it onnnnn...
All my lovely pilates people came back and the classes are again bubbling with fantastic folks, all willing to explore and be curious about their bodies. Thank you thank YOU lovely people - it's a privilege to see you all each week and I can't tell you how much I had missed our little community. (Tuesday nighters - this picture captures your spirit so well - I just love it x).
From your firm base, I decided to brave new geographies and found some beautiful studios to share the MELT Rub and Roll Workshops with: Inspirefit in Dunfermline and Union Yoga in Edinburgh are now hopefully regular venues.
Muchah gratitudiness to all the wonderful guest speakers who took the Stirling sessions to a new interesting level: Polly Douglas Nutrition introduced us to detoxy goodness, Anne Casey Yoga gave us our breath back, Nikki Grant of First for Footcare arrived with some revealing details about why we walk the way we do; Karen Harris arrived with dressing up (see me as colon!), teaching us how adhesions and organ position can affect the menstrual cycle; and Helen's Therapeutics introduced us to her Myofascial Release Massage and finger condoms!
More is planned for 2016 with Polly, Nikki and Karen already confirmed to come again with even more surprise and interest; and a quick heads up for an exciting all day-er workshop (in May) for Pelvic Pain, with the fabulous Elaine Miller from Gusset Grippers (who is not only a pelvic floor specialist but a comedienne and Edinburgh fringe sensation). It's difficult to move a body that is sore and these workshops have been a stepping stone for many to start to move more easily and more often.
A decade-old dream of Becoming a Yoga Teacher became real (yeayyyy!!!! see the end of this post for more about that). Not only that but I finished the comprehensive pilates equipment teacher training, deepened my knowledge of natural movement and connective tissue AND set up some holiday retreats with my lovely friend Sandy, from Movement Alchemy, to move, dance and smile with some like minded friends.
I travelled to London, The Netherlands; New York, Spain (three times) and Dublin twice. I finally started offering one to one sessions at Physiofocus and introduced new classes at Beechwood Scout Hut, Stirling University and The Yoga Tree.
I became a pescatarian, started restoring my own body to a healthier place and oh......I turned 50 and got married too! (see newsletter)
Did I maybe do a leeetle bitty too much as I look towards the festive season and take a breath? ...nope... after a year and a half of feeling that life was at best on hold and at worst precarious, I ran and I ran and I ran with a big fat HUGE grin on my face.
It has been a tough year for many of my clients with family injury and illness, stress at work and a few losses. And to those who found that 2015 was their annus horribilus, know that things can change... that maybe next year will open doors for YOUR new experiences, for new adventure, for new beginnings; for building on - rather than forgetting - sad memories, and perhaps nurturing some healthier habits.
"Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place."
Thanks everyone for being my family, my friend, my tribe, my community, my teachers and sometimes all of the above - for helping my passions stay alive, holding my hand and keeping me grounded. My own practice continues to grow and evolve; and as I become more confident in bringing the other modalities into class, I hope yours does too. Yoga and pilates principles are now woven together with a blend of Nutricious Movement and reconnection to more primal neuro pathways. The old and the new. The traditional and contemporary.
2016 will be a creative year for me... I want to experiment and push boundaries and I hope to take my clients with me on that journey. New Retreats to Ireland, Scotland and Spain are on the cards; and deeper explorations inside ourselves in both classes and workshops as we evolve together.
Come ... join in... be brave with me... or just hold my hand. Go on - I've gotcha!
Becoming a Yoga Teacher
Suryalila was a magical setting for achieving a dream. A perfect retreat in southern Spain, with world class teachers and an amazing group of people who had decided that they too wanted to become A Yoga Teacher.
I arrived without luggage in the middle of the night and had to find the last empty bed in a dorm full of people I had never met before – in the dark…with the torch on my phone. Ooops sorry…ooops sorry… ouch…ahhh…
On waking, I had my first humbling experience when I realised I was going to have to ask compete strangers if I could borrow their underpants! As you’d expect everyone was brilliant and after 5 days without any belongings it became apparent that I needed very little – what a great introduction to detachment.
Yoga frightened the heck out of me. What on earth are you doing! With legs behind shoulders and rib popping back bends, shoulder stands, head stands and pop music. What the...???
I'm going to injure myself. I'm going too fast. I'm NOT doing that at all. All these people are going to hurt themselves. STOP!
Try it Kirsty.. be canny... but just try it. And I amazed myself. I could move things that hadn't moved before and felt restrictions I didn't know I had.
Over these intensive, emotional, and incredibly inspiring three weeks I came to feel excited …and free. I wondered at the things I found in my body and this new language of movement. I had forgotten what it felt like to push my boundaries and move to unfamiliar places. I hadn't even realised that I couldn't do that! I had NO idea that my left could and my right couldn't.
My pilates teacher hat was pressed so firmly down on my head that I had restricted my sight to only "safe" places, to what I thought I could do, to what I KNEW I could already do. It's difficult to move things that hurt. Being a teacher for people who are chronically sore (and having had recent experience of pain and rehab myself) I had limited, reduced and sanitised movement, to be safe and conservative – and in suiting this mindset I had lost some of my creativity and innovation.
Yoga taught me more than I expected and in a way I hadn't expected. I had become judgmental rather than experimental and curious and although some asanas still frighten the heck out of me, I am (I hope!) more open to the experience it brings and the joy of a deeper understanding that this training has gifted to me.
Yes we may hurt ourselves. But it’s not the yoga OR the Pilates that does that – it’s the ego, our lack of movement experience, our desire to make a shape rather than listen to our bodies, our…. well, whatever it is… I’m getting better at it and invite you to try too. Let's see where this all takes us…
This year has been about learning to let go, to stop holding on – AND on much more than one level…
The combination of being unable to do as much as I had been doing before and the fantastic…..nay… FANamazingTASTIC…. training in biomechanics I have been through with the Restorative Exercise™ Institute, I have unlocked another piece of understanding about the body; namely that muscle YIELD is the challenge for most people. I know! It’s obvious when you think about it… but I hadn’t… properly...
My physical limitations at the start of the year, following mastectomy and reconstruction, taught me much about holding tension… not so much because it was a scary new experience but because I had the privilege of time - time to think, to stare out of the window, time to feel, time to sense. With many hours in bed and with the restrictions of healing, I went inside myself to take time to explore. Then afterwards, the movements were small and controlled, gradually, slowly…
And my biomechanics studies explained things….explained that malalignments come from overly tight areas, rather than simply the loose, the lazy hanging-your-hip-out sideways types of postures, the slouch.
It taught me EXACTLY how hard it is to let go of habits I didn’t even know I had and how to recognise them more easily. And I thought I was pretty aware.
It taught me that posture (where we put ourselves) and alignment (where we should be for optimum health) can and often are completely different things….
It taught me that its not too late ….at any age. That it can make an immediate difference.
SOOOO... on my return to work, my focus has become about helping people to recognise precisely where they are holding and then asking them to bring it to the conscious and then try to let go. Have you tried lifting and lowering your knee caps lately? Can you lift your second toe without lifting any of the others? I wager it’s not as easy as you think.
I struggled with the new marriage of biomechanics knowledge and my Pilates training where we are asked to hold flexion, to engage core, to create tension to strengthen. I struggled and even at one point thought of giving up all my Pilates ambition, as I Just. Could. Not. Reconcile. It…
My connective tissue knowledge, my MELT Method™ training, with its wonderful understanding of how the body actually works, and my recently acquired love of meditation (still trying - still not awfully good) sat nicely with yield and restoration but it took me longer to grasp the subtleties of Pilates. But grasp I did… eventually…and with a huge sigh of relief.
Not all Pilates is the same and many training schools encourage a great deal of tension in the body. I try really hard to learn from only the best, to surround myself with like-minded teachers who are open to challenge and personal growth, who don’t mind being wrong as long as there is a way to move forward, who offer their knowledge and friendship freely and with a generous spirit…and from there and from them I understood that my approach to teaching is good (phew), that Pilates stands the test of time - that it is as much aligned with yield as much as it is with contraction – I just hadn’t thought about it in exactly THAT way.
My approach to Pilates has always been focused on Control: that combination of switching on and switching off body areas. Students who move too quickly, too early, often speed past this subtle awareness, this mastery of “motor-control before loading” that has always been central to my teaching. Yes, at first it may be boring for those who would rather pump, combat or attack, to those who want to get moving, spin faster, sweat more….but if you are doing that without control, without alignment and with only a fraction of your muscles screaming - where is the health in that?
2014 found me traveling to Germany on holiday and to training in The Netherlands; "letting go" of my son as he starts to University and "finding" both a new physical and mental identity for myself.
It saw us, as a community, raise over £2500 to help local people suffering from lymphoedema - many, many thanks to everyone who helped, paid, rolled, melted and travelled. Big TA! to Kirsten Farrelly who came all the way from Dublin to unkink us all with her MELTy balls! You were all fantabulous. If you know anyone who suffers form this debilitating problem then get in touch with Kate at Stirling Massage Therapies for more details about how we can help.
2015 not only brings me a BIG birthday but more classes and workshops, including one specific to Alignment and Gait – thank you so much to all my clients for coming back to me (I appreciate it more than you can know xx) and all the lovely new people I have connected with too. Please help me spread the word that Free one to one sessions are available for those recovering from breast cancer treatment, as I start a monthly clinic at Physiofocus, in Stirling. And more learning is planned as I complete my Pilates Equipment Training and continue to expand my Fascia knowledge and biomechanics education to help more people let go of those tight areas, improve their movement and get out of pain.
Gosh…the last year or so has been a little mad!
It started well....
Early in the year, I travelled to London to be trained on the Cadillac. What distinguishes Pilates from other exercise forms are the machines and equipment that he invented. These machines, and the Cadillac in particular (originally called the trapeze but commonly renamed to signify its importance), support parts of the body while leaving other bits free to move..... so you can isolate properly.... so you can feel properly.... so you get perhaps what you don't get in the mat work. Amazing - I loved it and spent the next few months 'getting it' in my own body.
Then.... drum roll please.... I flew to New York to train as a first generation MELT Hand and Foot instructor. The MELT Method is a self-treatment technique using small balls and has been taking the USA by storm - the book staying on the New York Times Best Seller list for several months. I am delighted to be the first to bring it to Scotland and looking forward to including it in the monthly Fascia Workshops.
However, in June 2013, I found a lump in my left breast, and my plans for the rest of the year were to changes I learned I had breast cancer. It has been a long and hard road with many difficult decisions, but I have recovered well and have a strong body and a great set of family and friends to thank for that (and maybe a wee bit of focused rehabilitation from myself!). Some of my clients have become close and dear friends and everyone has been a fantastic source of inspiration and positivity - thank you....thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I have learned a great deal as you can imagine and probably drove my consultants crazy. I'm now an expert at exercising in bed - and I have even managed to pass a few exams in support of a new interest in biomechanics, which will add a new and (I hope!) exciting dimension to both my classes and workshops.
I am looking forward to getting back to work .... there's nothing like a bit of normal....