Thursday, 31 July 2014

Sleep challenge

I just got back from Melbourne, co-presenting with Kit Laughlin. During those eleven days I did not use the alarm clock, going to bed around 10pm, averaging 7.5 to 8.5 hours of sleep a night. This is unusual for me, my normal average is around 6 hours. I cope but I'm chronically tired. As a therapist I am not setting a good example of rest and recovery. 

The hardest thing to do is to let activities stay undone, emails for the next day, house work for another time. Though the more I let things go, the more liberated I feel from the mindset of doing doing doing. 

My challenge is to commit to adding at least 30 minutes extra sleep a day for a whole month. This could be in the form of a nap or ideally to maintain this new habit of going to bed at 10pm versus 11:30pm. 

Will you join me?

Let me know how your fare and what you feel through August. 


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

In Favour of Minimalist Shoes

In recent weeks I have been asked in stretch class the efficacy of wearing Vibram Five Fingers as I wear them all the time. Minimalist shoes became the new fad which seems to have peaked, judging by the negative feedback on injury from their use by unconditioned individuals. 

When VFFs first came out there was a lot of curiosity and some outright horror that I would wear a shoe that had no medial arch support. I had very flat feet with no intrinsic strength in the arch or glute activation. Activating the glutes proved to be the key to my knee tracking and improving the mobility in my feet and ankles. In conjunction with wearing VFFs I improved my single leg balancing and proprioception. This has taken years and is a continuing process of development. 

Wearing regular shoes is like wearing mittens on your hands, thumbs bound to fingers. Can you imagine trying to grasp things and sense the world through paddle hands? Shoes reduce sensitivity and dull the toes, turning your feet into stiff appendages. Sounds like torture to me!

So I still support the fad to being barefoot or locomoting in minimalist shoes. I want my feet to be as free and as sensitive as my useful hands. 

Monday, 25 November 2013

A fresh take on stretching

After presenting at the Stretch Therapy Community 2013 Convention, my ideas needed to be written up for others to continue expanding this fresh take on stretching. For the the last few months I have been playing with reciprocal inhibition, stretching the agonist by maximally contracting the antagonist or other muscles. The aim is to enhance stretching the agonist and simultaneously strengthening the antagonist or other muscles. 

From Wikipedia:

Reciprocal inhibition describes the process of muscles on one side of a joint relaxing to accommodate contraction on the other side of that joint. Joints are controlled by two opposing sets of muscles, extensors and flexors, which must work in synchrony for smooth movement. When a muscle spindle is stretched and the stretch reflex is activated, the opposing muscle group must be inhibited to prevent it from working against the resulting contraction of the homonymous muscle. This inhibition is accomplished by the actions of an inhibitory interneuron in the spinal cord.

By maximally contracting the antagonist, simultaneously focusing on maximal relaxation to the agonist, I have been able to make a significant leap in range of motion, plus strengthening the antagonist by using the flexibility tension in the agonist. 

Initially the concept was doing my head in! Persistence opened up a new experience in honing my focus to the internal experience of my body. I identified the areas in my body where there were huge differences between strength and flexibility. My aim was to bring balance back in the body by being both strong and flexible. 

For example flexing the forearm muscles to stretch the extensor forearm muscles. Another example is to flex the Posterior Chain of muscles using the strength the Anterior Chain, or Superficial Back Line versus Superficial Front Line. You can see this application can be applied in a multitude of ways. In my next post I will expand the idea of using other muscles apart from the antagonist. 

Standing on my left leg, the quads and hip flexors on my right leg had a hard time lifting to 90 degrees, yet the right calf and hamstrings are loose enough for me to place my head on my right knee in a seated forward bend. My right hip flexor strength was poor. Over time I have been able to improve the strength by lifting a bent right leg to chest, then straightening to full extension whilst maintaining as much height as possible. Using 3 second holds, varying the vector to full abduction to the side or taking the leg behind, using 3 rounds with the right leg never touching the floor, my balance and strength improved. The flexibility and strength ratio is less polarized. Of course I also practice on my left side. You can also vary the holding time, how many rounds or adding figure eights and shapes for joint mobility. 

This little daily routine just takes a keen focus on reaching your strength and flexibility limits. In a few weeks you will notice the difference. In a month you will be pleased with your own gains. 

Move smoothly, with grace, Cherie

Thursday, 24 October 2013

How can I serve today?

Albert Schweitzer said it well: “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”

I woke up today thinking "How can I serve today?" If it didn't matter about being paid, being right, being politically correct, being normal, being unafraid of other people's opinions, what would I do?

It's not what I should do but what I will do, from moment to moment. Can my actions make someone happy, heal a heart or shift a person into a place of love?

I find it easy to be softly spoken and kind to strangers. It's my partner and family members who really present the challenge! I feel the surge of anger, the annoyance, the irritation so swiftly flushing my face red. The stinging retort, the snarl, the verbal cuts cannot be taken back once uttered but they teeter behind my teeth. And then Awareness comes in and I respond with the end in mind, love wipes away the nastiness. 

The peace and harmony I wish to preserve is a still pond.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

The Power of a Kiss. 

I had the pleasure of baby sitting Sophie Wardman-Bui, 17 months old. She was a dream to take care of, no tears, no tantrums, always quick to smile. There is no artifice with a child this young. She radiated pure trust, joy and love. When I was busy doing dishwashing she would walk up to me and pat my legs to get my attention. With upraised arms and big brown eyes, she would beseech me for a cuddle. I immediately scooped her up in a big hug. Her beaming satisfied smile melted my heart. 

If I was 'asleep' to the moment I might have told her to wait until I was ready but the power of the moment would be completely lost for her and for me. It is a wonderful feeling when an innocent pure love is directed at you. Once she was restored she had the confidence to launch herself off heights more than half her own height with glee. She literally bounced off the furniture!

If she hurt herself you could see her face furrow in contemplation as to whether she should cry or not. I believe if I did not make a fuss she would take my lead and pull herself together. Every bump was instantly healed with a kiss. 
"All better!" Fingers, elbows and arms were proffered for more kisses. I was rewarded with a smile. 

Now how marvellous it would be if we could heal back pain, knee pain with just a kiss "All better now!"

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Helping or hindering?

I am concerned for my Dad. He is going to enjoy his 74th birthday in a couple of weeks. As a robust younger man, he ran his own car mechanic workshop, grew his own vegetables, fixed everything from plumbing to furniture, cooked and cleaned with verve, and played tennis with enthusiasm. My Dad seemed to be able to handle anything.

Lately this has not been the case. He is cranky, chronically sleepy, argumentative and forgetful. I am worried he is showing signs of dementia but he has been recently cleared by his doctor of this. What has been diagnosed is diminished hearing, high blood pressure and sleep apnea. He is over weight and prone to tripping, often falling to his knees. His reflexes and comprehension have slowed causing him to lose his temper in his frustration to cover his embarrassment or misunderstanding. My Dad seems suddenly old.

My Mum is always chiding and scolding him and he responds with resentment and words of blame directed mainly at her. Mum swings from total self sacrifice to weeping fury. I am often called upon to make peace, sort out Dad's paperwork and find a solution to the latest problem. Even though my help is appreciated I have a feeling there is more that I can do but what is it?

I heard a woman telling the story of her father's experience with dementia. She found that when she engaged her father to help another person, he seemed to regain his self respect and sense of value. He was less difficult to manage even though his level of dementia remained the same. This started me thinking about whether I was truly helping my Dad or was I hindering him?

It is easy to undermine, emasculate, devalue another human being with just a few words. The tongue can cut to the heart. My own heart aches to think I have inflicted unintentional paper cuts to my Dad's current state of mind with a few curt remarks, impatience or being smart arsed.

From this moment I intend to engage my Dad to help me. If I can give him purpose and value, the time and space to contribute in any way he can, to show him true thankfulness for his generosity, to listen and to talk to him without criticism, maybe just maybe I can lead back to the land of the living versus sliding into the empty spaces of his mind.

I love and treasure my Dad. 

I am going to make his life sweet.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Micro mobility caresses from the inside

I occasionally attended Dave Wardman's stretch class. He is going through a gentle phase, taking great care with the quality of the movement versus focusing on the aquisition of flexibility. 

There is great value to reducing movements to tiny ranges of motion. Contrary to what you may think, your awareness expands as you focus on the quality of the how you move, where you feel the sensation and what emotions may be revealed. A bonus in my opinion.

When I am practicing a movement, polishing off the clumsy corners, the smooth curve of the arcs and spirals I create with my arms, my legs, my head tilts, my spine give me much pleasure. Pretending I am undulating like sea-grass, flowing with water, discharges accumulated tension. 

Micro mobility practice is caressing from inside the body.