Turn your stressing into blessings.

Picture 4Turn your stressing into blessings.

The festive season is often a challenging time.

Do you want to feel blessed or stressed?

What can you do when you feel yourself pulled and stretched emotionally, mentally,  physically and financially?

We often feel many obligations and expectations which can leave us feeling all sorts of emotions.

We can feel there is very little time for ourselves, or maybe too much time to ourselves.

Christmas is a time for giving, sharing, caring and all sorts of other traditions.

The Alexander Technique can help you manage many of the various demands.

Here are a few things I find helpful to remember and practice in order to maintain some poise, balance, ease, peace and good will.

You can’t give what you haven’t got, so the more calm, content and present you are, the more you will have to give.

I often say to my pupils the best present you can give your loved ones is your presence.

We are often very generous to others at this time of year, but not so generous to ourselves.

We give thanks and gratitude for everything and everyone at Christmas and often forget to acknowledge ourselves.

We need to make sure we are taken care of emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually, then we are much more able to give and share ourselves.

The Alexander Technique is ideal for taking care of yourself –  you learn how  to “give to  yourself” – quality – nourishing – healing – time.

My suggestion is to make a quiet space and the time to commit to giving yourself, 20 mins per day/eve which is about 5% of your day –  not much to ask of yourself.

The festive season is a great time to begin to practice, which you can carry over into the new year.

Do this by detaching yourself from all the different roles, routines, relationships and responsibilities and lying in a quiet comfortable place on your back (constructive rest). This allows the body to release all the accumulated stress, tension and compression, also to recharge the nervous/immune systems as well as all the other systems.

Stopping and resting takes a little practice but the more you practice, the easier it becomes; the body remembers, it is accumulative,  it’s like giving  your self a present every day,  showing gratitude for the body/mind/soul. It is like a mini retreat – The power of stillness and silence is very healing, balancing, restoring and rejuvenating.

Also what ever you are doing, see if you can do it with less stress – we put so much effort into  what ever we do – One of the principle tools of the Alexander Technique is efficiency and conserving energy.

Doing less,– this can prove difficult at this time of year.

As soon as we ask the question can I do less? This will reduce the stress.

Wishing you a healthy, happy winter solstice and best wishes for 2014!

All the best.

Nicholas Brandon.

 

 

 

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Is driving a pain for you?

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The daily commute to work, being stuck in traffic takes its toll on the body/mind, we can be impatient, irritable, stressed even aggressive. We forget we are human beings behind these machines. We become repetitive in our actions and reactions, resulting in many health problems.

Recent research shows driving causes a number of health issues. According to an independent study in the UK most drivers will suffer one or more of these problems.

81% foot cramp

74% lower back

70% side pain

70% headaches/eye strain

2 million drivers will report these types of symptoms after just 15 minutes of driving.

What is the cause of these problems?

Car seat design, one size fits all; stuck in a sedentary position for long periods, poor posture and driving positions, repetitive movements such as foot pedals; also gear changing, steering wheel manoeuvres and looking through the wind screen (poking the head forward – particularly people who wear glasses.)

Easy tips to avoid the damaging effect of long term driving habits:

Become aware of your driving habits. This is the first step to seeing what maybe the cause of repetitive driving strain.

One of the primary areas which causes problems when driving is the back not being in alignment and balance; this causes wear and tear on the joints and muscles.

Ask yourself the following and see what you notice, sense or feel.

Do you slump in your seat? Are you a little lopsided, or slightly twisted to one side?

Do you tense your neck? This is easily done when reversing?

Do you tighten your jaw tight or hold your breath?

Are your arms locked or shoulders tight when holding the steering wheel?

How tight is the grip on the steering wheel? Could this be causing tension in your shoulders, wrist, hands and fingers?

How hard are you pushing the foot pedals, which part of the leg/foot do you push with.

Think of driving with less effort and a little more ease.  You can make simple shifts and adjustments which can make a big difference.

One of the most important things to consider when driving is your back.

The foundation of your back/spine is the sit bones, which are the bones at the base of the pelvis. If your seated comfortably and your bottom is right back is the seat (you should be able to feel them), and the car seat isn’t too sloped back, you will be in a position of mechanical advantage.

This means that your spine will be aligned, which will then give support to the rest of your body, such as the, neck, head, arms and limbs. You can find your sit bones by gently rocking on your bottom, this will help you establish the contact and support for your back.

Another good tip is to lie in semi supine after a long drive; watch the video link for guidance and instruction on this hugely beneficial practice.

If due care and attention is given to the body as well as driving you can eliminate and avoid many of the driving related problems.

If you find you do have recurring symptoms I recommend a series of lessons which will address many of the driving related issues that are becoming more common.

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Is your smart phone or ipad a potential health risk?

Could your smart phone, ipad or similar device be the source of your stress, pain or injury? Have you become a “screen slave?” Are you often working while commuting, or after you get home?

This posture tells a story. The position of the back, neck and head  tells me this lady has spent many years at a desk.

This posture tells a story. The position of the back, neck and head tells me this lady has spent many years at a desk.

People of all ages are being diagnosed with neck pain associated with looking down at these hand held devices. Symptoms such as nerve pressure, headaches, disk compression, back pain and breathing difficulties have all been reported.

This phenomenon began with the popularity of texting. Everywhere today you will see countless people slumped over their phones with their heads pulled down. This advancement in technology has become very compulsive, addictive and distracting.

Watch 2 minute Video below.

According to recent statistics in the UK, the average time spent on a smart phone is 90 minutes per day. Most of this time is spent browsing the internet, playing games and social media. We now spend more time on these mini computers than actually talking to our partners and friends.

One of my clients calls it the Blackberry prayer, people bowing down as if in a deep concentrated religious prayer.

This picture was taken at my local bus stop in Notting Hil  London.

My local bus stop in Notting Hill, London.
All the people I photographed here were looking down at there phones.

This pulling down of the head causes excessive amounts of tension, the head weighs 10-12 pounds. Leaning over, pulling down and curving the back takes its toll on the body. Without recognition this can cause life long problems such as disk degeneration, trapped nerves, migraines etc.

What’s the solution? 

 (1) Beginning to notice the habit of pulling down into your device.

 (2) Adapt a more natural position for the spine, neck and head.

In other words making sure you are comfortably seated or standing, and your spine is long. See if you can allow your head and eyes to slightly tilt down, instead of the whole weight of the head, this will take enormous pressure off the delicate bones of the spine.

(3) Modify the position of the device, instead of having the device in you lap or looking down, find ways to hold the device at eye level.

(4) Take breaks and allocate time for the device then switch off.

(5) Don’t get stuck in fixed positions.

(6) Having a strong flexible back will help you deal with such issues.

Watch this two minute video  it really makes you think !

Click the Alexander technique  link to discover and learn how to live a life where you are more present, alive and fully expressed.

The Alexander Technique offers practical lasting solutions to prevent this type of   repetitive strain and improves the coordination and strength of your body.

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How to travel lightly, freely and easily.

Travelling lightly, freely and easily is an art.

If you are lucky enough to be going away, what will you be taking?

Passport, money, sun cream… But have you thought about what you don’t need to take?

Make your journey easier, lighter and enjoyable.

Make your journey easier, lighter and enjoyable.

We are often laden with lots of emotional baggage, as well as excess tension in the body. This can result in feeling like we are dragging ourselves around, as well as our luggage.

We allow events and stories from our past to filter into the present, making our journey less colourful, vivid and exciting. The past doesn’t allow for spontaneity, freedom and living on the edge, so there is not a sense of enjoyment, exploration or freshness and space for new possibilities. We prefer to play safe, so we feel comfortable and secure. Stress and tension also make the journey more bumpy and difficult.

If we apply and practice the simple tools of the Alexander technique, we learn to become more present and travel with lightness, ease and freedom. We can leave our problems and fears behind, or at least carry them in such a way as to feel lighter.

This reduces the stress that’s associated with travelling. We learn to give ourselves enough time so we respond with a sense of calm and preparation. There is less hurry and worry. We are more aware of how we carry our luggage, be it emotional, physical or mental.

If I find I am stuck in queues such as airports, traffic jams and seats, I can call upon the Alexander technique tools. I love this because it is like a friend keeping a careful watch on me wherever I go, wherever I am, the tools are always there giving me a reality check, calling me back to the present, back into my body, expanding my awareness. I remember I can exercise choice, even if I feel stuck I don’t have to turn this into a stressful situation. I make a subtle shift in my thinking and being which allows me step back and evaluate the situation, this means I am not automatically reacting, but being responsible. I can choose to move, breathe or smile. Moving myself from feeling stuck, cramped, stressed and compressed. This choice gives me a space to create a new possibility, which usually results in being happier, lighter and present.

One of the principle tools of the Alexander Technique is to maintain an awareness of what is going on with ourselves, particularly the region of the head, neck and back. When we are stressed, one of the first places we tighten and restrict is the breathing, which then tenses the neck, shoulders, and back. I have a simple strategy (that takes practice), to help maintain balance, poise and equilibrium in my body/mind/emotions/spirit. I ask myself, “am I aware?”  This brings me back to the present moment, and back to my body. I then ask myself, “Is my neck free?”  “Is my head releasing upwards?”  “Is my back lengthening and widening?”  “Am I breathing, smiling?” Asking these simple questions is often enough to make a shift to a new place, where I am aware and can exercise my will to move to a place of ease, not dis-ease.

Another valuable tool of the A.T you can practice – is to find a quiet place and take 20 minutes to stop and lie on your back, with the head slightly supported the legs elevated, feet on the floor. This is a very simple yet remarkably effective way to release stress, compression and tension in the body, resulting in being calm, at ease and balanced. Visit my website the “constructive rest” demonstration is on the first page of my website, this will guide you through this very healing therapeutic process.

Have a great summer with love, light and delight.

Nicholas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Smile and you feel happier, stronger, healthier and lighter.

One of the best gifts you can give to someone and yourself is your presence and a big genuine smile.

Don't forget to smile

Don’t forget to smile

Ask yourself, are you aware? Are you present? This is usually enough to bring yourself into the present.

It is so simple to smile, but we forget and get caught up in the habit of being busy.

It takes more muscles to frown than to smile.

When we smile we move more lightly and easily.

When we smile this releases stress.

When we smile it sends  a positive ripple out into those around us and beyond.

Smiling is contagious – most people smile back. This spreads the health benefits throughout those around you and it comes back to you several times as well.

When we smile we look more attractive.

Lightness is a real indicator of health.

Smiling is such a simple expression which costs nothing but is often received as a gift, which brings a sense of warmth and ease to most situations.

Charles Garfield, the author of Peak Performance, once coached the Russian Olympic weight-lifting team. Garfield noticed that when team members lifted to exhaustion, they would invariably grimace at the painful effort. In an experiment, he encouraged the athletes to smile when they got to that point of exhaustion. This seemingly minor difference enabled them to add 2-3 more reps to their performance.

No matter what the task, when you grimace or frown while doing it, you are sending your brain the message, “This is really difficult. I should stop.”  The brain then responds by sending stress chemicals into your bloodstream. And this creates a vicious circle: the more stressed you are, the more difficult the task becomes.

When you smile, your brain gets the message, “It’s not so bad. I can do this!”

Remember to smile it’s good for the mind, body, soul and the world.

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