Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Holidays At Home - Intro

Home Sweet Home.
Not everyone wants to go away for their holidays, and not everyone has the opportunity to go to foreign parts. So, this blog series is here to help fill the gap between needing to have time off and the fact that a lot of us stay at home for our vacations. The times that I have stayed at home for my holidays have often been the most fun! This is a good time to say that from the very beginning that this series has been created for adults on their own, or with partners. I feel children's holidays have a lot of air time and I hope in this series to give the adults some TLC!

So, let's begin to plan the holiday. Remember that 'Holidays At Home' do need planning in advance, just as if you were going away, otherwise the time just slips through your fingers with mundane normality. Also, it's a great idea to call it a holiday or vacation, rather than just telling people you are 'staying at home'. The words we use are powerful and if you say that you are on holiday, it means so much more and you can make it feel very special. Remember, the time away from work is supposed to be fun and recharge you both emotionally, mentally and spiritually and this blog series is going to help you through the thinking and planning of it, so hopefully nothing will get missed.

The first thing to do is sit down with your calendar and work out a time that you would like to take a week or so off work. I would personally make it at least a month from your first planning stage, rather than next week. This helps you organize things really well so that you can totally relax and enjoy your time, as well as help build up the anticipation for your holiday.

The next big thing is to ask yourself what you need your holiday to help you with. Do you need to do any of the following?:

  • Relax
  • Restore
  • Energize
  • Detox
If you know what you need your holiday to do, then you can plan things that will help you do that. For example; If you have been through a really tough time at work and you want to get some peace, then it's a good thing to start planning how to relax and restore your general sense of being. If you have been through quite a placid time, you are a bit low at work and you want time to think of how you can change things, maybe an upbeat energizing holiday may be for you? Or, if you have had a series of late nights, parties, deadlines and the like, maybe a gentle week of cutting back and cleansing your systems maybe more up your street. At this point it is often a good idea to get the diary out and see what you have been doing up to this point, so you get a good reminder of what life has been throwing at you. It may seem silly, but it has helped me in the past. 

By now you should have a date in the diary to book time off and you should have a clear idea of what you want that time to do for you. 

The third and last part of this blog is to have a look around your house. Is it somewhere that you would like to stay for two weeks? Does it calm you down? Do you like the look of it? Now is the time to get your home into a state that you would like it to be, but not in one go! The reason why I encourage you to look around now before you even begin planning your holiday is so that you have time to get your personal space sorted out. 

Is your bathroom somewhere you could take a relaxing
Time-Out? Simple baby-steps like adding candles
can make all the difference. 
I did this last year with the FlyLady system. If your house is the last place you would want to relax in, (and mine sure was), then click on the website and take a look around at how you can follow the Baby Steps to a clutter free home. The reason why I think this system works is that it is gentle, it's not filling you with guilt and it does actually work! It takes a month to go through the house from top to bottom and this first month is the ground work for some great habits to clear your house, and head, of clutter and chaos. Remember, your holiday time off is not time off to do the chores and decorating!

I love the fact that the first day of 'Holiday At Home' planning means that I get to work out exactly what I want to do for a whole two weeks! The next blog will be the next step of your planning process with ideas and tips on what to do four weeks before your 'Holiday At Home' to make your time special, memorable and above all, personal. 

Side note: (I had this idea for a blog series last year, which was the second year in a row that we decided to stay at home for out holidays. However, I do see the comedy value that it wasn't until I was at the beach yesterday that I had time to sketch it out and plan it! I hope you enjoy it and that it is helpful.)

Monday, 24 June 2013

Picture Perfect

This personal mini-blog is a call to all women out there who are battling with their bodies:

Please stop.

I was in the mall the other day with David and we were looking at the people walking past whilst chatting over a coffee. I had been feeling rather good about my body for about a week and didn't feel too lumpy or bumpy, but after a while I turned to David and said that I thought that I needed to hit the gym when I got home. He turned to me and said:

"Marketing will rob you of all your self confidence and sell it back to you at the price of their product". 

He was bang on the money, and suddenly my blinkers were removed. As women, we are sold the concept that being small, tiny and frankly skinny is the thing to be and anything falling short of that is not attractive.

I was having lunch on my own today in Cagliari and I had a great view of four tables. In Italy floaty dresses and big sunglasses are almost uniform and as I sat there I saw these four tables being taken by couples out for an easy Monday lunch in the centre of the city. Now, the interesting thing that I noticed was that all four women looked each other up and down, worked out how much the outfits cost and how many times they had hit the gym. The men didn't bat an eyelid, they just got on with the conversations.

My question is; Who do we do it for?

If the answer is 'For Ourselves', then why do we beat our selves up so much if we skip a day?
If the answer is 'For Our Partners', they should love us for who we are not what look like.
If the answer is 'Because I have to', then we need to let go of our playground hang ups, poke our tongues out at the bullies and know that we are better than that.

If the fact is that you are battling your body, it means that you are in a constant state of 'Flight and Fight'. If you take five minutes out to Google what that process does to your body you really wont want to be in that daily cycle and more. It's for emergencies only!

There are four basic things to remember when seeking total body wellness:

  1. Be Kind To Yourself!
  2. Enjoy the body you were blessed with and take time to thank it for what it can do. 
  3. Never berate your body for the things that it can't do yet. 
  4. Breathe deeply and know that you are way more than good enough. 
Enjoy your evenings and keep life real. 


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

My Pilates Journey.

The Magic Pilates Resistance Ring;
my personal favoriteat the moment. 
I first started working as a Massage Therapist 13 years ago. I worked in a Beauty Studio based in a department store near my home town and I was often asked which type of exercises would work best for my clients, as I still do. In 2000 I remember giving out the advice that I still recommend today to many clients; "try a good Pilates class to help strengthen your back". At the turn of the century here in the U.K it was like giving advise out for some underground sect that only a few people where privileged to know about! There were only two or three instructors in the surrounding area and I can't remember that there was much of an option for doing the equipment based classes. 

Oh, how times have changed, as now we can go to our local gyms and Pilates 'based' classes with about 50 other people! 

Today I want to give you a personal reason why I like the Pilates method so much and why I think it is a good concept for overall body wellness. 

As you know if you have been following my Twitter account and reading the blogs over the past
Don't forget to hydrate whilst
couple of weeks, David and I have been traveling around Italy. We are here for a month and have been really enjoying ourselves. This weekend we went to Rome and had an amazing time there! But all this moving around has meant that we will be on four planes, seven different mattresses, (with corresponding pillows), over a six week period. I'm also doing a lot of driving, clocking up a loads of miles in 12 days already! So on Sunday morning at 2a.m I wasn't that surprised at being awake whilst my back was having a teenage-style strop at me. I realized as I got out of bed that we had been partying the night before, had walked miles around Rome and done some amazing site-seeing, all in beautiful hot temperatures, and I had forgotten to pack pain killers. 

Had I stretched and done all the things I urge my clients to do? No: The only thing I could congratulate myself over was making sure I drank two glasses of water for each glass of wine or espresso! 

I was hot and sticky and my back ached, so I sat on the edge of the bed and listened to the nightingales and started doing some seated roll-downs.  

This led to an hour and a half of Pialtes. I kept it slow, making sure I held each stretch for a good amount of time, I moved in all directions and got my body back. As I was doing my hamstring stretches  on a blanket folded up on the cool marble floor I thought: This works!

I was so relieved that I  had learnt enough over the past years through some amazing teachers to do Pilates safely on my own and that I could happily stretch out, work my body and make my back pain ease off in such a positive way. By 3:30am I was cooler thanks to the marble floor, but more importantly I was pain free enough to go to sleep. 

For me, Pilates doesn't ask my body to hyper-extend, (which it does too easily), and I can make it as slow or as fast as I like. I can pinpoint different body parts to work on knowing that they are being used not by themselves, but by the kinetic chains around the whole body, making it a full-body wellness program for me. I like the way I can make it a form of fascia release for myself and that it gets better and better each time I practice. I also find it a fantastic form of meditation. 

Personally I don't like the big classes and work best with a one-to-one teacher. Jill Heaton is teaching me at the moment and has allowed me to find my body again after the end of my course last year. I have also enjoyed classes, but I think 6 or 8 people in a class is enough otherwise the instructor cannot refine the techniques for each person

The Reformer Machines are fantastic, but a Mat Class
will give you amazing benefits as well. 
Pilates is hard work! If I don't feel it the next day I haven't done it right. If you are thinking of starting, you need to dedicate yourself and do it about three times a week. If you are going to a class you really have to do your homework, otherwise there is little point. 

Joseph Pilates, the man who 'invented' the exercise routines said: 

"In ten sessions you will feel a difference, in twenty sessions you will see a difference and in thirty sessions you will be on your way to having a whole new body"


"Pilates develops the body uniformly, corrects wrong postures, restores physical vitality, Invigorates the mind and elevates the spirit." 

I would always recommend finding a fully qualifide teacher, such as Jill, who will take you through the basic principles so you can be safe, and then help you find the new you! 

Finally, the best advice I ever had about Pilates and mixing it with other forms of exercise was by a guy who told me: 'You'll never die from a strong core, go get out of breathe!'. Basically he was telling me to mix Pilates with good aerobic work as well so that my heart and lungs also get a good work out! I fully agree! 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

One to watch for summer.

Good morning.

Just a quick post this morning to upload a Summer Sunscreen YouTube video David and I made on the beach yesterday. I do so love it when ice-cream, sun, sand and sea constitute as work!

I'm now off to learn Italian numbers and food items down at the market. Remember to breathe deeply and enjoy your day.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

The Sunshine Pill

Me enjoying the desert sun in Oman. January 2013
Vitamin D is a wonderful part of the nutritional makeup that we need to consume to allow our bodies to be healthy. It helps us to absorb calcium and phosphorus making bones strong. Vitamin D can also help increase our brain activity as well as help boost our immune systems, as well as helping with Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's a great little number and we get it from the sun! It's one that we need to take a look at before we get into the subject of our next blog, which will be Sunscreens.

In 2010 there was an outcry in the papers: Children in the U.K were suffering from Rickets, and in truth they still are. A simple Google search will show you how widespread it is and the concern that many have about its link with the lack of Vitamin D today as the problem of Rickets is linked to Vitamin D uptake in children's developing bones. Kids need quite a bit of it to make sure that they are developing well and growing steadily. The issues that were headlined were that children are indoors too much and they need to be outside, but personally, I think there is more to this than the fact that they like spending time on Facebook!

The truth of the matter is that there are two massive factors going on in England at the moment which conflict with each other. The first being the weather and the fact that it has rained, or we have had to put up with cloud cover, for about 18 months. The second factor is that we are being told that we have to wear a sunscreen to protect against skin cancer and premature aging.

The research paper that the NHS based it's comments on about the increase in Rickets was useful as it was the same paper that the Newspapers talked about in 2010. It basically stated that in the U.K in 2010 half of the adult population had a decreased amount of healthy levels of Vitamin D in the body, which is a massive number. But it also stated that due to the position the U.K has on the globe, (i.e north of the tropics), children should get three, thirty minute bouts of U.K noonday sun to make sure they get enough Vitamin D into their bodies through the sun. Basically,  a healthy tan on the forearms is no bad thing!

So, we have cloud cover and marketing. Yes, we need to protect the skin against UVA and UVB sun rays to help stop skin cancer and premature aging. However, I would argue that in the U.K it is probably safe to have lunch outside and enjoy the sun as long as you are sensible with your sunscreen.

If we are are not able to get enough sun, then how can we get the right amounts of Vitamin D? Most of
the time I would say that a health balanced diet, including oily fish such as Salmon, should give you enough Vitamin D to function properly. You can also find it in eggs and fortified cereal, but at the moment that may not be enough. I would advise that a chat to your family doctor or your pharmacist would be a great idea to see if a daily supplement could help boost your levels. (Remember, always get the right supplement for your age as children should never be given an adult amount.)

Protecting your skin is always personal to you as you know how long it takes for you to burn in the sun. But make sure you are not using too much! An SPF 20 whilst sitting in the garden or the park at lunch on a gentle summers day in England may be enough for you, whilst an SPF 50 could be going overboard.

On the other hand, if you work outside you may want to wear SPF 50 as you are out in the weather all day everyday and you need a constant amount of protection. You will get enough sunshine through the sunscreen filters over a day long period if you apply it correctly.

No sun can be as bad as too little sun. I encourage you to think for your own skin, rather than fall for marketing and scar-tactics in the magazines and papers, (on both sides of the argument), and work out how much you protect your skin on a daily basis.

As for me, I'm sitting in the shade in Sardinia with an SPF 50 in my face, neck and shoulders and an SPF 30 everywhere else!

Enjoy your day, where-ever you are, and I look forward to writing to you soon.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Feet First

A sail boat in Sardinia (2010)
David and I have had a great weekend and yesterday we went to Villasimius on the southern point of Sardinia. Apart from being very happy with the fact that although the afternoon sun was strong and we didn't get burned, (all thanks to Dermalogica's Solar Defense Range), I also saw a lot of boats bobbing about in the water.

What do boats and feet have in common? Well, I'll tell you.

When I see clients I often get them to stand in-front of a mirror so that we can have a look at their posture and how massage, strengthening and stretching as well as good nutrition can help the body. We call this a 'Postural Assessment', which is followed by basic range of motion tests so that the client and I can record and gauge where we started and where we are headed. It supplies me with a clear marker system to see how the work is progressing. Many therapists work from the head down and others from the feet up. Some use grid systems and plumb lines and others, like myself, don't.

I always start by looking at the feet. I love their beauty as they tell me so much about the person standing in-front of me. I can see how they have started to role medially or laterally, which can put great pressure on the arches, I can see if the tendons are clinging on for dear life and I can also look at the skin to see if pressure points are building up. I can also see if people are rocking forward or backward on their feet; giving too much pressure into the balls of the foot or the heels. I can basically start at the foundations of the body and work up, knowing from where I started I have a trail to follow (Beil, Andrew R., 2010, The Trail Guide To The Body 4th Edition, Books of Discovery).

The best way that I can explain why it is important for you to know is explained by the image of a sail-boat.

A sail boat has a mast that fits atop the boat.

If you look at the image to the left you can see the foot and the lower part of the leg and we are interested in the green bits for today.

The shafts coming down from the top to the foot are the Tibia/Fibular leg bones or the 'Mast' on the boat.

The 'Boat' is formed from the other two bones; the Tallus, which is between the Mast and the Calcaneus, which is the boat's hull.

When I look at your feet in your postural assessment, the Boat on which you walk is very important to me. I like to see how your Mast works relation to the boat and I mark how much the boat's hull is showing behind the mast, giving a clear indication on how the fascia and it's corresponding muscle pockets work for you. When the mast is unstable the boat can veer off track, leading to injuries throughout the rest of the foot, up to the knees and beyond. Indeed, the Spiral Line of fascia 'loops around the body in a helix, joining one side of the skull across the back to the opposite shoulder, and then across the front to the same hip, knee, and foot arch, running up the back of the body to rejoin the fascia on the skull' (T. Myers, 2001, Anatomy Trains, Churchill Livingstone Pulishing, pg 139), clearly showing how important the feet are in relation to the whole well being of the boat's progression through the choppy waters of life.

Lower back pain, planter fascia problems, hip mobility complaints and yes, even head pain can be helped a lot by looking at the feet and relaxing or strengthening the fascia/muscles that support the foot and ankle.

Illustration of the planter fascia left foot.
However, not all body work has to start with sorting out the mast and it's corresponding boat. Personally I like working with my clients! So if they have headaches they want treated directly I am more than happy to work the muscle bags and their trigger points to get the headaches under control before we start looking at working out a way of how to get the mast lined up correctly and easing the tension felt throughout the body. But knowing what is there and how you are standing on your feet can show a huge amount of the body's story.

(A Side Thought
Postural assessment has been argued over for the past few years after Eyal Lederman's paper was published in the well respected Journal of Movement And Body Work in 2011 entitled 'The Fall Of Postural-Structural-Biomechanical Model In Manual And Physical Therapies. Exemplified By Lower Back Pain'. Personally, I find both sides of the argument intellectually thrilling and I am really grateful to Eyal Lederman for getting us to think about why we go through postural assessments, checks and hang on to them so dearly. For my own clinic work, I am happy to stick with them, viewing the postural assessment personal to the client, rather than looking at an ideal posture that I need my client to be forced into.)

Friday, 7 June 2013

Salads and Body Work.

I'm here on the terrace in Sardinia, looking out over the mountains and enjoying the sun. David and I have been enjoying time to eat well, read, relax and think through ideas that are sometimes neglected when we are at home purely because we don't seem to have the time.

One such though struck me yesterday. I have been reading about fascia this week and there are a couple of texts that I  'had' to read for my level 6 diploma last year and back then I went straight to their indexes, found the bits I needed, used the quotes and shoved them back on the shelf. Now I am reading them cover to cover, slowly and enjoyably and making notes. This morning the highlighter even appeared!

This week I have been reading Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers. It's the standard text for exploring fascia in the treatment room and I have been dipping in and out of it for about 4 years now. But on Tuesday I started on page one and spent two days dragging myself through physiology of cells and dusting off knowledge about how fascia communicates within the body. In the past I thought that the physiology of cell structure has never been my bag and I would leave the microscopes to the academics. I remember when I spent a semester at Westminster Uni (quitting after realizing that university life was not for me) dreading the physiology lessons. The lectures were dry and never related to what I wanted to do, which was clinic work. So, I didn't get a feel for why this stuff mattered to a therapist.

But over the past three years I have seen cells in a new light and started enjoying the detail of what they offer; after all, they are the stuff of life. And yesterday, when I was making lunch, I think I actually worked out why I now don't mind it so much, but most importantly I worked out why it's important for me to know it for my clients.

The only way to describe it is by relating it to a salad.

I made a huge mozzarella and basal salad yesterday for lunch. It had spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, olive oil ... loads of good stuff. I presented the bowl to David and we both ate it all up and enjoyed mopping up the end bits with a nice chunk of bread. Delicious!

The bit that surprised me was that neither David or I would go to the fridge and just eat the spinach. Not one of us would pick up a lettuce and munch through it. Only on occasion would I eat a tomato on its own. But together, when mixed, they make a great lunch.

Body-Work is the same. I really don't want to spend my life looking at cells on petri-dishes, but I really value the guys who do as they can tell me what they are doing and how cellular changes, patterns and links relate to the work that I do on a day to day basis. Also, I don't enjoy adjusting the skeletal frame, but I am very pleased that it exists and I know enough about it know when it needs help and then I refer to people who can adjust it. I am no endocrine specialist, but knowing that it is a vital system and the basics of what it does enables me to recommend people get their hormones checked if they are feeling a bit off centre.

The body is a salad, not a vegetable!

The beauty of it is that when we all work together across professional disciplines and we know that one  treatment effects the other, we get the best outcomes.

 I look forward to the next blog and seeing what comes to the forefront of my thinking so I can share it with you.

Take care and remember to breathe deeply and enjoy the day.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Fascia As Plastic

Hello. Welcome to Sardinia and my YouTube videos! This is a project I have been wanting to do for around a year now, but haven't been able to find the time, do the research or find the references. But now with the sun over head, the breeze whistling through the branches and David making a pot of coffee, I do have the time to put some videos together for you.

Hopefully I can get it down to a more edited art form, but for now you can sit back, relax and enjoy the show!

Fascia As Plastic YouTube Video

I hope that the videos will support the blog and vice-versa, giving you a visual clue to what I am writing about and I hope take some of the confusion away from a few of the subjects I've covered.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's reading session so I can share a bit more with you.

Take good care,

A photo I took last night before sunset.
We had just driven through the mountains in Southern Sardinia and
had to take a moment to stop and enjoy the view.  

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Hello From The New Vista.

Greeting from my Sardinian Desk! 
Greetings from my new desk! The view is simply wonderful and I am looking forward to some great study whilst David and I are camped here for the next month.

My aim over the four weeks (besides learn the rudimentary basics of Italian), is to get my head around some subjects that I have come across in the treatment room at Cornerstone Therapies.

Since I left The Jing Institute of Massage  I have noticed topics come up and nudge me with clients reporting some interesting experiences after their massage: Shoulders and necks being treated and a few hours later they have noticed that their lower back and legs have eased up, and the front of throats being tense and tight and that relating to stomach pains. But also, I need to look back over my anatomy and make sure I am totally up to speed.

My mentor down in Brighton, Rachel, had an answer to all questions which was; "It's fascia Baby!".  Now I have a month to dedicate to theory I can find out just how all this fascia is connected to what I see in the treatment room, and then the best bit is going to see how it applies to the treatments that you receive when I get home.

The Blog posts this month will be centered around that learning and I hope to give you up dates of my reading and thinking as the days progress. It's kind of a Body Work Boot Camp, and I am really excited about it.

The view from breakfast this morning. 
Do keep reading and do get in touch with me over the Twitter Wires and let me know that you think, what you are up to and how you are doing as I love to hear from you!

So, I'll get the coffee pot on the stove and open up the books and then I think we will end up at the beach with ice cream this afternoon!

Take care and breathe deeply.


Shop Dermalogica