Category Archives: Movement therapy

Exercise as therapy for your mind and body

Exercise as therapy for your mind

We know that exercise make us healthier.  It has the benefit of lowering blood pressure and reducing your risk of diabetes.  But it’s so easy to NOT do it, right?  Especially as it’s getting so cold and the sofa is so comfy.  But there is a much more important reason for exercising than fitting into those skinny jeans.  Exercise is literally medicine for your mental health.   So why not think of exercise as therapy for your mind.

Exercise for mental wellness at Sarah Tuckett Psychotherapy and Counselling

Exercise boosts your mood, releases those feel-good endorphins and improves your cognitive performance (see this article by JC Miller and Z Krizan for the science).  It also helps you to replace lost energy, or let go of excess tension from your body.

 

Movement therapy for you mind as well as your body

I like to think of exercise as ‘movement therapy for your mental wellbeing’.

 

How do you know what kind of exercise your body needs? First you need to tap into what feels good for YOUR body and your MIND.  Try out different things.  You’re unique so find out what YOU like doing exercise-wise and what your soul needs. There’s no point forcing yourself to go to the gym if it bores the living shizz out of you. 

 

Here are some suggestions for exercise as therapy for your mind:

 

Depression

If you’re feeling depressed it’s likely you’re in a low energy state.  What would be good here is to build up more energy in your body by moving it and by taking big breaths.  Trouble is, when you’re feeling depressed and your motivation is rock bottom, it’s hard to actually get off the sofa. Why not call a friend and get them to take you there?   

The people at Psychology Today wrote a good article about how to exercise when you’re really low.  They advocate just trying little 5 minute bites and building up from there. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/back-the-brink/201311/how-exercise-when-depressed

 

Here are some ideas for depression-busting exercise:

 

Walk 

Walking as movement therapy - Sarah Tuckett Psychotherapy

The most accessible exercise for those us with functioning lower limbs.   Even if it’s just 5 minutes.  You’ll get your circulation going, you’ll breathe in some fresh air and maybe even get some Vitamin D.  And many more benefits besides these.  

I advocate going with a friend, because not only will it give you some social interaction, they’ll also help you keep going when you really just want to hide away in your nest.   

 

Breathe deeply 

Get yourself to a gentle yoga class – Yin Yoga would be perfect.  Don’t let your ego take over – listen to your body – stay away from the more strenuous classes like Vinyasa until you’ve got more energy in your system. 

The breathing techniques (pranayama) from Yoga are also fantastic for getting more energy into your lungs.  You’re literally pumping yourself up with energy from the inside.

Yin yoga

 

 

Bust out your inner Carmen Miranda/Antonio Banderas

Latin dancing is great for alleviating symptoms of depression

My top pick for depression is Latin dancing.  You’re out there mingling with other people instead of sinking into your aloneness and you‘re getting exercise without having to resort to lycra.  You don’t have to go there with a partner or friends.  The majority of people go on their own and you may even make new friends.

You also don’t have to be already a  dancer.  Everyone starts as a beginner.  Some with two left feet. And there’s no prerequisite to be skinny.  Some of my favorite dance partners are more on the cuddly side. 

Dancing is so good for you the Victorian Government has written about the benefits:

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/dance-health-benefits

 

Have a dance break instead of a chocolate break

Those clever peeps at No Lights No Lycra have created a free app called Dance Break.  Once a day it will randomly take over your phone and sends you a song to dance to in the middle of the office/school/street.  Go to http://dancebreak.com.au/  Or download the app for free from the App Store or Google Play Store.

Dance break

 

Anxiety

When you’re anxious you’re in a state of  fear. That constant rumination (going over thoughts in your head again and again) causes the release of noradrenaline and cortisol into your system. Being in a constantly hyped up state is bad news for your poor over-worked adrenal glands and the cocktail of emergency hormones isn’t too crash hot for the rest of your body either (they’re meant for emergency use, not every day).    Additionally, constantly  being in a fight or flight state chews up a lot of energy.  

You need to ground yourself in the present.  Anything that slows you down and reconnects you with your body and the present time is worth a go. 

Try Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or Chi Gung.   Restorative yoga is perfect for the over-stressed nervous system.  Again the breathing techniques will bring more energy to your body and replace that depleted energy store.   

Restorative yoga - perfect for reducing anxiety

 

Stressed out?

I advocate doing something to release the pent up tension in your body – especially an activity where you get to use your breath and voice to help release that tension.  Try boxing or martial arts.  Make a racket and unleash the tiger!

Try Martial Arts to release pent up tension and stress - Sarah Tuckett Psychotherapy

 

But then on the flipside, you also need to calm your nervous system. So once again, walking, yoga, pilates.  Anything that calms you. Massage is fantastic. Laze in a float tank even! Or lie on your back and gaze up at the stars. Whatever it takes to calm you down. 

 

So whatever you do, do something that appeals to you.  Keep trying new things until you find what works for you and make it your personal exercise as therapy for your mind. 

 

 

I hope you found this article helpful.  Please share it.

Sarah

 

Exercise as therapy for your mind and body was last modified: September 26th, 2017 by Sarah Tuckett

A walking mindfulness meditation for all you fidget pants

A walking mindfulness meditation for people with ants in their pants.

 

A guide to walking mindfulness meditation

As a kid my parents called me “Squiggle” because of my refusal to sit still.  46 years later and I’m pretty much the same although I move a bit slower.  Seated meditation just isn’t my bag. So when my friend Tammie taught me this walking mindfulness meditation a few weeks ago on her retreat in Sri Lanka, I felt like I’d finally found the answer and I wanted to share it with you all.

 

What is Mindfulness?

 

Being ‘mindful’ simply means being more present.  Being more conscious of where you are now.  Not thinking about the shopping or the email you received this morning that made your blood boil.  Instead your focus is right here, right now.  

Walking mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness meditation doesn’t belong to a particular faith – it belongs to everyone. 

Mindfulness meditation does not have to be performed in lotus position.  There are no rules. What matters is that you find a way that works for YOU and your body. 

How it works is that you focus on something – be-it your breath, the flame of a candle, or your footsteps.  You focus your mind so that you become more present.

I get pins and needles if I sit for too long, so this walking mindfulness meditation is right up my alley.

 

Why is it so incredibly awesome?

The benefit of this mindfulness lark, and the reason that a lot of psychotherapists/psychologists are using mindfulness meditation in their client work, is because it helps to create a gap between your thoughts and your emotional response to that thought.  

So for example if you tend to be impulsive, it helps create a time gap between your thought and your reaction to that thought.  Or if you are anxious, it helps you stop being immediately overwhelmed by a thought.  

walking mindfulness mediation path across a field

So to speak in plain Australian, it helps you “calm the f…. down”.

Which has wondrous benefits for your nervous system and how you feel within yourself.

Sounds good hey?  Let’s get into it.

 

How to do Tammie’s Mindfulness Walking Meditation

Tammie’s version is based on a Buddhist style of walking meditation, so everything is repeated 3 times. However, you don’t need to be Buddhist to do this. This is just one style of walking meditation. 

Walking mindfulness meditation by Buddhist monks

 

What you will need:

A pair of bare feet and preferably some legs above that.

A piece of ground to walk on barefoot that is free of bindi and cruel-shaped pebbles.  You need to find yourself a little ‘pathway’ that is around 10 of your paces in length.

Walking mindfulness mediation in my back garden
This is where I practice walking meditation in my back garden
Yoga shala at Plantation Villa Sri Lanka
We walked forwards and back across the yoga shala at Plantation Villa, Sri Lanka

 

How to do it:

  1. Stand at the beginning of your path. Focus on your path ahead and say to yourself inside your head “Standing, standing, standing”.  (NOTE. you can talk out loud if you want to.  My neighbours already think I’m a little bit eccentric, so I’ve got them primed, but you may want to preserve your reputation).

  2. Begin your walk, saying in your head “right, left, right, left, right, left” etc as you move your feet. Walk ‘mindfully’ at your own pace.  Try not to look at the ground, focus on your path ahead. Concentrate on your walk and the sensations you feel under your feet.
  3. As you near the end of your path, say in your head “Stopping, stopping, stopping” and come to a gentle halt.
  4. Then as you turn around say “Turning, turning, turning” to yourself.
  5. Then start walking back along your path again and saying in your head “right, left, right, left, right, left” etc
  6. Keep walking back and forth for as long as you want. I usually do about 5 minutes (or until I get tripped up by a cat).

I like to finish my practice by looking mindfully around my garden at the flowers, insects and plants.  Somehow the colours seem more vibrant and the insects much noisier.  I have a mini Alice in Wonderland moment (without the shrinking or psychopathic Queen of Hearts).  

I think what I find most soothing is the sensation of the soft ground beneath my feet, my total immersion in a natural environment and finding my own gentle pace through life.

I hope you enjoy doing this walking mindfulness meditation.  I’d like to thank Tammie Day for introducing me to this practice.

Let me know how you go with your own practice – I’d love to hear from you.

If you need a bit of peer encouragement to do a mindfulness practice why not try one of my weekly Release classes or come to one of my workshops (which I usually hold at home/in the garden because it is so peaceful).

Or you can book to see me for a 1:1 session.

Sarah x

 

Additional resources:

Here’s a link to some more mindfulness exercises that you might find useful  https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/

 

Tammie Day runs fantastic retreats for women (sorry guys) in Australia and around the world.  I just did her trips to India and Sri Lanka and I loved it!  For more info go to  https://vibrantwomen.com.au/

 

A walking mindfulness meditation for all you fidget pants was last modified: August 27th, 2017 by Sarah Tuckett

The waterfall – a pose to help with anxiety

The waterfall – a pose to help with anxiety

If you ever suffer from anxiety, whether it’s just low level worrying and rumination or a full-blown panic attack, you know that it’s not a pleasant sensation.   As a therapist I give people strategies to help with anxiety.  Here’s my favorite pose: the waterfall. 

 

 

When I’m feeling anxious I feel my chest constrict, my breathing becomes shallow and my thoughts are racing a  million miles an hour.  I repeat conversations or scenarios over and over again in my head.  Each time I think these things my nervous system releases more hormones keeping me in flight or fight mode, preparing me to swiftly evade grizzly bears.  However there are no bears.  Just my thoughts.  The quickest way to help myself out of this state of anxiety is to tip over and put my head upside down in a pose called the Waterfall, bringing my energy back down into my body, grounding myself and letting go.  

When you do this pose you’ll notice two things:

  1.  It’s really hard to have anxious thoughts when your head is upside down; and
  2. You feel much calmer when you’re earthed into the floor like a lightning conductor.

Help with anxiety - the Waterfall pose is a bioenergetic pose from Body Psychotherapy

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Find a quiet space and take off your shoes

When you’re feeling anxiety there’s a tendency to loose contact with your body, so feeling the floor beneath your feet is going to anchor you back into your body. i.e. ground you.

2. Stand with your feet hip width apart, toes slightly inwards

(That’s your ‘real’ hip width not the wishful thinking width).  Probably around two hand spans apart.   Making your toes turn inwards slightly will stretch some of your glute muscles.

3.  Bend forward and touch the ground with your finger tips

Slowly bend forward until you can touch the ground (bending your knees as much as you need to in order to touch down).  Make a little claw with your fingers and use them to anchor yourself down into the ground.  There should not be any weight in your hands.

4. Let your head and neck hang loosely

This is a pose of surrender; of letting go.   Do a few yes and no movements with your head to release the tension in your neck and then just let it hang.    When I do this pose I feel like my body is melting down towards the ground like a candle. 

5.  Breathe in and sigh out

Breath in through your nose and sigh out through your mouth. Letting go of everything. 

6.  Search for the sensation of vibration

What we’re aiming to do in this pose is let go in your muscles and in your mind.  We’re asking your mind and your muscles to relax and melt into the floor.  So we’re going to search for the sensation of your muscles letting go.  This feels like little vibrations up the back of your body.  It’s the opposite of having your muscles locked-up for strength.    Keep your knees soft (off-lock).  (All you yogis out there – this is different to Uttanasana – you’re aiming for softness not a hard stretch). Slowly straighten and bend your legs to find the place where your legs slightly vibrate.   Once you’ve found the place, just breathe into it. Breathing in through your nose and sighing out through your mouth.    If you don’t feel any vibrations, make your out-breath longer (it’s often hiding there).  And if you’re feeling adventurous you can gently lift your heels off the floor and bend and straighten your legs.      

7.  Hang out down here for 1-5 minutes

Depending on how much time you have, whether your nose clogs up upside-down,  or whether the phone rings.  Just hang out down here as long as you feel you want to.  Always come up slowly so that your blood pressure can equalise.  

8. Don’t worry if you don’t feel any vibrations at first

When I was first taught this pose I hung out there for 10 minutes willing my body to let go.  I had anxiety about the fact that I couldn’t do the pose “properly”! My muscles were really flexible from years of yoga and dancing, but my mind was more rigid.  It wasn’t until I softened my mind that I felt the vibration and relaxation.   There’s no competition, just let what happens happen and enjoy the peace and quiet.

For more information on how I can help with anxiety please have a look at my Anxiety page or have a look at my Services page which tells you all about the different techniques I use to help you recover (counselling, mindfulness and body psychotherapy).

If you would like some help with anxiety please feel free to give me a call on 0450 22 00 59 or  book online.

 

Warm regards

Sarah
x

 

 

 

The waterfall – a pose to help with anxiety was last modified: September 7th, 2017 by Sarah Tuckett