Women's yoga can be beneficial throughout and beyond our reproductive years.
Yoga is 'adaptogenic'. It can provide a path to well-being across many different needs and circumstances.
Recognised widely as having physical benefits, such as promoting flexibility, mobility and strength, recent research has focused on the beneficial therapeutic effects yoga can have on our emotional and mental health.
So Yoga has a remarkable adaptability to be a partner for life for everyone, providing different types of support function as our lives change and progress.
My passion is yoga for women. As women, our seasons are more significant. We have distinct needs through the stages of our reproductive lives and can draw on different aspects of the practice to support our journey.
Pregnancy and post natal yoga are deservedly well established as 'women's yoga' to provide a gentle and nourishing practice to nurture the body and mind for pregnancy, birth and post natal recovery.
But beyond pregnancy, we might not recognise the need for a specific women's yoga at certain times. Perhaps because modern (still) male dominated 'western' society equates success with strength and achievement. We just 'get on with it' throughout our menstrual cycle and peri and post menopausal years, sometimes disconnecting with the wisdom of our bodies and not acknowledging specific needs. As a result we can be left feeling tired and drained. And there can be more distressing issues: conception might not be happening, heavy periods can be debilitating, menopausal symptoms can be uncomfortable and overwhelming, not to mention the embarrassing issues of stress incontinence and prolapse… we might feel our bodies are out of control.
Women's yoga, such as the 'womb yoga' developed by the fabulous Uma Dinsmore-Tuli can bring us back to our bodies, support reproductive function and help to alleviate problems. This approach to yoga combines gentle asana to support pelvic function with restorative poses and deep relaxation.
It "enables us to re-connect joyfully with naturally arising inner wisdom, insight and vitality. It is both delicious and profoundly nourishing. It is healing and vitalising".
Penny Horner is a Yoga Instructor who offers Yoga for Fertility, Gentle Yoga and also facilitates a Menopause Support Group.
Please contact Penny at KnotStressed to find out more.
Women's yoga can be beneficial throughout and beyond our reproductive years.
Having a baby is possibly one of the best ways to raise your anxiety levels.
If you haven’t already been through the trauma of IVF or miscarriage, you might find yourself worried about how much you drank before you found out you were pregnant or how what you’re eating is affecting your baby or whether you are too old to have a baby or whether your partner will make a good father or what will happen to your job or how you will cope with childbirth…
And that’s before you’ve even had your first scan.
The point I’m (rather flippantly) trying to make is that becoming a parent can be fraught with worry. It starts way before conception and snowballs throughout pregnancy and childbirth. Even if you try not to worry, there are plenty of other people that will worry for you.
And if you are someone who is prone to anxiety anyway, this onslaught of advice and guidance, rather than being a help can actually be more of a hindrance.
There was an article recently in the Guardian quoting research by (who I really like btw) talking about the virtues of one way of being a parent over another. Whether you agreed with the argument or not, it was yet another example of the pressure on parents to ‘get it right’. Paradoxically, the article was talking about how beneficial it is when parents give their child an environment where they are not scared to make ‘mistakes.’
A bit like the old joke about it being impossible not to think about an elephant when you’re told not to think about an elephant, for some people it can be very difficult not to worry when you’re told not to worry. Every piece of advice talking about the ‘best’ way to look after a child can be a source of worry, rather than a piece of information to be evaluated to help you in your journey as a parent.
Can I bust a myth right now? Worrying is NOT bad. It’s how you cope with it that matters. If you find your life becoming smaller and more restricted because of anxiety, then that’s pretty hard for you, your baby and those around you. Some people experience worry as a kind of ‘inner critic’ who can try to convince you that you really shouldn’t trust yourself.
If you find yourself worried about how much you’re worrying, it’s definitely time to look for some support (which will possibly make you feel more anxious, because of course you wouldn’t need support if you were getting things ‘right’). As well as going to your GP, many people can learn strategies to manage anxiety. As well as counselling and CBT, there are other things that can help such as Emotional Freedom Technique (or ‘Tapping’), meditation, mindfulness, exercise, and laughter (that’s a very useful one). And if you want a list of reassuring statements about anxiety, here are a few:
- Anxiety is useful. It keeps us safe and can galvanise us into action. It is only when we worry too much or become overwhelmed by it that we need to look after it.
- Anxiety is often a perfectly logical response to an event (or series of events). Rather than thinking of the anxiety as ‘ridiculous’, it can sometimes help to realise why the anxiety is in fact perfectly reasonable given your circumstances.
- Anxiety can often respond well to a bit of self-compassion (see number 2) and humour. Humour can be a great way of acknowledging our fears without being overwhelmed by them.
I hope that gives you some useful food for thought – if you’d like to know more about how counselling can help you feel less anxious as a parent, then please do get in touch with Sarah Wheatley at KnotStressed.
Why oh why?
“Because it’s there” George Mallory.
Are you like me and still planning that marathon one day - or the half, a 5k or 10k - whatever your personal ‘mountain’?
For as long as I remember I have expected to run a marathon. I’d say a marathon is my own personal mountain, and I’ve always intended to conquer that mountain…..some day. That elusive “some day” that never seemed to come. Which was fine for a while (but a little ridiculous when ‘a while’ is actually at least a decade) but then I realised I had run out of excuses and it was now or never.
Getting out a stressful corporate career and moving to full time self employment in my dream job (Massage Therapy) has given me some much welcomed flexibility in how I spend my time and I have found a new energy for life. Therefore, having more time on my hands in 2016 and wanting to get back to my former level of fitness, or perhaps to take it to new realms, led me to opt for the ‘now’ rather than the ‘never’. So that was that - enough nordic noir ‘marathoning’ on Netflix - time for action!
This is an incredible challenge for me and putting down on paper my fears balanced with the reasons that are driving me, has helped me focus on why I might want to do such a thing:
The Scary stuff
The longest I have ever ran is a half marathon (13.1 miles). That was 2 years ago and I remember practically falling over the finish line in a state of exhaustion. Not pretty;
Possible injury especially as I have suffered ligament damage in my knee before;
Self belief - do I have enough of the stuff?;
The Edinburgh weather. Please do a sunny weather dance for all of us!
The Happy Stuff
Getting fit and healthy and really focusing on my wellbeing;
Testing my body (and mind) and exploring its potential for great things;
Lots of time outdoors, exploring new running routes and going on wee mini-adventures;
The runner’s high;
A real sense of satisfaction and pride in achieving my goal;
Celebrating with family and friends at the finish line; perhaps even inspiring my niece and nephew;
Lots of jelly babies.
The jelly babies swung it. I will have to dig deep yes, but dig deep I have done before in life and can do so again (I am still writing this with self doubt but if I say it often enough I’ll eventually believe it). So my big day is 29th May and I’ll be running in my home city, here in Edinburgh along with over 7,000 other folk. Some might question why we feel the need to run for 26.2 miles (I know I do) but we will all be running for personal reasons that will keep those legs turning!
Getting by with a little help from my friends
So I’m off to great places, I’m off and away.... I have a plan in place and have been trying to take very good care of my body. Maxime, our Osteopath here at Knotstressed has been amazing; helping me work with my postural imbalances (I have scoliosis of the spine and a rotated pelvis and a host of other quirks). Regular Sports & Remedial Massages from Krista and Vikki have been just fantastic (the highlight of my training regime!) and kept me injury free and on track physically and mentally. I’ve been really focusing on nutrition too and taking lots of great advice from those in the know. Now I am officially tapering I’ve got lots of yoga planned with colleagues in the coming weeks in a bid to stay flexible and strong (in mind and body), ready for the big day. Those things I have, and do, very much look forward to! Shame about the running part ;)
I have just run my longest training run - 20 miles. Oh I hurt (But it’s ok - I’m off to see Krista shortly). And it was slooooow….., which, you know, is fine! I’ve been getting too fixated on my pace and wanting to get faster and faster. But of course I’ve been missing the point. For this challenge I need to drop the ego, be as slow as I need to be and focus on the miles clocking up, not my speed. In 2016 I am officially a tortoise.
And I have decided to be a tortoise on behalf of the Scottish Association of Mental Health (SAMH) who do great work with people living with mental health issues. Mental health is so important to us all and the quality of lives we lead and I want to help this amazing charity in whatever way I can (Please click here for my Just Giving page: http://www.justgiving.com/LMx ). And also my friend Fraser will be giving post race massages on the big day for SAMH runners so that’s a brilliant bonus!!! The thought of that post event massage might just get me round that course!! And cake. There had better be cake…..
Lynne-Marie Thom is an experienced Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist with us at Knotstressed Therapies. Get in touch with Lynne-Marie here.
Making sense of our emotional triggers to bring healing to the past, awareness to the present and resilience for the future.
Have you ever felt anger or other strong emotions, rise up like surge of power that you had no control over, in response to something your child/children did? Perhaps, it was when your children were fighting or maybe it was in response to an emotional outburst or refusal to cooperate with a request. If this sounds familiar, it is likely that you have been 'triggered' emotionally. When this happens the 'thinking' part of our brain goes offline and the part of the brain involved in survival kicks in. We go into 'fight, flight or freeze' mode. This is why, in that moment, we are more likely to say or do something that we later regret. In this state of animal panic, many parents find themselves shouting at their child before they even realise it's happening. When the storm passes, parents committed to a more gentle approach might feel laden with guilt and vow to do better the next time. In our clearer thinking moments, we know that our fighting offspring need our guidance or that our wee one can't control their big feelings and it is up to us to set an example. Even when we know this, it's not always enough to stop it from happening again.
So, what is it that makes these emotional reactions from us so very powerful? When our buttons are pushed or when we are emotionally triggered, the strong emotions we feel are usually connected to other experiences in our past. In their book, ‘Parenting from the inside out’, Dan Siegel and Mary Hartzel write “Experiences that are not fully processed (from our past) may create unresolved and leftover issues that influence how we react to our children.’ (Siegel and Hartzel, 2003). Their book was inspired by research findings that indicated that the best predictor of a child’s security of attachment to their carer was the way that the adult had made sense of their own childhood experiences. This knowledge can seem daunting and liberating at the same time. Daunting, because making sense of our own experiences is no small task. Hugely liberating, because it means that it is not the experiences themselves that are significant, but how we make sense of them that matters. In short, even people with incredibly difficult childhood experiences are not destined to repeat the past and can go on to have full and healthy relationships with their own children.
When we start out on our parenting journey, many of us begin with an intention to be the best parent we can be and this often involves parenting in a different way to how we were parented ourselves. It can be tempting to push away any of our own difficult experiences in an attempt to not allow them to interfere in our relationship with our children. However, we now know that if left in limbo, these experiences can interfere in our
relationships with our own children. For example, if you grew up in a family where any expression of difficult emotions was met with anger, you might have learnt to hide your emotions. In addition, if no adult helped you to understand your emotions and offer comfort when you needed it, you may have found it difficult to process any emotional distress. This might mean when it comes to parenting your own child, you panic when he or she expresses their own difficult emotions. Your child might sense your discomfort and feel more distressed and eventually learn, like you did, that expressing emotions is wrong and so the cycle continues... although, it needn’t.
No one has had a perfect childhood and all of us will have received messages from our own parents over the course of our childhood that create strong patterns of thinking that become fairly fixed. Some of these beliefs are useful and others less so. For example, we might hold a strong belief that we are loveable or kind or we might also believe that everything we do must be perfect or that we always get things wrong. If we are not aware of these beliefs, they can lead to us reacting to situations rather than making a choice about how we respond to them. Add to the mix sleep deprivation and/or balancing work responsibilities with raising our children and household tasks and we are even more vulnerable to reacting to our triggers.
So, how do we ensure that the past doesn’t get in the way of us being the parent we want to be?
First off, get to know your triggers. It may help to take note (mental or written) of the times when you react in a knee jerk fashion to something your child/ children do. You might start to see a pattern emerging. Reflecting in this way is often the first step towards changing the negative cycle that ensues when we are triggered.
When you find yourself 'triggered', take a deep breath and count to ten or leave the room if you need to, so that you can begin to feel more centred and balanced. Some research suggests that 20 seconds is all you need to engage the thinking part of your brain.
Practicing mindfulness can help us to become more aware of ourselves and others and help to prevent us from becoming to stuck in our thoughts. For more information, this is a good introduction from the NHS
Recognise when you are reacting to an emotional trigger rather than your child. This can help us to step back from our situation and see our reaction for what it is: an unhelpful belief created in our own childhood. We can then say to ourselves, for example. "This is about being taught that being angry is wrong and I know that that isn't true"- this can go a long way towards diluting the power of the emotional trigger.
Reminding ourselves that our child is probably engaging in developmentally 'normal' ways can keep our expectations realistic and can help move us into a position of empathy.
We are much more likely to react without thinking, to situations when we are tired or stressed. Do what you can to get more sleep if you need it. If that means sleeping at nap time or going to bed when your wee one goes to bed- DO IT! I promise it will make a difference. If you are feeling overwhelmed with balancing a million tasks, do what you can to take some of the pressure off. Is there something you can drop? Is there anything you can get help with?
Lastly, talk to someone. It could be a friend, a family member or a professional. This parenting gig is an honour and a privilege. It is also HARD, so don't ever be afraid to ask for support.
Julie Yuill is a Chartered Psychologist who, along with Sarah Hulme, offers Parenting Workshops through Connected Parenting. Find out more about their Baby Sleep Workshop and Toddler Behaviour Workshop.
Almost over night, our babies seem to go from placid bundles, who happily go with the flow to refusing to have their nappies changed/clothes put on/ sit in their high chair (or any chair!)/ go in the car seat… ok, you get the picture!
What on earth is happening? First of, saying NO is exactly what should be happening at this stage! There are big changes going on in a toddler’s internal landscape. Toddlers are beginning to realise that they are separate people with their own wants and abilities. With this comes an increased need for autonomy, hence the common “ME DO IT!” and the refusal to follow our agenda.
Secondly, it is a really healthy sign that your toddler has a secure bond with you. This explains why you might have experienced your toddler switching between cooperative 'yes mode' with grandma or at nursery into full on 'no mode' when they are with mum or dad. As frustrating and unfair as this seems, it is a compliment, as it is a sign that your toddler feels safe and secure with you.
Now that we've established that toddler refusal is healthy and part of the toddler job description, it still leaves us with finding ways to make this, often challenging stage, a little easier. How can we support our toddlers in experimenting with and asserting their power, whilst holding onto our own sanity?! This is where our handy TEACH acronym comes in:
Allow plenty of time for dressing, nappy changes and generally getting organised and out of the house. This might mean getting up 20 minutes earlier or starting to get ready to leave half an hour before you need to go out. Toddlers often respond to feelings of pressure with resistance. We’re back to the need for autonomy again! When the pressure lessens, the resistance lessens. Extra time–even five minutes–can reduce that. Sometimes, when our toddlers refuse to cooperate in the first instance, leaving it for five minutes and asking again can help.
Putting yourself in your toddlers position, so that we can really appreciate how unpleasant it might be to be restrained in a car seat; or to have little control over what is happening in their day for that matter. Connecting with our toddler and acknowledging, "I know you don't like it when ...." can let your toddler know that you hear and understand where they are.
Before making a request, giving some warning, e.g 'we are going to brush our teeth in 3 minutes' can help. It can also help to have cues that your toddler comes to associate with some requests. For example, on leaving the house, we put on our shoes and have a hug before getting in the car.
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often we think we are communicating with our toddlers, when in reality we are talking whilst doing something else. For example, telling our toddler what is about to happen, as we rush around looking for the car keys (guilty!). To truly communicate with our toddler, we need to be at their level, give eye contact and use simple language.
Ok, this is cheating a bit. I have sneaked in an extra C! Offering a choice helps to encourage autonomy. “Do you want to wear your stripy socks are the socks with stars?”, “Do you want to have a new nappy on now or in five minutes?”, “Do you want to climb into the car seat yourself or do you want me to help you?”. It’s all about giving choices, so that your toddler feels less bossed around.
Holistic view –
Looking to the bigger picture can help us to understand what else we can do to ease the transition into toddlerhood. Having a predictable rhythm to the day can create a sense of safety and security for your toddler. Is your toddler adjusting to bigger life changes, such as mum returning to work or a new sibling? Do they need more time to connect with mum or dad? Do they need time to adjust to a slightly different rhythm and if so it is understandable that attempts to assert power might increase during times of change? Making sure that your toddler has plenty of opportunities to develop their autonomy throughout the day through offering choices can help to take the heat out of the times when they are more likely to refuse.
Lastly, I would like to come back to Time again…. Just like when they fitted into the crook of your arm, this too shall pass x
Julie Yuill and Sarah Hulme regularly run workshops on Toddler behaviour for parents and carers interested in gentle and evidence based approaches. Find out more.