Perspective

Noun – a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.

This word, ‘perspective’ has be rattling around my brain for weeks; possibly months.  Every situation that I have found myself in that has been ‘difficult’ has been interrupted by the thought of this word, ‘perspective’.  I don’t know why – but it’s been a constant so I decided to explore its connotations and understand why every time I close my eyes I just see these letters, ‘P.E.R.S.P.E.C.T.I.V.E’.

I’m a sensitive soul, many people don’t know that, or indeed believe that; but I am.  Words hurt me, people disrespecting me hurts. Listening to the news, that upsets me (so I don’t); thinking that I’ve done something that somebody didn’t like or enjoy really hurts!  Mostly, because I love my job, I love people and I’m a good person.  People have said wicked things about me that I haven’t been able to defend it because I’ve been so upset, and then people have hurt me through indifference and condescension.

Recently though, I have felt a bit different.  There was a trigger, someone I used to love very much disrespected me beyond belief and for the first time in my life, I stood up for myself.  Very empowering; but, it made me look again at how I have allowed people to treat me, purely because I do not like confrontation.

My ‘perspective’ was always that I if was nice to people that they would like me back.  Sometimes, people are viewing me (and you) through a different pane of glass. Perspective to me; is like looking at the world and people from one side of a window.  What you say and how you feel, is probably the same as the other people on that side of the window.  However, there are people on the other side, and they view the world very differently.

It’s like looking out of your sitting room at a person across the street who is looking right back at you.  That person sees you (maybe) looking lonely, or nosey, or irritated, or waiting for someone….you don’t know how they are interpreting the view.  You see that person staring at you, are you afraid? Are they admiring your home or are they envious of your home and feeling the need to take it away from you?  You don’t know.  We don’t know how anyone views a particular situation until we are faced with it.

I’ve been hurt in life because people have not seen the world from my side of the glass.  But there are people who sit on your side of the glass.  Remembering that each individual’s perspective is built up over years of experiences, their childhood, and their relationships with both friends and lovers is important when trying to move forwards in life with other humans.  Their journey is not yours and yours, is not theirs.

If you work closely with people or alongside them, and you find that you do not understand that person’s perspective, I recommend talking to them. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Try and see what it looks like on their side of the glass and allow them to get to know you a little?  It doesn’t always work though.  I have found that I have been unable to shatter the glass between myself and others in the past, so understanding another individual’s perspective may mean that you walk away from them.  That’s OK though, because you’ll feel much calmer for knowing how their particular flavour of human-being evolved and maybe appreciating that there are more factors involved in their attitude than just YOU.

These days, when I am faced with an uncomfortable situation e.g.

a) I’m being told that something I did was not enjoyed by one person or,

b) someone doesn’t like my attitude for some reason or,

c) I feel disrespected by another human,

I see the word ‘PERSPECTIVE’ and try to apply some principles.

a) It was only 1 person! Did everyone else enjoy the session? Yes. Ok, then maybe that person’s perspective was being influenced by expectation and previous experiences or they were simply having a bad day. My perspective on my side of the glass, is that I have thought about my work and decided it was either, absolutely fine or I could have improved in a particular area.   But I’m safe to consider this on my side of the glass, looking out at the world from my side of the window, with others like me.

b) If someone doesn’t like me, maybe I remind them of someone nasty. Maybe I’m too loud and they are a quiet person and they felt annoyed by my enthusiasm. That’s OK, introverts have huge power and are the ‘great thinkers’ of the world.  I could learn from that feedback or just enjoy being me with those who love me.

c) Did I let this person disrespect me? How and why?  If so, then I need to re-think my strategy for taking care of my well-being around that individual OR, have I overreacted?

The glass (perspective) will protect you and provide strength when faced with humans who have a different point of view.  Visualise it and use it to keep you safe as you try to connect with those from a different journey. Shatter it if you want to and if you can but if you like a quiet life, stay on the side you understand.

Much love to everyone and remember that maybe ‘it all comes down to ‘PERSPECTIVE’.

 

 

Mind & Body ‘Exercise’?

So what’s been happening?

I read an article recently written by a local Yoga teacher, in which she expressed a sense of feeling ‘lost’ in the world of Yoga at the moment.  In a moment of time where people post pictures of themselves in extraordinary poses (which in itself seems very anti-yoga and extremely egotistical) on social media, a moment of time where people are ‘performing poses’ in heat or at speed on order to burn calories and get more flexible, she wrote about watching a practise she is passionate about become less and less about finding a moment of stillness and peace in postures and the evolution of strength on body and mind as a result, and become more about showing off and pushing the body further and further towards physical trauma.

I couldn’t have agreed with her more.  Not only have I watched Yoga become lost in a fast and stress fuelled, ego-driven social environment, I have watched Pilates go the same way.

I first fell in love with Yoga in 1997, when I was attending classes with my Mum.  Having suffered from profound anxiety, which I only found relief from in running; I felt that Yoga offered me a gentle and soothing hug type of exercise!  Here I found movement that made my muscles feel relaxed but strong, and the attention given to each pose demanded concentration and stillness with deep and powerful breath work.  During Savasana, I felt my poor tired body fall heavily into the mats and let go of the pressure to be skinny after suffering from an eating disorder for the previous 3 years.

In 1998 I had my head turned by Pilates while studying Sports Science.  The biomechanics that became my life’s work seemed to be applied more to the Pilates practise than to Yoga and as such, I postponed my Yoga Teacher Training until much later and trained to be a Pilates Teacher.

But as I honed my skills in the Pilates studio that I established in 2003, I watched Yoga go the way of the fitness industry, with so much emphasis on getting skinny, getting ‘more bendy’, achieving the next physically challenging balance or contortion or worse, promises that participants could ‘get a better sex life!’ Hello?

I was upset with Yoga for letting this happen and I dug my heels into the world of Pilates; dedicating my work to supporting people develop the most functional, pain free and strong body that they were capable of.  I have worked with the very young to the very old, from the super fit, to the very poorly and I have used the Pilates principles to adapt movement to suit the person or persons that I had in front of me.

But now, I see Pilates being stripped down and disrespected in the same way that Yoga has been.  Recently I have heard stories of Gyms teaching Fitness Professionals with no Pilates qualifications, how to use a reformer so that they can run group classes.  You can now learn the apparatus, before learning the mat work. There is ‘hot’ Pilates, for burning more calories, I saw an advert for doing Pilates on an angle so that you are working your body against gravity for increased muscle work and so on.  I am not against progression, far from it; but in both practises, it seems that the original point of them has been lost.

Yoga is a peaceful and energising practise that gently strengthens both body and mind; while Pilates was developed for the same purposes, Joseph Pilates also adapted movements from Dance and Gymnastics as well as Martial Arts to prevent pain and discomfort caused by bad posture. He emphasised muscle balance and adapted exercises to suit the person or persons that he was working with.

I have also noticed recently, a misuse of the title ‘Classical Pilates Teacher’.  Classical Pilates Teacher, does not mean just teaching the strong, powerful and dynamic exercises made infamous by Romana Kryzanowska and Lolita San Miguel et al.  Classical Pilates/Traditional Pilates means, using the principles and adapting the exercises to suit the person you are working with i.e. exactly what Joe would have done.  Now don’t start yelling at me about the classical repertoire, I am well aware of it; I just think that the language being used is driving some restriction in people’s methods and that they are hiding behind set sequences rather than adapting for each client.

The people, who participate in Pilates today, are not the dancers and the gymnasts that Joseph and Clara worked with in the 1950’s and ‘60’s.  We work with people who sit for 8 hours a day, then sit in a car, then sit on the sofa.  They may do a class once a week; they need movement adapted to suit their bodies and help them be the best that they could be using a ‘modified’ version of the original exercises.

Traditional Yoga is also guilty of ignoring science/biomechanics and some teachers are still trying to squeeze their participants into poses that are fundamentally unsafe. Twisting the knees and sending shearing forces running up through the spinal column. Yoga can also be modified to suit the participant.  You may say that Bikram and the like is a modification for the super fit, but if the original principles have been lost, is it still Yoga?

I am not against an evolution of a practise to make it better; but I do have an issue with taking something peaceful and mindful and making it too fast, too soon, for most people.  I have an issue with squeezing people into a room to participate in a technique which has long been considered appropriate for back pain, only to have the person leading the session be an unqualified individual teaching movements by rote with no accounting for individuality.

I finished my Yoga Training only so that I could start teaching a practise that I fell in love with so many years ago, in the way that it was originally intended; with postures progressing gradually as your body relaxes and strengthens, as your mind learns to settle and calm and your understanding of the practise evolves.  I have returned to teaching Pilates privately and training teachers in both disciplines to understand the that the point of both was control and breath, in Pilates; muscle balance and in both, flexibility and strength.

I think here, in some cases, commercialism has overtaken the underlying principle of being healthy.  Drinks to help build muscle, which otherwise probably wouldn’t be there because it would not be that body’s natural state.  There are adverts for pills promising quick weight-loss, promoted by models of slim build. People shouting on social media that their technique will get your bigger muscles and less fat and a better marriage and more money…..

I digress.  My point is, in this world that seems to be getting faster and faster, Yoga could be providing a moment to reflect and be quiet and be strong in order to cope with it.  I don’t know if I would have developed the inner strength that I found to get better and dedicate myself to movement and helping others; if I had not been taken to Yoga at 17 by a Mum who was at her wits end dealing with her exhausted and fragile daughter.  Pilates has the power to refine and balance the human body!  How great is that?  But, it is only going to do that if the technique is applied to the individual who has taken the step to include Pilates in their life.

I cannot stop either discipline from being stripped apart and re-packaged as being ‘the next big thing’ for weight loss or muscle gain, but I as I look around me; I am more and more sure of what both practises mean to me and as such I will continue to train considerate and knowledgeable teachers, and work respectfully with each of my clients. They are all different, after all.

 

 

The Importance of Maintaining Industry Standards and Fitt

I am going to start this article with some history. In 1999 Michael King, Malcolm Muirhead and Nuala Coombs created a company called ‘The Pilates Institute’.  They were, at one point; the largest Pilates Training Centre in the City of London.  They had over 1500 teachers go through their programmes.  Then in 2002, they were the first Pilates organisation to work with a national accrediting organisation, called the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA Examinations) in order to make Pilates a nationally recognised qualification. It was set up to show competence in teaching skills, professionalism and responsibility in the health and fitness Industry.  They recognised the need for standardisation within the industry and actively sought out regulation.

This was an important step in many ways, not just because of the need for standardisation but because in many European countries, you need insurance to be able to teach, and you cannot get that unless you have a nationally accredited qualification.

Also in 2002, the fitness industry saw the launch of The Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs). This is an independent, public register, which recognises the qualifications and expertise of health-enhancing exercise instructors in the UK.  REPs provide a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed National Occupational Standards.

It was developed to protect the public from ‘cowboy trainers’ who do not hold appropriate qualifications.  Fitness courses that meet National Standards are allowed to be ‘on the Register’ and teachers/instructors are required to choose their training from the list of recognised providers in order to meet their continuing professional development (CPD) commitments, and stay a member of the register.  Membership of REPs demonstrates to the public that both the instructor/teacher and/or training provider have met the standards as set by the industry.

For Pilates; in 2008, the qualification was upgraded from the lower ‘Level 2 Qualification’ to the higher ‘Level 3 Qualification’ (Advanced Instructor).  All the major Pilates organisations came together at the time and agreed on necessary criteria, as measured by both written and practical assessment.  This process was acknowledged and backed by REP’s, with the register supporting and promoting these training courses.

This government backed accreditation process ensured that no one training provider could overly influence the content of the courses, and with an unbiased assessment process; the only thing that mattered was that people were being trained to teach safe and effective Pilates, AND every other fitness or movement practise.  From Boxercise to Yoga, the world of health and fitness had a governing body, setting and maintaining high standards within a previously unregulated industry.

At the same time as the standardisation of the Pilates industry, Fitt started running fully accredited courses for, Skills Active, REPs, ActiveIQ & CYQ:

Exercise to Music, Gym Instructor, Personal Training Diploma, Nutrition, Spinning, Pilates (plus CPD) Yoga (plus CPD) and so on….

This company is run by a team of dedicated fitness professionals with many years’ experience of working within the fitness industry.

All the tutors that work for Fitt are experienced and qualified tutors and experts within their own discipline.

Fitt pride themselves on offering quality education that can be used by students to gain work within the fitness industry or start their own businesses. Fitt concentrate on quality and safety, helping our students to become the best they can possibly be, before they go out into the world of fitness and provide exceptional services to the public.

Fitt believe in good quality face-to-face tutoring to help students become the best they can be, in terms of being a fitness professional. The potential return on investment from good quality education and certification has been proven from the many testimonials from our past students, where they have up-skilled or entered the new exciting career pathway of fitness.

Since the dedication of Michael King’s team and many other professionals within different disciplines worked tirelessly to standardise the industry and ensure that training was of an exceptional quality and nationally accredited, there has recently been a resurgence of companies offering training in courses that are not nationally recognised.

This is of great concern to the Fitt Team.

Primarily, insurance companies these days do not do a background check on the certification that an instructor may present to them on application for insurance.  The mere presence of a certificate is enough in many cases, for the insurance company to offer cover. However, should there be an incident whereby the instructor finds themselves on the end of litigation; they may find that because the course they took was not accredited by a nationally awarding body, they are in fact NOT COVERED.

There are two main elements that a ‘wannabe’ or ‘up-skilling’ instructor or teacher should consider before undertaking a course.

  • Has your course been accredited by a UK government based accredited agency? Without this element you are unlikely to be covered by any insurance for which you are paying.  You are also unlikely to get certain jobs, where employers actually DO check your certification. You will also lose your credibility very quickly with members of the public that understand the accreditation system in the UK.
  • It’s not just about the certificate; it’s about the quality of the training and education that you undertake. You are not just gaining a certificate you are gaining a whole wealth of new knowledge that you can use to improve your professionalism, provide you with more customers, ensure YOU get the next job and help all those clients that are coming to you for advice, training and support. It’s critical that you come away with the best possible foundation of knowledge within your chosen area of study and the Fitt tutors are experts in providing you with real world knowledge and information that you can start using immediately.

There needs to be a determination from all of us, to ensure that the high standards that the professionals before us worked so hard to establish, are not tarnished by this recent rise in online fitness courses, distance learning massage courses with no practical element and DVD’s replacing face-to-face tutoring.  The classroom environment is more than just learning from your tutor, it’s about the sharing of information between students, networking and yes; being able to ask your tutor any question that comes into your head at that moment.

I would like to reiterate, that to be a tutor; you have to be not just an expert in your field, but you need to be a qualified teacher and in many cases, a qualified assessor too. To be a training provider; you need a solid team of dedicated professionals working together both for the benefit of the student and the development of the company.  We need to insure ourselves, our students and our venues.  All our courses are fully accredited and approved by REPs. We need to be ready to show our commitment to the students and our professionalism in managing the business to the National Accrediting Organisation in order to maintain our status as a training provider.  We respect and maintain the highest of standards.

We are Fitt.

Who will you choose?

 

Opposition:  The ‘Other’ Direction.

I have worked with the human body for nearly 20 years; in the water, as a Swimming Coach and Aqua Teacher, on land as a Personal Trainer and Dancer and on the mat as a Pilates and Yoga Teacher.  Ok, so I work on the apparatus too with Pilates but to squeeze that in as well would have ruined the flow of the previous sentence! The point is, my whole life; I have worked with human movement.

My passion for movement was cemented when I studied biomechanics as an undergraduate and have continued to lecture and teach in the field ever since at Universities, workshops for the Fitness Industry and woven into my Pilates and Yoga Teacher Training courses.

It was Newton who originally stated that ‘for every action; there is an equal and opposite reaction’ Opposition -What goes down; must go up.

When I did my first Pilates teacher training qualification many, many years ago; I remember that emphasis on length.  Lengthen, out through the crown of the head.  Lengthen, through your leg.  Lengthen, through to your finger-tips.  But as I watched my participants, and then later; my students interpret that, I noticed that something was missing…..the ‘other’ direction.

In both practises (Pilates & Yoga) I watched people lengthen furiously out through their heads and throw their ribs forward enthusiastically into an almost ‘military’ stance.  I watched people stretch their leg out of their hip and throw the pelvis forward from the effort.  There was no base from which this length could grow.

It was like a plant being pulled by its stem out of the ground, the roots failing to hold it secure.

A plant needs strong roots to stay firm on the ground.  So does the human body.

As an analogy, I found this worked best in sitting or standing.  Cue people to ‘grow roots’ out through their feet or through their sitting bones and the feel the spine lengthen from that strong and stable foundation.  This was easy for people to feel, but they needed to really think about it.  They needed to be mindful and aware.  With awareness they could transpose the sensation of growing roots, into lengthening out in opposite directions with a strong and stable centre (the centre, becoming the rooted body part).  It was from here that my style of teaching evolved into;

The Opposition Method

It’s not just about action vs reaction; it’s about being mindful in movement.  But, more than that; much more, it’s about respecting the fact that as humans, we have different bodies; developed through the evolutionary power of genetics and the modern world influences of work and lifestyle.

As a new teacher, I found myself forever trying to manipulate people into a Pilates or Yoga-shaped box.  The idealistic ‘neutral’ or ‘correct’ posture or pose, which is merely a guideline and does not account for learned behaviour and DNA-imprinted characteristics.

For many years now, I have worked with people; respecting their natural form and working with it to help that body be the best that it can be; not forcing it to be a projection of assumed perfection.  My method of teaching evolved into something much more gentle and forgiving of what it means to be a human with a body, much more functional and analytical.  This approach allowed me the privilege of working with sufferers of neurological conditions like Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  I work with the elderly and children.  I teach movement, call it whatever you like; Pilates/Yoga – I teach people how to move, breathe and just ‘be’ in their body.

This method of thinking, moving, feeling and being human, is now available in guideline form, published by Panoma Press and available for purchase through their website

www.panomapress.com

& mine

www.themovementspecialist.co.uk/shop/

until 2016, when it will be available from Amazon and in all good book stores.

Pilates at one end; Yoga at the other and the principles of sound mechanics and mindfulness woven throughout…

Opposition in Pilates & Yoga – Newton’s Third Law meets Mindfulness.

Marie-Claire Prettyman  – ‘The Movement Specialist’

www.themovementspecialist.co.uk

 

When a rainy day in February gives you lemons..

So today I am incapacitated, after yet another procedure to try and reduce the on-going pain that I have experienced since an accident in February 2014. A really stupid accident, a slip and fall onto some tiles in a leisure centre entrance.  It had been raining, people were coming in and shaking their umbrella’s and  then moving on into the club, except I came in and went down like a sack of spuds onto my left hip.  Initially I was mortified, then I noticed the pain I was in and went into shock.  That is the only explanation that I can think of, that explains how I was able to carry on with the Yoga course (admittedly without doing movement, as I knew there was pain) that day.

The mechanism of injury is irrelevant these days.  There was an accident, it happened, it hurt and it set of a chain of events which leaves my whole existence looking nothing like the one I had before.

After a period of recovery and a pharmacy (in the absence of any other suitable collective noun) of pain relief, I tried to return to work.  At that point I had a busy Pilates and Yoga Studio, which had grown from nothing since 2014.  3 Studios under one roof, one Pilates, one Apparatus and one Yoga studio.  It was beautiful, big mirrors, skylights, two treatment rooms for massage and physiotherapy and a dedicated reception area where people would stay after class and chat with their class mates and drink tea and have biscuits.  Many of the classes became friends with their ‘mat-buddies’ and would go for coffee and cake after class, or to the ice-cream ‘parlour’ or to the pub (depending on the time of day).

I loved hearing about the things that people would get up to with friends they had met at my studio.  I myself, met some of my best friends at my studio and in some cases, was reunited with old school friends and girls I used to work behind a bar with when I was 18.  For me, my business offered so much more than Pilates and Yoga; it was sociable. For some it helped them through trauma, both to their physical well-being and to the physical well-being of their children and their other family members.  It helped people feel more in control of their illnesses, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinsons’s disease.  It gave people a focal point in their week.  For all these reasons and more, I felt like I had something special with my business, until I couldn’t do it any more.

For many months after the accident I tried to keep going, returning to my GP over and over again to see if there was another drug, more physiotherapy, another treatment they could offer me. Until November 2014 when I said to my GP, ‘I honestly don’t think I can do this any more, I’m wondering if I should give up my business…’  At that point, I got an MRI.

The MRI showed a fracture at T7, a disc bulge at L5/S1 & facet joint hypertrophy, which was great in a way because it actually meant that we had a plan of action! They would inject my facet joints with steroids and the consultant told me, ‘It won’t be as bad as it is now’.  I kept my fingers crossed.

As I waited for round one of the injections that were ‘going to make everything OK again’, I spoke with some of my clients about what it was that I thought I could do if I didn’t run the studio, and the conversation came up about writing a book.  I shared with one lady in particular, that I had always wanted to put my teaching style into an ‘easy to follow guide’, as it was fairly different to any other style that I had come across on my 17 years experience.  I taught my Pilates and Yoga Teacher Training students the same technique and for many of them who had practised Pilates or Yoga for many years before deciding to teach, it was like a ‘Eureka!’ moment. They felt their bodies work in a way that they hadn’t before and they understood movement in a different and more powerful way.  It worked.

So, I mentioned the book idea to another client, a chap who had written a book about sailing.  He put me in touch with his publisher and I started to really think about it.  I went from publisher to publisher, sending proposals to each and every one of them only to be told that they “are not interested in this type of book at the moment, but try ‘this’ publisher instead”.

I had my first round of injections and they crippled me.  But it gave me an opportunity to start writing and really structuring my ideas into a logical format.  I didn’t have a publisher, but I needed to get these thoughts out of my head!  After 9 days exactly, I felt better and went back to work; but the underlying pain problem was still there, my book was put on the back burner and I waited for injections ’round 2′.

Then, I received an email from a publisher, who had been passed my details at a ‘book event’ by one of the others that I had contacted.  They wanted me and after a long chat, I wanted them too! So I picked up the baton and moved to phase 2 of my book, the photographs!

A friend, who I had met through my son being friends with her son, had a photography business and said that she would be happy to do my photos. This wasn’t long after the first round of injections so I was a little sore but we got through it somehow! My goodness it took ages, not the photos; but the graphics that I wanted afterwards.

With the pictures, I could really get my teeth into progressing the book content.  Until this one Thursday…

OK so I knew pain, I was living with it every day; but this was different.  I tried to push on through most of the time, but with this pain I really couldn’t.  I had raging pins and needles down my left leg, numbness and much more pain that usual, the drugs weren’t touching it.  I messaged a physiotherapist, who I met when I had trained her in Reformer Pilates a few weeks previous and went to see her.  She got me upright but it didn’t last and by the Tuesday, I was admitted to the Southampton General Hospital’s Neurological ward.  I didn’t have what was suspected, which was a Cauda Equina, but another MRI showed that I had torn my bulging disc.

I spent 3 days flat on my back wondering how on earth I was going to keep going this time and decided, that I couldn’t carry on pushing myself and causing my body further damage.  I decided to shut down the company and sell off the equipment to a friend in Devon who had just opened her own studio.

After getting out of hospital, I had to return to tutoring (at the end of the day I still have bills to pay) and quite frankly I LOVE tutoring i.e. training Pilates and Yoga students.  It is definitely a passion.  However, after making that monumental decision in hospital, I was glad I had some trainee tutors to defer to and do some of the teaching, so that I had time to reflect. One of these trainee tutors was the friend to whom I was planning to sell the equipment and the other, was one of my members of staff; who offered to buy the business off me…

It was June at that point and I was due another round of injections in my facet joints.  Given that last time, they had crippled me; I passed over much of the day-to-day running of the studio to my buyer and concentrated on healing from the jabs and finishing the manuscript.

By the end of July, it was a done deal.  The studio had sold and my book was with the publishers.

In August I saw a Pain consultant after an 8 month wait and yesterday he injected my Sacro-iliac joints and I got to watch the procedure! That was amazing but it was also extraordinarily painful!  I am looking forward to sharing that story with my Level 4 Exercise for Back Pain students next year!

Today I am writing this from bed and waiting for the delivery guy to hand me the first printed (proof) copy of,

Opposition in ‘Pilates and Yoga – A Blend of Newton’s Third Law and Mindfulness.’

The official book launch will be in January, which is when it will be available to buy or download from Amazon or purchase from book-stores, but I will have a number of copies for sale from the website www.themovementspecialist.co.uk/shop/  in a few weeks time 🙂

I have other work too (obviously) specialising in working with chronic injuries and pain, the elderly, kids, antenatal & postnatal etc, which means that when I thought I was all washed up, a little bit of redirection and I’ve reinvented myself by taking the bits that I can still do (and that I’m particularly good at) and creating a new life!!

And that, is definitely how to make lemonade out of rainy February lemons! 😉

Keep your fingers crossed that this latest set of injections makes all the difference hey?  Thanks x

The Power of a Label

This morning, the local newspaper reported on the inquest into the death of a popular Fitness Professional who had spoken openly about her battles with depression and alcohol before taking her own life in May 2015.  The inquest was told that a few months before her death, she was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. This diagnosis coupled with the sadness over losing her Fitness role  after she sustained injuries in a car accident, meant that she found herself questioning her future and what that may look like. The ensuing spiral into depression you may say was inevitable and it had devastating consequences for her and her family; but unfortunately, I do not think this is an unique situation.

Imagine for a moment, that like her; you lived through a difficult childhood and used crutches like alcohol and self-harm to help you cope with the troubles etched into your mind.  She found fitness and used it to get herself out of the darkness and then went on to support others.  Her continued battle with depression is understandable, of course you cannot erase your past; you just find ways to deal with it.  But childhood difficulties leave you fragile even if to the outside world you present as confident and in control of it.

Survivors of a difficult up-bringing (for whatever reason) need so much care and love but they always find it hard to ask for it, for fear of ever relying on anybody and being let down.  It makes the world a lonely place, even if you are surrounded by lots of people all the time. Trust, is beyond difficult to contemplate.  As such, the ‘adult survivor’ finds relationships difficult to manage and friendships difficult to maintain.  They are constantly measuring their reactions to situations and finding themselves confused, as the skills that others develop in early life, were marred by fear and repression.

The young lady in question had an accident which left her unable to participate in the career she manufactured to help her manage her demons.  With that gone, she (and others in a similar situation) would have been left like a ship without an anchor, confused and drifting about in the world without direction.  Her depression returned and she sought support, from the mental health professionals.  They returned a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder:

‘Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness that causes unstable moods, behaviour and relationships.  It usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood.  Most people who have BPD suffer from problems regulating their emotions and thoughts’.

It is suggested by the NHS that BPD is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors including traumatic events in childhood, but it is also understood to be a life long condition that needs on-going management and support. Maybe this young lady and other sufferers would also benefit from hearing that the problems they face as an adults are OK, that they are vindicated by those around them for experiencing those difficulties because they missed out on an opportunity to develop life coping strategies. For this young lady, the label may have driven her further into the belief that she was unable to cope with life and would never be able to; thus she made the decision to bring her life to an end. She had told her friend that felt she was ‘living a lie’.

According to the Mental Health Network fact sheet (January 2014) the proportion of the English population aged between 16-64 meeting the criteria for one common mental disorder increased from 15.5 % in 1993 to 17.6% in 2007 (I was unable to source a more up to date statistic).  In one respect the increase in percentage may reflect that fact that more people are getting the help that they need, on the other hand; maybe it reflects an increase in labelling people who are experiencing feelings that are perfectly understandable given their life situations?

If you know me, or have read any other posts; you will know that I also had trauma in my childhood and then went on to lose the career I loved as the result of an accident last year.  I too have suffered from depression and I too, was handed a label.  Not BPD, but a different one.  I also found, that the knowledge of ‘owning’ a mental health label drove me to the pits of despair and it nearly had devastating consequences for me too.  The idea of living with a ‘mental health disorder’ is horrifying.  The fear of judgement from others, constantly judging yourself and wondering if you are ‘actually upset or annoyed’ or it’s just ‘the illness’, is exhausting and confusing.

In the US there are many websites and support groups for ‘suicide survivors’ (see below), they work tirelessly to educate families of survivors about the nature of illnesses that lead to suicide.  They talk about illnesses of the mind as being like a cancer; and that if an individual survives that ‘cancer’ or a ‘near death’  experience, they are to be applauded as heroes and given a platform on which to talk with other survivors about their experiences. In the UK there is still a propensity towards judgement, shaming and ignoring.

Something is going wrong both in our society as a whole and within the system.  Labelling everyone as either ‘depressed’, ‘bi-polar’, ‘BPD’ or ‘anxiety disorder’, and then giving drugs and counselling isn’t going far enough to educate society into accepting that sometimes people fall down and need a hand to get back up.  If the judgement and shaming was not so apparent, maybe people would feel more confident in talking to their friends and relatives about how they are feeling?  I’m not suggesting that people don’t need drugs and support for mental health issues but that society as a whole could step up and work with those they love so that they do not feel so alone. The fear that a label will elicit disrespect and misunderstanding drives sufferers into themselves further, which can only end badly.

I was lucky, not only did I survive; I realised that I was not mentally ill, I was unhappy and so I changed my life. Nobody around me actually suggested that maybe I was just unhappy, no; there had to be something ‘wrong’ with me! Thank goodness I am happy now but I still wobble, after all; I’ve lost the career I love too and live in constant pain.  But I’ve forged a new career helping others just like this young lady did (but in a different way) and I talk to my counsellor to keep me strong.  However, I am still affected by the fear of judgement and refuse to let my GP prescribe me medicinal support for the sadness I feel at the life I have lost.

I wish I could have spoken to this young lady, as I’m sure so many other people also wish now.  I wish I could have told her that it is OK to feel sad and scared.  I wish I could have told her that there is life on the other side and that with love and support you could find new ways to cope without needing a crutch.

We cannot help her, I only hope she rests in peace and that her family find some comfort on knowing that at least she is no longer in turmoil, but we can help others who are suffering.  If you have a friend or a family member who is struggling to cope with life, don’t turn your back on them and wait for them to ‘get back to normal’ (as someone once said to me). Be the difference, take time out out listen and support (remember sufferers may find it hard to ask), hug, make tea, let them cry and wail.  Life is hard.  You never know when you yourself might need a helping hand someday and you’ll want someone to be there for you I promise you that.

For survivors & families:

www.suicide.org

www.save.org

 

 

New Clinic

It’s funny sometimes how things pan out, isn’t it?  I was referred to Lb Physiotherapy a few months ago for treatment on my back and now I am hopefully going to be working from there!

I hit it off with the Physiotherapist who has been treating me straight away. I had the hugest respect for him after he was happy for me to go in and tell him what I ‘thought’ was wrong and exactly what it what I wanted him to do.   Being fairly body aware (as you would hope) I was convinced that aside from the disc tear, my sacroiliac joint was severely compressed, inflamed and generally ‘unhappy’.  I also thought that much of the nerve irritation I was experiencing was as a result of muscle spasm and so far; I was right.

His treatment has been targeted and empathetic, unfortunately there is only so far you can go with treatment and with someone who has the movement and understanding  side of things covered! However, he and I have had some great chats about function, injury and rehabilitation, which led him to mention The Movement Specialist to the clinic manager, and after several chats; the plan is to establish ‘Clinical’ group classes from the centre, as well as 121’s and Movement Analysis in conjunction with the Physiotherapy department.

Brilliantly, this concept reaches out to people like me, who are struggling to make any more rehabilitation gains from manual therapies alone, but unlike me they need to start to make a long-term commitment to re-educating their bodies in terms of functional movement (I’ve already got that bit sorted!).

Years ago my Mum told me that if ever she was asked out by a guy that she wasn’t sure of, her Dad would tell her to go anyway, because ‘you never know who you are going to meet’!  There is a good philosophy there, I was not sure about having Physiotherapy when it was offered as many therapies that I have tried, from Massage and Osteopathy to Reiki and Emotional Freedom Technique, have either made it worse; or not worked at all.  Interestingly, I felt better after the ‘hands-off’ treatments than the ‘hands-on’.

Anyway, if I hadn’t agreed to Physiotherapy, knowing full well that it will never be a cure but a method of pain management (acupuncture); I would never have met the Physio, ‘Tim’.  He would never have mentioned me to the clinic manager and I would not be now looking at establishing the kind of work that I am still capable of, from a professional clinic with a fantastic reputation.

The moral of the story is, if it keeps being offered and you keep saying no; you don’t know what you might be missing out on. As my ‘Papa’ rightly said, ‘you don’t know who you might meet’,  they may just be the one to have a profound affect on your life.

Clinical Pilates at:

Lb Physiotherapy, Gull Coppice, Yew Tree Drive, Whiteley, Fareham, Hampshire, PO15 7LS

starts: September 2015

email: admin@lbhealthcare.co.uk or marieclaire@themovementspecialist.co.uk to register your interest.

Yoga Master-class

I had a fantastic time in Devon last weekend teaching an ‘Introduction to Yoga’ master-class at Teign Fitness’ beautiful new studio.  When the subject of this session was first discussed, I though it wouldn’t be too difficult; after all, it’s just an introduction right? Wrong.  When I sat down to put the handout together, I realised that I didn’t know where to start and then when I did get going, I didn’t know where to end!

Yoga is so multi-dimensional, the breathing practises or ‘pranyama’ on it’s own could take a whole day (or a lifetime) to explore.  Then there’s the hand mudras (which I am personally fascinated by), what about bandhas (locks) and chakras?  What about the different ‘styles’ of yoga, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Hatha? And all of that is before you’ve even started looking at the postures!

So what is Yoga?

Yoga is an art and science dedicated to creating union between body, mind and spirit.  Its objective is to assist the practitioner in using the breath and body to create an awareness of ourselves as individualised beings, intimately connected to the unified whole of creation.  In short it is about making balance and creating equanimity so as to live in peace, good health and harmony with the greater whole.

This art of right living was perfected and practised in India thousands of years ago and the foundations of the yoga philosophy were written in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali in approximately 200 AD.  This sacred text describes the inner workings of the mind and provides an 8 step blueprint for controlling its restlessness so as to enjoy lasting peace.

Fitting that into 2 hours was a challenge.  In the end, I decided that what I wanted the group to leave with, was an understanding that Yoga was so much more than a form of exercise; for which the western world adopted it in the 1980’s. So we discussed the origins and practised basic chanting, pranyama, asanas (postures), mudras, bandhas and chakras.  We finished with heart chakra affirmations and a guided relaxation.

I hope, that the group left with open minds, and hearts; with their bodies feeling stretched, challenged and then settled.  I hope, that maybe some of them, will look up the 8 limbs of Yoga and seek to explore the concepts further and embrace some of them as a life choice.  I hope, that they will invite me back to explore this diverse and spiritually enlightening practise further. In the meantime, I will continue to improve my own understanding of Patanjali’s work and how it can help me be a better human.

If you would like more information on this or would like to book a master-class at your venue or a private session email: marieclaire@themovementspecialist.co.uk

 

Understanding Chronic Pain-The Role of the Fitness Professional

I actually wrote this for the Women in Fitness Empowerment blog but I thought I would share it here as well, much of it (about me) you may have read before…

I write this article, from both sides of the coin these days; an unfortunate irony, you might say.  I started life in the Fitness Industry in 1998 as a Health and Fitness Instructor at a hotel club gym.  I have taught swimming, aqua, ETM, dance; a keen club athlete and competitive latin and ballroom dancer. My degree was a predominantly Biomechanics, Sports Science BSc and I have been back in the last few years to lecture on the very same course.  I trained as a sports therapist and then I opened my first Pilates and Fitness studio in 2004.  In 2008 I joined forced with Fitness Inspired Teacher Training and authored their Pilates course, which I continue to tutor as well as the Yoga qualification. I then expanded the studio in 2011 to larger premises with an apparatus studio and Yoga studio, 2 treatment rooms for sport therapy and physiotherapy.  I was well educated about fitness and health, physically fit and invincible, or so I thought…

My background is relevant, because you have to understand; that when I slipped in leisure centre in 2014 and fractured my spine, I never thought that 18 months later I would be writing this having just spent 2 hours at a Pain Management Information lecture, for people who suffer from chronic pain.  I have worked with people who have suffered from all kinds of physical dysfunction; from Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease, to pre-op and post-op surgery participants.  I have also worked with people who have suffered chronic pain and I have to admit; I didn’t get it.  I thought I did, but I didn’t.  I do now…

Hands up who has been guilty of thinking that those people who have complained constantly of pain in certain area of their bodies, were hypochondriacs?

‘It’s all in their heads’,

‘They just like having an identity’,

‘If they just lost a little weight or exercised more, they would be fine’….

I can assure you, it’s not ‘all in their heads’, and no one enjoys being in constant pain.  It is miserable, let me tell you and people often end up suffering from depression or anxiety as a result.  As for exercising, it is scary to undertake an activity that might render you incapable of even moving for several days! Chronic pain sufferers NEED to protect themselves from activating their pain responses, read on to learn more.

What is Chronic Pain?

Chronic pain is defined as ‘pain that lasts longer than 3 months’. Some experts define it as lasting longer than 6 months.

Chronic pain usually follows an injury or illness which causes movement inhibition and reduced flexibility; but most injuries or illness related symptoms resolve within 8-10 weeks. Residual pain is often the result of a hyper-sensitive nervous system.  So, pain in the area that the sufferer indicates as problematic, may be structurally sound; or at least, not requiring surgical intervention. The pain felt is inconsistent with the degree of structural dysfunction; it is significantly higher because the pain system is in overdrive.

The pain is real; but pain is initiated by the brain because that it what controls our neuropathy. So brain re-training can assist in reducing pain, but this is not to be confused with having a mental health disorder.

Pain sufferers will often use analgesia to help supress the nervous system and reduce the pain signals from the problem area, but one of the most relevant approaches that I have heard was from Prof. Eyal Ledermann (Osteopath); at a lecture at Westminster University in 2011,

‘Chronic pain sufferers should be encouraged to move, but only within a pain free range’

What he was saying, was this; movement is important for general health, muscular health and psychological well-being, but if movement initiates pain; we create an association between certain movements and discomfort.  The pain system will naturally, increase the signals to the brain warning of potential injury, limiting the individual’s capability to move freely.  But, if we offer movement practises that are pain free, we disassociate from the pain and it allows the pain system time to‘re-set’, i.e. brain re-training.

Many pain sufferers are taught to ‘pace’ i.e. consider activities which aggravate their pain system and limit the activity to within a pain free time scale. E.g. working at the computer is fine but after 30 minutes the back starts to hurt.  So the sufferer will pace their activity and only work at the computer for 20 minutes, so as not to facilitate an inappropriate pain response from the nervous system.

As fitness professionals, we have an important role to play in helping sufferers of chronic pain manage their symptoms.

  • Empathy: Chronic pain is miserable; no one chooses to live that way. Be gentle in your approach, considerate; listen to your participant and let them guide the session.  They know their bodies.
  • Well-being: Re-consider what the aim of your work is with a chronic pain sufferer. The only objective they have is to live without pain.  Find movements that do not cause a pain response and work within those parameters to ensure an endorphin release; to manage low mood.
  • Inclusion: Chronic pain is socially isolating, the number of activities sufferers cease as a result of needing to protect them from pain is extensive. If a sufferer has made the decision to take charge and participate in an activity, try not to make a judgement about their lack of physical ability. It may be very upsetting for them to feel inhibited and less able than others, your positivity and enthusiasm can be extraordinarily powerful.
  • Pace: Allow your participant to decide when they’ve had enough. Pushing a chronic pain sufferer will have neuropathic consequences, so support them and appreciate that they need to work differently.

Overall, understanding chronic pain will make sure that sufferers feel safe with you as a professional both from a physical and emotional perspective.  Be kind, be gentle, be considerate and chronic pain sufferers can potentially start to manage their symptoms and improve fitness levels without fear of aggravating their over-active nervous system.

As for me; I had to give up the Studio I have devoted over 12 years of my life to.  Teaching Pilates and Yoga every day, was driving my pain responses too high and the pain killers I was taking led me to push myself too hard; and tear a disc.  I now work specifically, with people suffering from illness or injury that is preventing them from participating in activities that they enjoy.  Using Pilates and Yoga practises, I am supporting their rehabilitation and aiming to get them back to functional movement.  I also support others in the industry that are working with injuries and pain through Mentoring, Tutoring and Team Training.  For more information about my work, or if you’re are looking for professional support go to;

www.themovementspecialist.co.uk

New beginnings

Goodness me, do you ever find yourself looking around at your life and realising that it looks nothing like you thought it would at this point?  I have to say, I’m there at the moment; and it’s been a turbulent ride, but as my new website went live this evening I felt a tremendous sense of calm, of ‘right-ness’, of relief.  It was never part of my plan, to sustain a back injury, so profound that I had to surrender my studio after 12 years of trading, but it happened and you have to get on with life.

However, I am nothing; if not resourceful.  As I lay in many a hospital bed, the idea for The Movement Specialist formed.  I rehabilitated myself back to activity after fracturing my spine etc; why not support others?  I am not proposing that my work is an alternative to medical care (not in the slightest); but I can certainly support people suffering from pain and injury whilst they undergo rehabilitation, after rehabilitation, or even before….

This idea evolved, into wanting to support teachers still working their classes.  Choreography ideas, advice about the injuries and illnesses of their participants, a referral system, mentoring, business advice and so on…

The time spent in limbo, wondering if I was physically competent enough to carry on teaching physically on a daily basis, allowed me the time to put a long harboured desire into practise….I put my book together 🙂  The ‘Opposition in Pilates and Yoga’ guide will be out in September 2015.

Maybe the Universe had this in mind for me all along?  You can sit around feeling sorry for yourself; or you can use your experiences to support others on their journey. Use the knowledge you’ve gained and share it with everyone else.

Grow, support, nurture.

OK. I’m in…are you with me?

Big respect for Marie-Claire, her knowledgeable teacher training, the course was great….. it has given me some really useful extras to incorporate into each of the various levels of classes I teach. Tracey, Mini Balls Course

Get In Touch

Email: marieclaire@themovementspecialist.co.uk

Tel: 07919 286419

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