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How to reshape your movement practice during the winter months

15271885_10154778028474776_6318546513650062579_oIt’s winter here in California – as it is for the rest of the hemisphere. With winter, many of us feel challenged to move enough. And yes, we don’t have “real” winter here, but it’s “real” enough when I see my students spending less and less time outside walking and more and more time still and at home. Roland and I are also magnetically drawn to the fireplace, cup of tea in hand and no intention to go out after dinner….So if it’s bad for us down here, what about our students in colder place, like Canada?

What used to be a sunny and easy walk on the beach is now a wet trot in the rain. You can see me in the picture above, squatting in full winter gear, base layers and all, taking some pictures of birds in the rain just last week. So whether you are here in warmer climate or somewhere else, winter is asking for a few adjustments to routine.

Here are 5 ways to make your movement practice more winter friendly, or um, make your winter more movement friendly:

  1. Choose appropriate clothing for your outdoor activities. Yes, it’s cold out. But you can get your wool socks and shirts out and warm up. As soon as you get out the door and start walking, running, biking, your own heat will provide all you need to feel comfortable. It may be worth investing in a pair of fleece or wool leggings and undershirts, so you can enjoy freedom of movement without being weighted down. When you have the right gear, it’s easy to say yes to your morning walk. I cannot tell you what a huge difference my rain boots have made to my beach walks. They almost motivate me to get out there and play! The same goes for your indoor practice. If the ice cold floor of your studio is repelling your single leg balance – get those sticky toe-socks on and get moving.
  2. Change your focus. While walking, hanging, running, hiking and water sports may be the meat and potatoes of your summer movement routine, winter gives an invitation to go inside and see what’s to explore there. This is the perfect time for an indoor climbing gym, a new dance class, or a membership to movement classes, such as the ones offered by Katy Bowman at Nutritious Movement. Maybe you have been waiting a long time to start arial yoga, or indoor swim lessons….use this colder time to do it.
  3. Don’t be all black and white. Just because you aren’t getting the same amount of quality of walking ( I know for sure the slippery sidewalks of my homeland are no place to be walking in winter), that doesn’t mean some walking won’t be possible. Maybe a shorter walk in the city, yet a longer hike on the weekend through the snow, with all the trimmings – sledding, snowshoeing, snowman building, the cool forts only people who live in the snow can boast – there is so much to explore out that isn’t about covering the same distance that you do in the summer. You body loves variability and seasons unmistakably provide the circumstances where you can go with the flow.
  4. All day movement is all day movement, rain or shine. We talk about this in our sessions, and even in our latest book all the time – it’s not the small amount of time we spend exercising, it’s the all day movement that makes the biggest difference to our health! How you inhabit your daily environment makes all the difference. Are you in an office all day? Plan your movement breaks every 30 minutes – take a short stretch break or walk to get a glass of water or to connect with a colleague. If you are at home trade the couch for the floor, play with pets and kids and do more housework and home improvement projects. The winter months are perfect to clean out clutter from the garage, reorganize closets and cupboards, finish small paint projects…when you make it about movement the work load is suddenly lighter! Win-win!
  5. Catch up on quiet practices. Mindfulness practice, also known as meditation is becoming more and more popular and accepted throughout schools, companies and organizations. What was once a strange practice reserved for a few members of certain groups or beliefs is now widely accessible through books, apps, classes and retreats. Winter time is naturally a time to go in, move on the inside and store reserves and inspiration for the spring when you are ready to come out and carry out the new ideas and intentions with fresh insight and ample energy. Check out Headspace and Insight Timer for a way to start your practice today.

How do you mold your movement practice to fit the winter months? Comment below and let me know!

p.s. If you have been considering working with me in private, I have 2 spots for new students open in December and January. Shoot me an email at movewellstudio@gmail.com and grab 50$ off your initial assessment when you mention this blog post!

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Merry Christmas

I wanted to take some time this Christmas Eve Morning to share about things that deeply moved me today and it’s barely 10 in the morning.

I hope they touch you as well.

HOME

Home is where the heart is. My heart has grown in the last few years, stretching to love deeply in two places – my home with my husband in Southern California and the home I grew up in – Bulgaria.

This morning I woke up and called my family who were already fussing around the holiday table – 9 vegan dishes on the last day of fasting before the Savior arrives. It was lovely to call and have the whole family pass the tablet around – from my little cousins to grandma and grandpa.

Then my husband came home from his morning walk.

“Welcome home” – I said.

ORNAMENTS

This ornament below. There used to be a store in Sofia which sold beautiful hand made ornaments. Made by children’s hands. My friend Daniela gifted me with this one. I cherish it deeply. The nativity, nature, the touch of small fingers, fitting it all in a walnut shell.

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A CHOIR FROM HEAVEN

This piece really got to me. “Sounds like Ave Maria” – Roland said. This choir is actually crickets singing with the sounds slowed down. One of the most beautiful and poetic moments I have ever experienced. Listen with me here.

THE PEACE OF GOD

I woke up to pray and journal. Then I realized today, even before praying and journaling, there was a peace covering me from the top of my head to the toes on my feet. It’s an interesting season between October and December, I always notice that people start to rush and feel oppressed. But with Christmas, that rushing spirit is lifted. And even I, who doesn’t go crazy rushing (worry is my way to rush), enjoyed the coming of this deep peace as soon as I opened my eyes. Read more.

Merry Christmas to all of you! I am thankful for you reading and blessed to work with many of you daily!

 


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“Ships are safe in the harbor…

…but that’s not what ships are built for.”

I woke up to this quote posted by my mentor and friend Katy on the Aligned and Well Facebook page.

Timely, since I was just coming back from a barefoot walk-run and had spent the last minutes of my return home thinking about a new client from this morning. She had expressed how the new positions and ranges of motion we were exploring through some of the standing correctives in her workout felt very challenging and unnatural.

“I just don’t get it. It feels so different than what I am used to!”

I get it. But when was the last time you changed or reached a novel outcome by doing what you’ve always done? Wasn’t that the definition of insanity – doing what you’ve always done, yet expecting a different result.

Your relationship with your body is shaped by a variety of factors, but one of the forces that has a powerful pull is what you believe time with your body should look like. Your preconceived notion of what a corrective program or exercise should resemble has you prepared for an experience when you walk through my door. You’ve seen videos, attended classes, received personal instruction, sometimes from tens of specialists before you set foot on my floor.

You expect to “work”, “stand up straight”, “strengthen” and “stretch”. There is a comfort to knowing what we will do together and a certain degree of wanting to feel challenged but only within what you expect the challenge to feel like – whether it’s burning muscles, feeling pleasantly tired or learning a new exercise.

When I present you with a challenge outside the zone of what you thought “it” would feel or look like, it feels so novel and unnatural, that you may find yourself rebelling against the sensation, the movement, the position, or even my presence as a teacher. Irritation, discomfort, frustration, regret, doubt and even profound anger can be found living under the tissues exposed by new positions and movements.

As a teacher, I am always honored to meet those sensations and emotions of discomfort at your doorstep and support you as they come through and open new possibilities. When working with pain and dysfunction, we often find that our safe harbor is not safe at all, and we need to steer the ship out into open waters, even if they feel choppy at first.

In my own body, I am often a witness of novelty, experienced as weirdness and discomfort, as I venture to recover forgotten ways to move and be with myself. That only assures me that I am leaving the harbor, and isn’t that what we are made for?

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2015 is here, try these three new practices…

I hope you had a lovely time during the Holidays!

I am entering this new year with gratitude toward everything in 2014, but also with hope and faith for a 2015 where I can see what was planted in 2014 take deeper roots and grow to be visible and strong!

There are new habits and activities my family started in 2014 and below is an invitation for you to join us on this journey – whether as friends and clients in real life or as in-a-land-far-away online followers.

TAKE THE STEEP PATH

Whether literally, as in choosing a steeper more challenging route for your weekend walk, like we did this Saturday, or figuratively, as in choosing a career move or change in creative direction – go for the steep. Yes, your legs may burn on the way up, there may be sharp learning curves, but the view is fantastic.

In 2014 I completed my beginning year of Somatic Experiencing ® training. It by far exceeds anything steep that I have had to learn and experience. My insights, new skills and abilities are already shining bright in my own life and the life of my clients. I am enjoying the path, and the view from the top. Is there an even steeper route ahead? You bet.

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GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEE(S)

We often live life in the high places of desks, chairs, couches. But getting down to the floor, to play with a toddler, pick up a toy, do some natural movements like squatting or crawling, or garden, can reawaken all of our joints. We have an infinite number of possibilities to move, maneuver, duck, roll, crouch, clamber, climb. Sadly, only a small portion of our day is dedicated to any sort of natural human movement. I give you 1 point to touch the ground with one knee and 2 for two knees every day this year, at least once a day. Are you in?

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MAKE SOMETHING WITH YOUR HANDS

You don’t have to be talented. Doodling and making crooked clay cups still counts. Touching cookie dough as you make it into pretty shapes counts. Use your hands to create something – like Picasso said: “Painting is one way of keeping a journal” (or something to that effect). Being creative with no criticism and agenda helps the body relax, the mind to clear and the spirit to get invigorated. So much of the chronic tension and pain I deal with in my daily work stem from creative blocks and frustrations, or the inability to integrate turbulent life experiences through the mind and body. Being creative will free your body for movement and new experiences, so we can all move into a healthier 2015.

10519007_905199729490073_6302072463060268063_oAre you in?


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Movement diet meets elimination diet

When you come to me for advice regarding your pain or performance, we take a very detailed look at your movement diet: that includes not only the brave times when you lift a kettlebell over your head, but also the times you sit, drive, push a stroller, lay on the couch, stretch, garden, do yoga etc. All of these movements comprise your diet.

In a usual session we do a number of assessments and I am often able to give you a few things to do at home. Roll on a ball, meet your foam roller, learn how to relax, breathe like this, do specific exercises to learn a skill that you’ve lost. So far so good.

You wake up the next day, pull out my list of healing suggestions, and do them. 30 minutes later, you are off, driving, pushing a stroller, swinging a kettlebell, sitting on your couch, yelling at your computer. You get it. We didn’t really modify your movement diet, we just added another dish to it.

Sometimes, that addition can be powerful. My husband and I coach nutrition clients and often we add omega 3s and do nothing else to their diet. That simple addition sheds pounds, improves mood and often solves nagging aches and pains.

If we are lucky, adding my movement prescription will be a miracle omega 3 supplement – you will feel better a few days or weeks after you start doing your “homework”.

Sometimes, this is not the case. Enter the elimination diet.

elimination diet

When we talk elimination in nutrition coaching, we remove the most obvious offenders, or foods that people tend to react negatively to. If after a month or so of eating real food you are still not feeling better, we go after the usual suspects and take out a few foods for a month. This gives your body time to take a breath of relief, heal from the possible assault of those foods and gives you a chance to feel better and get motivated to learn more about your body. Once the month is over, we start to introduce one food every 3 or 4 days to see how you react. Say on Monday you have some oatmeal, and you feel great the next few days. We take the oatmeal out and then try eggs. Feeling great with eggs? Fantastic! Let’s add some tomatoes!

There is a lot of value to this approach, because it makes you aware and very sensitive to how YOU react to the things YOU do. There is no therapist or doctor on the planet, who can look at you and honestly say he knows why your shoulder feels like someone is stabbing you with a knife. At best, we are all making an educated hypothesis. Then we devise a plan based on that hypothesis.

To give you an example, say I have shoulder pain. During the evaluation we find that there are a couple of muscles that need strengthening and I will be working on my whole body alignment as best as I can. I start my day by spending 30 minutes doing my strengthening and corrective exercises, go for a nice walk pushing the stroller, drop of the kids with the sitter and then I sit in my car for an hour. I keep driving with my shoulders up in my ears because traffic stresses me. Then I go to my bootcamp class in the lunch break. Then after work, I get the groceries and walk 10 blocks with them. Home, I cook, put the kids to bed, and crash.

The next morning, and many mornings later, my shoulder is still hurting. Is it the groceries? Is it the bootcamp? Is it the way my shoulders go up in my ears when I drive? I don’t know.

Is it the eggs, oatmeal or pasta? The only way to know is to do an elimination diet. Are you up for it?


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Managing your day’s energy

This morning, one of my clients mentioned that she loves the exercises  I have prescribed for homework, but it seems like there is never a good time to do them.

”First I walk, then I come back and I am hungry, and then by the time I eat my snack and clean up, I am too tired to do anything else…”

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You can fit in exercise during your walk as well!

I proposed that we manage her essential exercises by splitting them in two short bouts of 15 minutes that she can do before her walk and later in the day, so she has a better chance of doing them.

As she left, I was thinking of my own routine. There are times during the day when I feel energized and I have 20 or 30 minutes to really apply myself to the harder exercises in my program, such as hanging, swinging, handstands, one leg balances. At other times all I can do is do twists on the floor and psoas release laying on my bolster.

Recognizing the type and amount of energy you have is a great self observation skill to develop, as it allows you to take care of yourself better, but it also lets your body adapt positively to the exercises and movement you have chosen.

So tomorrow, instead of doing an hour of your homework, why don’t you do the harder exercise when you have more desire to move and then leave the stretches and mat work for your afternoon tea time. Let me know how that worked and keep moving well!

Galya