The summer season has always been my favorite. Jam packed with fun, adventure, friends and family. It has been a challenge to find the time for self care in the midst of all this summer fun. However, kids playing and swimming, also means kids sleeping! So in the early morning hours I can snag the time to check back in with ME. I spent the summer working on embodiment, improving biomechanics, and motor learning. This is a snapshot of the process that was repeated again and again all summer long...
My first thought was to sit outside on the deck in a chair and listen to the birds chirping and breath. But, Oh boy I can’t get out of my own way… to do list taking over, vacation plans, groceries list, this week’s schedule. UGGG it feels yucky, can’t focus, can’t get a full breath.
I walk back into the mess of a kitchen and lie right down in the middle of chaos and put my legs up on the chair. I need to get grounded, so to the ground I go. So what if I end up with cheerio crumbs in my hair!
I start by feeling my back body. Clearly I am functioning in a state of hyperarousal. I am living in my front body as I am ready to meet the needs of everything that is coming my way. I’m living in state of fight or flight ready to respond to the needs of the baby and kids. This triggers a response in my sympathetic nervous system and hijacks my nervous system and begins to run the show.
How do I break the cycle? With the tool of optimal breath. Yet another reason why I must restore my breath.
So lying on the kitchen floor I allow myself to get grounded, feel rooted and connected to the hardwood. Next I must get into my body. I notice the temperature in the room, the sounds, the breeze. Then I check in with the temperature of my toes. I feel the breath coming in my nostrils. And I find I’m still pretty much in my front body…
I dive into the exploration of my back body… hmmmm it’s kinda hard. I feel where I am making contact with the floor. My glutes, my mid back, shoulder blades, back of arms, back of head. Upon this exploration I recognize I am totally gripping my posterior pelvic floor (gripping my butt). No need for that. I am fully supported by the floor and and invite my body to relax. I give my posterior pelvic floor permission to release and I feel a broadening and spreading of my pelvic canister and low back.
Ok great now let’s check in with my breath. Where is it naturally going in my body? Not a surprise that I am flaring the front of my rib cage again. I knit my hands together and place them gently over my lower front ribcage, Hands to Body - another super useful check-in technique in the practice of mindfulness. The hand placement is also a soft reminder to keep that part of the ribcage quiet.
Now I can begin to breath laterally with expanding the ribcage fully for each inhale. Then I can begin to move the breath posteriorly into the back of my ribcage to fully access my deepest breath. After a few minutes bathing in the nourishment of these deep full breaths I check back in with pelvic floor function. My pelvic floor is broadening and releasing to allow for the inhales and upon exhale there is a subtle upward lift and engagement. My pelvic diaphragm is moving in concert with my respiratory diaphragm and the breath is smooth and expansive.
I lift arms overhead and find a gentle sidebend still lying on the floor and explore the rib cage movement on each side. I still find it is easier to sidebend to the right and much more limited to the left. A gentle reminder of the work that my body has been doing for the past 10 months. I remember to breathe with gratitude for this body and not with judgment of where I think I should be in this postpartum recovery.
And then BAM! The baby is crying. Up off the floor. Time to test the practical application of this breath and practice. Pick up the baby. Hold him heart to heart in front of my body. As close to midline as comfortable. I feel my feet, balanced and grounded and my breath filling and expanding my back body. Wow! I feel an expansiveness that I haven’t been able to access in a long time. My ribcage is lifted off my pelvis and I feel taller. My front line of postural support is kicking in automatically with my improved breathing mechanics and I feel lighter.
I get three rounds of good full inhales and exhales and then OH NO! My butt is gripping and my front line of support in fatiguing.
My pelvis is seeking support and my body goes back to old habits and grips in the posterior pelvic floor and glutes. It’s not functional. It shifts my core and I lose my stacked alignment and access to posterior breath and diaphragms. This gripping pushes the head of my femur forward and into external rotation. These changes mean I can not longer stack my system to work efficiently. I have lost the even grounding in my feet and the weight has shifted to my heels. My pelvic girdle is pushing forward and my shoulder girdle is compensating by moving back and increasing my thoracic kyphosis. (See image 1 vs stacked posture in image 2) This shearing of my pelvic and thoracic canister inhibits my pelvic and my respiratory diaphragms. Therefore robbing me of the benefits of a deep nourishing breath and closing the gate on my access to the parasympathetic nervous system. The rest and digest part of the nervous system that heals and calms and revitalizes the body, mind, and spirit.
No need for despair! I know I can access and find these improvements again and again and again. I sway for a minute in a figure 8 fashion feeling my feet and encouraging a release of the butt gripping. I’m coaching myself gently “Regroup… ground feet, stack system, fill with breath, check in on pelvic floor action for broadening on inhale, slight lift and engagement on exhale.”
Small, sustainable changes, doing them mindfully and often, REALLY OFTEN. This is how we can reprogram the system. We can re-establish the conversation between mind and body and make lasting changes in the brain. This un-smudges the motor homunculus in the brain and allows us to access a more efficient way of being.
Put baby down and repeat...AND REPEAT AND REPEAT
I have given many tools throughout this blog post. To recap:
Get into your Body. Feel sensations, temperature, effort, tension, ease and space
Address Biomechanics stack the system for efficient breath and function
Clarity for Motor Learning repeat the improved patterns for functional use
Greek Kale Salad with lemon Olive Oil Dressing
When I’m not lying on the floor in my kitchen trying to calm my mind and breath I am usually creating something with my little helpers. We love the abundance of fresh veggies in the summer that we get from Old Ford Farm in New Paltz, NY. Salads made with fresh greens are such a blessing after the long, cold winter. However, the truth is, I get really sick and tired of making salads everyday so let me tell you a secret...using Kale as your base can get you 3 days out of 1 salad prep session! It will last even after it’s dressed and taste better with time. If you have tried kale chips and hate them please, please give kale another chance! No more salad prep every night and it’s a fabulous go to that is already made for lunch. There are tons of variations of kale salads but this is one of our favorites.
From Gimme Delicious
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
1 large bunch (about 10 ounces or 3-4 cups) kale leaves, finely chopped
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, seeded and diced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
LEMON DRESSING INGREDIENTS
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste
To make dressing: in a small to medium mixing bowl, combine olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Whisk until combined.
To make the salad: combine all the chopped ingredients in a large bowl, pour dressing over salad and mix. Sprinkle with extra feta cheese just before serving.
Prepared and dressed salad can be stored for up to 48 hours. (With fresh ingredients I find it still very good up to 72 hours)