Posts filed under mindfulness

Words on Relaxation

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As a reflexologist I am a huge advocate of the benefits of relaxation. I regularly share with my reflexology clients in Kidderminster how relaxation benefits their bodies right down to a chemical level. The physiological effects of the relaxation response are huge and fantastic for your well being.

I think, however, that my wonderful clients come back time and time again because of how relaxation feels. That wonderful feeling of release when you are deeply relaxed is so hard to put into words, but we love it and we want to experience it over and over again!   

I have been exploring poetry about relaxation to try and capture the feeling in words, but it seems that it is so personal and unique we would all describe it differently. Below are some of the poems I have enjoyed while exploring this topic.

The first poem: "Relaxing" is by Alison Smith and can be found on the poem hunter website.

relax poetry

The second poem is from Springboard Stories and written by Reverend Robert Berd

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The final poem I'm sharing here is from All Poetry and written by Jacqueline Shukow.

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Trying to capture the essence of relaxation is difficult, we often define such positive experiences by the negative feelings they counteract. It is so easy to see relaxing as a freedom from stress and anxiety, which of course it is, but it can be interesting to develop a sense of the experience for what it is rather than what it is not.  

If you would like to find out more about reflexology or mindfulness please do contact me.

Posted on April 25, 2018 and filed under reflexology, mindfulness.

Take time to Breathe

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When I opened my therapy business ten years ago in Kidderminster I wanted a name that conveyed my intention to offer people a time and space away from the pressures of life. I chose Breathe Holistic Therapy to present my intention to give clients an opportunity to simply take a breather.  I know how important it was for everyone to take time out both emotionally and physically. 

Reflexology is a wonderful way to allow yourself time to breathe, but there are ways to introduce this into daily life.

There are many breathing techniques that can allow your mind and body to become calmer. This is a very useful way of lowering the stress response and helping to counteract the negative effects of stress both physically and emotionally.  On a recent visit to Kidderminster hospital i found a fantastic leaflet on breathing techniques. This information was aimed at children but the exercises can be brilliant for both adults and children alike. I know it is obvious but please only do these techniques when it is safe to focus on your breathing.

Bumblebee Breathing

This technique can best be used when you are in a quite private space.  Sit comfortably and gently place the tips of your index fingers in your ears. Allow your eyes to close but don't squeeze them shut. Breathe in through your nose and then gently hum as you slowly breathe out. Repeat this as many times as you choose. 

Shoulder Roll Breathing

Choose  a comfortable sitting position where you can focus on your breathe for a few minutes. Take a slow deep breathe in and raise your shoulders up towards your ears. As you breathe out gently lower your shoulders back down. Repeat this movement slowly with each breathe rolling your shoulders up and down.  Many people find diaphragm breathing difficult at first as we more often breathe with our upper chest. This technique allows you to continue this whilst also promoting calm. 

Tummy Breathing

Lie on the floor and place your hands on your stomach. If you are doing this exercise with a child they can place a small stuffed toy on their tummy. Breathe in deeply and feel your belly rise then feel it lower as you breathe out. This encourages diaphragm breathing which acts physiologically to reduce the stress response and promote the calmer section of the nervous system.

Balloon Breathing

Sit comfortably and place your hands gently around your mouth as if you are about to blow up an invisible balloon. Take a comfortably deep breath in and as you slowly exhale start to spread out your hands as if you are holding a great big balloon.  Hold your hands in position as you continue to exhale until your balloon is as big as it can be. Breathe normally as you gently sway from side to side and release your balloon up into the sky. 

With all breathing techniques it is important that you feel comfortable. For some any alteration to your natural breathing can feel difficult and almost cause you to feel short of breathe. This can be more common if you have a chronic lung condition. If you have any long term health problems speak to your health care provider about which exercises may be best for you.

 

 

Posted on March 15, 2018 and filed under reflexology, stress management, mindfulness.

Reflexology Gift Vouchers

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You can give a gift they will remember this Christmas time with a gift voucher from Breathe Holistic Therapy Kidderminster. This gift gives precious "me time", a special opportunity allowing your loved ones to take time out for themselves. 

Treating  your loved ones and yourself to some time out can improve the whole festive season. It's such a busy time for everyone so you can avoid the hustle and bustle of the shops and treat your loved ones to a gift voucher for a relaxing treat in the new year, and book yourself in for a treatment with the time you saved!  You really can put your feet up and relax with reflexology and mindfulness while you finish off your Christmas shopping at the same time!

Are searching for a present to show someone how much you appreciate them? There is no better way than focusing on their well being than with a  wonderfully relaxing reflexology treatment. Maybe you love reflexology yourself?  Sharing this fantastic treatment with a gift voucher can introduce the benefits of reflexology to friends and family enhancing their well being.

Gift vouchers can be purchased for either for a cash amount or a specific treatment such as reflexology . The choice is yours. You can be sure you friends and loved ones enjoy a treat that's just right for them. This gift allows them to enjoy some "me time" when they may not usually take precious time out for themselves.

Do you know a new mum or mum-to-be? You can treat them too! Gift vouchers are available for maternity reflexology, pregnancy massage, baby reflexology or post natal treatments. A lovely relaxing treatment to look forward to in the new year, what an lovely present to receive.

It is easy to buy a voucher, you can contact me by text, phone or email and I can arrange it all for you. Payment can be made by online banking or cheque and I can post the voucher straight out to you with no delivery costs.  But don't leave it too late as I can not post out any vouchers after 18th of December 2017.  
 

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and the Happiest of New Years.

Posted on November 16, 2017 and filed under reflexology, stress management, mindfulness, maternity.

The Relaxation Response Revisited

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When I established Breathe Holistic Therapy back in 2008 my aim was simply to give my clients time to breathe. A break from their lives, time just for themselves to relax and recharge. I love all the benefits of reflexology but for me the relaxation response and its value for well being is key.  I explored the relaxation response in a post a few years ago so I thought is was time to revisit how relaxation effects your body

The relaxation response is a powerful skill you can  use to increase your well being.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S.A recognises the relaxation response as having a wide variety of health benefits including the reduction of pain and restoration of sleep.  In addition, research on the relaxation response has shown that this simple technique can: increase energy, decrease fatigue as well as increase arousal from a drowsy state.  It can increase motivation, productivity, and improve decision-making ability.  The relaxation response lowers stress hormone levels and lowers blood pressure.  Their are many research papers available on the NIH site for example a study finding the relaxation response was a viable treatment for irritable bowel syndrome.

There are many was to trigger the relaxation response such as enjoying reflexology or meditation, but you can learn to include this in your daily life in between your appointments.
 
Relaxation Techniques 

What is the Relaxation Response? The relaxation response is defined as yourability to make your body release chemicals and brain signals that cause your muscles and organs to slow down and increases blood flow to the brain. IN many ways the result of this response is the opposite to the stress response. The Relaxation Response is unfortunately not achieved by  laying on the sofa or sleeping! It is a mentally active process that leaves the body relaxed.
 
There are many ways of achieving the relaxation response. Some of these techniques are called: ➣ Progressive Muscle Relaxation (tense & relax) ➣ Visual Imagery ➣ Deep Breathing ➣ Meditation ➣  Yoga ➣ Biofeedback
 
We will look at one technique for simulatingthe relaxation response and the benefits will grow with practise.
 
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (Tense & Relax Technique)

Everyone has a resting level of muscle tension.  Some people have a high level of tension at rest, others less.  When people are under high stress, their muscles tend to have higher levels of resting tension that can be painful and fatiguing.  After you tense and relax muscles, the tension level not only returns to the original level but automatically drops below the original level, producing even greater relaxation to the muscles.    

Start the exercise by getting comfortable.   You can keep your eyes open or shut.  Most people prefer to close their eyes. Try not to fall asleep, I know it is very tempting and sometimes you will drift off but try to stay awake.   As you perform this exercise, you will tense different muscle groups,  but you need not tense to the point of pain – simple tensing for 2 seconds is generally enough.   Focus on how the tension feels.  Then, let the tension go.  Focus on the sensations of relaxation. During the exercise it can be tempting to hold our breath, but do remember to breathe!  If you experience any discomfort during the exercise do not continue to tense those muscles and if you need to change position that is absolutely fine. Please speak to your health care provider if you are concerned about your physical or mental health.
 
The Tense & Relax Exercise: 
 
Preparation 1) Make yourself as comfortable as possible in a seated position 2) Try and sit up straight with good posture with your hands resting in your lap 3) Remove your glasses if you wear them, some people prefer to remove their contact lenses
 
 1. Relaxation of the feet and calves:  Flex your feet (pull toes toward the knees)  Contract calf muscles and muscles of lower leg. Feel the tension build and hold the tension  Take a deep breath  and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go. If the word relax doesn't feel natural to you then try others such as "calm" or " ease".
 
2. Relaxation of the knees and upper thighs:  Straighten your knees and squeeze your legs together. Contract your thigh muscles and all the muscles of your legs. Feel the tension build and hold the tension .Take a deep breath and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
 
3. Relaxation of the hips and buttocks, tense and relax the hips and buttocks in the same was as above.
  
4.  Relaxation of the abdomen: Observe your abdomen rising and falling with each breath Inhale and press your navel toward the spine then tense the abdomen. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
 
5. Relaxation of the upper back: Draw the shoulder blades together to the midline of the body and contract the muscles across the upper back. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and ss you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
 
6. Relaxation of the Arms and Palms of the Hands: Turn palms face down and make a tight fist in each hand then raise and stretch both arms with fists.  Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and as you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
 
7.  Relaxation of the Chin, Neck, and Shoulders: Drop your chin to your chestDraw your shoulders up toward your ears. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and asyou exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
 
8.  Relaxation of the Jaw and Facial muscles: Clench your teeth together and tense the muscles in the back of your jaw. Turn the corners of your mouth into a tight smile and Wrinkle the bridge of your nose and squeeze your eyes shut. Feel the tension build and hold the tension. Take a deep breath and as  you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go
  
9. Take a deep breath. As you exhale say the word “RELAX” and let the tension go. Finally  become aware of your surroundings (location, people, noises)  -  Move your feet, legs, hands, arms, rotate your head– open your eyes feeling re-energized, refreshed, and relaxed

This is one type of relaxation technique and there are many more to choose from. I believe their is a technique to suit every one so do experiment with techniques to find what suits you best. Do not be put off if your first attempt is not what you expect. It can take some time to feel familiar with a technique and begin to feel the benefits.  If you have any questions about the technique please do not hesitate to contact me

Posted on October 18, 2017 and filed under stress management, mindfulness.

Mindfulness techniques for you

I am passionate about mindfulness and see how it enhances both my own and my client's lives. It can however be difficult to begin incorporating mindfulness into our lives. It is often true that the busy doing aspect of life just gets in the way. In this blog I am sharing a couple of techniques that can help you to begin to use mindfulness daily, developing your "just being" mind, regardless of how busy you may be.

The first technique is known as the RAIN method.  This enables you to focus your attention on the moment in a structured way. As your mindfulness develops you will probably move away from the structre but it is helpful to start with.

RAIN 

R - Recognise

A - Allowing

I - Investigating

N - Natural awareness

 RAIN technique, Mindfulness Meditation

RAIN technique, Mindfulness Meditation

R   -  RECOGNISE WHAT IS HAPPENING

You can awaken mindful awareness simply by asking yourself: “What is happening inside me right now?” Call on your natural curiosity as you focus inward. Try to let go of any preconceived ideas.

A - ALLOW LIFE TO BE JUST AS IT IS

Allowing means, “Letting be”, the thoughts, emotions, feelings, or sensations you discover. You may naturally feel a sense of aversion to any difficult feelings or sensations that arise.  Wanting unpleasant feelings to go away is a response which has become a habit for most of us.  However, with some practise, you will become more willing to be present with, 'What is', and a different quality of attention will emerge.

Allowing is intrinsic to healing, and realising this can give rise to a conscious intention to “let be.” 

I - INVESTIGATE INNER EXPERIENCE WITH KINDNESS

Investigation means calling on your natural interest.  Simply pausing to ask, “What is happening inside me?”, might initiate recognition, but with investigation, you engage in a more active, pointed, line of enquiry.   You might ask yourself:

“What most wants attention?” “How am I experiencing this in my body?” “What does this feeling want from me?”

We need to offer a gentle welcome to whatever surfaces. Avoid the natural habit of wanting to change thinks or find solutions, just be with the answers that arise. Investigating with open non-judgental curiosity.  

N - NATURAL AWARENESS

The first three steps of RAIN require some intentional activity. The ’N’ of RAIN, expresses the result; a liberating realisation of your Natural awareness. There’s nothing to do for this last part of RAIN.   Realisation arises spontaneously on its own.  We simply rest in Natural awareness. Not trying to get anywhere and not trying to change anything, just "being" with whatever you have discovered.

 Sixty seconds meditation

Sixty seconds meditation

The second technique requires just sixty sessions.  It can be practised whenever you are in a situation which does not require your full attention ( so not when driving a car for example!!)  If you have a timer on your phone then set it for sixty seconds, close your eyes and focus solely on your breath. Bring your attention to the movement of the breath as it travels in from the mouth or nose all the way down to the chest. Then follow the exhale in the same way.  There is no need to breath in any special way.  When your attention wanders simply escort it back to the breath.

This may sound very easy, just 1 minute concentrating on one thing. Or you may be thinking that your mind is far too busy to focus on something you normally pay no attention to?  Whatever your initial thoughts try to enter the meditation with an open mind and see what you discover.  By meditating in this way you allow yourself to insert a pause into your day; a moment to just be with your breath and see what develops. Taking time to allow yourself to take a  break from your "doing" mind in this structured way will help you to develop a mindfulness approach to many aspects of your life.

I know it may see like a contradiction to learn techniques which allow you to develop mindfulness when the practise itself is about non-doing rather than doing techniques and exercises!   We do, however, need guidance to develop our own mindfulness and techniques can really help.  Most importantly remember to be kind to yourself and know that you do not need to strive to be good at any technique, just doing them is the key.

If you would like more information please take a look at mindfulness meditation

Posted on September 6, 2017 and filed under mindfulness, stress management.

Meditation in the Media

As I work with my reflexology and mindfulness meditation clients in Kidderminster and the Worcestershire area I regularly see and hear about the positive effects of meditation. I love to read articles promoting meditation, spreading the word about the benefits.

 I read with interest "10 reasons to meditate" recently in a national news paper. This brief little piece shared some great points and even covered some recent research.

  1. " It will help you relax" Meditation provides a break from everyday tasks, an opportunity to slow down and focus on breathing, free from distractions.  These few moments can allow the body to relax as well as the mind.
  2. " It might help your exam results" In a 2013 study regular meditation improved student's exam performance by boosting memory and concentration. Students saw an average of 16% increase, which really could make a difference to the final grade.
  3. "Preserve the brain" Researchers in California found that people who practiced meditation over 20 years had better preserved brains than non-meditators. The study showed their brains had more grey matter.
  4. "...or rebuild it" A 2014 study in Harvard found meditation could restore grey matter.  In as little as eight weeks changes were seen in brain tissue.
  5. "It can bring down blood pressure" Transcendental meditation has been seen to trigger the production of telomerase which is an enzyme linked to lower blood pressure.
  6. "Boost your mood" A review of almost 50 separate studies concluded that meditation can help anxiety and depression. Meditation appeared to strengthen the person's ability to regulate their feelings.
  7. "It's good for the gut" Many digestive disorders are worsened by stress. A study of women with irritable bowel syndrome found that meditation for eight weeks led to a reduction in pain, bloating and cramps.
  8. " It can help you quit smoking" A study in Texas found that smokers who meditated alongside using nicotine replacement reduced the amount of cigarettes they smoked, often without noticing! 
  9. "Shed the pounds" It is common for people to make unhealthy food choices when stress levels are high.  In 2011 a study of obese women found that meditation helped to reduce comfort eating.
  10. " And improve sleep" Meditation for only six weeks can help reduce insomnia, a study found.  The investigation found that the subjects who meditated improved more over six weeks than those on a sleep education course.

Meditation has many clear benefits for all our well being. If you would like to learn more about meditation and how it could help you then please do contact me.

 

Posted on March 21, 2017 and filed under mindfulness, stress management.

The Value of Mindfulness within Cancer Care

I have been proud to work as a volunteer reflexology practitioner and mindfulness teacher at The Mary Stevens Hospice in Stourbridge.  There is a growing volume of evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness for patients, their families and those working in the end of life care environment.

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The Trish Bartley  book, Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Cancer: Gently Turning Towards, explores a Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy for cancer care. This eight-week course has been tried and tested over ten years of clinical use. Bartley believes

“mindfulness is a way of being more present and aware. This offers us many opportunities to appreciate life more. It also enables us to respond more gently to what we find difficult, and by doing this we often find that we experience changes”

A study in 2008 (Chadwik et al) found that mindfulness was beneficial to people with terminal cancer both physically and emotionally.  An analysis of the research available in 2005 concluded that mindfulness based intervention in cancer care had positive results, including improvements in mood, sleep quality and reductions in stress. A further review of studies in 2011 supported this finding. They found significant improvements in anxiety, depression, stress, sexual difficulties and immune function

Christopher Johns in his book, Being Mindful, Easing Suffering: Reflections on Palliative Care explains

"Mindfulness is a quality of mind that notices what is present without judgment, without interference. Being mindful guides me to see things as they really are rather than as a reflection of myself. Mindful practice is being aware of ones experience as it unfolds in its unpredictable and unique way.”

In 2005 the use of mindfulness in hospice care was examined from the perspective of the nurses. For many of the staff the changes were very significant

“Mindfulness makes me alert to what is happening……I see things that I didn’t see before, I begin to notice. For example when there is a lot of chaos in the room…..is this what she is seeing all day?”

“I think that in itself to be mindful that someone is afraid and not to reject it, not to sugar it over with something but also not be freaked out, but to really be with that feeling and to embrace it….then it seems the person can usually relax”

Mindful presence enables the nursing staff to be totally aware and focused on the circumstances she finds in the here and now, regardless of what has gone before or what will follow. It is a valuing of “being” over “doing” in the belief that compassionately being present allows the nurse to respond with empathy to the needs in that moment.

When I worked on a hospital ward during my nursing days I was often guilty of not being truly present but more concerned with my list of jobs to do. I felt that truly experiencing each moment would be overwhelming as many situations were difficult and challenging, but mindfulness has taught me that being present in the moment without trying to be in control of it is actually a great relief. To experience the moment for just what it is allows choices to be made from a place of awareness rather than habit or panic. Removing the “what should I do” and replacing it with an understanding of what is needed in that moment is very liberating. I know life is often unbearably busy on the wards and nurses are pulled in so many directions, introducing mindfulness is not easily done, but this does not mean it can’t be done. The staff at Mary Stevens Hospice are working hard to introduce mindfulness to their clients and to their own work. I truly commend them for their commitment to constantly move forward to provide the very best care.

Mindfulness, as all holistic therapies, is not a replacement for medical care but it can be included within the home, hospice or hospital setting.  For more information please visit: mindfulness explained.

You may also enjoy reading : Mindfulness in a busy Kidderminster carpark

                                                 Mindfulness Explored

                                                 Meditation and pain

 

Posted on October 18, 2016 and filed under reflexology, mindfulness, stress management.

Why Breathe?

My reflexology and hypno birthing clients often ask me why I chose the business name “Breathe Holistic Therapy”.

A number of things have popped up this week making it seem apt to take this opportunity to write here and explain the name. I use this blog to share information that may benefit my reflexology and hypnosis for birth clients or fellow therapists, I shy away from writing very personal blogs and only occasionally do. This entry however does go along a more personal path, lets hope it’s still a useful and interesting post!


"Breathe. You’re going to be okay. Breathe and remember that you’ve been in this place before. You’ve been this uncomfortable and anxious and scared, and you’ve survived. Breathe and know that you can survive this too. These feelings can’t break you. They’re painful and debilitating, but you can sit with them and eventually, they will pass. Maybe not immediately, but sometime soon, they are going to fade and when they do, you’ll look back at this moment and laugh for having doubted your resilience. I know it feels unbearable right now, but keep breathing, again and again. This will pass. I promise it will pass."
— Daniell Koepke

I was browsing pinterest a couple of days ago, I don’t tend to spend too much time on social media but I love skipping through the images, especially as I’m looking for inspiration for my new home in Kidderminster. I do get lots of quotes in my feed and one titled “Breathe” unsuprisingly jumped out at me.  This really summed up for me one of the reasons I chose breathe as a title for my work. I wanted to express how powerful breath is as a constant in our lives. How sometimes when life feels intolerable there are moments when all we need to do is breathe, when just breathing seems to be all we can do and that is enough.  

Hand in hand with this is my belief that taking time out to simply breathe when we are busy with our lives has benefits far beyond brief relaxation. When I started Breathe Holistic Therapy I was passionate about providing my clients with time and space to enjoy and embrace the experience of taking time out: time to breathe.


Many years ago I realised that I needed to be kinder to myself, and allowing myself to simply stop sometimes was key to that. I have always been goal driven, as so many of us are, and constantly searching for some form of perfection. I wrote a few words maybe 25 year ago that for me express this clearly and strongly, and while packing up for the house move I found them again.  It can be odd sometimes can't in when a number of things turn up that all get you thinking along the same lines!

joanne marie poem

Slow down, I need to breathe… taste the present… In those lines I hear myself talking about my desire to discover exactly what mindfulness meditation gives us. It took me another 20 years to discover mindfulness but the idea had certainly taken seed. I now find the three minute breathing space meditation incredibly valuable for myself and my clients. This short meditation provides for me the foundation of that wish to slow down and taste the present.

All the therapies I work with aim to fulfill my goal to give people time to breathe, to be present in their lives and to find resilience in that presence. Reflexology and mindfulness combined are for me especially key to this intention. Hypnosis for childbirth training also has the power of breathing at its core.  As my work grows and develops I am even more sure that Breathe was the right name for me!

For more information on anything here please do contact me.