Tag Archives: Yoga

Stress Reduction for Men through Mindfulness

As a physiotherapist who believes that the mind and spirit are just as important as the body in the successful treatment of physical injuries and pain, I want to talk about stress and mindfulness for men during this month of Movember.

I think most people would agree that all of our stress levels seem to be rising – constant downsizing, new technology that means we’re expected to be on-call 24/7, pressure to be perfect parents, perfect partners, stay physically fit… But in the face of these added expectations, I believe that the code of masculinity still inherent in our culture doesn’t encourage men to express their worries, stress or fears openly, and that can amplify the pressure on men and limit their options for coping.

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So what can men do? Practicing yoga is one area where men are still vastly outnumbered by women, but the balance is shifting, and more men are reaping the physical, mental and stress-reducing benefits of this ancient practice. The closely-related field of meditation still suffers from an “identity-crisis”, conjuring up images of turban-clad swamis sitting in lotus pose for days at a time. But have no fear. Mindfulness is a practice that you can do anywhere, anytime, and offers massive benefits without a big time commitment, or sitting in lotus pose.

I have been aware of mindfulness meditation for many years, mostly influenced by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn’s work in using this technique for reducing stress, anxiety, pain and illness in people from all walks of life. And optimally one does “meditate” – which means sitting in a comfortable position for 5, 10, maybe 20 minutes every day, focusing on your breath, gently identifying when thoughts appear, and then returning to your breath, over and over. There are countless articles, YouTube videos, and even iPhone apps available online to get you started, and help you to practice regularly.

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But what I want to highlight today is the way this technique can be used in any setting, at any time, to help reduce stress, bring relaxation and increase joy. Mindfulness is simply awareness of the present moment, which is always here, and always accessible. Try this. Instead of moving through your day on auto-pilot, take some breaks to “tune-in” – stop for a few seconds or a few breaths and focus on what you are doing or what you can feel, hear or see. Examples: at every red light, clear your mind of any mental chatter and just focus on your breath. While reading this blog, stop and notice all the sounds you hear. Before you start your next task, take a few breaths and scan your body for tension. When washing your hands, note the temperature of the water, the sensation of your hands touching.

These techniques can reduce your stress in difficult situations, lower your blood pressure, decrease anxiety, improve your interactions and relationships with others, and increase the positivity of your thoughts. So in this month of Movember, try a few moments of mindfulness – your body, mind and spirit deserve it!

Key points when working out during Breast Cancer

RibbonDuring a time of when a person is dealing with breast cancer there are many factors as a trainer that I like to take in consideration – the most important one is really tuning into what that particular client is going through emotionally, not just physical. As a trainer it is not my job to ever act as their therapist but it is a time where I remind my clients (as much as any other clients not battling cancer) that they must give compassion to themselves for how they are feeling. Every client with breast cancer is different and how their body reacts to the treatment they are given and surgery besides the fundamental thought of what stage of cancer they have or where they are in their stage of recovery. Why I chose first to talk of their emotional well being is due to the fact that emotionally (mentally) it can affect their energy levels and how they preform physically.

During the time of recovering from treatment of breast cancer it is important that my clients realize that this isn’t a time to push themselves to giant goals of becoming an extreme athlete. It is a time where I want my client to focus on how well they are feeling and really listen in to their body coming with the yoga thought of, “You’re body is different everyday and you must respect what your body will allow you to do”. There are going to be some days when clients may be able to achieve something more one day and the next session round they have to ease back on their body as they may not preform like the last session. The main focus for each session is to get the client feeling good physically and leaving the session happy that they have done something good for themselves.

Walking Family

There are many wonderful things that breast cancer clients can do to help in their healing process. Walking is a great exercise and can be done inside or outside, with company or just by themselves. When it comes to certain clients they may come to me with wanting to help rehabilitate the affected area post-operation to get that range of motions back or balance work to help out with the affected area (if they have had total reconstructive surgery). The exercises given to clients are not ones where they have to push themselves to their max, if anything we want to keep the repetitions of exercises to the affected area to its comfortable ability. When also talking about keeping physically fit it could just come down to a light stretching for a more restorative exercise session.

Whatever the client chooses to engage in as far as activity they should keep in mind that exercise of a right proportion to their needs is individual. Exercise gives them a great benefit as far as helping blood exchange within the body and the lymph nodes. Doing some active strength exercises can helps with regaining that range of motion in the affected area due to scar tissue and adhesions while keeping the unaffected areas strong. Strength training does not have to be hard, something simple as using their own body weight, elastic bands or tubing and even light weights incorporated into the workout. A great goal to focus on is postural exercises that will allow the client to steer clear of having any (or furthering any) muscular imbalances. Postural exercises increase strength of the local and global muscles while incorporating core are very fundamental to any program. Any client feeling any discomfort or pain during an exercise should not push themselves…movement should always be in a pain free range of motion and not leaving them exhausted. Clients should also be aware that having adequate recovery time from their last session is hugely important so they don’t stress the body further.

Walk for the Cure

Ideally clients will want to look for something that they enjoy and something that they themselves can do at home as well as have that guiding hand. There are a multitude of great exercises out there that a specialized trainer can show you, whatever their personal needs may be.