Legs Up the Wall – The Daily Yoga Pose for Instant Calm

Legs up the wall may seem like an odd phrase, but for me these words conjure up a feeling of calmness. Legs up the wall is one of the handful of yoga poses that I actually felt comfortable attempting when my LONG journey into this age old activity began several years ago.

Although the popularity of yoga continues to grow worldwide,  many people perceive that yoga is something potentially difficult and boring and would rather get stuck into a boxing session or other high cardio activity. Once upon a time this was me (although I do still love running, walking and stair climbing) but after finding my groove with yoga, I now understand that it is one of the best workouts available to us all.

I won’t lie and say that it has been all unicorns and rainbows.  It hasn’t and yoga and I have had a long history of shared emotions running both hot and cold. For many years I loved the idea of yoga but the actual reality of being able to do it, did not align with my physical (in)capability.  The turning point for me came with the right teacher, which then led to calm and acceptance of what my body could do, not what it couldn’t and the balance of these two is ever-changing believe me!).

In fact, I could never have imagined that today I would be running Yoga and Wellness Retreats in Italy!

We will get to legs up the wall in just a moment but there are three things I have learn’t through my yoga adventures, applicable to anybody trying to change any aspect of health and life that might just be handy to you right now:

What we want or need is not always available to us

I will never forget a yoga class that I attended some time ago when the teacher asked us to align ourselves into a position that looked even trickier than usual to me.

While we were all silently attempting the impossible (to me), the teacher announced that this particular pose was ‘not available to him today.’ I had to smother hysterical laughter at this point because for me, it was never going to be available, that day or any other. But you know what? We all have days when a particular behaviour, skill or practise is simply not available to us and sometimes we just need to accept it.  This doesn’t mean you have failed, it just means that investing your energy in something else that IS available to you and achievable today is a wiser choice. Plus, what is not available to you today might just be there for you tomorrow.

There is always turbulence in our lives

A howling easterly wind roaring around outside scattering dust and leaves every which way is one kind of turbulence but there are many ways disruption and distraction turn up in our lives.

The turbulence that we experience in our day-to-day lives can obviously be a lot more serious than a strong wind. It could be problems with your family, friends, health issues, financial concerns, job insecurity, moving house, relationship breakdowns or any one of life’s stressful events. All of these and more, represent turbulence. Quite often, turbulence or a shake-up in our lives is just what we need to take the first step toward real change for our physical and mental well-being. It is possible and often vital to acknowledge the turbulence and do it anyway.

Use your edge

A few years ago I was standing in line waiting to order in a cafe and noticed an interesting quote scribbled along the front of the coffee machine.  The author was anonymous but it simply stated,

“If you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room.”

To me, living on the edge has a negative connotation.   However, renowned Yoga Master and author Erich Schiffman, talks about ‘the edge’ in another way in relation to stretching in yoga. Schiffman explains that, “If you don’t go far enough, there is no challenge to the muscles, no intensity, no stretch, and little possibility for opening. Going too far, however, is an obvious violation of the body, increasing the possibility of both physical pain and injury. Somewhere between these two points is a degree of stretch that is in balance: intensity without pain, use without abuse, strenuousness without strain. You can experience this balance in every posture you do. This place in the stretch is called your edge.”

But what about applying that edge to other aspects of our daily life, where we tend to remain within a familiar but limited comfort zone by staying away from both our physical and mental edges? Schiffman suggests that staying within that zone would be fine, “Except that as aging occurs these limits close in considerably. Our bodies tighten, our range of movement decreases, and our strength and stamina diminish. By consciously bringing the body and mind to its various limits or edges and holding it there, gently nudging it toward more openness with awareness, the long, slow process of closing in begins to reverse itself. The range expands as the edges change.”

Legs Up the Wall

What is this legs up the wall you say?  

This yoga pose would have to be one of the most accessible to us all and can be achieved anywhere and anytime as long as there is a wall.

I could explain to you in writing how to do legs up the wall but it would much easier and less confusing for you all if you watch Adriene in action here as she demonstrates this pose perfectly.

Legs up the wall is an excellent restorative pose that improves circulation and is instantly restful for your legs, feet and lower back.  It is also such a wonderful pose to do just before you go to bed for a restful sleep or even during the night if you wake up and can’t back to sleep.

It is also perfect during the day if you are at work and need to take a breather – close the door and take just 10 minutes to regroup and reset before tackling the next part of your day.

Resting in this position will greatly improve the flexibility in your hamstrings and is a stealthy way of getting some meditation in your day too – you can’t go anywhere else at the same time and it puts you in the perfect mindset to do so.

What about you – are you willing to try or are you already a master of the legs up the wall?

 

 

Make a Choice Not a Sacrifice

To make a choice not a sacrifice is an interesting decision.

Take extreme helicopter pilot, David Adamson as an example. David was born with an innate competitive streak and this streak was put to good use during his childhood in Dumfries, Scotland by kicking around a soccer ball. This Scottish pilot can also juggle 5 balls and ride a unicycle.

So how did that attract him to flying? David suggests he is no different to the majority of males who like loud, noisy machines, with helicopters fitting right into this category. Add a high degree of difficulty to fly properly, their capacity to do spectacular things in the air plus a hefty price tag and he was sold.

Up Close and Personal

David is not your average helicopter pilot. More of the extreme type, although by extreme I don’t mean dangerous. He specialises in low level filming (up close and personal to the water, ground, car, athlete or any moving object) for television productions, documentaries, commercials and sporting events. This requires an exceptional level of skill, endurance, stamina and mental focus. David is engaged by production companies like Disney, BBC, CBS, Foxtel, Discovery Channel, Lonely Planet, National Geographic plus all of the Australian media channels and has worked on a number of films including ‘Drift’ starring Australian actor Sam Worthington.

David’s skills are in demand internationally and it is not uncommon for him to get his passport stamped in a couple of different countries each week.

David’s expertise is highly sought after in the sporting arena including motor sports, adventure races such as Anaconda, the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Surf Ironman Series, Red Bull adventure events and Ironman Triathlon.  TV productions like internationally acclaimed Top Gear, Getaway, Postcards and Surfing the Menu love his work too. As a helicopter pilot, safety is the top priority and David is an Aviation Safety Consultant, Flight and Ground Instructor both in Australia and internationally for pilots, aircrew, general public and the film industry.

When I first saw a photo of David in his helicopter hovering a breath away from a surfer carving up a monster wave at the world-class surfing venue of Margaret River, I knew he would have some unique strategies for his own performance. 

The Committment

While training to be a pilot, David learnt a couple of lessons that he was able to apply to managing his own health when he needed them. Perseverance and commitment was key because the ballpark financial cost of training over a 6-month period was $70,000 AU and required a substantial loan. Getting his first job and runs on the board was very difficult and made all the more stressful with a weighty financial burden in the background. It was during this time that David had to frequently remind himself that although his desire to be a pilot often felt like sacrifice, it was in fact completely his choice.

Frequent and lengthy travel has directly impacted on David’s weight and well being in the past. To rectify these problems, he now consciously makes choices that will benefit his health such as choosing hotels based on the availability of a gym or pool or proximity to healthy food to maintain his fitness and focus.

Mental focus is clearly essential for David’s job as he has to integrate his expert flying skills, weather conditions, logistics of the event or ‘target’ and his own mental and physical well being. His calm persona is obvious in person and in the world of flying this is a highly desirable trait. To avoid stress, David plans ahead and ALWAYS has a contingency plan in place.  This has to be a bonus when in charge of a helicopter!

Which Road Will You Take?

Picture an Olympic year; everybody at home is on the edge of his or her seat glued to the big screen.  At the end of the race the athlete pants, “I’ve given everything to be here.”   It’s true; the overwhelming majority of Olympians have given everything to be one. For each of them, just qualifying for the Olympics has meant years of relentless training, often missing out on socialising with friends and family, continual juggling of work, school and other commitments and for many ongoing financial hardship. It’s not just the athlete but usually their parents and siblings too who have been there all the way supporting them, ferrying them to training and providing the financial back-up to enable to them to pursue their dream.

The big question here is whether these athletes have made a choice or a sacrifice.  A choice is an action you prefer over another action. You get to control it and we all make a myriad of choices each and every day without giving any thought to them.  Will I have cereal or toast for breakfast, what will I wear, shall I get up early and exercise or will I sleep in, should I drive the car or catch the train to work? 

You get to control each and every one of these choices and make a decision. Most of our regular choices fall into patterns and become part of our daily routine. Some of them, however, are important enough to define the quality of our lives.

And What About Those Sacrifices?

A sacrifice is something you “give up” because you’re forced to or because intellectually you know you should; but deep down, you still want it badly. You give it up because continuing would be worse…like smoking, spending time in the sun in the heat of the day without sunscreen or protective clothing, eating a family block of chocolate every day or drinking too much alcohol.

As an added bonus, sacrifices often come as a package deal with resentment and failure. Picture Australian Sally Pearson who won the gold medal in the 100m Hurdle event at the 2012 London Olympics by two-hundredths of a second. We know that there so many choices that this Olympic athlete made along the way to achieve her dream of being the best 100m hurdler in the world. This lightening fast athlete made a choice not a sacrifice to be the best in the world; nobody forced her to do it.

Elite athletes aside, for the everyday person, a health and well-being goal will be something you are contemplating or working toward, something you’d like to achieve that includes a degree of uncertainty and probably difficulty. It’s something you’re trying to accomplish…like losing those stubborn last five-kilo’s, finding calm, balance and happiness in life or starting that exercise class you have been wanting to join for ages. Goals are not a snap and are meant to challenge us and give us direction. 

Imagine This 

Imagine really wanting to do a 12km run that is conducted annually in your state.  You have never run in your life, unless you count the playground way back when. You are willing to train but you can’t fit it in because you are too busy. If you get up earlier, you don’t get enough sleep.  

If you attempt to train after work, you’re too tired. All of these things are choices and decisions that you have made, not sacrifices.  There are some things in your day that are non-negotiable like school and work but be honest with yourself, is there any fluff that you can clear out to make way for your running training?  Block that time out and then add in what you must do to achieve your dream of running 12 km.  If you are too tired to get up in the morning, stop watching TV and go to bed earlier.

Master Chef and MKR are not going to help you get up at 6am are they? If you know that distractions like kids, last minute deadlines, or just general fatigue often occur at the tail end of the day, don’t set yourself up for failure by scheduling training sessions at this time. Aim for the morning sessions and find a buddy to join you. While rest and recovery is essential in any training regime, it can be tempting to hit the alarm and roll over can’t it? Will just this once make a difference? Yes, because lots of ‘just this once’ add up to you not achieving your dream.

What will you do today, will you make a choice not a sacrifice?

 

 

As the Story Goes

I often get asked about my story.  My reason or my passion for what I do.

If you have already heard my story, feel free to speed read to the end and I’ll speak to you next week.

If you haven’t heard my story, you will be thankful to know that it is no ‘Gone with the Wind’ tome.

It’s certainly not easy deciding what you want to do when you are a grown-up. Somehow, through a stroke of luck, a change in the wind or perhaps just chance, I decided what I wanted to do when I turned 14 years of age.

I did what I needed to do to make this happen through school and university but the real education and the passion for what I do, didn’t really start until after I had the piece of paper.

When I graduated from uni, work for Dietitian’s was thin on the ground in Perth and my only true hope of a job was someone falling off the perch. Harsh but true.

Given the cold hard facts, time was of the essence, so it seemed like a fine idea to put all my worldly belongings and my prized green Gemini on a truck and send it across the Nullabor. The lure of my very first grown up job took me to Cootamundra, a tiny little sheep and wheat town in NSW.  I found myself in the Nurses Quarters in my single room overlooking a parched paddock inhabited by three lonely sheep wandering around. As sad as they looked, I did note amidst a bucket of tears that at least they had two friends. 

And therein lay my first problem. I was a no mates with not a single prospect in sight. Enter the Hot Cross Bun. Their comfort was immense and my love affair was immediate and oh SO enduring.  I am thankful that way back then, the little fruity delights didn’t appear on the shelves on Boxing Day because the collateral damage would have been quite literally enormous. Whilst comforting myself with the Easter goodies (and perhaps a few other food delights) I set about formulating a plan to gather some friends.  

Cootamundra, like many other country towns had a happening pub scene and with ten of them in a 500m strip catering to 5000 thirsty townsfolk they were clearly the path to friendship. I managed to gather some lovely friends and we had some hilarious times (I think).  After six months of swilling beer and a concerted effort at eating every Hot Cross Bun that wasn’t nailed down, my boyfriend at the time started making comments about the extra ‘bits’ I had acquired.  I was indignantly upset. How dare he tell such lies!

More time passed and unbeknown to me, more bits tacked themselves onto my body. In hindsight I think the beer may have affected my vision. I can only imagine the shaky confidence that the locals had in their new and only Dietitian who was advising them on losing weight while she was fattening up like a little piggy.  Eventually the evidence became too great even for me and in a pivotal moment when getting out of the bath, I had to face the fact that I had morphed into something like a Shar-Pei dog, the breed with many folds of skin.  

With a successful deposit of 10kg of heavy duty weight, the golden run of beer and Hot Cross Buns was over. 

It’s fair to say that the road back was long and arduous and the vision of the first hot cross bun on the shelves each year on the 4th of January never fails to remind me of what could have been. 

Each year, when I look at those first batch of Hot Cross Buns on the shelves, I remember that nobody is immune from making poor choices whether they be about food, exercise or any other lifestyle behaviour or habit. Including me. That is what drives me to assist you.

I don’t have all the answers (as my kids keep telling me) but I do have a collection of experience and education that could just help you along your journey to health and wellbeing. The way I see it, we are all in the proverbial trench together here. But I might just have the shovel.

What about your story – do you have an experience that continually nudges you along the preferred path?

 

Get Ready, Get Set and Go

Hello to my lovely community,

You may have been reading my blog for a few days, a few weeks or even a few years.  No matter how long you have been part of my gang – I thank you for being part of it.

If you have been here for a while you might have noticed that recently, my blog posts have been a little sporadic and infrequent at the best of times.

I really do love to write but over the last couple of years, I have written less and less as other parts of my business have taken up more and more time.  The thing is, one of the best parts of writing for me is interacting with my readers (that’s you) and providing you with solutions, ideas and inspiration in your quest for your best self and wellbeing.

Why?

I created this blog because I understand on a personal level how hard it can be to look after your mental and physical well-being.  Nobody is perfect all the time and only a robot would be able to eat well at every meal and snack, get eight hours of sleep every single day, not get stressed about anything at all and be blissfully mindful about every little bit of your life.

And that is why I am writing to you on a Friday afternoon as I am considering pouring a glass of wine (small I promise) to go with some lovely cheese as the week comes to an end.

This blog is about to be rebooted, reset and rejigged so that we can talk on the regular about all the aspects of living a healthy life that are important to you in a practical,  realistic way. Lets not forget that life can be busy, hectic, stressful and sometimes full of barriers that sometimes stop you from living your best life.

What?

Every week from here on, you will hear from me about my favourite recipes (obviously only quick and easy ones), new food products that you might like to try, fitness tips and tricks, mindset strategies, facts vs. fairytales and practical solutions on managing your sleep, stress and nutrition.

I’d like to hear about what tickles your fancy in the world of health and well-being and I’d like to give you inspiration and motivation, new information and hope that you can actually do this thing – all with a bit of humour, because really we all need that don’t we?

Lets do this!

 

 

 

Performance Series 6 February 2019

Julie Meek’s Performance Podcast from 6 February on The Morning Show on 6PR 882 AM Talkback Radio with Gareth Parker. Catch up on information, news and tips on all things performance and nutrition.


If you enjoyed listening to Julie’s Performance Podcast, please subscribe to the series here https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/performance-podcast-with-julie-meek/id863710606?mt=2