To book your 20 minute session in Old Street
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An individual 20 minute hands-on session in the Balanced Resting State: A wonderful de-stress in the middle of the day. I will gently move your limbs and use my voice to soothe and guide you in this deep mindfulness of the body which will lengthen the spine, relax the shoulders, and reduce tension in the neck.
‘I sink into the table and drift into a very conscious peaceful state. My legs and arms seems to get longer. I float out of the room effortlessly. Such a deep rest. A real sanctuary from the busy-ness of the City. Penny’s hands are magic ‘ Nami, singer and teacher.
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Or try it for yourself: spend 10 -20 minutes lying down on the floor every day as shown in the photo, your head supported, eyes open, the knees up, feet shoulder-width apart, arms at your side or resting on your lap. Apart from the first few moments when you want to make sure clothing isn’t rucked up, or a lump on the carpet sticking into you, don’t move. Be still. Don’t do anything.
Why is this a good idea?
It’s a kind of meditation. Allowing yourself not to do anything for 10 – 20 minutes isn’t so easy, so it’s already addressing one common habit these days of being on the go all the time, not giving enough time for yourself, your nervous system always being hyper-alert. When we are stressed, our neck pokes forward as though we are ducking out of the way, our neck muscles tighten, our shoulders hunch up and forward, our legs stiffen, our back is pulled out of shape……alright if it’s a temporary event like when a loud noise goes off nearby, but we creep into this shape and tend to stay in it as we struggle to get everything done in time. So often we are trying hard to get things right, be perfect and hurry up. Not more so than at the computer. All these qualities can affect our natural balance and support. It’s a strange thing but in a society that is bound by ‘doing’ things to get ourselves right, this non-doing stuff is a very powerful tool indeed.
So lying down for ten – twenty minutes is a way of rebooting our computer, refreshing ourselves, sharpening the axe before we go hack down another tree…and as we relax more, we get taller, wider and expand easily out of the tense nervous pulled down shape we’ve given ourselves.
Is it good for the back?
Yes, the pressure on your spine is diminished, and the spine gets longer. Muscles ease and release. Gravity begins to encourage the curves in your spine to release. Between the 24 vertebrae of your spine are discs comprised of an outer ring of tough connective tissue and an inside nucleus of gelatinous fluid. When there is pressure on the spine from the weight of your head for example the fluid gets gently flattened and begins to spread outwards. As soon as you lie down and the pressure is taken off, the fluid collects itself in the middle, creating more buoyancy. The discs become plumper. Think of those gym balls- when you sit on one it doesn’t maintain its spherical shape but gets squashed outwards, but as soon as you get off, it returns to its original shape. So lying down in the semi-supine position, makes your spine longer without you having to do a thing! You can read more about the discs at http://www.lower-back-pain-cured.com/intervertebral-discs.html
Why do I need my head supported?
Without a support, your head may be tipping backwards into the floor, so you find yourself looking at what’s behind you. You need to be looking above you and slightly towards your knees. This particularly helps to lessen excessive curves in the neck and lower back, helping to release muscles that may have been shortened over time, according to your old way of standing.
I suggest you use paperback books to support your head as you can be more precise in the height you need. Too few and your head will be going back and encouraging an excessive curve; too many and you will be restricting your throat. Do use something fairly firm – a soft cushion will adapt to the weight of your head and it will start sinking. If you have that kind of head with bony protrusions, then by all means use a towel or something more cushioned. This isn’t supposed to be painful!
Why have my knees up?
Lie with the legs straight for a moment and you may find that the lower back raises up off the floor. So having the knees up releases muscles responsible for creating an excessive curve in your lower spine. Whatever happens DON’T FORCE YOUR BACK ONTO THE FLOOR. It will get there or be going in that direction by the gentle force of gravity. Leave yourself alone. If you push by tilting your pelvis and tightening your abdominals you will be creating tension that is not natural or needed. (I confess when I started, I had a very ‘hollow’ back as it was called then, and despite my teachers’ instructions I couldn’t resist experimenting a few times with pushing my lower back to the floor. It didn’t work. As soon as I let go the spine would ping back up to an even higher arch. Rats!) Remember, we are supposed to have curves in the spine, otherwise it would be extremely painful to get round as the whole spinal column works as a suspension system. It’s just excessive curves which have affected the spine’s flexibility we need to be wary of.
If you have an excessive curve and there is painful pressure on your sacrum, the bottom of your spine, place a folded scarf or towel there – no greater depth than the flat of your hand:
1. It’s a slight cushion so more comfortable
2. The pelvis will be lifted and tilted, releasing those lower back muscles even more.
DO NOT PLACE IT UNDER THE CURVE IN YOUR LOWER BACK. This will only accentuate and support the curve.
Why are my legs shaking?
They don’t know what to do. It will subside eventually. One of the big habits is to think of legs as a separate part that carries ‘me’ around. We often tighten them, or completely collapse them. Collapse is when they are over-relaxed and there is little connection between brain and muscle. So this is good practice to re-establish our legs as part of our whole selves and learn to balance without tension. When I first started this I couldn’t manage without holding the legs in place. As soon as I let go, they’d flop to either side. Very digital – switched on or switched off. I experimented with thinking to keep them up – thinking the knees up to the ceiling, thinking the diagonal connection between my left shoulder and right leg, or my right shoulder to my left leg. But best of all I would simply lay a coat or towel or similar weighty cloth over my knees, so that the friction prevented the knees from dropping outward. I offer this as a solution to you if you find you are holding your legs in place, rather than finding a natural balance. After a while of course I didn’t need this prop, and now can keep them up happily without any effort. Don’t be tempted to turn your foot inward to help the balance. This is not a natural way for your standing or sitting and you don’t want to encourage this. And remember to place the feet shoulder width apart. For some of you who like to stand with your feet close together this may seem very wide, and not very familiar. Have a go, nonetheless.
Why do I need to keep my eyes open?
Generally we associate lying down with sleep, so this is a way to keep wakeful. After all you want to reorganise your brain so you can find a relaxed way of standing and sitting in your daily life – it won’t be much use if you have to close your eyes as you are inputting vital information on a computer or driving the car for example! Also as we close our eyes sometimes we can go into a deep internal state – either concentrating on our internal physical state, or the mind churning over and over on some knotty problem. By keeping the eyes open and lively (blink if you find your eyes glazing over) it is more possible to stay in the present, widening our attention to the room around us. Heavy concentrated thinking is not needed for this work, but instead a casual, light, indirect approach. When I gaze at the night sky there are some stars that are so faint if I stare at them directly, they disappear – if I gently shift my eyes to the left or right the stars reappear, I am seeing them out of the corner of my eye. That’s what needed here.
Can I listen to the radio or use my headphones? And can I shift myself into a better position if I think I need it?
I wouldn’t listen to music or the radio at first. Listen to the sounds around, and listen to yourself – you may begin to notice muscles releasing, unwinding, begin to imagine you are not straight, one side heavier than the other. Take a moment at the beginning to ‘scan’ yourself as it were, and at the end of 20 minutes, ‘scan’ yourself again. You may notice a shift – more of you may be on the floor for example. Resist the temptation to adjust yourself to what you think may be a better position. How do you know what is a better position? Maybe you need to unwind and maybe you are unwinding out of an asymmetrical shape into a more symmetrical one – but your old way of thinking may not discern this accurately. So leave yourself alone and enjoy.
Why 10 – 20 minutes?
After 20 minutes there may be too much pressure for it to be comfortable any longer. The change that‘s going to happen will happen within 20 minutes. Best to lay down 20 minutes 2x a day than 40 minutes 1x. Anything less than 10 minutes will not help much.
What’s the best way to get up?
If you’ve just spent 20 minutes re-booting you don’t want to come back to the upright by pulling yourself out of sorts again, so resist the temptation to do a sit-up. Instead, roll over onto all fours – let your eyes lead, your head follow, bring an arm over, and as the rotation begins, let your knees join in. Once on all fours, check that your neck hasn’t drooped, but that the top of your head is pointed towards the wall , then sit back on your heels, rise up to high kneeling, bring one foot forward and balance on both back and front foot as your head leads you up to full standing. Place a chair nearby if you need that as extra balance. Stay there for a while, then walk slowly around in a nice easy manner. Don’t try to hold yourself up in anyway.