Monday Moves: Get back in the saddle/ Sich wieder aufschwingen

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I went riding yesterday. Unfortunately since moving to NYC, it has been sporadic and this time I was aching to finally do a little bit of obstacle jumping again. And I did. A small jump trotting and two in a row cantering. It's like riding a bicycle, you don't forget. There's the hand-eye coordination, giving the horse impulses, verbal and physical, looking at the obstacles, not turning the corner too narrow to stay in a easy canter, looking ahead, lifting out of the saddle (just a bit) and then take off :) I am the happiest person in the world today. I'm also super sore. And if this experience has reminded me of one thing it is that all it takes often to overcome set backs or difficult situations is to giddy up or to be less literal, to get back in the saddle. To try again and to ultimately stick with things until they become a routine. Then, when the routine is there... tackle something new.

“Courage does not always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, 'I will try again tomorrow.”

― Mary Anne Radmacher

Gestern bin ich reiten gegangen. Leider kann ich das nicht mehr so oft, seit ich nach NYC gezogen bin und diesmal war ich sehr aufgeregt, weil ich endlich wieder Springreiten wollte. Und ich hab es getan. Ein kleiner Sprung aus dem Trab und zwei hinter einander weg aus dem Gallopp. Und was kann ich sagen, es ist wie Radfahren, man vergisst es nicht. Da ist einmal die Hand-Augen Koordination, dem Pferd Impulse zu geben, sowohl mit Worten als auch nur mit dem Körper, sich das Hindernis anzusehen, die Kurve nicht zu eng zu nehmen um in einem leichten Gallopp zu bleiben, vorausschauen, sich aus dem Sattel erheben (nur ein wenig) und dann der Absprung :) Ich bin heute die glücklichste Person auf der Welt. Und ich habe mega Muskelkater. Und gestern hat mich besonders an eines erinnert, nämlich dass es oft nur die eine Möglichkeit gibt, des sich wieder Aufschwingens um sich von einer schwierigen Situation zu befreien oder schwierige Umstände zu überwinden. Man muss sich wieder aufschwingen. Es wieder versuchen und im Ende dabei bleiben bis es zur Routine wird. Dann, wenn die Routine wieder da ist.... tu etwas Neues.

"Mut ist nicht immer ein lautes Gebrüll. Mut ist manchmal die leise Stimme, die am Ende des Tages spricht: “Morgen versuche ich es wieder”

― Mary Anne Radmacher

5 ways to get back to a healthy back

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I mention in my about section that I suffered from sciatica... It started at the ripe age of 28 and I had no idea what was happening. I was in a very stressful office environment under a lot of pressure to make a project happen and suddenly my leg started aching. Having just run a half marathon I assumed I hadn't trained appropriately or over-trained or simply wasn't young enough anymore to bounce back without problems as I would have ten years earlier.

With more pain that wouldn't stop, other thoughts came up: "it's the long term effects of training so hard as a young person", "I have a serious injury that I keep aggravating by exercising", "maybe I should try yoga", "ouch, stretching hurts- yoga is not the solution".

I became increasingly alarmed and stopped running, by this time the pain was shooting down my hamstring into the back of my knee and all the way down into my pinky toe. The result was that I couldn't sit in an office chair for many hours a day and worse, even lying became a problem.

I spent hundreds of dollars on heat patches, arnica, traumeel, tiger balm, eventually acupuncture and a chiropractor. I tried for as long as I could to stay away from pain medication to avoid getting hooked on them. What I didn't know at the time because it had never happened to me, was that chronic pain can cause a large number of other related issues: my digestion became horrible, irregular and it caused weight gain, any meal caused painful bloating. This was closely followed by skin problems, my face became a minefield of acne that I couldn't get under control, so I stopped going 'bare' and used more make up (I don't have to tell you that that wasn't a great idea). Other side effects included fear because I didn't understand what was happening and people suggested herniated and/or bulging discs, anxiety trying to still do well in my job and ultimately a slight onset of depression because nothing worked.

I am not trying to depress you here, but this is to show you how bad it was for me... Eventually I found out what sciatica was (I was way too young for it, but it is happening more to younger people).

And here is, what helped me:

  1. Realizing that there is usually a psychological component to physical pain that becomes chronic. I had gone through a breakup, work was intense and I tried to do it all at once, all by myself, and as fast as possible.
  2. Finding out that my pelvis and therefore my hips and shoulder strap were about 2 inches higher on one side (no wonder I was in pain). An amazing chiropractor placed a finger on my right hip and then one on my left, stepped back and showed me...
  3. Accepting that anti-inflammatory medication when used responsibly to avoid pain and manage it, will help. I was always worried about addiction.
  4. Walking away from doctors that were ready to operate, prescribe incredibly strong pain medication for open-ended periods of time and generally anyone who told me that I would never be well again.
  5. Listening to myself and addressing the root of the problem, namely the anxiety that was caused by my job, the stress that came with it and learning relaxation techniques (I went back to autogenic training, tried meditation and learned how to do yoga without overstretching which can aggravate lower back issues). Also, mindfully removing those same triggers from my personal life, carving out 'me time' and not being rushed.

I get VERY few onsets of sciatica these days, a whole lot of things have to happen all at once to bring on an attack but I've also learned exercises and tools to get back to pain free. It took 2 years to get to where I am now. And I am writing this article precisely because I don't want people to wait as long as I did, to take action and hopefully avoid surgery.

The NY Times Health and Science section posted an article today on how back pain is being over-treated. I will be posting a video of a few exercises to help level the pelvis and restore balance in the hips, soon; to contribute to healing naturally and empowering individuals like you, to stop the pain.

I hope you will like it and mostly of course, that you don't need it in the first place!

Today I ask you to tuck your pelvis and engage your core!

xxR

 

 

5 Ways To Lead A Balanced Lifestyle

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Let's be honest. How many of us really lead a balanced lifestyle? What does balance actually mean?

My clients (and friends) often ask me this question and my first response is always that it can mean different things for different people and striving for that balance is an ongoing process. But there are a few things you can remind yourself of daily to make the process easier:

  1. Allow yourself to eat everything in moderation. We all know that starving ourselves or following every new diet neither makes us happy nor helps us maintain a healthy weight sustainably. Indulging in our favorite chocolate or savory treat now and again won't cause us to put on weight if it is an exception to our otherwise healthy lifestyle. I believe an 80/20 per cent rule ensures that we don't feel deprived.

  1. Surround yourself with people who want the best for you. Our lifestyles are often busy. Stress is the number one culprit that leads to issues with our weight, insomnia and adrenal fatigue and just makes us generally unhappy. Having good friends who help us maneuver through difficult situations, people to talk to and supportive partners, is key to dealing with the things life throws at us.

  1. Meditate. I have to remind myself to keep a regular meditation practice and when I do, it is so worth it. As much as meditation is introspective it also allows me to take a step back and assess situations more clearly with less emotional attachment. Keeping a journal for ideas that pop up during meditation has proven useful, too. Sometimes it's my most creative time of the day!

  1. Exercise or get moving. It is no secret, that physical exercise releases endorphins and a really good yoga class will leave you relaxed and ready to take on the world. I personally believe that if exercise is a part of your life that you enjoy and look forward to, rather than dreading it, it will lead you to making healthier food choices and other good decisions in our life. Just a stroll after dinner, now that the weather is warmer in the Northern hemisphere, has a calming effect and can keep you away from continuing to eat in front of the TV.

  1. Switch it off! Move away from your phone, laptop and television for a while. We are exposed to technology almost 24/7 so we need to make a conscious decision to stay away from social media and virtual communities to make room for enjoying the outdoors, having a meal in nice company without our phone on the table and allowing our other senses to kick in. When is the last time you've spent time sitting in the park watching your surrounding, listening to birds and smelling the flowers?

Exercise and Grief - A new chapter in my life after a devastating loss

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My former coach and I knew each other for the better part of my life. I first met him when I was 12, just entering adolescence, awkward and lanky, not quite sure of who I was or wanted to be. He was decisive, driven, and decided on the spot that I was going to be a pentathlete - on the German National Team. He had coached others to the international level and with me he said we could reach for the Olympics, the only obstacle was likely to be the national coaches who might try to interfere with the timeline he had in mind. Looking back, the following years were a blur of incredibly intense training, setbacks through injury, celebratory post-victory fast food, Rage against the Machine as motivation for me to run faster and a bond with an individual who came to know me inside out.  He was able to push me through seemingly insurmountable blocks, both mental and physical.

Fast forward ten years, I hadn't qualified for the Sydney Olympics but I had given my all. I made a decision to focus on my academic career rather than wait 4 years for the next chance. I bid the team farewell and went to finish my Masters in Sports Science and Communications. My work eventually brought me to New York and a life far away from athletics. However, after several years of working in an office job, I couldn't ignore the yearning to be fit again. I ran a half marathon and proved to myself that I could still run, I worked out and coached friends, took up martial arts and eventually started doing yoga, which reminded me a lot of the gymnastics my coach had encouraged to improve my swimming. And I discussed everything I did with him via email and phone.

And then he had a skiing accident. He wrote me an email the day after my birthday, saying that he was going in for knee surgery and would call me after he recovered. But he never did. He died of a complication post-surgery.

It has only been 16 months and the void he left is still palpable for me. We were on different continents and leading busy lives but our past always connected us. And just as I had made a conscious decision to break free from my office job and pursue my passion again, I couldn't tap into his well of knowledge any longer. Grieving was a necessary and painful process and a learning opportunity. I turned to what I knew best: exercise. Every run and every yoga class relieved a bit of the heaviness I was feeling. Meditation helped to analyze the feeling and clear the mind.

It's been proven that exercise offers many benefits for coping with grief, just as it does with anxiety and depression; two other common ailments in today's society. Exercise forces us to be out in public again or to connect deep within. It releases endorphins that bring about a sense of well-being and deep breathing releases tension. Grief can strike the body and seriously impact its immune system which can also be prevented by exercising regularly. And ultimately one of the most beautiful ways to honour the loss of a loved one is to race in their name to help others. Because volunteering for a good cause heals, too.

It's long been an aspiration of mine to create a practice based on everything I have learned and to share it with others. This first post feels like an appropriate way to honour the memory of someone who was a great teacher of mine and continues to inspire me. I only wish he was here to witness it.