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Healing Space Blog...

Stress release is not all serious - there's laughter too

June, 2018

You might think that the business of T.R.E. stress release must be a very serious and emotional business, but this is definitely not always the case.  Of course there are times when a client releases something deeply moving, but quite often especially during first session clients want to laugh.  Why is this? Because T.R.E. is a truly amazing natural release coming from the core muscles of the body;  these core muscles (the psoas or "fight/flight" muscles) can start to move and shake and wobble and release and it can feel like a massage from the inside out.  It's great and people sometimes just want to laugh.  I remember one course I ran where every participant was laughing at session 1... and of course the more we release through T.R.E. and allow the nervous system to come back into balance, we bring the "rest and digest" part of the nervous system back on line so the more happy, relaxed and sociable we feel.  When I remember, I do tell groups to laugh if they want to laugh, because oddly we sometimes also want to stop ourselves and feel it "should" be serious...I must say though, there's nothing wrong either if you don't feel like laughing, it all depends on what is held in the body and that will be different every time someone comes to their mat for T.R.E. practice.

We have lots of workshops and courses coming up this autumn and I look forward to seeing what they brings, maybe some laughter, maybe not.

Are anxiety and stress an epidemic now as our society becomes more and more device/head based? What's the solution?

July, 2018

I've been thinking about stress and anxiety and why it seems to be an epidemic; my personal theory is that we are all spending so much more time on devices that it is making us more and more "head" based, and that stress, tension and anxiety that builds in the body doesn't get a chance to release. I can feel it in my own body if I spend too much time on my laptop (how ironic as I've been sitting here too long now and can actually feel it myself right now). 

Exercise and being active helps, but it's not the whole story as humans have repressed  two of the main mechanisms that nature gave us for stress release (Tremoring - TRE - and Breath). The cutting edge of psychiatry is saying that we need to get stress, anxiety and trauma OUT OF THE BODY and that talking alone often cannot do that (there's a lot of science backing this up now, and showing that stressful and traumatic events are trapped in the mind/body as sensory information, and often haven't been able to process fully through to the left side of the brain which enables us to truly know at all levels that the event was the past and no longer needs to bother us).  Our rational thinking minds are also so clever - and often detached from the body - that we can talk about our stress or trauma, without actually having  released it ...


I can start getting quite geeky about all the science, but won't pontificate too much now; Professor Bessel Van Der Kolk's book says it all "The Body Keeps The Score".  TRE gets underneath the rational thinking brain, into the Brain Stem and allows us to release nervous system tension at a much deeper level than our mind can grasp.  The "no-talking" aspect of TRE can also feel like a huge relief, and many describe it as "liberating" to free up the body/mind through this practice.

So I am offering early bird booking rates on all TRE Workshops and Courses until the end of the July. I am particularly looking forward to my first workshop for Young People, on 8th September as they are a group - more device based than ever - who seem to desperately need empowering practices to release and manage stress. 

"If music be the food of love, play on" ... the interesting science behind this 

Aug, 2018

There’s science behind Shakespeare’s assertion that “music be the food of love”.

As well as being soothing to all of us, music can also help the traumatised to come back to a more socially engaged state according to Neuroscientist Professor Steven Porges. This is because sound can directly activate our vagus nerve (the largest nerve in the parasympathetic nervous system - our rest, relax and digest side). Just in the way that a mother’s soft voice or lullaby can calm a baby, we can all be soothed by the right kinds of auditory stimulation.

We all need to bring our parasympathetic nervous system on line more; it helps us feel relaxed, happy, sociable and engaged with life. When the sympathetic (fight/flight) side is even slightly dominant, our serotonin production decreases, for example, you wouldn't want to feel warm and fuzzy when you need to fight. 

 So music or soothing sounds can be one way to help us engage the vagus nerve and feel calmer, which is just one of the reasons why sound healing can be so relaxing.

The opposite can happen too so shouting or harsh noises can set us on edge and engage the brake onto our vagus nerve, which then activates the sympathetic nervous system (our fight/flight response). Essentially the vagus nerve is linked to our feelings of safety, allowing us to sense when it’s safe to relax, or when we need to be on alert.

As mammals this nerve developed in a highly complex way and it connects to many parts of the body, so as well as the ears it connect to the gut, heart, lungs, facial muscles, and throat. That’s why it’s called the vagus nerve, because it literally wanders – like a vagrant – all over the body. All of these are sending and receiving signals from the brain, so there’s two way feedback happening via the nervous system. The essential question being asked continuously at a subconscious level, is “am I safe”, if safe then relax, if not safe then put the brake onto the vagus nerve.

Apart from music, there are of course many other ways to soothe the nervous system and bring the vagus nerve online, rhythmic movement (exercise, dancing …), rocking, yoga, breathing practices, T.R.E., and bodywork are some.

So one of the reasons why I always play music at my sessions is that soothing music is a beautiful way to stimulate the vagus nerve and help create a calming environment that feels safe and good to be in, then we can start to let go. Combine that with T.R.E. and Breathwork, as all my sessions do, and you have a recipe for true relaxation as well as calming tools for use in daily life (see upcoming courses and workshops on the T.R.E. Events Page).

More on breathing next month...I am currently recording some guided breath relaxations so will be sending them out to everyone on my mailing list as soon as they are ready.

On that note I am off to pack ready for Didmarton Blue Grass Festival, to immerse in beautiful soul soothing music.

Our breath can be a simple yet profound way to:

• increase our energy

• live more alive

• heal deep seated issues such as anxiety and depression ...

Sep, 2018

 All the spiritual masters talk about the importance of breath in connecting us to our life force so allowing more life, energy, and so much more…

There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then there’s another way: a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity. Rumi

Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. Thich Nhat Hanh

When the breath wanders the mind also is unsteady. But when the breath is calmed the mind too will be still and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore one should learn to control the breath.Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about breath, as there is just so much that could be said. As an Apprentice Breathworker studying with AIR, I learn more every week, BUT what I do know is that we don’t need to be a spiritual master or even practice yoga to learn simple and easy methods to improve our breathing, enhance our health, calm our chattering minds and soothe our nervous systems. It’s one of the simplest and easily accessible methods that we can use, any time, any place, to improve how we feel.

It’s easy to underestimate the power of it, but if you think about it logically the neural links from brain to our breathing apparatus are the fastest in our bodies; if there’s any impediment to breathing, our brain needs to know about it pretty quickly in order to resolve the issue, we have approximately 3 minutes to do so as most of us can’t last longer than that without breathing. When we change our breathing, we send a message very quickly via our nervous system to our brain, which tells us that we are calm. It’s a question of “faking it until you make it”, a bottom up, body/mind approach !

Humans mostly don’t do it (breathing) properly, drunks and babies are apparently the only ones who breathe in the relaxed way that nature intended. As with T.R.E. the breath is something we’ve learned to repress. You can even hear reference to this repression in our language when someone is stressed we often say “….AND Breathe” or after a stressful event “you can breathe now”.  Anxious shallow high breathing is what most of us do, to a greater or lesser extent, and we become so used to it that we don’t even know it’s happening. When we breathe this way we are constantly reinforcing the nervous system’s fight/flight response. But we don’t need to reach for the bottle of wine or wish we were still a baby to establish good breathing habits!

Naturally animals breathe in a relaxed way that comes from the diaphragm. Animals also breathe in a “connected” way, so there is no pause between in breath and out breath. Although many valuable yoga breath techniques include pauses, our breathing when we are in deep sleep, for example is connected. Stopping and constricting our breath, is a learned behaviour that we have conditioned ourselves to practice as a way to stop ourselves feeling. The deeper diaphragmatic, connected breath stimulates that all important vagus nerve, and bring the “rest and digest” side of the nervous system on line, allowing the “fight/flight” side to stand down.

Coherent Breathing (also known as Resonant breathing); it’s simple yet profound and scientifically proven - over hundreds of studies - to improve health in many ways. It’s something that I teach to all my clients, and tell everyone who will listen! It’s something I do every day, and my teacher Brigitte Martin-Powell is teaching it to refugees as part of a developing UN programme, to give them a simple way to restore balance to their stressed nervous systems The Young People I’ve been working with recently are finding it very helpfuland I practice it daily. Combine it with diaphragmatic breathing and we have a simple and effective daily tool to support our wellbeing.

If you want to read more about Coherent Breathing, here’s a link to the homework that I set for all my clients. I start every client session, workshop and course with this breath. It includes recommended breathing Apps, which can really support learning this breath.

As part of World Mental Health Day next week, I am offering two FREE events in the next few days where you can come, listen to a talk about our mind/body and nervous system, then lie down relax and learn this amazing yet simple technique. 

A simple stress interruper

Dec, 2018

1. Smile – even a fake smile does actually make you feel better, as silly as it may feel initially.

2. Posture – sit or stand up straight rather than being hunched up.

3. Breathe – Coherent Breathing (6 seconds in, 6 seconds out) – see the full homework with App recommendation here

4. Tapping - You can learn EFT tapping, but just simply tapping with all your fingers over your head and chest can break up the cycle.

5. Stop focusing on the symptoms – this will only exacerbate the stress, the breath gives you something more positive to focus on and can interrupt the thoughts too, whilst helping mind and body to come back to a more relaxed state. So breathe breathe and breathe some more. 

The Healing Power of a 20 Second Hug

Jul, 2019

I posted about this in the May Healing Space Newsletter - but since then have had a ponder as what if there isn't someone around to hug for 20 seconds? Read on!

Hugging for two

A hug that lasts 20 seconds or more has positive therapeutic effects.  It increases Oxytocin, our "feel good" hormone, and reduces the harmful physical effects of stress, including it's impact on your blood pressure and heart rate.  In our family we've made it a "3 Breath Hug", so 3 long slow deep breaths, which is much more relaxing than counting (which gets you into your head). By breath 3 I can feel my teenagers softening (I've insisted we have at least 2 of these hugs a day, and they are doing it!). 

Looking for images of hugging I came across the one here; it really moved me (click on the image to read more) 

Hugging for one

So if it's just you, instead what you can do is put one hand on your heart and the other on your solar plexus, now take 3 long slow deep breaths, breathing first into the belly hand, then up into the heart if you have enough air space left. Focus your attention on the in breath, and on the out breath just let go like the feeling when you have a bit sigh; you could even connect the breaths so there's no gap between the in and out breath. Now notice how you feel.

Maybe even try 20, and see you how feel then!

Article: Hugging makes you healthier