Shake it Off
Mother’s Day has mixed feelings for me. I have 3 teenagers and I absolutely love being a mother, but I lost my own mother 16 years ago to breast cancer. There are times around significant life events like Mother’s Day, perhaps you can relate to this, where I get completely caught up in missing my mom and I feel like a child inside. Sometimes it’s hard to get myself out of a funk for a few days. But life keeps moving, you shake it off, and eventually the sadness passes.
In my work as a Yoga Tune Up® Teacher, which includes yoga, corrective exercise and self-massage with therapy balls, my student base has expanded over the years to include professional and D1 collegiate coaches and athletes of multiple sports as part of their training programs. These young athletes have tremendous stress on them to compete for playing time, win games (and championships), make appearances outside of practice time, keep grades up – not to mention the stress of being away from home, some for the first time ever. The expectation of being a “pro” exists even at the college level. Game time situations are high stakes, and it is said that a basketball athletes body, for example, goes through several car accident-level incidents during each game. The physical and mental toll is sharp and can be long lasting. The term “shake it off” is a normal part of sports lingo. But can you really simply just move on from such jolts to your body and brain?
Learning to Grow
One thing I noticed is that these young athletes were used to being coached, and therefore were open to being students of their craft and their bodies. This is at the core of what we teach in Yoga Tune Up®. Our sessions were centered around learning their own anatomy, learning tools and techniques to improve movement patterns used in their sports, to be a self-reliant and skilled soft tissue hygienist of their bodies. Those that applied themselves were able to make connections between the performance enhancing techniques we were learning with the self soothing or self-parenting potential of this work. An upper body roll-out in between a bus or plane ride or a legs-up-a-wall moment at the end of a hard practice session combined with diaphragmatic breathing not only helps your body recover, it reboots your brain and nervous system – and your soul. I’ve witnessed the physical and mental resiliency and increased self reliance in these amazing athletes, not to mention in myself from when I do my own self care.
Roll it Out
Self care techniques such as the Yoga Tune Up® teaching methods go beyond sports performance and affect the lives of anyone needing some self parenting. Stress, anxiety and emotions, such as sadness, pass sooner when a conscious choice is made to honor that emotion combined with a self care technique, such as the ones I’ve highlighted below. So, have a pick-myself-up-by-the-boot-straps chat with yourself, grab some therapy balls, and self-parent yourself through a difficult moment. Stay with it for as long as you feel your mood shift and make self parenting moments a regular part of your day.
General directions to athletes and anyone who wants to maintain healthy feet as they age: I recommend you do some form of embodied foot massage before and after each and every practice and game. Use these techniques as a localized movement prep before you lace up your sport shoes to improve your embodied intelligence of your feet. What does that mean? Awakening the relationship between your brain through your shoes to your toes, this connection is something you need in the heat of sport to positively affect the directionality of your ground force production. Key moment: pause between your work with each foot, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and *see* the foot you just worked on with your inner vision. This is what proprioception means or what we call in yoga, developing your mind/body connection.
Don’t wait for the athletic trainer or masseuse to do this for you on their time. Self-treatment deepens your proprioception, which doesn’t happen when you zone out when getting a massage from someone else.
Foot roll-out: Use these foot roll out techniques as a dose of soul-rolling self care before bed to improve tissue perfusion (your bodies ability to absorb the days nutrients and hydration) and to self soothe.
Self-massaging your feet with your hands: Make an intention with this self foot massage of embracing the sometimes hard work of adulting and self-parent your way to a more resilient person. Take 5 or 10 minutes to massage your own feet. It’s my favorite way to self treat that I do daily. Use lotion to get just the right amount of soothing friction and create manageable traction between your toes and tissues. You’ll also get the bonus of working on your hip and low back mobility by the act of embracing the struggle to sit in a position that allows you to reach your own feet. Treat your tissues with loving respect as you sweep in between each set of long foot bones towards each toe. Breathe.
Abdominal thoracic breathing: Self-soothing and down-regulation is only a breath away with abdominal thoracic breath.
Self-care techniques such as the Yoga Tune Up® teaching methods go beyond sports performance and affect the lives of anyone needing some self-parenting.