How Meditation Changes Your Brain For The Better


Lately everyone’s talking about meditation and just how good it is for you and a lot of that buzz is thanks to research showing the positive effects of meditation on the brain. You have probably heard about neuroplasticity, a mouthful of a word that means your brain can change and that’s a quite big deal because the prevailing logic until the 1980’s was that once you became an adult you were stuck with the brain you had. Now we know you can continue to train your brain much like you can train your muscles and one of the most cutting edge brain training tools is, of course, meditation.

Here’s how:

De-stress your amygdala

Meditators know it and now science has explained why meditation makes you feel so damn relaxed. It comes down to meditation switching off activity in the amygdala –  the part of the brain that becomes overstimulated with chronic stress and anxiety. Meditation not only makes you less reactive it also boosts your resilience to stress.


Thicken Your Cortex

Meditation makes your cortex thicker but that’s a good thing! Thickening of the cortex is associated with boosting your memory and attention as well as your brain’s ability to plan and organize. It also points to the potential for meditation to prevent the thinning of the cortex associate with old age memory loss.


Happy Hippocampus

Meditation has been shown to boost the level of grey matter (science speak for brain power) in the part of your brain linked to positive emotions as well as emotional stability – the hippocampus.


Juice up your Junctures

Not only does meditation make you feel good it also makes you a kinder more compassionate person thanks to the activation of you temporal parietal junctures. This area in your brain is tied to empathy and means you are more willing to respond to those in need.

The wealth of research showing the benefits of meditation is amazing and the results being produced are astonishing however I’m sure what we have already seen is just the tip of the iceberg of what we will discover about the benefits of meditation.

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. 

Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment with Wes

Beat the bloat and feel better (for Summer)


You know that uncomfortable feeling when your tummy feels swollen and bloated. You may notice it happens after eating too quickly or having something you know doesn’t sit well with you… Maybe it happens after a certain meal, or perhaps it’s even become kind of normal.

That constant uncomfortable feeling and tightness around the waistband; self-consciousness from feeling like you must look 6 months pregnant or closely resemble Santa; skipping meals to avoid blowing up or not being able to “stomach” certain foods at certain times; sporting a classic muffin top and daydreaming about being able to slip back your comfy pants can really suck the joy out of your day. Especially when it starts to become more of a “norm”.

But did you know that it’s not just “normal”?

A bloated tummy can be caused by a number of factors, and usually a little combination of them, such as:
• Diet and reactive foods/drinks such as that toast or cereal you had for breakfast, the latte midmorning, or perhaps the wine at the end of the day
• Not chewing food properly
• Inadequate enzymes and gastric secretions
•Stress (a major culprit, going hand-in-hand with dietary causes) –and can be situational, everyday stuff or accumulative, and includes aspects like rushing around, feeling time poor, eating-on- the-run, and particularly mental or emotional upsets. Deadlines, places to be, something pressing or on your mind?
• Permeability of the gut wall (is it letting toxins leak into the bloodstream?) from certain foods (especially processed, sugary, wheat or dairy based foods), medications -including oral contraceptive pill, antibiotics and over the counter stuff like paracetamol, hayfever meds; alcohol; parasitic infections; chemotherapy; and stress.

Did you know…

The gut, digestive system, our thoughts and emotions are inextricably linked…This is via the nervous system which keeps them highly attuned to one another, which we know often at a more intuitive level which we articulate through the language we use when we refer to having a gut feeling; or having the guts to do something; getting the (insert appropriate proverbial that starts with ‘sh’ and ends with ‘s’) with someone or something; when something doesn’t “digest” or “go down” well; feeling sick in the guts or sick to the stomach about something…

So how healthy is your gut? Is there an imbalance of harmful (unhealthy and disease causing) bacteria (badies) vs beneficial bacteria (the good guys) in the gut, compromising its delicate ecosystem?

This can manifest with a number of digestive and non-digestive related symptoms, with bloating being high on the list…

If you experience regular bouts of bloating, it’s likely there is more to the story and probably not just “something you ate”.

But the good news is, you don’t have to put up with it and you can beat the bloat this Summer by following some simple principles and practices.

Left unchecked, an imbalance ofharmful bacteria (aka bacterial dysbiosis) can be responsible for a whole gamut of unfriendly symptoms, butcan lead to more serious conditions such asinflammation of the bowel and autoimmune activity.

Here is a common cluster of symptoms that often accompany bloating, and may be indicative of something more going on:

  • Brain fog: impaired clarity of thought, poor concentration and memory –for example, with word recall or forgetting what you came into the room for or what you were going to do next…
  • Mood disturbances such as depression and irritability
  • Fatigue/Chronic fatigue
  • Seemingly uncontrollable cravings for sweet, surgary foods (candida feeds on sugar)
  • Poor immune function e.g. more susceptible to infections going around such as colds/flus
  • Autoimmune activation as seen in Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple sclerosis…
  • White coating on tongue
  • Belching
  • Abdominal pain
  • Excessive need to pass wind
  • Sensation of food sitting in the stomach after eating
  • IBS and Inflamed bowel
  • Headaches & migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Poor stool quality
  • Insomnia
  • Rashes
  • Easily broken nails
  • Itchy skin, ears, nose, throat, vagina, penis, “jock itch”,perianal region, feet(Althlete’s foot)
  • Cystitis
  • Weight gain
  • and last but certainly not least, Bloating!

If you'd like to get your digestion back on track and end the discomfort of bloating then come and see me, I'd love to help.

Shanna Choudhary, Live Well Naturopath

Shanna is a qualified Naturopath and EFT Practitioner, and member of the Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). 

Shanna's interest in natural medicine came about through her own health challenges. She has a special interest in helping people with natural fertility, hormone balance, stressanxietydepression, fatigue and general wellbeing. 

Learn more about Shanna
Make an appointment to see Shanna


Are You Magnesium Deficient?

Did you know that magnesium levels in the body are depleted by stress as well as regular intake of refined sugar and caffeine. It’s no wonder that some health experts estimate that magnesium deficiency is a silent epidemic potentially affecting up to 90% of the population. 

Magnesium is crucial for wellbeing. It’s involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and is vital for healthy muscle and nerve function, maintaining normal blood pressure and heart rhythm as well as optimal metabolism and immune function. 

What are the sign of deficiency? 

Magnesium deficiency can impact on the following areas: 

Cramps and spasms, tics and twitches are clear signs that your body needs more magnesium. 

Mental Health
Anxiety and depression are both linked to inadequate magnesium. Whilst more research is needed magnesium seems to have a protective effect on mood. 

Magnesium helps both the body and mind to relax which contributes to restful sleep. Additionally magnesium is required for the ‘off switch’ or GABA receptors in the brain to be triggered. 

Magnesium is crucial in the production of cellular energy, meaning inadequate levels can show up as fatigue and low energy levels. 

High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure you definitely should be looking at your magnesium intake. 

How to replenish your magnesium level

You can boost your magnesium levels through dietary rich sources including: spinach, pumpkin seeds, yoghurt, almonds, black beans, avocados, bananas, figs and dark chocolate. 

Topical applications, like epsom salt baths and magnesium oils and sprays (which you can find at your health food store) are an easy way for your body to absorb and replenish magnesium. 

You can also take magnesium tablets and solutions however I would always recommend consulting with our naturopath Shanna Choudhary so you get the right kind of magnesium and the right dose for your needs. 

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

Learn more about Wes
Make an appointment to see Wes

Hot Stone Massage

As we step into the new season of Winter, hot stone massage can really bring some warmth back into our chilly bones. For those people who can never seem to get warm until spring comes again, hot stone massage can be a lovely way to come out of hibernation. Like stepping out on a cold day but into the sunlight… with the suns rays warming your body against the cold. Hot stone is the next best thing on those cold grey days we often have throughout the winter here in Canberra.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of receiving a hot stone massage knows the intense feeling of relaxation it provides. But do you know that there are long term, lasting benefits of hot stone massage?

The Secret is in the Stone

A hot stone massage combines thermotherapy with massage techniques to provide an effective healing therapy.  The use of natural stones in conjunction with massage uses powerful earth energies to help the patient heal. Heat from stones also has the benefit of geomagnetism from a Earth source; which has a balancing and healing effect on our systems.

Discover the Deeper Effects of the Stone

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of having a hot stone massage; it consists of both warm and hot stones placed directly on the body as well as being used as a massage tool.  The localised placement of heat on a particular area increases circulation of fluids, and can assist in alleviating organ congestion. When placed along meridian points, they can assist in removing energy blockages that lead to the development of disease, illness. Massage with the hot stones reduce swelling, pain and stimulate lymphatic drainage.

Some benefits of hot stone massage include:

  • Improves circulation
  • Decongestion of the liver by relaxing ducts
  • Detoxifies blood with sweating much the same as a sauna
  • Helps with hydrating and flushing cells
  • Relaxes muscles, soothes aches
  • Increases range of motion in joint movement
  • Lymphatic drainage and cleansing
  • Relieves stress

People who love the Hot Stones, do so because it's like a hot water bottle for the body, a gentle all over relaxing feeling, which calms the body and the soul. So book in for yourself to experience this bliss and reap the benefits. It can be a great part of your wellness program for the winter.

Click here to book a hot stone massage at Live Well Naturally now!

When Green Tea Met It’s Matcha

Superfoods are like the boy bands of the wellness industry, after their 5 minutes of fame they are shuffled off to obscurity as soon as the next big thing arrives. 

It wasn't long ago that spinach was crowned a superfood only for kale to come along steal it’s glory. Come 2016 and, I’m not making this up, kalettes (a hybrid kale and brussel sprout fusion) is poised to wrest leafy green supremacy. 

So spare a thought for humble green tea, in it’s halcyon days it was hailed for its low caffeine and high flavonoids and catechins. Then matcha tea came along boasting 137 times higher antioxidant levels and suddenly it was the tea being invited to New York fashion week. I say this as a friend green tea, it’s time to move on before you become the nutritional equivalent of the Backstreet Boys. 

To its credit, matcha does have an intriguing backstory. It’s comes from the same humble Camellia sinensis bush as green (and black) tea but matcha has lead a more rarefied life. First it was grown under shade to protect it’s delicate flavour and texture, then hand picked whist still young and packed with nutrient vigour and then delicately steamed, stemmed and stone ground into a fine powder ready for you and me to enjoy. 

The thing that strikes you about matcha is its intensely vibrant green colour which is a clue to all those ‘show offy’ nutrients. Traditionally a teaspoon of the powder is whisked with a bamboo brush into half a cup of not quite boiled water until a foam is created. This health promoting elixir is said to aid weight loss, improve concentration, reduce stress, detoxify your liver and boost your energy levels. Remarkably it also tastes pretty good.

So, by all means, keep drinking green tea just be sure to do it in your Led Zeppelin t-shirt and Ray Ban aviators to complete the retro ensemble. However, if you want to capture the 2016 wellness zeitgeist then don’t be seen with anything but a bowl of foaming matcha. 

Words by Wes Smith

Wes Smith is Live Well's Director and has 20 years experience as a practitioner and wellness educator. He has a special interest in working with chronic immune issues, stressanxiety and depression
Wes is passionate about inspiring and educating people to create and sustain their vitality and wellbeing so they can live life to the full.
Wes also enjoys teaching meditation and is the creator of an online resource for learning how to meditate. es has a B.App.Sc.(Acup), Diploma of Herbal Medicine, a Yoga Teaching Diploma and is an APHRA registered acupuncturist. Learn more about acupunctureherbal medicine and meditation.

To find out more about Wes
To make an appointment with Wes

Feeling Stressed? What next?

Stress is often perceived as an outside force putting us under mental strain.  Such as bills that need to be paid, boss’s pleased and keeping family happy, especially with Christmas around the corner!

The reality is there are too many causes of stress to simply list them all here. But what is stress really? Why does it make us anxious?  Why do we get headaches, a sore neck, sore shoulders, and a myriad of other physical symptoms?

Going back to our good old flight or fight response we need to realise that despite our obvious advancements as a human race, our basic framework of anatomy and physiology has not evolved at the same rate as our intellect, which leaves us a little unable to cope with the 21st century stress placed on our bodies. When under acute stress, our brain knows that you are either going to have to fight and kill, or run like the wind.  Either way this is going to use a lot of energy, so we are going to need oxygen because without it we’re not going to get far. So in conjunction with that initial burst of adrenaline, we start to breathe differently.

Normally in order to take a breath in, the diaphragm descends, which creates more space in our thorax, which brings air into the lungs. When we need a greater volume of air we need to create a bigger thorax.  Which is achieved by employing muscles in the neck and chest which are attached to the upper ribs.  Those muscles hoist the upper ribs up and expand the rib cage which gives us more oxygen to work with.

Now when a bear was chasing you, this response was wholly appropriate. However, today it can be problematic. Since we can’t physically fight our bosses (as much as we would like to sometimes), and we can’t run away from bills and other responsibilities, our stress response is now somewhat inappropriate.  This means that we never use the energy we are trying to store, and we carry on breathing as if we are about to run away or fight. Therefore those muscles in the neck and chest that are only meant to be used in the short term become tight, shortened and over worked.  This can cause neck pain, shoulder tension, headaches, dizziness and lead to more anxiety.

So what can be done about this?

Osteopathy is an excellent approach to combat stress.  Because so much of our stress response is so physical, it follows that a hands on treatment would be very effective.  By gently working on the neck, shoulders and upper ribs, the built-up tension can be eased. What else? Many people are familiar with the sub-occipital release, with the practitioners fingers strategically placed in the soft-tissue at the base of the skull (feels great). This, and other cranial techniques, can reduce irritation of the vagus nerves, the primary parasympathetic nerves, as they exit the skull to pass to the heart, lungs, and digestive organs.

Work at the sacrum can have a similar effect via the parasympathetic nerves to the pelvic organs.  The adrenals live in proximity to the thoracolumbar junction of the spine where the diaphragm and psoas muscle meet. Normalising tensions in those structures and mobilizing the spine can improve adrenal function. I can also teach you some breathing exercises and simple stretches. Giving your body a much better threshold for dealing with stress.  

To get you started. A simple breathing exercise is to breath in to the count of 4, hold for 6 and breath out to the count of 6. Cycle through for a few minutes. Give it a go!

Stress: Look Deeper, See Further

By now, most people understand what it feels like to be stressed. In previous articles, I have explained the hormonal connection of stress, which when not tamed can lead to anxiety, insomnia and possibly depression. Individually, we all respond to stress in different ways whether it’s held in your muscles and posture, digestion, immunity, or emotional and mental stress to name just a few (tip - many people ignore the effects of emotional and mental stress).

Sadly, we often become so well acquainted with being stressed that it begins to be the norm for daily life. Consequently, you can begin to say “No, I’m not stressed”. What once might have been quite high levels of stress is then considered to be ‘OK’. Especially, given that we can look around us and see others doing the same thing! That doesn’t make it OK though, does it?

Why we’re talking about stress

A common message throughout the articles for this month’s theme of ‘Banishing Stress’ is actually recognising stress within your life - how you react to stress, different approaches to healing stress and the hot tips for preventing stress. For me, Live Well is lighting up a big sign that says ‘Don’t ignore stress in your life’! Don’t accept your stress levels as they are; it’s like asking you to live a life that is second best or worse.

What do you typically view as stress - being very busy at work, run off your feet and on the go? Sure, this can indeed be stressful. However, what about stress related to troubles within an intimate or important relationship, stress related to finding a network and social circle within your community or stress around accepting and loving who you are? How about those mental loops and not being able to move forward with a thought or issue? I’d love to hear about what you find stressful and how stress affects you as this discussion will help others to see that it’s a much bigger field than they think. It’s why the word ‘stress’ has become one of the most highly searched terms online.

Tip for overcoming stress

The essential oil ‘Sandalwood’ keeps showing up in clinic this October and it has a great message for everyone no matter if you believe you’re stressed or not - it’s easy to become entrenched in your own life and the story that we create. Sandalwood supports us to take a step back and reflect on what is actually happening. It’s like walking to the top of a hill to be able to gain a new perspective on things. Indeed, this is a lovely action toward mindfulness!

Your homework this week is to find a hill or mountain and climb it - the very action of looking out toward the horizon and the bigger picture will enable you to do this for the many layers of your life. Gain a new perspective, see the way through and change how you do things for the better.

Kate's passion is to educate and empower each client to understand their mind, body, and Spirit and how these aspects are all connected. Her integrative approach to health and healing is to explore and treat the whole person. Kate is the creator of Holistic by Nature and is also on the expert panel of I Quit Sugar.
To find out more about Kinesiology please click here.

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6 ways to turn stress around, fast!


We all have our ways that we “deal” with stress. Commonly, it’s a very tried and very tested autopilot response by which our brain and nervous system “cope” under pressure to meet the demands of our daily lives. But tolerating stress all the time is tiring (literally).

Here are 6 things you can do today to help you feel more ease, rather than stressed, and restore more of the good feelings in life:

1.     B-R-E-A-T-H-E deep into your belly. Allow your belly to fill with air and expand like a big balloon. Then release… This is an instant de-stressor to both the body and mind. Do this 1 time, do it 3 times, or do it as many times as you need in order to clear your head and create a circuit-breaker. The more often we can practise this technique, the more we will feel the benefits of “un-plugging” from our stress response. I know I’ve said it a bunch of times when it comes to dealing with stress, but this is arguably the quickest way to do so.

2.     Go easy on the caffeine. I’m sorry to say this - I am :), but the physiological impact of that coffee is like actually drinking a cup of liquid stress; this is the hormonal impact it has on the body as it activates a stress (hormone) response. Interestingly, when we’ve been in stress mode for an extended period of time our adrenals start to flag and we find ourselves on a seesaw of stress and fatigue, so our caffeine intake (e.g. from coffee, black tea, chocolate, soft drinks and energy beverages) can become a crutch to help get us through the fatigue and keep pumping, or at least, remaining functional. Unfortunately though, the way caffeine (and also, sugar) is broken down and metabolised in the body creates a substance called lactate (you may already be familiar with lactate build-up in your muscles after exercise). A build-up of lactate in the system has been shown to elevate stress and anxiety levels, and to even induce anxiety attacks in some studies. That caffeine hit usually gives us the sense of relief from our stresses momentarily, but it acts like a credit card in the sense that it gives us energy we don’t actually have. “Borrowing” energy and stimulating the adrenals in this way “buys” us time and keeps us steaming along in survival mode to do what we need to do. But it comes with extra interest, and we pay that price when our adrenal glands become so depleted that instead of playing on that seesaw of stress and fatigue we eventually just hit the wall -with fatigue, poor mood and a decline in mental and physical function. The hormonal and metabolic pathway of caffeine in the body also places stress on the liver, spikes blood sugars, raises cholesterol levels and places the body in fat-storage mode, leading to unhealthy weight gain. Initially, even the idea itself can be difficult to come to grips with, but it’s worth noting that forgoing our usual caffeine intake can dramatically decrease physiological stress levels with each fix we choose not to have. Of course, having something to substitute it with is equally important. You may like to trade it for a herbal tea -for example, roasted, unprocessed dandelion root or peppermint; a lemon or lime water; fresh vegie juice or a homemade energy ball snack.

3.     Take a closer look at your blood glucose levels and try to manage them appropriately. Dishevelled blood glucose levels are a major physiological cause of stress in the body that also causes havoc on our hormones. Stress activates adrenalin and cortisol to initiate the release of glucose into the bloodstream which causes blood glucose levels to spike, and then crash. Thus perpetuating the physiological stress response as well as the energy deficit. Making sure you don’t leave too long between meals and keeping meals and snacks well-balanced with a portion of protein, healthy fats, fresh vegies and other complex carbohydrates such as brown rice or quinoa are good rules of thumb to start with.

4.     Get your hands on some Lemon balm -Fresh or dried leaves or the essential oil itself -scrunch it, inhale it, dab the oil on yourself or steep it in hot water and drink as a tea. The aromatic essential oils of Lemon balm (aka Melissa Officinalis) are calming and rejuvenating for the head, heart and nerves, lifting the spirits and helping to ease stress and emotions.

5.     Do a brain dump -This where you blurt out (through writing) all that’s stressing you and playing on your mind. Much of our stress these days is perpetuated by a psychological element that involves the way we perceive, think and feel about things being directly processed by our nervous system all the time. So it can be helpful to get all your stresses, worries, thoughts and feelings out onto paper. For a more constructive and perhaps effective version of this: try a mind map. If you’re not familiar or have a limited understanding of exactly what mind mapping is and how it works, there are some excellent online sources that will take you through how to do it and explain the many benefits. It can be an effective stress-busting exercise whereby we lay out a detailed roadmap of the issues at hand; you can see what’s going on and what needs to be addressed more clearly, and begin to understand how things are tied together. You can then do another one for all the potential solutions. Try to remain open to new possibilities that may arise during this exercise. It’s a powerful clarifying tool and good a way to stop your stress from “swimming” around in your head and body like a big, accumulating stormcloud running amok. It’s helpful to finish by redirecting your thoughts to workable solutions that you can act on now.

6.     Go out of your way to treat the physical: Book yourself a bodywork session -whether it’s craniosacral therapy, massage, acupuncture, or a Yoga, Zumba or Tai chi class. Perhaps taking a hike (and a picnic) up one of Canberra’s many mountains, booking in for a trail ride on a horse, or doing some gardening is just the thing. We can also affect the finer physiology of our brain chemistry and nervous system activity by going back to step one and focusing on stress relief through the breath; listening to a guided meditation or visualisation can also give us some much-needed mental space; or some helpful binaural tones that directly change the electrochemical activity through specific audiotones that can induce relaxation throughout to improve resilience, mood, sleep, and cognition.

Here’s a bonus tip that works: Make yourself hold a smile and breathe deeply for as long as you can. This will change the tone pretty quickly. Even if initially it feels ridiculous; it may feel ironic, somewhat exasperating or outright absurd -it may probably even feel like a little of all of the above. This is because it feels incredibly counter-intuitive to be smiling away when you’re in the middle of a stress-out! When we’re under pressure and most need to use this trick we’re also likely to resist it madly. But if you can persevere, even just for a minute or two, you may just find it does the trick to get you into a better frame of mind or have you feeling a bit silly and more able to laugh at yourself and your problems rather than get stuck in a mental loop about them.

I encourage you to try one (or all) of these tips for yourself the next time you’re feeling stressed. They will not only help to create a bit of space from your experience of stress, but they help facilitate a mental and nervous system shift so you can then redirect your energies and change the way you’re feeling for a better outcome.

Naturopathic support is always a game-changer when it comes to feeling stressed, and I can help you to naturally enhance your resilience and to feel, and cope better. So if you feel you could do with a bit of a “tune-up” or you’re ready to just not-feel-this-way anymore, you can call Live Well to book an appointment, or use our online booking system and find a time and day that suits you.

Best wishes,


P.S Check out my Little Things You Can Do To Unplug for some extra useful ways to tackle the stress in your life.

Stress Free with Yoga

As a Yoga teacher I’m slightly biased, but believe that Yoga is a powerful tool for learning about yourself on the physical, emotional and soul levels. Yoga also offers many practices and techniques that you can use to bring you back from the edge of stress or the full blown consequences of it if you pass your tipping point and find yourself in a health crises that requires extended care.

Below I’ve outlined three simple techniques that come from Yoga that you can apply if you’re feeling like the wave of stress is cresting, that might help prevent you from wiping out once again! There’s one that’s suited to each of the ‘stress types’ Wes mentioned last week but I encourage you to explore and experiment with which one works best for you!

Meditation for the ‘Stoic’ on the go – Make space to help listen to your intuition.

Live a busy lifestyle? Does your world revolve around helping others or being the ‘responsible’ one?  Meditation is probably the last thing on your busy mind but incorporating even just five minutes a day could reap you profound benefits in your ability to manage and recover from stress.

Simple, short meditation practices are a wonderful way to create space in your body, mind and day. One of the easiest ways to start a home meditation practice is to set your alarm 5 minutes early each morning and sit quietly for those five minutes in simple observation of your breath.

Yogis believe that cultivating the ability to concentrate is the first ingredient in moving towards meditation and eventually enlightenment. That’s why we give the mind the job of holding focus on one simple thing at a time - to develop our ability to resist distractions - and the breath is a great place to start given it’s always right there with us!

To Practice:

•    Find a quiet place and sit comfortably. It can be a chair with back support or a cushion on the floor – just try not to lie down as you might just fall asleep again!

•    Set a timer so you know how long you’ll be there for and can relax into the experience. Try a soft gentle tone to rouse you – not something that will shock your nervous system!

•    Breathe deeply and use your power of visualisation to connect with the path of breath in and out of your body, eventually imagining it can travel all the way to your toes.

•    Observe if these few minutes of space at the start of your day help you manage all of your tasks in a more effective and calm way.

Pranayama for the ‘Dramatiser’ – Let breath be your conduit to inner calm.

Does your mind move a million miles and hour trying to keep up with all the things you’re overcommitted but unable to say no to for fear of letting anyone else down? Are you stuck in a cycle of negative talk and thoughts about your current life circumstances?  Stop! Take a deep breath. And another one. How do you feel now?

It’s no secret that our bodies and minds are connected. When we have a thought it influences our bodies in hormonal, emotional and physical ways. Luckily for us humans, we also have the power to rewire our brains by using our physical bodies to bring our consciousness back into balance if we’re feeling the signals or symptoms of stress.

Different types of breathing alter our physical and psychological state.  Generally deeper breathing patterns encourage our bodies away from the fight/flight/fright response of adrenaline-fuelled stress and towards a calmer body-mind state of relaxation (rest/digest). It’s a simple circuit breaker you can use when you notice you’re feeling anxious or a regular practice you can incorporate into your day repeated times to help you maintain a sense of calm serenity in the sea of drama queens out there!

To Practice:

•    As I mentioned above…Take a deep breath! Repeat.  As many time as required to reconnect to your body and your sense of internal peace.

•    Generally focusing on breathing deep into your low abdomen, almost puffing out your belly with each inhale can help bring your stress levels back down to earth.

•    Allow the muscles around your jaw to slacken as you breathe out through your mouth. This will help relax tension around your shoulders as well.

•    The beauty of breath is that you can do it anywhere and no one needs to know you’re doing a self-management technique!

•    Observe if these few moments of breath give you some emotional space between your runaway thought train or some clarity on what’s within your power to change, and what’s not.

Somatics for the ‘Secret Stress-head’ – Let your body tell you how you feel.

Got a secret buried so deep even you’ve forgotten what is was? Got a myriad of health challenges but can’t quite pinpoint why or where they come from?

Welcome to the secret society of the masters of internal suppression! It’s a global club way bigger than you’d imagine and you walk through society quietly ‘saving face’ not knowing who else might be one of your secret club members.

As Wes mentioned last week exercise is your friend. But probably not the kind of exercise that you’re used to. Often certified members of secret club stress use exercise to punish themselves or to suppress any feelings that come up, because feelings are too scary/unfamiliar/overwhelming/inconvenient to ‘deal’ with. Life must go on, so you do what you do best and suppress – in any way possible.  

Beginning a relationship with your feelings is tricky, sometimes scary stuff. A lot of us aren’t well versed in the language of emotions but our bodies store up all of our feelings in our tissues until we’re able to express them. Suppressed emotions manifest as physical symptoms.

Beginning a Yoga asana practice that’s kind to your body and mind is a way to unlock and explore some of the emotions that are stored up within you in a gentle way. Restorative Yoga is also a great way to calm a very stressed out nervous system.  

To Practice:

•    You can do your own practice at home or outdoors, take in a local Restorative Yoga class or make an appointment with me at Live Well for a private session and take-home program.

•    If you’re practicing at home, keep any movements you do no faster than one full breath per movement to really help slow you down.

•    Investigate what it’s like to hold poses for longer periods of 10 breaths or more and notice what kinds of feelings arise for you through this challenge.

•    The more you can soften and surrender into the longer held poses, the more your mind and nervous system will relax and you’ll eventually be able to cultivate a sense of connection and calm with your emotions.

•    Make sure you don’t hold anything back. Give yourself permission to feel. Ask questions and notice what answers bubble up from your body and deeper levels of consciousness. This is how you begin to tap in to your intuition!

Overall be patient with yourself. Yoga is not a practice of cultivating perfection, it’s a process of being nice to yourself while you learn new ways of looking after yourself and interacting with the world.

If you can make a commitment to incorporating just one of these practices into your days, weeks and eventually life, you’ll notice the benefits flowing off your mat or meditation cushion and into your daily life in the way you more consciously and kindly act and interact with others.

Have fun exploring your stress-free yoga journey and please feel free to book in for a session with me if you have any questions!