As a Sleep Wellness Coach, I’m often asked questions like: “What makes you different?” and “Why can you help me when [other technique] didn’t work?” These are very good questions to ask, and I enjoy answering them!
One answer is: each of my clients receives a customized movement and breathing practice as part of their coaching program.
Why is this important?
Movements the Body Will Enjoy Feeling
First, you’ve likely heard that exercise touted as the way to address countless health issues, including weight gain, insomnia, chronic pain, depression, and stress. That’s great (and true), but what if you’re in pain, or tired or fatigued because of a health issue? The “solution” of exercise seems out of reach, and there you are, living a catch-22.
Your mind-body system may be sluggish, and need some help getting going again.
Here I might advise a client to begin small, simple, and gentle. For example, to draw one knee up toward their chest from a reclined position. If you register a nice feeling, it’s easier to do the other side. This can register another nice feeling. If nothing else is done, that’s completely fine. If it feels good, you’re likely to do it again soon. We build on that! And this type of practice, done consistently, can begin to contribute to your healing.
Movements the Mind Will Pay Attention To
Some of us do move quite a bit during the day. Maybe you’re running between countless meetings, chores, or obligations in quite a flurry of activity. Perhaps one of the places you crammed into your day was the gym or personal trainer, so you got your exercise in already. Yet most of these movements are done on autopilot.
In this case the mind-body system can be hyperactive and/or inattentive; it needs some help relaxing, resting, and focusing. One also needs to bring mindfulness to the movement, to truly feel what it’s like to be inside this human body.
Getting down on the floor and being still could drive this person crazy! They could not do it. (I’ve been this person!) So I might advise a standing sequence, such as the Moving Mountain. This short practice, done for a few minutes, can help settle you down a little at a time.
Breath that Causes the Mind-Body System to Operate More Effectively
We breathe automatically, without being aware of it most of the time. Except, when we’re not really breathing. Not fully anyway. We can unconsciously hold our breath or breathe shallowly when we’re feeling painful sensations (physically, mentally, or emotionally).
Movement in the body that’s consciously connected to breathing helps us slow down and focus on something other than our endless, never finished “do to” list, our anxiety, or our chronic pain. Even though it sometimes feels like trying to guide a curious puppy on a leash, doing it over time eventually trains the puppy (i.e. our mind) to let go of the scatter and instead to be attentive to something we’ve chosen.
Like the movement part of the practice, the particular type of breathing assigned depends on the concerns, goals, capabilities, and limitations presented by each client.
Working Beyond Intellectual Understanding
With consistency, one of the amazing things that happens is clients begin to have insights outside the practice time. Life just becomes easier. They:
- make different choices (for example, pause before responding to a challenging person)
- release grudges or let go of tasks that aren’t truly important
- see new possibilities and options
- understand how X results in Y (for example, how failing to ask for what you need is tied to your digestive upset)
- feel less anxious and sleep better, naturally.
Have you noticed that knowing “why” on a cerebral level doesn’t always help us? How many of you know why you should eat more vegetables, or go to the gym, or get more sleep? How helpful is that in encouraging you to do it?
In my experience as a coach and coachee, teacher and student, mentor and mentee, I find it’s much more motivating to have a deep, internalized “knowing” of the “why”. And this only comes with practice of another sort!