Cissy Brady-Rogers
Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers Cissy Brady-Rogers

Tag: exercise

Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a common and natural part of aging.  If we live long enough, normal wear-and-tear breaks down the shock-absorbing discs between the bones in the spine.  Symptoms of disease are more likely in people who smoke, perform heavy physical labor or are obese. Although it’s not completely avoidable, we can minimize the process by building strong core, abdominal and back muscles, maintaining good posture and avoiding lifting heavy objects.

Ironically, lifting heavy objects is often a central part of weight training. CrossFit is the latest example of a fitness program that relies on heavy lifting to build muscular strength. It’s been called “the world’s fastest growing athletic specialty.” And it’s also been identified by doctors, physical therapists and rival fitness professionals as one of the most potentially debilitating forms of training.

My Dear Spine - Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

My Dear Spine – Wear & Tear and Mis-alignment

I can’t attribute my DDD to any one training routine. But I’m pretty sure that years of mildly compulsive exercise didn’t help!

My recent ventures into weight training weren’t extreme. I kept my dumbbells light, listened to my body and adjusted poses with support from my trainer. But my DDD (diagnosed 20+ years ago) coupled with an undiagnosed osteoarthritis in my hips, lead to increasingly stiff and sore lower body.

I landed at Optimal Performance Systems – an alternative to traditional physical therapy and training.  Their corrective movement therapy and vitality program has loosened up my hips in ways that yoga and traditional stretching had been exacerbating. And it’s deepened my commitment to helping myself and others focus on holistic health. The OPS motto says it all: “Exercise is optional. Movement is mandatory.”

bike

I love to ride my bike

I got back on my bike this weekend for Ciclavia Pasadena. While I loved it, I also realized I need to get a new set of wheels if I want to do any significant cycling. I’ll be giving up my old faithful road bike and the spine jarring mountain biking my husband and I used to love. But, I hope to find a way to keep enjoying the freedom and joy of riding my bike without further compromising my spine or hips.

When expected changes of aging or unanticipated challenges of injuries and illnesses arrive, we need to adjust. Ultimately, it doesn’t take heavy lifting to maintain functional levels of strength, flexibility and balance. Of course, if I ever need to move a large boulder or lift a car, I’m screwed!

At this point in my journey, heavy lifting is optional. But bending over to harvest zucchini and sweet peas from my garden is essential. I think I’ll choose the veggies and flowers!

 

 

It’s 80 degrees here in Southern California today. My morning clients all canceled and the Occidental College pool up the street is open for laps. But there’s some nasty bugs going around. I had a coughing little boy in my home Tuesday. Seems everyone I’ve encountered this week is getting over something. I’m running at about 85% optimal energy level and last night my challenged hip was achy. Hmmmm….

To swim or not to swim? Here’s what I decided about listening to the wisdom of my body!

 

I smashed the tender pad of my pinkie finger between the dumbbell and it’s home on the the rack during a workout last week. It was only 5 pounds. But squished between two pieces of metal, my poor pinkie didn’t have chance. It hurt like crazy for a few moments. A blood blister quickly formed–my body’s way of saying “Hey! Watch out. Don’t be so mindless.”

Mindlessness, also described as “spacing out,” “daydreaming,” or being “absent minded,” is a default setting we fall into as a way to conserve energy, avoid unpleasant thoughts and feelings, or soothe ourselves. Shut off from direct experience of our body and sensory capacities, we lose track of where we are and what is happening in the moment. Mindlessness can also result when attempting to multitask. How many times have burnt or cut yourself in the kitchen because you were trying to keep track of too many things at one time? Even something small, like the conversation I was having while putting the dumbbell back, can distract us enough to lead to injuries.

To further bring home the “pay attention to what you are doing” message, just the day before my friend Sally talked about how mindlessness contributed to falling and breaking her elbow: “I wasn’t paying attention as I walked down the stairs.”

Sally Evans - I want to be like her when I grow up!

A paragon of health in her 70’s, she spoke about how it drove home the importance of mindfulness, especially as we age and our bones become more fragile. Earlier in the week I’d learned about a former student who is bringing mindfulness to the Southern California Railroad company where he works. As we know from stories of railroad accidents, when a 200 ton locomotive is involved, one mindless move can be devastating.

Sally broke her elbow walking down stairs she’d traversed hundreds of time. I pinched my finger doing a task I’ve done hundreds, if not thousands of times over the past 30 years. Coincidentally, earlier in the workout my trainer pointed out that most gym injuries take place in the transition into and out of exercises, not during the actual working phase! The same is true in yoga. My shoulder injury 2 1/2 years ago came during a transition from one pose to another.

Mindfulness is being where you are, doing what you’re doing–mind and body together in time, space and activity. Research indicates immense mental and emotional benefits, including stress reduction, decreased emotional reactivity and increased ability to focus attention. Whether it’s in the gym, at work, in the kitchen or anywhere else, mindfulness is good medicine!

For more on mindfulness check out my past blog or visit the website of UCLA Mindsight Institute founder Dan Siegel who offers free MP3s of simple practices. It will be good for your health.

My midlife body isn’t what it used to be and I’m okay with that! The stiff joints that greet me when I stand up after being parked for too long in one position remind me to keep moving lest I get stuck in the all too common midlife rut of declining muscle mass and bone density.

My younger self didn’t have this exquisite built-in system to warn me of the dangers of extended sitting. In my thirties and forties I sometimes spent 8 hours or more a day just sitting. I’d get up every 50 minutes between therapy sessions with my clients—a wonderful imposed break unavailable to those stuck at a computer all day. Back then a vigorous 15-30 mile bike ride multiple times a week plus other rigorous exercise helped maintain the hardiness and vitality needed to sustain my work life.

At midlife I find daily, moderate, engaged, but not too strenuous exercise keeps the aches at bay and my muscles strong. When I try to do too much, too quickly, my body protests. Pushing too hard can leave me depleted and sore. Likewise, a few days of sitting too much coupled with lack of exercise also leaves my body voicing discontent.

This week I pulled myself out of bed for two 6 a.m. strength training sessions. My body has been less achy and my energy stronger both days. I’m going to yoga tonight to balance it out with some stretching and hope to get to a spinning class tomorrow.

As with all things related to health and well-being, staying strong through midlife requires you listen to your body and find the optimal combination of activities for your body. No one can do that for you. Your trainer, yoga teacher or fitness professional can make recommendations, but only you can discover what makes you feel your best.

Finally, it’s important to find activities you like. We will keep doing the things that we enjoy.  If exercise is not fun, you need to find something that is. If it’s only about the results—and the process is not enjoyable—then why do it?

If you’re interested in some fun, challenging but sensitive strength training and conditioning support, check out Fitness Revolution Pasadena. My trainer Joseph is a true gem. I’ve adopted him as my little brother (avoiding the truth that I’m old enough to be his mom). I’d love to share him with you.

When I began practicing yoga a few years after being diagnosed with breast cancer, I didn’t know the research on it’s health benefits, but my gut told me it was good for me.

A study published in the Journal for Clinical Oncology indicates yoga is especially helpful in reducing fatigue associated with breast cancer treatments. After three months of twice a week yoga practice those in the yoga group reported more vitality and better sleep than in the control group which didn’t participate in the classes.

At the six month follow up the yoga group reported about 60% less fatigue than the control group, even though many had stopped practicing after the initial three month trial.

As with all research, correlation doesn’t equal causation. But the current study is one in a growing body of research supporting many physical and psychological benefits from yoga.

If you’re fatigued from cancer treatment or just life in general, consider exploring the potential benefits of yoga. As always, consult with your healthcare provider as to your unique needs and limitations. And remember that all yoga classes are not alike. Do your homework. Find out what studios are in your area, review the class descriptions and look for a beginning level or gentle class to get started.

If you’re in the Pasadena area, my yoga teacher friend Tatiana is offering a four week introduction to yoga series on Sunday afternoons at Mission Street Yoga in South Pasadena. Begins February 9th.

My Wednesday at 6:15 p.m. class meets weekly at Glendale Presbyterian Church.

Hope to see you in yoga sometime soon.

This fall we’ll work with the poses of yoga to cultivate the growth of the fruit of the spirit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

In addition to the spiritual growth fostered through praying with our bodies, other potential benefits of regular practice include: increased mobility and energy, improved balance and mood, normalized gastrointestinal functioning and much more.

I’d love to share the gifts of yoga with you.

Tuesdays at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena @ 7:30 p.m. – 8 week session begins October 8th

Contrary to what the flyer indicates, this class is open to others when it doesn’t fill with people from the Fuller community. Contact Jose at 626-584-5680 to register.

Wednesdays at Glendale Presbyterian Church @ 6:15 p.m. – meets weekly in room 202. Contact me for more information.

Both classes are open to all levels of experience.

Bring a yoga mat or towel, water and wear comfortable clothes.

Yoga is a great way to cool down hot bodies and impatient minds on these hot days.

My teacher Hagar reminded me yesterday that legs up the wall pose is a wonderful cooling position. I did it last night before bed and found myself drifting off to sleep much quicker than on previous nights.

Simple seated forward bends and gentle floor twists are also wonderful ways to keep moving and use the heat to your benefit.

Don’t let the heat stop you from moving, but be mindful about overexerting yourself. And remember to drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated.

And, remember to BREATHE! Take plenty of deep full inhales and slow mindful exhales both as you move through your yoga practice and through your day. That reminds your body to stay calm when the heat activates the stress response.

May the cooling breath of God’s peace that passes understanding keep us all cool headed and open-hearted on these hot days.

Shalom!

If you told me 25 years ago that one day I’d be teaching yoga at the upcoming Big Bear Yoga Festival–I’d have said you were crazy!

Raised Catholic, I stopped attending mass in junior high school and became a “born again” Christian within the year. God’s timing was perfect. I desperately needed someone or something to “save” me from the disease and dysfunction growing within me and around me in my family system.

I spent the next 15 years involved in evangelical church and para-church organizations and attended evangelical undergrad and graduate school.  The personal relationship I developed with God and the people that surrounded me during those years really did “save” me. I made plenty of poor choices as it was–I can only imagine the trouble I might have gotten into otherwise. I’m grateful for the love and support of all those who came alongside me, loved me, and prayed for me. I also learned how to study the Bible and think critically about spiritual and theological matters. All of this laid a foundation for my faith in a God who so loved the world that he became flesh and blood, lived among us and revealed the way of love through the life of Christ Jesus.

And, I needed more than any of that provided.

I needed to embody my faith.

I needed to experience that love in my flesh and blood, in my female body. But the things about “flesh” and “body” I learned in church contexts didn’t take me deeper into my body.  Confusing messages reinforced an already shame-based body image: you are intricately and wonderfully made, but your desires, instincts, feelings and thoughts can’t be trusted; your sexuality is a gift from God, but don’t act too sexy or show too much of your body lest you cause your brother to lust. For Christian eating disorder patients I’ve worked with those same messages were life threatening–creating distorted views of “flesh/fat” and appetite that reinforced destructive body related thoughts, feelings and behaviors.

My bout with breast cancer in 1992 activated an interest in alternative approaches to health. I attended my first yoga class in 1993 with cautious interest. I prayed before I entered the room, asking God to give me discernment about participating in what my earlier training had told me was “of the devil”. Twenty years later I can’t imagine life without yoga. It’s the spiritual discipline God has used to heal my relationship with my body–to learn to listen to, respect, appreciate and be grateful for the glory of God’s image revealed in my body, in my flesh, in my blood. To experience Christ in me — the hope of glory dwelling in the sacred temple of my body.

I keep coming back because the practice takes me into my body in a transformative way, deepening my knowing of God’s love in the depths of my innermost self. My movements on the mat are prayers: my body speaks what my heart longs to express but words fall short of conveying.

Yoga for Every Body

I teach Christ-centered yoga because I want to share the transformative power of moving prayers with my communities of faith. While I mostly practice the physical postures (known as “asana” and one of the eight limbs of yoga), I have a deep respect and appreciation for other aspects as well.

That’s why I’ll be teaching a Christ-centered yoga workshop at the festival this month. I love sharing the immeasurable riches of God’s love in Christ through the yoga postures. I love guiding others into a deeper connection to the goodness and sacredness of their bodies. I love being at home in my body and inviting others to more fully inhabit their own homes.

I’d love to have you join me!

August 23-25, 2013

Yesterday I passed my semi-annual breast exam with an “all’s clear” from the doctor!

Thanks be to God!

And thanks be to my own good choices over the past twenty years!

Hereditary and genetic predisposition for diseases like cancer can’t be altered–although researchers in the fields of epigenetics and psychoneuroimmunology are working on it–but how we live each day significantly impacts our risk. Research indicates that where we live, what we eat & drink, the quality of our relationships, how we manage stress, exercise and many other choices we make each day profoundly affect disease onset as well as our ability to recover.

An Example of Self-Neglect

Growing up with a mother who neglected her health gave me a good example of what not to do.

Moira Diedre Ford & Moira-Cecily Brady 1983

A diagnosis of breast cancer in her sixties did little to change her lifestyle. In fact, even after a second round of breast cancer followed by lung cancer a few years later, she smoked her Virgina Slim cigarettes right up until her last days of life.

In her last weeks of life she was confined to bed and on respiratory assistance. Yet, several times a day she’d rally the energy and strength to get out to her balcony for a smoke lest she blow up the entire house by lighting up in the vicinity of the oxygen tanks!

Mom had courageously overcome other addictions but remained a slave of nicotine until her final breath. Sadly, her cigarettes were her “precious” delight, her tonic for what ailed her, what she valued more than life itself to some degree.

Addictions do that to us. The immediate gratifications of soothed anxiety, numbed pain, and avoided interpersonal conflicts, lure us into a state of forgetfulness about our deepest values and highest aspirations.

Waking Up to My Own Need for Self-Care

My breast cancer diagnosis at age 30 woke me up to the way I’d been using alcohol to cope with mom’s dying. It was painful to visit her. My arrival was often her excuse for a smoke. “Help me up and we’ll have a visit on the balcony” she’d say with both a genuine gladness to see me and a sense of relief that she could get her fix. The last six months of her life I’d often pick up a six-pack on my way to visit and nurse a beer while she smoked her cigarette. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Six weeks after her death I received my wake up call. “Early stage…micro-invasive in-situ breast cancer…less than 5% chance of occurrence…” — none of that mattered. To me, it was cancer. And my early research indicated a correlation between alcohol use/overuse/abuse and breast cancer. Having watched my mom make poor choices for her own health, I choose a different path.

Me & Mom in a Box 1984 - Remarkable & Silly Mother

My mother was an amazing woman whose life inspired me in many ways. Her intelligence, humor, generosity, charm and diversity of friendships with men and women from all walks of life are gifts that continue to inform my development. I am forever grateful for those blessings.

Today, I also give thanks for the twisted blessings of her imperfections. I saw the damage her midlife struggle with addictions did to her well-being as well as the ways it undermined my own adolescent development. I’m grateful that my wake up calls came in my young adult years and I had her life as a model of what I didn’t want to become. I’m grateful that observing the consequences of her self-neglect inspired me to make self-care a priority. I imagine my mom is delighted that I’ve chosen the path I have. And for that, I am also grateful.

A Daily Choice

To choose a different path than those we grow up experiencing takes courage, determination and support. If your models for self-care were less than optimal, let them become inspiration for choosing a more loving way for yourself.

Find new role models. Surround yourself with people who take care of themselves and you’re more likely to do so yourself. And beware of spending too much time with those stuck in cycles of self-neglect or destructive patterns. Behaviors are contagious.

Enlist your friends, family, co-workers to support you in better self-care. One of my coaching clients gathered a group of her co-workers for a lunchtime health coaching group that I’m facilitating. Another client joined a workout studio that builds community support for fitness by creating a family atmosphere among the members.

Self-care or self-neglect. Which will you choose today?

Yesterday a client came to session stating that she didn’t think she was a good fit for coaching. She hates paperwork, forms, filling things in and writing things down. “I’m not a journaling kind of person.”

Welcome to My South Pasadena Office

It was awesome!  I love the way she took charge of what she wants and needs. She spoke her truth and started a conversation about adapting the tools and process of coaching to fit her needs and personality, not the other way around.

Women are biologically wired and socially conditioned to adaptation–to fit ourselves into other’s versions of reality rather than listen within and find our own way. This “substantial female preference to affiliate under stress” underlies the people pleasing dynamic that leads us to be silent when we want to speak up, say “yes” when we want to say “no” and compliantly fill out forms that we want to tear up and throw into the trash can!

The personalized health planning model I’m training in at Duke Integrative Medicine is a medical model. Paperwork, quantitative tools for assessing where you are now and where you’d like to be and creating measurable goals to guide behavior change are part of the package. It’s an excellent model with some solid initial research demonstrating positive health outcomes.

But, it’s just a model, not a magic formula.

I’m reminded of the scripture that says, “Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12.2).

Lasting change doesn’t come from the paperwork, the diets or the programs that the world has devised–many with good intentions and great benefits for some people. Transformation comes from renewing your mind, learning to attend to and  listen for your own truth, not by trying to adapt yourself to fit my model or anyone else’s.

From a Christ-centered perspective, transformation comes from deepening your connection to the mind of Christ within. To strengthen your awareness of the love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control that come from the Spirit of Christ within you.  It is within you, not in a book, a pill, or  a new routine.

Wired to attend and adapt externally, even after all these years of healing work, I still excel in people pleasing.  A big part of my on-going transformation comes from mindful awareness and centering prayer practices. Turning my attention within and just being aware of what is going on within and around me, without responding, has taught me a new way of being in my body and my life. When I neglect my daily practice of twenty minutes, I notice a significant difference in my ability to hold onto myself, take a stance and not fall into social adaptation patterns that don’t benefit me or others.

Like other helping professionals, I offer services, programs and information to support transformation. But the bottom-line of what I offer is meant to help you listen to yourself, trust yourself and live from within. That is the new way of being in your body and your life.

Listen to yourself, listen to your body, know yourself and be a discriminating consumer of services, information and programs.

I loved sitting with my client yesterday. The internal listening and honesty she exhibited in our conversation about the model and her health goals will guide her toward authentic, sustainable new ways of exercising, eating and living–because she’s living from within!