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Alana Hurov


How My Brain Injury Taught Me to Relax

Posted: 01/04/2013 5:50 pm

It's an image that seems to be everywhere -- hanging in office cubicles, in stores, mugs and even on T-shirts.

In large white writing with a red background: "Keep Calm and Carry On." Above the text, a crown fit for a king.

Where did that phrase and image come from? The British government created the slogan during World War II; it was meant to raise the morale of the British people. Well, it seems that our stress levels are just as high as they were during the final years of the Great Depression and the looming Nazi invasion.

The question is why are we so "stressed out"? How can we change in 2013?

In the heart of downtown Toronto, people get into virtual foot races as they rush to get across the sidewalk first, rush to the yoga studio to get "relaxed," rush to a restaurant to "savor" a meal and rush to a doctor's appointment to get sleeping pills.

Perhaps this is why we need to place posters on our walls and mugs with calming statements as reminders to relax. According to Shoppers Drug mart, this may also be the reason why anti-anxiety and anti-depressants are the most prescribed in the downtown core compared to the rest of the province.

If you live in a big city, you have a 21 per cent higher risk of anxiety disorders, 39 per cent higher risk of mood disorders and Schizophrenia rates are almost double, according to research done by Douglas Mental Health University based in Montreal.

I used to thrive on stress and deadlines. As a network television producer for 15 years nothing made me happier than securing big interviews, wiping out the competition and pushing my own limits. Everything changed a few years ago, when I suffered a concussion. I was forced to "live in the moment" and slow down.

From severe panic attacks to extreme exhaustion, the "go-getter" was gone. As a yogi for many years, I never truly understood the meaning of "letting go" and "being present" until my brain injury. I didn't have the choice, rushing through my life was no longer an option.

The definition of relaxation is the state of being free from tension and anxiety. When was the last time that you were free of tension and anxiety?

As a yoga teacher with a type A personality, I understand that relaxing is probably the hardest thing you will ever do. It's ironic, but for many sitting still is harder than running a marathon. The universe had to smack me in the face in order to get me to sit down.

Don't wait for that to happen to you, reduce the "rush" in your life, slow down and open your eyes to see where you are headed. It's a new year, change old habits.

In silence and stillness, we don't need a poster to tell us to "Keep calm and carry on." We can tell ourselves.

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  • Lower Back Lengthener

    WHERE IT HELPS: The balls roll out the multiple layers of back and abdominal muscles that seam together in a large connective tissue tract called the thoraco-lumbar fascia. HOW IT HELPS: This area can become stiff when any of the layers that intersect here are injured or in pain. HOW TO: 1) Place the <a href="http://www.yogatuneup.com/products/self-massage-therapy-balls" target="_hplink">Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls</a> side-by side in their tote (tennis balls in a sock can be substituted) across the low back spine. 2) Place feet on floor and elbows on floor and roll the balls up and down between the pelvis and the ribs for 1-2 minutes. 3) Breathe deeply into the abdomen throughout.

  • Rib Rock

    WHERE IT HELPS: Frees up trapezius, rhomboids, erectors and intercostal tension, mobilizes rib joints and spinal joints, posterior diaphragm rib connections and massages deep back musculature. HOW IT HELPS: Uncorks tension along the upper back and spine so that the spinal bones regain fluidity and mobility. HOW TO: 1) Place 2 grippy Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls (or tennis balls) along the side of the spine in the upper back region. 2) Breathe slowly into the ribs and rock from side-to side and allow the balls to massage in towards the rib joints. 1-2 minutes on left side of spine, then switch sides, then move the balls into the lower thoracic spine & ribs and repeat.

  • IT Band Meltdown

    WHERE IT HELPS: The IT Band is often unreasonably tight with any type of knee dysfunction. This thickened sheath of connective tissue on the side of the quadriceps directly threads into the hips, buttocks low back, knee and the lower leg bones. HOW IT HELPS: Stroking the balls both along and against the lateral thigh can make a huge difference in relieving pain and improving muscle function of the quads. HOW TO: 1) Place 2 Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls (or tennis balls) in a tote against the side of the left thigh. 2) Roll the balls in aside-to side motion tracking them across the side of the thigh. Breathe deeply...it's going to create a lot of sensation! Approximately 90 seconds-2 minutes. 3) Then keep the balls in place and slowly straighten and bend the left knee. Breathe deeply...it's going to create EVEN MORE sensation! Approximately 60 seconds. 4) Switch sides!

  • Coreso Leg Lift

    WHERE IT HELPS: This pose targets the critical relationship between our breath and our posture while toning the innermost abdominal muscles. You will feel a tremendous stretch in the back of the abdominals along the long postural muscle, the iliopsoas. HOW IT HELPS: Hip flexors are lengthened as are the hamstrings, the lattisimus, and subscapularis. You may grow half an inch taller too! HOW TO: 1) Lay on a yoga mat with a block or phone book under your pelvis and engage the following actions: 2) Reach the arms overhead and externally rotate them so that the hands hold on to the sides of the yoga mat and attempt to pull the mat apart. 3) Stretch the right leg towards the ceiling (if hamstrings are tight, bend the knee), lower the left leg towards the ground without touching the floor, but do not allow the spine to lose it's stability or natural curves. 4) Breathe for one full minute on each side while remaining stable

  • Shoulder Flossing

    WHERE IT HELPS: The shoulders are rarely taken through their entire range of motion. Unless you are a gymnast or climb trees, you may be weak in certain directions of motion. HOW IT HELPS: Shoulder flossing helps to mobilize the entire shoulder joint and rotator cuff while providing strength and stretch to all the shoulders tissues. FLOSS DAILY! HOW TO: 1) Grab a belt or strap in between your hands 2-3 feet apart. 2) Keep the right arm help high in the air, and steer the let arm back behind you until you feel a deep stretch in both shoulders. 3) Slowly alternate the shoulders so that both shoulders are thoroughly "flossed" approximately 90 seconds.

  • Magician's Assistant

    WHERE IT HELPS: The side body can be challenging to isolate...this pose targets it with precision. HOW IT HELPS: This exercise targets the internal and external oblique layers and the quadrates lumborum- a deep low back muscle. It also strengthens portions of the iliopsoas. (You will feel this one tomorrow!) HOW TO: 1) Place your right hip on a brick and right elbow on the ground. 2) Engage your side-waist muscles (obliques and quadrates lumborum) to raise your legs to hover 4-6 inches above the ground. 3) Make sure that your shoulders, pelvis and ankles line up with each other, and that the 2 legs remain glued together. 4) Sustain the position while breathing deeply for one full minute, then switch sides.


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