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Complementary Fitness 27 March Newsletter

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Welcome to this week’s newsletter & updates:

Back pain, breathing and movement/stretching

When we breath in, this activates the sympathetic nervous system (our ‘fight and flight’ responses), which causes the heart rate to rise, blood pressure to increase and the nervous system to excite.  Exhaling and breathing out activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate and allows the sphincter to relax (ie our ‘rest and recover’ responses).  If we’re hyper-aroused from sensations of back pain or pain anywhere in the body (or have anxiety issues surrounding previous experiences of pain), we might typically be a shallow breather.  If that’s the case, we may never fully take a deep breath in or exhale completely.  This is in part because of ongoing pain, but also because of amplified reactions to it and may leave us feeling nervous and agitated.  This constant state of ‘fight or flight’ leaves the person in pain wearied and prevents physical and mental rest and recovery.  This fatigue leads to more thoughts of dread and desperation, which further alters breathing patterns and continued experiences of pain.

Retraining breathing patterns from shallow breathing to deep breathing can help change the brain’s (and body’s) involuntary (ie automatic) responses.  We can learn to control our breathing (by taking long, slow, deep breaths in and out) when/if we experience physical sensations of pain which can help trigger a change in the nervous system and allow the system to ‘reset’.


Maybe you’ve heard of a relaxing breathing practice where you take a long slow relaxed breath in for the count of 4 and exhale for the count of 6 and if so, you can now see that this activates the parasympathetic rest and recover response.


We can also then try inhaling for 4, holding the breath for 2, exhale for 6 and hold for 2 counts and continue until you feel more relaxed.


Another way to help relieve back pain is to continue to move and stretch to relieve tension in tight muscles.

Recently, one person came to our Friday morning fitness yoga class and she told me that she had another sore achy low back.  She’d previously hurt it at work (lifting as part of her job) and then it improved but sure enough, it was really sore again when she came to the class.  She said that she’d do what she could (as I always say) and she managed fine in the class.  At the end of the workout, she said “that was the best £6 I’ve spent this week”.  She also emailed later saying “it actually really did the trick Susan, better than paracetamol.  Was a bit nervous when I came in I have to say, it was so painful yesterday.  Am nearly back to normal now, thanks again”.


Woo hoo, great news.

So many say that if they stop coming to fitness Pilates/yoga that that’s when their back pain starts up again.  Keep moving, keep exercising, strengthening and stretching.


Also, the addition of positive affirmations and/or visualisations in combination with breathing awareness that we talked about above and control can also help change the way we experience pain.  If physical sensations of pain produce thoughts that typically catastrophise the situation (eg thinking that we are never going to get better, believing the cause of the pain is not curable, etc), strengthen the mindset using affirmations eg, “This pain/condition is temporary.  I am doing all the right corrective exercises and changing my mindset to strengthen myself and I will get better.”  You can of course develop your own affirmations using your own vocabulary.  This will empower you to visualise an alternative way of thinking and help cement these new thoughts and emotions by putting them into words.


Use these strategies every time you have pain (low back or anywhere else) to change the initial reactions and redirect focus towards solutions to the problem (ie current corrective exercise programme, breathing and new positive mindset).


And according to an article from a musculoskeletal specialist: new habits, especially developing a new mindset, take time.  We’re urged to practise these new techniques faithfully until the new way of thinking becomes habitual.   Although future sensations of pain may naturally cause a state of heightened anxiety initially, the breathing techniques and positive self-talk will enable us to stabilise our mental reaction and allow these temporary sensations to pass more quickly.  Circumventing these overreactions of the mind and body in the face of pain will facilitate a quicker and easier recovery from pain and/or injury both in the short and long term.


I haven’t mentioned any quotes for a while but thought you might like this one:

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change” Albert Einstein


I’ve recently started dry skin brushing again.  I used to do this regularly but like a lot of things, I stopped and forgot about it.  Coz we’ll be getting into Spring and the better weather, and hopefully short sleeved tops and maybe even shorts or dresses some time soon (I’m praying), I thought I’d buy myself a new long handled dry skin brush (I bought mine in that big well-known pharmacist at the Gyle but you can also buy one from TKMax).


Here are the benefits in case you’re interested and would like to give it a try.

Dry skin brushing has stood the test of time and is effective for both its beauty and health benefits, which include increased blood circulation and glowing, healthier skin.  It’s also been proven to stimulate the lymphatic system which affects the body’s ability to detoxify, so it’s a very worthwhile practice to add to your routine (maybe max twice a week though).


Dry skin brushing is both an exfoliating treatment and a massage at the same time; by using sweeping strokes all over the skin, we encourage new skin growth, better circulation and get lymph moving – all very important things!


Fyi: The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help the body to get rid of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials as part of the immune system.  We can support our lymphatic system by eating a healthy diet rich in alkaline foods that provide a full range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, as well as healthy fats such as nuts, avocadoes and high-quality oils.  Getting plenty of regular exercise is also really important- get your lymph and your body moving!

There are many different ways to dry skin brush and also different tools to use; a soft-bristled body brush is the most common but a loofah, sisal brushes, jute or cotton cloths, exfoliating gloves or even some linen fabric can all be used effectively.

There are lots of great options out there; just make sure it’s a natural brush and the bristles are nice and soft and you can’t really go wrong.


Key Benefits of dry skin brushing;

  • It’s an excellent way to get invigorate lymph! Stimulating the lymphatic system with body-brushing promotes lymph flow and drainage of the lymph nodes which is known to strengthen your immune system, improving overall health and wellbeing.
  • It increases blood flow and circulation which helps to deliver oxygen and other nutrients to our organs and skin. Increased blood flow also promotes a more radiant skin appearance.
  • It can reduce the appearance of cellulite by softening and breaking down the uneven fat deposits that cause dimples and bumps on the skin.
  • It encourages new skin growth and cellular turnover by removing dead skin cells and unblocking pores, which improve the appearance and texture of the skin.
  • It removes dead skin which allows products to absorb properly ie applying moisturizer to dry flaky skin will not be as effective as applying it to fresh, exfoliated skin.
  • It can also provide stress relief and can act as a natural energy booster!



  1. It’s recommended to dry skin brush in the morning, (preferably before showering) as it can help wake the body up so we’ll feel energised for the day ahead.
  2. Starting with clean dry skin and beginning with the soles of your feet, use sweeping upward strokes and light pressure, brushing towards the heart.
  3. Continue all over the body up to your neck although I’ve heard that it’s good to brush up towards the heart then down from the neck to heart (be aware that the skin on your face is too sensitive so avoid this area).
  4. When you’re done, jump in the shower to rinse off any dead skin then apply a light moisturiser or oil as an extra treat for your skin!



It’s recommended that you don’t dry skin brush more than 2 times per week as it can irritate the skin and we don’t need to remove dead skin that frequently!

Give your brush a wash with gentle baby shampoo or Castille soap every week or two to remove any dead skin and keep it clean and fresh.  Allow it to air dry naturally before storing.

Be careful not to be too rough, an ideal dry skin brush should have soft bristles and your skin should not be excessively red or inflamed afterwards!  Also, be extra gentle on sensitive areas such as the inner thighs and avoid areas of broken or damaged skin.


Let’s continue to grow (and glow!), move and challenge ourselves in many different ways.

Let’s keep ourselves fit and stay active, flexible and strong and get our 150 recommended minutes of exercise by joining a couple of our classes a week and going for a walk, jog etc.

I look forward to seeing you this week for more fitness, flexibility, strength, social connection and togetherness as well as fun.


Reminder that you can pay for classes:

  • With cash ie £6 per class
  • Directly into my bank account
  • Using my SumUp card machine.


Remember to let me know if you have any comments, news and keep me updated with anything that’s happening with you ie health-related stuff, goals, achievements etc.


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