What has Gladiator Maximus got to do with your bottom, posture, hips and lower back?!
Maximus – meaning largest & most powerful!
Did you know that our bottom muscles are some of the most powerful we have?
3 muscles make up your lovely rear end! Gluteus medius, maximus (I always think of Mr Crowe when I see a reference to gluteus maximus!) and minimus
(Hurrah! I got an anatomy diagram in again! I love an anatomy diagram!)
The gluteus maximus is the most visible gluteal muscle, but there are two smaller muscles underneath it: the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The glutes are responsible for hip movements that power all natural whole body movements. Running, jumping, walking, squatting, getting up from a chair, climbing the stairs, picking up heavy objects (kids included!) are all dependant on our booty!
Another role of the glutes is to ensure that your upper leg is in alignment with the spine. In other words if the spine and trunk are vertical – the leg must too. So the thigh is pulled down and back. This extension at the hip is primarily propelled by the muscles you are currently sitting on. Have a go at standing up, place your hand on your bottom as you so, can you feel those muscles working? Stand tall, think about your posture and use bum cheeks to stabilise and strengthen your posture.
The biggest risk of not using your glutes properly in movements where they are supposed to do most of the work is that when other muscles need to kick in, your body works in an unnatural way. This can result in nearby or even far muscles and joints getting strained or injured.
When I massage my lovely clients, one of the areas that holds most tension is the gluteal area. Common exclamations:
“OOO, I can really feel that!”
Ah! That feels good!”
“Didn’t realise I was so tense in my bum!”
The moral of this story is:
Be aware of your bottom muscles!
Know what they are doing!
Use them correctly – they hold the power!
Keep them tension free!
Make sure they are strong!
The Witching hour and cortisol.
So for the last 2 weeks, I have woken up between 2am and 4am EVERY morning! Falling back to sleep takes an age and then it’s time to get up anyway! My very own witching hour!
Ring any bells with you?
I have caught a cold that won’t shift? Anything loaded with refined sugars seems to be calling my name and I am having trouble concentrating on 1 thing at a time?
Those bells ringing yet?
Time to listen to what our bodies are telling us! Self-care time!
It could be a hormone called Cortisol causing these symptoms. Also known as the ‘fight or flight’ hormone as it has a higher secretion rate when our body encounters stress.
Here comes the science bit:
Cortisol is an important hormone, it is secreted from our adrenal glands and is involved in:
- Regulation of blood pressure
- Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
- Immune function
- Inflammatory response
The positive effect that cortisol has when we need it is:
- A quick burst of energy for survival reasons
- Heightened memory functions
- A burst of increased immunity
- Lower sensitivity to pain
- Helps maintain homeostasis (balance) in the body
Life these days is hectic and can lead to the cortisol tap never being turned down or off! Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as:
- Impaired cognitive performance – can’t concentrate, won’t concentrate?!
- Blood sugar imbalances – becoming a cookie monster!
- Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses – that cold that won’t shift.
- Impaired sleep – the witching hour! Even if you sleep well you are still tired.
- Increased fat around the abdominal area – hmmm, doing everything right and still got a thicker waistline?
- Decreased libido – onesie and EastEnders rather than ‘an early night’
- Anxious and feeling down – that lovely serotonin that makes you feel happy is decreased!
So, as the silly season starts and we are concerned with parties, Christmas shopping, half term, end of term, family visiting, finding the last packet of sparklers, re arranging whole days as kids are off sick from school and so on!
To have an awareness of what our body is telling us is useful and valuable.
Listen to your body, stop, take a moment and make a promise that you will be kind to yourself. It will help lower those cortisol levels and in turn you will be able to survive the madness with utter serenity and calmness (OK so that last statement was a bit of wishful thinking!)
Take a swim, read a book, eat veggie 2 days per week, increase water intake, treat yourself to a new lipstick, have a massage, do an extra yoga session, sit in a steam room, warm bath with Epsom salts, mindfulness sessions, buy a new album, smile, hug more, listen to music really loud and have a dance around the kitchen, romantic night in, roll in the autumn leaves with the kids, ring an old friend for a gossip, take a walk along the river, get out in the daylight, say no – often, be still, early night and anything else that allows you time to regroup and relax!
Before you know it that ‘witching hour’ will be no more and there will be an air of ‘good fairy’ around you!
Temporomandibular Joint (in short TMJ!)
PAIN IN THE NECK? IT MAY BE CONNECTED TO YOUR JAW!
We all suffer from neck pain from time to time. For some of us it is a regular problem & others it can be intensified when we are feeling stressed.
Let’s take a look at the anatomy of our neck and face:
I love an anatomy diagram! Isn’t it amazing! Look at all of the muscles in the neck! Can you spot the ‘anterior temporalis muscle’ and the ‘TMJ capsule’? These can get tight and hold tension. Why not see how yours feels? Use the pads of your fingertips, massage slowly around your temple area. Does that feel good? Releasing some tension? Whilst having a shower, take a few moments to massage your scalp too (see if you can get your scalp to move, like you are itching a wig!!) Do the same in the temple area. Nice?!
So what is the TMJ and what significance does it have? This joint is basically responsible for moving our jaw, talking, eating, laughing etc. Move your jaw from side to side? You will look like a camel chewing his lunch! Does that make a clicking sound? Feel like its pulling behind your ear area? See if you can feel where the joint is moving, just below where the bottom on your ears are attached to your face. Found it? GENTLY apply some pressure both sides at once….oooff! A bit tender? Just applying a small amount of pressure can help ease that feeling. The TMJ can also hold lots of tension if we are anxious, worried or generally just trying to keep up with the hectic lifestyles we lead! I have an awful habit of jutting my lower jaw out when I am concentrating! I have to consciously put my top and bottom jaws back in the right place! Gives me a headache! Always signals my time to log off and go off and do something restorative!
Teeth grinding while we sleep will also put a strain on our TMJ. If it’s a real problem for you, go and see your dentist as they can suggest various treatments.
Next muscle to have a poke around for is the superficial masseter muscle (2 on the photo above), this muscle supports the lower jaw as well as other functions. Relax your jaw as much as you can, feel around your cheekbone, start at the side of your face by your ear and use 2 fingertips to feel all the way down to the lower jaw. Feel anything? It can be an odd sensation! This is SUCH a fab exercise to do to make your jaw area feel more relaxed.
How about adding in all the areas in the photo below? That is not me by the way!
Whenever I work on these areas with my lovely clients, they describe it as a ‘nice feeling of being a bit uncomfortable!!’ I know what they mean!
Other ideas to keep tension at bay!
Yoga, Pilates, take a walk, sing, be creative, take a 30min nap, practice mindfulness, meet a friend for a gossip, read a trashy magazine, do some gardening and anything that gives you a chance to concentrate on what YOU enjoy for a little while!