This lady here is the woman who gave me life.
I was her first born. She was 22.
For most of my life, we couldn't see eye to eye.
There were resentments and estrangements.
I swore I would never be like her.
And then I learnt about tolerance.
I realised she is just another human being trying to do her best.
I started to see how we mirror each other.
There was a softening. The spiked armour we were both donning began to come apart.
An unspoken understanding of our deep love and respect for each other beneath the triggers and the strife.
She's a woman who roars. So am I.
There’s nothing more exhilarating than running up a hill after a 8-year-old.
Many people come to me to help them manage their aches and pains.
They often ask me which muscles to strengthen and what to release so they can be stronger, or feel less “tight” in their body and mind.
In today’s world, health is often conflated with #fitnessgoals.
We measure our overall well being through the utilitarian perspective of time, weight, distance.
We gauge our accomplishments by how satisfied we are when we look at our body parts in the mirror.
We forget that we are not a machine put together in parts and engines, with a brain affixed at the top.
We are an organism, grown out of a seed.
We are relational beings from the inside out.
We are ever-changing, ever-evolving.
Movement is the language in which we express our aliveness.
So instead of loading our muscles thinking that they function through some sort of mechanical memory, perhaps we can bring awareness to the articulation of our joints and our movement habits.
Instead of stressing over how much weight we can carry in the gym, consider how much time we spend sitting on a chair.
Instead of obsessing over body fat, what is the nervous system telling us about the state of our being?
Health is expressed through the freedom and ease in the ways we inhabit in our body-mind, in relationship with our environment.
It is the ability to walk, run, swim, climb, squat, jump, to rest and not feel like our mind is jumping out of our skin.
Most importantly, how well can we bounce back if life throws us curve balls?
#trauma #recovery #resilience
If you’re interested in exploring this, join me in my next training in Trauma-informed Somatic Yoga Therapy in November Yoga In Common Singapore
#traumahealing #yogatherapy #yogattc #somaticyoga #nervoussystemhealing #yogawithdaphne #somaticmovement #movingfromwithin #injuryprevention
Do you know that the fascia in and around the abdominal area can get really sticky and gooey from sedentary lifestyle, bad diet and stress triggers?
And bloating in this area can also lead to back pain, neck and shoulder tension, a sense of being "uprooted", and more anxiety?
This is a simple 10 mins gentle self massage for the belly area to release tension and bloating, tone our vagal nerve (reset our nervous system), and reconnect with our navel centre which is the core of our being.
#somawithdaphne #yogawithdaphne #abdominalselfmassage #yogatherapy #somatictherapy #selfcare #fasciastuff #abdominalfascia #vagaltone #nervousystemreset
This is the longest period I've stayed put in one place.
For the last few weeks I manage my cabin fever by coming here, with a friend, or on my own.
Yes it's a fake beach with imported sand, and it's not Koh Phangan or the Sydney beaches.
But the sea water is salty and there are fishes swimming beneath the surface, and mostly there are no traffic sounds so it's still respite from urbanism.
I try to do nothing for the two hours I'm here. I don't even listen to music.
I spend most of the time floating in the water #oceansavasana... twirl my feet in the sand, watch people and sea birds and the distant ships.
Do you take time to do nothing?
#donothing #rest #oceanlife #findingpeace
Floor play with sister and niece.
Much of the work I do is also teaching people how to get on the floor and get back up.
I train my clients to not be fearful of the ground beneath us.
A big part of somatic coaching is to lean into the support of gravity so we don't have to do all the work of tensing all our muscles and be in fight / flight mode constantly.
In today's society we spend way too much time in the vertical plane, and on elevated platforms such as chairs and couches. We slouch into them and then collapse into our elevated beds at the end of the day.
Ease your way onto the floor and uncover your inner child.
Your spine will thank you for it 💃
#getonthefloor #somawithdaphne #yogawithdaphne
#yogatherapy #embodiedintelligence #somaticcoaching
Throwback to a sunny autumn morning in Pennsylvania. I was attending a friend's wedding.
I had a younger body then (35yo).
A new client I worked with yesterday asked if I can help him defy the aging process.
I said instead of defying it, why don't we work with it so we can keep doing the things we love, and be around for people we care about.
#agegracefully #timeisnotlinear #yogawithdaphne #somawithdaphne #movementmedicine
A lot of tension in the body is often created through accumulative tension in the muscles, either through compensatory movement habits or through our stress response. We tend to forget that our skeletal elements such as the bones and ligaments give us form and alignment. These elements also provide proprioceptive feedback so we get a sense of where we are in relationship to space and gravity. They offer us stability and support without bracing.
On the other hand, muscles do the work of mobility, muscle fibres fire and contract to help us move through / across space Muscles and our bones work symbiotically for optimal functioning in stability and mobility.
However, what happens is that we often get stuck to trying to achieve a form or a goal, or we are rushing to get somewhere, or to perform a task based on what we think it should look like and if it fits certain mould. When our nervous system is constantly wired to react to stress and the constant need to "try harder", the muscles take over the direction of the bones. We tend to get set in movement habits that are driven from the perspective that we are a machine made of parts rather than an relational organism.
This is a little somatic practice of exploring the support we can create if we bring awareness to our bones / ligament and movement continuity. The dynamic fluidity to respond rather than react. So we can create more healthy bone and joint health, as well as regulate our nervous system to come into a sense of being rather than having to do more all the time.
#bodymindcentering #somatics #somaticmovementeducation #somatictherapy #somawithdaphne #yogawithdaphne #movementinquiryembodiment #bonehealth #osteopathy #yogatherapy #somaticyoga
Workshop recording from the recent online virtual conference Sugar & Spice - a sexuality & embodiment festival.
Presenting a bottom-up experiential approach to relate to the nervous system through the fluid body.
"Daphne's session was a good introduction to an alternative therapeutic way to deal with trauma. Her soothing voice guided us to our fluid body and fluid movement exploration. It was so relaxing and calming"
#somatics #nervoussystem #polyvagal #sensingfeeling #therapeutics #bodysensing #yogawithdaphne #traumainformed
This week on #SomawithDaphneandLucy
Lucie is taking a little hiatus...
When Lucie told me early this year that she is venturing into the decluttering profession, unlike most who know her, I wasn’t at all surprised at this career choice she has chosen.
In working with her the last 3 years from teacher-student to movement collaborators, Lucie is always able to demonstrate her presence in understanding the nuanced concepts in movement, and also in the creative ways she’s able to apply them in real life.
We share a common deep love affair in the work of somatics and embodiment which goes above and beyond just being healthy and fit.
It calls upon us to do our inner shadow work so we ca clean out the cobwebs of our somatic imprints through relational inquiries.
There is no demarcation between body and mind. The body is the mind. The mind is the body.
The body is the canvas upon which our experiences are wonderfully written with movement as its language. Within the microcosm of the body we inhabit in - a universe of fluids, cells, organs, breath - belies a magic we can lean into, a harmonious balance of space, gravity, support and surrender.
As a movement teacher and body therapist, our work parallels each other's. What I do is to guide and hold sacred space for these storylines to be organised, to be told, to be released or reframed. Through this co-creation, I help my clients uncover their authenticity for expression and agency to live more fully.
Keep in touch with Lucie at Your Space as she embarks on her adventure too in the alignment of inner and outer spaces.
How does your home reflect your inner state of being?
It goes beyond just inquiring #doesthissparkjoy.
Till soon Lucie!
This week's topic on #somawithDaphneandLucy is about what constitutes healthy stretch!
Everyone loves a good stretch. However, do you sometimes feel that the more you stretch, the more you need to stretch?
The yoga world is obsessed with stretching. There’s this misconception that the more one stretches a particular area of the body, the “longer” and “looser” it will be, and “looser” feels better than “tight”. Like most things in life, there’s also the “high” of chasing big sensations in stretching, and the belief that there is no gain unless there is some sort of pain.
Being a person with hypermobility, the physical practice of yoga came about relatively easily for me. It doesn’t take long for my joint spaces to open up and I could quite quickly flop into forward bends or use my arms as leverage to pull myself to extreme range of motion. I’d feel spacious and open after an intense stretching session. However, it wouldn’t take long before my body started to feel tight again and needed another round of “fix”. As this cycle perpetuates, my body would feel achy and sore if I have to sit or stand or walk for extended periods; my mind restless.
To many people, I seemed like a dedicated yogi, spending hours on a yoga mat contorting myself into a pretzel. I realised that something had gone terribly amiss when the more I practice, the less I could bear stillness without discomfort - counter to the tenet that Yoga is state of being both steady and easeful (Sthiram Sukham Asanam)
I finally found the answer to this mystifying conundrum when I discovered somatics and mobility practice. I had been stretching wrong!
I was chasing sensations instead of cultivating awareness.
I wasn’t listening to the subtle nuances of what my body was telling me.
My muscles were either switched off or over-contracted in those deep stretches, further stressing my already hypermobile connective tissues - in particular the tendons and ligaments - as I collapsed into gravity or when I leveraged on an external force to pull myself into the end range of motion (ROM).
Even though this might initially trigger the nervous system into a relaxation response, it also destabilises the connective tissues around my joints. My body then sends a “danger signal” resulting in even more muscle tension, creating the vicious stretching cycle.
My practice now includes resistance stretching which requires active range of motion, i.e keeping muscles in eccentric contraction and maintaining integrated postural tone through myofascial continuity (more on a future post!) to express our 3-dimensional relationship with gravity and space, as well as in creating progressive loading with theraband or weights to strengthen and stabilise joints)
Passive stretching is still a valuable practice to down-regulate the nervous system when we use props to support joints without going into the full range of motion such as in restorative poses..
The concept of a neutral pelvis is a topic every movement educator across different modalities would passionately debate over.
This week on #SomawithDaphneandLucy, we’d like to share our take on the neutral pelvis as an embodiment PROCESS, rather than just a shape or a form.
One of the most logical rationales to this principle is that - When the pelvis is in its neutral position, it allows for the most amount of space between each vertebra, as they are then aligned in their natural curves (i.e primary and secondary curves or kyphosis and lordosis). A neutral pelvis means that our spine can act as a “spring” in our bipedal form, to provide a buffer for the compressive forces moving through the body as we navigate through space and gravity.
A simple approach to finding a neutral pelvis is to experiment with the anterior and posterior tilting of the pelvis in relationship to the bony landmarks - the ASIS (hip points), and the diamond-shaped compass of the Sacrum, Coccyx, Ischium, Pubic Symphysis - to find the place in the centre.
These landmarks are incredibly useful in bringing awareness to a vital and yet vulnerable part of the body that we often ignore. Even though we spend so much time sitting on our bum, what we do with our pelvis and pelvic floor are often only brought to our attention when we are experiencing pain or discomfort.
From the bony landmarks, we can begin to explore the intrinsic movement of breath within the inner body, in particular the relationship between the ribcage and the pelvis.
Our respiratory diaphragm sits just beneath the ribs. As our primary breathing muscle, the diaphragm contracts and descends during inhalation, and releases to ascend during exhalation. The heart and lungs rest above the respiratory diaphragm, and our internal organs are below this diaphragm. On the other hand (end), the pelvic floor (also a diaphragm) supports the weight of our internal organs, in addition to sexual and elimination functions.
The respiratory diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm (not just a floor!) is actually one continuous integrated “being” that modulates our life force! Their ability to move in resonance with each other is important in the healthy and intricate functioning of all our biological processes, such as oxygenation, circulation, motility of organs, digestive and reproductive processes etc.
Creating an embodied awareness on this symbiotic relationship of the intrinsic rhythm of our breath pulsating through the different diaphragms will not only create optimal alignment and ease in the way we move, sit, stand, walk, but also help regulate our nervous system, return us back to health, and cultivate a sense of grounding and safety.
In the next video, we would like to invite you to explore a short practice to sense the resonance between the 2 diaphragms to come into the “state” of a neutral pelvis.
Why do we study the body?
Because movement is a relational dialogue from the moment of conception.
Because movement creates form and precedes language.
Because it tells the stories of how we relate to the world around us.
Because our nervous system records our conditioning and belief systems.
Because our history is written in the cells.
Because our body is the expression of our cosmic alchemy.
Because it is a medium for deep existential inquiries to our mystical origins.
Because in all its fragility we find refuge in impermanence.
This week's sharing on #somawithDaphneandLucy is about coming home to the state of flexion:
We are the only mammalian species on the planet that walks on two feet. This vertical relationship with gravity not only takes our brain further away from our feet, but also requires our back body to work a lot harder in holding up our front body. This relational dynamic with the environment is also an embodiment of our somatic and cognitive desire to engage with the world.
In our quest to move up the evolutionary ladder, we expose our vulnerability to the world through the front body, which contains our soft and vital organs. The front body also forms a big part of our #selfimage (refer to our previous post on this topic) of how we see ourselves and how we want others to see us. Therefore, our nervous system is wired to “think” and “predict” danger to preserve our survival. This sense of vigilance can literally move us away from our anchor and grounding.
When the world we live becomes too much for our nervous system to handle - too much stress, too much uncertainty, too much stimulus, too much grief, can we take this as a signal to retreat, to withdraw, to exhale?
The flexion state takes us back into our embryological being - a time in which we are nestled and suspended in the warm fluids of our mother’s womb, a state where cells divides and organise, a state of balance and homeostasis, in which the order of nature grants us nourishment and protection.
If you’re experiencing physical symptoms like migraine, neck and shoulder tension, back ache, shortness of breath, excessive gas, acid reflux, or even sleep disorder, your body is sending an invitation to marinate yourself in this restorative state.
Check out this video as Lucie explains her experience and a little demo to retract the front line and open up the back line of the body.
Allow your organs to soften and drape over the support of your cushions, bringing breath into the back body and releasing the adrenals from its state of vigilance to one of yielding.
This week's focus on #somawithDaphneandLucy are your precious feet :)
The relative distance of our feet from our brain often causes us to disregard the health and care of our feet. We tend to ignore the messages coming from this very distal part of the body. We wear shoes that are too tight, too loose, too flat, too high... For some culture, there’s even a certain element of shame attached to the feet. Some people might go through years of suffering from sore feet before paying any attention to this part of the body.
The health of our feet is instrumental in our overall health.
Our two feet are made up of 52 bones, accounting for about a quarter of all the bones in our body. They contain 60 joints and 200 muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold them together for mobility and stability. Most of the myofascial matrix crosses through the feet as they are fundamental to our evolution into bipeds. Our feet establish the foundation of our vertical relationship to navigate through gravity and 3 dimensional space and create movement continuity through all our body’s systems.
Embryologically, our feet and toes grow out of the limb buds before the legs are fully formed, essentially making our feet an extension of the pelvis, and hence its close association to our pelvic health.
Keeping our feet strong and nimble means stronger grounding and stability, more movement choices and increased neural pathways and plasticity! Training our feet to be able to articulate through different loads and tracking its relationship to different parts of the body will not only alleviate conditions like plantar fasciitis, heel pain, achilles tendinitis, it can also prevent knee injury, relieves lower back pain, soothe neck and shoulder tension and even migraine. Its close relationship with our pelvic diaphragm also means that strong and flexible feet will bring awareness to our core being as we find support through gravity and levity. When we establish better proprioception and interoception we can also help to regulate our nervous system so we are less anxious and stressed!
Does wearing a mask trigger your anxiety? A sharing on the effect on respiration, sense of safety, past trauma, and physiology, including some tips on how to alleviate anxiety in wearing a mask.
They say nolstagia
is akin to a journey back in time
when things made sense
where we knew
our place in the world.
Perhaps it's also when our lives
can't get any more mundane
that we lose our compass
and our ground.
The triumph of waking up
to another groundhog day .
16 more hours
in front of the screen.
Blue light solace at my fingertips
Work, exercise, shop, socialise, youtube
Are they freedom or dilemma?
To stay in or go out?
Solitude will always be served
as the main dish.
6 feet apart.
but be sure to avert my gaze.
My lungs laboured
underneath the cotton covering of
sweaty recycled breath.
Oh, the yearning to be seen
Overshadowed by the anxiety
of ending up as a snapshot
shamed and fined.
A nation locked down
but united in fear.
Fighting the invisible war of numbers
against the enemy crowned virus.
armed with smartphone and app
Incognito but bestowed with power
to defend and protect.
Stand in line for nasi lemak and bubble tea
Essential recharge for our ammo
A balm for the caged mind
in this urban Disneyland
In the silence of empty construction sites,
a figure stooped in his neon green shirt .
The sound of bristles on concrete.
Broom in hand
He looked up
and smiled through his armour
"I'm okay" his eyes spoke.
He sweeps our dwellings
while his brothers locked away
their homes out of reach.
So we march on,
to a promised vaccined land
where business is as usual
An utopia with
Delving a little more into the perspective of not just what is mental health, but also looking at the how and the why through connecting with the responses in the body
This week's sharing on #somawithDaphneandLucy
: YOUR SELF IMAGE
How long are your arms? How wide is your chest? What does it mean to straighten your knees? And how accurately are your answers meeting your physical reality?
It almost comes as a surprise, after living with and in our body for so long, that we're not born with a defined self image. We're not born knowing we have a body.
When a baby is born into this world, their knowing is still of union (with the mother). Through experience they begin to recognise that there's a differentiation between “self” and the “other”. This differentiation is gradually learnt through the senses.
Through touch, movement, and gravity, along with sight, smell, hearing and taste, our sensory system put together a complex map of references, creating and ever refining our self image.
How many times have you seen a baby with his hands and feet stuck in his mouth? Since the mouth is extremely rich in sensory receptors, and the baby’s source of finding nourishment through the oral rooting reflex, it also becomes a key starting point to begin exploring our environment. Figuring out the world by putting objects close to the mouth and the lips to learn about shapes and textures, and also investigating whether that object is or isn’t a part of “self”. Measuring the body's length and size by bringing the distal limbs to the centre of the inner mapping (head and torso), examining the shape of the body through rolling, the ground offering a mirror as the body is being touched by the surface underneath, and thus distinguishing the outside world by touching something we don't feel as part of “self”…Through touch we learn about the environment we inhabit in, and by being touched we learn about ourselves.
Our self image is being crafted and refined day by day. And there's many more factors contributing to it like the vestibular system (sense of gravity, balance, and proprioception), vision, our muscular-skeletal system including the tendons and ligaments, our experiences of pain, emotions, social and cultural conditioning, belief systems etc..
Our perceived sense of what is an “upright” posture, having our arms “straight”, our perception of length, width, distance, depth or even what is “normal” will also differ from person to person.
The knowing that this process is not just inherent but gained through experience, allows us to look at ourselves through fresh perspectives. Is my self-image complete? Do I know where every part of my body is? Is where I think I am relative to space and gravity accurate?
Our sensory and motor neurons work hand-in-hand in a constant feedback loop, always communicating with each other. The way we stand, move, act and execute our desires through our muscular-skeletal system is based on this inner sensory map we've drawn. While we might plan with our body's self image in mind, we execute through our actual body. If our self image is not accurate, there will also be a difference between the intended and the actual outcome of our actions.
In order to improve the quality of your movement, address chronic pain and tension etc. we first have to explore what is actually there. Begin by mapping out your body and you’d be in awe with what you will uncover.
“You cannot change what you do not know” ~ Moshe Feldenkreis.
~ written by Lucie Krobova, edited by Daphne Chua
Social isolation and mental health: sense of belonging
I was on a panel last weekend to share about mental health and the nervous system. So I'd like to share some of the thoughts I had on the different aspects of social isolation on the nervous system from a mind body perspective.
This first one is about sense of belonging to a greater community.
With physical connection to other people being taken away, how has your need and longing for community show up in your nervous system?
This week's sharing from #somawithDaphneandLucy are our favourite HEART OPENERS:
Heart opening poses are a consistent “obsession” for yoga practitioners. Deep contortionistic backbends are pursued like trophies - a trademark of the accomplished yogi.
Backbends or spinal extensions are often mythicised as “Heart-Opening”, since it creates an expansion in the front of the body, particularly in the chest / thorax where the vital organs of the heart and lungs are situated. Spinal extension poses are thought to create lung capacity and invigorate the body-mind. Since these poses also stretch into the front of the belly, it can serve as a reprieve from those who live a sedentary lifestyle of hunching over devices, sinking into couches, with the spine constantly being in flexion.
The energetic benefits of heart openers also include stimulating our life force, instigating our capacity to love unconditionally, and helping us find courage to face challenges.
All these are well and good. The spanner in the works almost always lies in the HOW and not the WHAT. Generally, yoga backbends are done with the alignment cue to draw the shoulder blades back and down (retraction, adduction, internal rotation of the scapulas) in order to create maximum spinal extension. However, the structure of the thoracic spine (with a rib bone extending out of each vertebra forming a “cage”), is the “stiffest” part of the entire spine, and naturally shaped into a flexion or a kyphosis.
Culturally, we are told since young to pull our shoulders back, stick our chest out, and not to hunch our back! We have been so conditioned to contract our back body in order to push our sternum forward, that we might have forgotten that Mother Nature equipped us with a concave “cage” so we can house and protect our vital organs!
The study of the organs system in Body Mind Centering led us to reconsider this whole paradigm. According to its founder, Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen, our heart is cradled by each half of our lungs. The trio creates an ecosystem of oxygen and CO2 exchange that feeds life force into our cellular matrix, much like the dynamic macrocosm of our external environment.
The pulmonary system responsible for this exchange is actually located in the back of the anatomical heart, snuggled in the space in between to touch the front of the lungs. It is interesting to note that the lower lobes of each side of the lungs form most of the back of the ribs, where as the top lobes are under the upper trapezius.
When we overextend the thoracic spine by squeezing into the traps and leveraging onto our scapulas to push the “heart” forward, we are actually squashing the lungs and the heart, not exactly “opening” them at all! This can over stimulate our nervous system, as well as create strain in our spine and destabilise the balanced curvature of our spine.
The next time you attempt a backbend, can you reach into the spaciousness of the back body, and let the heart rest in the space embraced by the lungs, supported by the circulation of the blood exchange in the pulmonary vessels.
Since the beginning of the lockdown (or Circuit Breaker as they call it in Singapore), I've been closely watching the more unquantifiable vectors arising out of the pandemic, particularly the psychological effects of isolation and social distancing on mental health, and how these measures to protect our mortality relates back to our physiology and our body when we are deprived of the most basic human need to socially engage - to see, touch, feel, laugh, share a meal, make eye contact, with other human beings. And there's also the other polarity of those who are locked into one space with the same bodies day in and day out. While most family homes are safe spaces, some are cages of abuse.
We can't look at the mind without also looking at the body as an integral piece. Most of our interactions outside of our immediate bubble are now screen-based and one-dimensional, our escape from reality is more screen time on social media, over Zoom drinks and Netflix binge. Our bodies relegated to being moving parts so as to carry our brain around. Some might even argue the body is the vulnerable conduit for transmission if we were to come too close to another.
The article I've appended is a valuable long read from the perspective of a psychologist in the UK. She examines the individual body, the corporate body, and the state body. If you're interested in bodies as an inseparable part of our mind's deepest reaches, perhaps you might dwell in her words and draw your own parallels.
"Practice what you preach" or "Preach what you embody"?
Authenticism generally doesn't come about by willing yourself into a preconceived idea of who you should be or how you want others to see you, but an intimate awareness of how truth permeates through all of our being. The walk comes before the talk. Being real is a direct experience, not a label.
#talkyourwalk #getreal #embodiedcommunication
Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Moshe Feldenkrais said - Having only 1 option is Tyranny, 2 becomes a Dilemma, whereas 3... creates Choice!
This is another short video follow up on this week's #somawithDaphneandLucy's sharing on variability of movement. An 8 minutes exploration of multi-planar movement with a weighted ball and ankle weights.
Registered Yoga Therapist, Somatic Movement Educator, Bodyworker, Yoga Teacher Trainer