Physical Restoration Through Breathing and Mindful Movement

November 17, 2014

mindfullnessBy Odette Oliver, RMT

I can’t help but notice the ‘energy’, the ‘buzz’ our city creates. I see people rushing around with heads down, eating while on the move, constantly checking an electronic devise, sitting for hours at poor ergonomic work stations, and even exercising like crazy. Our fast paced world has led us to set our goals very high for everything; but the stress of our work, and play, is slowly taking its toll.

Stress triggers the release of chemicals such as steroids and adrenalin into our body, preparing our body and psyche to tackle a threat. Today that threat could be a business deadline, an argument with a boss, being stuck in traffic, family obligations, illness, money. How do we get everything done? If these triggers are ongoing those chemicals don’t ‘switch off’. Our nervous system is kept in a hyper active state, and the ‘switch off’ process that would return our body to normal is compromised, and balance is lost. Sometimes the process is slow and we don’t realize that stress has become the ‘new normal’. This loss of balance can lead to both physical and psychological damage.

The body will respond to stress in the same physiological way whether we perceive the activity as fun or as danger. Some of the short term activities we use to deal with our stress can seem like fun for a while: a drink after work, run for the burn, rewarding comfort food. But when these become long term behaviors our immune system can be compromised leaving us open for illness.

In work or play we are not giving ourselves enough time to restore the balance. Stress management techniques can help. We have to re-learn to relax our nervous system without over exciting it.

At IHI I will be running a series of 6 evenings exploring relaxation techniques for stress management. Starting in January………2015

Through mindful movement and breathing the only goal is to be there exploring at your own pace.

Resting on the floor and starting very simply with breathing, imagery,’ body scanning’ and undemanding stretching I hope to explore ‘physical restoration’ so we can normalize our stress responses while negotiating our stressful environment.

Here is a sample exercise:

Isometric exercise

The awareness of muscle tension held in your body.

Only hold your breath for as long as it is comfortable to do so. Breathe in through your nose and out slowly through your mouth.

To start take a slow, deep breath, in and out, 3 times. Then continue breathing normally.

Gradually tense up your whole body as if you were becoming rigid then let go.

Do this with one part of your body (isolate) your arm for instance, then the other arm.

Now breathe in and hold your breath and tense up one arm, as you breathe out release the tension in your arm. Now do this with the other arm.

Now try the exercise isolating one leg and then the other.

To isolate further:

Starting at the right foot then the left, and continue in the following order:




Push your back down into the floor (which muscle are you using?)

Continue up to your shoulder blades

Back of your head

Continue to the right hand, left hand

Fore-arm, upper arm to the face

Squeeze your eyes tight shut and let go put keep your eyes closed

Now purse your lips, let go

Frown and smile

Take 3 big easy breaths in

Again breathe in and hold make your whole body rigid and let go

Breathe normally

Stretch out as if you were getting up in the morning, let go breath normally.

When ready roll onto your side and sit up slowly


Odette will be hosting a complimentary seminars on Tuesday, November 18th and Tuesday, December 2nd, please sign up here or here.

Odette graduated from Sutherland and Chan School and Teaching Clinic in 1997. Since that time she has been practicing and teaching massage therapy in Ontario and Nova Scotia. In Halifax she was the School Director of ICT Northumberland College School of Massage Therapy,  where her teaching focused on communication. Throughout her teaching career, Odette has stressed the importance of good body mechanics, physical awareness and relaxation techniques.

Her previous career began in England as a dancer and choreographer. She worked extensively with painters, photographers, and actors in exploring barriers to ‘freedom of movement’, in the context of character development and performance improvement. Now Odette continues to promote ‘freedom of movement’ as a massage therapist.

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