Keep Fit with Heidi Wright

Unify  your MIND and BODY

Do you know that feeling when after a long day at work, you just want to go home? Or that longing to go to your parents’ home, where you grew up. It is a comfortable, secure and familiar feeling, making you quite cosy, but when these roots are shifted, it makes you feel vulnerable, disassociated, anxious, and even broken. Moving house is a change, a big change, just as a breast cancer diagnosis is. Your comfort zone gets completely disrupted, and you need to decide what you’re going to do about it, resulting in massive changes in your life. Your mind will have to be there for your body as well as your body for your mind.

There is always a tug of war between the mind and the body, similar to a competition, only it’s within yourself. To harmonise the two is a feat on its own, but we need to aim for a positive drive and supply ourselves with an endless amount of encouragement and support  to make these changes.

I too sit in a doctor’s room every year for my screenings, followed by more tests in a hospital. Prior to my move to SA, I sat in oncology rooms in Puerto Rico. I have spent a reasonable amount of time listening to other survivors’ stories and, yes, patients are changing all sorts of things in their lives, from diet to environment, from work ethics to home circumstances, and from radical to modest.

You need to decide what, if, and how much you can adapt to. I drew the line when my oncologist told me to never ever drink alcohol, except on my birthday and special occasions…You’re kidding me? Every day is a special occasion for me! However, I did make many other changes. So, I say to you, put one foot forward at a time, time being of essence here, and make that change.

If exercising is one of your desired changes, I suggest trying: Half Roll Backs, Bridging with Pulses and Four Point Kneeling. And, if you find they don’t suit you, you can always change to other exercises.

Half Roll Backs are really a section taken from the traditional Pilates exercise Roll Ups.

  • Sit on a carpet or Pilates mat (yoga mats are too thin for our purposes) with your heels in line with your sitting bones and your back erect.
  • Slowly roll back over your coccyx and sacrum into the lower lumber vertebrae, making a C-shape with your pelvic and lower abdominals, focusing your eyeline into the pubis.
  • From there, pull up from the top of your head to bring the spine erect again.
  • If you’re interested in a breathing pattern, exhale as you go into flexion, and inhale as you erect.
  • Hold an Overball or a lightweight ball, about the size of a volleyball, to encourage the use of the pectorals, especially after surgery.
  • To add on to this exercise, alternate moving the arms to the side as you roll back, or without the ball, perform arm circles both forwards and backwards as you remain in the Roll Back position.

Bridging with Pulses can be done immediately after your Roll Backs by rolling yourself completely down so you’re in a supine position. Your legs will remain in the same position.

  • Working from the bottom up, curl your coccyx under, or pubis up, and peel your spine off of your working surface to a height that is comfortable for you. Full height would be to reach up and anchor between your shoulder blades.
  • From the top, bridge or roll back down again.
  • If you like, inhale to begin, and as you bridge up, exhale.
  • To come back down, use the same pattern, inhaling at the top and exhale to come down, trying to feel each vertebrae as you lower your spine.
  • To add to this exercise, you can try small pulses (pushes) at the height of your Bridge, or try one leg pulses with the free leg, stretching towards the ceiling, ensuring that your hips stay level.
  • You can also use your ball between your knees to encourage use of your adductors.
Four Point Kneeling
  • From your Bridge, roll over so you’re on your hands and knees, making sure your hands are under your shoulders and your hips over your knees. If your wrists are tender, you can do this exercise on your forearms.
  • Slide one leg out behind you as high as you can without taking the back into extension (ideally at at plank level), then slide your leg back in.
  • Either go with a set of eight to 10 reps on each leg, or alternate legs.
  • You may want to exhale on the extension of your leg, and inhale on the way back in.
  • Ensure that your abdominal wall is lifted firm towards your spine and your shoulder blades held wide apart. You don’t want to sink anywhere in your back during this exercise.
  • Now add choreography, perhaps by raising the opposite arm into flexion as your leg is in extension. Use your ball in your hands or even in the fold of your knee, taking your leg upwards in a bent position.
  • Feel free to change the exercise. Have fun with it.

On a final note, since we’re contemplating the mind and the body pull earlier, I have an exercise for your mind, but it is colouring. Yes, adult colouring books. It is very relaxing and it enables the mind to wander where it may need to go.

Try it for a change.

Meet our expert -

Heidi Wright is certified in Pilates Mat, Allegro, Studio and Post Rehabilitation with Polestar Pilates and Pilates elder Lolita San Miguel. She is also a member and certified instructor with Pilates Method Alliance and a Post Rehabilitation practitioner with Pink Ribbon.