Meeting with… Nicolas Fournier

Nicolas.jpg

Reflexology is an ancient complementary healththerapy that uses gentle pressure applied on various points of feet to treat the whole body, helping it to relax, balance and heal itself.

Why did you start reflexology? What’s the story?

I discovered reflexology through a treatment that I received myself and was deeply impressed by the sensations and the relaxing and balancing effect it had on me. The more I dug into it and the more I became fascinated by this practice. One day the idea crossed my mind to get trained and to be able to provide such wellbeing to others but it took me a couple of years to get over myself and engage into the official training offered by the London School of Reflexology.

I also think that the 10 years I have spent in China during which I have received treatments of reflexology, acupuncture and qigong have opened my western mind to a different approach to the body, to health and to healing. I find in my practice of reflexology a very practical and hands-on way to help people to heal and find a better balance in their life.

AdobeStock_172463701.jpeg

How did it help you through your journey?

First as a client, I can be quite stressed out and I have found in reflexology a place where my mind gets into a state of peace and my body deeply relaxes. Then as a reflexologist, I am glad to have developed a manual trade where my hands do the work with little input or involvement of my brain. It is also deeply gratifying to feel the soothing and relaxing effect on my clients, as well as the help it brings into their life. I must say I find fascinating to read the story of people in their feet and to be perhaps able to give them a little bit of support and their journey.

Who are the people that would benefit the most?

Almost everyone can benefit from a relaxing session from time to time. Of course people who have a medical condition and who would like to help their body to overcome this will find in reflexology a complementary approachto whatever treatment they are undergoing and that will help greatly the body to rebalance but as well to let theanxiety linked to any treatment fade away. More widely, reflexology can help to work on the beginning of imbalances, before they become a problem. As such, I believe it can play an important role to nip illnesses in the bud.

Is the effect immediate, or does it take effect only over time? How many treatments are normally required and what is the frequency of treatments?

There is normally an immediate effect of relaxation in the hours following the treatment. But beyond that, the rebalancing of the body may take several sessions at regular intervals. I personally try and have for myself one reflexology session a week (that’s the ideal, or every other week if not) to keep a good overall state. Prevention of illnesses through a healthy hygiene of life seems very sensible, and for me reflexology is one of the key ingredients together with a good diet, proper sleep and regular physical exercise.

Why is it now the right time of the year to receive reflexology treatments?

Winter is coming” and with it its lot of colds and flus and others. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have your annual flu jab, particularly if you are more advanced in age, this is not for me to say. But giving a boost to your immune system through a 3-4 treatment course will certainly get your body stronger to resist to these seasonal ailmentsand overcome it more quickly and easily if you are subject to one of them.

ABOUT EATING DISORDERS and EXERCISE DISORDERS… 

051515EIG_routine_fiZK4Qh.jpg

What: What type of exercise do you do, how often?

Why: Why do you choose this type of exercise? 

How well do you do to satisfy all of your Needs, Physical, Mental and Emotional? 

At times we are in such a tough place that the only thing that makes us feel better, or keep us ‘fairly calm’ is to go for that ‘lung-busting run’, or perhaps that spinning class where we sweat and know that we have burnt 100’s of calories and keep our weight intact or still constantly fighting our battle to lose weight. 

These classes are great and they do serve a purpose. We all love them. However when I am constantly tired or more to the point exhausted, when I am permanently fighting a little cold or a small injury – all signs that my immune system is battling or when I am constantly having a little ache or am fighting pain. Perhaps it is time to take a step back and be honest with myself: What do I choose to do for exercise and Why do I choose that particular exercise. 

There are a 101 reasons, however I believe that we struggle to make the right choices with all the pressures we face these days. If my day is ruined because I have not burnt my x-amount of calories or I am constantly hindered by injuries then it is time to ‘STOP’. Take stock. 

Start with what is most important: your immune system. How can you help your immunity to support you better? 

Sleep: 7-9 hours every night. 

Minimise pressures (stress): Have a Balance between being switched on in a focused way (low Beta) and quiet times (alpha). Day-dream and drift off to delve in your creativity and innate wisdom and sleep long enough to enter the phase of dreamless sleep – to enable your body to repair and to restore, thus maintaining a healthy brain condition and brain waves. 

Nutrition: What do you eat ;when and why? 

Have fun:

Broaden your attention and focus on a variety of things, be aware of the bigger picture. Spread your wings and seek what is interesting and varied. You need to have more than one thing in your life that gets your attention. Workaholics all end up on one heap: It’s called exhaustion. 

Exercise with purpose. Understand what you choose and feel confident that that choice is serving you and your body well. Treasure your health, do not destruct. No-one is indestructible. 

SF Studios and all the people that work here, are fully committed to ‘Inspire Holistic Individual Health’ in a consistent, long-term manner. At times joint mobility should be a higher priority than calorie-burning, some-times a slower-paced class is more conducive to learning than a fast, pumped up class with loud music….. and yes, at times it feels damn good to give a punch-bag a great punch. We love the punches too, we just know that we need to deserve to punch as we need to land and absorb them safely and confidently. We need to do our ground work consistently: That is ultimately what keeps us safe and our immune systems balances in the long-run. 

Start at the right place, give yourself adequate time, nothing happens overnight and not even in 3 months… However a year or perhaps even longer dedication might serve you for the rest of your life. Play and Compete without being Hurt. Play and Compete with real Confidence and proper Technique. Enjoy what you do, exercise is not meant to be a survival tool to combat all the other negatives in your life. 

Our patient journey, which starts with a comprehensive assessment is there to ensure that we put you on the right path. You will either start with one-to-one sessions, or you would be able to enter a ‘therapy class’ (these are small classes of up to 4 people to help people when they start and when they are unfamiliar to movements or perhaps scared). Or you would be placed in the right class to suit your specific needs. Start well. End well.

Suzanne

“I give you my word”

alternative-to-handshake-main.jpg

I was born in South Africa, where it is part of the Afrikaner culture that giving your word is a real commitment and sign of respect, both to yourself and to others. Your word is your honor. To break your word, and so your promise, is the last thing in the world you would do, in fact it is inconceivable.

Giving your word’ can refer to so many things, for example, borrowing money or a pen and telling the other person that you will return it, or telling someone that you will meet them at a certain time and place (can you remember those days before mobile phones?) or promising that you will ‘back them up’, stand up for them’, do your homework, or honor your side of any given agreement. I could go on.

I go about mylife these days and I find myself pondering about “I give you my word.” Is there still such a thing as “my word?

Does it have the same meaning and importance in today’s world? Do people even realise, or have any sense of guilt when they break their word, thus breaking their commitment or promise to themselves and toot hers?”

 

Keeping my word in my career:

 

My job entails many responsibilities. I treat patients and promise to write to their referring specialists, in order to recap the session, or to send them their home exercises, etc. These are big promises and when I make them I am usually in a one on one setting with my clients. They have my full attention, as well as my time. When I make these promises, I say it out loud, because I know if I say I will do something, “I have to do it” - I cannot opt out. This act of making a deliberate promise to myself is my way of forcing me to be diligent and I always set a deadline for delivering it. So many times things would come up: I can forget, I have over-committed myself, or I end up working over the week-end, late at night, etc., I may not be in the mood, or perhaps I’m too tired or too foggy to do it… There are a thousand reasons that can get in the way.

This made me realise that I have to be very cautious when I make a promise. I must really value the person. I must be willing to put in the effort and take time out to do so and I must believe in the importance of the commitment. 

This brings me to the other side of the equation. Making a promise usually entails two or more parties (except if the promise is to yourself, which I will come to later). Imagine that I made the effort to set a programme, (this used to happen quite often) and then send it to my client and then my client comes to the next session and announces that they did not receive the programme, or did not have time to open it. Or that they have not had time to do the exercises. Can you imagine how that makes me feel? Can you see how such a lack of commitment can break down a valuable session. It is not only a cost to me, but also costs my client £119, as well as their time!

I have ended up on the wrong side of this equation too many times. I don’t want to be annoyed with my clients and resent them for wasting my time -  so I now enter agreements very cautiously. 

Do we both believe in ‘keeping our word’? Do we share the importance of aligning word and deed? I now enter each step of the process with an agreementI take into consideration whether my clients want a programme in the first place, whether they are absolutely committed to doing their home exercises, if not we simply agree not to send them any programmes - without putting them on the spot. Sometimes we agree that they will go home and make notes of what they have understood from the session and to either email me or to bring their notes back to the next session. 

Entering any empowering therapy session, physical or mental, requires effort and commitment. It is important that people give their word and keep it. 

I am only a human being. When I am under a lot of pressure I know that I can forget something. Under these circumstances I tread more cautiously. I set-up reminders on my phone. I ask my team to help me be accountable and most importantly I ask my client to keep me informed and let me know within 48 hours if they have not received anything from me and, if so, to notify me at once.

Keeping my word to my clients and for my clients to keep their word to me, forms the basis of all my commitments: to be able to meet expectations, to achieve results on both sides – client and therapist. I am a firm believer in setting a standard of conduct from the very first session. 

 

Keeping my word with my family and friends.

 

My amazing brother, whom I love dearly, is probably the worst time keeper in the world. This inability to be on time, has been with him since childhood and has impacted on my life, my two sisters’ life and my parent’s life, for as long as I can remember. 

 I have clear memories of sitting in a car in the mornings, on our way to school, hearing my father honking away, my mother yelling and of me getting out of the car and yelling even harder than my mother! This did not happen just once, but all the time and it lasted for the remainder of my school years. My brother, simply could not be on time. 

Then I moved to London where I lived by myself. I had to get myself to my appointments on time. It caused me so much stress to be late or even ‘just managing to be on time’. I soon realised that there was absolutely no point dripping with sweat, or having a perspiring forehead or a clinging, sticky shirt for the rest of the day, so I started to be punctual and take my time. I opted to read or have a coffee, and familiarize myself with my environment. Then then I started to realise who of my friends, colleagues, clients are late and guess what, it’s always the same ones…. And yes, I do note the perspiration on their foreheads, the clammy shirts, the hasty movements, the lack of breath and I silently smile and say ‘thank you’. Thank you for making me commit and promise myself I would always be on time.

I communicated the importance of time keeping to my brother and told him how I felt about people disrespecting my time when they are late. There is always a time when things get really out of control, however that is the not the norm and not a ‘weekly occurrence!’ I told him it was very important to me and that when we make a date to meet, I expected him to be on time – no matter what. I also agreed to give him a 5-minute leeway, but after that I would leave. 

This was one hell of a promise to make, as being rejected by my brother would hurt me very much even now. Also, bear in mind that I have grown up with my brother, he’s my best mate, and we’ve always bailed each other out… 

It was December, a Friday night, I was working late. I had to book a taxi directly after work (I gave myself 25 minutes to get ready and have a shower) to take me from Hampstead to Notting Hill Gate. I had booked a lovely restaurant for dinner and I wanted to say good-bye to him before I departed on my holiday over Christmas and New Year. 

I got in the taxi, was just about dry and controlling my breath. I tried to put the day behind me and was looking forward to seeing my brother. I remember that I had a nervous feeling of anticipation. It started snowing and the world slowly turned whiter and whiter. As soon as I got to my destination, I got out of the taxi. I ran to the tube station where I had agreed to meet him. I went inside for shelter and waited … the 5 minutes were up… I walked back outside to see if he had called me or if we had missed one another. By now 6 minutes had passed. It was my word to myself and my word to my brother versus a great night out for Christmas. Shit, to say the least!

I remember having an ‘out of body experience.’ I could see my feet moving down the stairs into the tube station. I could feel the tears running down my cheeks and the anger and heat in my face and body. The fury, disguised my profound disappointment, sadness and fear. I think I must have walked really slowly, desperately hoping I would bump into him, I don’t remember anything of the rest of the journey back home - to this day it is a total blank. 

That was such a hard thing to do and that incident must have beenten years ago now. My brother was furious with me and was full of all kinds of excuses why he was late…. however.

Since then, my brother has never been late for any of our appointments. In fact he says that he used to have an attack of diarrhea every time he had to meet me, so he madesure he was always at least 30 minutes early. After that incident, I do not think that there will ever be another occasion in our lives when we will not keep our word to one another. 

This story might sound like an over exaggeration, a hefty penalty for a very small sin, however it was not that night that mattered, it was a life-time of future nights that did. 

 Professional people making a promise to me:

  

I recently had a profound experience. I was being treated by a wonderful, very grounded woman and felt very safe in such a daunting and intimate situation. It took me a long time to pluck-up the courage to go for this specific treatment and I am very glad that I did. I benefited right away and am still benefiting three days later. The only sad thing about my encounter with this lovely person, was that she promised to write me an email within 2 days of my appointment to find out how I was getting on, so she could decide whether to schedule a follow-up treatment. It is now day 6 and I have not yet received an email from her. I am hoping to hear from her in the next few days, fingers tightly crossed, because right now I need to overcome my disappointment, but if she does not email me by then, I am afraid that that would be the end of the line with her. I have to stand by promise to myself. If you give me your word, then you have to keep it. If you cannot trust yourself to keep it then ask me to keep you accountable for keeping it. 

I truly believe that in life, all relationships – whether professional or personal - would be so much better if we keep our word. When we promise something and act with integrity, we keep our words and deeds aligned. 

And please, when you bump into me on the road, do not say to me that you will call me, just to be polite, without really meaning it. We all live busy lives and get carried away by the moment, however do take one step back, take a breath when you make a promise, whether to me or to anyone else. That will help us all to make less promises and put less stress on ourselves. 

A promise to myself:

 

We all make promises to ourselves, every year, every month, every week and every day. I for example would promise myself that I would run three times this coming week. When I make the promise to myself I fully intend to honor my word, however the week then commences and guess what; I have too much work, I end up working exceptionally long days, I end up being too exhausted to even put my trainers on, never mind think of a run!

Another of my favorites is to promise myself that I would go the whole week T-total – no alcohol. Guess what, the week starts and I have a stressful day, or a friend calls me out of the blue that I have not seen in a long time - and we would love to have a drink together and of course it is a very special occasion as we have not seen one another in ages. Alternatively it is a particularly cold day, or my husband fancies a drink and lures me in to having a drink with him, as one drink will not make any difference… 

Can you see how quickly it is to ‘slip’ or to ‘fall’ down a slippery slope. Before you know it you are back in your old spiral of ‘valid excuses’, ‘justifying your actions’ and postponing your commitments until next week. 

We all have friends that are permanently on a detox, that are permanently going to lose weight, that is always about to start a training regime, give up smoking, whatever it is….. at one point we all get to that point where we no longer pay attention. We have to safe-guard ourselves and our own expectations. Be careful, I am speaking about myself before I speak about anyone else. Do not become one of those empty vessels and if you do, start to change your tune, by simply staying quiet, reflecting, thinking. Consider your pitfalls and decide how to avoid them by starting to implement realistic goals so you can keep your promises and so build credits of integrity for yourself while slowly extending that to your friends, family, community and life itself. 

Whatever you say and do, think what you put out there. It can be so meaningful and yet so easily demeaning. Leave foot prints of integrity behind you and surround yourself with people that do care about the meaning of ‘keeping your word.’ 

 

Suz xx

 

One Step at a Time

Travelling through Uganda a week ago, presented me with a lot of time to reflect. Being fully immersed in my surroundings (which would be classified as very harsh and arduous in our western terms) brought a few home truths to me. 

As I have found myself in this place of ‘no rushing’, ‘being calm’ with ‘lowered expectations’ I ask myself the question, as I want to be realistic in my own life: ‘How long will this insight of mine last?” 

Back in London, walking through South End Green, up Pond Street past the hospital on my left, I was immediately aware of the amount of concrete, people with their faces buried in their phones, bumper-to- bumper traffic with fumes up my nostrils - even in August; I was filled with sadness and I did not enjoy the walk at all. 

I longed to be on the dusty, very bumpy, incredibly uncomfortable road in Uganda, immersed in dust and surrounded by jungle. Looking out to see people carrying water, bananas, wood or coal and pushing their pedal bikes, if they were lucky enough to have such a sophisticated transporter. The roads frequently are too steep and difficult to pedal, the push bikes are mostly used to transport cargo for miles. 

AfterlightImage 3.JPG

The Ugandans are the friendliest people I have come across in a long time, I never experienced or observed any form of aggression or violence, no one was ever shouting; I only experienced and observed patience, kindness and content communication. Everyone made eye contact and one was generally greeted with a beautiful white smile and a wave of a hand. 

AfterlightImage 9.JPG

I saw no over-weight person, nor a cripple, nor any physically deformed individual – perhaps I was just very lucky. Even the toddlers walk and carry small buckets of water on their head. One learns from an early age that one is part of a bigger system and everyone has to share the load. The people walk upright with strong postures, they bend easily, they work the fields with grace and ease. Everyone squats, from old to young. They gaze, they chat, they play with self-made balls in the streets or on the fields. To see body movement with such elegance, from old to young, hit a chord with me. 

What is life about? I wonder. What do I do as an individual for a meaningful life and what is meaningful at the end of a day? To keep on expanding, gathering, ‘self-enhancing’, seeing more places.... or making sure one has enough food and water on a daily basis to feed one’s family, to spend time with one`s family each day and to work one’s little piece of land. Maybe I should strive for some place in the middle. 

I was astounded by my own excesses once I have returned to London, I don’t have one plant to water, I have hundreds.... We ordered an Indian take-away for my first night, (a usual routine after having been away on holiday). The amount and variety of food on the table made me laugh and then I was shocked, the number of flavours in one bite.... all over- whelming and my stomach suffered for the first time in 10 days. I experienced the sensation of having eaten too much. I was disgusted. It was simply just wrong. I did not need that much. Was I over-whelmed by the variety and excessive amounts available? What made me over-eat? 

In Uganda I had a choice of two meals for dinner, there were one vegetarian and one meat option. I always chose the vegetarian. I had daily chats with guides, trackers, locals and they informed me that they live on 1⁄2 a sweet potato for lunch, an Irish potato and perhaps some peas or nuts for dinner. Meat, usually stewed beef with tomatoes and peppers, is saved for Easter and Christmas and when a very special friend visits from afar. 

I went to Uganda for two reasons. It was a trip to see the mountain gorillas for my mum’s 70th birthday. (This item ‘Gorillas’ was high on her bucket list). It took me 22 hours x2 of travel to get to Entebbe and back via Dubai. It took three days of travel by road in an uncomfortable, rattling, dusty Jeep to complete our itinerary. One bounced up and down, side-to-side constantly and one could find no rhythm whatsoever. Some things in life, one has to experience oneself, no explanation will do justice. Those trips presented me with: an Opportunity to practice patience. Time to think. Time to gaze. Time to gain perspective. 

AfterlightImage 2.JPG
AfterlightImage 4.JPG

Nothing that is truly wonderful and special comes easy, and nor should it. One has to be prepared to do the extra yards (or miles), literally. 

However, meeting those creatures in a jungle after 3-hours of a track was worth every mile, every bump all the swallows of dust. 

The gorillas were much shorter in the leg than in the movies, they are strong and mobile. We were particularly lucky as it was the dry season in Uganda and browsing was difficult, they had to travel far for food daily and rests were needed. We caught them in their napping time in a fairly open area. 

They stretched regularly, they changed position ‘in bed’, they yawned, sneezed, snored and snoozed. They gazed as if in wonder. They played with themselves, with one another and with little twigs which they chewed on and waved. Some were more restful than others. The silverback raised his arms once and made a sound when the little ones irritated him. They scrambled very quickly into a cranny. They slept next to one another, rested their heads, arms and legs on one another and some preferred their own space. 

They did not smell like an animal to me, they smelled like a very dirty person who had not had a shower in 3 weeks and had plenty of intensive work-outs. The odour, however, was musty, rather than overwhelming. 

My favourite picture is the one of Rafiki (which means friend), the leader of the group of 14, stretched out, one foot stretched into a bifurcation, looking upwards to the sky. 

AfterlightImage 6.JPG

I will remember the soles of their feet, their nipples – identical to those of human beings, their hands and fingers, the funny big toe resembling a thumb to enable them to use their feet like hands. The thumbs on their hands are also very short as long thumbs will get in the way when they swing from tree to tree, called branching. 

IMG_3641.JPG

Back to the studio, back to Autumn. The time of year when leaves fall, things slow down and trees prepare themselves for winter, shielded by their coat of bark. This Autumn I want to take things slower, I want to do less, drink less, eat less – never have I said ‘nothing or zero or stop’, nordid I say ‘everyday, intensive, hard, fast’.... I want to be realistic daily, weekly, I want a balanced, overall approach to my whole life. I want to be present when I eat, train, walk, read, talk. I want to stop doing 2-5 things at one time.

I am going to set small goals, to keep me on track and to help me prioritise better, as this city called London, is a jungle full of opportunities and options that bombard us every day from every angle. We get persuaded so easily by ourselves and by others. I hope to keep on reminding myself of my incentives and my promise to myself to slow down and to be present.

For training; The Ladder Approach: One step at a time; ladders go down, they stay still and they go up, it is not a one-way traffic upwards – don’t fool yourself. Try to gain perspective from your position on the ladder and learn and gain from each step. There is no rush and I promise you there is no end destination. All you get when you reach the top of this ladder is another ladder. The higher you aim, potentially the bigger your fall. Yet, horizons also broaden when you have gained some height. What does make sense then in your life?

IMG_0338.jpg

For being; I want to be creative this Autumn, I want one project, it is either going to be photography or painting. I will commit to one on the 30th of  September 2018. 

For business; For the family; For friends: For dancing; Etc. 

Many insights were revealed during our ‘Catch That Fall’ Retreat – June 2018. A few of them are still very fresh in my mind. Mr Stolzenberg confessed at the end that he always had a ‘zero-to-hero’ approach and he always got injured. He thought that if he did one class a week that he would get strong and flexible. He realised how wrong he was and he realised how much work one has to put in, however hard it is at times, it will be possible. It takes a lot of dedication but the onus is on you, it is you that have to put in the work, no-one else can do it for you. 

Mrs Utting said that she did not wish for anyone to suffer, however, it was comforting to know that other people suffer too from pain and discomforts. That we all have our own issues and that we have to deal with them and mostly we can. 

I hope to inspire you to be kinder to yourself about your self- expectation, I want you to take a little bit of time and really think what matters in your life. Take one step back. Do one thing fewer. Do it properly. Be authentic in your choice(s) for your life. Assume accountability, put in the work and stop blaming ‘having no time’, ‘having too much work’, ‘being too tired’ ......... start and commit to something small, one step at a time and enjoy it. 

I am not dependent on exercise/movement/connection for my survival, however, I fully know that I derive so much more meaning, joy and contentment when I do move, am creative and have proper connections with people daily. 

I wish you all a wonderful Autumn. Do choose from our SFS Menu what will enhance your life holistically. There is enough on the list to offer you a meaningful choice, perhaps choose something that you always secretly wanted to do, however never felt ready or good enough to do. 

Look out for the colour in the leaves when they “autumnize” be one of those beautiful white smiles that greet people with your eyes and when you can avoid walking up Pond Street in traffic! 

Suz xx 

The Empowering Story of Joanna Portner

“One thing that SF Studios has instilled in me is that I am “normal” and need not be scared to use my body”

 

I was first introduced to Suz at SF Studios by my back surgeon, who had operated on me 9 years ago. 

Since the operation, my back always gave me pain which rarely dissipated. Two years ago, I was diagnosed with herniated discs in my lumbar spine, my neck (together with a cyst on the disc in my neck) and, most worryingly, a herniated disc in my thoracic spine. This last herniation was impinging on my spinal cord and I was told that it could lead to paralysis in my legs. It also gave me constant excruciating pain in my ribs and referred nerve pain in my shoulders. 

I was reluctant to see another “physiotherapist” as I had seen so many who had failed to help. It was frustrating just lying on a bed being treated with a bit of massage once a week and never benefitting from any long-term relief. I was taking paracetamol every 4 hours, anti-inflammatories every morning and tramadol every evening, but still had interrupted sleep due to the pains in my ribs and shoulders. However, my surgeon thought I would really benefit from seeing Suz so I arranged to have a session in around March 2017.

Since my first session with Suz, I have never looked back! I began with some one-to-one session. Suz started with a thorough holistic assessment and asked me about my whole life, not just my spine. She also assessed my movements and she palpated every joint in my body and tested the movements.  She explained to me her finding and assured me that we could do a lot to help me, however, that she was going to teach me how to move and she said that her aim was to ‘see the movement as my friend and not my enemy’. This approach helped me gain confidence and work on my strengths. Rather than being negative and telling me what I couldn’t do, Suz was incredibly positive and made me feel like I could and would get stronger and stronger. She affirmed my strengths and values as a whole person. 

Jo Portner 001.jpg

Suz nudged me gently, however with strong intention….. and I finally felt confident enough to join the movement classes. I have met some lovely, supportive and fun people! I also started working with Marco who although works on the same principles of movement as Suz. His Movement Conditioning Classes (MC Classes) focus on strength and varies the movement and focus each week. It keeps the classes interesting and enjoyable (and it’s great to sweat!). 

I’ve also attended some of the weekend workshops which complement the weekly classes with information and insight into how your body works and how you can improve things like breathing. I can now hang on the ladders like a monkey and pull myself up. I can plank like I’ve never planked before! If someone had told me that I would be doing such things two years ago, I would have laughed! 

One thing that SF Studios has instilled in me is that I am “normal” and need not be scared to use my body. I was always scared that I could not exercise like other people since my back was weak and prone to problems. I now know this to be untrue and am able to do as much, if not more, than any “normal” person with no back problems.

I rarely take painkillers anymore and feel strong and happy when I’m moving with Suz and Marco. I even went on the retreat to France with Suz and Ginny in June and had a life-changing experience, forming fantastic friendships with people who share a love of movement and becoming stronger both physically and mentally. 

I enjoy going to SF Studios a couple of times a week and relish the holistic approach to movement and mental happiness. It is a calm and positive place where you are encouraged to work to your strengths rather than dwell on your weaknesses. Suz and her team are so friendly and I always walk away feeling refreshed and prepared to take on the rest of my week! 

“More than anything else, I want to empower each and every individual that crosses my path, to remind them what a beautiful strong person they are and what they are capable of”.

60 seconds with... Fiona M.

_DSC6005.JPG

You attend Suz and Marco’s classes, can you explain me the difference between the two methods?

It’s a given that both Suz and Marco are 100% dedicated to the fundamentals of their practice. 100% appreciated by me. Given this shared commitment to detail. I would say Marco is more routinely focused on the bricks and blocks- The chords. Suz is more instructive; improvises; more into me flow/movement, while on top of detail. 

 

What do you expect from them?

With Suz – expect the unexpected high energy, fun, an ability to connect and engage on a personal level with everyone. A full assessment of your place, your being. 

With Marco – it is my M.O.B. I know what to expect – value his work highly as a comfort point to Suz. Both methods speak to each other/blend. 

 

Why do you need both of them (class with Marco and 1:1 with Suz)? 

Great to combine 1 :1 with classes – different dynamic, perspective. Appreciate strength with Marco. Sense of ongoing development and settings sights and goals and possibilities with Suz. Back to base, being grinded with Marco. Enjoy my week immensely with Suz. 

Marco is technique, movement conditioning.  Suz is movement, feeling, flow. 

A Brief Movement History by Seb

We all know that exercising and movement is beneficial for our bodies and minds. It provides a psychological and physical benefit, which in today’s fast-paced lives is of huge benefit to our sense of wellbeing. 

 

Throughout the centuries, the rationale and philosophy of movement and exercise have changed dramatically. We went from the Palaeolithic era between 2.6 million and 100,000 years ago – where the movement was utilised very much as a method of survival – to the ancient farming and agricultural times which took hold around 10,000 ago. At this point in movement evolution, actions were still very manual but significantly far more repetitive than for our primal ancestors. As advances in technology improved and machines were used more, there were obvious advantages in terms of profitability, mass production of supplies and time efficiency – but at what cost to our health? We now had mechanisms which we could rely on to keep the world around us functioning, without having to rely on good old-fashioned manual handling skills.  Consequently, human movement efficiency plummeted and the health status of workers systematically declined in line with continued technological advances. All of this is hugely relevant information when it comes around to the question of exercise choice and its role in building resilience for our bodies biological systems.

The fitness and health industry is a multi-million pound one, constantly advertising to us and promoting fancy equipment, all with health claims to be ‘the one’.

What’s important when choosing whether to pursue a regime of physical activity is that it engages you. This must be of utmost importance. The term ‘challenge’ is highly subjective and its meaning has and can mean many different things to a multitude of individuals. One person’s walk in the park may mean another’s marathon. Everyone’s preference for physical activity is going to be different and that’s a good thing.

What’s important for the fitness industry’s reputation going forward is that people don’t feel pressurised into certain activities. Engagement once again is the key term here. As healthcare professionals, we have an obligation to inform, encourage and enlighten when it comes to movement and pain management. Problems begin to arise when trainers, coaches and ‘specialists’ preach and insist that there is one way only as a path to follow. To ensure sustainability of health and a long-lasting sense of well-being, the professional should guide and allow the patients and clients to feel comfortable pursuing and engaging in physical activity safely and with an enhanced understanding of their limits and capability and why it is important for them.

 

·       TRX

·       Kettlebells

·       Medicine balls

·       ViPR

·       Swiss Balls

·       Resistance bands

 

The above demonstrate just a small example of the wide range of fitness toys, which are now commonly used in the gym and healthcare setting. The concept and introduction of these fitness tools can be traced all the way back to where we started this blog article, talking about movement in the Palaeolithic era. Movements from this period were hugely varied with spontaneous bursts of speed, demonstrating joint mobility and ravaging displays of strength. These fitness tools provide other avenues for coaches and clients to be creative through their movement education. An important point to mention here though is that any movement program that is being introduced must have a method and concept to allow appropriate progressions and regressions based on capability and efficiency.

 

Screen Shot 2018-04-04 at 15.58.22.png

This flow chart shows 7 elements which are key for the attainment of the vital body. By addressing these factors in equal measure, you are providing the body with the best chance of staying not just injury free but flourishing in the exciting, fast-paced and engaging world we live in today.  

In short..... Get moving!

 

Seb Hicks

 

 

60 seconds with... Jane G.

HIIT 27.jpg

You attend both Suz and Marco’s classes, can you explain the difference between the two methods?

Marco and Suz have different personal styles as you would expect. But what I love about both is that they complement each other. They start from a similar knowledge base and use the same principles and methods. Sometimes, you see a theme during a week, whether they intend it or not, so you feel you are building on a particular focus as the week goes on.

 

What do you get from each of them?

I always feel fantastic when I leave their classes. Both encourage and push and I always feel that I’ve progressed, even just a little, in each class.

 

Why did you choose our Studio rather than a gym or a traditional Pilates studio?

I originally started at SFStudios on a friend’s recommendation and very quickly feel in love with the personal, friendly approach used by all the teachers. The atmosphere is always a happy energetic one. 

EXHALE - The lost art of breathing out

_DSC6517.JPG

If you’re familiar with any of my classes, you might have noticed that there is one thing that I often insist on: keep your ribs down. It’s the main component of the hollow body position, which plays a major role in many athletic endeavours, especially gymnastics. However, the reason why I place so much emphasis on this position - here, as much as in the classes - is not performance, but optimal breathing. 

To do what it’s meant to, the diaphragm needs to be in its neutral position: a dome shape. When the diaphragm contracts, our lungs are pulled down and expand, drawing air into our body. When it relaxes, our lungs are deflated and air is pushed out of our body. We call these two basic actions inhalation and exhalation. 

Pretty straightforward, right? Well, not always. 

If not effectively opposed by our abdominal wall, our ribcage has the tendency to flare, normally on the left-hand side. Within a certain amount, this is normal. In many cases, however, this tendency becomes dysfunctional and generates problems. By flaring out, in fact, the diaphragm loses its dome shape and, with it, its ability to work as a breathing muscle (it essentially stiffens up and becomes a postural muscle). We find ourselves in a state of hyperinflation, a fancy term used to highlight the fact that our back is over-extended and our breathing is compromised. 

In this scenario, we are unable to use our diaphragm. Without realising it, we adjust our postures and movements in ways that help us compensate for that, turning our neck and shoulder muscles into our main ‘inhalators’. This extra duty adds up to the already heavy workload of these structures, causing local stiffness and soreness, and a general increase of tension and stress. We find ourselves in constant “fight or flight” mode, which causes chronic anxiety and depletes our energy levels, making us sleepy and drowsy. 

 

 ©FitnessGenes 

©FitnessGenes 

What should we do? The short answer is: we need to breathe out - more effective, more consistently. 

For that to happen, our ribcage and spine have to allow our diaphragm to assume its natural dome shape and work as it should. Once the shape has been restored, we can practise our diaphragmatic (or belly) breathing to get a sense of what it means to breathe without using neck and shoulders. Once also good function has been re-established, we can get fancy and reinforce it through some exercises. 

The hollow body position mentioned initially is a good starting point: it activates the abdominal wall, especially oblique and transverse abdominal muscle. These muscles offer a dynamic control of the position of our ribcage, and, therefore, support the regular activity of our diaphragm. 

 

Marco Litto

Thoughts on Perceptions

HOW WE APPROACH SOMETHING MENTALLY CAN HAVE A HUGE IMPACT ON WHAT WE GET OUT OF IT - by suz

What’s your perception of the photo above? We've had so many comments – from “great picture” and “fantastic shot” to “intimidating”, “elitist”, “a little creepy” and “super strong”. 

Does it inspire you? — "I want to be able to do that!" Or did it terrify you? — "I could never be able to do that! 

How do I respond to the comments about the picture of Marco and me? I am chuffed that people think we are elite however it alienates us, which is so sad – I certainly don’t want people to feel that we are out of their league because it’s absolutely not like that in our work at all. 

The greatest gift in my life is having a connection with another person, helping them overcome whatever stands in their way to being the greatest, happiest, most confident person they can be — living and enjoying their life.

I meet so many great people on a weekly basis and hear their mental struggles: ‘I want to lose weight first and then I will come”, “I should get fitter first and then I will join a class”, “I do not want to be the weakest in the class” or "will I be that weakest person, hiding in the corner?” They are all common themes. 

Believe it or not, I too was like that at one stage in my life but then I realised that there were so many people with the same thoughts, the same fears, trepidations, inhibitions and feelings of “I am not good enough” or “I don’t want to make an idiot of myself” or just feeling embarrassed. 

I too was making that yearly promise to myself of ‘I will do this and this and then I will go the gym’ but finding myself one year later in exactly the same place. When you get so far away from that place that you want to be, the simplest thing is to give up and walk away from your dream. We can create new excuses like “I am too old now” or “I never had the time”.

At SF Studios, everyone is welcome. There are no superheroes or super athletes here. We are what we are and we are where we are because of our passion, commitment and desire to improve. 

At the end of the day it is a scientific formula — the more you put in wisely and correctly, the more you get out.

Start by turning up. Get onto your mat. Get into your shoes. Get onto your saddle. Just start and then keep on going.  

The Backbend: Overcoming Fear to Fulfil an Ambition

To BE ABLE TO DO A backbend I, like many of my clients, had to overcome what was going on in my head as well as in my body. I had to learn to overcome my false beliefS. - by suz

My body was so over-developed on one plane by running, doing triathlons and so much Pilates — that I overdeveloped my core muscles in the front of my tummy. It looked great and everyone was super impressed. My ability to perform sit-ups was off the chart in terms of strength BUT my back was aching so much in bed at night and the only comfortable position I could find wasn’t so good for my neck. Nurofen became my short-term solution. 

Back in the studio, I looked at people doing backbends with great admiration but I was the one shaking like a leaf when I was standing with both arms above my head, aiming to bend backwards, even just a few degrees.

My mind said “my back is not built for that". Also everything in my upbringing – my parents, the media, my physio and teachers around me, taught me that these types of movements were ‘inadvisable’ as they might damage the spine. (Yes, they can cause damage when performed wrongly and too vigorously, as with any other exercise.) So I consoled myself with my impressive core instead. 

Finally I acknowledged my fears to Marco and was so surprised when he shared with me how he had struggled too, and how long he had worked to get to the point of backbend.

We stripped it down, I took a leap of faith and Marco helped me. He guided me from the foundations of a back bend and encouraged me to stay with it. Of course it was tremendously hard and uncomfortable but amazing to remove the barrier and it gave me such a feeling of self-empowerment. And guess what – my back never broke! 

Not long after we started, I noticed that my back pain in bed had subsided. No more rolling about, adding pillows and trying to find a comfortable position. I was not aware of my back in any position, in fact when I was aware of my back, it felt great. I started to experience flexibility in my spine at all levels and my neck also felt better. 

I also realised how weak and stiff I was in the sides of my body (lateral flexion) and finally understood how important these muscles are to my core and started to focus on them instead. 

The beauty now is that I still have a six-pack without having to train. That’s because these muscles work in so many other ways. My sleep is pain free. I have confidence that I can move my back in any direction and feel strong, yet light. 

My back-bend journey still continues because I love a challenge and will always see if I can squeeze something more out of a single bone – that is my nature! I am a confident back-bender now, I never ever in a million years thought I would ever say this. 

We want to give this gift of “empowerment and freedom” to you too. All those people out there who think you're not fit enough, skinny enough, strong enough or not good at coordination — it does not matter how old you are.

If there is anything inside of you that wants to be able to do something, whatever that is… turn up, be honest, trust, commit and start the journey.