We are interested in creating conversations around how mainstream psychiatry and psychology see individuals as autonomous and decontextualized – as brains and not bodies and surroundings. We are interested in how power structures rather than brain dysfunctions can be involved in creating emotional distress leading to mental illness.
We see the experiences labelled as “depression” and “anxiety” as opportunities to be present with our feelings more fully. This may not make the experiences any less painful, but it helps to give them meaning and value and allow them to shift.
We teach classes and workshops incorporating liberating and empowering body movements to those who journey with “mental health” diagnoses..
This is a newsletter from November 2016. The response was overhelming – I ran a total of 3 of the workshops over 2 weekends:
Black dog and balls….
This summer I bought a variety of balls, read books about self-massage, went to ball workshops, but most importantly, rolled around with balls under various parts of my anatomy. I found which balls work and which don’t, and extracted all the exercises I felt were safe and useful for spines, hips, necks and shoulders (and I made a few up too).
This self-care and exploration were particularly important as my mood has been very up and down over the past few months. I’ve suffered from recurrent depression for forever so I’m used to ebb and flow, but familiarity doesn’t make the downs any less of a struggle.
However, this time I have been more successful at implementing what I know helps but can be so hard to carry through – doing less, reaching out to others and moving my body. When I’m depressed, any attempts at mindfulness and relaxation turn into a battle between rumination and serenity, in which rumination usually wins hand down. Instead, my mind needs to be occupied with more of a body-based sensory focus.
Ball massage has been perfect for this – it forces me to stop and rest and play with sensation. Depression feels empty, but entering into sensations reminds me I’m alive. When I find the right spot for the balls my belly softens and I know I’m in the rest and digest (parasympathetic) part of the nervous system.
I’ll be sharing my ball massage discoveries (and a few other things) at this year’s New Year Mini Retreat. We will focus on feeling and experiencing (rather than talking and thinking). As well as a tonic for tired minds, self massage is wonderful for smoothing out physical aches and pains.
There will be qigong (standing feel-good movement), guided relaxation, balls of various sizes and cups of tea. It will be a gentle session suitable for those slightly wary of this sort of thing, and an opportunity to enter more deeply into sensation for those with some experience.
New Year Mini Retreat – self-care for body & mind
Saturday 7th January 2017, 2.30pm-5.30pm
Johnson Hall, Stapleford, CB22 5SY
Find grounding in body and breath and earth and space
Simple movements for mental and physical wellbeing
Explore how the the ground is a resource both to release into and to support our power. Numbers are limited, suitable for all, no experience or ability necessary.
Books about self-massage
Jill Miller’s book is full of self massage ideas, although I found her Roll Model balls too firm. Sue Hitzmanm has pioneered soft rollers which we now use in Pilates class.
Books about depression
These are two books that I have found useful. Linda Gask is a recently retired psychiatrist who writes of her experience with depression and its interplay with her career.
Jonathan Rottenberg suggests that depression is prevalent today because it offered survival advantages in our evolutionary past. I like the idea that depression may have some purpose and meaning.