Mel Collie | fear and your back

Mel Collie | fear and your back

Back pain can be a direct result of anxieties, fear, worry , stress, a sign that we are always on the go, with stuff to do, places to go, families to organise, deadlines to achieve, dinner to cook, etc etc …and on top of all that, we get bills in the post , a stressful phone call , worry about the kids…all the things that just come along in everyday life, stress can create fear, which then becomes a response from the brain to the muscles.

Back pain is prevalent in many of the worlds population. The 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study estimated that low back pain is among the top 10 diseases.

Here in the UK,  low back pain was identified as the most common cause of disability in
young adults, with more than 100 million workdays lost per year. In the U.S. an estimated 149 million work days are lost every year because of low back pain

The condition is most common in Western Europe, followed by North Africa and the Middle East, and was lowest in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Why is that? Can we do something about it?

Well, our brain controls the muscles and whats happening in our central nervous system. When we feel fear, the front of the body contracts, shoulders round, abdominals contract, head juts forward.

When the body responds to fear and stress, it flexes, as if its trying to protect itself from oncoming danger. The same response our reflexes would have if we were walking down the stress and heard a loud noise, like a car backfiring or a door being slammed shut, our head juts forward, the shoulders round, the jaw tightens, the fists clench, eyes close, abdominals tighten up as the body flexes forward the thighs rotate inward and hamstrings contract.

The whole body is connected in our responses.

Constant contraction of the lower back muscles in a response to the Green Light Reflex, isnt because you have weak abs, its because your back is responding to your brain , its repeated over and over again throughout your life, it becomes a habit.

Learning how to deep breathe slowly into the belly is a good place to begin, this is a novelty for many of us, as we are so used to shallow breathing due to our rounded contracted posture, our diaphragm is affected by the position we hold, as are the lungs, we then tend to use the small neck and shoulder muscles to help us breathe, in turn, this also contributes to neck and shoulder pain.

Yet many of us shun the simple task of learning how to breathe correctly because, well, its just so simple it cant possibly work, surely we should be doing loads of sit ups to make our abs flat so we can have a stronger back?

Well,not really, most sit ups, even though its not a bad exercise, are done using the neck muscles to stabilise the body, hence many get a sore neck when they do sit ups, the very same neck muscles we use to breathe with…do you see where Im going with this?

Ok, so for you, if you have lower back pain the the moment, these 2 following moves are very simple,

Simple exercise for you to do for back pain,  : Lie on your back with hands under your lower back, the 5 vertebrae are opposite your navel.

Breathe out and flatten your lower back into your hands, breathe in and slowly arch the back off your hands. Repeat 5 times slowly, no less than 30 seconds, so dont rush it, the plan is that your brain feels the movement.

Then, still on your back, place the hands behind the head. Lift the head, as you flatten the back into the floor. Lower the head as you arch the back, exactly as you did in the first movement, but this time you are now using your head as well, co coordinating the head movement with the pelvis movement, feeling the movement, sensing the muscles being used.

Practice these 2 simple moves daily, practice them just after you wake up, again at night, think of these simple moves as an investment into your future of your back health. Theres 5 more simplly effective movements that follow this, watch this space for videos to follow on a couple more.

They will help you notice tight muscles in the back, help release them, allow the length of the muscles to return to normal, allow the blood pressure to flow through the fibres, helping muscular strength, flexibility and repair. You are changing your body by teaching your brain. Theres no quick fix,m just practice and a lifelong change. .

Melanie Collie

Pilates & Posture Sessions in Portreath, Cornwall.

Kinetic Chain Assessor Level 4





Mel Collie | How to have great posture as you age

Mel Collie | How to have great posture as you age

In my last post on the Red & Green reflexes,  you will have understood more about why pain and stiffness in the back, shoulders and neck and why its can be a simple thing like fear and our thoughts that can create pain and issues with our posture.

As we age, we can actually reduce the well known associated aging posture issues like back pain and reduced movement and balance.

The constant seesaw between the  Red and Green light reflexes, means that muscles are contracted and relaxed. As we get older we have more responsibilities , bills, relationship issues, worries, concerns, mortgages, work stress, deadlines, kids, sleep problems, diet issues, which can increase both reflexes.

All of these create a constant trigger of the 2 reflexes which eventually interfere with each other. When this repeats over the years, the senile posture is the result of all those years of pulling and relaxing, of fear and retreating, combining retractions of of withdrawal (Red light) and action(Green light) responses.

On top of this , we are told that as we age , pain is an inevitable sign of ageing, This is a sweeping statement, which can create a negative self image which is a judgmental point of view, and when we are judged, we tend to harbour a sense of fear and try to please others at our own cost.

This leads to a negative feeling, feeling  “less than”, so we feel small, our posture mirrors our feelings. This affects our fight or flight response, our breathing is affected, in turn this affects our posture.

The lower back muscles pull , the muscles in the front pull, the result is a forward head, rounded shoulders, rounded upper back. However, because we all see our own reality differently, our response are varied, so one person will not have the same posture as the next person.

Someone with a more stooped posture has their responses being more dominant in Red Light reflex . If the Green Light reflex is more dominant , we find the lower back curves are exaggerated , as is the neck too as they mirror each other.

We end up with the body being the outward projection of the habitual responses throughout our lifetime. responses to neuromuscular stress.

You can, though, reduce your stress responses, you can begin by noticing your triggers and you can change your body, how it moves, the pain you feel, and fatigue.

Accepting pain and lack of movement as we age is a myth, it can be inevitable of course, so lets embrace it, love it, allow it to fit , listen less to media and judgmental comments about what we “should” be doing and what we “should” look like as we age. These issues become the ingredients for our responses, they feed the red and green light reflexes so we feel more fearful which leads to us retreating more, concerned what others will think of us.

Happiness and fulfillment, gratitude for what we have, who we are and where we are, finding peace and calm goes towards a better inner being and strength, all of this can begin from a simple awareness of your breath, breathing from the lower abdominals,slow and steady inhalation and exhalation, connects with our sympathetic and para sympathetic nervous system, more about this in my next blog, so watch this space.



Pilates sessions and 1:1 sessions from Portreasth, Cornwall

Coming soon : Pre Pilates sessions. Spending time on walking, movement, neck and shoulder releases, feet, ankle flexibility and rotation.



Mel Collie | Back Pain isn’t all it seems

Mel Collie | Back Pain isnt all it seems


How common is back pain, have you had back pain or know someone who does?

How many times are we told to stretch this or strengthen that, maybe the back muscles are tight or weak, so we tighten up more and dont move it or we stretch certain muscles to hopefully allow those tight muscles to let go…is all back pain like this? Do we look at back pain with a “one size fits all” approach?

Lets look at it a different way.

Lets talk stress, worry, anxiety, fear, guilt…how common are those feelings as we get older, as we get more responsibilities like mortgages, rent, bills, kids, food shopping, work, assignments, doing things we dont really want to do, doing things we “should” be doing, following trends we “should be following, keeping appointments we said we would that we don’t really want to, keeping deadlines, drinking coffee to stay awake and keep up …etc etc

Maybe you dont even realise you are doing some of these things, you do them subconsciously, they become routine, we go on auto pilot .

When we go through these feelings, we tend to take shallow breaths, we inhibit the diaphragm and favour the use of the smaller shoulders and neck muscles to breath, and its not their job.

All of this can go on for many days, weeks, months, years, and we take 20 – 25,000 breaths a day, so you can see how this can add up, increasing pain in the neck and shoulders and lower back, because we arent using the right muscles to breath

Wow…thats a lot of movements for your neck and shoulders, no wonder they get tight/facilitated & your back gets inhibited/weak.

There is a simple and easy way to help your back pain reduce, your stress reduce, increase oxygen in your blood, increase wellness and reduce pain. Simply focus on your breathing pattern a couple of times a day.



Mel Collie | Posture – stretch it out?

Mel Collie | Posture – stretch it out?

Theres many different types of posture, you are unique, so its pretty much guaranteed that your posture is different to the next person, and just being told to stretch your hip flexors or your back or your neck or hamstrings to correct posture might just not work for you…so is there another way? A way that looks at not stretching hamstrings which are we believe that they are tight for a reason, so if you stretch them, and they don’t let go, its because they don’t think its safe to do so, theres something not happening in the structure of your body, and mind, which wont allow those tight muscles to let go.

So…what is going on?

Deep in your CNS (Central nervous system), you are deeply inscribed reflexes since you were born. What happens to you during your life affects your health and wellbeing, which in turn shows in your posture, which means your responses to events in your life are shown in your muscular responses.

Theres 2 major reflexes triggered by stress, which account for a large portion of the physiological problems as we age.

These are known as the RED light reflex and the Green light reflex.

Posture and Back Pain Reduction in Cornwall with Mel Collie

Posture and Back Pain Reduction in Cornwall with Mel Collie

Essential for our survival, these two reflexes protect us from danger and move us forward toward opportunities and change.

Now these 2 reflexes oppose each other, pulling in opposite directions , engaging all muscles and the CNS when faced with a withdrawal from lifes stresses and worries or when faced with a more positive outlook.

In a bit more detail, heres those two reflexes:

Red Light: When we feel fear, the body tends to tense up, the jaw clenches, the head moves forward, the abdominals tighten up, the diaphragm tightens, the breath is held, the legs turn inwards, the feet look pigeon toed, the hamstrings contract to bend the knees, the fists clench, the elbows flex. A stooped over posture, with shoulders being rolled forwards, breathing is affected, creating a smaller frame to protect us from fear, as we used to do when being chased by a predator, wishing to be smaller so we arent seen. Red light posture can increase blood pressure, painful necks, disrupted inhalation, pressure on the bladder.

Green Light: When we call our neuromuscular system to action, an action of assertiveness. The neck is pulled backwards, the shoulders pulled down, the chest lifted, contraction of the glutes, legs rotate outwards, knees straighten, gthe thighs are extended, the feet pronate (rotate inwards) . The Green light reflex used when we have to about our daily duties at home and work, stimulating action, using the muscles we need to move ahead. During times of stress, this reflex is called upon the most.

So, as we age, we see saw between these two, but as we age further they interfere with each other.

The contraction of back muscles in the green light reflex pulls the lower back and neck into a curve , back pain can be the result of our CNS, and using simple movement and simple techniques to test and “reset” our system, we can easily reduce the pain, understand it and live a better pain free life, from the inside out.

Our muscles will then react better and be stronger quicker and for longer without as much fatigue as we have been experiencing from constantly tight muscles.

Mel Collie

Pilates Level 3

Kinetic Chain Assessor Level 4

To book a 1:1 assessment contact Mel on : 07800797300

One hour is £50. Subsequent assessments are £35.

Pilates Classes are in Portreath, Cornwall on Monday 6pm and Saturday 8.50am



Mel Collie | Bouldering in Cornwall

Mel Collie | Bouldering in Cornwall

…living in a beautiful place means lots of breathtaking sunsets, walks, scenery and when you have a bloke who loves climbing & bouldering who introduces you to the physics of climbing & bouldering, and looking at places you’ve seen and been too for many years, in a different way.

Recently, we’ve been to a beach the far west of Cornwall, with a beach full of huge rounded granite rocks, a place I’ve loved for many years, but now seeing it through a different perspective.

This is just one of the granite boulders on the beach…

Bouldering Monk in Cot Valley,Cornwall

Bouldering Monk in Cot Valley,Cornwall

The Bouldering Monk has many boulder routes in this area of Cornwall, we are setting up a separate blog with details of the routes in Cornwall.

Its not just about the climbing, its about the beautiful places, respect for the environment, the shapes and the passion.Its about the connection of mind & body.

Its a great way to stay fit, training outdoors, seeing the places you live in, being outside all day, sleeping wild under the stars, meeting new people, being a part of the world you live in, a world you respect whilst you are here for a short time on the planet.

Mind, body, earth.

Bouldering 1:1 & group sessions will soon be available, please email to be included on our list of clients who have asked for further details when published.

Bouldering & climbing in Cornwall weekends.




Mel Collie | Fear

Mel Collie | Fear

A couple of weeks ago,I listened to my fear.. I attempted an abseil down a 18 foot wall, which isnt easy when you are a few months away from being 50, never abseiled before, and when you are standing on the edge of that wall, you can add your height to that figure of 18 foot, as you are standing on the edge…you feel the fear…

Ready to abseil...

Ready to abseil…

I didnt do it first time, it too 3 days to get me over that edge…3 days of listening to gentle persuasion, confidence building words , and a lot of patience.

On the morning of the 3rd day, I backed out twice in the space of an hour…

….me, managing to be in the harness, roped up, standing on the edge of the wall, leaning back into the harness and unable to move my feet, unable to place the feet flat on the descent because I just couldnt lean back into it enough to allow to rope to be fed out…

You are in charge

You are in charge of not allowing the system to go slack, the rops remains taught between you and the belayer…that means sitting back into the harness, theres nothing behind you, just air, you are suspended in mid air, and its flaming well scary.

But, so they tell me, thats where the buzz is…

I think the words that helped my just do it, were that you are in control of you, its easy to fall into the trap of listening to your mind telling you this isnt safe, of course its telling you that, its your fight or flight response kicking in, and its strong, its just looking out for you and wants you to live. I was listening.

Once I could step back from that and understand that it was the fight flight response and the hardest bit was to lean back and move the feet.

But  when I did, the descent was so easy, I loved it..

However, a few days later I tried it again, a bit higher, on a rock on the beach, this was still scary, but I did it first time, and a second time too straight afterwards, but when I did it the second time, I climbed up to the top, and felt so scared again I cursed saying I wanted to do it again..but I did it, just didnt enjoy the feeling of the space around me.

So today, we went to as rock weve been to before, where Ive just done a little bit of scrambling about on the rocks. The abseil we were planning was less height, but was open, and a long way up, the height was in half of the whole abseil descent as theres a ledge to land on, so it didnt seem to bad. However….I could do it. I felt too …exposed..

Roche Rock Abseiling

I managed to get the harness on and even stand on the ledge, but couldnt lean back, I just could do it, we were up there for about 40 minutes, I tried again after a break, but still couldnt lean back and descent, it was so open, the wind was blowing and I was listening to my fear, and it won…this time.

Yes I was cross with myself and had a little tear as well, disappointed with the outcome, but looking back now, I was glad I attempted it. I tried. It hasn’t put me off, and I will try again, it will be tough,it isnt easy, it will only challenge you every time.

Heres to the next one then…maybe I need a drink..