Monthly Archives: October 2014

Mel Collie | An easy way to stop being clumsy

Mel Collie | An easy way to stop being clumsy

I used to be so clumsy, always had bruises on my legs from bumping into things it became so common that it was unusual if I didn’t have any bruises, so in a sense, I got used to it, does that ring a bell with you? You got used to something so much you didn’t think about changing it?

I discovered my clumsy antidote by accident on a course for corrective exercise using your brain rather than stretching muscles.

One of those tests that worked for me, I now do in my posture assessments, and it is for Spatial Awareness. What is spatial awareness and how does it affect your balance?


mel collie | spatial awareness
spatial awareness

A healthy spatial awareness allows us to understand our location, our surroundings, in relation to our bodies. This can be affected when we have a shock or an accident or trauma, affecting our ability to judge distances, for example, when we cross the road , we may not be sure how far away an approaching vehicle is, so we hesitate on the curb, not sure if we should cross or wait.

Poor spatial awareness can appear as being clumsy, bumping into things, standing too close to objects or people , than usual. You may also find it tricky to catch a ball, affecting sports, which may mean you’ve hated exercise since school because you have felt useless , less than able, find it tricky to differentiate from the words over, under, left and right.

Try this simple thing to help your spatial awareness improve: Grab a ball like a tennis ball, and throw and catch it with one hand, 5 times, then the other hand, 5 times, then from hand to hand, start low, increasing the height of the throw as you get more confident. Then throw it against a wall.  Try it with one hand, then with the other. Then move from side to side to side as you throw the ball at different parts of the wall, making it a little bit more challenging.


Try this a few times a week, but watch your breathing, try not to hold your breath as this can affect your results , in some people, in a very noticeable way, as inhibiting your oxygen tells your brain it is under threat, and all its interested in is keeping you alive, so reduced oxygen levels will slow you down and reduce your performance.

You can assess your nervous system response by doing a test before and after, like bending forward to touch the floor or a simple rotation movement, see how far you can go, and if your range increases or decreases after the tennis ball activity. ( if it has decreased, take a minute to relax and do some deep slow belly breathing , then retest your forward bend)

Make sense doesnt it, we just havent thought of it this way before.

Mel Collie




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 simply 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.


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.

Mel Colie.  x



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.