ENJOYING CHRISTMAS BREAK? The benefits of rest and relaxation

As Christmas fast approaches, many of you will be taking time away from the studio or work to take a well-earned break! But a lot of people don’t know enough about the multiple benefits that utilising proper rest and relaxation can bring.

‘Rest’ is anything that gives you a break and can be either physical or mental. There are multiple benefits for everyone and especially for performing artists. This is partly a result of the many physiological changes that can occur when utilising rest and relaxation successfully. These changes can include

  • reduced blood pressure
  • reduced muscle tension
  • reduced sensitivity to pain
  • improved immunity
  • increased circulation
  • slowed breathing rate

Another key benefit of rest and relaxation is that it can reduce the effects of stress. Stress can cause disruption to daily life in many forms including sleep and digestion, as well as increasing aches and pains and the likelihood of getting ill (coughs, colds etc.). Taking time out to rest and relax can help to tackle stress and keep our bodies and minds healthy.

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Image: Trinity Laban matwork class; JK photography 

 

In what other ways can it benefit me as a performing artist?                       The benefits of rest and relaxation can include both physiological and behavioural advantages which can be important for performing artists. Studies have reported that relaxation can reduce mood fluctuations and increase concentration. Also, rest is key for muscle regeneration. This means that in order to see progression in physical training, one must rest or the muscles will not be able to regenerate and you will see no improvements. This is important for performing artists to keep in mind as there is often a tendency to want to train all the time and take little rest in order to improve. However, in actual fact this can inhibit physical progression and could increase the risk of injury. Research has shown that performers, especially dancers, often work through fatigue and that overuse is one of the most common causes of injuries among dancers.

Not obtaining enough rest can also increase the likelihood of overtraining and can even lead to burnout. This is a complex condition and can be acute or chronic, and is the result of a volume of activity/exercise that exceeds the performer’s capabilities. Overtraining and burnout can both increases the risk of injury also, as the body can be more susceptible to muscle damage, infections, allergies and will take longer to heal from even minor scratches. Research has also shown that taking time to review a piece of music or choreography mentally as well as physically, can be much more beneficial than just physically rehearsing alone, which could be a good way to tackle overtraining among performers.

How can I rest and relax properly?                                                                   It is ideal if you can set aside a certain amount of time each day or week to just rest and relax . This can be anything that gives your mind or body a break and can range from just having an early night or a weekend off, to participating yoga classes or doing breathing exercises. Research suggests that constructive/active rest can also be beneficial, which simply requires you to lie in a resting state and focus your mind on a particular task.

So enjoy taking some time out over Christmas to rest and relax and begin the New Year with a great start! #dancersneedrest

 

Workplace Health part two…

This month’s top tips:

  • Instead of using the equipment in your office, walk to a water fountain or photocopier on a different floor. Moving regularly can also help you think clearly and be more efficient.
  • Get some fresh air. This will help you think clearly and reawaken the senses.
  • Remember to drink plenty of fluids. The European Food Safety Authority recommends that women should drink around 1.6 litres and men 2.0 litres of fluid per day. However, it is important to note this is only a guideline; the amount a person needs to drink a day will depend on a range of factors. When you are exercising and during the summer months you should increase your fluid intake.

Common signs of dehydration to look out for:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Headaches
  • Feeling light headed
  • Lack of energy
  • Dark urine & not passing much when you go to the toilet

 

Sitting at a desk while hunched over your keyboard can cause strain to the cervical spine and stiffen your shoulders.  Stretching lengthens a muscle in one position.

Here are some simple seated-stretches you can do at work to help alleviate those aches and pains. Try to hold the stretch so that you feel a gentle pull in the area:

  1. – Neck Stretch:

Neck Stretch

  • While sitting at your desk, stretch your right arm towards the ground.
  • While doing this tilt your head to the left.
  • You should feel a stretch in the right side of your neck and shoulder.
  • Hold this for 10-20 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  • To make this stretch deeper, hold on to the edge of your seat and pull up, while leaning your head in the opposite direction.
  • Perform this stretch 3 times on each side.

 

  1. – Shoulder Shrugs: This is a great way to relax the shoulder while getting your circulation going.

Shoulder Shrug

  • Lift your shoulders up towards your ears.
  • Hold for 1-2 seconds and release them back down.
  • Repeat this 8-10 times.

 

  1. – Arm Stretch:

Arm Stretch

  • Gently interlock your fingers.
  • Push your palms away from your body, gently stretching the forearm muscles, fingers and shoulder blades.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Then twist your palms so they are facing away from you and hold for 10 seconds.

 

4. – Upper-Back Stretch:

This is a great exercise to stretch out the upper back which can become tight especially if you hunch your shoulders.

Upper Back Stretch

  • Stretch your arms straight out in front, rotate your arms so your palms are facing away from each other
  • Cross your arms so that your palms are now pressed together.
  • Contract the abs and round the back, reach away with your arms and relax the head.
  • Imagine you are curving up and over a ball. Hold this stretch for 10-30 seconds and repeat.

 

  1. Cat-Cow Stretch:

This movement will stretch out your cervical spine.

Cat-Cow Stretch

  • Place both hands on your knees.
  • Inhale, arch the back and look up to the ceiling, exhale and round the spine, allowing your head to drop forward, imagine curving over a ball.
  • Repeat 3-5 times.

 

  1. – Spine & Shoulder Stretch:

Spine & Shoulder Stretch

  • Loosely grasp your hands behind your neck.
  • Push your elbows back, your shoulder blades squeezing together.
  • Avoid pressing into the neck.
  • Hold for 10 seconds and release.

 

  1. – Torso Twist:

Torso Twist

  • Sitting slightly forward in your seat, rotate your upper body to the right, holding on to the backrest of your chair with your left hand.
  • Hold for 10 seconds.
  • Do the same on the opposite side.

 

  1. – Single-Leg Stretch:

This is a simple but effective stretch.

Single Leg Stretch

  • Sit on the edge of your chair.
  • Straighten one leg in front of you, foot flat on the floor, keeping your knee straight.
  • Press your heel into the ground.
  • Lean forward at your waist, thinking of touching your belly button to your thigh.
  • Don’t collapse into your spine.
  • For a deeper stretch flex your foot upwards before leaning forward at your waist.
  • Hold for 10-30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg.

In the next instalment we will be providing some more top tips and some stretches you can do while standing up.

Looking after yourself in the work place

Working at a desk for a prolonged period, often a necessity for many of us at work, can put your body at risk of pain and injury. This can cause lots of problems such as; repetitive strain injury, carpel tunnel syndrome, bad posture, tennis elbow, localised and global stiffness as well as tension. Staring at a computer for hours on end can affect your energy levels, cause a loss in concentration and can often leave you feeling irritable and sluggish.

So what can you do?

In this series Trinity Laban Health will provide you with some top tips and a range of stretches you can do at your desk to help stave off those aches and pains.

This month’s top tips:

  • Take regular breaks – throughout the day you should take time away from your desk to help those tight muscles relax.
  • Stand up or take a walk – standing up at least once an hour will help improve your concentration and help to prevent pain or discomfort in your muscles and joints. If you need to talk to a colleague stand up and talk to them at their desk/ in their office instead of a phone call or through email communication.
  • Drink plenty of water – this will keep you hydrated and feeling refreshed in order for you to function clearly and perform to the best of your ability. Dehydration, however slight, can lead to a loss in concentration, cause fatigue, migraines and leave you with a sluggish feeling. Also remember drinking multiple cups of tea and coffee a day is not replacing the natural water we lose in the body, this can also lead to dehydration.
  • Keep in mind your posture – making sure you are in the correct alignment will help reduce any tight muscles in your body.  If you slouch your muscles will actually need to work harder. Your head is forced forwards and out of alignment causing your muscles to become overworked just to keep your head up. Staying  in a slouched position can lead to on-going tension in your shoulders, neck and puts a lot of pressure on your spine. While you sit at your desk remember to regularly check you are sitting in an upright position.
  • Add in regular stretch breaks to relieve tightness and tension in the body.

Posture

So how can you ensure you have the correct posture?

  • You should sit with your bottom at the back of your seat and rest against the back of your chair for support
  • Place your forearms on your desk with your elbows at a 90 degree angle
  • Relax your shoulders, don’t allow them to rise or hunch.
  • Make sure both of your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are level with your hips
  • Adjust your chair so you are not looking up or down at your computer. Make sure you use a footstool, wrist rest, a memory foam mouse mat with a built-in wrist rest, or any other support, if needed.
  • Keep your head tall and upright.
  • If you are worried, or experiencing any discomfort or pain at work due to your chair, desk, or the height of the  computer make sure you speak to your employer to arrange a risk assessment.

In the next instalment we will be providing some more top tips and stretch routines.