Friday, 30 June 2017

Q and A with our new Pilates teacher Polly!

Hi Polly! Tell us, where did your interest in Pilates come from?
I had been suffering with repeated knee injuries for some time but as a relatively young dancer in the ballet company I didn’t want to admit how bad they were for fear of losing my job. One evening performance, dancing as a swan in Swan Lake, I froze in the wings unable to make it onto stage as the pain in both knees was unbearable.  I was lucky enough to have a nurturing ballet mistress called Elaine Macdonald who noticed a swan missing and came and found me in the dressing room packing my belongings, ready to give it all up. Telling me I would regret that decision for the rest of my life, she sent me off to London to train with the Pilates Master, Dreas Reyneke.

Pilates was still relatively new to the UK in those days, from the minute I laid down on the Reformer, with Dreas’ calm instructions, I was sold. Moving my legs against the resistance of springs, feeling my back supported by a barrel, my ankles stabilised in straps - the experience came as a revelation. It was also humbling! My assumption that I was strong because I was a dancer was put to the test daily. I shared the studio with non-dancers who had much more core control than I did.  After three months of intense work I returned to the company a much stronger and secure dancer, my technique had improved without doing one step of ballet.  I learnt to work smarter, not harder.

What’s your favourite thing about being a Pilates teacher?

I love the journey that both my client and myself take whenever I start with someone new.  They will come to Pilates because of injury or to improve their performance and they will have a goal. Together we will work on achieving that goal but along the way other things will appear and present themselves, patterns that have not been serving them to their best; it could be the way they breathe, where they hold their tension, what their ankle does – what it should do – all of these different parts of the puzzle that need to be addressed. I love that everyone works differently, that they respond to different stimuli; my hand on their hipbone, for instance, could be the trigger to organize the body better, for others a verbal cue or a visualization. This takes trust and a good dose of humour and I feel very privileged to be able to work this intimately with people.
Does Pilates combine well with other therapies?

Yes, very much so. When Steve, Hazel and Karen have given the all clear for the patient to engage more actively in their recovery, Pilates can be a great way to start. Resuming exercise and normal activities after injury or inactivity can be scary and uncertain; Steve wanted to create the Pilates rehab studio at The Octagon to provide the bridge from treatment table to returning to the gym, generic exercise classes or even feeling confident to lift their baby out of the cot. We believe that offering treatment and rehabilitation all under the same roof is hugely beneficial to the patient in both communication between the therapists, and that one to one attention to give the individual all the tools, skills and awareness needed to take control back over their body. I feel very excited to be part of this team.

Any common misconceptions about Pilates that you would like to clear up?

Yes! Pilates is not all about a rock solid core and killer abs. In fact endlessly cuing ‘naval to spine’ is not beneficial to finding ease of movement with control and grace.  Nor is Pilates something to be good at, we practice Pilates so that we can, “Go about our varied daily tasks with spontaneous zest and pleasure.” (Founder, Joe Pilates). In my mind Pilates is more than just building core strength, after I do a lesson I feel buoyant and happy which is then reflected in other aspects of my life. This is my goal for my clients.
Any Hammersmith and Chiswick local recommendations?

I live locally so I have lots, but I won’t bore you with them all. For coffee it has to be Artisan, for the best cut and colour in West London I recommend Adam and Potsie – they are a husband and wife team who are great fun as well as being fantastic. My family are big cyclists and The London Cycle Workshop are very knowledgeable, friendly and deliver a great service. For a quick dinner pre or post cinema Killer Tomato on the Goldhawk Road is good for speedy tacos and enchiladas. 

Read Polly's full bio here and get in touch here to book in a 1:1 Pilates session with her.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Give your back a break from tech!

Computers are the top tech back pain trigger for people in London.

As part of Chiropractic Awareness Week (10 – 16 April 2017) The Octagon Chiropractic clinic is urging people to take a break from their tech, as well as learn some key away-from-the-desk stretches. 

New consumer research from the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) has revealed that computers are the top tech back pain trigger for fast-paced, tech-addicted Londoners, with well over a third (39%) of those surveyed having experienced back or neck pain after using their laptop and 37% after using a desktop computer.
We all know how easy it is to become glued to your tech. Our devices have become an integral part of our lives, with many of us spending our days either looking down at our phones or stuck on laptops. However it’s important to think about the impact this is having on back and neck health, as well as our posture.  

Here are the Octagon we are not saying stop using tech altogether, in fact we would recommend the app Chiro Moves from our sister-clinic Lucks Yard, however it’s important to think about limiting the amount of time you spend using technology, and start building regular breaks into your day so you can give your back a rest. Particularly when using laptop or desktop computers, if you’re working in an office it’s important that you don’t spend longer than 40 minutes sitting at your desk at one time...”

The British Chiropractic Association has developed these top tips to help people tech- proof their back health:
   Sit up straight - When you are sat at your computer or laptop, it’s easy to forget your posture and lean towards your screen. To avoid developing back pain from sitting at your desk, set up your computer in a back friendly manner. The top of your screen should be at eye level, so use a stand or a ream of paper to elevate the screen to this height. Your bottom should be right to the back of your seat with your back and shoulders in contact with the back rest. Your arms should lie flat at desk level and your chair positioned so that your hips are slightly higher than your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
 On the move -  Laptops and tablets are very convenient and flexible to use so it’s tempting to use them in situations where your body may be in an awkward posture position. You are less likely to notice any discomfort developing if you are concentrating on what you are doing.
  Head up - Looking down at your mobile phone, tablet or laptop leaves your neck unsupported and the weight of your head will put pressure on your neck and spine. To help keep neck and back pain away, try to hold your phone up in front of you when using it and limit your use of portable technology devices where you can. It is a good idea when using a mobile device to elevate your arms on a table as this will help you. Walking and tech use do not mix so try not to do this at all!
  Accessorise - If you are using a portable laptop, plug in a standard mouse and keyboard, which will encourage you to sit in a more ‘back-friendly’ position.
 Take control -  Ideally, you should sit in a chair when playing video games with your back supported against the backrest and your feet on the floor. If standing, try to position your television screen at eye-level, so that you are not having to strain to look up or down regularly.
Take a break -  Our bodies are not designed to stay in one position for long periods of time so, whether working on your computer, scrolling through social media or playing your favourite video game, remember to stand up at least every 40 minutes and move around to keep your muscles active.
Detox - We are becoming much more dependent on technology and taking a break from technology is likely to benefit both your mental and physical health. Use this spare time to get outside and exercise; your back will thank you for it!

The BCA has created a programme of 3-minute exercises: which can be slotted into your daily schedule to help improve posture and prevent back pain by promoting balance, strength and flexibility in the spine.

*The consumer research was carried out on behalf of the British Chiropractic Association between 14/02/2017 and 20/02/2017 

Book in with an Octagon Chiropractor here.

Allergy Season Aid!

Feel like you're allergic to summer?! Our nutritionist Pippa is at hand to help. 

Most of us look forward to the arrival of the warmer weather, blossoms blooming and more time spent outdoors but for those unfortunate ones the spring and summer seasons brings misery in the form of seasonal allergic rhinitis AKA hay fever.

What causes Hayfever? 

Proteins in pollen irritate the delicate membranes of the nose and eyes causing inflammation. Causing the all too familiar symptoms of red, itchy, watery eyes and a runny  nose. But not all hay fever sufferers are alike. Some react to tree pollen which is present from February to May with the peak time being April (this month, eeek!). Grass pollens are prevalent in June and July and weed pollens (such as nettle) are worst in July and August. 

So what can be done to alleviate the symptoms, whichever month they fall in? 

 There are practical measures to help ward off the worst effects of pollen such as...

applying a thin layer of petroleum jelly or lipbalm around and just inside the nostrils can trap minute pollen particles and prevent them from being inhaled and starting an allergic reaction.

Steam inhalations help to reduce the “blocked nose” feeling.

Secondly there are some simple preparations that can reduce the severity of attacks later in the season....


If you are lucky enough to be able to buy organic honey that is produced locally, take a teaspoon every day. It's been shown in some studies that ingestion of tiny molecules of pollen in local honey helps build resistance to pollens when they appear in full force later in the year.


Butterbur is a herb that has undergone scientific trials showing a substantial health benefit for relieving hay fever.

Butterbur has been shown to relax blood vessels and various smooth muscles in the body. It contains chemicals that are also known to reduce inflammation, (this has been demonstrated in human studies). Some studies have also shown that butterbur extract performed as well as a common antihistamine drug taken by hay fever sufferers, but without causing that dreaded drowsiness!

Suppplement and Eat Well!

Bioflavanoids are plant compounds that have shown anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory activity. Along with Vitamin C, these supplements can help prevent the formation of histamine – the chemical that causes the common reactions of irritated itchy eyes and a congested nose. Quercitin is king! Foods rich in the bioflavanoid quercitin include onions, garlic, green tea, red wine (1-2 glasses!) and dark chocolate (the good stuff, 70%+ cocoa solids). 

Vitamin C is found in broccoli, lemon juice, green peppers, oranges, strawberries and blackcurrants, kiwi, cabbage and cauliflower.

Plant sterols are fats found naturally in plant foods. Phytosterols are highly versatile substances that have been shown to be helpful in the management of several conditions including immune disorders. Phytosterols inhibit the release of prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) thus reducing the production of histamine. Plant sterols are present in foods such as soya (tempeh, tofu, miso, soya sauce etc.) and whole grains, particularly whole oats, being rich sources. Porridge is not just for winter!

Omega 3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds (AKA linseeds) and cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel, can affect chemical pathways in the body to help ease allergy symptoms and reduce inflammation.

Vitamin E taken during the pollen season alongside other anti-allergy treatments can reduce the severity of hay fever symptoms by 23% studies show. Good sources of Vitamin E in the diet include cold pressed wheatgerm and sunflower oils, hazelnuts, sweet potato, avocado and spinach.

KEY: A strong immune system is essential to help fight off allergic symptoms. The Vitamins A, C, D, E and minerals zinc and selenium are all antioxidant supplements that can help immune function.

Vitamin A is found in egg yolk, watercress, squash and oily fish such as mackerel and herring. Likewise, top sources of Vitamin D include mackerel, herring, sardines, mushrooms as well as eggs and cheddar cheese. Oh and (safe) amounts of lovely sunshine on the skin!

Zinc is plentiful in pumpkin seeds, wholemeal bread and red meats. Eating just four to five brazil nuts daily can provide your recommended intake of selenium but other sources include fresh tuna, sunflower seeds, wholemeal bread and cashew nuts.

If you are taking any medication, always check with your GP or health practitioner before taking any herbal or vitamin supplements.

More on Pippa here.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Take care of your incredible feet!

Top footwear advice from Karen one of our top Chiropractors....

Your everyday shoe choices are important however in this blog we'll focus specifically on training footwear and sports injury prevention. High impact physical exercise, such as running and skipping transfers a lot of force through your body. If your feet and the surface you are on don’t absorb much of this shock then the energy has to go somewhere, so the majority will pass up through your body to the hips, the knees, lower back and so on. As we mainly walk on man-made rather than natural surfaces with little to no absorption (such as asphalt) we can rarely depend on the ground absorbing any of that shock.

So for specific running trainers I recommend going to a good running shop and selecting a trainer suitable to your foot shape. Many good running shops now provide a gait assessment in various trainers, which can help you select the correct trainer to support your unique foot. Each trainer brand varies and you may find one is more suitable for a wider foot and a different one for a narrower foot. It is wise to consider support in other areas of the foot too, particularly if you have a history of foot pain.

The feet are incredible! There are 26 bones in the foot but unfortunately this means that there's lots of opportunity for dysfunction. The foot is the primary shock absorber as we strike the ground and when funtioning well the arch of the foot responds to this positively. However these bones can do one of three things either:-

  • Function well
  • Become restricted or
  • Move too much

Your chiropractor may check your feet to asses for any restriction and treat these accordingly to improve your function. Poor foot mechanics can often lead to issues at the knee, hip, lower back or elsewhere in the body, therefore it’s very important to get the foundation right and not to neglect your all important feet. It's important also to make sure your trainers aren’t too small as this can lead to extra stress on toe nails and other areas of the foot, which can lead to blisters and foot pain, preventing you training and leaving you seeking sports injury treatment.

It sounds simple but is often overlooked, that once you've selected the correct trainer, you must wear them correctly. Tying up your shoes fully and using all the eyes, to provide an equal support can help prevent sports injuries. Don't be lazy and force your foot into any shoes without untying them. 

More on Karen and booking in at the Octagon clinic here.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Cholestrol Lowdown-it isn't all bad!

Our newest Octagon Chiropractor Karen Habershon gives us the lowdown on the much misunderstood subject of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance found in almost every cell in your body. So though it’s frequently viewed as a bad for our health, this isn't entirely accurate. Cholesterol is needed by every single one us, it's role is vital for:

  • hormones production
  • helping us to produce Vitamin D (vital for immunity and happiness!)
  • digest our food
  • protect our nerves
  • and to produce cell membranes

The more important thing to understand are that there are two types of cholesterol HDL (the good kind) and LDL (the bad kind)

The bad kind of cholesterol is increased by a lack of exercise, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, consuming too much sugar and having a poor diet, so not necessarily by eating too much fat.

But what are the risks of bad cholesterol?

LDL (the bad kind of cholesterol) is comprised of small particles which can squeeze between the cells in your arterial wall and become stuck between these gaps. This causes plaque to build up and narrowing of the vessels putting you at risk of several conditions including:
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure

So how can you reduce LDL cholesterol?

Not all fats were created equal! And as such studies have shown that eating some saturated good fats such as the kind found in nuts, avocados and coconut oil (so basically unprocessed wholefood fat sources) can in fact help increase the number of large particles of ‘HDL’ (the good kind of cholesterol), therefore reducing LDL (the baddie.) Plus exercising and kicking those bad habits like smoking, excessive drinking and sugar-bingeing will likely help lower cholesterol too.

More on Karen and booking in with her here.

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Winter Wellness: Belly Breathe and Chest-Openers!

During the winter months and it seems especially this year, a lot of people are suffering with a niggling cough and so it’s a really great idea to work on keeping your chest open so that your lungs can work as well as possible to help keep them healthy.

Here are a few simple stretches and exercises that you can do to help release tension around your shoulders and upper back and create space in your chest area.

Breathing Exercise:

Place one hand on the top of your chest and the other high on your abdomen. As you take  deep breath inwards you want the hand on your abdomen to move and not the hand on your chest. This breathing exercise helps you to use your diaphragm more when breathing and takes air deep into the bottom of your lungs. Increasing the use of your diaphragm decreases the use of the muscles around the upper chest and so reduces tension in the shoulders.

Pectoralis Stretch:

This stretch helps to open up the chest and so allows your ability to breath deeply to improve. The pectoral muscles (or pecs), are the large muscles of the chest which we would associate with doing press-ups.

An easy way to stretch this muscle is with the help of a door frame - you want to place your elbow against the door frame so it is level with your shoulder (pic below) - then take a step forward with the leg which is closest to the wall and as your body moves forward you should feel the stretch in the chest, if you feel the stretch more in your arm than your chest you may be twisting your body to compensate for the step forward so make sure as you step forward you keep your torso straight. If you can still feel more of a stretch in the arm rather than the chest you can move closer to the door-frame.

The picture below shows how to stretch the smaller pectoral muscle which is underneath the larger one - this is the Pectoralis Minor, to stretch it you need to lift your elbow slightly higher than your shoulder and then repeat the stretch as before. 
Note: If you feel a stretch in the Pectoralis as soon as you place your arm against the door frame then you don't need to take the step forward, just feel the stretch at the start point, as the muscle loosens you will be able to stretch further.

Happy belly breathing and chest-opening! Need a little more winter care you can book in with Hazel or any of the Octagon team here. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Top Tips to stay Healthy and Happy over Christmas and New Year’s from Team Octagon!

The festive period can be one of the most joyous and wonderful times of the year but unfortunately it can also be one of the least healthy. We don't want to put a damper on any of the fun but we do want  our Octagon friends to stay happy and healthy over Christmas and New Years and to start 2017 on a high so here's the Octagon Team's top seasonal tips!

From Chiropractor Hazel:
“The best way to keep healthy over the festive period is to make sure you are getting your required amount of sleep. Personally I make an effort to do this all year round but it can be especially important over the Christmas period when the weather is cold and the parties are frequent! 
Sleep helps repair and rejuvenate your body and if you're burning the candle at both ends for the month of December you don't want to find yourself run down and getting ill over the holidays.

So get those ZZZzzz's in your schedule and your body will be better equipped to fight any viruses that come your way.” 

From Massage Therapist Yoshiko:

“Christmas can be a busy, stressful and emotional time, so here are just three reasons to put sports massage on your present list!

1. Relieves emotional tension 
2. Removes toxins from your body
3. Relieves pain and muscle tension”.

From Nutritionist Pippa:

“If you’re going to be travelling long distances be prepared beforehand rather than having to rely on service stations, airports or train stations for your food. 

  1. Take a homemade salad that contains some protein, a date ball for your pudding and a smoothie to keep you feeling full and satisfied.
  2.  Snacks such as plain nuts and seeds are a nutritious alternative to chocolate and sweets.  Make a little snack pot containing: pumpkin and sunflower seeds, toasted coconut flakes, raw cacao nibs, flaked almonds and walnut halves.  Keeping this topped up also means that you have something to nibble on when everyone else is passing around the chocs and you want to keep to your healthy habits.” 

More Christmas top tips from Pippa here.

From Chiropractor Karen:
'Alcohol dehydrates your body. Remember your spinal discs need to be kept hydrated too so drink plenty of water too to avoid back pain caused by dehydration.

Recent research suggests that we consume around 3,000 calories in our Christmas dinner – more than the entire recommended daily intake for a grown man! Instead of gorging yourself on Christmas dinner, eat a normal-sized meal and then take a 20-minute break to see if you are still hungry (it takes this long for the brain to register that the stomach is full). The chances are, you’ll realize you’ve had enough.

 From Front of Hous-er Ruth: 
 But if you do overdo it at the Christmas table...
“A crisp wintery walk with the family (or alone!) is my suggestion. Enjoy the fresh air and a good dose of nature. You'll avoid cabin fever. Plus it will aid digestion of those heavy Christmas-sized meals!’. 

 Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year one and all!
Team Octagon X