Posts Tagged ‘aspen coaching’

Enduring Severe Depression: A Story Of Mental Health

Posted on: August 13th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

In August of 2018, Gabriel was admitted to hospital after attempting to take his own life. He was battling major depression, anxiety, and an eating disorder that left him feeling lost and hopeless.

After eventually being realised from hospital, Gabriel’s brother convinced him to come down to Aspen and meet the team and community.

Having always worked out at home due to an anxiety of exercising around other people, Gabriel was understandably very hesitant. But he decided to push through this blockade and try Aspen for a week.

“I joined thinking I’d just give it a week or two…I spent about a week here and loved it and haven’t looked back since…”

From day one, Gabriel felt a welcoming and warm environment at Aspen, and the Aspen community has played a large part in his change and growth.

In the past, Gabriel would primarily focus his training on developing his strength. It wasn’t until he came to Aspen that he began realising the importance of balancing his strength with flexibility and mobility. It took some convincing, but Gabriel has made remarkable progress with regards to his flexibility during his time at Aspen.

Like many people, Gabriel was initially hesitant about bodyweight-only strength. He was under the impression that he would lose strength transitioning from barbell and dumbbell exercises, to predominantly bodyweight movements.

Two years later, and he now realises this to not be the case. Gabriel is now stronger than he ever has been. He is also significantly more mobile, with his body much more balanced than before.

Gabriel has also become a consistent participant of Aspen’s handstand classes. His drive in this area found him recently achieving his first 30-second freestanding handstand – quite the achievement for someone who had never even tried a handstand before joining our community.

“if I told myself three years ago what I’m doing now I wouldn’t have believed myself…”

Today, Gabriel is almost unrecognisable from the shy and nervous person who walked through the Aspen doors two years ago. Armed with a smile on his face, he’s always keen to have a laugh with other members and the coaches during his almost daily visits to Aspen.

“the biggest positive that I can see coming out of that experience is the whole community at Aspen…it’s just a very welcoming community…”



Posted on: February 27th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

To us, Coordination isn’t about being capable of elaborate and impressive dance moves. In our eyes, Coordination is about having your joints interacting properly, and in harmony with one another. Some joints are supposed to provide stability, while others enable movements such as circumduction. We need each of them to be understood, not just in isolation, but in the context of the whole body.

This is not something you can be given. No therapist can manipulate you into being well coordinated. Just as you can’t tell someone how to play an instrument. They must spend time practising. When you hear a musician play their instrument, you can tell by the harmonising sounds whether they are good, it is not something you can fake. You either have good rhythm and harmony, or you don’t.

It’s the same with the body. When we are out of sync, we create discord. This is not good for our joints, tendons and ligaments. When too much force is getting dumped into one area, we start to create inflammation or a break down of tissue.

Coordination is about being able to distribute force throughout the whole bodily structure. It is about being loosely interconnected from our toes to our fingers.

When the body is out of order, a lot of negative consequences can occur. It can cause us to not move well, to not breath well, and may even inhibit our ability to digest food well. Working on your coordination is about bringing the body away from chaos, and into order.

We work on various coordination patterns learnt from the Fighting Monkey Practice. These patterns help to balance our biomechanics, create elasticity in our joints, allow the shoulder blade to glide over the ribs more freely, and stimulate our lymphatic system.


Posted on: February 25th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

Proprioception is very important to the brain as it plays a big role in self-regulation, coordination, posture, body awareness, speech, and the ability to attend and focus.

Proprioception is your sense of self, your body and how it moves, and where you are in space.


The Physical

Proprioception is important for many reasons as it’s the way the brain perceives the body.

The nervous system decides what is threatening, what is stressful, how to respond, and how to remember situations for future reference. All of these can be experienced negatively with excess unnecessary stress dumped onto the system or positively with beneficial change occurring depending on the quality of our proprioception.

By knowing your body and having an accurate sense of who you are, what you can do, and what is required to respond to any given situation, our system can make more intelligent decisions, from everyday tasks, to more difficult skilled based work.

We recruit less brain power to perform complex tasks, we act and respond faster, we adapt quicker when met with resistance.

In a physical sense, we can accurately judge and decide how to move to ensure load is distributed throughout our structure rather than overloaded in one place.

We commonly see this with lower back, shoulder, and knee injuries. The body moves in a particular way which overloads an area, even if you do a variety of movements, you can still do each one with a repetitive overload to said area. Then once an injury is sustained, and this is the only way in which you know to move, we have an even bigger challenge to overcome.

In order to promote longevity we should aim to increase our proprioception as early in life as possible. Understanding our structure, gravity, loads and have enough sensitivity to feel where we are in space and inside the body.


The Mental

In a conceptual way, proprioception relates to knowing where we are in our life, the bigger picture, being able to make decisions quickly, and respond with your best interest, those around you, and your environment in mind.

We don’t want to follow in the footsteps of others blindly, we want to consciously be choosing the path we walk and able to deviate when necessary.


Posted on: February 18th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

Being resilient means being able to adapt quickly and become stronger through applied stressors.

We want you to elevate in all areas of health, to be able to handle harder challenges, and more importantly, for it to have a positive effect on your physiology.


The Physical

Have you heard the term Anti-fragility by Nassim Nichols Taleb? Anti-fragility refers to a system that gets stronger through stress. It is the system that continually adapts to its environment. More intelligence, more awareness, more feedback, more choice.

Unlike a flower that could die if you touch it, the human body will adapt and strengthen. If stress is applied, we will find a way to cope. For better or for worse.

The trick is to add beneficial stressors, accurately dose them, and be observant of the changes it has on our system.

Aspen aims to develop human beings that are more resilient; people that can handle increased stress and continue to achieve.

We want people to bounce back. We want to enable people not to be put out for 3 weeks due to the common cold, not needing 12 months off after a small injury, not having your emotions run rampant.

This is not a mind over matter, go hard or go home approach. In fact it is the opposite. It’s knowing when to tap out, knowing when to rest, knowing when to work, and be willing to work. Be willing to go through the fire for what is on the other side.

Not everything is easy, but the more challenging things you do the easier they will all become.

We want resilience. The ability to do it all, smile, laugh and enjoy the ride. The empowerment that comes from choice. Knowing that each obstacle in your life is there for you to over-come, or for you to choose a different route.


The Mental

The mental aspect of resilience is understanding that the failures in pursuit of achievement will be plentiful.

It’s about taking these failures and, instead of letting them consume you, allowing them to teach you.

Accepting that exposure to uncomfortable situations will ultimately make you stronger.



If your feet are causing you pain and you’re using strapping tape, fancy supportive shoes, and actively avoid stressing them, you’ll be fast-tracking your problems exponentially.

The more we outsource, the more reliant we get. We aim to flip this, remove the comforts and create a stronger system.

Instead, we want to slowly but consistently expose stress to your feet so they adapt, change, and improve.

We need better sensitivity to understand the signs. We need dexterity of the foot and a good connection to the skin and nerve receptors. We need to practice walking barefoot on various textures. We need to stimulate through activities to regain strength. We need to stimulate and expose to create resilience.

Some refer to this quality as ‘taking off the band-aid’. We all have some form(s) of coping mechanism whether we are aware of them or not. We’ve put these mechanisms in place to protect us from our insecurities, past traumas/injuries, and fears. It’s what the body does, it adapts and creates habits.

Resilience, is looking in the mirror at these things and enduring the work that will make us healthier.



Posted on: February 11th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

We have Strength as one of our key pillars of teaching. However, our definition of the word may differ to yours.

To us, Strength isn’t how much weight you can lift, or how big and ripped you look on the surface.

It’s about your physical ability to efficiently support the entirety of your body, and your mental ability to overcome adversity.


The Physical

Strength to us, in a physical context, means having the integrity to support your entire structure, under various loads, in various positions, all through motion.

We talk about having a movement perspective, but we must actually be moving to understand this. A collection of static positions does not constitute good movement, and it does not portray a comprehensive sample of your strength. We want to see that your structure has integrity while balancing, jumping, lifting, pulling, swinging, running, walking, standing, and even sitting.

Physically, we want your bones, joints, tendons, and ligaments to be strong. Not just the muscles attached to them. We want your organs to be strong. We want your body to function optimally so you can get out in the world and do the things you love.


The Mental

We want your mind to be strong, and your emotional wellbeing to be strong.

We want you to see the challenges that lie ahead or the troubles that you may currently be in, have you turn up, confront them, and show courage as you put one foot in front of the other and do what needs to be done in order to overcome them.

In the context of a mindset, Strength is doing what is hard, for the greater good. It’s about not taking the easy route, and not coasting along in your comfort zone.

It is being there for other people, and having integrity in your word. It is challenging your belief systems to ensure your view of the world brings positivity into your life and those around you.

We see being Strong as a grounding in who you are and what you are here to do.


Posted on: February 5th, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

As human beings, everything that makes us who we are is in a constant state of flux.

We’re creating and disposing of millions of cells each minute, our brains are processing more subconscious and conscious thoughts than we’d ever hope to track, and our individual needs are fluid and transforming due to a constantly changing external environment.

As a result, there is no one way to live, no one way to train, no one way to think, and no one way to eat that is ideal for all people, at all times.

We must find an overall balance that suits us as individuals.


The Physical

Here at Aspen, ‘Balance’ is the first of our pillars of training.

We teach balance in the physical sense; on hands, feet, rails, and more. This aspect of our movement practice harnesses a lot of potential wisdom, as it has a tendency to expose weaknesses in other areas of our practice, including strength and mobility.

For example, an over active muscle group, or an immobile hip, can cause a multitude of imbalances across the body as it attempts to adapt and compensate.

Many of our members have embarked on a journey of learning how to Handstand. A fun skill that many of us played with as kids. Learning to do this as an adult can be quite frustrating, but is peppered with fun, laughs, and breakthroughs.

To really work on achieving your handstand from scratch, we need to develop and balance many other qualities such as body awareness, stillness, control, length of hamstrings and hip flexors, opening through the shoulders and thoracic, and stability of the shoulder girdle. These are all opposites of what a typical desk job will garner, making it a perfect goal for counterbalancing a sedentary life.

With all this said, don’t underestimate the importance of simply balancing on your feet! Our body is incredible at coping and finding solutions. It adapts to gravity each and every day, slowly morphing and creating adaptations to the environment and positions you chose to put it in. Choose wisely.


The Mental

There is also the deeper conversation where we look at balance in our lives. For us, balance is not something to be achieved, but rather a constant consideration.

It’s being able to zoom out for just a moment and observe your life, make conscious choices, and take responsibility for choosing what we engage with and how much we engage with it.

It’s important that we do all of the above with our own interests in mind, rather than comparing ourselves to the person next to us and feeling the need to do what they’re doing.

This is where we explore balance as a concept, rather than a physical ability. Balancing the timeline for a goal, balancing expectations, balancing stress, balancing everything that’s intrinsic.


Balance is a huge portion of what we teach at Aspen, both conceptually and physically. We want you to more deeply understand yourself, and the forces you engage with. We want to help you balance all aspects of your life.


Posted on: January 23rd, 2020 by Emma Robson No Comments

The Physical

As a physical skill, Mobility needs defining.

Mobility is about having openness in our joints and the strength and awareness to be able to use it.

Being mobile without strength is called Flexibility and, contrary to popular belief, this isn’t always a beneficial attribute to have. In fact, there are just as many injuries associated with being too flexible as there are being too stiff.

We want you to be mobile and capable. We want you to understand the limits of your body.

Physically, we want mobility through motion. The ability to go in and out of a variety of ranges to create more comprehensive and complex movement patterns.


The Mental

As a concept, being mobile is being able to move from place to place when needed. Knowing when the work is done and it is time move on. Knowing when there is work to put in and time to give.

Taking this definition and applying it in a mental aspect means being mobile in your thoughts; understanding that everyone is here for different purposes and has different strengths.

We are not all the same and each person should be respected as such.

The context of a persons life and situation is important and you should be concerned with understanding your own first, rather than those of the people around you; help yourself to help others.


How To: Handstands For Beginners

Posted on: November 5th, 2019 by Paul Twyman No Comments

On the surface, handstands appear as nothing more than a neat party trick. It isn’t until we dive a little deeper that we realise how great they are as a means of organically improving upper-body strength, body awareness, discipline, and of course, balance.

In addition to the physical and mental benefits, learning to handstand doesn’t require any additional equipment, making it financially beneficial as well.

The following blog post aims to compliment the above video, expanding on the topics and beginner handstand drills spoken about within.


Warming Up For Handstands

Wrist Preparation

The wrists are pretty important when it comes to handstanding. These joints will be taking the entirety of your bodyweight when you’re upside-down, so it’s crucial that we warm these up and stretch them before all handbalancing sessions.

Take care when stretching the wrists, the last thing we want is to cause any nasty strains. Gently ease in and out of these stretches.


Hip Preparation

A common problem amongst those learning to handstand for the first time is partially closed hips. This slight bend at the hips can make it significantly harder to hold and balance because the sections of our body aren’t stacked efficiently.


Position Drills

Position drills activate and condition the core to remain tense during the handstand. This will improve straightness of your handstand. The straighter your line, the easier it will be to maintain balance.


Beginner Handstand Practice

Wall-Assisted Kick Ups

Kicking up is the first step to a handstand. This is how we enter the skill.

Initially, learning the intensity we must use to achieve a hold can be quite difficult and a little intimidating without assistance, especially for beginners with no experience being upside-down. Kicking up in front of a wall prevents you from kicking over too far and potentially landing flat on your back.

Keep in mind though that we shouldn’t become too reliant on the wall to catch us. Focus on contacting the wall as softly as possible.

Repeat the kick-ups until we become familiar with the amount of effort needed to enter without going too far.


Wall-Assisted Handstands

Accumulating time upside-down is made much easier against a wall as we don’t need to focus too heavily on the balancing aspect of the handstand.

Once you’re comfortable against the wall, explore pushing through the tips of your fingers to bring your feet off the wall, returning to the wall after a couple of seconds. This will get you familiar with correcting your balance when we eventually begin learning to handstand without the assistance of a wall.

I would also recommend using your phone to film yourself from the side while you train. Reviewing the footage will allow you to get a sense of what your line is like and work on correcting it when necessary.


Freestanding Handstands

For our first foray into freestanding handstands, we’ll remain close to the wall. However, when we kick up this time, we’ll try not to touch the wall at all.

If you’ve been successful with the aforementioned wall-assisted kick-ups, this shouldn’t prove to be too difficult to progress to.

Keep in mind that it may even take a few weeks to get to this point, which is perfectly normal for those who are just starting out.


The Next Step

Once you’re familiar with the basics, and are capable of holding an unassisted handstand for a considerable amount of time, we can start exploring different elevations, entries, shapes, surfaces, and movements during inversion.

This video of myself from 2016 shows a combination of elevation (on P-Bars), shape (Tiger Bend), and movement (Handstand Push-Up).


As exciting as this looks, we’ll save Handstand Push-Ups, Tiger Bends, and P-Bars for the advanced handstand tutorial, but for now let’s focus on developing a daily practice and accumulating some consistent holds as outlined in the first video.


Seeking Handstand Coaching

If you’re looking for some assistance with your handstands, Aspen Coaching can help in a few different ways:


Online Coaching

Online Handstand Coaching is perfect for those who are looking for personalised programming to complete in their own time – regardless of your location.

In fact, if you used your phone to record your position at any point throughout this tutorial, you can send that to me and we can use it as a starting point.

You can get in touch with me via Instagram or use our contact form.


Beginner-Friendly Handstand Classes

If you’re located in Western Australia, you can take advantage of our Handstand Classes in Perth. These classes allow you to progress your handstands alongside likeminded individuals, and receive valuable feedback from an experienced coach. These classes also provide the accountability we all need when learning to handstand!

Understandably, class environments can be a little intimidating for some, but we can assure you that Aspen is a welcoming, friendly, and inclusive environment regardless of what level you’re at.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!


Fighting Monkey Denmark Intensive 2019

Posted on: September 12th, 2019 by Emma Robson No Comments

We ask people “what do you do?” As if it should have a one-word answer.

But it’s not that simple.

I am a human, being, trying, struggling, growing, adapting, living. I want to live happily. I want to share things, moments, and stories with people. I want to experience new things, get joy out of simple pleasures.

Can I be defined as a wife, a coach, a boss, a sister, a daughter, a dancer, a mover, a business person, a friend, a lover?

Am I lost or found? Am I broken or together? Am I grounded or still wandering?

It seems to be in our nature; the need to define things.

To define people. To define ideas as if they should fit into one neat little box.

The more I experience, the more overlap I see. Everything leaks from one ‘box’ to another.

Humans are fascinating; we want to define how what we do is different, rather than acknowledge how it is so similar.



Zero Forms

My week training at the European Fighting Monkey Intensive nourished a lot of my curiosities, as well as sparking more questions. It was a week full of diverse movement and philosophy. It solidified some ideas, while stirring up others.

Each day started with a 1 hour Zero Forms session, usually outside on the oval. In silence we checked in with ourselves. Not taking for granted our body and our state of being, but giving it time to speak and being present to listening to what it has to say.

We observed the whole structure moving, through all planes. Waking up the spine, the hips, the feet and all things in between. We studied, observed, applied, and sat with the ‘ugly mirror’.  Constructing a more detailed map of our internal world each day.

Like the sea maps, the body changes. We need to continuously update. We need to know our own history in order to better predict the future, in order to make better decisions, by ourselves, for ourselves.



Coordinations & Wrestling

Zero Forms was followed by breakfast, along with a swift transition into the morning session.

Co-ordinating this body of ours is harder that it sounds. Ultimately, it’s understanding the potential of our body by using it in motion and in rhythm. When this comes together, we can access its power. Until then, we wear things out. We overuse and wear down, creating potential for injury to occur. Some use this practice to help them become better dancers, some to become better fighters. I use this practice to understand myself better, to improve my ageing process, and of course, to have fun.

Wrestling, one of the worlds oldest sports. Basic body to body contact. Communicating through touch. Reading, strategising, and efficiently searching for pathways to transition and overpower. Not through force, but through an energy exchange.

To be honest, I hated the thought of wrestling each day. The first two days I really did not enjoy the work. But as I was exposed to more techniques, and as the conversations deepened on the history of the craft, I began to get more and more out of it. Not because I will ever be a fighter or a wrestler, but because I’m interested in how humans evolve and what it takes to change.



Partner Work & Memory

After lunch and a rest, we had a 3 hour afternoon session. This session incorporated the practice ball, partner work, memory, conversation, and more.

We discussed elements from the morning practices. Reflected and looked deeper into the positions.

We played, laughed, worked, and explored ourselves and each other. A group of 60 people coming together. It felt safe, inclusive, challenging, and most of all, unique.

So many different people, yet so much similarity. We had athletes, dancers, doctors, physicians, physiotherapists, pilates teachers, martial artists, visual artists, personal trainers, coaches, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, first-timers, new-comers, all sizes and shapes, various backgrounds, each of us there for our own reasons, and all there for each other.




Some things cannot be discovered alone. It is upon the shoulders of others that we stride forwards.

Progress comes slowly. Leaps are made after decades and decades of generational knowledge. The people I met, and was fortunate enough to have conversations with, had something in common. They were all willing to walk the long road. To get their hands dirty and sit in the unknown. They were patient and diligent. They were understanding and questioning. They tried it all on and put themselves in the driving seat of their own life.