Jill Miller

Keep Your Eyes Off the Prize

iStock_000021883238SmallWe are in high season for the "before" and "after" pictures, and we live in a culture that loves, loves, loves a good before and after photo shoot. So before you pick out an imaginary "after" picture for yourself (whether our own personal "after" imaginings involve finally resolving some pain or mobility issue, or fitting back into your pre-holiday-treats-pants) just take a moment to ponder the nuttiness. When we exist in a culture that spends so much time sending us the messages that: A) Your present self is somehow faulty and B) The imagined future is what matters the most,  we, er, sort of lose touch with the present tense. It reminds me a bit of one of my favorite quotes from Dr. Reggie Ray's article Busyness is Laziness" By being busy you are basically giving away your human existence.". Yikes. How about this: by living in the after photo, you are basically giving away your human existence. Because you're not around for it. You're waiting to be in the after photo.

Put another way, Pema Chodron has said (I'm paraphrasing), "self-improvement is a subtle aggression against who we actually are." Oof. That's a profound one. All of this "be better, do better, reach higher" stuff is, I think, a pretty profound cultural veil that we live under which gives us the constant, subtle message that we suck.

So, hey, let's all just give up on dreams and goals and go eat cookies on the couch!

Before you think that I am either preaching from on high or that I don't ever have goals or ambitions, that's not what I'm saying. I am happier since I paid off all my debt, lost the extra 20 pounds I was carrying around from my son (until he was 3, mind you), rehabilitated my body out of pain, built my private practice, etc, etc. Those were all goals that I met and I am grateful every day to have done those things.

But the thing about goals is that they happen in the present tense. Each little action is what creates your future, and if you are asleep to it, you miss out. I've written before about the fact that there is no such thing as being "done" or "finished" with anything, and I guess that's my real beef with the magical idea of the after shot. Getting attached to the after shot allows us to believe that somehow, someday, we will be done and frozen into our "after" selves and we don't have to show up for anything anymore.

I remember the first time I had a private yoga lesson with my first teacher Jonathan Fitzgordon and knowing my history he asked me, as he was evaluating my movement and alignment, how long I had been working to rehabilitate my body. I did a little quick math and (that being probably 2004) I said that it had been 7 years.

When I said it I felt a little bit deflated because here I was, 7 years later, as a Rolfing practitioner no less, and I still couldn't forward fold much at all and I had a good handful of pain and alignment issues. Sure it was significantly better than it had ever been, but it was still, blech, so unsatisfactory.

Then Jonathan did the most amazing thing. Instead of giving me a, "Wow we've still really got a lot of work to do", or even a, "Huh. Ok then." Jonathan gave me a huge gift. He said, "Wow that is so amazing that you are on this journey with your body. Most people are just looking for a way to stop working on their stuff and you've dedicated all these years to it and you keep going. That's so sweet." If you met Jonathan you would know he wasn't blowing sunshine where the sun don't shine. He has this very unflappable, grounded way about him. I really felt him reflecting back to me a kind of awe about the work I was doing to feel good in my body.

I'll never forget that because it was the moment I regained the present tense. I had been devoted to this idea of "Brooke the perfectly aligned, pain free, effortlessly mobile goddess" when instead I was "Brooke the person who has dedicated her life to living in her body the best she can moment to moment", which, quite frankly, is the kind of person I want to be.

Because then I get to have those moments where I find some new space in my body, or solve some new movement puzzle. Before Jonathan gifted me the present tense I would have seen those moments as still somehow falling short, because absolute perfection had not yet been obtained. And it would have been really unfortunate to keep missing all those little micro wins or explorations and judging them as inferior.

We endlessly sex up the appeal of instant gratification even though it's a myth. I wish I had a banner I could fly that says, "Glacial progress is super sexy!" It may not be sexy per se, but if we can lean into it it does create a nourishing life and real, incremental, built-in-the-present-tense satisfaction.

This year, instead of yearning towards an after shot why not try instead to, as my teacher Jill Miller says, "Be a student of your body." Be a  student of your body, of this life, of this moment, of all of it. That's the whole point!

Happy 2014 Fascia Freedom Fighters!!

 

 

DIY Friday: Healthy Pregnancy and Beyond

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

3377899104_08cbdd7f7d_zThere's been a whole lot of talk about what pregnant women are actually capable of lately in the media, as well as renewed attention on postpartum issues that don't get much discussion. There seems to be a theme going, and so I figured we could look more closely at it for this DIY Friday.

First, as someone who has been on bed rest during pregnancy (albeit for one of the very few issues for which it actually is useful- pre-eclampsia), this article has me seeing red. For those of you who have been there, you know it's no small thing. I was shocked at how quickly my body atrophied and it was a very grueling recovery to get myself back from that. And by "back" I don't mean looking cute in jeans again, I mean walking without pain and managing being upright for longer than 30 minutes. Sort of important stuff. So here is the offensive information that bed rest is almost never indicated in terms of improving outcomes, yet is regularly prescribed.  I also had the chance to chat about it with a friend of mine, an MD who specializes in Maternal Fetal Medicine, this weekend and she confirmed, to my astonishment, that this is all true. Yikes.

Next up, The Wall Street Journal put out a great piece this week on the true postpartum challenges women are facing (it's not about the damn skinny jeans!) and how they can be addressed. The only thing I wish this article had addressed is that we really aren't having more of these problems purely because of advanced maternal age or the increased incidence of twins. So much of this boils down to our poor movement patterning in all the years leading up to pregnancy. We live in a culture that makes it very challenging to have good movement patterning (hello chairs, laptops, cars, and smartphones), so few of us are immune.

Then came Lea Ann Ellison, the very pregnant Crossfit mom who got a whole lot of flack for posting some gorgeous pictures of herself power lifting while pregnant. People went nutso. It was all over the place. Over a woman (who had been an athlete for years) exercising while pregnant. Um... this was a bit of an overreaction. And I particularly liked this response to it.

Lastly, Tiffany Chambers-Goldberg had a great post this week in YOGANANYMOUS which addressed and dispelled many myths surrounding yoga and pregnancy.

So where's the DIY in this week's DIY? Well I'm catching you guys early because this event on November 4th is free on the two days that it will be happening live (though you can pay to watch it and have access to it long term after the event), so I wanted to give you some time to plan. Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up is hosting  a 2 day workshop on CreativeLIVE on addressing all of these pregnancy and postpartum issues. So whether you are pregnant, plan to be one day (it's always best to be informed in advance!), or have already had a child, this workshop promises to be enlightenment of the jaw dropping variety. It is rumored that Jill has also assembled some of my all time favorite body nerds to have guest appearances throughout the 2 day workshop. People like Katy Bowman, Kelly and Juliet Starrett, and more! You can check it out here.

Happy baby making!

photo by Bethany Brown

 

 

DIY Friday: Too Tight and Too Loose Ankles

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

People are frequently plagued by seemingly disparate, but often intertwined, problems with their ankles. More specifically the curse of the too tight ankle, and the curse of the too loose ankle.

Too tight ankles are a pain in the butt for things like doing squats, and for walking and running in ways that won't agitate your spine (because you need ankle mobility for normal biomechanical movement of the spine- true story!).

Too loose ankles are known by their partner in crime: the constantly repeating ankle sprain and the nagging sense that you can't trust bearing weight to the all important weight bearing ankle.

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So whether you're a tight-ankled person or a chronic sprainer- or a combo platter of both as your ankle tries to stabilize and find a happy home base- here are some excellent resources for your self care needs:

  • Did that leave you hungry for more!? Did you totally fall in love with that Wheelies in the Park move!? I thought so. Here Katy talks shop re: ankles with more precision, and also includes the inspiration for the wheelies move, a video by the brilliant Jill Miller. (Seriously the Wheelies in the Park is one of my new favorite things and has my neighbors worried, yet again, about my sanity as I play with them in my yard).
  • Lastly, Jill makes another ankle-relevant cameo, but this time with Kelly Starrett on MobilityWOD. He talks about the important piece of the fibular head being able to "get out of the way" so the ankle can move. I see this particular stuck-ness a lot in my practice. And Jill, the chocolate to his peanut butter, comes to the rescue with a therapy ball move to mobilize that. Do not do this with anything harder than a therapy ball. Please and thank you.

Go forth and have happy ankles.

photo by Generation X-Ray 

DIY Friday: Make Your Jaw Happy

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

5504152401_e1df6a4387_bI do the work that I do because of TMJD, otherwise known as Temporal Mandibular Joint Disorder. You may know it better as jaw clicking, popping, locking, and pain. I had a birth injury which injured my upper cervicals (neck), and so I grew up with an out of whack jaw which, by the time I was in my early 20’s, was barely functional. I could occasionally open my mouth all the way (it sounded like a rifle going off and would attract confused stares), and for a period of a few months in a row I actually wasn’t able to open it more than a quarter of an inch; Just enough to squeeze a straw through my teeth to get some liquid nourishment in. I actually had a physical therapist tell me I would be on soft foods or even a liquid diet for the rest of my life. I was twenty-two.

This lovely condition meant that I also had severe chronic pain in my head, neck, spine, and sacroiliac joints. I was a mess. I was also very lucky to find a TMJD (sometimes also called TMD) specialist who didn’t believe in the surgery, and after building some splints to re-align my jaw is the person who ordered me to get some good bodywork (I had no idea what that meant at the time, but after researching I found my way to Rolfing®) and to learn how to meditate. To keep this DIY Friday from spiraling into a memoir, I’ll end the story there but suffice it to say, I got better, I discovered a career I love, and if you are suffering with this condition I feel your pain. For reals.

That said, I have wanted to write this DIY Friday for ages but since I am oh so passionate about TMJD I tend to go on and on and on. I’m going to try and keep it short and will save the meaty version for a book series I am kicking off this year on resolving common chronic pain and mobility issues (stay tuned!).

Ok, I’m reigning myself in, TMJD, as I mentioned, is a disorder of the jaw. It is ridiculously common, and varies from mild to severe. My case is an example of the severe range. Other people may just have occasional clicking or locking and headaches or neck pain. It also often manifests with sacroiliac pain (the dimples at your low back where it meets your pelvis), as the jaw and SI joints commonly mirror one another.

Things get out of whack in a jaw for a myriad of reasons, but injury, poorly done orthodontia or other dental work, and stress are top of the heap. Regardless of the cause, what happens is that your bite winds up not meeting properly, and the cartilaginous disc that is between your mandible (jaw bone) and your temporal bone gets out of place (the clicking you hear is when it slips back into place, when the disc does not go back into place, or if it gets folded over on itself, the jaw will lock). This also loads your musculature and fascia improperly and you wind up with pain and a gnarly full body compensatory pattern.

Because the root issue is a poorly aligned bite, in the past people in the medical world have gone bonkers and jumped right in to whittle down people’s teeth, surgically alter their TMJ in horrific ways, or even break and reset the jaw. Do not go this route! Your jaw is misaligned because your soft tissue- fascia, muscles, tendons, and ligaments- are out of alignment. This can be resolved. So before you go altering what your maker gave you, get some smart soft tissue work. You may have a severe case in which case extremely well informed orthodontia may be needed to move your teeth into the position of your new bite (I had to do this), but cases that require this are in the minority. And the surgeries for TMJD have all had very poor outcomes, and often leave people with more pain than they started with and a lifetime of repair surgeries. In short, keep it mellow and be suspicious of highly invasive tactics. Less is more when it comes to realigning the jaw.

To get your jaw aligned without invasive and unsuccessful interventions, I highly recommend you seek out one or a few of the following:

A Rolfing practitioner or other Structural Integrator: Rolfers like me graduated from the school Dr. Rolf founded, The Rolf Institute, other SI people go to different schools like The Guild or KMI. • A craniosacral therapist: People who practice craniosacral have widely varying degrees of education. Make sure your practitioner is well trained and hasn’t just dipped their toes into this form of manual therapy with a few hours or a weekend of training. • A cranial osteopath: This is brilliant and highly sophisticated work. • An acupuncturist: Not someone who has studied “dry needling” in one weekend to tack it on to their medical or PT practice. A real deal acupuncturist. If they have also studied Chinese herbs that’s a good sign of a highly educated Chinese medicine doctor.

But wait! This is DIY Friday!? Well good news, I adore this video of my teacher, Jill Miller, with Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD working with TMJD. This sequence is profound and I would have given my right arm to have had it 16 years ago. So use it well.

A few caveats: Jill’s tissue is like silk from all the smart input she gives it, so if you are flared up with a jaw disorder, or simply if this is your first work with the therapy balls, do what she is doing but in slow motion. The therapy balls can be found here, and if you’re looking for one to buy instead of all of them the alpha (the single large therapy ball) will be your best option in this sensitive tissue as it is a broader stroke. Do not use lacrosse balls, golf balls, baseballs, or any other ridiculous hard balls in this area. This is a sensitive place!

Without further ado, I give you Jill and Kelly:

photo by Theen

Jill Miller Interview

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JM_Headshot_Seated_Crop1_largerI am thoroughly delighted and honored to introduce you all to one of my teachers, Jill Miller. Jill is the creator of Yoga Tune Up® and the co-founder (with her husband) of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide®. In our interview we talk about the origins of her work, her brilliant case study for The Fascia Research Congress, why she retires yoga poses, and much more.

I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to all the good that her work has brought to my body and my life, and so naturally I highly recommend that you check it out for yourself. That said, no one talks about it better than Jill, so you can check out her interview below (with the transcript for skimming below that). And if you're curious what my favorite Yoga Tune Up goodies are, I covered that in last week's DIY Friday Ode to Yoga Tune Up. 

 

1:14 In her own words Jill describes Yoga Tune Up. It works to address the 3 P’s: pain, posture, and performance. No matter what your “thing” is it helps you to live better in your body.

2:12 A combination of conscious corrective exercise and self care tools (the therapy balls) help people to find and heal their body blind spots, which are the catalysts for injuries.

4:38 You have to disassemble your movement to see where you’re broken. It’s amazing to find out where you’ve gone blind, deaf, or dumb to yourself. It’s a wonderful journey. I [Jill] work with a lot of people who are in deep pain conditions.

5:45 Thank God for Western medicine, I [Jill] don’t hate doctors, but movement medicine is very potent and it works. More often than not people get the runaround and are not given the opportunity to first fix how they’re moving before they are putting bandaids on it with medications or with surgery.

6:10 Jill tells the story of her mother who spent 5 months being given the runaround. When she had nerve pain down her arm, she was first put on a cancer medication for a skin condition, and it took that long (5 months) for them to give her an MRI to find stenosis in her neck. In her first session of physical therapy she felt better

8:18 We can interrupt the movement patterns that lead to that kind of pain by making a better choice now in how we’re moving.

8:54 Jill tells the story of how and why she began practicing yoga at age 11 to cope with a very stressful childhood

9:58 How the Jane Fonda workout and the Raquel Welch yoga video were her way in to falling in love with movement, since she began as a very sedentary kid who was really out of touch with her body.

10:46 Fast forward to college where Jill was studying dance and movement and studying shiatsu on the side. She found her way to the Omega Institute and her teacher and mentor, Glenn Black at age 19.

11:31 Glenn Black specializes in human movement and does a hands on therapeutic modality called Body Tuning, which is a physical therapy approach created by Shmuel Tatz who is based in NYC.

12:08 Her early yoga training with Glenn Black involved a lot of hands on bodywork from him, to manipulate the tissues manually so that people’s movement could change.

13:00 Seeing how soft tissue work was intertwined with your physical practice from this early age influenced her development of Yoga Tune Up therapy balls and their various derivatives

14:11 Equinox fitness clubs is now rolling out her therapy ball program (heh heh pun intended) which she has created for them

14:40 I mention that I don’t know if I would be able to continue practicing at the volume that I do as a Rolfing practitioner without YTU and the therapy balls in my life.

16:03 There are techniques that change you neurologically. There are techniques that decohere soft tissues. This doesn’t have to be the domain just behind a clinicians door. These are things anyone can do for themselves to help themselves heal.

16:53 You are not off limits to yourself. It’s not their [the clinicians] right to touch you exclusively. This is true empowerment

17:44 Jill was the only yoga teacher ever to present at the http://www.fasciacongress.org/ Fascia Research Congress, which she did in 2012.

18:17 Jill tells the story of her amazing case study for the Fascia Research Congress. It detailed her work with a client who has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease which is a nerve wasting disease in which one loses function in the hands, forearms, lower legs, feet, etc. Many people with this disease have multiple surgeries.

19:12 When he began working with Jill he came to her in deep emotional duress, and was on the highest doses of narcotic painkillers, sleep medication, anti-anxiety medication, and urinary control medication, and was in absolute agony at age 40. Over the course of the next 4 years he decided to stop wearing his leg braces. He can now lace up his own shoes. He was told he would never be able to use his opposable thumb, but he can pick up pennies now, he can button up his shirt. And perhaps most astonishingly, he is off the narcotic painkillers.

22:08 This gentleman, the subject of her case study, now knows that he can help himself instead of having to take more medication. He knows how to quell his nervous system and to help his physical state so that he is no longer dependant on medication.

22:53 Movement medicine is free socialized medicine. It’s so easy to make change in your body! Jill gives her universal cues for everyone, in 4 seconds, no equipment required, to have a “quick fix” for themselves.

23:36 If my [Jill’s] clients, who are “crippled” for lack of a better word can get better, than Joe Schmoe and Jane Schmoe can do it. It’s never too late to regenerate your body, it’s built for change. You just have to give it some discipline and apply our best conscious will.

25:15 Jill discusses her practice of retiring yoga poses

25:42 I [Jill] used to think I was hypermobile. I was always the demo girl in classes showing how people could get their foot all the way up to their forehead. I am a fanatic and I am obsessive, and that is a deadly combo when you focus on improving joint range of motion, because I had blown past my sense mechanism, and that’s one of the reasons why I focus so much on proprioception. Because I had blown myself so wide open to the degree that I couldn’t sense myself. I couldn’t straighten my knees, I couldn’t get out of bed without extreme amounts of pain, and I had done it to myself. I didn’t realize the practice was hurting me.

27:51 There are many yoga poses I [Jill] simply don’t do anymore because I feel that they are full of jeopardy for the body. I also want to be an example to my students. There are a lot of poses that are creating massive structural damage, and I think that there is a cover up going on, because there are many teachers of a certain age, over age 50 or 60 or so, who are having many surgeries, hip replacements, spinal surgeries, and neck surgeries.

28:29 The myth is that if you are watching yourself breathe, you can’t possibly get hurt. Which is not true. Your ability to breathe in and out is not the only measurement of if you are doing damage to yourself. It’s a great concentration tool, but we need to help our students understand how they’re holding themselves all the time, to be able to better assess what is healthy for them.

29:13 Many poses blow past the safety zone without people realizing it. And whether you can take deep ujjayi breaths there is not going to tell you if that pose is precipitating thinning of the tissue in your joints which  5 years or 10 years down the road is going to cause trouble.

30:06 Doing these extreme poses doesn’t give me pleasure anymore. What gives me pleasure is to have my head over my rib cage and my rib cage over my pelvis and to be able to respect my body and how I respond. Give that a chance, to be as impeccable as possible, and see how that follows you into the rest of your movement.

 

DIY Friday: Ode to Yoga Tune Up

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

logo YTUNext week my interview with Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up® and co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide® will be up on the site. Since I happen to be one of her students- and am therefore a teacher of Yoga Tune Up-  I am clearly a big advocate for her brilliant self care work. That said, I thought I'd dedicate this DIY Friday to reviewing my personal favorite* Yoga Tune Up products that help you to heal yourself and to live better in your body. Yoga Tune Up is a treasure trove for magnifying your ability to repair and restore your body, so what better topic when we're talking do-it-yourself!?

First off, no conversation about Yoga Tune Up (YTU) would be complete without talking balls. So let's start there, shall we? You've seen several of my posts here that utilize the YTU therapy balls (like this one on the upper back and shoulders, and this one on lengthening the hamstrings), and that's because they can be pretty magical. I personally favor the original therapy balls, and the alpha ball, and Jill has recently come out with a 2 disc DVD set, the Massage Therapy Full Body Kit that will take you through working out all the issues in your tissues. For a long time only audio CD's of this work were available, so this is pretty exciting. Trust me, it's like hiring a live-in massage therapist, but without the billionaire salary. It's powerful stuff.

As for the DVD's, my absolute favorite is Coregeous. "Core" must be one of the most overused and misunderstood terms in the fitness world right now. Most often it translates to "look hot in a bikini". Sigh. These programs are often not only boring but are also poorly informed movement that can lead to more trouble than the promise of a hot bikini bod is worth. Coregeous is multiple bite sized programs for deeply and intricately working on restoring your core (which means all the layers of your abdomen and also your spine). My secret admission here (sorry Jill) is that I call the cover image of the DVD "Jill Kardashian" due to her bare midriff and tousled hair... in a nutshell the cover of the DVD looks exactly like "look hot" marketing. But the contents are so exquisitely useful for everything from back pain, sacral issues, sciatica, groin pain, posture, and more that I send clients home with it frequently telling them to ignore the Jill Kardashian image and just watch it to see how brilliant it is. In fact I very commonly give this to my male athlete clients as so many of them hold a ton of tension in their hip flexors and/or suffer from low back pain. They have all fallen in love with the DVD and proclaim that it's saved their bodies and made a dramatic impact on their training. You will feel the same. Oh and the Coregeous ball that goes with it is a must.

Lastly, you can scope out all the free resources that live at the Yoga Tune Up You Tube channel. Or find a teacher in your area!

*Footnote: Yep, as stated these just happen to be my personal favorite things, which means that I have found them applicable to my own body. So if you happen to have knee stuff, for example, you'll probably adore the Knee Hab DVD, but I just happen to not have used it since I have happy knees, and so did not review it here. To see what other YTU goodies might call to you more precisely, you can scope everything out here

DIY Friday: Upper Back and Shoulders Part 2

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

CA350181Last week we began tackling that crunchiest of crunchy bits: our upper back and shoulders. If you're like most people, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's that place that you squeeze at the end of every workday, the relentlessly congested upper trapezius and levator scapula (and the supraspinatus and rhomboids come in to play, as well as plenty of other musculature). Unfortunately, the way many people deal with this is through postural efforting patterns that cause only more harm, leaving your poor upper back and shoulders in worse shape than they started out. To see my rant on the trouble with the "pull your shoulders back" cue, you can check out last week's DIY Friday. And for more information on the lousy posture cues and why they don't work, you can read more here.

That said, let's dive into more at home help to get your shoulders genuinely happy rather than trapped in unpleasant fake-it-til-you-make-it posturing.

First up, Katy Bowman takes on that other annoying and unhelpful cue, "pull your shoulders down". You can read her take on it, and watch a video explaining how external rotation is the name of the game, not yanking your shoulders away from your ears. It's here! 

Katy also has some short and sweet products that you can use to work on your own shoulders here (this is the whole collection, so you'll have to scroll to the appropriate shoulder goodies): Alignment Snacks

And lastly, here's Jill Miller with some Yoga Tune Up® help in the form of the active pose Pranic Bath. This is one of my favorite ways to get your shoulder mojo moving. And with no toys needed, it makes for a great movement to use when you're taking your (frequent) computer breaks during the day. In fact, I'm going to go do that right now! Do it along with me:

Go forth and have happy shoulders!

photo by hiromy

DIY Friday: Upper Back and Shoulders Part 1

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

4927974025_116c045142_bI recently asked the Facebook tribe what they wanted me to give them help on in this week's DIY Friday and there was a whole lotta talk of shoulders and the upper back! I can't exactly say I'm surprised. We live in a culture that puts an awful lot of demand here in ways that our bodies are not well designed for. All of that looking at screens, sitting, and typing causes upper back, neck, and shoulder pain that our hunter gatherer ancestors were not having to deal with. I used to joke that the first person who came into my Rolfing® practice with no tension pattern in their upper trapezius would win a treasure chest of prizes. I have not given out any prizes. Call me a defeatist, but I have not even gone shopping for treasure chests. Ok partly that's just the practicality of having a hard time finding stores that carry treasure chests...

But in the hopes that I'll be handing out prizes for supple upper trapezius muscles soon, here's part 1 of a 2 part post on some of the most crucial alignment issues that we face in our shoulders and upper back, as well as some very juicy self massage strategies that are likely to have you shouting, "Hallelujiah!"

Before we bust out the therapy balls, here's a video from me ranting about one of my most despised hall of shame alignment cues. You've all heard it before, "Pull your shoulders back." Argh! To see how this cue may be causing a significant increase in your upper back pain and why I would get so complain-y about something so seemingly innocuous, give it a watch:

And now, finally, the moment you've all been waiting for. Knowing how to work on that cranky tissue on your own. First, to deal with the internal rotation, shoulders creeping up and forward thing that I describe in the video, here's a quickie therapy ball strategy to unglue your pec minor muscle, one of the main culprits in forward rounded shoulders (it's an oldie from before FFF):

Last but very, very much not least, this is the good stuff that you're wanting to get into at the end of every workday. Jill Miller shows you her Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball strategies for getting at the upper trapezius, supraspinatus, and rhomboids. Heavenly! This is a powerful 4 minutes and 55 seconds everyone. It might just change your life (as it does mine at the end of every Rolfing or writing day).

 

*Jill and I are both using the original sized therapy balls in these videos, and they can be found here

photo by Sam MacKenzie

 

DIY Friday: Psoas Love

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

psoasFor the last several months I have been handing out psoas advice all over the place for two reasons; First, I've been working with a lot of athletes, particularly Crossfitters, and they trend towards chronically contracted psoas muscles, and second, because many people are just randomly asking me for advice on releasing their psoas muscles. Whaaaa?! Yep, it seems people are getting hip to this obscure and crucial muscle these days, and it's no wonder! The psoas is the information super highway of sorts between your spine and legs, attaching on the bodies (front part) of all of your lumbar vertebrae, crossing the pelvis, and attaching finally on your very upper inner thigh. Because of that it plays a huge role in, well everything. Being upright and walking for example. And in pain patterns it often gets involved in hip flexor or groin pain (very common in athletes), low back pain, mid back pain, and sacroiliac pain just to name a few. Want a visual of this muscle? When you order a filet mignon or a pork tenderloin, you're ordering a cow psoas or a pig psoas. Yep, it's the tenderloin muscle! Yummy.

 

  • Want to work on it yourself? I've long said that the psoas is not a DIY kind of place, and I really mean that except that Jill Miller of Yoga Tune Up®, of course, has found a way to safely access and release tension here. And so with that I give you  the video I most frequently share with clients, which is one of Jill's mini-workshops on Mobility WOD.

 

  • If you want loads more of that goodness, and the program that I consider the smartest core work on the planet, you can check out Jill's DVD, Coregeous. Oh and that fab squishy ball that she's using in the Mobility WOD video and in the Coregeous DVD can be purchased here. Please do not use harder balls in the abdomen. The only safe way to do with is with a squishy, medium sized, air-filled ball like this one.

 

  • Lastly, an important piece of getting the psoas to release is constructive rest, which is mentioned in my interview with Jonathan. The psoas is our "fight or flight" muscle extraordinaire, so constructive rest can get it to let go of any strangle hold it may have going and that can make a huge impact in any pain patterns you have anywhere in your body. It may seem boring, but its' impacts can be profound. So get over it's boring-ness and try it already. I recently gave this to a client of mine who is a high level athlete who also has struggled with anxiety most of her life. After sending her this video she wrote to me saying (yes she gave permission for me to quote her), "In all my research on anxiety I can't believe I've never come across this!!!! I started to giggle because I felt like my body was saying 'it's about f*cking time, b*tch!!!!!!!' " Well I couldn't say it better myself, so on to the video! (yep it's from back when I was putting videos on Soma Happy, my private practice website)

 

DIY Friday: Posture

diyfriday (2)*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

2499047949_47fb90e481_zI predict that FFF will ultimately have somewhere approximating 63 gajillion posts on posture. That would make this the first of them! Oh, posture. Such an overused and misunderstood word. Quick! Have good posture! Did you just yank your spine up straight, tuck your butt under, and shove your shoulders back while puffing up your chest? Well stop it. Stop it I say! That sh*t is exhausting and will only sow the seeds of chronic pain. Like I said, 63 gajillion posts coming your way over the years on posture, so I’ll get into the nuance of that more later but for now I need you to trust me on 2 things:

1) “Good” posture should be effortless. It should involve standing in a way that allows you all the glorious support you are designed with so that you can feel that sense of poise when upright without efforting or gripping your way through it. Forget anything you ever learned about posture in ballet class or the military. Or from your harping parents. Please.

2) Today’s 3 DIY posts have been chosen because they will help you to experience and attain that effortless sense of poise. Have fun!

  • First up, yep, this is a re-post of yours truly on the Yoga Tune Up® blog. I am slightly obsessed with getting people to stop shoving/pinning/pulling their shoulders back (it causes so much unnecessary pain!), so a few months back I wrote this article. It also has a video on how you can release your own pec minor, the main culprit in forward shoulder position, using therapy balls. If you are therapy ball-less at home you can use a tennis ball or a rubber dog ball. Lacrosse balls, baseballs, and softballs (or anything of this consistency) are too hard in this area. This is one of my favorite end of the workday things to do: When your pec minor becomes a major pain.
  • Second, Whole Living just posted this fascia focused workout creator by Jill Miller, creator of Yoga Tune Up (and, full disclosure, my teacher). While they don’t talk about this workout specifically as a posture improver, it really does hit so many of the key areas that need to be addressed in order for you to have a shot at experiencing ease in your body. Give them a try, they’re harder than they look! And my one caveat is to be super, duper, uber mindful when you do any of these movements (especially Matador Arm Circles and Sliding Chest Extension) to turn off your upper trapezius! It’s the part of your upper back/shoulder that you’re always groaning about at the end of the day, and it is, if you’re like most people, hyperactive. You will need to keep telling yourself to let that area soften as you go through the movements in order to open up your posture instead of just reinforcing old habits: Fascia Focused Workout
  • Lastly, the woman who literally wrote the book on posture, Mary Bond, has this great post on how spatial awareness/support can affect your posture. It might sound kooky, but try it! Go for a short walk seeing primarily with your peripheral vision. Or try sitting in your work chair while being aware of the space above your head and behind you (and try to avoid the temptation to pull yourself up when you notice the space above you). It can be powerful stuff! Spatial Support for Your Posture. Oh and that book I mentioned is The New Rules of Posture.

Now get out there and strut your effortlessly sassy pants stuff!