alignment

It's Not About Effort

3682269259_316ef32678_bWe just kicked off the first Liberated Body 30-Day Challenge today- which is like a "cleanse" that is more about your movement nutrition than your dietary nutrition-  with a fantastic group from all over the world (don't worry, there will be more in the future!), and we're starting our first week by focusing on letting go of efforting in our bodies. Why? Because feeling good in our bodies is not about effort! It's about connecting with our innate support- the glorious architecture of you from the inside out, from the cellular level on up. We are all born with support built right in.

Yet more often than not, in my practice my clients always want to know if I hold the magic answer to the age-old question, "How can I effort in my body the right way." Only the question is never phrased that way. It usually sounds like some variety of these, "What should I do with my shoulders?", "What should I do during the day to fix my lousy posture?", "How should I hold my neck?" You know the questions, because if you're like me you've asked them of your body and yourself plenty of times.

There's nothing wrong with these questions. All of the people who ask them are asking because they are suffering in some way- whether it's from their perception of their posture as failing, or chronic pain, or movement restrictions- it all boils down to physical suffering.

So to seek answers isn't problematic (it's downright heroic when you think about how easy it is to hide from our "stuff"), it's the presumption behind the questions that is problematic. The presumption is: "I have no support, how do I get some?" When a more useful, and more anatomically correct (heh heh) question would be, "I have lost my ability to feel supported in my body, how do I find my way back to my natural effortless state?"

First, a word on the word effortless: I kind of hate it. It's been corrupted by people trying to sell us things like "effortless hair" and "effortless weight loss" and "effortless investing" and they use that word because they want to associate it with people thinking that effortless = checking out, not having to work for anything, and generally drooling on the couch while magic happens.

So let's clarify: effortless = strain-free connection with innate support.

And oftentimes to find it we have to go on a journey- in this case one that is about awareness of our own physical selves. We have to get inquisitive, dial in, explore, tinker, and perhaps most of all know that we are looking for something that has been obscured, rather than trying to build something from scratch.  We have to trust-fall into ourselves rather than bullying ourselves.

Much of this can be explained by tensegrity which, to be fair, is something that it took me a decade to start getting a handle on. (But then again I can be a slow learner.) Whether it instantly makes sense to you or not, it's a beautiful framework for understanding what I'm talking about and it also happens to be anatomically and physiologically true! How handy!

I wrote in Why Fascia Matters (which P.S. is free), "In tensegrity- in this case in regards to the human body- structures are stable and functional not because of the strength of individual pieces, but because of the way the entire structure balances and distributes mechanical stresses. Tension is continuously transmitted through the whole structure simultaneously. Which means that an increase in tension to one piece of the structure will result in an increase in tension to other parts of the structure- even parts that are seemingly “far” away."

I love that our bodies are built this way because it's like this delicious reminder that balance is strength. Not strain, not effort, not achieving, not strife; balance. Which, not to get too woo-woo on you, can extend to our worldviews as well. Are we dragging ourselves by our fingernails to our goals or are we getting into flow? Can we allow ourselves to believe that we have what we need, and we just need to find our way to inner resources that already exist? Sorry I just can't help digressing in that direction! I think it's so interesting.

Back to tensegrity: whenever the Olympics are on I have this fun game I play with friends or family who I'm watching it with: I like to pick who is going to win the event at the beginning, before they have begun moving, based on how balanced their structure is. This is especially easy with runners, swimmers, and power lifters. Not always, but more often than not, the people who triumph are the people who are the most balanced, because they have this whole structure to draw on for strength, speed, and agility, rather than blowing out one region of their body. Go take a look at high level power lifters on YouTube and you can see that these people are tensegrity in motion- every part is doing its right job to lift that weight. If not, ouch. It doesn't go particularly well.

And so it goes for us, in our regular non-Olympic competitor lives, if we can't rely on the whole by finding our way back to our inherent balance... ouch.

Of course this a dance we're engaged in forever. I think we assume that we have two options: perfectly balanced, or a mess. Really we're always tinkering, so ideally we make that a compassionate dance. Finding balance can be a delightful exploration or self-flagellation but I think it's clear which one I'm voting for.

photo by Erik Meldrum

 

 

Why Astronauts Get Osteoporosis (And What it Means to Us On Earth)

4611583232_0484ea0d52_zSometimes there are things that are such assumed constants that we totally forget about them and the fact that they have an impact on us.

Did you hear the joke that started off David Foster Wallace’s brilliant commencement speech at Kenyon College- This is Water? It goes like this, “There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming by. He nods at them as he swims past and says, ‘Morning boys! How’s the water?’. And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and eventually one of them looks over at the other and says, ‘What the hell is water?’” David Foster Wallace goes on to say, “The point of the fish story is merely that the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and to talk about.” He then gives a gorgeous talk on living a compassionate life. But I am going to hijack the beginning of his talk to point out one crucial form of of “water”,  or “obvious and important reality", related to our bodies:

Gravity is always present.

Unless we leave this planet, or go to some awesome space camp where we get to play with NASA’s equipment or something, gravity is constantly exerting its force on us.

The way that I will usually illustrate (or rather exaggerate) this with my clients is to have them stand in whatever way feels normal to them, and then gently press down on their shoulders. With this exaggerated form of gravity, they will often notice things like all the force being transmitted to their low back or their knees. I will then help them to find proper alignment, and again mimic exaggerated gravity by gently pressing on their shoulders. Once they have found proper alignment, they now feel the force of gravity transmitted evenly through their joints and traveling directly down into the ground through their feet.

But let’s imagine you do opt out of this whole gravity thing. You’ve just decided to pay Richard Branson a whole lot of money to go into outer space. What might that look like? Oh wait, plenty of people have already gone there, we call them astronauts. Let’s take a look at what astronauts have taught us about gravity. Did you know there is something called The Bone Research in Space Symposium? Am I the only one that thinks that sounds like an awesome conference to attend!? It’s brought to you by the good people at The International Space Life Sciences Working Group who go by the charming and impossible to pronounce acronym ISPLSWG! I digress...

Research like this, on astronauts and what happens to their bones, exists because when you take a human out of the gravitational field they rapidly develop osteoporosis. I’m talking a pretty lightening fast bone to cotton candy switcheroo. Ok that is a tad of an exaggeration, but it is pretty shocking how rapidly density is lost.

From speaker Rene Rizzoli at the symposium: “"Bone is a living tissue, and must be 'stressed' [via gravity] to maintain strength. If bones are immobile for long periods, as occurs in space but also in bedridden patients, the individual will lose a substantial amount of muscle and bone mass, which may have serious repercussions,"

I would like to amend this a bit to read, “As occurs in space, bedridden patients, and also in a more subtle and gradual way to misaligned and undermoved tissues in normal healthy populations.”

So we can clearly see it’s not so sunny when we opt out of gravitational forces because we are designed to thrive here on Earth, where there is gravity. Which means we have to find the most optimal way to live in gravity (i.e participate for most of the day in natural human movements like walking, lifting, and not sitting still) so that the signals to our cells create a nourishing effect, instead of a degrading effect. In the words of my favorite biomechanist Katy Bowman, “Alignment matters!” It matters kind of a lot actually!

And because I couldn’t have said it better myself, here is Erik Dalton:

I often scratch my head in wonder when reading research that dismisses the effects of gravitational exposure on human viscoelastic tissues. It’s even more frustrating when scientists and clinicians discount the role distorted postural faults such as pronated feet, crooked SI joints, and forward heads play in commonly seen pain syndromes. Each-and-every day, the weight of gravity (14.7 pounds per square inch) pushes straight down on our bodies. These compressive forces should be equally distributed throughout the neuro-myo-skeletal system…but are they? Prolonged one legged standing (excessive weight bearing on one limb) is an oft-overlooked culprit creating ligamentous creep that may be a precursor to more serious conditions like joint laxity, lumbopelvic instability, sprains, and osteoarthritis.”

But hey, if you want to find out what it feels like for yourself to be totally out of gravity, NASA will pay you for the opportunity! However, as a woman who spent a a portion of her pregnancy on bed rest, I'm here to tell you no amount of money is worth it. So you may prefer to get upright and delight in the gravitational field that we all take for granted.

*P.S. This is an excerpt from a short book that I'm currently working on, which is why the blog is about to go silent for a few weeks. I'm behind on my deadline! But I'll be back soon.

photo by Scorpions and Centaurs

 

Katy Bowman Interview

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Katy_BowmanIt never fails. Every time I interact with Katy Bowman and her work there is always a moment where my jaw hits the floor. This interview is no exception (it happens around minute 31...)! I think Katy Bowman is one of the single most important voices not just on alignment and on movement, but on being human. Which naturally meant I had to interview her for FFF! Katy Bowman is a biomechanist who is the founder of the Restorative Exercise Institute, the author of Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief and Alignment Matters and an avid, and hilarious, blogger at www.katysays.com. In this interview we cover so many poorly understood yet crucial issues relate to the health of our species. Prepare to be gobsmacked. You can view it in its entirety below or scroll down to skim via the transcript.

1:28 I bring up Katy’s quote “We don’t have an inactivity problem, we have a geometry problem” and ask her to expound...

1:50 [Katy from here forward unless specified] It’s not that it’s not an inactivity problem. We are absolutely suffering from that. We have 3 groups- exercisers, professional laborers, and then you have a sedentary population. The interesting thing about all of those populations is that they are all getting different amounts and kinds of movements, but they all have the same problems. We are sold that if we exercise we will be outside certain health issues.

3:49 When you look at it from a geometrical perspective- just because someone is moving doesn't mean all of them is moving. Someone can be exercising, but not moving that much. When we quantify movement on a more thorough scale than just “is your movement on or off?” and look at it on a more cellular level, we see we are suffering from a geometrical problem. Because when we look at those 3 groups, the difference between their geometry is very little.

5:05 You can be moving a lot but in such a small or narrow range of motion at the joint axes  that movement is not doing what it is supposed to be doing for you- which is delivering nutrients ,moving waste products out, etc... But more on a cellular level it is the mechanical stimulation that gives the cell context on how to rearrange its DNA within the nucleus that creates the body that we have.

5:32 So even if the frequency of the movements is there- someone who moves 75 minutes a day without fail, or moving all day long- if you're in that small range of movement your body adapts to that shape. You basically become that position or small range of motion. And that’s what all the Fascia Freedom Fighters are really talking about- we’re all trying to help mobilize areas and everyone has a different piece of that puzzle.

7:03 [me] People think they can repent their [workday] sins of sitting all day by going to the gym. Can you talk a little bit more about how you mean this with people who exercise? Because I think there’s a disrupt with people who exercise- they think if they are exercising that they are in the clear.

7:26 [Katy] What was so important about that sitting research was that the risk held true whether you were an exerciser or not. Meaning you can’t undo sitting all day by doing something else more vigorously for an hour. You get quarters in your cellular bucket for frequency, but not for intensity. Adaptation simply means that you have altered your structure, not necessarily made it "better".

8:30 If you have your knee in one position for 10 hours, that's a lot of “quarters” for that joint to become morphed. Adaptation does not mean improvement. Adaptation means you have altered your structure to make what you do easier on you.

9:20 If you sit 10 hours a day, or 15 hours a day, which most people do- even your super duper exercisers. The frequency of movement is very small. You’re not undoing what you think you’re doing. It’s like the mentality of, “if I smoke, I’ll just run. Because smoking is bad for my lungs, but running is good for my lungs.” But the opposite of smoking is not running, it’s not smoking.

10:35 We’re confusing what we call things with what the actual thing is. But it’s not really how it works, when you apply math to biology.

10:59 [Me- I admire the monkey bars in Katy’s living room, and mention the fact that there is very little furniture. She lives in a mostly furniture free home. I also ask about what it means to raise children in a mostly furniture free home vs. molding their butts to chairs.]

11:39 [Katy] This next population coming up, the generation underneath our generation, is in worse health. It is in decline. But yet no one wants to address the huge elephant in the room which is that we are training our children to be still. Because we don’t delineate the difference between exercise and movement. We have decided that if we exercise for that one hour a day then that is enough.

12:35 And then we just decide that there are all these diseases are genetic. We don’t look at the fact that we're being sedentary. Even more than being sedentary- our periods of being sedentary in the exact same geometrical configuration to the point that you have now created thickening in your arteries at the bends of your joints, and they don’t go away when you stand up. We’ve lost our mobility in our muscles and joints, but it trickles down to mobility on a cellular level. It’s the turbulent flow that wounds the arteries. When you have supple walls, it’s a lot easier for the arteries to change their diameter which can mitigate or reduce the effect of those surges in heart rate. That’s the natural mechanism we have for our heart to be moving at different rates. But we have these hardenings in our arteries, and then we take this body with this problem out to exercise and we increase surges, but there’s nothing we can do about the suppleness.

14:34. Going back to with kids- we are so culturally trained. [In our culture we wonder] "Don't we need a playpen and a stroller and a crib, etc.?" These things are the beginnings of making a child still. We’ve ingrained immobility into our culture so much that our culture kind of depends on it.

15:30 That all being said, I live in this culture too. I like to present the whole thing because we are moving away from talking about the actual problem because we don't see it as something that can change. So we keep talking about childhood obesity and juvenile osteoporosis and the fact that kids are already having back and knee pain and wearing orthotics and we kind of act like, “What’s happening?” Because we're not talking about the fact that this is our choice. But I’m a parent and a realist. I don’t like to tell people what to do, I like to tell people the truth and let them decide what to do for themselves because this [gesturing to the monkey bars behind her] is not for everyone. But it’s the mind part- every single minute of every single day your thoughts are shaped by the culture you are in.

17:11 [me] For those who are dealing with the issue of kids sitting all day long at school, what are your thoughts on options there. [Katy] I would like to see more parents getting involved in changing that. It’s about breaking down inactivity via geometry. It’s not about “we get recess!” and I totally get that it does not work in a classroom with the number of students that teachers have without butts in chairs. So as a parent I would say to offer an environment the rest of the time that is conducive to movement.

18:38 The reason I don't have much furniture or make my home more comfortable is because we will use it. It’s the same reason I don’t keep junk food on hand or ice cream in the freezer. it’s inconvenient for the people coming over at first. When iIm at my mom’s house I’m on her couch the whole time! So I just don’t have it, it’s not an option. And it took a lot of years. We slowly transitioned. If parents could see movement in the same context that they see food. They get more nutritious food vs. less nutritious food.

20:53 It’s such a long period of time [sitting in the classroom] so you can offer non sitting time, but also more movement time. And specifically more natural movement time. Parents have their kids in all these movement classes like tumbling, etc., and those are good and necessary, but what kids are not doing anymore is walking. And that is a huge critical piece of development in every type of tissue.

22:13 I used to go to the park early in the morning and I would see this mom every morning at like 6:15 in the morning and she had her 5 or 6 year old and they were walking and running and playing and moving. I asked her about it and she said she did it for him before he goes to school because without it he couldn’t concentrate and couldn't’ sit still. Imagine taking a wild animal and getting it to sit still. There are some kids who have a harder time sitting still and they get labeled problematic- but if they’ve been sitting for 8 hours every proprioceptive and neurological impulse is shouting at them “MOVE!”. Sorry your biology works perfectly! So just doing that [movement time] is so helpful. And it’s more time out of your schedule, but you need that movement too.

23:57 Also we don’t have a TV. Screen time is a new risk factor for bone density as adults. Screen time as kids. Your bone density is less optimal as an adult even if they exercise. We are so missing that quantity and frequency of loads that is needed to build bones.

25:06 [me] You presented at the Ancestral Health Symposium and I know you presented on something related to children and parenting. [Katy] My talk was called Paleo Parenting [her talk is not up yet on the site, but the abstracts for all 2013 talks are here]. It was not a parenting how-to. I don’t like to give how-to advice. For AHS I gave a presentation on a process that we are not familiar with called mechanotransduction. When we look at disease we are looking at what are the chemical precursors within a cellular  environment that lead to a certain biological outcome- i.e. the shape of a body or a disease the body would experience. There is the gene, but there is a whole set of equipment that every cell has. The mechanical under-workings of that cell. There is actual movement within the cell. We think of movement as something happening with these levers, but our cells are sensing loads and location and constantly collecting data about how to respond to that situation. You can look at femurs of people who have done different things in their lives and it’s a different mass and shape- bone robusticity. We all have bones that are not shaped just by our genes,but also by the loads you experience. A load is about frequency, duration, magnitude, all of those things affect what you get.

28:59 So at AHS I talked specifically about breastfeeding. Movement creates forces. This is another reason I like to separate movement and exercise. We don’t think of an infant breastfeeding as getting exercise. We can see a decrease in the shape of the formation of the palette. The teeth don’t fit and are coming out of a bone that should have been shaped by 4 or 5 years of breast feeding. And not just breast feeding, but the frequency of breastfeeding.

30:00 The cool thing about mechanosensors is that they need to be refreshed. It’s like a sponge, if I smoosh it that’s one load, but then it sits there and gets stale. The repetitious load and unload is what refreshes the cell. So frequency is a huge variable.

31:11 In the AHS talk I talked about breastfeeding, also babywearing vs. baby holding vs. strollering. What are the differences mechanically between the 3.

31:31 And as modern humans we talk about why is a baby crying with “it’s tired, it’s hungry, it has a dirty diaper, etc” Modern hunter gatherer populations see a baby as under-moved. That’s the first thing they go to. They need to move for circulation, to keep mobile. They have a whole routine of movement that they put their newborns through and it’s done by the grandmothers and passed down that way. And it can be kind of scary! But it just shows the wide difference in human beliefs about what movement is.

33:45 I ended AHS with - I would like people to recognize that a lack of movement is part of what  child is giving off at all times. I am under-moved and my crying is my way of telling you that my body is missing something crucial. And it’s not exercise. It’s movement. Natural human movement that is at a frequency that optimizes the development that is in progress.

34:50 You can find the majority of Katy’s work at www.katysays.com and her recent book is Alignment Matters [which I will be reviewing soon!]

 

Jonathan FitzGordon Interview

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Jonathan FitzGordonI interview Jonathan FitzGordon, creator of the Core Walking Program and my first yoga teacher from way back in the day. Jonathan works with people who are dealing with chronic pain by teaching them how to walk properly, and has amazing results with impacting pain patterns by addressing walking. He is also the author of Psoas Release Party, and Sciatica/Piriformis Syndrome. We get into all kinds of good stuff about pain, alignment, movement, the mysterious psoas, the importance of being your own healer, and much more. Check out the transcript below if you want to either skim or to get a more thorough outline of our chat.

1:35 Jonathan and I talk about how I was one of the very first people to go through the Core Walking program back in the day when we were both in Brooklyn and he was first developing it. Jonathan discusses his learning curve on how he needed to approach everyone completely differently.

3:18 I ask Jonathan about some of the hallmarks of his teaching like, “stick your butt out” and “go ape”. I talk about how he is talking to people in a very different way than most of us approach our bodies these days, which frequently looks like battling our bodies into submission and taking on a military or ballet dancer style posture (or aiming for that as the ideal).

4:00 [Jonathan’s voice from here on except where noted] I find a lot of body and movement work to be very smart but very subtle. So when I started the walking program I wondered how do I make this as simple as possible? Stick your butt out is a very basic instruction, and I get a lot of grief for that. In truth I don’t give very specific instructions. But I do think everyone tucks their pelvis.

5:12 Sometimes a bodyworker will come in for a session. Last week a Rolfer came in, and I thought, “Oh this person is going to show up and have perfect posture” and yet they come in and are tucked under like everyone else.

5:50 One of my favorite phrases is “go ape”. Very often I don’t tell people to go ape. I make them stand in a certain way and I wait for them to say, “I feel like an ape” and when they say that I know they’ve found it.

6:17 My main take is we’re all tucked under in the pelvis, hyperextended in the knees, leaning back in the upper body which crunches the quadratus and psoas and everything. Let’s say I’m teaching yoga and I put everyone in tadasana and I say “stand up straight” and I go around to everyone and stop them from leaning backwards with a tucked under pelvis. In truth you have to figure out what the perception issue is. You are perceiving standing up straight when you are actually leaning backwards. You have to change your perception of yourself in order to change your physical self.

7:42 Essentially I feel like I can’t fix anybody. I don’t think anyone can fix anybody. You know I’m a big fan of Rolfing, and I don’t think Rolfers can fix anybody. I think Rolfers facilitate people fixing themselves.

8:03 I love my chiropractor. And yet I tell people, when you go to the chiropractor and then you leave, you have to figure out how to keep the adjustment. If not, you’re addicted to your chiropractor if you have to go back each week.

8:17 Not to complain about practitioners, but I actually don’t think that’s in the dialogue enough. “I am someone to help you fix yourself” needs to be more of a dialogue. And that’s the [Core] Walking Program.

10:22 I ask Jonathan what he thinks the tucked pelvis is about. How did we even get this idea that it’s a good thing for a body? [Jonathan] I have lots of theories. I really believe something happened in the aerobics practice, Buns of Steel. The whole concept shifted in the public’s idea of what working out was. Also in medical practice if you hurt your back MD’s tell you to make your butt stronger and make your abs stronger. And I don’t think that has served people’s back pain. If someone goes to a doctor a doctor can say if you tuck your pelvis under you’re going to elongate your spine and make more space, and there's a certain logic to that. And it takes hold and so it becomes a part of the fabric of treatment of low back pain.

12:15 Another one of my main theories is that we do it because we can. We’re the first upright beings and I think we lean backwards simply because we can.

12:50 [Me: Tell people some of the benefits they would get from sticking their butt out] The main thing they would get is to relax it. We are a tight-assed people and we need to learn how to let go. I want to teach people anatomy so that they know how their body works, but I also want to teach them to feel their body.

13:40 The next time you are in a store and you are on line [this is New Yorker speak for waiting in line...] if things are moving too slow in that line my butt starts gripping. That tension goes right there. I now know when I get into a place of that tension, I relax it, and that brings nervous system ease.

15:07 Taking Root to Fly, the book by Irene Dowd, I think the first line of her book is the pelvis is a hub of a wheel. So to me it’s the pelvis. If you pelvis isn't’ in the right place, nothing can be in the right place. so a lot of this adds up to what happens when I stick my butt out.

15:55 I think kegel exercises are in controversy these days. I’m all for their anti-kegel-ness, except I just think people do them wrong. If their pelvis was in the right place, they could do them correctly.

17:40 [Me] Do you come up against a cultural bias of hiding the butt? [Jonathan] I find that all the time but for endlessly different reasons.

18:15 I’m not a psychologist, but I really do believe a lot of this body stuff is purely about the psychology of who I am, and what I am. And that gets into a lot of weird stuff. So I think it’s a very interesting process telling people to change. And there’s this amazing psychology of why our bodies turned out the way they did.

19:58 The 83 year old client who attributes never having had a day of back pain to eating hot dogs off the street [at NYC vendor carts] every day. True story.

20:45 That’s what’s fun about my work. Every body is so individual.

21:58 To me it is all fear of change. There is nothing driving our show more than fear. A lack of permanence in an impermanent world. And without getting too spiritual I really think our walking and movement patterns are really wrapped up in that. Our bodies are where we come from, but as an adult you get to choose if you want to change that. Or not.

23:46 [Me] A lot of people don’t put that together: If I change my walk, my pain will get better. So can you address that a little bit and what you teach in the walking program?

23:58 It’s called the Core Walking Program. So the idea is you have to walk correctly, but you also need muscles to support that walking. Kids don’t get taught how to walk. We teach them how to tie their shoes, how to zip their coats, but not how to walk. And I thought why not? Why should anyone walk well when no one taught them how?

24:41 Most of the people I work with have joint pain, low back pain, knee pain, hip pain, shoulder pain. They’re really only coming to me as a place of last resort, because they think of walking as this weird thing. So they’ve seen many doctors and other specialists by the time they see me, and I’m giving them very simple things to do.

26:32 In a lot of ways it’s about getting them into the front of the body. Everyone has a tight back body: their achilles, calves, hamstrings, their butt, erector spinae, suboccipitals, it’s all tight! So we’re walking that way.

27:00 So everything I teach is how to get people into the front of their body. Which gets into really unbelievable stuff because there are no rules for this stuff. I just had somebody who came in with back pain. They obviously had very tight psoas, and this person did a lot of crunches as well. He thought he was fat, but his belly was rigid and hard. His tight psoas was shoving his abdominal contents forward. So if he’s told to do sit ups, he’s going to create more congestion in his middle to do it. So that’s where it has to become very specific with people.

28:51 [Me] What are some of the ways you get people into their front body? We talk about the mystery of the psoas, and how it can be really tough to understand and access.

29:40 I am mystified by the mystery of the psoas. Because I have people who I have literally trained and they still come up and ask me, “where is the psoas?”. After listening to me talk about it for days, they still can’t understand where it is. My main exercise is not a core strengthener, it’s a psoas release: constructive rest position. 10 years later I cannot believe how profoundly useful it is for people.

31:07 I meet very few people who have enough core strength. But the other piece of that is you need to have a happy, released psoas which makes things complicated. There’s nothing wrong with stretching the psoas. What’s weird is that you don’t ever want to feel the psoas stretch. And when you feel it on one side but not the other you know you’re in trouble because you’re imbalanced.

32:13 It endlessly gets back into people getting to know themselves. People learning how the body works.

32:26 Everybody usually wears their shoes out on the outside of their shoes, and that’s living in the outside and living in the back body. I can either say, “walk this way”, or I can say, “How would you walk on the inside of your shoe?” If you know your foot is supposed to place down on the inside it’s going to place down that way.

33:38 Learn how to take apart yourself. Become an expert on you, and it will serve you for the rest of your life.

35:33 Patient, heal thyself. Our game is to facilitate how people can heal themselves. On a certain level a practitioner might get all wrapped up and feel like they need these people to come back, but the world is big.

36:19 Jonathan talks about his sister who has severe scoliosis, and his niece, a hip hop dancer, who was recently diagnosed with mild scoliosis. [Jonathan] And they start talking right away about things they can do, and she’s 16. When she came home from the doctor I told her I didn’t think she needed to do any of these strangely invasive processes. She’s so strong, she can do amazing things.

37:22 I ask Jonathan what his favorite thing is for self care at home for people to play with. I have to go back to constructive rest. It’s oddly benign. But on a different level, everyone learns differently. So I think it’s about learning about your body. If you like reading, buy an anatomy book. If you like watching, get NOVA on the body DVD’s or something. What’s amazing to me is how much money people spend on medical that they don’t need to.

39:33 Be your own healer.

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: The Mysterious Bum Knee

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.*

When I was interviewing Christine Jablonski about her rehabilitation from a nasty knee injury, she and I spoke off camera about the fact that the vast majority of knee stuff that we both see with clients is actually not precipitated by an injury, and instead is given that lamest of lame labels (I hate even typing this phrase. I seriously might break out in hives over here.) "normal wear and tear".

Give me a moment while I clear the flash of white rage from my eyes... What!?! I'm sorry but people in their 80's or 90's can talk about "wear and tear" (and even then I've got a lot to say about it), otherwise it is simply far from "normal" for knees to wear out, to the point of requiring either "clean up" surgery or a total knee replacement. So the orthos at some point decided to use the term "wear and tear" instead of the less appealing: "I have no idea why your knee is shot." Or the more honest, "My medical training- which is about performing surgery on people- and world view tell me that our bodies simply wear out for no good reason, so I'm going to throw you into that pile." So get ready for it: If you are using your joints with integrity, i.e. how they are designed to function, then they will not be "wearing" or "tearing". They will simply be doing what they are designed to do, and functioning. 

As Kelly Starrett points out in his book Becoming a Supple Leopardour tissues are designed to last roughly 110 years. Going farther, Starrett clarifies that 1 percent of musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction is due to pathology (i.e. there is some serious disease process going on, for example cancer instead of a torn meniscus), and another 1 percent is due to catastrophic injury (like the kind Christine and I discussed). Which leaves a full 98 percent of dysfunction (98 percent!!!) due to overtension (missing range-of-motion), and open circuit faults (moving in a bad position). In other words, most of our dysfunction, or wearing and tearing, is a result of misusing our own bodies.

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Now before you go shaming yourself into a stupor, please remember that you didn't do this on purpose. Sure you probably ignored some signals that you were pushing it, but mostly it was that you never got the owner's manual on how to use your body with integrity. And sadly we now live in a culture where we are disconnected from that and are doing things our bodies really don't benefit from. Like sitting in chairs, or typing on laptops. But I for one and not going to give up the glory of technology to become a hunter gatherer (I am both sitting and typing on a laptop right now), so let's instead go the route of getting some insight on how not to wind up with the mysteriously bum knee.

Which brings me, finally, to this week's DIY Friday round-up. Both of these posts are courtesy of Vital Gaitway. And sometimes all I can say is, just, wow. Both of these posts are gloriously thorough in explaining how to use your knees with integrity. But as our knees are connected to our everything, they are so much more. If you've ever wondered about healthy standing, walking, or sitting, or just plain how and why do our joints wear out when we're not aligned, well then, this is a treasure trove. It's a bundle of information, and I know we're all time pressed, so I suggest you print them out and make your way through them gradually. The nuggets of wisdom in them are worthy of your time. For reals.

Fixing Your Knees Without Surgery Part 1

Fixing Your Knees Without Surgery Part 2

Enjoy!

*And if you missed it, Christine also gave us her top Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball moves in last week's DIY Friday.

Images by Vital Gaitway