back pain

DIY Friday: From Boring to Badass

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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.*

We are a culture of doers. We love to do the hell out of stuff. I myself have been doing the hell out of things this summer, traveling, so far, to Munich, Seattle, Portland, and Boulder. By this time next week Saratoga Springs, NY and Ojai, CA will be added to the list. And while I have thouroughly delighted in such a spectacularly full summer and all the places it has taken me, it also has me thinking a lot about over-doing in my own life, and, since this is how I roll, what happens when we overdo it with our bodies. Or more to the point when we decide to value living at the brink of collapse personally or physically. This train of thought has led me (Buddhists, prepare to not be surprised) to thinking about all of the "boring" stuff and how, with a whiff of irony, when we engage in the "boring" things everything actually seems to get more badass. In my personal life I am now setting aside 10 minutes a day to meditate. My mind makes all kinds of excuses to avoid it, but when I set the actual timer on my phone for 10 minutes it's hard to argue with what a small thing that is. And when I start my day with a clear mind, I am light years more fruitful throughout the day.

1034410859_a9ca87bf88_bBodies are similar. Endlessly squeeze every last scrap of energy out of them and they start to suck. But try out some of the boring stuff and hey now! Suddenly you're a superhero. So in the spirit of reclaiming yourself, here are a few of my favorite resources about how doing less can reap more rewards:

  • First up, Justin Archer, aka The Posture Guy, has put up a great video resource on some Egoscue postural realignment tricks in his post here. I've mentioned my video on constructive rest before, and for those of you who are fans, this is a great way to try out new forms of resting constructively. The video is long-ish (Ha! 11 minutes! But we live in a world where 11 minutes is now a "long" video), but particularly for those of you who are dealing with back pain (especially low back pain), groin/inguinal ligament pain, and psoas strain or injuries, this is a gold mine. Boring, sure, but gold if you want to feel better. This is also some pretty magical stuff for those of you who just feel "off", like you are crooked, or slumping and always at war with your fascia. Oh, and Justin did tell me about the prism spectacles, which allow you to watch TV or read while laying down. My academic clients from Yale are going to love these things! And there are always books on tape... Here's the video: 

  • If you want more of these goodies, you can also check out Pete Egoscue's book, Pain Free
  • And of course no discussion about the boring stuff that actually makes you more badass would be complete without a chat about over training. Mark Sisson of Mark's Daily Apple does the best job of this that I've seen, so you can head over here to read his excellent article, 8 Signs You Are OvertrainingA great outtake: "No activity is worse than some, while too much may be worse than none at all." The only thing he doesn't cover very much is what a slog it is to recover from over training. It can require weeks, and frequently months, off, which is spent dealing with pain and a fatigue that makes you feel underwater most of the time. I have seen some pretty profound cases of this, particularly in the university athletes who have already been over trained by the time they arrive as Freshman, only to undergo the grueling regimen that competing at that level requires. Many have seen their athletic career end far too soon, and are left grappling with a host of injuries and punishing exhaustion. Things that, in my opinion, should be considered highly unusual in people in their late teens and early twenties. (But then again I think they should be considered highly unusual in most people).
  • And lastly, I'll leave you with my two favorite non-body related posts on the plague of overdoing (busyness) and what it is costing us, just in case you find them as delightful as I did: Busyness is Laziness by Dr. Reggie Ray- favorite outtake: "By being busy you are basically giving away your human existence."- and The Busy Trap  by Tim Kreider of the New York Times- favorite outtake: "Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done."

And with that, go forth, be boring, be lazy, be idle, and thrive. 

Photo by Jenny Potter

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