DIY Friday: MELT Method

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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.*

sue hitzmannI recently had the privilege of interviewing Sue Hitzmann, the creator of The MELT Method®*, and she will kick off our Interviews With Geniuses series next week! Yippee! So before you get to hear from the brilliant, fascia-nating mind (I couldn't resist) of Sue, I wanted to write a review of The MELT Method so that those of you who are not yet familiar can get a sense for what her system is all about. Plus, MELT is literally an entire system around teaching people how to work their own tissue, so it seemed pretty perfect for DIY Friday.

First off, let me just say that it seems like people who are in the fitness world are creating a new "method" with their name attached to it roughly at the rate of one new method per second (which I believe is the same rate as new blogs?), and so I realize that it's easy to dismiss yet another method considering that most of them are built around the founder's ego and more blab about tinier middles and firmer rears. If I haven't made it clear yet, MELT is absolutely no where in the vicinity of this type of method.

Sue has managed to take her expertise as a body worker, fitness educator, and extreme fascia research nerd and smoosh them all together to create a truly holistic hands-free bodywork system, which intelligently affects your fascia, and which you can learn to do on your own. Wowzers. It's kind of a big deal.

When I picked up her book I had her in the interesting, but not exactly mind blowing, category in my brain which was labeled "girl brings foam rollers to the world". Yeah, hmmm, so I'm here to tell you that if Sue occupies a similar category in your brain, please take her and The MELT Method out of there. This is not her deal. At all.

First, while it looks like The MELT Method is employing foam rollers, they are in fact a whole different animal, albeit a similarly shaped one. The foam rollers that Sue has designed for MELT are much softer than a conventional roller. So much softer in fact, that you can bend them in half easily. This is a nod to the vast amount of research she has delved into which tells us that if you use a hard implement too quickly, you are likely to smash and compress fascia, rather than to lengthen or re-hydrate it. The softer surface allows the kind of access and stick that, when paired with the MELT Method sequencing, can restore vitality to our beloved and (ideally) juicy organ of structure, the fascia.

Speaking of sequencing, MELT helps you to self-treat your tissue by using the four R's every time you MELT: Reconnect, Rebalance, Rehydrate, and Release. I'll give you a mini breakdown of each so you can begin to glimpse the yumminess and effectiveness that MELT has in store:

  • Reconnect techniques help you to heighten your awareness, or body sense, so you can better "see" yourself from the inside. This is crucial to a body's healing ability.
  • Rebalance techniques directly addresses your body balance, grounding, and organ support by getting you in touch with your NeuroCore, which I talk with Sue about in detail in our upcoming interview. That whole graceful, move with ease thing is all about activating your NeuroCore.
  • Rehydrate techniques are where you clear out the crunchy bits in your connective tissue, and restore the fluid state of the web. This has a huge impact on effortless alignment, decreasing pain and inflammation, and fluid and nutrient absoprtion at a cellular level.
  • Release techniques decompress your joints to help keep you mobile and pain free.

If you're like me, after reading that list of what MELT accomplishes you are now drooling from the intense yearning your tissue now has to MELT! It's pretty right on. And with only a teeny bit of MELT in your regular routine you have a very powerful preventative (and restorative if you're working through something) self-care tool which is vastly less pricey than hiring a live-in massage therapist to be at your beck and call. MELT is a wonderful tool for dealing with chronic pain, pre-pain conditions like the discomfort you feel at the end of every workday, and is also profoundly impactful as an anti-aging tool. Yes, I mean that in both the "look cuter longer" way as much as I mean it in the "don't get joint replacements" way. Sue and I chat a lot about that in our interview too, so stay tuned.

Lastly, for those of you who are looking for a thoughtfully written primer on fascia, which is research based, and which helps you to wrap your brain around how this tissue system actually impacts you, the MELT book is the best resource that I have found for that thus far. I highly recommend.

Check out our interview coming up on The FFF next week!

*MELT stands for Myofascial Energetic Lengthening Technique

The Fountain of Youth in Your Fascia

2791037745_74d1e51438_bWe've been on a bit of a roll here about how a healthy physical structure can have pretty significant anti-aging and even reverse aging benefits. In my recent post on the top 5 ways to age-proof your body, I talked about the large role that fascia plays in aging. To get into that a bit more I wanted to put up this video of Tom Myers, creator of Anatomy Trains and founder of Kinesis Myofascial Integration because it's a great and succinct bit of info on how we "dry out" as we age, and the profound aging benefits of keeping your fascia hydrated and healthy. Come meet the fountain of youth in your fascia: (The video was made by the good people over at Wellcast Academy.)

Photo by martineno

The Most Important Joints?

163900640_682302eded_bWell I don't mean to go picking favorites or anything, but if I have to pick one group of joints to pay attention to for the the greatest benefit to the whole rest of the body (and the best one-stop-shopping spot for anti-aging benefits), I'm going to have to go with the toe hinge. Hands down. If you have a full range of healthy movement at the joints where the toes meet the feet (the metatarsal-phalangeal joints if you want to be fancy about it), this will instantly translate into a healthier and happier range of movement for everything upstream. Yep, your knees, hips, pelvis, and normal biomechanical movement of your spine all depend a great deal on how well this joint complex adapts in walking. But enough of my talking about this mystical part of your anatomy, check out the video and play along at home to get friendly with your toe hinge.

 

Photo by crowdive

5 Keys to Age-Proofing (and Reverse Aging) Your Body

5525366853_71d9cf2ba5_bSure we're all going to get crow's feet and, to one degree or another, age. That aging happens is inevitable, but what that means is the interesting conversation. I think in our culture we have been fed the idea that aging means an inevitable downward spiral of ever more medications and surgery (ahem, hip and knee replacements shouldn't be a norm) which ends in a frail, unattractive, pain filled body shuffling towards death. I heartily disagree. Yes, I'm thirty-eight and so many of you out there may be arguing that I'm not allowed to talk about this until I have a few more decades under my belt. To address that, first off, I had a birth injury which meant I grew up with pain and mobility issues until my body gave out on me at the ripe old age of 21. Since that time I have been rehabilitating my own body, which is now light years younger and more capable than it was in my childhood. So I've been reverse aging a body that felt like a ninety-year-old's since I was in my early twenties.

"Yes but you weren't actually ninety!" Ok, ok, secondly I can tell you this: I work in a field where I get a chance to see a lot of bodies, and those bodies in general are the ones who are self-selecting to take care of their physical self. I don't mean in the ripped biceps, botox injecting  model, I mean in the receive bodywork, eat real food, move with integrity model. And what I can tell you is that these people, some of which I've had the chance to watch into their eighties, have a very different experience of aging. And with my colleagues in the field I've just had to accept that I'm always going to assume they are  ten to twenty years younger than they are. Curious? Here's your how-to guide to have the same aging experience that they are:

1) Fascia: There is a fountain of youth, and it lives in your fascia. Your fascia, or connective tissue, is found everywhere in your body. It is your organ of support, and it is also a fluid system which every cell in your body relies on for proper functioning. In fact, connective tissue is mostly fluid, and I often refer to the process of differentiating your fascia (as through some of the methods I will list below) as a process of becoming better irrigated. We have all this information (most of your sensory nerves live in the fascia), and all this nutrition and waste that needs to move through, so you've got to keep yourself well irrigated in order to stay supple and healthy. Sue Hitzmann puts it perfectly in her book The MELT Method"Think of a sponge; when it's dry, it's stiff, but when it's moist, it's flexible, adaptable, and resilient. You can twist, squeeze, or compress a moist sponge, and it returns to its original shape. Your body's connective tissue is similar: when it's hydrated it's buoyant and adaptable. But when it's dehydrated, it gets stiff and inflexible."  It is this hydrated and supple quality to the fascia that I believe yields the most miraculous anti-aging and reverse aging benefits.

Want to get that fascia all supple and re-hydrated so you can look younger, move younger, and be pain free? Some great methods (and there are many so forgive me for not having them all here!), are Rolfing®, or other forms of Structural Integration (Kinesis Myofascial Integration®) , The MELT Method®, Tune Up Fitness/Yoga Tune Up®, Active Release Techniques®, and Strain Counterstrain.

2) Feet:  Ready? Set!? Picture an old person’s feet! Did an image of a gnarled up, bunioned out, tendon popping hammer toe mess spring to mind? Not a pretty picture, right? (Sorry to do that to you by the way.) We all have this image in mind because, sadly, a person’s age often shows very clearly in their feet. Most importantly, those aged feet show in a stiffened and rigid movement pattern in the whole body upstream from those feet. Indeed, if you want to pick one joint complex to be attentive to between now and your ninetieth birthday to dramatically alter your own aging process, that joint complex should be the toe hinge. As an example of how the toe hinge works, when you take a step, there should be a point in your gait pattern where your heel is lifted off the floor, and your toes are still in contact with the floor. This movement, which is also what allows everything upstream from there to move (particularly your spine), is courtesy of your toe hinge. Yep, foot mobility is the key to mobility everywhere else.

Generally speaking your feet are also the key to a healthy and independent life as you age. If you can’t move your feet, mobility shuts down everywhere and you become rigid, in pain, and have an unstable gait and poor balance and coordination. This all puts you at greater risks for falls and their resulting long recovery periods which bring yet more atrophy to your whole body, which is harder to recover from in older age.  So if you want to be springy and young now, mobile feet are the key to your springy-ness.  And by keeping that up through the years, you will also be preparing for an independent and mobile life in your eighties and beyond.

You can make better friends with your feet by regularly walking in nature on uneven surfaces, wearing neutral heeled shoes, reading this great resource, or rolling them out as I do in video #2 here.

3) Food: I’ll fess up that I am not a nutritionist or any other kind of –ist or –ician that has any business giving people advice on food. In fact, as a manual therapist I almost never open my mouth about food to people in my practice. However, I can unequivocally tell you that when we’re talking about age-proofing your body, you are, indeed, what you eat. Having put my hands on lord knows how many bodies over my years in practice I can tell you that the people eating a lot of processed food and sugar have tissue that feels more like a tree trunk than like human flesh. I’ve even encountered some people whose tissue quality was closer to marble. Ouch! I’m not going to tell you that you need to adopt some specific dietary regimen because, as I said, that’s not my expertise. So this is not my big moment to tell you to go Paleo or go vegan or go whatever. But what I can say is if you want healthy tissue, glowing skin, and the juicy hydrated fascia that leads to all that, you should eat food that is food. So if you go the vegan route, um, soy bacon is not food. And if you go the Paleo route, a paleo “nutrition” bar is not food. Eat clean, eat food, live long, prosper.

4)Move Well: Everything we do with our bodies is input. If you sit slumped all day, your nervous system gets the idea that that's what you want and supports it, thereby gradually shutting down other movement options. We have so much gorgeous intricate movement available to us, and we’re generally using such a small percentage of it in our day to day lives. Yes, move it or lose it really does apply. And if you lose savvy and diversified movement patterning, like your body’s version of putting the blinders on, you lose what goes unexplored and develop ever more body blind spots. The old folks shuffle that everyone can imitate is the physical embodiment of living with many unused avenues of movement potential.

Generally in the fitness world, loads of emphasis is put on moving your body more and being more physically fit. What we don’t hear about all that much is the importance of moving well. One of my favorite quotes from Gray Cook is, “First move well, then move often.” [italics mine] More commonly in our culture people will first sit on the couch or in front of the computer for many years thinking about how they should be more physically fit while atrophying all healthy functional movement patterning. Then they will decide enough is enough and get off the couch and work their asses off at the gym, or training for a marathon or what have you to “get fit”. And lastly they will injure themselves through overuse or poor mechanics or a combo platter of the two, and will have to either stop being active or back way up and learn how to move well as they recover and slowly get back into activity.

But there is a better way! Before you throw yourself whole hog into some new fitness frenzy please, please, please dedicate some time to learning smart movement as you ramp it up. I believe that much of the plague of chronic pain that we see nowadays comes primarily from a culture that reinforces poor movement patterning with all of our sitting, and sitting, and well, also there is the sitting. Oh and the inactivity that comes as a package deal with the sitting. Did I mention sitting? This is my way of saying that you are not immune to this one even if you have a six pack and think you are way past learning how to move intelligently. If you live in our current culture and haven’t abandoned modern society to go create a new hunter gatherer tribe, then you are affected. Even with a career in this field and with spending the last 17 years rehabilitating my own body, I am still constantly uncovering and eradicating my own body blind spots.

To ferret out your own body blind spots, become a smart sassy mover, and injury-proof your body while reverse aging it, some excellent systems to check out are Tune Up Fitness/Yoga Tune Up, Restorative Exercise™, Functional Movement Systems®, and MovNat®.

5) Move Often: Now that you are moving well (P.S. that’s a lifelong endeavor, so keep it up) now you can move often! Hooray! Do I really need to do the thing where I repeat what we all know about how important physical activity is? That as humans we are born to move and when we don’t we break down in a myriad of ways? I didn't think so. You guys are totally on that, so what I will say is that you should move as often as feels good, while still remembering that recovery is a super important part of the training process. If you start to feel tired and cranky all the time and you notice you are recovering from your workouts more slowly or are getting injured or dealing with pre-injury nagging aches and pains, remember to take some recovery time. Beyond being attentive to not over training  all you have to do is to find movement that you can fall in love with and embrace it! I don’t know that anyone ever fell in love with walking on the treadmill at the gym while watching The View, so I give you full permission and encouragement to chuck that, but when you begin to explore the endless choices for moving your body, you’re bound to find several things that will resonate with you and put you in your happy place. Hiking! Stand Up Paddleboarding! Capoeira! Yoga! Rock climbing! Powerlifting! Kayaking! Break dancing! Parkour! See, lots of options. Go explore the wide world of movement, find what you love, stop dreading your “workout” and instead fall in love with moving your body.

Photo by ShelterIt

DIY Friday: Bye Bye Foot Pain!

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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.*

bowman footThis DIY Friday is a review of Katy Bowman's book, Every Woman's Guide to Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet. So first off, dudes, you know I love you so stop your grumbling. This still thoroughly applies to you. I believe Bowman wrote her book to the ladies mainly because we tend to make much, much poorer footwear choices for ourselves. Men are not expected to wear 3 inch heels to the office, for example. Well, depending on the office? That would be an interesting office. Sorry, I got off track, my point is, if you are a man who is struggling with foot pain, don't cheat yourself out of getting this amazing resource just because the word "woman" is front and center. Just hide it on your Kindle or something, ok? You'll have to read a few bits on the plague of high heels, but the rest is super juicy and relevant for men as well as women. And the exercises given in the book are distinctly gender neutral and fan-freaking-tastic.

But on to the book review: I frequently find in the movement and alignment world that many resources skew either too woo woo, are overly filled with academic jargon, or are just plain misinformed rookies trying to make a buck in the chronic pain field. Well Katy Bowman is not going to tell you that you can resolve your foot pain by imagining all of your chakras simultaneously blooming into daisies, nor is she going to make you read endless lists of ligaments of the feet (try saying anterior inferior tibial fibular ligament 3 times fast!), and as a scientist with a Masters in biomechanics, she's certainly no rookie. Her book hits that perfect sweet spot of being both profoundly useful, and accessible to a wide population. It also happens to answer many of the most common questions that I hear in my Rolfing® practice related to the feet. Scratch that, make that related to everything.

Yes, this book will help you with foot-specific issues like bunions, hammer toes, plantar fasciitis, corns, neuromas, etc, but it is also an enormously useful resource to help people with knee, hip, and back pain, as well as addressing  posture and I would argue a seriously important read for anyone concerned with maintaining health while aging. As Bowman writes in her book, "The function of the foot goes way beyond the scrunching of the toes and the stabilizing of the ankle. The foot is the platform for your entire body. The muscles have to be strong enough to keep your entire body moving as smoothly as possible. If I haven't clearly stated it before, the current state of your feet is a future projection of how well you will be able to move as you get older. "

Don't believe the divine Ms. Bowman and I on this one? Then try this little experiment at home: pretend your feet have suddenly turned into rigid bricks and take a walk on your pretend ultra-rigid feet. Did you just instantaneously turn into Frankenstein in your living room? Yep, that's because the mobility of your feet determines to a huge degree the mobility of all of you. You cannot move with the supple spine of a Brazilian samba dancer with Frankenstein's feet downstream from that spine. To put it into more anatomical/ less monster movie terms; joints are where we move musculoskeletally in our bodies. Imagine yourself navigating a day without movement at your knees and elbows and you get a sense for the joints=movement equation. In our feet we have thirty-three joints. In my elbow I have 3, and in my knee I have 2, but my feet have thirty-three. Those dogs were built for mobility, and that is in large part for the benefit of how that mobility translates up to the rest of you.

But enough of my yammering. If you're still reading this review it's because you want happier, healthier feet, or you want to play with how improving your foot health might impact the rest of you. Well good news! Nearly half of Katy Bowman's book is dedicated to "The Foot Gym" with exercises to help you get your feet into tip top shape. They are all very easy to do at home and can be dripped into your life in a totally sane way. You don't need to suddenly dedicate an hour a day to working on your feet to see benefit, and it doesn't require investing in ridiculous new equipment. You can find the book and give the exercises a shot here.  Needless to say, I highly recommend it.