Kate Hanley Interview

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Kate_Hanley_headshotWe continue our micro-series on looking at the foundational pieces that contribute to living more happily in our bodies. In this case, I speak with Kate Hanley about how mindfulness- specifically small, consistent acts of mindfulness- can help us to stay healthier both physically and mentally. Kate is the founder of Ms. Mindbody, a wellness journalist, yoga teacher, coach, and the author of The Anywhere, Anytime Chill Guide and The 28 Days Lighter Diet (which she co-authored with Ellen Barrett).

I can tell you from my heart that had I been introduced to a mindfulness practice when I was younger I would have headed off a whole lot of physical pain and dysfunction at the pass... here's Kate to talk about how to create your practice. (And you can also skim via the transcript below)

 

 

 

 

:58 On FFF we talk a lot about healing from and avoiding chronic pain through the “how does this thing we live in actually work?” lens, but there's a foundational piece about how do we notice this thing we live in? What role does mindfulness play in avoiding and healing from injury and aging well, etc?

2:17 I ask her to talk about what she means by “accessing the inner Yoda”.

2:36 [Kate from here forward unless noted] That’s how I like to talk about our intuition or wisdom. It’s easy to go straight into pan flute woo woo land from there- but talking about it as your inner Yoda keeps it light. We all have a wisdom that lives deep in our body. The problem with it is that it speaks in whispers and cryptically, kind of like Yoda, so if you’re running around all the time and doing 3 things at once you’re never going to hear it.

3:39 That’s why I’m an advocate of any kind of mind body practice, which I define as anything that gets your body and mind working on the same task. So it could be something like yoga or meditation, but Einstein said he did his best thinking when he was shaving and I would argue that that was his mind body practice.

4:13 Any time you are doing something physical that requires your mind’s concentration, it’s like giving a puppy a chew toy if your mind is a puppy in this scenario. The puppy is running around everywhere, and then you give it something to concentrate on and everything gets quieter. Then Yoda gets a megaphone.

4:56 [me] I ask about the theme of one of her recent Kate’s Yoga Playhouse events- “Space: The Final Frontier.” About making space in our lives.

5:23 I talk to busy people about simple yet profound ways to slow down and get quieter and one of the things I hear all the time is, “I just don’t have time”. When you do the thing that quiets you first, it makes space. It makes time. You make space before you do your 20 item to do list. But if you’ve done the most important thing first you get energized and it’s like, “What else is possible! Let’s go!”

6:43 But it does relate to the body as well. Our body is such a reflection of our mind. If we’re weighted down and closed off that’s how we feel in our mind too. That’s why I’m a fan of yoga- it does make space in the body. It does make you more flexible. Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough space and time.

7:32 [me] I talk about my birth injury and growing up with chronic pain and when you grow up that way you develop a practice of not noticing yourself because it’s too uncomfortable to tune into that. But had I been introduced to mindfulness practice back then, well it really does head a lot of things off at the pass. My path was rock bottom- not being able to open my mouth or eat solid food or turn my head, etc. So I offer this to people who are trying to live best in their own bodies- it’s better to avoid rock bottom. It’s easier to get out of holes if you don’t dig them for 20 years. and mindfulness creates the space to make changes earlier.

9:02 [Kate] It’s really about becoming more aware right now this moment. It’s literally what do I notice right now? And awareness is always the first step to changing a habit. You can’t know you have a habit if you don’t notice it. There’s a scientific principle that the simple act of observing a reaction changes the outcome. Allowing yourself to see automatically begins the process of change.

10:13 [me] I mention Grace Bell’s interview and how if you change the direction of your ship by a couple of degrees it winds up at a totally different place.

10:37 [Kate] And a big piece of it too is trusting that something as simple could have a massive benefit. And that’s why I incorporated coaching into my work. You can tell yourself that 2 minutes of mindfulness counts, but on a subconscious level you feel like you can’t really see how it is going to get you where you’re going.

12:35 One of my favorite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh is: “When we take good care of the present moment, we take good care of the future.” All you need to do is take care of yourself right now. You don’t even need to think about the future, it takes care of itself.

13:32 [me] Tell us a little more about how you got into mindfulness, yoga, and coaching.

13:35 I was working at a stock broker firm in San Francisco through a temp agency and I was miserable. I felt like I was in jail everyday. I was watching TV and I ran across the movie Midnight Express which is about the young American man who smuggled drugs and got put into Turkish prison. Subconsciously I could identify with the feeling of being in prison. And there is one scene where they are doing yoga and I had never seen anyone move like that before. And the look on their faces was that they were totally free. So I had this moment where I thought if that can help them, it can probably help me.

15:12 I was in this limited mentality where I didn’t think I could go to the one yoga time slot at my gym. And so, oh, poor me, I can’t go to yoga class.

15:49 One day I loaned my car to a friend and it got rear-ended. Nobody got hurt but the car was totaled and got a check for $11,000 for my car and I quit my job! And the first thing I did was go to yoga. It was a huge awakening for me and that was in 1995.

16:20 I used to use yoga as an antidote to work for years- work with a little bit of yoga. But gradually the scale shifted so I was doing more and more yoga and I ended up doing my teacher training and quit my job because I thought I wanted to be a yoga teacher, but the training gave me the courage to do what I always wanted to do which was write, so I created Ms. Mind Body and became a journalist.

16:50 And then I had 2 kids in 2 years. After my first child I pretty much kept it up, and then I had my second and I was completely overwhelmed and was like, “I can’t do anything that isn’t related to keeping these kids alive!” and I quit everything I did- yoga, mindfulness- cold turkey and then the shit really hit the fan. Things got so much worse.

17:45 It showed up in every part of my life- my weight, my work, my relationship, everything. And the way I found my way back in was to meditate while I was nursing my son. And it was simple. I would count my breath to 10 and then start again at 1. It was maybe 10 minutes a night and I couldn’t believe how much it started to change things. I’ve always been an advocate for simple practices, I wrote my first book The Anywhere Anytime Chill Guide when I was pregnant with my daughter. Oh my how we teach what we need to learn!

18:36 I really believe it doesn’t matter what your practice looks like as long as it’s consistent. Do not discount the power of tiny things.

19:31 [me] I have clients ask me when I give them self-care stuff to do, “what do I have to do? 40 minutes a day?” and I tell them if they can do this for 90 seconds a day, most days, you are going to notice a radical difference. And we have trouble building in new habits which is why I love what you did- you combined it with something you already do. You knew you were going to put your son to bed, and so you combined it with that. And we live in a culture that loves rapid, radical results, which is the whole reason the show The Biggest Loser exists which is my nemesis- let’s just watch extreme, inhuman measures get people to this extreme, really fast change. When tiny, kind, gradual, but consistent measures can make radical differences. It’s not going to happen overnight, but also, it’s kind of going to happen overnight!

20:47 [Kate] Yes. It’s going to feel like that at some point. One day you’re going to wake up and be like, “Wow! When did that happen!” And it’s really hard to grasp how ingrained that “gotta go for it big time!” Thing is in our culture. It’s just going to set you up to not do it. Who is going to spend 40 minutes a day? And it comes back to- do you really believe you can do something simple consistently for yourself and have it pay off? That’s what’s behind the whole “totally revamp yourself, go workout til you puke!” stuff comes from. We think we need to do that to have change.

22:30 So when you do start to do that stuff not only do you benefit, but you model it for other people in a really subtle energetic day. You awaken the possibility in their mind.

23:00 [me] Maybe I don’t need to add more suffering to the suffering equation!

23:04 So it becomes important to do for yourself, because we’re not intended to be walking around feeling like crap all the time. But it is also important for the people you come into contact with. I work with a lot of moms and they ask is it selfish that they start doing the things they want to do and I ask them, “Is it selfish to teach by example to your kids that they can do things to take care of themselves?”

23:30 [me] Yeah I have a friend who is having her first baby in spring and so she’s asking me for advice and I had to remember back 7 years... but what I ultimately said is that her self-care is the most important thing. Our kids learn from watching how we live and experience our lives and so we can model self-care.

24:00 I talk about Kate’s projects: her wonderful blog Ms. Mindbody, her one day Kate’s Yoga Playhouse events which combine yoga and coaching work, and her newest book which has just been released, the 28 Days Lighter Diet with Ellen Barrett.

27:32 [Kate] It’s about syncing your activities- your fitness, your eating, lifestyle, wellness pursuits, etc to your cycle. As women we are not the same from week to week, we have different requirements. So it’s good to know when to go for it and when to rest. And we weave in a lot of mindfulness and yoga and wisdom from Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. We also advocate for tracking your cycle so I’ve been doing that and it’s really fascinating how predictable it can be. I know when I tell my kids it’s time to brush their teeth and go to bed and they scream and run away and I start shooting white hot rage daggers at them that I’m within hours of starting my next cycle.

29:42 Kate says some nice things about her Rolfing series that she did with me many years ago : )

Grace Bell Interview

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GraceBellLOOK9-2013Here on Fascia Freedom Fighters we are always talking about how to live most happily in our bodies. That means we talk a lot about how these body things of ours work, and strategies for rehabilitating or preventing injury, erosion, pain, and other unpleasantness. What we haven't talked about all that much is how to deal with what the mind has to say about all that unpleasantness.

Many of you in the FFF tribe are either working with clients and students who are dealing with a good bit of pain and restriction, or you are dealing with it (or have dealt with it) yourself, or some combo of those things. So how do we deal with how much it sucks to be dealing with physical problems?

Well for me personally one prong of my spiritual practice is The Work which was discovered by Byron Katie, and I work with a wonderful facilitator of The Work, Grace Bell who also happens to also run a group on looking at issues around pain, sickness, and death. She is also currently rehabilitating from a very significant injury of her own where she tore her hamstrings off the ischial tuberosity, requiring surgery to reattach them. Ouch. So she's pretty dialed in on looking physical discomfort squarely in the face. In this interview we get to learn a few things from her about how to inquire into one's thoughts about pain and suffering.

:50 Usually on the FFF we’re talking about how to live happily in a human body. So we’re also talking a lot about the frustration of when it’s not going the way you want. I explain that I am a student of Grace’s and Byron Katie’s and this is my spiritual practice, and it’s basically a way of inquiring about one’s stressful/suffering thoughts.

3:05 I ask Grace to describe what The Work is

3:18 [Grace] Byron Katie is a woman in her 70’s and she goes by Katie. She had a massive shift in consciousness in her early 40’s. She was severely depressed, a shut in, addicted to drugs, and all of that shifted and she came to perceive the world in a different way. It just sort of happened to her. She talked about discovering The Work and it’s basically 4 questions:  asking whether or not something is true, how do you react when you think that thought, who would you be without the thought, and then you do a turnaround. So it’s an inquiry of the mind.

5:40 [me] I discuss my skepticism in initially finding The Work. I say it's a way of just slowing yourself down and it can get very profound when you work with a group or a facilitator and when you turnaround what you believed is true.

6:24 [me] Speaking to our work here on FFF, just in time for running your own group on dealing with pain and sickness, etc. you are dealing with your own pretty major injury.

6:55 I have pulled my hamstring on the right side right off the bone- the ischial tuberosity- a hamstring avulsion. When I hurt it I hurt it very badly and I couldn’t sit down but I could walk, so I didn’t go to the ER I rested and it never stopped hurting so finally I went to the doctor and he gave me pain medication and that’s all, and he told me to see a PT. The whole time I was watching my own mind, “Oh here’s this piece of information...” “Oh this person is now saying this thing...” I am so fascinated in watching what’s in the back of my mind as comments: “I don’t know if they know what they’re talking about.” “Oh I have to get surgery!”

9:05 I love looking at when I have a fear response. So now I have upcoming surgery which has to happen and that’s going to come in a couple of weeks. And it’s great to have the work in stressful times.

10:09 [me] For those who are living with chronic pain who are listening right now, I’m sure they’re thinking this is about putting a positive, fresh spin on something that they hate, and it’s really not about wallpapering over the bad feeling. I read one of her Grace notes:

10:48 I read her work related to dealing with her feelings about the chronic pain.

12:51[Grace] It’s never been about stopping thinking your negative thoughts. Instead be open to these negative thoughts. They’re passionate! they are calling to be really seen and looked at and heard. The way the mind works is that it wants to pass over things very quickly, “Let’s just get back to the good part where I’m feeling ok.” But instead if you slow down- “Let’s say my leg will never be the same, that might be true, what happens if I look at that?” can you find the possibility in that?

14:40 [me] I talk about how my chronic pain led me to a mission led career- and my turnaround was finding that possibility out of my pain

15:47 We live in a world of duality. You can see the opposite in everything. You can see the good reasons a thing is happening and a bad reason thing is happening. Just ask is there anything- and it’s sort of a counterintuitive way- that you can see in the turnaround. And it’s just as true. It’s not making up something airy fairy.

17:00 [me] I talk about Byron Katie talking about the moment of when you’re in the storm and it does just really suck can you find that part of you that is apart. that is just watching unattached.

17:20 [Grace] It’s quite incredible. I have found that whenever I look at the most stressful, shocking or intense moment of something I’ve been through that there is a place that is watching that is untouched. It’s like you get to see this eye that is watching. And it really was ok, because you did make it through. Here you are looking back. It’s not saying I love everything that happens or I condone it. It’s simple, it’s like now I’m here, and I made it through, and so I can investigate. And you can see even in the moment if now when you have pain it’s interesting to look deeply and see how you feel that pain. See if there’s anything esle going on besides just the pain.

20:05 [me] I talk about how the work gets people into this granular microsecond to microsecond present tense and that if you are looking at pain you find that much of it is past tense or future tense. “that was awful” or “this will never get better”

20:30 Grace mentions Byron Katie quote: “Pain is on its way out”. the only way I can anticipate this surgery coming up is to match it with past experience. It’s based on the past.

22:33 [Grace] There’s so much freedom in finding a tiny awareness. You don’t need to have a huge shift in how you see the world or your pain. Just a little bit of a shift. I like thinking about it as a little boat traveling around the planet in a giant ocean, and if it only makes a tiny degree change, it will be in a completely different country by the time it sails the ocean. So tiny inquiries can change things.

23:53 I ask about themes she sees in her group on pain, sickness, and death.

24:11 I ask people to think about times when they were hurt physically in their lives and I have them pick one memory and see what do they want in that moment, what should be happening in the moment, what shouldn’t be happening and you get these really simple concepts like “this shouldn’t be happening”.

25:52 So we can do the questions right now with “this shouldn’t be happening”. The first question is, “Is it true?” and sometimes the answer will be, “Well of course it is! I really don’t like this!”. So the second question is, “Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” just to help you spend a little more time there and slow you down. Sometimes that first yes will be so fast. I love how only you get to answer. You’re the authority, so if you have another yes, no problem, that’s the answer. So the third question, “How do you react when you believe the thought this really shouldn’t be happening?” It’s very interesting because if you really believe the thought, then you are arguing with reality. You are against reality. And that’s a very hard place to be. You see what happens in the body- very tight, worried, fear. And we spend time in there exploring that. And then the 4th question, “Who would you be without the thought?” What a strange thing! How could I not have the thought? I like imagining that I came from another planet, or I’m a little child, and I can’t have the thought, “this shouldn’t be happening”. It’s very different. It’s like being on a roller coaster ride, you might relax on the way down. It’s very settled.

29:00 Those are the 4 questions and then there’s always a turnaround. So flipping the whole thing. What’s the opposite of your original concept “this shouldn’t be happening”?  Is there anything that comes out of this that is of benefit or an advantage? I will be spending a lot of time on the couch and I have a book proposal I need to finish. So I’ll finish it probably! It could be the tiniest little examples, just a glimpse that it’s not all bad.

30:38 I mention the extra wind at your back that people get when they work in a group. When you get stumped on your own stuff and you hear other people answer with their thoughts and it kicks in and you have the support of other people all interested in questioning their beliefs.

32:00 I mention that chronic pain (and all pain) can be so lonely, so group work is helpful that way.

34:00 Grace mentions her groups/teleclasses. A one year group, it’s very powerful to have a small group working together all year. There’s one on food and eating, relationships- sometimes people bring intimate relationships but sometimes a parent, child, someone who is driving them crazy. Then I do parenting. And sexuality is the last one- attraction and repulsion and all the little thoughts that come out of that. But behind all of it is stressful beliefs. Not having a good time with all that’s going on in your head.

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!]

 

Josh Summers Interview

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Josh Summers headshotI interview Josh Summers, Yin Yoga teacher, acupuncturist, co-founder of mindfulness based strategy firm The MetaMind Institute, and author of Buddha's Playbook: Strategies for Mindful Living.Whew! He's up to a lot of stuff. In this interview he helps us to unpack what treasures Yin Yoga has in store for your body, and discusses how it relates to fascia and to Chinese Medicine,. So give it a watch and/or scroll down to check out the transcript for skimming.

1:20 [me] What makes Yin Yoga different from other forms of yoga? [Josh] Yin and Yang are complementary oppositional terms. Yang is dynamic, bright, active, flowing. Yin is cooler, stiller, denser. Most forms of contemporary yoga practice are yang forms of practice- you’re moving your body with rhythm and repetition. It’s very advantageous to muscle or myofascial tissue, but what doesn’t get activated is the tissue around your joints. And in fact you are strongly discouraged from affecting the joint tissues in a yang context because it can be destabilizing.

2:35 So Yin Yoga is has been revived as a way of addressing the denser tissue around the joints or emphasizing that tissue so that it stays healthy as well. The way of doing that is to come into a shape where you feel a modest, mild amount of stimulation and once there you relax your muscles and it shifts the emphasis to the denser joint tissues. Then you stay still anywhere from 2 to 10 or even 15 minutes. It’s really the twin action of muscular relaxation plus time.

3:39 I always want to say it’s not a stand alone practice. It’s a complement to the other practices.

4:02 [me] So why do you say it’s not a stand alone practice? What are the things it might be best paired with?

4:06 It’s really only emphasizing that [joint] tissue, and as you know all tissues need to be used. It’s a use it or lose it thing in the body, and you have all these other forms of tissue. Some people will pair it with yang yoga, others will pair it with something like Crossfit.

4:56 It’s a very individual thing. People always ask me what’s the recipe or the formula and I say well really you want t evaluate what are the yin and yang factors in your life and what is going to bring you personally into balance? Some people need only a little bit of yin, others need more. But I find people are doing so much yang activity these days that the body is hungry for a yin type practice.

5:35 [me] We live in a very yang culture [Josh] Everything in our culture gets reinforced on the yang side. There’s little reward for chilling out.

5:48 [me] Talk about the connection with the meridians of chinese medicine with yin

6:05 Modern meridian theory, and it is generating evidence to support it, that the subtle energetic body, which we find in Chinese medicine and yoga, these energy tributaries are located or housed in planes of connective tissue. Specifically water rich fascia.

6:48 At UVM there is Helen Langevin- she presents at the fascial conferences- she’s been mapping where acupuncture meridians line up and the relationship to intermuscular fascia. In the upper body she’s found an 80% correspondence. So the idea is that by pulling, stressing, and compressing these tissues we are able to increase the conductivity of information through them.

7:40 Connective tissue in general has 3 functions- it binds, supports, and protects other tissue- but more and more evidence coming out suggests that it’s a communicative tissue. The basic idea in Yin Yoga is that if you’re interested you can study where these meridians are, and investigate which poses affect which meridians, so the yin practice can be a very therapeutic training on many levels: physical, mental, and emotional.

9:04 I’ve actually had students who are regular consumers of acupuncture and they’re told they have a liver imbalance and, without telling their acupuncturist, they’ll do Yin poses to affect that and when they go back to see their acupuncturist they are told the imbalance has cleared up and the acupuncturist will ask them what they’re doing.

9:28 So some people who do workshops in Yin call it needle-less acupuncture

10:06 One of the things I like about looking at the fascial and meridian systems is that it kind of demystifies it. It becomes tangible for people and makes sense. in the Yin practice you get a real sense of it when you come out of a pose and you have generated the piezoelectric effect.

10:32 The piezoelectric effect is a mild current of electricity that gets generated from pressure. The connective tissue responds to that and generates these tiny electrical signals that travel. so when you practice you can feel these tiny warming sensations or cooling sensations.

11:05 [me] How did you initially get into Yin yoga? [Josh] The short answer is through misery. Suffering is what brings us to the table. I used to do a lot of Iyengar Yoga. I was an Iyengar fundamentalist. One winter a friend of mine was going on a meditation retreat- it was 9 days of intensive meditation- and I thought “yeah I’ve been doing a lot of yoga, I’m gonna crush this!” [mentions the hilarious sickest Buddhist video]. But one of the things I felt was a little betrayed. I don’t want to denigrate Iyengar Yoga, but I found my body was in intense amounts of pain sitting still. So a friend had come back from a Yin workshop and I wasn’t impressed initially because through an Iyengar lens the poses looked lazy or sloppy or even indulgent. So I decided to try it for a year and it was like night and day. My body was much more open on a deeper level.

14:52 [me] Is there any trend of benefits that you typically see in your students? [Josh] my favorite one to quote is not a student of mine. I have a student who is a squash fanatic and he’s gone on to teach at his racquet club. There was a master’s championship and so he got a chance to play some of these top players in the world. He met one of the top players-  a guy who was at #1 and 38 years old, which is quite old for a sport like that- and it turns out that he’s a Yin practitioner. He credits the longevity of his career to his Yin practice.

16:18 A lot of students will talk about the benefits- they feel softer or their back pain gets better. The interest in the training points to demand I think. There is now more demand than I can meet.

17:25 Paul Grilley, the guy who I see as having revived Yin Yoga, he predicted this a number of years back because things have to come back to balance.

18:18 [me] Are there any people who benefit most from Yin?  [Josh] I think all generations benefit from it, but I used to teach an older demographic and they really seem to benefit from it. The local chiropractor used to come because he found that those coming to the class were easier to adjust because they weren’t as fixated in their joints. In general I would say anyone who is sitting in a chair for hours a day, a lot of the work we do in Yin to bring the low back into a gentle lordotic curve is very helpful.

20:16 There’s this common cultural orthodoxy in the yoga scene about these alignment principles that just get repeated and reinforced through repetition and people then forget to question them. There is a lot of stuff that doesn't’ actually hold up. One of the things I like about Yin is that it’s pace allows you to address themes that can’t come up in a faster paced class, and one of those themes is that there is skeletal variation from person to person, and within yourself ,and learning how to feel when you’re up against skeletal limitation vs. soft tissue limitation is so important. We talk a lot about that. This idea that there's one pose that if you practice it long enough you’ll get to an idealized version of that pose is pure mythology.

22:16 And liberating yourself from self judgement that you’re a terrible, incompetent yoga practitioner if you can’t do something.

Aimee Shunney Interview

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Aimee Shunney bio picTo say that last week's post, which detailed Curt Chaffee's dramatic story of healing, got a lot a lot of attention is, er, an understatement. Clearly we all feel that the conversation about the role of food in chronic pain is a very important one to be having. So let's talk in more depth, shall we!? In case you missed it, Curt is a patient of Dr. Aimée Shunney's. After decades of severe chronic pain, 7 highly invasive surgeries, and many doctors and specialists he resolved his pain when Dr. Shunney recommended he try an elimination diet challenge. Wowzers. Going back to basics can be profound.

Since I am a manual and movement therapist professionally, I spend my work life helping people to resolve pain through those means. However, I've been in my career for long enough that I have seen how markedly pain (and tissue quality and movement quality) is impacted by food. So I brought in the big guns to talk about it more.

Aimée is a naturopathic doctor who practices in Santa Cruz and Campbell, California. She is also the co-creator of the Cleanse Organic program. And she's got a lot to tell us about how food affects not just pain, but, you guessed it, everything. So take a gander at the interview, and/or scroll below to see the transcript if you wish to skim.

1:34 I mention the Curt Chaffee interview and his profound experience healing from severe chronic pain when he stopped eating gluten. Aimée talks about her initial overwhelm when he came to her, so she opted to go back to basics, and that was what, ultimately, was profound for him.

 

2:30 Shortly after I interviewed Curt for the site a colleague of mine sent me another story about a person who had severe migraines. Their grandfather had had the same pattern, and ultimately had brain surgery to address the pain. This person was, clearly, determined to not go their grandfather’s route, and through the process of trying to get well they found out it was gluten too. It’s pretty shocking.

 

3:30 [me] So what is the connection between pain and food [Aimée] I think that if you are unwittingly eating something that is not good for you, even if it seems like a healthy food but your body is having an immune response to it, your body might compensate for it for a long time, but you’re having this chronic inflammatory hit every day. Couple that with other stuff that happens in life and it all adds up into this perfect storm and you start exhibiting symptoms.

 

4:19 [Aimée] It’s hard to tell with food. We usually think of allergies as the immediate response stuff that our allergists test us for. But there are delayed response allergies that take a while to show up, there are food sensitivities that we really don’t understand very well, and food intolerances. So we just think it’s our normal state. Bloated, in pain, whatever it is, it becomes our normal.

 

5:09 [me] Are there typical foods that you see as the most common offenders? [Aimée] The big 5 are: dairy, gluten, corn, soy, and eggs. Those are foods that are in everything. So we’re getting them a lot. And then I’m always looking at sugar, caffeine, and alcohol. When those things are consumed too much, or even for some people just a little, they can be problematic. So it ends up being a cleanse, which is how my program, Cleanse Organic, started. I feel extremely confident in telling people if they are in pain, they should do an elimination diet. People who were on on pain killers, people who had movement problems, they get better. Beyond that, their energy improves, they start sleeping better than they ever have, headaches go away, mood stability gets better, and their digestion returns to normal. Then blood levels of course change too- cholesterol, etc.

 

8:28 I mention the well known DO that I know who is in very high demand. She has a rule that she will not work with patients if they are not following an anti inflammatory diet. We talk about how you can feel the change in people’s tissue really dramatically with food.

 

10:07 I think that sugar is really profound. I think we’re just starting to understand it. A study just came out recently in the Journal of Nutrition that showed what it really does to the body. From the world of holistic nutrition it’s like a, “Duh”, but in a conventional medical model they’re just catching up with the fact that these things cause inflammation and promote chronic disease.

 

11:00 Part of this study was this concept of these foods as addictive substances. I was doing a radio show where the host got out the DSM V and was reading the criteria for addiction, like to heroin or cocaine, and it fits my sugar addicted clients perfectly.

 

11:47 And that first week [on a cleanse, specifically removing sugar] is terrible! But then you really change, your whole chemistry starts to change. And your taste buds change too.

 

12:33 In the Cleanse Organic program we had people take out sugar and artificial sweeteners, but then we found people were subsisting on agave, honey, etc. So we had then take out all the natural sweeteners too so that they could reset their taste buds. And we found they got much better results too.

 

14:15 [me] People are asking me, “Why does everyone have celiac now?” Or at least, “Why is everyone gluten intolerant now?” Do you have an opinion about what’s changed that now so many people have at least sensitivities or at most this autoimmune condition?

 

14:40 [Aimée] There are multiple factors. One of course being that it’s just not good for us. But we ingest so much of it now! Many of us are also eating animals, and animals are being fed it and they don't digest it well. Then there is the GMO component; Is the grain we’re eating the same grain our grandparents were eating? Throw all of this on top of the standard American diet and the standard American lifestyle and you have a real problem.

 

16:02 I think for a lot of people it’s just that they are at threshold. Your body is managing everything it can. You go back to that shopping cart theory; Where we all come into the world with a shopping cart, some of us already have some stuff in there, but you go through life and add things into the cart until we hit threshold, and once we’re there, it doesn’t matter what goes into the cart  now, it’s going to tip over. So the question is what can I take out of my cart? Which is a beautiful place for food to come in because we actually have some control. You pull something like gluten which we’re eating so much of, and people get relief. Is it that they actually have an intolerance, or is it that they have just lowered their threshold of overwhelm?

 

17:40 [We both beg you to please not do a “water for 30 days” type cleanse]

 

17:48 [me] What can people do at home that would be safe and fruitful? [Aimée] Doing an elimination diet is a great way to get to the bottom of how food is affecting you. Remove those big 5: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs. Do this for at least 3 weeks, and if you are so inclined, pull out sugar and sweeteners, avoid alcohol and caffeine and eliminate red meat. Then reintroduce your foods one at a time. The challenge part of an elimination challenge diet is just as important as the elimination. Don’t break it with a beer and a burger. There seems to be a 72 hour window for food sensitivities to manifest symptoms, so you reintroduce a food once every 3 days. Eat it twice a day for 3 days, if you still feel as good as you felt on the elimination, you keep going. If you get a response, you stop, and reintroduce it again because there can be flukes. The challenge part can be slow going, but it’s the most important part because it’s where you actually mine the data that you created in the last 3 weeks.

 

20:22 Now that’s a simple outline to follow at home, but I created Cleanse Organic with a chef, because a certain number of people can just do these recommendations on their own, but lots of other people need support. So Cleanse Organic has coaching, meal plans, shopping lists, and the food is amazing. I’m a big foodie. It it doesn’t taste good I’m not going to eat it. you have to be willing to keep doing what you are doing to feel better once you get there. It has a real structure to follow and to help hold your hand.

 

21:35 It also includes some supplements, because I do think there are some things you can do minimally when cleansing. Basic support for the liver and for the gut with probiotics. And you want to be sure you continue to get enough protein. When protein goes away we feel terrible. you may want to get a protein smoothie, like hemp or rice to have every day.

 

22:29 The protein is going to help your liver to detoxify properly because the amino acids in the protein actually run your liver’s detox pathways. but it’s also going to give you stable energy and make you not terrible to your partner and your children...and if you don’t get the amino acids from the protein, then your body is going to pull it from your muscles, and then you’re losing muscle mass and thinking you’re losing weight, but it’s not what you want to lose.

 

23:10 I also think that fish oil is super important. It is probably the most potent natural anti-inflammatory that you can get your hands on. So if it’s something easy you’re looking to do at home, fish oil and an elimination challenge diet is a good way to go.

 

24:45 The changes, especially in the realm of pain, are profound. Somehow food has become alternative medicine, which is crazy! But I think we forget that what we put in our mouth is the way we can have the most control and the ability to make the most impact over our health.

 

25:17 One of the most  successful and sustainable things about doing an elimination diet and a cleanse is that you get back to cooking, you get back to reading labels, you just get really conscious again.

 

25:48 [me] I ask that people fight back from white noise syndrome where you feel kind of crappy, but are not debilitated, so you just put it on the back burner and live that way. A lot of people will hear “Oh I have to give up all this stuff!” But think about how your life changes when you remove the constant grating agitation that is in the background. It affects how you treat your partner, how you treat your children, how you show up for work, It changes the whole way that you show up for your life, which is not a small thing!

26:32 [Aimée] We are so willing to accept the terrible mediocrity. I hear from patients, “Oh I’m just getting older.” Don't believe the hype! You can be amazing! It doesn't’ matter what age you are. Chances are you aren’t going to react to every food. You’ll get some back. and then you can make choices. When I have wine at night I get the sniffles. Does that mean I will never have wine again? Well that’s up to me. But at least I have informed choices.

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.

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.

 

Jae Gruenke Interview

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Jae_Gruenke_head_shotThe interview series keeps on rolling with Jae Gruenke of The Balanced Runner and Intelligent Exercise. Jae is a Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner and running form expert who has helped runners from beginner to Olympian to  relieve pain and improve their performance, and she specializes in helping runners whose problems have persisted despite medical treatment. Jae has a very unique (and very useful) lens on running form, performance, and injury recovery, so I was glad to have a chance to download her brain, so to speak, on this subject.

If you want to skim or to see a more detailed outline of our conversation, you can scroll below the video to find the timeline. Meet Jae:

1:32 Jae’s unique “hardware” vs. “software” approach to help people to learn how to move. In Balanced Runner (and Feldenkrais) they work with what you know about how to coordinate yourself in movement, or the “software” you are running; i.e. the movement habits that you bring to running.

3:38 We are evolved to do this movement [running].

5:00 The number of people who are coming back to running in general (and barefoot or minimalist running in particular) right now after having left it because they thought running was bad or their doctor told them not to run anymore.

6:26 Jae talks about how they find that it is not necessary for people to run in orthotics. They become unnecessary as people learn to run appropriately. “Maybe there are 1 in 1000 who have a real anatomical abnormality that make orthotics truly necessary, but I haven’t met that person yet.”

8:12 One of the big problems with orthotics is that your arch is one of your major springs; it absorbs impact and then returns it to you. That’s where a portion of your momentum comes from, and not just the arch but the whole spring system through the body’s the connective tissue [yay fascia!]. It is responsible for storing as much as 50% of the energy from each stride and generating the force that you need for the next stride. So if you’re running on a stiff support that prevents your arch from doing a normal natural pronation, all that free energy that you could have had from your feet you now have to generate from your muscles. And over the counter orthotics have been shown to create stress at the knee.

10:20 A medically responsible orthotic, for running especially, but even for everyday activity, should have some flex in it.

11:13 If your pelvis is moving properly, you will shift your weight to the weight bearing portions of your feet, and instead of overpronating, you will appropriately pronate. It is actually that easy.

12:16 Jae tackles the buzzword “pelvic stability”: it has been interpreted to mean that the pelvis does not move, or that the pelvis moving around must be unhealthy. Jae explains how if you succeeded at not moving your pelvis you wouldn’t be able to run. So all runners move it some, but if you don’t move it enough, it’s almost impossible to not overstride and so you end up with one of 2 versions of runner’s knee.

14:19 How iliotibial band syndrome happens, and how it makes people appear to be over-pronating and wind up with those orthotics, when really it’s about your pelvis not moving appropriately.

15:55 If you let your pelvis move properly, you are less likely to overstride, and the energetic cost of running goes down. People always PR after learning how to do this in addition to their pain going away.

17:15 what does the Balanced Runner approach look like?

19:31 The best defense against bad advice is the ability to feel what you’re doing and to trust your own sense of what you know to be most comfortable and right for you, regardless of what anyone tells you. And you can always improve the accuracy of your ability to feel yourself.

22:08 What does a Feldenkrais session a la Balanced Runner look like?

24:54 The key thing for people to know who want to transition to minimal footwear or to barefoot running should know is that stress is good for our bodies, it makes us rebuild stronger, but you have to have the stress applied at a rate from which you can recover. So take it slowly. If you want to be running fully barefoot skin adapts within a few weeks, soft tissues in a few months, and bones over a matter of years just as a result of cell turnover. So go slower in the transition than you think you need to.

25:45 Form-wise regarding barefoot running, people usually try to switch from a heel strike to a forefoot strike, which often results in a prancing action which is very stressful to the metatarsals, or they don’t change their heel strike overstriding and so they develop achilles tendinopathy. You have to change what your whole body does.

26:58 What Jae says is the worst advice for barefoot running.

27:15 The basic elements of healthy running form (a list for all you runners who want to know the basics).

28:00 If what’s happening from the hips up is working right, you pretty much won’t overstride. But if you try to fix your overstriding from the ips down you will be unsuccessful.

30:29 Jae’s personal story of how she went from hating running (it felt horrible to her body), to falling in love with it. How Feldenkrais lessons taught her to feel great as a runner, and how no one was talking about what she had found made people comfortable as runners, so she started Balanced Runner!

Sue Hitzmann Interview

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SueHitzmann_IMG_1511 (1)I recently had the great pleasure of having a fascia nerd chat with the founder of the MELT Method, Sue Hitzmann. Sue is incredibly well informed and has created a thoughtful and remarkably useful system out of studying the emerging research on fascia, and her dedication to helping people out of pain. You can read the FFF review of it here.

We got into a lot of fascinating topics including how to slow the aging process, what the root of chronic pain actually is, and how you can't exercise your way to a strong "core". There is so much more! Say glycosaminoglycans 5 times fast! (I bet Sue can... ) Anyway, on the the interview. Also check out the time log below if you're hoping to skim it or just to see some of the many other things we chatted about:

:35 I explain my erroneous view that I thought Sue was “the foam roller lady” and how MELT is in fact a much different thing.

 2:53 Sue talks about the common misconceptions of what fascia is as a system.

3:38 How can a fluid system be a stability system? How does fluid make something stable?

4:58 Sue talks research on fascia and dehydration. Compression (as in sitting for long periods of time) and repetitive motions create strain that makes it harder to keep your body stable and increases stress and strain in the whole system.

 5:41 The dehydration issue is not just about drinking more water. If you’re a frequent urinator, you may have poor cellular absorption.

6:39 Sue talks about the importance of looking at fascia on the micro  level of nutrient absorption, cellular stability, and neurological information going through your body, rather than just the macro level of posture and performance and muscles.

7:22 Q: What’s special about MELT that you can access it on that micro level and not just the macro level?

8:00 You can adapt connective tissue very quickly in a light touch way. Monumental global changes can be made in people’s bodies with that light touch.

9:03 Sue talks about the shift in her own private practice after years of more strong touch practices, as she learned about the properties of the cells of connective tissue.

 10:38 The trouble with actual foam rollers. Why you don’t want to actually “iron yourself like a shirt” and why you can’t “pop a bubble of pain”. When you have connective tissue dehydration it is going to increase the sensitivity of your nerve endings.

12:55 How MELT can help such a broad spectrum of people- from someone who is 90, to someone with chronic pain, to a performance athlete, or children who are managing ADHD, or even stress issues.

13:31 Q: How does the aging process (and cellulite too!) get impacted by MELT?

14:55 The dirty little secret is that 85% of fitness people are in pain.

17:20 We take for granted that we can pull on our skin and it goes back to where it was. What allows that to happen is the deeper layers of connective tissue that provide the support for every aspect of your body, which includes our skin staying taught. It’s the flexible scaffolding, and it is completely continuous. From skin to bones you can follow one piece of collagen and see it pierce through every structure down to the bone.

18:40 Microvacuoles work and adapt to our movements but only when hydrated. So when you sit for long periods of time, you are pooling the connective tissue in a specific way.

20:28 Fibroblasts are reactive cells. When you compress them for short periods of time and then let it go (as with MELT), it fills the system back up and brings fluid back to those microvacuoles. It is a restorative system, and it doesn’t take a lot of compression, time, or effort.

21:39 Connective tissue dehydration is the cause of pain.

23:00 What is the NeuroCore? The word “core” is really trendy and therefore misunderstood these days.

23:36 Instead of just strengthening all your core muscles, you can be supported. What actually keeps you stable is the neuro-fascial system. The connective tissue is the environment that your sensory nerve endings live in, so if the environment is not stable, your nervous system is going to have to work harder and harder to relay this information to the brain to get an adequate response.

25:59 If you ask someone in fitness, “What is the core?” they’re going to define it as a muscle system that stabilizes the spine, but they can’t answer the question, “how does it work” beyond defining the muscularity of it. We’re trying to define a “core” in the musculoskeletal model, but it’s a dual neuro-fascial stabilizing system that works involuntarily, i.e. you can’t strengthen it via exercise.

27:40 Sue describes how she and Gil Hedley of Integral Anatomy dissected a cadaver layer by layer to find the NeuroCore, and demos what they found.

29:55 Sue weighs in on the debate about if the psoas muscle is actually a hip flexor. It’s actually the communicator between your head and feet. It’s where in embryology we see the cells divide to create the compartments of the human body.

30:40 The “core” is not the muscles. That is the least important element of how the system stays responsive, flexible, and adaptable. Many of us we are so dehydrated in the connective tissue that we cannot hold stable. We become less and less efficient. and our bodies can’t compensate anymore, then we get muscle imbalance, joint pain, etc. But these are symptoms of the NeuroCore not functioning.

34:10 How if you do the 10 min rebalance sequence to access the NeuroCore before doing core exercises, you would actually strengthen your body more in a much more efficient way and would get more benefit from any exercise.

36:40 Your brain doesn’t see muscle. As far as your brain is concerned you have one muscle with 700 compartments.

37:45 We take for granted that as long as we’re moving, we’re moving efficiently, but the connective tissue is the stability architecture and your nervous system relies on that architecture to send information through the body.

38:50 Sue’s goal for people is to understand that the autonomic nervous system needs our care, and if you go to the environment that it lives in, the connective tissue, you’ll make a bigger change. And it is so simple to do.

40:31 Sue’s recent MELT tour of middle America. The general population assumes that if you’re having a problem, you go see your doctor and get a pill. But with chronic pain, the medication is not helping them.

42:18 There are 100 million people in chronic pain, so there is some piece of education missing. Our pharmaceutical industry is the leader of how people are taken care of, so Sue’s hope is to expose  the general population to the fact that we’re out here (bodyworkers and this work in general).

45:20 MELT is giving people the tools of tapping into the connective tissue and the nervous system in order to give them a baseline skill set to use at home. Pain does not need to be a day to day event!