DIY Friday: Healthy Pregnancy and Beyond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy baby making!

photo by Bethany Brown

 

 

DIY Friday: Too Tight and Too Loose Ankles

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go forth and have happy ankles.

photo by Generation X-Ray 

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.

DIY Friday: Gratitude Rampage

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iStock_000025624251SmallRandomly, as I was filling up my car with gas last week, I was suddenly awash in gratitude. I have a daily gratitude practice (more on that soon), so it wasn't totally foreign or anything, but it was quite different and unusual for me. I would go so far as to say that it was what would be called, in Zen Buddhism,  a satori moment. A moment of seeing with complete clarity.

Suddenly the world looked like it was in technicolor. I could see the flowers growing across the street, and every wood slat on the house beyond them. I was totally aware of how cool and wonderful the gas pump felt in my hands, and the air on my skin. And, while they don't exactly translate, my thoughts went something like, "I am so lucky to be a human who is alive right now. That I get to experience this good human life, here on planet Earth, where crazy miracles like growing flowers and lovely breeze and cool gas pump in my hand are happening every second of the day."

About 2 hours later I found out my Aunt had died suddenly in her sleep at home at age 63. Oddly enough, it turns out my satori moment coincided roughly with the time of her death.

My Aunt had a complicated relationship with her health. She is definitely one of those people who showed up in this lifetime with "more in her shopping cart", as my colleague Aimée Shunney would say, than some. But she had a totally normal and full life. She married, she had a daughter, she divorced, she married the love of her life, she did work she was passionate about and which served a community she cared deeply for: the developmentally disabled.

But through all this she was always navigating a body that wasn't exactly thriving. In recent years she had trouble ambulating, couldn't raise her arms (due to tendon tears), and was frequently ill with any virus that would come by. For her, these viruses often turned into pneumonia. Most recently she was in the hospital for mysterious tremors which were determined not to be Parkinson's. It turns out the implant she had had put in her back to block the nerve pain she had had shifted and was now causing full body quaking. The implant was removed and the tremors stopped. We all assumed things would be quiet on the health front for a bit after that. It felt like a eureka moment.

But here we are. She's gone now. And it has brought up for me (among other things of course) why I do this work. Why we, the larger wellness community, do this work. People will often read our stuff about self-care, eating well, moving well, etc and respond with the glib, "You can't avoid death." And they're right, obviously, but they miss the point entirely.

The point isn't to avoid death. It's to avoid missing life. I think of my Aunt when I reach up into a cabinet to grab a can of soup. I think of my Aunt when I frolic through the woods with my son. I think of my Aunt when I simply walk, pain free, from my house to my car. All of these things were off limits to her.

So I got to thinking; We talk so much about what we can do to be (future tense) healthier and to live more full and vital lives, and clearly I'm still dedicated to that. I know my Aunt really struggled with why she always felt so lousy. She prayed every day that she could feel just a little bit better, and on those moments when she did feel better she was so grateful for it- there's nothing like feeling terrible to make you appreciate feeling anything short of terrible. So perhaps for this DIY Friday we can simply take a moment to be grateful for whatever it is we do have. Right this moment.

My son and I have a gratitude practice where most nights at dinner we list 3 things from the day that we are most grateful for. We then write them down and put them in our gratitude bowl, so that we can take them out later and look over all that we were grateful for over the past months in a ritual that usually involves ice cream.

Every once and a while we have a different version of our gratitude practice: the gratitude rampage. For this we will just randomly call out, "Gratitude rampage!" and we have to list things we are grateful for that are directly in front of us in that exact moment. So, for example, in this moment mine would be a laptop that allows me to communicate with all of you, clean, cool water to drink, clean air to breath, a lovely quiet room to write in, the sun coming through the windows, a pain free body that means I can write without agitation, my high school English teacher who taught me how to just sit down and write already, functioning hands that allow me to type, air going in and out of my lungs without me even having to think about it... you get the idea.

So, even if you are at home, sick, dealing with chronic pain, suffering through stress or trauma, whatever it is, what can you be genuinely grateful for right now in this moment?  This moment while we are so lucky to be alive, here on planet Earth, experiencing this good human life? If your whole body is in pain, is your pinky toe feeling pretty good? Add it to the gratitude list! If you are home sick, are you laying on a comfortable bed in a home you love? Add it to the gratitude list! Are you alive? Can you walk? Can you reach for a can of soup in your cupboard? Can you see the flowers growing across the street?

Ready... set.... gratitude rampage!

DIY Friday: Eating to Address 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.*

8716387730_df2733cc47_zAs you may have noticed, we're talking an awful lot lately about how what you eat affects chronic pain (and mobility and performance, and, well, everything). First we heard a dramatic story of healing from decades of severe pain via food from Curt Chaffee, and then I interviewed Dr. Aimée Shunney, Curt's naturopathic doctor, on how food affects pain, how to do an elimination challenge, and much more.

That said, I figured it was good timing for a DIY Friday that pointed out some of my favorite resources for eating cleanly and sorting out how your diet is affecting you.

Before I dive in, I just want to say that food is a pretty hotly debated topic among many. People get fiercely attached to what works for them and what team they have decided to be on. In my experience, different things work for different people (though I think we can all agree that sugar and processed food are not meant to be consumed by humans), and so this post is from the perspective that your time is best spent on experimenting and seeing how your own body responds. So whether you are vegan or Paleo, here are some places to learn better how to eat clean, and to discover what works best for your own biology:

  • As I mentioned above, I interviewed Dr. Aimée Shunney earlier this week. If you watch/listen to minutes 17:48 to 25:17 of that interview you will hear her detail how you can do an elimination diet on your own at home. And if you want more support, including coaching, a yummy chef designed menu, grocery lists, and more, that's what Aimée and her co-creator Jennifer Brewer made Cleanse Organic for! This program will take you through an elimination challenge diet and an anti-inflammatory cleanse. 
  • For those of you who are inclined to skew vegan, Rich Roll's book Finding Ultra is about as inspiring at it gets. It's a fantastic read and also a great example of how vegan doesn't mean "soy bacon" or other processed foods. In fact, he prefers to call it a plant power diet, since it is heavy on the plants, light on the grains, and soy and gluten free. 
  • If you're in the plant-strong category and are looking for more support than just reading Rich Roll's inspiring story, I recommend my colleague Dinneen Viggiano over at Phytolistic. Dinneen provides holistic lifestyle and nutrition coaching without too much dogma. She specializes in holistic inflammation management (i.e. the exact stuff that makes pain improve) and developing protocols for healthy families.  (P.S. I do realize that most Paleo/Primal folks eat more veggies than most vegetarians, so when I write "plant-strong" in this case I mean more aligned with a vegan/vegetarian plant based diet)
  • I personally skew Paleo/Primal in my eating (I am more Primal as I eat dairy, but hey my people are a long line of herders going way back, so that may not work for you. Paleo is no dairy.) , which means of course that Mark Sisson is one of my heroes. You can find loads of free resources on his widely read blog Mark's Daily Apple, and his book Primal Blueprint is required reading if you want to investigate the effect of the standard American diet, learn how to eat like your great-great-great-great (times a million) grandparents did, and also get educated about a whole lot of other important things we're losing like moving functionally, getting sun, playing, and more. 
  • Since I'm a primal girl, it means I'm also madly in love with Gary Taubes's work. If you're a fan of reading research heavy insights, you just can't do any better than grabbing a copy of Good Calories, Bad Calories. To say it's an eye opener doesn't do it service.  If you want the same information without having to wade through a lot of data, grab his book Why We Get Fat: And What to Do About It.
  • And no talk about food would be complete without pointing you to the Weston A. Price Foundation  which supports traditional foods as a result of Dr. Price's fascinating research into the health of people in traditional cultures. If you want an easily readable and, pun intended, digestible book form of what a Weston Price diet looks like in practice, Real Food by Nina Planck is excellent.

Happy eating!

photo by Graduated Learning

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.

DIY Friday: Therapy Balls Vs. Lacrosse Balls Vs. Foam Rollers

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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.*

This DIY Friday I'll point you all to an article I put up on Breaking Muscle this week where I get into the difference between Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls (my self care tool of choice), and the two other most prevalent tools; the lacrosse ball and the foam roller. I get asked about this all the time, so here you go! Complete with a research study and everything... All that information lives here. 

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Also,  just last night I had the great good fortune to also be pointed to one of my Yoga Tune Up colleague's hilarious and fantastic videos about, you guessed it, the balls. We love our balls in the YTU world. So for some funny ha ha, here is Amanda Zerbini's  video:

The Role of Food in Chronic Pain

5650486605_f38434c896_zI recorded this interview a couple of months ago, and re-listening to it now it still gives me chills. And gets me all welled up with tears. As a part of my "Let Freedom Ring" series, where I talk with people who have recovered from chronic pain and mobility conditions, I had the great honor of talking with Curt Chaffee. Curt is a patient of Dr. Aimée Shunney's, whose interview is coming up next week. Before you hear from Aimée, I wanted you all to have a chance to hear from Curt's mouth how profoundly impactful a very simple tool was in healing his chronic pain. That simple tool was an elimination diet. I.e. removing foods that are commonly not tolerated very well by many people, like gluten, dairy, soy, etc, and seeing what changes it might make. Let me back up a moment and describe what I mean a bit more by profoundly impactful. Before Curt tried the elimination diet that Dr. Shunney recommended he was at his worst. While the first signs of what would become a severe pain pattern had begun when he was about eleven years old, with profound headaches and muscle spasms, the worst of it did not begin until his  late thirties. At that time he developed severe neurological pain, to the point where he had to go into the emergency room with sharp, electric, stabbing pain down his left arm. Initially of course the doctors thought he had had a heart attack, but they quickly discovered that that wasn't the case. From there he was admitted and spent a week in the hospital heavily sedated on pain killers in order to try and figure out what this pain pattern was that seemed to have no rhyme or reason to it.

This kicked off a ten year long process of doctors finding things they thought might be the problem. Curt had 7 surgeries. They removed his first rib. They stripped muscles in his neck. A few surgeires were just experimental to go in and scrape nerves and vertebrae of any scar tissue they could find. The general consensus was that there had to be some physical structure that was impinging the brachial plexus nerves. But since the surgeries did absolutely nothing to mitigate the pain, depression set in. In fact, the pain was still getting progressively worse. Any intervals of being pain free were shorter and shorter, and Curt spent months incapacitated in bed. After surgery had clearly failed, he went to pain therapy, where stronger and stronger drugs were tried to quell the pain. At this time he also learned how to meditate, which he credits with keeping him alive through all of this. But the pain killers did nothing other than making him "stupid", in his own words.

At this time he sought out naturopathic medicine because he had tried everything else and was desperate. This brought him to Dr. Shunney. He was at his worst, and had seen all of the best doctors in California. Intially, Dr. Shunney said she didn't know what was going on either, and for his first few months of working with her, nothing really changed. The day his life turned around was when she turned to look at his diet. He began an elimination diet, cutting out gluten, dairy, and cutting way back on sugar. By the end of the first month he was 50% better. In 6 months he was 80% better. Ultimately it was the wheat gluten that was the worst trigger.

Today he is back at work, back to racing his motorcycle, playing his guitar, and playing golf. At the time of our talk, he had just came home from a backpacking trip in Big Sur in which he carried a heavy pack for days.

One of the things I really love in our conversation is that he emphasizes that it isn't over. He still has mild chronic pain symptoms from all the years of stress, the trauma of surgeries, etc, but he's not at all down about that. Instead he radiates gratitude and clearly enjoys working on helping his body to keep getting better, and better and better! Curt says about this part of the process, "You feel so much better that you then have the energy and motivation to take it further."

Even if you know food isn't a culprit for you, hearing the hope and gratitude in Curt's voice will go a long way to helping you  if you are finding your way out of your own chronic pain pattern.

Lastly, I just want to say that we forget to think holistically in ways other than just how we see the musculoskeletal/myofascial interconnection of the body. We assume that food can only be about gut stuff. Curt was not having intestinal symptoms. We assume that if food were the culprit that his symptoms would have resembled something like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but his problem was severe neurological pain. From food. We've got to take everything into consideration when we're trying to get well. So don't forget the old adage, you are what you eat...

Without further ado, here is Curt in his own words:

photo by Martin Linkov

DIY Friday: Keeping Your Body Complaint Free At Work

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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.*

Most of us spend a hearty portion of our lives at work, which these days means we spend a large amount of time sitting (or standing) at computers, using our smartphones, and being pretty limited in the ranges of movement we're utilizing. We all know inactivity is a problem, but that's not what I'm talking about in today's post. Sadly, we've gotten so focused on the "inactivity problem", that we're just viewing it as a, "Is my heart rate getting up at some point this week?" question. I'm all for getting your cardiovascular health in order, but let's take a look instead at getting your myofascial and alignment health in order.

In English, what I'm asking is how do we deal with the amount of pain- primarily low back, neck, and shoulder pain- that our work days leave us with? Because heading to the gym after work will get your heart rate up, but it's doing nothing to address the pain,  the tissue dehydration and glueing, and the joint thinning that is happening by being static in poorly aligned positions all day long.

Funny businessmanLet's start with the sitting. In case you missed the memo, sitting is the new smoking. New research shows that it significantly increases mortality from all causes. In fact, every hour spent sitting shortens life span more significantly that every cigarette smoked. True story.

Ok, fine. Sitting = bad. Got it. I'll stand then. I'm off to buy a standing desk right now, so it's all good!

Prediction: Standing all day instead of sitting all day isn't going to solve our chronic pain problems. It will just give us a slight variation on the current problems. (Though is likely to be more beneficial for staving off cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancers, so that is a total bonus)

Here's the deal- doing any one thing all day long is not going to be good for you. And doing any one thing poorly all day long is definitely not going to be good for you. I'll get to each point one at a time:

First, doing anything all day long is not what we're built for. We are designed for constantly varied movement, so it is the sheer limitation of picking one thing and doing it for an entire day- in this case sitting or standing, looking at a screen, with your arms bent at the elbow out in front of you and your fingers working away furiously on a keyboard of some kind- that is causing us so much trouble.

To address our need for constantly varied movement:

  • This September I transitioned into a work schedule that is now about 50% Rolfing® and Tune Up Fitness®, and 50% writing. So half of the time I physically work with bodies to help them to heal themselves, and half the time I write about how bodies can heal themselves. As you may have guessed, that latter half requires a big increase in the amount of screen time in my life. Since the irony of writing about bodies feeling better while glued to a computer was too rich, I decided I needed a new system. I've been tinkering with different options, but at the moment I'm very happy with dividing my time in a routine of 40 minutes/10 minutes of writing to moving.

This is my particular adaptation of the Pomodoro Technique. I set a timer on my phone for 40 minutes, and during that time I single task on whatever project I'm working on. Single tasking as in no social media and no other distractions. I am just working on what I have as my top priority in that moment. So, for example, right now my timer is ticking away while I write this post. I will only write this post during this time. When the timer goes off, I will switch it to a 10 minute interval, during which I will move in whatever form feels good. I work from home so I will often be doing Yoga Tune Up corrective exercise or therapy ball self-massage here in my office. But I've also been known to sprint down to my neighborhood beach (a block away, lucky me, I know), sprint around my house, and generally jump around, climb over things, and make a nuisance of myself in the neighborhood. Fortunately many of my neighbors know what I do for work. Others have decided I'm crazy. It's all good.

But you don't work from home and your boss already thinks you're crazy? I admit that being in a conventional work environment makes this more challenging because not only do you need to move, but you also need to take on your work culture's phobia of movement. I understand it can be a tall order depending on where you work, but I think it's a really valuable thing to take on for the sake of your own health and the sake of everyone's health around you. I recommend slowly getting them used to the idea (no hurdling over the cubicle dividers!), with simple stretching at the wall, or briskly walking to the break room and back, or holding walking meetings (fab 3 minute TED talk on that here). If you are going to be trying to shift your workplace's movement phobia please email me. I would love to help out and follow along as best I can.

  • Even without 10 minute movement breaks (which you should totally take btw), you should at least switch up your positioning so that you're not sitting in one configuration all day. Here is Katy Bowman's How Much Do I Sit  quiz which you are likely to find very enlightening. It also has a list of options for increasing your movement throughout the day. 
  • I also adore Katy's Think Outside the Chair poster, with the myriad options for how one can sit when a chair is removed from the equation, but unfortunately after much searching I can no longer find it except for in this expired Facebook post about it. Please tell us you'll bring back the poster Katy!? Pleeeeeeaaaaase!?

Next up, whether we choose to sit or we choose to stand, or some combination of those, we are, for the most part, doing it poorly. When we sit we typically sit on our sacrums, this creates a C-curved spine, which we then remedy by working like hell in our spinal muscles to pull ourselves upright, and I think you've already discovered that that lasts approximately 2 minutes before you collapse back into a slump from muscle fatigue. With standing, we are generally standing with our pelvises out in front of us (past our ankles) which tweaks our low back, not to mention everything else, just the same.

To address our poor alignment (and the havoc is wreaks) in sitting and standing: 

  • Esther Gokhale and her Gokhale Method are recent discoveries of mine, but thus far I'm into it. Here is a great article on her in the New York Times where they call her The Posture Guru of Silicon Valley. And if you're wanting to see her method in action, and how it can help you to sit better at work, this is a video of her demonstrating it at the Ancestral Health Symposium.  

Now go move in varied ways and be happy at work!

Jonathan FitzGordon Interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

39:33 Be your own healer.

DIY Friday: Make Your Jaw Happy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without further ado, I give you Jill and Kelly:

photo by Theen

DIY Friday: Skin Rolling

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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.*

I was fortunate enough to spend last weekend in Ojai, California at the Yoga Tune Up® teachers summit where, naturally, we're prone to doing things like taking breaks for skin rolling. This made me realize that this handy, tool-free form of myofascial release had yet to be featured on DIY Fridays!

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So here you have it folks. This is a simple way to manipulate your own tissue in a way that gets the glide back in your fascia. If you're wondering why you would want such a thing- it promotes ease of movement, decreases or resolves pain, improves balance and proprioception (your sense of knowing where you are in space, which determines if you are a graceful or clumsy mover), and decreases risk of injuries, not to mention improves the appearance of "skin stick", which is that youthful elastic quality that makes young people look young while old people get saggy. Yes, you can, to a certain degree, keep the spring and fight the sag by keeping your fascia healthy.

While what you are doing is directly lubricating the superficial fascial layer, because all these layers are tethered into one another, you are actually having an effect into the deep fascia as well. So if you have a problem area, like a shoulder impingement for example, you will benefit from doing skin rolling around that joint and upstream and downstream of it.

Clearly there are certain places that will be easier for you to do skin rolling on yourself. I like it on the arms and shoulders and legs. If you want skin rolling on your back or other hard to reach areas, buddy up and show this video to your partner or friend.

A couple of key points: fascia is very slow to release, so please  move like molasses so as to avoid making someone feel like they're being skinned alive. We do not want this. That brings me to my second point, the tighter, more adhered and more dehydrated the fascia, the more painful this will be. Slow, slow, slow is the only way, and for some people it may be downright intolerable. In which case they should find their way to a good manual therapist rather than just avoiding or ignoring it. Downhill trends go, well, downhill unless reversed. Lastly, try to contact yourself or your skin rolling buddy with as much surface area as possible. Touching with just the tips of your fingers is more painful and less pleasurable than touching with your whole finger pad. Oh, and no oils or lotions, or you won't be able to affect the fascia.

Now watch the video and go for it!

photo by Charles Fred

Jill Miller Interview

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25:15 Jill discusses her practice of retiring yoga poses

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

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

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

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

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

 

DIY Friday: Ode to Yoga Tune Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ubiquitous Keyboard and How It's Setting You Up for a Shoulder Injury

This is a new article of mine that came out on Breaking Muscle today on how the things we do when we're not training, specifically the things that involve screens and keyboards, set us up for shoulder injuries. Here's an outtake of the article, but if you want to read the whole thing and view the 2 corrective videos I made to address the issue, you can do that here. 

keyboard typing

"We are how we move. Our soft tissue is always responding to the demands we put on it, willingly complying by creating tissue patterning that makes it easier for us to do what we do more, well, more. This means our tissue is staying hydrated and gliding where we keep moving, and gluing us up in the ranges that we avoid.

Fascia (your connective tissue) can be your friend when it is adapting to support you in healthy ways, and it can be not so friendly when it starts to put the blinders on and gum up the works. It’s a basic use it or lose it set up. This is excellent news when what we’re doing with our bodies is perfecting the form of our deadlift. As we get more sophisticated in our movement, our tissue patterning allows for and adapts to this sophistication. However, this is not such great news when it comes to the sheer quantity of time we spend doing other less than helpful things.

Enter the ubiquitous keyboard. Whether it’s on a desktop, a laptop, or your phone, the odds are if you are reading this article you log more hours as a typing slave than you would like. Hey, look! I’m doing it right now! And while I love the fact that my keyboard means we all get to have this nice chat here at Breaking Muscle, it costs me. Specifically, it contributes to the plague of internal rotation that we are all living with these days. YOU CAN READ THE REST AND WATCH THE 2 CORRECTIVE VIDEOS ON BREAKING MUSCLE

 

DIY Friday: From Boring to Badass

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jenny Potter

It's a Dance, Not a Grind

4450506813_fa80eaaab7_oOne of my new favorite mantras is, “It’s a dance, not a grind.” I’m taking it out of Seth Godin’s most recent book, The Icarus Deception, and he uses it to describe a new way of looking at an overfull work life, the constant flow of emails, projects, etc. He proposes that instead of feeling exhausted and worn down, one can approach it differently and feel playful and excited by it. I use it to remind myself of both a new view on the inbox, but also how I feel about physical “rehabilitation” for lack of a better word. Because I got into this field after my own broken body had healed from the reverberations of a birth injury, people will often ask me if I’m “better” now. No doubt because they want some hope that they can “get better” too. And my answer is always, “Yes. And…” It’s a tricky thing to answer because besides wanting some hope, there is a, well I wouldn’t exactly call it a darker side to the “are you better now?” question, but I would say it reveals our weird cultural way of viewing the world. If I were to answer by saying, “Yes I feel much, much better but it’s always an unfolding process.” For many that will deflate them as they think, “Ugh! I’ll never be ‘done’!”

But there really is no “done” until we die, and assuming that’s not what you’re hoping for, let’s instead clarify that maybe the goal isn’t to “get better” so that we can totally forget that we have bodies, resume being thoroughly inattentive to them,  and just go comfortably sit on the couch some more.  As long as we’re alive we have bodies, and those bodies are… did I mention, they’re alive!? Meaning, every microsecond of every day they are responding to your environment, the quality of your movement, alignment, food, everything? So we always need to be watching our input into these body things. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, right?

For me the process has been slow, ongoing and delightful (yes those three words can coexist). Even after my Rolfing® series, when I had resolved my pain and was studying to be a Rolfing practitioner, I was still practically allergic to most movement and in particular yoga classes. When at the Rolf Institute all of my supple and athletic classmates would ask me if I wanted to come along I would politely bow out, hiding my terror of reliving my brief time in ballet classes as a child where I was the girl with the weird body among my bendier youths.

Growing up I was a pretty non-physical person (with the hilarious exception of roller skating, it was the 80’s after all), and so even after the pain had resolved I was working through the shame I had about what I still perceived as my body’s limitations with movement. And so, little by little, I dared to move and fell in love with moving until it is now one of the most delicious and rewarding parts of my life.

But, even now that I’m a yoga teacher, I still suffer from a kind of “phantom broken girl syndrome”. Just this year as I began teaching group classes I had my brother and one of my best friends take my class, and after it was over I very nervously took them aside and asked them, “Do I look ok up there? I mean, do I look like the weird gimpy girl who shouldn’t be teaching yoga?” I was surprised by the force of my emotion in asking. I could even feel that old lump well up in my throat. They assured me that I am just dealing with some residual form of movement specific body dysmorphia. While I will never make the cover of Yoga journal for Cirque du Soleil like feats (which is just fine by me for a number of reasons), I at least looked like I should be standing at the front of the classroom. And that’s a pretty big evolution for me, just about at the 16 year mark of beginning this process of healing my body I had decided to take part in the “dance” enough that I was now teaching.

Don’t flinch at the “16 years” thing! These 16 years have been so much better than all the ones that preceded them. And to answer the original the question, “Are you better now?” Yes, about most of the time I am mostly pain free. Stuff still crops up, I admit often in relationship to my Rolfing client load (my C7 is not super thrilled with me lately, and years ago when I was a new Rolfer I had costochondritis show up due to my poor form- which I corrected), so considering that I started off a complete wreck and had 21 years of physical dysfunction under my belt (at age 21), I consider this is a big freaking deal. But the bigger (freaking) deal is that I woke up to having a body, and now get to delight in it in a myriad of ever-unfolding ways. And that brings us to the dance.

In an ideal world “getting better” wouldn’t mean just being relieved of pain or dysfunction, but would mean that a kind of awakening had occurred. That people could enjoy attending to their bodies in a nourishing way, and be excited to discover its new possibilities. It’s really not an, “Oh crap I’m going to be stuck doing these PT exercises forever.” Kind of feeling. It’s more like, “Hmm, why am I still unable to touch my toes? Maybe I could tinker with that in a few different ways and see what happens? That could be intriguing. And perhaps I’ll even get over my embarrassment and try yoga with my friends…” In other words, it’s a dance, not a grind.

Photo by Dinh Linh

DIY Friday: Run Smarter

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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.*

7951627190_9b75735982_cThis week I put my interview with Jae Gruenke of The Balanced Runner up as a delicious treat for all you runners out there. So I thought I'd follow it up by dedicating this DIY Friday to The Balanced Runner's Five Running Form Tips You've Never Heard Before. There is so much lousy information out there about how to be a better (faster, more efficiently, and injury free) runner, but this stuff is gold. Enter The Balanced Runner team:

 

 

Video #1- Dealing with Tight Shoulders: 

'Video #2: Dealing with Sore Knees:

 

Video #3: The Trouble with Being Too Upright, and How To Avoid It:

Video # 4: How to Avoid Working Too Hard:

'Video #5: How to Avoid Overstriding: 

 

photo by Matt Brock

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!

DIY Friday: Plantar Fasciitis

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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.*

A recent chat with the Facebook tribe started to go down the plantar fasciitis rabbit hole, so here I am dedicating a DIY Friday to it! I also have an interview coming up next week with Jae Gruenke, founder of Balanced Runner, and since so many runners struggle with plantar fasciitis it seemed like a theme was emerging.

First, what the heck is plantar fasciitis? The short version is that the plantar fascia (fascial sheet on the bottom of your foot) begins to pull away from it's attachement on the calcaneus (heel bone) and you wind up with some pretty gnarly burning heel and foot pain. In the book Born to Run* author Christopher MacDougall describes it as the runner's version of a vampire bite, because, as runner legend has it, once you're "bitten" with plantar fasciitis many feel you are never the same again. Well breathe deep because I'm here to tell you that plantar fasciitis is one of those things that I actually have in the "easy" category in my brain simply because I see it resolve so often and so readily. Which isn't to say it doesn't take some doing, but here's how:

  • Erik Dalton is a brilliant manual therapist and teacher, and this video is the clearest description I have found of what is actually going on in plantar fasciitis. The article that precedes the video also does a fanstasic job of explaining how it's not just your foot. It's never just one thing. Never, ever. But it's always helpful to be educated on the more global view of any condition, which is what this article handily does! If you are a manual therapist, there is also great content here on how you can treat it in your clients. If you are not a manual therapist, please don't go grabbing your friend's leg and shoving and shaking stuff around! It actually takes a good bit of learning in order to effectively contact fascia and to know how to appropriately work joints like he does in the video, so just mashing on your buddies is likely to cause more harm than good. The article is here, and the video is at the end of it.

 

  • Speaking of taking a global view, as Dalton mentions in his article, "Plantar fasciitis often results from lack of individuality of motion in the calf muscles due to adhesions." That is very true, and taking it a bit further, it is an issue with the whole posterior chain of fascia. Otherwise known as the "superficial back line" as defined by Tom Myers Anatomy Trains work. Here is a great image of that line. So, if you want to resolve your plantar fasciitis, give due attention to everything here along the chain as well.

superficial_back_line_copy

  • Oh look! Here's recently interviewed Sue Hitzmann of the MELT Method preaching it like she teaches it, and is also talking about plantar fasciitis as a global issue:

  • Oh wait! What do we have here!? It's Katy Bowman of Restorative Exercise talking about plantar fasciitis as a global issue (in particular those persnickity hamstrings with some data that talks about why). Hmmm, maybe it's not just about the foot...

Ok, ok, taking all this good input about how it's not just your foot and moving forward with a healing plan for yourself here's what I actually like, a lot, for treating plantar fasciitis:

Smart fascial manual therapy from either a practitioner, or you can MELT at home.

Softness! Learning how to soften your foot is a game of coaxing it to let go, not of yanking it around. I like hamstring stretches that have a fully dorsiflexed ankle (bring toes toward shin) so that you're not missing tight bits in your calves. This would look like lying on your back with a strap around the ball of your foot, and flexing at your hip to bring the foot closer to the ceiling. Though stop when you hit your own end range with the flexed ankle (rather than pointing the toe to get farther). You can also stretch standing on a slant board like this one, again, I like a soft surface to a slant board, and it is also very helpful to think about really letting all the musculature of your foot soften into is as you stretch. Think of your plantar fascia as warm, gooey silly putty that is just oozing onto the slant board. Do not hyperextend at the knee or shove your pelvis forward ofyour ankles while standing on a slant board.

Alexander Technique. Speaking of letting the musculature go, I find so many people micro grip in their feet as a result of stress, or strain and pain patterns elsewhere in the body. I love Alexander Technique as a way to learn about your own micro grips and how to find a way to let them go. I recommend working with a teacher, rather than doing this alone at home, as you will need trained eyes to point out things you have become totally blind to in your own body. Most people are amazed at how much they are subconsciously clawing at the floor with their toes. No really.

* Footnote: If you haven't read Born to Run I highly recommend it. And if you are a runner, I practicaly require it (if I could do such a thing). It has a lot of  fascinating information, particulary when it comes to the evolution of highly engineered running sneakers paralleling the evolution of highly unpleasant runner injuries, and is also a beautifully written and engaging story.