Living Your Body's Intelligence: A Home-Play Episode (71)

Living Your Body's Intelligence: A Home-Play Episode (71)

Over the years many of you have gotten in touch with me to say how much you liked the “home-play” part of the Liberated Body episodes- i.e. the body-based explorations at the end of each show. You can think of this as one long home play episode! 

This little embodiment gift is courtesy of myself and Liam Bowler, who is the creator of the podcast The Body Awake. I lead a somatic meditation, and then Liam leads an embodied movement exploration. It is also an appetizer of our upcoming weekend workshop: Living Your Body’s Intelligence which is this July 28 and 29 in Seattle. Which still has tickets left- so if you want to come play with us you can read all about what exactly we'll be doing and/or get tickets on its Eventbrite page

Breath, Inquiry, and Individuality with Leslie Kaminoff (LBP 066)

Leslie has been a yoga educator for the last four decades and is an internationally recognized specialist in the fields of yoga and breath anatomy. He leads anatomy and yoga methodology workshops for many of the leading yoga associations, schools and training programs in the world.

He is the co-author of the bestselling book Yoga Anatomy and the founder of The Breathing Project. 

Leslie has also helped to organize international yoga conferences while serving as Vice-President of Unity in Yoga, and was part of the committee that established national standards for yoga teacher training.

In today’s conversation we’re talking about what it was like to have a front-row seat for the birth of the fitness and yoga industries in the United States, concepts related to breath and breath anatomy, and the art of teaching and the importance of creating an atmosphere of inquiry in yoga classes in order to honor students’ individuality and allow for deeper insights.




Personal Agency, Movement, and Teaching with Amy Matthews (LBP 065)

Today I’m talking with Amy Matthews. Amy has been teaching movement since 1994. She is a Certified Laban Movement Analyst, a Body-Mind Centering® Teacher, an Infant Developmental Movement Educator, and a movement therapist and yoga teacher. Amy is also the co-author of the best-selling book Yoga Anatomy, and together with Leslie Kaminoff Amy teaches The Breathing Project's Advanced Studies courses. In today’s conversation we’re talking about Laban Movement Analysis and Body-Mind Centering, developmental movement work, and what that means for infants- how they can get a solid foundation for personal agency and emotional regulation through movement, and how developmental movement work helps adults as well. We also talk about embodied teaching, how teaching is its own art form and how it can also call forth a student’s personal agency.




Movement Matters with Katy Bowman (LBP 064)


Katy Bowman is a biomechanist and the founder of Nutritious Movement. She is the author of several books including Move Your DNA, Whole Body Barefoot, and her most recent collection of essays, Movement Matters. In today’s conversation we’re talking about the ecology of movement. How does your movement affect not just your health but also humans everywhere, even ones you’ve never met, and how does it affect the health of the planet as a whole? We discuss the real impact of our sedentarism and our drive for convenience, and how movement can be a very profound and impactful form of activism.




Beyond Anatomy (LBP 062)

I’m talking with Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews, and Peter Blackaby about our upcoming somatic symposium at The Breathing Project in New York this April called Beyond Anatomy. We talk about what “beyond anatomy” means to each of us and what some of the specific things are in our own learning trajectories that we are exploring at this point. 




Acupuncture, Oncology, and Fascia

1930280_24664191023_8914_nThis is Brooke here- I wasn't able to attend the recent joint conference on Acupuncture, Oncology, and Fascia which was held at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School. However the delightful Leah Rachocki did attend! Leah is a Rolfer in Cleveland Ohio, and a member of the Fascia Research Society. She attended the last two FRCs in addition to attending the event at Harvard, is a Liberated Body listener and supporter and, naturally, an enthusiastic Body Nerd. Having met her at the Fascia Research Congress I knew she would do a bang up job of reporting on the event for all of us here at Liberated Body. Please note that these are brief sketches of the talks and research, all of which have links to pages where you can read the papers of that researcher if you want to dive in more deeply. Without further ado- here's Leah:

One day of presentations was held at Harvard Medical School in Boston, several weeks after the Fourth International Fascia Research Congress in Reston, VA. For the first time, three Societies came together - Fascia Research Society, Society for Acupuncture Research, and the Society for Integrative Oncology to explore the relationship between fascia and cancer. Approximately 575 people attended, more than anticipated by organizers.

A total of ten presenters from the three Societies led discussions through this loop of relationships (graphic). Presenters were not limited to their own research; instead they wove together research with their experience. Each presentation was related to the prior. Every presenter had 30 minutes; the day closed with a panel discussion. Posters were accessible throughout the day.


Here are some highlights from each presenter. Note: this is not a detailed reporting of the lectures, but do click on the link at the name of each researcher to access a list of their publications which will take you deeper into their work.

Dr. Gary Deng, MD, PhD. Dr Deng is Interim Chief, Integrative Medicine Service, and Attending Physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He discussed the Integrative Oncology approach to cancer, including the responsibility of the practitioners to be in good health, so that patients are helped to the greatest potential. Integrative Oncology engages the whole person, from body-mind-spirit through family, society and environment. He also told us about Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital’s About Herbs smartphone app designed to guide people to using herbal remedies for safe self-use. Dr Deng was the first presenter of the day to mention self-care as an important tool in a patient’s disease response. He also described cancer survivors as ambassadors of healthy living to family and friends, suggesting a personal responsibility of sharing health.

Dr Suzanna Zick, ND, MPH Dr. Zick is Research Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine at the University of Michigan Health System. She discussed cancer-related fatigue, psycho-oncology, and the usefulness of patients self-administering acupressure to relieve fatigue and sleep disruption. She noted that higher levels of inflammatory cytokines increase fatigue symptoms. She discussed the usefulness of tailored treatment, matching the patient with the specific care tools for best outcome.

Dr Beverly de Valois Dr de Valois is Research Acupuncturist at Mount Vernon Cancer Center in the United Kingdom. She offered a comprehensive discussion about lymphedema. This condition can occur years after cancer diagnosis and treatment. She brought attention to the gap between treatment standards and research. The skin barrier is critically important to preventing this terrible condition, yet our standard medical practices do not protect skin integrity. PhD

Dr. Jun Mao, MSCE Dr. Mao is Associate Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at University of Pennsylvania. He encouraged innovative trial designs to tease out reproducible approaches to cancer treatment. He also mentioned research that shows very little outcome difference between sham acupuncture and pills.

Dr Helene Langevin, MD Dr Langevin is the Director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Harvard Medical School & Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She discussed the similar effects of acupuncture and manual therapy, pointing out that both result in the mechanical movement of tissue. She discussed the immune function of Connective Tissue as the conduit by which water, proteins and immune cells return to the blood via lymph system. The lymph system has a more significant role in the body than we have known. She also noted that stretching reduces inflammation.

Dr Melody Swartz PhD Dr Swartz is the William B. Ogden Professor at the Institute of Molecular Engineering at University of Chicago. She gave a riveting presentation about how the lymphatic system manages cancer, inflammation and expanded on Dr Langevin’s discussion. The lymph system has a role in regulating the environment of the tumor; poor lymph flow may increase chances of developing autoimmunity problems. The lymph system also regulates salt on the skin, and provides tolerance maintenance. She reported that cancer-associated fibroblasts provide a matrix of connective tissue for the tumor environment. Dr Swartz explained a good deal of the body’s self-regulating system in her discussion of the lymph system.

Dr Boris Hinz, PhD Dr Hinz is Professor in the Matrix Dynamics Group at the University of Toronto. He discussed tissue stiffness. He noted that the tumor environment has stiffer stroma and connective tissue; when the cell stiffens, there is an increase in growth factors including stimulation of myofibroblasts.

Dr Patricia Keely, PhD Dr Keely is Professor an Chair, Department of Cell Regenerative Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She told us that the environment of the cell instructs the cell how to behave. If a cell contracts in environment that is stiff, the environment prevents the cell from properly releasing actin and myosin, making the cell stiff. She also noted that when tumor cells metastasize and migrate, they create the environment that best suits them.

Dr Thomas Findley MD, PhD Dr Findley is a Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Rutgers University Medical School, VA New Jersey Health Care System. He closed the day with an elegant discussion of Andrew Taylor Still’s work to remind us of the progress made in 100 years, and to link the pieces presented earlier into a cohesive body. He also showed the massive increase in fascia-related published papers, and encouraged participants to be creative when designing research. Dr Findley left us with optimism, motivation and enthusiasm, a perfect close.

The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, a sponsor, will make available recordings of the day’s proceedings. If you aren’t a member of the Fascia Research Society, the Society for Integrative Oncology or the Society for Acupuncture Research, join one today!


The Long Body with Frank Forencich (LBP 041)

Frank Forencich and I talk about "the long body". A Native American term about how we are massively connected with the biological and social world around us. Put another way- and borrowing from the title of Frank's article about this concept- "habitat is tissue". 

In our conversation we get into questions like:

Where does the human body begin and end? 

Why is our perception of ourselves as isolated units dangerous? 

Why do we have nervous systems?

Are we currently living in an alien environment?

What are some of the features of our culture that make is a "short culture"?

How is technology changing our nervous systems and our relationships? 

How has stress changed since paleo times?




Conversation highlights

  • The long body is a Native American term which refers to the individual body plus the life support systems around it. It is a much bigger conception of the human body than we have in western culture, and considers the body continuous with the larger environment.
  • The perception of our bodies as isolated units is dangerous because  it doesn’t take into consideration that organisms live in context. We co-evolve with our habitats over many millions of years.
  • We think we have nervous systems to regulate our bodies- and we do- however the nervous system has other functions- for humans in particular its purpose is to learn habitat and our social environment too.
  • We have to appreciate how alien our modern environment is to us now. I mention a Love + Radio show I listened to about the first group of people who are competing to colonize Mars (in resources). Frank mentions an article in New Scientist magazine which states that of our (approximately) 78 years of life, we spend on average 70 indoors.
  • Social behavior comes through the body- not just the brain. We rely on our mirror neurons which respond to other people’s movements and attention and allow us to perform a simulation of what they are experiencing in their body. It feeds down into the limbic system, also goes down into abdomen via vagus nerve into the gut. Daniel Siegel discusses this as the resonance circuit [resources].
  • Eliminate nature and authentic face-to-face interactions with people and no wonder we feel so much stress and unhappiness.
  • Stress has changed radically since paleo times- Stresses would have been acute but not chronic.
  • Most of us are facing chronic stress that never really goes away. It’s not adaptive, it’s not normal.  That’s damaging for tissue throughout the body- cardiovascular and nervous system,  it changes our cognition.
  • The notion of time itself has changed. Time was always seen as something circular and flowing, and now we see time as a commodity, we take a linear view. That in itself is a tremendous stressor.
  • Eastern cultures tend to look at things in a more integrated way. In the book Crazy Like Us by Ethan Waters- he looks at the prevalence of mental illness around the world. After the tsunami in Indonesia  Western psychologists went to help out and this was a tremendous culture clash- there was an expectation of PTSD. People had unexpected reactions to talking exclusively about themselves. Instead of talking about themselves with certain symptoms they talked about this web of connection which was disrupted.
  • How can we practice long health- go outside and slow down in habitat. We see a lot of fitness people using nature as a tool. But we can take more of a john muir type experience. We have to slow down to make that happen. We should also pay more attention to face to face contact with other people. Put down the phone.

Home play!

That last piece says it all! Go outside and see if you can think about your environment less as a tool to use, than as an extension of your tissue.


Exuberant Animal

Frank's article: Habitat is Tissue

Frank's Health, Performance, and the Human Predicament event in London coming up June 20-21st in London

Love and Radio's Hostile Planet episode (on the group of people competing to colonize Mars)

Resonance Circuits, Mirror Neurons, and Mindfulness Daniel Siegel

New Scientist Magazine: Kid's Eyes Need the Great Outdoors

Crazy Like Us by Ethan Waters

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! If technology isn’t your thing however you can just tell your favorite body nerds about the show. It keeps the show rolling and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Katy Bowman: Move Your DNA (LBP 020)

Katy Bowman is a biomechanist, the author of the award winning blog, and the founder of Restorative Exercise. Today she talks with us about her most recent book, Move Your DNA. We get into what diseases of mechanotransduction are, the profound ways our environment shapes us, why exercise and movement are not synonymous, how cardio can be harmful in our sedentary times, and how we are animals who have put ourselves in our own cages. Plus much, much more. Oodles more. So much more!




Show notes

Diseases of mechanotransduction: instead of looking at the chemistry precursors to a disease (like a blood lipid profile), it's looking at what are the mechanical issues associated with this disease. The category  diseases of mechanotransduction are any of those diseases known to be influenced by something mechanical.

Loads: If you're carrying 7 bags you are going to be loaded by them. It is a response to this load. You are always being loaded by gravity, but the loads that you experience depend on your position relative to it. Loads are the affect of applied forces. The way you orient your body dictates what load occurs.

There is a big interface between people who are thinking in terms of biotensegrity and Newtonian biomechanics. I think one of the reasons loads can be so hard to understand is that they have been reduced to the applied force- like when knees hurt and people ask how much you weigh- and then determine that is too much weight for your knees. That is a very basic way of looking at loads.

There are other things tha affect the load to the knee like what's on your foot, the position of your foot, and of your knee, and your ankle and your knee to your hip, and your position relative to gravity- so all of those things go into consideration when you consider loads. It's not the weight, it's how you carry it.

It's really impossible to calculate a whole body load because the applied force is experienced differently by all parts of the body. For example: The wind going through the trees. In biomechanics, you're looking at a problem and asking how is the wind affecting these trees, but there is no way to measure how the wind is pushing on every single tree because every tree is experiencing the wind differently. Because that math is overwhelming, we have to reduce it so we call the load the wind and quantify the applied force. It's kind of erroneous to do that because it really doesn't matter, what matters is the adaptation of the tree to the wind.

[I give the example of the Orca in captivity with its floppy fin which Katy uses in the book Move Your DNA] Structures that are not maintained by their environment- we don't see ourselves in the same "tank" as the Orcas in captivity in their tanks.

It's that generalization of quantifying things- like saying an Orca swims in the ocean, so the Orca can swim in a tank, that way the "swimming" box is checked, therefore this [the floppy fin] could not be  disease of mechanotransduction.

You need to break down swimming into something more specific. You can call swimming a macronutrient, but if you look at the micronutrients the questions are: What were the distances covered by whales in the ocean? What are the speeds that are normal for a whale to swim? What about swimming in a circle, is that normal?

Where we are with movement is where we were with nutrition 40 years ago. We say, "Just move more!" if a whale in captivity were to just swim more, it would make the flopped fin worse. Moving more might bring about even more of the forces that brought about the disease of mechanotransduction- in this case the flopped fin. It might make things worse.

At the end of the day swimming more wasn't really the problem. If you walked in a circle everyday, you would notice that your body became shaped to that.

Then you walk fast in that circle, it will highlight those diseases even faster.

When we say we need to move well or differently, often we say [in this example], "Walk in the circle in the other direction." You would offset some of the adaptations with that correction, but it's still treating the symptom.

Corrective exercise is spot-treating these nutrient deficits by creating something novel instead of pulling back and asking what is the actual problem here? What are my actual movement requirements and how can I actually meet those instead of taking the vitamin or pill equivalent?

I just got back from a book signing and people ask what are the programs they can follow, or what is the prescription. And once you are in the prescription-land, you are out of movement-land. The solution would be, in the most general terms, to consider all of the movements you would be doing with your body if you didn't have any of the things you have. You don't have a car, or food in your refrigerator, or cabinets... How would you move? You start to be surrounded by the conveniences but opt not to use them.

For example, when I'm making breakfast for my kids I will opt to make it on the floor. I don't want to reinforce that they need to bring a chair to the counter, and my standing at the counter is a kind of cast- always bringing things up to that level where I don't need to use my knees or hips. Not only are they practicing the movements that are natural to them, but surprise!, I got squats in in my busy workday this morning.

The more you want to find an exercise solution, the more you will struggle with trying to fit it in to your day. Exercise doesn't support the movement paradigm.

There is some junk food exercise out there. [Using the food analogy] so many people survive on junk food or heavily processed food because it can satiate part of your biology. For someone who has no food, it is filled with positives. But the reason it's junk is that with some satiation of this biological signal of hunger, it also comes with a tax.

There's exercise that satiates many of the "you need to move" signals you are getting, but it may not support your health in the long-term. It's costing your body something that you will require in the future.

Exercise is becoming more nuanced. It's always going to be processed food, but you could be eating the equivalent of an organic, minimally process whole food bar. We're moving towards more high quality exercise in the same way that we did with food. People who know how to create something that is synthetic but better meets our needs.

In the next 40 years I expect I fully expect movement to be as nuanced as nutrition is now, and they will understand why a treadmill is really the equivalent to a Snickers.

So many people are out there doing a ton of work and taking time away from their families and crafting their lives around exercise for their better, and then they are getting this list of ailments, so I'm just trying to bring out the biological understanding so that people have a better context for why to fill in the movement deficits.

When you have sedentary populations- which we all are, even the exercisers- when they are still they are assuming one geometrical position. That is the bigger problem. I'm actually ok with people not bumping up their total movement as it relates to moving across the ground, even if you could just be still differently than you are always still, that would be a better nutrient.

If you are always sitting in the same chair, or how you sit in a car, you have this one specific body constellation. The bulk of your life is in this one geometrical position. Your mass distribution of your entire body has adapted to this shape. It becomes easier for you to do.

Then you have lots of kinks in your hoses of your arteries, and they are receiving a repetitive use injury because the blood is flowing in this exact same geometry, there are a lot more bends than there should be. You accumulate this arterial plaque, but it's secondary. You're changing the genetic expression of your lumen cells, the endothelial cells, you're changing some of the genes here because of this repetitive blunt trauma.

Plaque is put down to reinforce the walls. So then you take that structure and you do something highly intense for a short period of time each day and are accelerating blood through it, so you are compounding the problem.

We're trying to balance being sedentary by doing something short but high intensity, and I don't know that it has the payoff that we believe it to have. I think it would be much better for people to address that they can't be sedentary and in the same geometrical position for 98% of their lives. In the end that's what affects your arteries' ability to respond in the way they need to respond. In the same way you can't eat junk food everyday and then exercise to take it off.

Balancing out to zero is a mindset we have, but it's all input. Your body adapts to what you do the most.

I do think the purpose of getting your heart rate up is a skill that every human should have. I don't think that it is the thing we should be spending the bulk of our time training. If you are interested in your cardiovascular health there are many other things you need to do first.

If you look at people like Tim Noakes research on cardiovascular training and function. The notion that people have about needing cardio isn't really an evidence supported thing. It is understood in science, but it does not' trickle down to the health magazine that you read.

Brooke: I mention the Jeremy Morris study which is always presented as thig being the study that proves that cardio is good for us, when really they weren't describing cardio exercise.

There are a lot of conclusions that are extrapolations, and I always encourage people to go back and look at the actual data. Really what the conclusion is is that you should mimic the movements of the ticket conductor, not that you should exercise beyond what was measured.

I was just in a Reuter's piece (in resources) this morning and we were talking about how walking is really a superfood, it contains quite a bit of nutrition. And it's the thing a body would be doing the most of, it would be the most frequent vitamin intake. Then at the end a professor tosses on that it doesn't' maintain your bones as well as running. But that notion comes from a similar extrapolation. They found kids with strong bones and so put an accelerometer on them and noticed they were moving at 4 Gs. So we know that peak bone mass in kids comes at this high G. Then they had woman with osteoporosis wear them and they say they only got to 1 G. Then they had college students do a bunch of exercises to see what would get them up to 4 G, and running did. So then they just say, running gives you strong bones. That is not the scientific process. That is just everyone's need to be told what to do.

And the answer is we don't know what to do. We don't know how to take a whale in captivity, what kind of exercise program could you give it to have it be the same robust function as if it were in the wild? But the biologically plausible prescription we can give is to do the things you would have been doing in the wild. That's where it's at.

There is load science stuff that comes from physical therapy, we know that the position of your foot and the angle of your knee and the way you walk create load profiles that are likely to tear your ACL, and that's where therapy and correctives come from. We can know what exercises can balance out and distribute the loads well, those are great places to start. But if you're still swimming around your tank, your correctives aren't really enough to get you out of the diseases of your tank.

We only have limited energy, so I like to focus on the problem instead of treating the symptom.

Brooke: Would it be fair to say that our bodies are hunter-gatherer bodies that are undernourished by leading these lives of convenience?

Remember you are an animal walking around in a zoo. Reflexively your body is always trying to conserve energy. The decision to shuck convenience has to be a choice. You are going to have to choose to get out of your couch and sit on the floor. You're not really in a cage, you've put yourself in- there's no lock, it's habit. You can go outside whenever you want.

Movement is way easier to get in your life than exercise. Exercise takes time away from your family living. It takes a drive, a shower, a special outfit, equipment. It's not as easy as. "I'm making breakfast anyway, I can make it on the floor? I'm walking on this path anyway, why don't I just walk on the grass just 6 inches to the left? I'm going to the bathroom anyway, why not put my feet up on this squat platform?"

Because movement is not exercise, you have the potential to move all day long. I have no more time, I'm doing this podcast now so I could be sitting in front of my computer, or I could be standing and doing a calf stretch, and squatting a bit. Once you start thinking that way you can really move all day long even if you can't go anywhere.

Me: I think it's been diminished as valuable in our culture.

We've lost the understanding of the word movement. We are a non-moving culture. If you grew up in captivity, [for example] if we ask the Orca to figure out that it is in captivity, you are asking it to understand a concept of which it has no knowledge. We've never seen a person who didn't exercise.

The real difference between exercise and movement would be anytime you are doing movement for the purpose of reaping a health benefit, that's exercise. While movement is something that happens while you are getting something else accomplished.

You'll never have enough time to get all the necessary loads in your body if you are only exercising. In order to fit the time constraint you have to accomplish your life while you are moving. Movement has to be a part of accomplishing your life. I go for a walk every day and I need to accomplish something in my work or my regular life. I try to give my brain a reason for going out and doing some sort of movement that is about accomplishing something else that needs to get done.

Brooke: My son's school is about 6 miles from my house and we could walk it and he would get 6 miles in before school, and I would get 12 miles in, but these are the things we don't' think of when we've grown up in captivity.

I have a friend who did this and she didn't have time to do the full walk, so she drove to where they were 2 miles away. Then her sons had has a very nutritious movement breakfast before they went to where we all learn how to be still. She got the time with them and in a different context, and she also got a 2 mile walk to herself walking back, and she got them to school.

Brooke: What are you playing with in your own practice?

A lot of upper body hanging and playing is new and challenging for me.

Playing with surfaces is probably where my brain is as well as my own body. Looking at the difference between a set of monkey bars, which would never occur in nature, and then looking at trees. Not just their angles, but also the textures of the bark. All the things you would touch would not have been smooth, they would bite into your skin and require that your skin strengthen.

Our skin is a big limitation to our health. The muscles of the entire body has to pass through either the hand or the feet if you're doing something with body weight, and yet the skin has never been exposed to anything natural. Even if you are barefoot the nutrient you consume the most is a flat man-made surface.

I'm observing how everything is flat and smooth in my whole life. Nothing has asked the skin to the party. Nothing has asked the skin to participate in your body's way of moving. Walking on different surfaces just for the sake of the skin. Playing with grip, diameter, and how that changes muscle recruitment.

Our idea of cross-trainig is so small. We think about adding 2 or 3 things- how about adding trillions? The habitat we're in is really not conducive to health.

Home play!

Let's do as Katy suggests and imagine our lives stripped of all its conveniences. Where would you sit? Stand? Prepare and eat your food? ow would you get from point A to point B? See what new potentials for movement are revealed when you look at your life through this new lens.


The book: Move Your DNA

Restorative Exercise

Katy's blog, Katy Says

Timothy Noakes

Jeremy Morris

Katy in Reuters: Walking is the Superfood of Fitness

If you liked this episode

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Erwan LeCorre: Evolutionary Fitness

Esther Gokhale: Primal Posture

Darryl Edwards: Primal Play