Liberated Body Podcast season one

My 20 Favorite Moments from Season One (Part 2)

56237885_1824693367_zMore! More! So many more jewels! I won’t bore you with an intro- you get the idea. I am sharing my favorite 20 moments from season one- courtesy of these gorgeous people who shared their wisdom with all of us. Part one of that post (with 1 through 10) is here. Other learnings from season one are here. And... 11 through 20 is…. Here! 11. Dissociation, or a limited/confused body map, is often the root cause of pain. Steve Haines: “The sense of being outside of our body is a common theme actually... people don’t know that there is this much richer experience of the body. It’s really not a given. People with pain commonly have more of this kind of dissociation. Dissociation comes first likely due to the responses to being overwhelmed..Dissociation is a last ditch survival strategy, and often the root cause of more pain.

Your brain is expecting you to have a body, so if we’re beginning to cut ourselves off from that, if we’re flooding bits of the spinal cord with endorphins to limit the incoming signals, then you’ve got a big absence. And the absence of something when your brain is expecting it to be there is a threat. It may be that we fill that absence with pain to say, ‘Do something about this.’”

12. “We are an under-grieved society” Oof. When Judith Hanson Lasater said this to me it just pierced right through me. Cleary it’s because I had stuff to grieve, but it’s also because on a larger society-wide scale she’s right. Perhaps it pierced through you too? : “We all experience loss in tiny ways every day. When people have a loss in their lives we try to fix that and say, ‘Don’t be sad. Here take this drug, or let’s go for a run…’ depression follows from that. Depression is anger without enthusiasm. Depression is not feeling sad. People who can feel sadness are deeply alive, because it’s an intense feeling that balances joy.

There is something spiritually profound about being still and watching your mind. Most of our unhappiness is not created by what happens to us but by what we tell ourselves about it. With Restorative Yoga you create a space to watch the rising and falling of thoughts. And then the most important thing we can do can happen- we can dis-identify with our thoughts, ‘I am having a thought of anger, a thought of sadness, but it’s not who I am.’”

13. Redesigning your life to be less convenient can have huge benefits. Valerie Berg, in talking about structural aging and the shoulder pain and immobility that can result from not raising your arms above our heads mentioned, “Years ago I had my kitchen redone and I had them make the cabinets really high, so every day I have to reach really high to get bowls and things.” I love that! We should start a design movement around objects that make life less convenient and therefore make us move more... who’s with me? (P.S. I know Valerie in the real world- not super well but we’ve been in the same place at the same time together- and she is one of the most sparkly personalities. It’s like she’s always got some secret she is delighted by, or some fun-loving prank she might pull at any moment. So to picture her telling a kitchen designer/contractor that she wanted to make it hard for her to reach her things in the cabinets just gave me a special kind of giggle and satisfaction.)

14. Oh fascia. Why won’t anyone give you the cred you deserve? Fortunately for us people like Thomas Myers are on the case. And he’s spreading the concept of fascia as the 3rd big auto-regulatory system: “So I’ve put forth this idea that the fascia is the 3rd big auto-regulatory system. The nervous system is an amazing auto-regulatory system, and circulatory system ever since the 1600′s has been seen as just that- we add in the lymph and the cerebrospinal fluid and we have an idea of how the fluids work in the body.

After 500 years of anatomy we still don’t have this image of the fascia as a whole system. Every time I go to Equinox in NY I see someone on a foam rolling out their iliotibial band. It’s really of limited value, and it’s really quite painful, and if someone could see this as a part of this larger system they might not do it- but the predominating vision in a lot of people’s minds is that we think of ourselves as put together like a Ford or a Dell computer. We live in an industrial society, and so we think of ourselves in these terms. But it’s a really inadequate view.

15. Let’s examine the openness bias, shall we? Matthew Remski: “The openness bias- of flexibility as the goal- is harmful not only to those who are hypermobile, but also to those who are less mobile as well. The studio culture often tells us that more open is more virtuous. Those who identify as “bendy types” were praised for going deep into poses which weren’t really hard for them. And as they were being asked to demonstrate and practicing they were injuring themselves. Women within the hypermobile category are showing the highest rate of lumbar spine injuries.

The other thing about the openness bias is that there is this unspoken connection between joint mobility and emotional openness. Looking at back-bends: when called heart-opening, it suggests that a particular thoracic movement will have a particular emotional effect. Openness in the joints is often associated with an ability to be placid and accepting. First, are these virtues we actually want? And second, is that actually true? I don’t have statistics, but I’ve met plenty of bendy people who are as emotionally closed as anybody else I know.

16. What the hell is stretching anyway!? Jules Mitchell totally blew my mind when the work she did for her Master’s Thesis confirmed what I had been experiencing my whole life: “The concept of stretching in itself, at least in the yoga community, this idea that if you stretch more and stretch harder that it will get longer and you will increase your range and you will get more flexible has very little truth to it. In reality that’s just damaging it [the tissue]. If you hold a rubber band and stretch it, then you release that- you release the load- it goes back to its original shape.

Lack of range of motion is not realty about lengthening. It’s much more an issue of tolerance. It’ s a use it or lose it thing. If you never work in that range of motion your body doesn’t understand it and doesn’t want to go there.

So your nervous system limits your range of motion. That argument is the hardest one to come to terms with- that for the most part range of motion is an issue of tolerance and not mechanical length. “Tolerance” means can they go there? When they hit the end of their range, that’s their nervous system limiting their range. If they were under anesthesia, they would have a full range of motion.”

17. Compression doesn’t just make your back feel cranky. Eric Goodman: “The modern body is super compressed- we are losing the war against gravity terribly. What about the digestive issues, the depression, the mood issues- these are just other forms of compression.”

18. The wolf and the Chihuahua. I asked Erwan LeCorre, “What are zoo humans?” And he responded, “It is a metaphor. Some people are insulted by it- a different metaphor would be that we’re farm animals, or domesticated animals. We’re a little bit like pets. All dog species come from the wolf, which means the Chihuahua and the wolf are related. The Chihuahua would die within hours or days in a wild environment. We are fabricating a form of a “human breed”. We are to our ancestors what the Chihuahua is to a wolf. It’s not about giving people a hard time- but it’s an observation that most people have become alien to the body and are in a state of physical neglect.”

19. A return to head carrying? Esther Gokhale, “Head carrying is something we are not doing at all in our culture. We are really missing out from not doing this. If you have to carry on your head it keeps the rest of your spine honest. You get immediate feedback and you have to straighten out. Putting a small weight on the head is the best way to line things up. It is a very primal experience. All the stabilizers in your neck and spine say, “We know this!” and gear into action. “

20. Can you re-visit your infancy to get super strong as an adult? Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert of Original Strength enlightened us about the bridge between movement and brain development, and how we’re actually regressing our brain development in our under-moving culture. Tim and Geoff developed their work by looking at information that had been previously been applied in the areas of learning disabilities, brain development, and brain rehabilitation.

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As always, I am hugely grateful to all the smarties who have shared their work and passion with all of us. Thank you. This is the end of my indulging in nostalgia for season one (well in print anyway), and season 2 will arrive on (Liberated) Tuesday, April 21st. Yes! For reals! More nuggets of wisdom!

Additionally, April is a challenge- aka movement cleanse- month for us, so if you have been curious to try out the Liberated Body 30-Day Challenge, there just isn’t a better season (in my opinion) to dive in than glorious springtime. And if you have been a challenger in the past, you’re still in and can rejoin the group for fun kinesthetic exploring again. If you have no idea what I’m talking avbout of course, you can visit the challenge page to read up on all the details. Doors open this Saturday the 28th. Let’s play this April!

image by Leo Reynolds

How Season One Changed Me

5117504656_60c48148e4_zI sat down to write a post of the things that most impacted me from season 1 of the Liberated Body Podcast, and as I started writing I realized that in 36 weekly episodes of talking with some brilliant, real-deal body nerd thought leaders my mind has exploded. I’ve actually been changed by this process. Not only do I see the body really differently than when I started, but it has translated into seeing the world differently too. Suffice it to say, as I kept typing and typing it occurred to me- by the time I hit page 10- that this was (at least) a two-parter. So for this post I’ll tell you the 2 most important broad concepts that have rocked my world, and in the next installment I’ll get into my favorite moments from different episodes that made me think, “Whaaaaaat?! Wow!” It might need 3 installments, we’ll see... In the meantime:

Big concept #1: There are whole universes (yes plural) in there.

I went into making the podcast knowing I still had oodles to learn, but also feeling like I was pretty well educated about the human body. What I discovered is that I will spend my whole life learning about the body and I will never be able to fully, or even partly, know it.

Have you seen the update of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos that came out recently? If you want an expansive experience do yourself a favor and watch the first episode. This episode takes us from our planet, to the other planets in our solar system, to where we lie within the Milky Way Galaxy, to the galaxies next door- we are one of thousands within the Virgo Supercluster, and each galaxy contains billions of suns and countless worlds- and this forms only a tiny part of our observable universe. Not to mention that there is a limit to how far we can see in space-time- there is so much we can’t even glimpse. In the words of Neil deGrasse Tyson (the new narrator of the series), “Many suspect that our observable universe is a tiny bubble in an ocean of multiple universes.” Phew. It feels pretty vast. And that’s how I feel the more I get to know the body.

If the deep space to inner space analogy seems far-fetched, take a look at this video that animates the inner life of a cell. [Created by XVIVO in partnership with Harvard. If the "big word" fast-paced narration and music bugs you just mute it and trip out on the visuals]

Look at the whole organized metropolis going on in one cell! Now remember we have about 70 trillion of them within each of our bodies. Yeesh.

I am not going to “figure out” the body ever, but I plan to enjoy whatever time I’ve got in this lifetime peering into its multitude of universes, and glimpsing, if I’m lucky, some of the many lessons each one has to teach us about our humanity.

Big concept #2: We are living during a crisis of embodiment.

I started the Liberated Body site (originally Fascia Freedom Fighters- big shout out to all of you who have been with me from the beginning- thank you!) with the hopes that it could be a resource for helping people out of pain and mobility issues. I believed at the time that we were living through an epidemic of chronic pain (we are) and I wanted to do what I could to build a bridge for people to all the fantastic resources available in the manual and movement therapy fields. This was with the intent of helping people to get out of pain and to have a body that does what they want it to do. Ok, head exploding, so much to say about all this:

First, yes we are living through an epidemic of chronic pain, but I’ve come to realize it is but one wee, tiny symptom of a much larger problem- the epidemic of disembodiment. Being out of our bodies, or thinking of them only as tools to do what our mind decides it wants from them, costs us even more than the pain does. Ultimately, at its worst, it costs us our humanity. Check out this sweet definition of the word to see what I mean, “Disembodiment: lacking substance, solidity, or any firm relation to reality.”

In this culture where the thinking mind is primary (by a long shot), we have reduced our body as the tool that determines whether we are healthy or unhealthy in the physical sense. If you get more frequent natural movement for example, you aren’t as likely to wind up being a good candidate for a total knee replacement. This is true and good- who wants a knee replacement after all- but being embodied has even bigger implications than just being more healthy vs. less healthy.

In the words of Reggie Ray in his excellent book Touching Enlightenment: Finding Realization in the Body:

“For us to recover our original or primary body as our own involves experiencing the totality of oneself, without judgment. Living with a directness that is not filtered or distorted by the thinking mind; rediscovering ourselves within the network of relations with others; coming to awareness again of the primordality of the natural world as a subject… Recovering our basic, inborn body has then profound implications for healing the self, mending our broken relationships, restoring a healthy relationship to our world, and healing the planet.”

In other words: get in your body and you can evolve. This includes but expands far beyond feeling good in your physical body (though certainly feeling good in your physical self is big time good stuff…).

Approaching the body from an expectation for it to feel good all the time so that it can do what we want it to do also sets up an interesting dynamic. I believe the body communicates with us via pain or dysfunction when it’s trying to get our attention about any number of things. (*It is important to note that it also communicates with us via pleasure and delight.)

My own significant pain and dysfunction, which came to a head in my early 20’s, forced me to face a lot of things. At its most simple: that I had a body, that it had been suffering, that I had frozen up in a number of ways to ignore that suffering, and now I had to deal with all that crap. And dealing with all that crap (and continuing to now that I know how to have a relationship with my body) well, it actually opened up an awful lot of space for an entirely more nourishing life. Like, light years more nourishing.

Said another way, to take the perspective that we just plain want pain or dysfunction to go away and stay away is kind of like undertaking therapy or meditation with the goal of never feeling an emotion again. I’m not saying to suck it up and suffer. I’m saying that a simple shift in perspective might make the whole body thing more bearable. Perhaps it is not a faulty machine that needs to be fixed so it can do our bidding. Perhaps it is our ally and the universes contained within it (see point 1), have some pretty interesting things to say once they get our attention. Having a two-way conversation with our somatic self, instead of cursing it like it’s a busted car, can set off an unfolding process where we can heal, certainly, but you can also gain quite a bit of insight in the process.

No matter how much therapy or meditation you do you will always have a shifting landscape of emotions based on your life and your approach to that life. Likewise, no matter how much thoughtful manual and movement therapy work you do, your body will go through its ups and downs.

The intricacies of the body will continue to reveal themselves to you throughout your lifetime. If you are able to acknowledge and work with these ups and downs it becomes a conversation or a kind of dance (much like working with difficult emotions); Whereas if you are unable to acknowledge and work with the information from your body, that is when more intractable problems and suffering take place (again, much like working with difficult emotions).

If I didn’t suffer from verbosity I would have just said this: perfection isn’t the goal because it’s not even an option. Having a relationship with your body is the goal. It’s what’s on the menu if you choose it.  And it’s tasty; The perks of embodiment are vast.

I also learned, oh, about a million other new things thanks to the wonderful people who agreed to talk with me. I’ll get into those in the next post, so stay tuned.

P.S. If you are racing to keep up with some part of your life (even if you love that part)- say getting your kids to their activities, finishing a seemingly endless work project, getting to your workouts, or what have you- try just simply stopping it for a while.

Sounds terrifying right? Then I give to you a delightful word that my dear friend Vanessa Scotto gifted to me: sabbatical. As in taking a temporary break or change from your normal routine. It’s not permanent- so no need to panic- just let it breathe for a while.

If  there is some part of your life that feels like you are trapped on a treadmill on its highest setting- and some part of your brain has been convinced that simply getting off the treadmill would mean life as we know it would likely cease to exist- stop. See what happens when you open up some space around it.

For me personally making the podcast is one of the most exciting and nourishing things I’ve ever done in my career. Yet, at some point, it felt like I was just tossing content over the fence to keep up with the treadmill I had created for myself. Taking this time off before season 2 has allowed me to integrate all the delicious deep learning I did in those 36 episodes. And that has been really nourishing and totally invaluable.

P.P.S. I am working on season 2 at this point and I’m really excited about it!! Thus far it’s looking like the podcast will return at some point in the month of April. However I’m navigating uncharted editing waters, so I’ll keep you posted as I follow my learning curve.

*Image: The Universe is in Us by Tahar Abroudlameur