Physical Disempowerment of Infants and Children with Kathleen Porter (LBP 042)

Kathleen Porter of Natural Posture Solutions and I had a chance to talk about the many developmental issues facing children that are new since the 1970's (with an even bigger wave of change hitting in the 90's). How have our "advances" physically disempowered infants and children and what long terms costs does that have? How might the current epidemics related to poorly functioning nervous systems be linked to or influenced by this? And, importantly, how might we be sending the message that what is "out there" is more important than what is "in here"?




Conversation highlights

  • Kathleen talks about some background on Natural Posture Solutions, and how she became concerned about how American children were developing.
  • Why do we assume that children in developing nations who carry siblings on their backs or who do physical work like head carrying are suffering? We have an auto assumption that physical work is a strain.
  • Children in these cultures have fewer cases of developmental disabilities and neurological disorders.
  • We have lost our connection to ground reaction force and therefore we experience physical work as a strain- we are hauling ourselves around.
  • Neurobiologist Richard Sperry says that 90% of the nutrition to the brain is driven by the movement of the spine.
  • The new focus on the intrinsic or enteric nervous system- there are millions of sensory and motor neurons in our gut and it is vitally important to engage the core. Not with contrived exercises, but if you inhabit your body in a natural way the core takes care of itself and the spine is supported.
  • By the time toddlers are upright and walking they have all the core strength they will need in their lifetime.
  • The current disruptions of our nervous systems in contemporary culture.
  • Beginning in about the 1970's we started putting children in all these devices- molded plastic carriers, swings to lull them to sleep, carriers, etc.
  • In the 1990's the Back to Sleep campaign which was designed to prevent SIDS came along and created a perfect storm.
  • With this parents have become convinced that putting children on their tummies at all is a dangerous thing to do. They have then lost the belly to earth connection and there has been a 600% increase in Plagiocephaly. Also things like Torticollis and vision problems which were rare in children are now more frequent.
  • This loss of engaging with the Earth with the belly down has huge implications.
  • Kathleen gives a little home play exercise where you can see what gets worked when you try it out for yourself.
  • Instead we focus on dangling all these bright colors and shapes in front of them in the hopes of giving them a cognitive head start, are we giving infants the message that what is out there is more important than what is in here?
  • Kathleen tells a story of working with a child who "could sit up but not roll over or move". This perplexed her since rolling over comes first- it's how the infant gets into seated position. What she found is that the parents had been placing the child in a sitting position- and the child didn't know how to get into or out of it. It has become common for pediatricians to do this to encourage slow development along.
  • How we teach infants to sit on a "sad dog" pelvis.
  • Head lag as an early predictor for autism. 90% of children diagnosed with autism later on had head lag at 4 to 6 months.
  • Putting babies on their backs all the time has disrupted their development of the core. While one certainly can't say that this is the cause of autism, the lack of core tone should be looked at more globally to see what role it plays in spectrum disorders.
  • Some of the promising therapies for autism are things like Hippotherapy which reverse the collapsed spine and the posterior pelvis.
  • We don't just have bodies. We are bodies.

Home play!

Somewhere around about minute 25 or 26 (or 27? precision was never really my thing...) Kathleen gives a great home play. She suggests getting a pillow to prop under the belly and lying belly to floor like an infant. See how even the small movements create so much dynamic work in the core and the spine!


Natural Posture Solutions

Happy Dog, Sad Dog: How Poor Posture Affects Your Child's Health by Kathleen Porter

Natural Posture for Pain-Free Living by Kathleen Porter

Richard Sperry neurobiologist

Head lag in infants at risk for autism: a preliminary study, The American Journal of Occupational Therapy

The "back to sleep" campaign and deformational plagiocephaly, The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Esther Gokhale: Primal Posture 

Katy Bowman: Move Your DNA

Judith Aston: Our Relationship to Our Bodies and Their Relationship to the World

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!

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!

Natural Born Heroes with Christopher McDougall (LBP 039)

Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, joined me for a conversation about his latest book, Natural Born Heroes. We talk about this remarkable story of a band of resistance fighters on Crete during World War II, how they contributed to toppling the Nazi occupation there, and the amazing local Cretans who taught them about their tradition of the hero. 

Christopher doesn't stop at these remarkable people however, he asks what makes a hero and how can we all be heroes? 

The book dives into some of my favorite body nerd subjects; We talk fascia, Parkour, natural movement/MovNat, low heart rate training, burning fat for fuel, and how we can all rise to the occasion by studying the way of the hero. 




Conversation highlights

  • How the bizarre story of a group of freedom fighters who wanted to kidnap a Nazi general led Chris to the question, "What makes a hero?"
  • Crete as the birthplace of the hero: they didn't believe heroes were superhuman at all- they wanted the million (rather than the one) to be the hero.
  • The ancient Greek definition of compassion.
  • Chris got interested in fascia (and studied with Tom Myers and Robert Schleip) when he realized that all the best trainers were interested in fascia and its elastic recoil properties.
  • How important Chris thinks Parkour is and why he even describes it as crucial medicine in this day and age.
  • Natural movement has to be universal- it does not discriminate between the sexes.
  • How the difficulty with monetizing things like natural movement or Parkour is the reason we keep forgetting and remembering it every 50 years or so.
  • How Barefoot Ted introduced him to Erwan LeCorre of MovNat.
  • University of Michigan Study "Your Brain in the Woods vs. Your Brain on Asphalt" and its findings
  • Erwan LeCorre's insight as to why staring at a screen makes us so tense and anxious.
  • Low heart rate training and burning fat for fuel- how did a bunch of amateurs behind enemy lines accomplishing intense endurance athletic feats- with very little food- manage to fuel themselves?
  • All effective things are simple and easy to follow.
  • What's stayed with him in his personal practice.

Home play!

Chris says that if he could boil down the book to two words they would be, "Be useful." This week let's embrace our inner hero by just noticing how in our daily interactions we can be most useful.


Natural Born Heroes

Christopher McDougall's website

The Heroes Tour aka "The Hero Cabaret" (see if it's going to be near you!)

Parkour- Shirley Darlington Chris's first coach

Erwan LeCorre and MovNat

Low heart rate training and burning fat for fuel- Phil Maffetone

University of Michigan study

If you liked this episode, you might also like

Erwan LeCorre Evolutionary Fitness

Steve Gangemi Raising the Bar for What "Healthy" Actually Means

Darryl Edwards Primal Play

If you’re inspired to leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher I would be oh so grateful! It helps more body nerds to find their way to the show and connects us more as a community. Body nerds unite!

Judith Aston: Our Relationship to Our Bodies and Their Relationship to the World (LBP 034)

I talk to somatic pioneer Judith Aston about the Aston Kinetics paradigm and how it integrates seamlessly with other paradigms like yoga, Pilates, and personal training. We discuss how seeing the body is taught in those disciplines and what seeing the body even means, our bodies not just as self-contained units but also about their interactions with the physical world, thoughts on the impact of product design on our bodies, what the early days of co-creating with Dr. Rolf and other pioneers was like, and the meaning behind her quote, “sometimes we just need help interpreting ourselves.”




Show notes

Brooke: You have been in the movement field for a long time- You're really one of the true pioneers  of the field, so you have a huge breadth of work. Maybe we can start with you telling listeners in your own words what Aston Kinetics is and what you do?

Judith: The general description of Aston Kinetics is a system of movement, body work, fitness and ergonomics. We train people in these forms. Now, this sounds like most systems out there so it's always challenging these days to communicate the differences between different ideas applied to body work, movement, fitness and ergonomics. Basically, it's an educational system about a certain perspective of the body in relationship to itself to the planet and to other people and tasks.

There are concepts that are inherent in the work that we teach people, and really if people learn just even one of these concepts and they apply it to their body use during the day, they can have dramatic differences in the way they feel.

Brooke: It's wonderful that you make it so tangible, you make it so connected to people's day to day movement lives.

Judith: It has to be because people think so often that it's going to the gym for that hour or it's doing the meditation for that hour and those are so helpful but there's a way to meditate throughout the day in the body. There's a way to juice the body up so to speak by the way we move whether we're just reaching for our coffee or we're reaching for the phone or what have you. Suddenly the person has this flow in their body that's really moving the fluids around.

Just to add one more sentence, what I say to people- and this doesn't matter whether it's a class for the public, whether it's a class for elders in their 80's, whether it's professionals- when they learn some of these very basic concepts I say this is a way you can massage your body all day long.

Brooke: I love that. That's perfect. It's really empowering too because instead of people feeling like they have to always be putting their body in other people's hands knowing that they can do that from the inside out on their own.

Judith: The beauty of putting it into your own hands so to speak is that you improve on your own and when you go to see the person who coaches you or gives you body work or helps you with your life coaching you're usually in a more evolved place. You've moved forward so that you're not working on the same stuff because you're keeping the body alive and therefore it doesn't get so attached to the past.

Brooke: I know you teach and communicate with people based on something you call the Aston Paradigm. Can we dive into that a little?

Judith: That's correct. Paradigm is a pattern, a system, a belief and everyone has at least one somewhere. A thousand, depending in terms of their religious belief, in terms of their diet, in terms of their ... I always say to our students please learn to be respectful to people's paradigms because you don't want to impose and say, "You should do this. You have to do this. This is correct and what you're doing is wrong." We don't say that. The piece there is that when you're facilitating you want to evoke the person's ability to communicate.

"Actually, I wouldn't want to be too relaxed because that would imply I'm a loose woman." I had one of my debutantes say to me from the south, she said, "My mother said that when I move like this I'm a loose woman." She said, "But when I move how am I supposed to, my back hurts."

The paradigm: Getting to that- I'm going to tell you the little story the last time my friend drove me to the Kona airport. We hit the first speed bump and he said, "I hate these speed bumps." I said, "Me too." I said, "You know? If you break right before you hit the bump and then you release quickly it puts the weight on the back wheels and  you'll just glide over that speed bump." He stopped enough to turn to me and look at me like, "Who are you? What are you thinking?"

I said, "Try it on the next one." He did and he goes, "That's amazing. Why would you even focus on that?" I said, "It's interesting because my whole life even as a child I've been very aware that I didn't want to do things that hurt me or jolted the body or pushed the body in a ways it didn't need to be." I have to say that that particular way of thinking and problem solving is what allowed me to come up with a paradigm that has these principles that are applied to movement.

As I said all forms of movement- whether it's body work, fitness, sitting, products, the way we are in our body, in relationship to the planet and the sky and to each other. It is definitely a perspective of how the body can move and be on this planet.

Brooke: You have a very non-dogmatic approach obviously and so you don't just work with teachers of your method per se. You've done a lot of training with specific groups like pilates teachers, yoga teachers, personal trainers. When you work with professionals across all these different disciplines are there any themes you're seeing? Whether it's specific to one group like say pilates teachers or just generally about how they are working with the body or things you've picked up on there?

Judith: Yes, this is a very nice segway you just made because again the person who's teaching yoga is teaching a paradigm of either the lineage of that yoga form or there's specific teachers interpretation of that lineage and the paradigm to their students. The first time I did Aston for yoga, I do Aston for yoga, Aston for pilates, Aston for personal training because I add this paradigm to their particular focus and people tell me it just changes and makes everything so much more negotiable.

The first time I did this I started by asking someone to do one asana and someone started and this person said, "Excuse me. I've been doing Iyengar for 35 years and I would never do it like that. I'd never teach it like that."

Okay, we got a room full of everyone from a different form so I talked to my husband and I said, "I don't know whether we'll make it through tomorrow but let's see how this goes." People were pretty attached until we got to this general paradigm of the work that we teach and they could see I could use that this way. The other person said, "That's really helpful if I have the person sequenced the way they get in to that spinal twist differently."

Then they started working with each other and problem solving and oh my goodness it was such ecstatic experience by the end. I love that because these ideas I think the oldest person I've worked with is 96 in all the movement and fitness trainings that I do. She was in an elders group and just watching her have trouble beginning out with her oxygen attachment from the chair to the walker and to stand up out of a chair.

By the time we finished, I think it was the fourth week of the classes, on the last day she pop out of that chair and didn't use the walker and everybody yelled and screamed and applauded. One of these things where it's just so reaffirming and satisfying to be able to help people help themselves so much.

It doesn't matter whether it's a yoga or the pilates. Meaning most therapies, most educational systems are easier to pass along to larger groups and larger numbers of people and students. When they have protocols, recipes and the rules it's easier. You do it or you don't. It's right or it's wrong. You understand that a lot of us had been taught in that way.

I mean I'm sure I pretended to be a great student but the point is I always had these questions and when Dr. Rolf asked me to create the first movement program in 1968 that's what happened. I started and as soon as I got this form based around her work it became outward and visible. I'd say, "Oh," that's a little too effortful. I wonder if we change... and that's how this went.

I love giving the principles of this work to it doesn't matter whether people teach kayaking or stand up paddling, the balance of the body on the board will change when you know how to optimize your neutral.

Brooke:  Another thing that I feel like maybe doesn't get passed down in all these disciplines in a more nuanced way is the concept of really seeing a body- or sometimes a really two dimensional model of seeing can be taught in certain fields. Can you speak to that a little bit? What seeing means for bodies?

Judith: Yes, it's a rather linear approach and it's actually again very easy to use a grid and say, "Your left shoulder is low, your right shoulder is high and that's wrong," and so on and so forth. What was interesting for me is how I came upon the seeing ability. Evidently I had the seeing ability. I can remember at age five being aware that, this is in many articles but I'll just say it briefly that when I would be home and my mother would be somewhere else running an errand or what have you.

I would be with an aunt in the back room but somebody come to the door and want to hand me something for my mother and she would leave and my mother would come home and she'd say, "What's this?" I'd say, "A lady brought that by." She'd say, "What lady brought this by?" I'd say, "I don't know her name but she walked like this."

Brooke: That's great.

Judith: That's Mrs. Brown. Yes, that's Mrs. Brown. I had this ability to watch people and imitate and meme and I use that all through my trainings and my school and my teaching and so on. When I got to the college I was hired by a college to come- and I'm still going to UCLA- but I was hired in 1963 to create movement programs for the athletic department, music department, theater department, community and to create a dance department. That was my task. One of the things in the theater department class was I realized that unless the students who were between 18 and 20 mainly knew their own body first.

They could see it and they could see their fellow actor's body. They really didn't know how to portray someone who was 60 or someone who was limited or someone who was a character in a Shakespearean play. When I got to Dr. Rolf I was injured in a couple of accidents and I went to big search, sit on her doorstep until she had a cancellation to see me. She somehow had done her research on me, in the first session she said, "I understand you design movement programs for people. Could you do that for my work?" I said, "Sure."

Anyway, when I got into auditing the class, Dr. Rolf had a way, a talent, a skill, a brilliance that she could look into a body and see the musculature and the fascia in her mind. I didn't have that ability but I could see position. I would be in the back of the room being silent of course because the auditors are to be silent and the practitioners would be put on the spot. "Okay, okay, what do you see up there?" They go, "I don't know." "What's the matter with you, man? Can't you see that the shoulder is tied on the left?"

I'd be in the back of the room and whoever was standing next to me would say, "What do you see, Judith?" I'd say, "The pelvis is closer to the ground. It's low on the left. The shoulder is high on the left." They walk up to the front they'd say, "I see the pelvis is low on the ... High on the left in the shoulder." She'd say, "Very good. Now, what makes it that way?" So on and so forth. Pretty soon they were coming to me asking for this information so Dr. Rolf said, "You could teach this class."

I said, "Okay. I'll create this class also." We made a combined class of teaching people to see. Now, one of the things is when you have a grid it's very, very easy. It's not three dimensional but it's very easy to see the translations in the body, shifts in the body. The sheers in the body et cetera et cetera. I began to see that yes you can see that the left side is low on the shoulder and high on the right. When I started training the Rolfers in this technique of seeing the body and problem solving I'd say, "Where would you start?"

They said, "It's obvious that the right shoulder has to come down." I said, "How do you know that?" They say, "It's too high." I said, "What if the left side is pushing it up?" They go, "Don't mess with me. Don't mess with me. I see ... " I say, "Okay, those left side could be held short." They'd say, "Okay, I can see that." I'd say, "If so, you'd want to start on the left side." They go, "Aha." I say, "Or the left side could have such low tone that it's hypo tonic in its tissue and therefore you need to do toning first."

Then, they just throw out their hands and go, "This is ridiculous." Because we weren't doing movement, we weren't doing fitness, we weren't doing toning but the point is that I got to that place of being able to show them the need to really be able to see. Then, I found out that you can have excellent alignment along the plumb line that Dr. Rolf used or the medical model used from the ear to the ankle, the malleolus lateral malleolus. You could look at this body and they'd be in perfect alignment and I'd look at them. I'd say, "But their chest is compressed or their back is inflated." I realized it was about the shape of the body. I started adding dimension as the second piece that you've got to look at the relationship between the aspects of the dimension of the segments in relationship to the alignment. Then, from there it was like, okay that's still not good enough. It's got to be the internal volume because you can have those right shoulder high and you can have the left shoulder low.

You can have the chest, the ribs compressed on the right side and inflated on the left. You want to really be able to look through from the right side through to the left from the front through to the back and all the way through all the body segments so that you begin to see that that right shoulder being high and the left side low really fits all the way down to the foundation of the left ankle and the internal rotation of the tibia. Then, now you get to see the relationship of the pattern and that was the Aston Patterning part of the movement work that I created.

Brooke: I remember when I was at the Rolf Institute, one of my teachers saying to me that one of the greatest gifts that we give people with this work is just allowing people to be truly seen. That that doesn't happen that much and I still feel like that's one of the greatest gifts I give people. I don't see them perfectly- I don't have Dr. Rolf's gift- but just that I take the time or all of us in this fields, we take the time to slow down and really look and really try and see that person in front of us. I think this is a big deal.

Judith: In helping people learn to see themselves as they are and to see themselves how they could reclaim rather than see themselves as they are where they are apologizing to us when they walk in and say things like, "I bet you can see that I slump. I mean, I know I slump. Everybody tells me I slump."

Really, the piece that I added immediately when those moments happened was I taught people how to teach people to say, "You know, I see what you're saying about your chest being a little bit lower in front than in back. I'm wondering why your body has to do that pattern. Let's figure that out together." Because if we can figure out what's going on that causes it to do that it can change.

Brooke: We're so shame based about the things we've decided are faulty in our bodies. It's great that you can give that to people in working with them.

I love that you talk not just about our body as this self contained units but also about their interaction with the physical forces of the planet. That's something I think we forget a lot because it's such an assumed constant.

Judith: Indeed. Just being in our own body is enough for most people. Right? What we have to put it through and what it gets put through and the speed of life these days and so on. The technology changing the body and it's relationship to technology has put us into a rather ADD kind of attention span. I think around the word now, the world is so easily accessed but also these move our center of gravity off the planet. I think people don't feel grounded and so on and so forth. There are so many affirmations about how that's happened. One of the pieces that I became aware of and really became such an integral part of the work that I teach is that I heard so often that gravity was the enemy.

That you have to fight it and the way you fought it was by holding up against it. Before I met Dr. Rolf in dance and in different posture classes we were taught to pull up to the sky hook. Dr. Rolf had her own model of the feet very close together then you slightly soft the waistline back slight pelvic tilt, chest out, elbows out, top of the head up, chin in was her alignment pattern of what was correct posture. It also had this up feel, this is a feeling of up that you had to pull up against the force of gravity pulling us down.

When I look at that model I taught it a lot to many, many people but when I looked at it in action I didn't like the effort. This little voice inside me said, "If this is correct, why does it have to be so effortful? If this is correct, why do people not do it naturally?" Therefore I was off jumping in to the field of trying to figure out a different way of finding a better posture and being on the planet. I'm not lifting up. I never saw a sky hook before. The only sky hook I've ever seen are those that hold the skeleton by the head in a screw.

That's the only sky hook I've ever seen. There is no sky hook. If we bounce off the earth, if we let go into gravity it increases this pressure into the ground and it pushes back on us. As children we learn that spontaneously. You're holding the baby's hands while they are learning to stand and they start bending their knees and pushing off the ground. My goodness you put them into what used to be called a Johnny Jump Up and they entertain themselves for hours.

I'm not happy about the product design of the Johnny Jump Up- it is going to create problems with the alignment of the legs and has. The point is that as babies we learn that, as we go into dance we learn that, push off the earth off the floor to jump up. As skiers we learn that. People learn this but what I saw same with the alignment, yes that looks like good alignment but it's too effortful. Yes, you're pushing off the ground but it doesn't go all the way through your body.

It needs to go all the way through your body if you're going to juice the body and get maximum effect from being on the planet and unweighted from being pulled down by gravity. This became an essential concept I would say by mid to late 70's and really refined itself by the late 70's and has been an integral part of everything that I teach. This relationship of gravity and this force that the opposite force is called ground reaction force or the secondary force of gravity.

It actually literally pushes everything off the planet toward the stars. A lot of people know about these forces but it's how you maximize and optimize the use of pushing off the ground and relaxing into it to be weighted. To push off again to reestablish an effort for movement such as raising the arm or doing any task raising your child into the air it's a dynamic recycling of gravity and ground reaction.

Brooke: When I was preparing for this interview and we had a chance to talk briefly before this conversation and we got into this just a bit and it really has been fun to play with because I'm a daily walk in the woods person- Just thinking about the walking as this conversation that I'm having with the grounds like this friendly relationship I'm having with the ground instead of what is my gate pattern and those linear things I can get into because I'm a body person. Making it like a friendly conversation or like you said the dynamic recycling of gravity. It's just such a more easeful and fun and lively way to move.

Judith: We don't weigh the weight of an elevator but if you think about the elevator when we land you bounce, you hit and you bounce a little bit even though it's cushioned and when you get to the top you have this moment of suspension I call it. The moment of suspension is a key place where the most difficult movement can be done and be almost unweighted and the moment of suspension is where we can set ourselves up for the fall of how we want to land. It's so practical from walking as you say a nature walk to running to maximizing your running by knowing how to use gravity and ground reaction. It's fantastic.

Brooke: You touched on this a tiny bit when you spoke about how technology is affecting us and I know that one of the other things that you talk about a bunch is the impact from product designs which is a personal obsession of mine. I'd love to hear you speak on that a little more.

Judith: Sigh. When you see bodies the way we see bodies, and when you come to see that as I did ... I mean, my first work was called Structural Patterning because of Dr. Rolf's Structural Integration and she thought that that sounded okay. The piece there is that I realized that so much of our patterns are functional and you sit in a chair design, it shapes you. It shapes you and you may get out of that chair and have no consequence.

But if you sit in that chair every day for a week, by the end of the week you have a consequence of the design of the chair affecting your breath, affecting your pelvis and bottom, the more the glutes lose their tone. You get shaped into perhaps what people would call a slump or reflection pattern as we would call it by that one chair. That chair was the $1,500 ergonomic chair.

You want to use it for years to get your money for it. I cannot tell you the number of chairs we have modified with our wedges and our cushions and here, this, there, they go, "I cannot believe I paid $1,500 for this chair and for a $100 you're modifying it and I love it."

I thought all babies just had four double chins. I thought that that's just the way they came when I was taking my seeing skills to observing babies being held by parents or an infant seat or car seats et cetera. Then, I said, "I don't think it needs to be that way."

I started modifying all of these things. Teaching parents how to hold their baby in neutral ... Babies don't have four chins and not only that, they love neutral. It's this innate feeling.

Product design, this is an interesting one. I just did because of this nature of mind to be creative and I just can't help myself. At one point I had 300 product designs. I think I took a 175 of the ideas to a patent attorney and I showed up and he said, "Okay, this is overwhelming. I'll get back to you in a week." I said, "Okay, I just hope you could give me some thoughts today." He said, "No, I can't." Anyway, he calls back he said I have the good news and the bad news.

The good news is it seems as though you've discovered a law of nature. The bad news is you can't patent that but we can patent every single product idea. I started and it took five patents just to get one handle. It wasn't financially realistic for me to do that so I have all these product ideas.

Sometimes people are getting closer in these product ideas that are out there. Sometimes they get it but it doesn't come because they came from the body necessarily.They came from the hand or the wrist, or they came from the bottom or they came from the foot, but they didn't connect it to the whole body and that's why it doesn't quite work. Why we still teach people to modify shoes, modify chairs, modify sports equipment, modify helmets and golf clubs and so on and so on and so forth. Maybe before the end of this time on the planet I will do a book on my product ideas.

To realize that the way you sit in the chair at the dentist office affects the equilibration and the way they grind your teeth for the bite or fit you for the appliance, the night guard. The way you sit at the optometrist is going to affect the acuity of your eyes. The way they make you reach forward when you go to the DMV to push on this machine with your forehead so they can test your vision affects the ability to see clearly. All of these things have to do with the ergonomic relationship of the body to the task. To empower people before they go to the dentist, before they go to the optometrist is one of the great joys of my life.

Brooke: I think the more we can realize how much our environment affects us and shapes us and because we are contemporary humans and we are going to be interacting with products. If we can have more human friendly design that takes into account the whole body that would be amazing.

Judith: Exactly, the body is not static it's always dynamic. The more you can encourage and support it being dynamic again all systems are go. When the body has to sit in a chair that has such a strong opinion on it the system shut down in some degree.

Brooke: Absolutely. You have a great quote that I love, "Sometimes we just need help interpreting ourselves," I think it really gets to the heart of your approach being about evoking awareness rather than telling people how to get it right.

Judith: Yes, yes, yes. Many, many years ago I worked with a body worker. This would have been in the 70's and he said, "Why are you asking my clients how they feel? They don't know how they feel. You have to tell them how they feel." What? I think my mouth dropped open I said, "Wow."

Okay, there's a lot of education that needs to happen here. I was Dr. Rolf's Girl Friday in that first training. I did everything, I picked up her cleaning as well as in class I picked up her cleaning. I could get her coffee, I could do all these things for supporting her which I was ... I don't know what that, I was a graceful and always compassionate girl Friday but I was appreciative to be able to assist because I love Dr. Rolf and she deserved assistance in every way.

One of the things she ask me to get her a coffee and I brought it to her and she said, "No, no. You didn't put the cream in first." I said, "No, I didn't." She said, "You put the cream in first and then the coffee." I said, "Okay." Because I'm eager to please her I'm on my way back to the coffee machine and I come back. She goes, "That's much better." I said, because I'm curious, "Why does that matter? What's going on here, Dr. Rolf?" The piece there is that as a biochemist she can explain to you that the first ingredient in anything determines how any other ingredient breaks down.

Okay, now we all know that when we make a recipe that if you put the tomatoes in first followed by onions, peppers et cetera- It's a different flavor if you change the order. This is how famous chefs make their dishes taste different. Okay. They may not know the rule or the principle but the point is they know that this changes it. When you are the person who can offer you wisdom, your experience to a client coming- You still want it all to be where they have the highest percentage of the ingredient first that you add information too. Rather than, "You should, you're wrong, this is the only way. Hold this, add effort," et cetera et cetera.

Brooke: You're mentioning Dr. Rolf a bunch. I have to ask, because I don't get to chat with you every day, she entrusted you to come up with a movement paradigm for the Rolfing work. What was it like in the early days where everyone in this emerging fields were figuring out totally original potentials for accessing health in the human body? I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for some of that.

Judith: Dr. Rolf used that very same line, Brooke. That she was only going to be a fly on the wall when I invited her to show her what I had come up with. She didn't turn out to be a fly on the wall.

Brooke: Somehow I'm not surprised from the stories I've heard.

Judith: She's very, very vocal and active and right in the middle of it- which is what actually what I wanted- and I was surprised by the comment about fly on the wall.

I'm so intrigued that the skills we have as a child- when they can manifest into the thing that we end up doing in our career and loving it- it's so satisfying and rewarding. My skills were creativity, memeing and math. Math and abstract thinking, patterns.

They already had told me that I teach chaos theory and I said, "No, I don't know that." She said, "You teach it." I said, "Okay, fine. Let's not call it that. I'll just keep teaching the way I'm teaching." The piece there is that I could look at a program in the theater department and see how they were working with their actors. I could create a way of teaching them how to take people from where they were to where they wanted them to be for that characterization and back out of it.

I created a movement program for a psychiatrist for his patients. He was a Fritz Perls' trained psychiatrist and I created a program for him. I had so many different experiences of creating movement forms, so I observed and then could get to what were the common denominators of this work. What were the objectives of this work? How could I extrapolate out of that and create and use Dr. Rolf's paradigm?

Her idea about movement was extremely easy by the way. Her idea was you take the Rolf line and you add motion. You initiate through the psoas. Really, that was it. She added a few different things probably from her yoga to palms up palms down palms, baby fingers et cetera, arm motions as an exercise going up onto half toe, toes up toes down et cetera, et cetera. She had just a few things. I felt I had carte blanche to create this thing but I used it around her theories.

When I trained and finished my training in 69, February of '69, Dorothy Nolte was assisting Dr. Rolf in order to assist me to train because of my size I was only going to be trained to work on small women and children. People were working with Dr. Rolf in the main room. Dorothy was working with me in a private room at the hotel with my sessions and my clients. When I started to work with this movement program, Dr. Rolf surprised me by saying, "Dorothy Nolte has a movement program. Maybe that would do."

I said, "I don't know anything about it. I'll go and I'll look into it." It was called structural awareness I think. Anyway, I got a session from her and it was lovely. It was very much going internally and increasing awareness and it was nice. I stopped at phone booth, we had phone booth at the time in 1969, phone booth and I called Dr. Rolf. I said, "Dr. Rolf, I just had a session. It's very, very nice but it is not what I wanted to do at all. You need to go decide whether you want me to go ahead and create this program or whether you want to use Dorothy's which is fine. Just let me know."

She said, "Tell me more about your program." Okay, I want to help people get neutral, I want to help people take this into their yoga, in their athletics. I want to help people transform themselves and have tools to do so. I want people to be able to do body work and not hurt themselves. I kept going and she goes, "Okay, okay, okay." Dr. Rolf had a very fun way of when she had enough of what you were saying or doing she's say, "Okay, okay, okay." I said, "What?" She said ... Because by this time I'm a bit revved up. "What?"

She said, "Okay, go ahead. I want you to do your program." I said, "Okay, fine." I started to do this program in terms of using her rolling down for you to do the work going down the erector spinae et cetera et cetera. I did this work and as I said each time I started to put a piece together and I would show her she would comment. I would start to change it and then by the time I first started training people in '71 it was already quite different. It was only ten days that first time.

I had ten days to teach people this and then it became two weeks and then it became four weeks and then it became six weeks. Now, they work that includes body work movement, fitness and ergonomics is two weeks every six months, six phases of that. It just kept growing because of the problem solving of what people either knew or didn't know, what they were interested in, what the clients brought in and that we would apply it to- Your client needs some information about applying it to yoga.

Your client needs it for working in an office. Your client works as a mechanic and really needs help with that. Your client is a plumber. How do you get into that tiny space and keep your body able to help you do all of those task in such confined and limited spaces? It just grew and grew and grew and I remember Dr. Rolf at one point when the work had really grown and people really loved it and she said, "I never thought you'd take it this far."

Brooke: I think you're one of the people who's primarily responsible for cracking that nut or cracking that shell of this idea of finding perfect stasis. Getting on your line and just getting it right and turning it into a much more fluid experience of a human body. I thank you for that because I think that lineage just keeps evolving in really beautiful way.

Judith:Thank you, yes I'm glad she gave me permission and I felt that I was progressing it. Although it's a long way away from the paradigm that she really held as correct. One of those things, we just went speaking with Dr. Rolf and one of the things that I had to learn when I started teaching at the college in '63 before I met Ida in '68 was about teaching.

One of the things was I learned- and I learned by observation and trial and error- is that the body doesn't learn movement well on the no.When you teach don't lift your shoulder for the golf swing. Don't let that happen. Do not let your knee do this. When it's all based on the no you will get a static jumping from frame to frame movement experienced with that athlete. When you teach on the yes, you link things- "next time think about your knees coming from that in position to slightly out as you step on the right. There you go. That's it, just slightly out, there you go." As opposed to "don't let your right knee internally rotate."

It's a totally different thing. I get to Dr. Rolf's class having felt like I had a certain success at building and teaching on the yes. This was her teaching style. "Okay, all the auditors up in front in your underwear let's see you." Rolfers, Rolf trainees I want you to pick out who has the worst pelvis.

Brooke: Sounds like so much fun.

Judith: As an auditor you're shaking in your boots. You wear no boots, you were barefoot. You're shaking up there going, "Oh please, God. Do not let me be the person with the worst pelvis." Because you got that session that day, right? You are the model or something for Dr. Rolf's ...

And it was so hard teaching techniques were often on the no because and she, along with Moshe Feldenkrais along with Fritz Perls, so many people they had these brilliant systems they just didn't know how to teach it. People learn their system by duplicating, imitating and passing along the same paradigm until they really started learning on their own and made changes then. I'm just saying that's what was so unique about the teaching style was then I could bring my teaching style into it and things changed quite a bit.

Brooke: Before we wrap up, what are you currently fascinated by in your own practice either your movement practice or your teaching or learning?

Judith: I'm always fascinated. That's how all of these forms- when you talk about the breadth of the work- and the only reason there aren't more is time probably. I love creating forms around whatever a person's interest is and whatever the problem is that I'm looking at et cetera et cetera. I'm always fascinated. Right now, I'm most interested in doing vignettes, little pieces of maybe a little bit of a concept dealing with an issue that is hot in the world right now.

For example one of these that I'm going to be doing next month is about sitting. I can't tell you how revved up I get when I start saving all these information that sitting is the new smoking. Sitting is killing you, stop it and you see all of these photographs of people in Scandinavia leaning on molded sculptures instead of sitting and so on and so forth just to keep the body from sitting in a chair.

We're starting this blog actually it's next week I think we're starting a blog and I'm doing a little vignette like a preview in the blog about these issues. Then I'm going to do short little videos that give people ways of dealing with sitting or ways of sitting on the floor and meditating and so on and so forth. Then people can buy those little sections on our website. That's one thing I'm going to be doing.

Brooke: I'm excited about that.

Judith: Yes, because I get revved up and you can just turn me on. I sometimes teach classes that they get going with the questions that are coming and I look at them and I say, "Someone lock the door we're going to be here for a month." Because they have posted their questions and it's so exciting. This will be a way for me to start handling and managing some of those. I'm starting to wind down- I won't be teaching the fundamental classes very much longer than this year. I'm scheduled for that.

I'm scheduled for one more certification starting this year and finishing up. It's two weeks every six months and so they'll finish up in March 2018. I want to get to some of these other things and some of these other things are as follows. Products, of course but mainly and we have products by the way I should mention that. We have products. Go to our website and look up some of them because they can help you transform the way you sit on the floor, sit in a chair, sit in your car or if you travel a lot. Oh my goodness, you want wedges for the airplane.

Brooke: Airplane seats are made by the devil.

Judith: Yes, yes. One of the things is that I'm thinking of doing two day classes around each around one concept applied to something. For example, a concept applied for personal trainers, two days on the weekend. The concept of our work teaching people how to use that concept applied to body workers. A concept of the work applied to anyone who teaches pilates et cetera et cetera so by activity, by field. I'm really looking at doing that. That's got my excitement right now.

Brooke: I want all of it. I can't wait to see it all come to fruition. It sounds great. Yes. Thank you so much. I really can't thank you enough for all that you have done for our fields and for just people getting a chance to get friendly with living in their own body. Thank you and thank you for talking with all of us today.

Judith: I thank you so much, Brooke and thank you for what you're doing for everyone. Congratulations.

Home play!

Between talking with Judith about how product design impacts the body and the fact that in the Liberated Body 30-Day Challenge we just wrapped up our week where we were thinking about the same thing, well, let’s just say it’s on my mind big time. In the 30-Day Challenge what people do is to gradually (and individually, it depends on where you’re at in your body) shed layers of things that impact our bodies and our movement. What that looks like is going either furniture-free or furniture-light for a week- and we have some screen-free time too. It really helps us to notice what our most frequently used products are doing to our bodies. Things like always sinking into the couch into the same shape every night for hours, bending your head to text 30 times throughout the day, sleeping on a mattress that conforms to your body in the same way every time, sitting in the same old office chair that holds you in the same old shape- ALL of that. So this week I offer you this challenge- grow just a teensy bit suspicious of the products in your life. How are they impacting your shapes and your movement? Can you be more conscious about that and switch up the autopilot interactions? It doesn't have to be drastic (though it can, it can certainly be drastic for some folks who go full monty in the 30-Day Challenge...) it can be as simple as sitting on the floor to watch TV instead of the couch. shutting off the phone after 5 pm. standing at the kitchen counter with your laptop to return emails... see what comes up!


Aston Kinetics

Aston Kinetics instructional videos

Aston Kinetics courses and events

Aston product line (sitting wedges, etc)

Dr. Ida Rolf


Moshe Feldenkrais

Fritz Perls

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Steve Gangemi: Raising the Bar for What "Healthy" Means (LBP 032)

Dr. Steve Gangemi, aka The Sock Doc, is a chiropractic physician and MovNat certified trainer who is merging functional neurology and nutritional biochemistry into mainstream natural healthcare. We talk about foot health as a gauge of a person’s overall health, the recent Vibrams 5 Fingers lawsuit, orthotics, the dangers of stretching, why you want to move your ass often (but not too quickly), the long-term effects of doing only high intensity workouts (if you're dealing with adrenal burnout and/or thyroid and hormonal issues you'll want to check this out for sure), and much more.

*PS Huge gratitude to the lovely Julie Angel for introducing me to Dr. Gangemi's work!*




Show notes

Brooke: You are a huge advocate and an educator about natural injury treatment and prevention. In particular, you work a lot with athletes and I know that can be a really huge topic, but can you give an overview of what that means?

Steve: Sure, I guess it's multi-fold. Usually when I see someone first out they don't really see me for injury prevention or health enhancement or performance enhancement. Usually I end seeing someone because they've been injured. My philosophy being the way I treat has always been figuring out why someone has certain musculoskeletal or nervous system or even vitamin, mineral, or hormonal imbalances, to understand why they may be injured, rather just go and put a Band-Aid on whatever problem they may have.

Say someone all of the sudden has developed say Achilles tendinitis or plantar fasciitis one of the common foot problems. I like to go through and assess the entire body, not just the foot and ankle where the problem may be but to see how they may have developed that injury and then trace it back to the problem and hopefully resolve not only why they got it but also prevent it from happening again. I do that through a lot of natural hands on therapies, like trigger point therapy. It's a lot of body work, some acupressure work, a lot of nutritional therapies, lifestyle intervention, exercise rehabilitation programs and that sort of stuff.

I shy away from even certain modalities, like ultrasound and e-stim and things like that, even though they might be part of other therapist's protocols but I'm actually more of just a hands on type of guy and one who believes that we can fix everything through moving better and eating better and living healthier lifestyles.

Brooke: It's interesting you mentioned e-stim and ultrasound because they show up in a lot of offices. Are there some reasons why beyond what you just discussed that you shy away from them? Are there things you don't like about them in particular?

Steve: I'm not against them if someone is actually seeing some benefit from them. Let me say it this way, I think there's better methods to correcting someone's problem if the physician or a therapist is really skilled at understanding how to address the human body. I think most of these things if not all of them can be addressed through the lifestyle and exercise interventions and especially through hands on therapies.

In other words, you can get a lot of the muscle work done, a lot of the structural imbalances done through certain manual therapy modalities using your hands, using certain exercise and rehabilitation protocols. I've just never seen the need to actually have someone need to go and get some other therapy done, in terms of physical therapy modalities, whether it be like we said like an e-stim or ultrasound or one of those other typical therapies, even though they might not be harmful. I just don't tend to see a need for them.

Brooke: Unless a person has the obvious injury, like they had a car accident or skiing accident or something really clear, oftentimes people will say it came out of the blue which as we know isn't reality and that's also the most common way that people wind injured is the, "I don't why it happened," kind of mysterious origin stuff. Can you touch on why or some of the reasons why this does happen, this out of the blue type of injury?

Steve:Basically it comes down to that eventually if you trained wrong if your live an unhealthy lifestyle, if your diet is poor, if your too stressed out, whether that be working too many hours during the week or too stressed out at home or you're not sleeping well or just little things adding up here and there, too much overall stress then eventually your body breaks down and it can't recover to the ability to which you're putting the stress under it.

It comes down to the old training equation. Training is working out plus rest and you do your training too hard or you're not resting to balance out that stress period where you're training. What it comes down to is that eventually some area in your body is going to fatigue, whether that be your shoulder, your ankle, your back, your neck it can result in headaches and it can also be from too many stress hormones.

If you're pumping out a lot of cortisol or epinephrine because you're just pushing yourself too hard overall in your lifestyle or training too hard then those cortisol imbalances and stress hormone imbalances can actually create musculoskeletal imbalances that will then result in someone becoming injured. All of the sudden you're out running one day or you're training, doing whatever and your foot starts to hurt and someone tells you, you have plantar fasciitis or shin splits even. That's just because your body has slowly altered the balance of the muscles in your foot, ankle, lower leg as a result of your training too heavily or as a result of your increased stress hormone level.

Eventually it catches up with you. The next thing you know you've got a little muscle imbalance and that muscle imbalance results in bio-mechanical instability so muscles aren't working as properly as they should. They're not balanced as well as they should. Then you end up with an injury when one area is working harder than it should or another one is not working as sufficiently as it should.

Brooke: It's worth mentioning that you are somebody who really uses your body- you're talking about rest and you're somebody who has competed in multiple Ironmans and you're a really physical person, so it's possible to get your general level of health to a place where you can really exert yourself without being at risk.

Steve: Correct. When you get to a certain level of fitness like that elite level, you're always riding that fine line. You know we say that red line between fitness and in health where the more and more you push your fitness level to try and just achieve that little bit extra to try and do that little bit more then your health suffers to a certain extent. The key is to find a balance between those two areas and not beat yourself up so much so that you're injured or sick or come down with even a bigger type illness like an autoimmune disease or something like that.

To find that balance so you can excel to a certain level without your health suffering, but I've done enough Ironmans in the past where you're just running your health down just that little bit to exceed that little bit extra. It's okay if you do that I think for a competition but you've got to be careful about doing that too much, too often because the next thing you know you don't recover well or you end up with some chronic injury that you just can't resolve and you can't figure out because it's due to an actual physical depletion of vitamins, minerals, hormones in your body and not just a straight out structural shin splint, shoulder problem or whatever type injury. It's not local. It's becomes more systemic.

Brooke: You have a quote, "Move your ass often but not too quickly," so can you expand on that a little bit?

Steve: I think I wrote that from all of the hype, and it's still out there, about the HIIT workouts, high intensity interval training. People are shying away from the longer, slower endurance type training, whether that be just a long walk or an aerobic type run lasting, thirty, forty minutes if not over an hour.

People being interested in the shorter high intensity workout: i.e. crossfit, sprints, heavy workouts really at high intensity which I'm all for when someone is in good physical shape, is healthy. The problem today is that most people are so time constricted, they only have twenty minutes, if that to work out so the high intensity activities are very appealing to them because if you only have twenty minutes you can get the most bang for your buck at least in terms of burning calories and burning fat throughout the rest of the day by doing some hard and intense for those twenty minutes rather than actually going out and actually walking a mile.

The problem is, if you're short on time then you're probably stressed out as it is. You're already excreting a lot of stress hormones as it is so doing these high intensity activities too often, too much throughout the week then you eventually break down. That's why you see a lot of Crossfit athletes who are really into it even if they're doing it three times a week, they end up being injured very soon after, several weeks after they get into that.

It's always important to be moving throughout the day. I'm a big proponent of always moving, always being active, not sitting too long in a chair, not sitting too long at a desk but moving as much as you can throughout the day at different intensities but doing it always high intensity can become a problem. Your body is going to break down and suffer from it. Maybe it will start out with some sleep problems, energy issues, blood sugar handling problems, and then result in maybe more of a body illness where you're getting sick often or you're not moving as well as you should. The next thing you know you've got a crick in your neck or a backache or some tendinitis somewhere.

It's important to move often but don't always be doing high intensity too quickly, too often all the time. You've got to mix this stuff up depending on where your fitness level and your health level are at the time in your life, in your training.

Brooke: Yeah, your article on that which I'll put in the show notes for people really got my attention because I had been doing HIIT training at a really smart training center run by an OT and I loved it, but I came into that off of a crazy, stressful period in my life and I had to deal with adrenal and thyroid burnout and get my way back from that.

Steve: Did you get injured or you were just running down your hormones?

Brooke:No just running down my hormones. I actually didn't get injured, so that was lucky.

Steve: Yes, but you injured your endocrine system you can call that.

Brooke: I did. Yeah for sure.

Steve: Yeah a perfect example. That's really the only way when you get to that phase of depletion really a lot of times the only way to get out of it is to just do super easy workouts. I think strength can be included in that to some degree, like really controlled body work type or even some lifting to some degree but you definitely can't be doing too much like power stuff where you're doing high exertion, super sprints, hill sprints or even stuff like plyometrics to much because your body just can't handle that intense training for too often when you're that burnt.

Brooke: Yeah, it takes a while to get back from burn out for those who are listening and over training stop now.

You're a big advocate for going barefoot and foot health being tied to whole body health. I think probably a lot of people in the general public think of themselves as having healthy feet or they just don't think about their feet at all, but people would probably be surprised if they attempted to make their life a more barefoot lifestyle.

Steve: Correct. Let me say it this way. I'll say, "Well do you wear your shoes often?" They'll say, "Well I take them off when I get home and I'm around my house barefoot." Really for most people it's just they throw their shoes off when they get home. Hopefully at least that's a good idea. You're not wearing your shoes in your house but they're not really active in their house at that time, maybe they're cooking, standing at the kitchen counter, brushing their teeth maybe but usually they're sitting at their desk again getting work done, obviously on the couch watching TV and there's just not a whole lot of time where someone is actually active on their feet.

For most people what they realize is that once they are they end up with foot issues and they blame it on the hardwood floor or the tile that they're on or their type of flooring. Where a healthy foot, a healthy body you should be able to stand on any surface, stone, concrete, whatever really as long as you need to throughout the day and have zero body pain of course that includes foot pain from that.

A lot of people have lost that ability because they're wearing shoes throughout the day. They're wearing shoes that are too supportive. They're wearing shoes that control their motion. They're wearing shoes that are cushiony to their feet, helping to take some of the load off their body so they end up with really weak foot and ankle muscles and ligaments and tendons and as soon as they remove that brace if you want to call your shoes in a way a brace or a support device they really realize how weak their feet are.

Brooke: Foot health isn't just about feet. I think we're both similarly obsessed with getting the word out that foot health is actually a gateway to health everywhere in the body.

Steve: I actually wrote an article on the Sock Doc site called Healthy People Equals Barefoot People (in resources below) because really your feet are a great representation of how healthy you are overall. Now of course there's always going to be people out there who can be barefoot all day and they've just grown up that way and they have health issues, but for the most part your feet will be a good reflection of your health.

When you're run down, when you're body is fatigued whether emotionally or physically or nutritionally if you're not eating well oftentimes it will result in your feet suffering somehow. Maybe it's just to the point where you've got to get home and put your feet up or have your significant other rub your feet, not that there's anything wrong with that but you shouldn't finish the day with super fatigued feet that are just aching or tight calves or sore lower legs.

Your soleus muscles actually are the most aerobic type muscles in your body, so even in an elite sprinter over ninety percent of the soleus muscles are aerobic. If your body is really fatigued, if you're not burning fat as well as you should which is more of an aerobic system rather than a glycogen system like the anaerobic system in terms of biochemistry, and your body is just basically inefficient at the type of fuel source that's burning throughout the day, you're eating too many carbohydrates which is often the case or you're under too much stress drinking too much coffee, then you end up altering the functioning of those soleus muscles. Basically they fatigue because of the aerobic balance in those muscles, the aerobics system and you end up with really weak calf muscles.

Since the soleus muscles are such a big part of the feet and lower legs, then you end up with tight feet or sore feet I should say by the end of the day, achy feet are a representation of your overall health.

Brooke: I like to look at people's feet as a divining tool for how that general health is in that person.

Steve: Yeah, and you do see as someone gets healthier than their feet get stronger but at the same time they still end up having to rehabilitate them if they're not used to being barefoot. In other words, I can take someone who will say their adrenal glands are completely run down and get them healthier. If their feet are achy, fatigued, sore by the end of the day, or if they can't walk barefoot, sometimes actually just fixing their adrenal glands, getting them healthier again, their feet are better.

Sometimes if they have just been in shoes or poor footwear or not taking care of their feet or orthotics for so long then you've got to slowly rehabilitate them and get them out of their shoes to build the foot structure back over time.

Brooke: I just want to point out, because I personally find it really fascinating, often times I'm talking to people in the manual and movement therapy fields of which you are one but you're also a chiropractic physician so you're looking at a lot of the things that sometimes we just don't build bridges because we can look at the structural dysfunctions but we're not building the bridge about the other things you're talking about like adrenal health or nutrient problems. I just think that's such an important approach that gets missed often times. We put things in one basket or the other.

Steve: Absolutely, it's all related. That's why I joke that the overweight obese who never exercises in his or her life and just sits on the couch at night and watches TV, they get plantar fasciitis. You don't have to be an elite runner. That person can damage that area of that body from a poor lifestyle and poor diet and lack of exercise just as much as you and I could from training too hard and not resting enough.

It's really a total body system where you can never isolate or you should never isolate one area of the body regardless of what the problem is. Of course the one exception there I think eluded to when we started this is an accident. Obviously if you fall and trip in a hole or you just turn your ankle running or something like that well that's going to be a local problem. The extent to which that injury heals has a lot to do with your overall health though. Often times it's these injuries that creeped out of nowhere that are representative of your overall health.

Brooke: Going back to feet, Vibrams 5 Fingers took a pretty nasty legal hit recently. Sadly, I think it's created a lot more talk again about how we need support and we can't wear minimal shoes or go barefoot so can you speak a bit first of all that case. I'd be fascinated to hear your take on it but also what is the real problem here?

Steve: That started from someone- I believe a woman up in the northeast somewhere- who basically she went into the minimum world too quickly and I don't even think actually she got injured (she didn't- just an aside that she was simply sueing them based on marketing claims, not based on an injury). I might be wrong on that because it's been a while since I looked into that but some of my colleagues who really are into the barefoot movement updated me on this several months ago.

She really didn't even get that hurt from it if hurt at all. She just basically wanted to make some money off their poor marketing at the time which they eventually I should say changed. You never just want to lose your shoes and just start going from some super supportive shoes and start going barefoot if your body is not used to that. It's the same reason you would never go and run a marathon if you've never run a one mile in your life.

You can't move too quickly to the minimalistic or barefoot, I hate to use the word barefoot shoes because that's ...

Brooke: Right oxymoron.

Steve: Yeah it's an oxymoron to being barefoot so you have to slowly build up these muscles and wean yourself off of thicker shoes down into thinner shoes. For women who have been wearing high heels a lot their lives, your achilles, your calf muscles and your achilles tendon will shorten. That's just natural in an unnatural way if your heel is that elevated away from the ball of your foot if they're not level like we are when we are barefoot.

That takes time for that muscle to naturally stretch out or really should say naturally elongate. If you start ditching typical running shoes that might have a twelve, fifteen, or twenty plus millimeter drop that means the angle from the heel to the ball of the foot and you go down to a minimalistic shoe of four, three or zero drop shoe where there's no change, no elevation difference between the ball of the foot and the heel then those foot muscles, those foot tendons and ligaments, they can't adapt so you can easily get injured or at least be in a lot of discomfort for that period of time.

Everything tends to be a fad and that's how humans live and I joke around that gluten is a fad. In a way maybe it is and in a few years maybe people will be eating gluten like crazy again and we won't have to look at a bag of oranges at Whole Foods and know that it's gluten free and nobody will care anymore. Who knows, right?

The interesting thing about the minimalist movement is that, and I wrote an article on this on the Sock Doc site just within this past year, is that it's already gone backwards unfortunately. I mean it started in 2010, Born to Run Era, in 2011 and even after Vibrams, Vibrams just fell into the whole minimalist movement, Vibrams was around way before then as boat shoes. Sailors used them.

Born to Run by McDougall that just set off the barefoot movement more with his book. Even just over these past couple of years, it peaked in 2012. In 2013 and now within the last year really things have turned unfortunately sadly for the minimalist movement. I see minimalist running stores both online and real shops that you could walk into close.

I've seen a lot of other shops that promoted a lot of minimalist shoes no longer carry these shoes, either because they weren't selling them and they're losing money or even more unfortunate is that these shoes are no longer being made that these minimalist companies that were making zero drop or three or four millimeter drop shoes as of 2014 especially when the models came out in the spring March/April these shoes have come out with more cushion.

The 2013 models I told all of my followers and myself too I stocked up on shoes I really liked and I threw them in the closet because you can't get those models anymore. They're there but the models now have a couple or a few extra millimeters of cushion in them or they're no longer even being made because the market for that has just unfortunately turned already.

Brooke:Yeah, it makes me really sad.

Steve: It is really sad, because it really is a reflection of health and of course you should never do something because it's a fad. You should do something because you truly believe in it. It makes sense to you. For me that has always, always made sense. I mean I grew up in wrestling shoes because I wrestled in high school and then I grew up with cross country and I always ran in track like shoes and pretty much like slippers. I remember that's when I started using those in Ironman triathlons. I used them in a marathon. I remember going into a shoe store and telling the guy, "Hey I need some like this." he's like, "Oh what are you using these for like a one mile training run or a 5K maybe?" I'm like, "No I'm going to run the Ironman marathon in them." He's like, "You're going to wreck your knees!" Yeah it's crazy and those were even then I couldn't even wear those now because they're too cushiony for me and they have four to five millimeter drop depending on the model.

What happened is so many people got into the barefoot movement that shouldn't have been into it unfortunately and they did it too quickly. They were getting injured. We had a neighborhood kid who really tore up his feet bad because he was like, "This minimalist thing is awesome," and he ran like the two mile thing that they had to do in gym class at high school. He ran it barefoot and he wrecked his calves, so of course he actually went to his physician.

It's a true story, went to his physician, his orthopedic doc and the guy was like, "Well this is what happens when you run barefoot," No that's not what happens. It happens when you do it and you never run barefoot in your life and now you went out and ran two miles when you're used to wearing shoes twenty-four/seven so it's too bad.

The Vibrams thing is just ... People know me on the Sock Doc site for saying what I think and honestly I hope you don't mind me saying on your show but if you're taking money for the Vibrams lawsuit and you want your eight or nine dollars you're a loser. That's all I have to say to it.You shouldn't have wore them in a the first place. Sorry.

Brooke: Yeah, take responsibility for your own pace of adapting to things in your body. On the other end of the spectrum, we have orthotics which still get doled out constantly. Can we talk about that a little bit?

Steve: I've gotten the most hate mail- not as much anymore- but when I started the Sock Doc site going on four years ago now and I was so against them. I grew up in orthotics. I was told custom orthotics are going to help me run faster. I had them in my cycling shoes. I had them in my running shoes obviously. I learned how to make them even before I went to chiropractic school. I had physical therapist friends who taught me how to make them. I thought they were the best thing. I learned how to make them in chiropractic school.

Then I just realized that these aren't fixing anything. You're putting someone literally in a supportive brace that is altering mechanoreceptors, so mechanoreceptors to get a little technical on you because I think it's important is that mechanoreceptors are sensory nerves in your body, obviously especially in your hands and your feet and they recognize things like pressure, touch, vibration. It's basically your way to feel what's around, for you to feel your surface, the ground, the environment.

When you have poor health like we've been talking about this podcast, whatever that may be whether it's just a poor foot, a poor knee or a poor nervous system, something is going on with you and your foot or somewhere in your gait is being altered then you have an imbalance of mechanoreceptors which typically results in one thing. It results in pain and mechanical dysfunction.

They [patients] say, "Well I have pain," so the therapist, physician, whoever says, "Well your foot is doing this and we can basically put you in this custom orthotic which is literally a support device to correct that."It is not correcting that. I would say it's supporting the problem. It's supporting the dysfunction. It's actually altering mechanoreceptors which is true in some instances- it's altering those mechanoreceptors normal state which people may say, "Well that's good."

The thing is it's not correcting them. It's supporting those mechanoreceptors for the time being that you're wearing, but remove the orthotic, remove the insole, heel lift or whatever you may be using and the mechanoreceptors were never rehabilitated during that time. They're right back to where they were if not worse than where they were because the mechanoreceptor activity in other areas of your body has been altered during that period.

I see nothing good of orthotics. I honestly never use them. I don't think they should ever be used. I only have one patient who has ever used them and I'm okay with that because she's a seventy plus year old woman who had Rickets growing up and one of her legs is several inches different in length than her other leg, so she had a growth plate problem growing up.

There are very rare instances where these things can benefit someone. In her case, it's more like a lift to balance out her hips but for the typical person meaning ninety-nine percent plus of people out there you don't need an orthotic and if you do need an orthotic to get you over pain and to get you moving again. That's cool. I don't think you're wrong or a bad person for wearing orthotics but just realize you're actually not correcting anything. If you're staying in that orthotic or if you can't get out of it, then you're going to create other imbalances in your body.

You might be out throwing a ball one day or just screwing around and doing whatever, picking your kid up or picking up a piece of luggage to put in the overhead on a plane and all of the sudden you throw your shoulder out or you wake up with a bad neck or you're out playing tennis and your knee turns. You're probably not going to look back and say, "Hey that's because I've been wearing orthotics for two months, two years or longer." Because you're not going to put two and two together. You might not end up with that compensatory pattern that quickly.

Over time, you end with gait imbalances and these bio-mechanical disturbances they show up somewhere else. Obviously there's plenty of people who wear orthotics and they're not even correcting their problem or say they are correcting their problem but then they end up with some other problem. I see a lot of times someone says, "Well I was put in the orthotic for plantar fasciitis and now I have shin splints or now I have patella tendinitis or something like that." It's pretty obvious to them.

I also see way more often where someone says, "Yeah, I'm still wearing them because it helped my pain," and then I see all of these other shoulder or hip, lower back, just a crazy amount of other problems that the orthotics have resulted in because of how it's altered their body mechanics. That's the issue with the orthotics and why I'm so against it.

You would never hopefully listen to a physician or therapist if you were in a bad car accident and had bad whiplash and they put you in say a soft cervical collar. You would never listen to them and say, "Well you're going to put this on so your neck doesn't hurt anymore and you're never going to take it off. I want you to put this on, anytime you get out of bed put this cervical collar on, wear it unless you're in the shower or lying down in bed and then you can take it off at night, but other than that you're going to wear it the rest of your life."

That would sound insane to most people hopefully. Yet we do the same exact thing with orthotics and nobody thinks twice about it.

Brooke: Yeah, we can hide them in our shoes so we don't think about them the same way.

Steve: I really don't think that that analogy is extreme. It really isn't if you really want to look at how our bodies are meant to move, so yeah.

Brooke: It's a great analogy. Another hotly debated topic these days is ...

Steve: Oh, we're hitting them all today aren't we!?

Brooke: We're hitting them all, the big hitters.

Steve: Stretching, you're going to talk about stretching then.

Brooke:Stretching yeah, so I just have to quote you because it's so great. It's some bold words here. You said that, "Stretching is one of the worst activities that you can participate in," so of course I want to hear more about that.

Steve: Yeah, well I guess shooting an apple off someone's head might be worse or something.

Brooke:That's worse probably in the scheme of things.

Steve: I say a lot of things on my site to be sarcastic, and to have to fun and to get someone's attention. Unlike most chiropractors, even most doctors, my appointments are an hour to two hours long so I get to know people pretty well and talk to them about everything. I always chuckle when I ask someone what they're doing for exercise and the most common response I get is, "Well I stretch. I do stretches every day," which stretching is not an activity.

It's not some form of physical activity. We're talking about now pretty much static stretching. I'm all for moving of course. I'm all for dynamic motions. I'm all for moving your body as freely and fully and to the full extent that it can move.

I'm all for someone pushing a range of motion especially if it's a weighted eccentric type motion where they're able to go a little bit further to get more flexibility if the motion is a natural motion, if it's something within their means and if it's a healthy type of movement.

In other words, I'm not for let's talk about some typical stretches that are really bad that everybody tends to do like a hurdle or a stretch, sticking a leg out just trying to stretch your hamstring, or a quad stretch. These are mindless stretches that we've all been brought up to think result in decreased injury or improved performance.

The truth of it is is none of those things have ever been proven and none of those things are even true. Actually stretching in terms of those types of static mindless stretches typically are going to cause someone to have more issues or if you're lucky hopefully not impair you at all. They sure aren't going to make you a better athlete or healthier in any way. We have this idea that flexibility is a result of stretching where flexibility isn't. Flexibility is a result of your overall health. It's about muscle balances as a result of a healthy nervous system and that nervous system reflecting on your musculoskeletal system.

The healthier you are overall, the more freely your body will move. That's why let's just take an example of someone who wakes up with a crick in their neck. That's what we hear down here in the south. You wake up with a stiff neck and you've lost the flexibility of your neck. You can't turn either direction. You can't turn one way. Well is that because you haven't stretched enough? Of course not. It's typically because what people like to think that's how they slept but really people who wake up with a crick in their neck it's more often and this is maybe more than we wanted to get in tonight but usually that's what you ate the night before or it's something that you did to disrupt your digestive system.

It actually causes neck pain the next morning or thirty-six hours later, so that's not a result of not stretching. Correcting that is not a result of you stretching it more because the thing when a muscle is actually tight and fascia and connective tissue and all these things are super tight you actually can't loosen them up through stretching. It's just not how your body has ever worked. I mean I'm working on people all day long with my hands and if I see a muscle imbalance, I've tried stretching those muscles before. They never show a need to need more stretching to rehabilitate that or to get the muscle to function properly again.

What you do see is they need some other type of therapy, like some good trigger point work, some direct muscular work or some exercise to help rehabilitate that or even a change in their diet, but you don't see a need to stretch an area more. Stretching is this thing that we always think more is better or you need to stretch before and after you work out but it's not something that you should really need to do even though you want to and you should be able to move your body through full ranges of motion but if you're actually sitting there and stretching and holding these static stretches even for ten or fifteen seconds, just mindlessly, you're most likely doing yourself more harm than good.

Now of course as I mentioned earlier doing dynamic stretches or doing a certain warm up after or doing stretches after a warm up can be somewhat beneficial moving your body through normal ranges of motion but definitely not holding these stretches. You're pretty much just going to hinder performance and most likely increase your chances of getting injured.

Brooke: Are there any exceptions to the never stretch rule?

Steve: There's always an exception to everything, right? I mean when I wrote that article Stop Stretching that was one of my first articles on the Sock Doc site and it's still one of the most popular, and just like anything I think after once I rewrite it I'll change a few things in there.

People will say, "Well what about martial arts? What about certain dances, gymnasts, of course?" Well, yeah, there's always exceptions. I don't see any gymnasts in my office right now. I see a few martial artists but I do see some really high end ballet dancers, females so I have a lot of experience with professional dancers who obviously have crazy range of motion. They stand on one leg and they take their other leg and their ankle goes above their head right up by their ear.

My experience with that is when I correct imbalances in that dancer's body and I get that person eating well and if you've ever been around a dancer, a ballet dancer, they're mostly eating white bread and jelly and really poor diets throughout the day and they're taking ibuprofen and they're taking things to dampen the pain because it's such an intense activity. I'd say the same with professional gymnasts too. Once you actually get a person like that healthy, they're eating well again, they're taking care of themselves, and the body issues are corrected, the injuries are corrected and muscle imbalances are corrected, what you see is their range of motion increases dramatically.

I remember seeing one ballet dancer, she was pretty much living off of ibuprofen meaning taking several hundred milligrams a day, like two hundred milligrams several times a day, just to dampen the pain. She would get to the bar and do her bar work and then do this crazy amount of stretching before, during, after, throughout the whole day and once she cleaned up her diet and didn't just eat an English muffin for breakfast and lunch and got off of the ibuprofen not only was she moving better but she didn't need to do this crazy amount of stretching that she once did.

She was still doing it lightly to go through the ranges of motion, to keep her flexibility which is definitely necessary but she didn't need to do it to the extent to which she always has. I mean dramatically. In other words, she didn't have to do a certain stretch for say ten or fifteen minutes. It knocked it down to she just did it for one or two minutes and it wasn't nearly as difficult to her as it once was because her nervous system was so much more in balance and as I mentioned a little while ago, flexibility, not stretching, flexibility is really a reflection of your overall health.

Everybody has their normal flexibility to a certain degree. If you're in a professional sport or if you're an elite type athlete like a dancer or a ballerina, martial arts, gymnasts, yeah there's going to be exceptions where you might need to stretch to gain that little extra flexibility and that's when you can use more active type stretching where you're contracting the antagonist muscle.

In other words if you are stretching your hamstring you would contract your quadriceps hard so you don't overstretch. Or you could do some really good weighted eccentric type stretches like good mornings exercises or straight leg deadlifts where you're getting further range of motion with some weight on your body to help with stability and mobility.

Because what happens is people will just mindlessly stretch. They lose a lot of stability in the area. That's why they end up injured. They might create more mobility, more flexibility but they lose the stability so they lose power, they lose the integrity of the joint because they're just stretching the hell out of an area without actually ... Well they're compromising the area is what's happening .

Brooke: What are you currently working on or fascinated by in your own practice right now whether for yourself or with your patients?

Steve: I was trying to think of what I could tell you there when you asked me that question on email. I mean I guess right now I've been more into ... I've always eaten really well and followed a paleo type diet. More recently I've been into getting people even more down to earth with what they're eating, visiting more farms, eating more not just organically but understanding where their food is coming from, looking at local meats. I've been getting into some organ meats recently like liver and heart and that sort of thing.

Just taking nutrition up to the next level. That's not for everybody. Most people you've just got to try and get them out of the white food diet, the processed food and just eating somewhat better but for those who are already eating really well and not eating much or hopefully any processed foods or anything artificial or unnatural they can take the next level and start to look like fermented foods and some really highly nutritious free range eggs and meats and that sort of thing.

Brooke: Wonderful. Well thank you so much for all of the great work that you're doing and for talking with all of us today.

Home play!

I thought it was interesting when Steve talked about how we are almost always in bare feet when we are inactive. Also interesting is the oxymoron "barefoot shoes". No matter how fab our minimal shoes, barefoot is still different. So, even though it is January, can you get outside into the world at all in actual bare feet? If not, I promise I'll revisit this in spring! But free your tootsies as much as you can!


Sock Doc- Dr. Steve Gangemi's site

Trigger Point Therapy- A Powerful Tool to Treat and Prevent Injuries

Build Your Aerobic System (Move Your Ass Often, But Not Too Quickly)

Healthy People = Barefoot People

Stop Stretching!

Why the Minimalist Footwear Trend Won't Last

Born to Run- book

If you liked this episode

You might also like

Gary Ward: What the Foot?

Erwan LeCorre: Evolutionary Fitness

Katy Bowman: Move Your DNA

Amanda Joyce: Parkinson's Disease and Movement as Powerful Medicine (LBP 029)

Amanda Joyce runs a corrective exercise and personal training company and specializes as a Parkinson’s Disease Movement Disorder Specialist. I loved talking to Amanda as she is in a field where people can often specialize in looking hotter in jeans, but she has instead devoted herself to a community that can often feel pretty hopeless in the movement department. When people are diagnosed with a progressive and incurable disease process they can feel swallowed up by an inevitable downward spiral and lose sight of the fact that there are any resources in addition to drugs and surgery that can help them. My interview with Amanda highlights how powerful smart movement can be as a healing tool, and also talks about her own process of living with scleroderma.




Show notes

*Please forgive the much abbreviated show notes this week. I just plain didn't get my transcript to come together in time, but listen in because here are some of the highlights: 

How a diagnosis itself (particularly of an autoimmune disease) can feel hopeless and disabling.

While it is only recently being highlighted, there is actually a lot you can do to improve your quality of life and reduce your decline in mobility.

A definition of Parkinson's and what TRAP stands for in terms of Parkinson's symptoms.

Why people shouldn't wait until they are experiencing significant mobility problems before seeking out help with their movement.

The challenges with shifting into a more parasympathetic state.

The Roll Model therapy ball work on the feet for people with Parkinson's (and the treat your feet campaign!)

Head carrying for alignment help.

How to think big in movement.

Learning how not to over-rely on your eyes to know where you are in space and move through space.

The process of realizing you live in a body.

Amanda's process of learning to heal her scleroderma and how it re-introduced her to her own body.

The power of hope and willingness to try.

How getting to know our bodies better permeates into our whole lives.

Home play!

Balance! If you know you are seriously balance-challenged and you always look right at the ground wherever you are walking- then your home play is simply to look at the horizon line and to notice your peripheral vision while walking. Slow your pace. Let your feet do the job of feeling the ground and mapping the terrain for you. And if you want to play with balance more or are not usually balance-challenged, grab a 2X4, find a curb or a post or a branch or anything outside and simply walk on it, arms relaxed at your sides, without looking at your feet.Llet your feet do the job of finding where you are. Close your eyes when you are feeling bold (but be careful)! This is a big education for our feet, and a big education for maintaining balance through life. As i always say, the best time to prepare for when you’re 80...


Amanda Joyce

The Roll Model (Yoga Tune Up) therapy balls

Head carrying from Esther Gokhale


If you liked this episode

You might also like:

Jill Miller: The Roll Model

Esther Gokhale: Primal Posture

Erwan LeCorre: Evolutionary Fitness

Michol Dalcourt: What Training the Whole Body Really Means (LBP 027)

Michol Dalcourt is the director of the Institute of Motion, the inventor of the fitness tool the Vipr, and the co-founder of PTA Global. He and I talk about the insightful work they are doing at IoM including how fascia moves the body, our body as a fluid organism and why we need to pay attention to its fluid dynamics, tensegrity! (one of my favorite subjects...), what he means when he says the body is a lever-less system and other concepts in the “new” biomechanics, why we need to zoom out and not just focus on the nervous system’s effect on muscles, and how the fitness industry’s go to approach of training for speed via more strength is actually slowing people down.




Show notes

Brooke: Can you describe what you do at the Institute of Motion.

Michol : IOM really is a collection of thought individuals that take a look at movement strategies, coaching, and content for not only the health professional but ultimately the end consumer as well.

Brooke: One of the phrases that I came across as I was reading your materials is the phrase "farm kid fit". Can you describe what that means to you and how you realized that was an important thing?

Michol:  I'm Canadian, so most of us are observed with the game of hockey. When I finished my university in Alberta, I was working with hockey players, rather. What we saw was that generally the strongest of those hockey players came from rural communities and we spent all our time with city kids in our sport performance training center and we would follow a periodization model of training stress but it wouldn't really match what these people who never really stepped foot in a gym were doing.

By investigating this anecdotal evidence of why farm kids are so strong, we uncovered a lot of interesting things and many of them pointed to the body as an aggregate and actually led us to develop a fitness tool that's on the market right now called Vipr.

Brooke: You have several nice short lectures, videos on your site and one of them is about how bones do not touch and what that means when we think about a body. Can you talk a bit about the concepts in that?

Michol: When we look at the idea of bony structures coming together, it really is an opportunity to describe the ability of the body to create space internally. If bones were actually touching, we would wear out far too quickly. We would probably last about a week and then the bones would be rubbing down the hyaline cartilage would be rubbing down to a point where the surface of the joint articular surfaces would just decay. The body sets itself up differently to maintain space so that we can have efficient movement.

Brooke: We think so much about ourselves I think it's like stacking up bricks and it's hard to conceive of that internal space.

Michol: If we use that analogy, it wouldn't make much sense. If we were to build a building, it wouldn't make much sense for us to have most of the bricks and moving bricks on the basement or on the ground level floor and adding all these things stacked up. We have a third of the bones of our body from the ankle done. That would be analogous to having a building that is 10 stories high having most of the movable bricks on the ground level.

Brooke:  Tensegrity is a big part of what you do at IoM and I'm a big tensegrity nerd'

Michol: When I went to school we learned about the analogy of levered systems, right? We really looked at the body with that lens as we associated our body with the same set of laws as what we build bridges and what we build buildings with, which is Newton's three laws, which are physical laws.

But the structure lacks the critical aspect that we need, which is movement. We wouldn't build a building or a bridge that can move. We would build it so that it can move just enough to mitigate stress but not so much that it's going to be onerous to its construction.

When we look at the idea of tensegrity, the way I think about it is those are biological laws and they operate differently than physical laws, i.e. Newton's three laws. When we look at differentiation of how biology self assembles, it's going to be without the constraints of stability first and mobility only as a subset, as a function of that stability. In other words, you build a bridge than can perhaps move just slightly to mitigate some stress but not that much or building to do the same thing.

Whereas biology, the critical aspect of biology is movement. Cellular movement, system movement, and then organism movement. If we don't have those most fundamental things, then the organism won't survive. This idea of push forces and pull forces for mutual benefit, and that's really the underpinning of tensegrity.

Brooke:You used this great phrase: self-assembly. We're not putting ourselves together on a factory line.

Michol: We went through the Industrial Revolution. We mechanized everything and so we treated our body the same way. We had fulcrums, we had pivot points, we had joints that were operating in one plane of motion, and we even dissected the muscles to reflect primarily the sagittal plane and primarily this idea of what we call link action, which is you've got one bone that's still and you've got the adjacent bone that's moving against the still bone, and that's brought to us by muscle that shortens under concentric force, and voila, we have movement.

Although that may be true, it's only true in a limited capacity and I would argue that it's true only when we put ourselves in a very restricted position. The flip side is that the body can do more than just that one thing and most of the time you'll have one bone that's moving and the adjacent bone is moving as well. It will be moving in all three planes of motion.

Biology is predicated upon the idea of adaptability and resiliency, and like I said before, mobility and movement.

Brooke: You described the body as a leverless system. Is that some of what you're talking about here?

Michol: Yes. This idea of push and pull forces. We've got bony structures that are resistant to compression and then we've got tensile elements like skin, collagen fibers, connective tissue and muscle that operate as a center-seeking pulling force.

Between the two you've got these bones that essentially create space by pushing things away and then you have all this viscoelastic material, which is also water, by the way, and pressure of water, that is regulating the tension of a body and they all operate for mutual benefit. The more balanced that they are, the more viable that the organism is.

We look at health of skin, we look at health of fibrous connective tissue. We look at health of bone. We look at health of the aqueousness or the hydration of the body and if they are in balance, then the individual can achieve or has the potential to achieve more.

Michol:  With fascia more particularly we're looking at how collagen itself self assembles. If we think about Tom Myers always used a great analogy that muscles will create force but the fascia organizes it. A subset of that fascia is really the collagen and the health of the collagen is predicated on diet strategies, hydration strategies, and movement strategies.

Brooke:  I love talking about the fact that we're a fluid system, again, we're not a product.

Michol: We are mostly water. H2O molecules  occupy a lot of space cellularly. They keep things not only hydrated but they keep things in a viscoelastic way so they help the other structures, the bones, they help the skin, they help the fascia, they help the muscles create a mitigation system for stress. If we hit the ground, part of that ground reaction force is going to the muscles part, it's going to the bones, part if it's going in the skin, part of it is going to the fibrous connective tissue, which is our fascia, and part of it's mitigated by this gelatin that we have for lack of a better description that will buffer kinetic impulse into the ground.

If all of those things are not working well, then injury may plague the system or we just increase the risk of injury, and we see this a lot with runners. Then they ponder was I designed to run?  In my mind, I would first look at, all right, if you've got the metabolic engine, do you have the hardware, the structural hardware to mitigate stress if you come colliding into the ground?

Brooke: If I'm, say, a personal trainer, what are some ways that you evaluate this?

Michol: What we're doing at the Institute right now is we're actually putting together what we call an onboarding process and what it is, is it is a way to create a battery of different assessments that look at different elements that make up the whole. With those metrics, we can then create a view of is the person prepared and how are they prepared for what they want to do ultimately.

Our feeling is that there are a lot of good tests out there but they operate on an island. You take one test for this particular result and then that's it. What we would rather do this is aggregate this into a whole picture and then create what we call a dashboard.

Brooke: The spine is not a column.

Michol: The spine is really fascinating in terms of its development and its morphology. If we look at it in its development when we were in the womb, what we would look at is a C-shaped spine that could accommodate restricted space. Without crowding and becoming a taller structure, we need to accommodate a very much a compact structure while we're in the womb.

With intrinsic muscle action on the body and the spine as we wiggle around in there, we start to create intrinsic pressures that begin the process of changing the C shape of the spine to what would we know now as the S shape curve. We've got 33 mobile segments in the spine.

That really accommodates this idea of axial loading, which is this top-down force that we apply when we stand up. If we were a column, that would be egregious load to the discs of the spine, so to mitigate this, what we have is very much this wave scenario in the spine where it's a shock absorption system. We never really want one vertebrae to be crushing down on another because what's stuck in the middle is a disc, which is mostly water, and if one impacts the other too much, be it a sudden trauma or be it just repetitive positional stress.

The longitudinal ligaments go on into a slack position and then what happens is you've got the structural abnormalities. Now we're calling upon one system to do too much so now muscles are on and they're on more or they're upregulated more past the resting tone to stabilize the spine, and once we have that, then the system is on too much.

There's a lot of research that indicates that muscles if they are doing their job, the neuromuscular system should turn on and off and on and off and on and off and on and off. Muscles that stay on chronically generally lead to problems.

Brooke: One of the other pieces of the whole that you're looking at a little bit differently is the nervous system and you talk about how our traditional model of movement is really just looking at the nervous system's relationship with muscle.

Michol: We learn about this idea of an action potential being propagated along the nerve to the motor units. Then they pull on a bone and then that's what creates human movement. Although that is extremely true, it's not the only thing that physically creates movement. One of the easiest ways to create movement is to interact with gravity and ground because gravity will always torque the body and always move the body.

If I was standing and I lean forward, that would initiate the gait cycle. If I can continue to do that, it would continue to initiate the gait cycle. As we lean in a field of gravity, it creates a very efficient model for movement because we're grabbing from these environmental influences, which is gravity and ground.

If I swing my arms and legs, that creates potential kinetic energy for movement as well. What we say at the Institute is what the body first seeks to do is to capture energy. Whether it's from the ground from reaction force, whether it's from tissue lengthening to create potential kinetic energy as I stretch an elastic band, same thing, viscoelastic material skin, fascia, muscle, they all have the qualities of an elastic band in that if you stretch them, they create potential kinetic energy.

All those things are in flux as it relates to creating movement, and pressure in tubes as well also creates movement and mechanical lift through the hydraulic amplification of shoving a bunch of pressure in a tube. Pressure inside tubes creates mechanical lift as well.

If we use too much of one system, then we start to wear out too quickly.

Brooke: You say that the fitness industry is typically training for speed via more strength but that this actually slows the athlete down.

Michol: It only requires that we think about times in our lives where we have high anxiety, we're more tense. With more tension, with more of this engagement in the neuromuscular system, we generally slow down because the action of speed is predicated upon both a high level of engagement of the muscular system and then a quick disengagement of the muscular system to allow the segments of the body to move quicker.

It may be just as important to view the muscular system as acutely turning on and acutely turning off quickly to achieve higher levers of speed. If you're training athletes for speed, do they have a quick ability to turn a muscle off? In our industry, generally we have cues that engage the muscles too long. Right? It could be keeping things tight, keep the core tight and then move. That may be something that you would give to a specific individual if they have a certain, let's say, condition or instability but in terms of achieving high levels of speed, we want the system to relax.Which is very antithetical to how we're thinking about things right now in my estimation.

Michol: I think part of that is the fear of we need to stabilize the system but it really is about the individual. If the individual has good balance or is achieving good balance between the idea of skin health and fascial health and bone health and muscular health and nervous system timing, and then, again, all the other things that make up the system, i.e. good hydration and everything else. What we have is  shape stability based on the principles that you describe before on tensegrity. If we're creating that resiliency within the tissues, then we don't have to achieve high levels of stability in the body because a lot of that stability is given to us in the aggregate with skin health and with fascial health. They all contribute to body-wide stability.

Brooke:  We've touched in on a bunch of these concepts but what are some of the other ways that you're seeing the more traditional views of biomechanics changing and getting challenged these days if there are any others that we haven't touched on?

Michol: I think it's just this thing that we have tend to think about biology in the terms of Newton's three laws as a class of levers and we talked about this before. Biological laws set themselves up differently. Right? It's all about mitigation of stress into the whole. That's how the body can capture energy.

Let's say you are in the track and field discipline. There's a lot of biomechanic textbooks that really amplify the value of taking a look at how we would achieve greater impact in, I don't know, a high jumper or a throw of some sort. There's merit to that and I think if we blend this idea of the math and the forces that we apply to the body and to an implement if we're engaging in let's say a track and field activity, and we look at it in the lens of biology is all about self-assembling things in aggregate and we take a look at the health of the whole system, then we might find a sweet spot for us to be able to look at both sides of that or both aspects of that to put the sentence together, so to speak.

We're putting all aspects of the conversation together to make a complete sentence as opposed to taking a look at just part of the sentence, because in a lot of cases what we end up doing is we take a look at a certain aspect of the body and we look at it in a very mechanistic way. If we can realize that every tissue is important to the outcome of movement strategies, then we would take a look at skin health, we would take a look at fascial health, we would take a look at bone health, we would take a look at hydration health.

In the health field, especially in the fitness field, we don't have a tendency to do that. Monday is never skin day in the gym, it's always a muscle day in the gym. That narrative is changing, but if we can expand our lens a little bit further, then I think that we would achieve a body that has a constitution that allows it to move and then to achieve its goals.

Michol: I live in California, there are people who have spent thousands of dollars spreading creams on their skin to fortify collagen in there, and I'm not going to debate whether that has merit or not, what I would say is that we can achieve a similar thing by training it in a certain way, and that refortifies collagen. It's by no accident that people who exercise tend to look better in their skin for longer.

Michol: We are looking at anti-aging strategies because when I was in my 20s, my goals for health and well-being are different than now that I'm in my 40s, and I'm looking at taking what I have and trying to extend that as far as I can. From an endocrine response, from a tissue response, from the metabolic response.

Brooke: I've been in the fascial fields professionally for so long, I've said this before but people are always looking way younger than they actually are in those fields. I go to a conference of my peers who are also fascial therapists or movement therapists of some variety, and I don't know how old they are because they're probably 10 to 15 years older than they look, which is great.

Michol: They're doing something right.

Brooke:  Is there anything that you are currently playing with in your own practice these days or something that you're fascinated by mentally even?

Michol: We're doing, like I said before, the onboarding, which is really exciting to us because we're taking a look at how we can create a profile for an individual that creates some metrics, some things that individuals can look at, some numbers, some schemes that they can look at, that tell them or give them a glimpse into how they are doing.

The other thing that we're quite excited about is from a programming perspective- Whether you're going to load your soft up with external resistance or whether you're going to use your body as a mechanism for movement, we've structurally put this down in a very simplistic way to allow a person a very much inclusive approach to training so that they're not stuck in one aspect. Let's use the bodybuilder as an example.

Let's say a bodybuilder engages in bodybuilding activities, typically what they do is they introduce load to the body via weights and they have a very linear response. Research shows that that is a great way to put muscle on the body, but if that's all I do, I lack mobility in time and then the body breaks down. There are many bodybuilders that don't age without injury.

Even for that bodybuilder, it would behoove that person to spend some time working on other strategies, unloaded, recovery-based, and everything else. We've mapped this very simple programming model out that reflects the nature of yes, your goal may put you in this area for a while but you still need these other areas, at least a little bit at a time to balance out the training scenario.

The same thing is true with runners. Right? If I'm a runner and all I do is run, then chances are my body's going to break down, but I can do these other prophylactic exercises or strategies that allow my running to be enhanced but I'm not necessarily running while I'm doing it, I'm looking at tissue quality, resiliency, all these things that allow me to be, let's say, a more efficient runner if that's what I was doing.

It's very simple but it's very scalable in terms of people utilizing this system, so we're very excited about that as well.

Home play!

Let's make it "skin day" in our training! Obviously you can do this in a number of ways- so if you want to get a session of bodywork, roll around on Yoga Tune Up therapy balls, or MELT yourself with the MELT Method go for it! But if you are looking for a simple, at home, tool-free technique, there is always skin-rolling. Here is another old school video of me demonstrating it:

Jill Miller: The Roll Model (LBP 024)

Jill Miller and I are talking about her new book, The Roll Model. Jill is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the corrective exercise formats Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model Method®. We talk about the current pain epidemic in our culture, why self-care is health care, the difference between good pain and bad pain, and what it takes to remodel your “fascia suit”. We also talk about many of the profound and touching stories of people who recovered themselves through this method, including Jill’s own journey.




Show notes

Jill Miller (all other text is Jill unless noted): I am the creator of a format called Yoga Tune Up®. It helps you to live better in your body and we use a combination of conscious corrective exercise, self-care with grippy rubber balls, and stress reduction techniques. These are all to help you better find your bodies blind spots. The approach is really designed to help you to be a better mapper of your own body. While it has the word "yoga" in it, it is hardly about yoga, it's about tuning up and tuning in to yourself.

The Roll Model Method® is the extracted soft tissue self-care part of this work. I found the therapy ball work was able to communicate to so many different populations. All the therapy balls do is help you to map better, erase pain, dramatically reduce emotional and physical stress with really no other agenda.

I was approached by Victory Belt, my publisher, and they asked me to write a book about whatever I wanted to write about which was a crazy honor. I thought the smartest thing to do was to share this approach that just helps everyone and applies to you whether you are an immobile person in your bed, or  an Olympian, and everything in between.

Brooke: You write in your book that the US has 4.6 percent of the world’s population and consumes 80 percent of the world’s painkilling opiate supply (link to data in resources), and you ask, why is medicine the first resort? Why did we give our power over to the medical community?

I think we are in tricky times. We are enculturated to believe that others can fix us and we give our agency over to the medical establishment. We even divide our body and give it to different doctors- we give our bones to our orthopedist, we give our vaginas to our gynecologists... Specialization helps to deal with pathology and symptomatology, but what we need is a better way to communicate with ourselves and to understand the different types of warning signs that might come up that maybe you can manage yourself. Maybe that will prevent you from getting a drug or getting a surgery. I really want people to be better advocates for themselves. I grew up as a daughter of a doctor and there was a medicine for everything... that was the first resort.

I also watched my mother who is a horrible asthmatic. I grew up in a house where my mother had access to all of he medications for her illness, but it didn't stop her from being rushed to the emergency room, and it didn't stop the problems she has now that are related to her stress breathing patterns.

The book gives you 24 stores of people who have stopped disease in its tracks, turned their life around, and have literally rolled forward in a new way.

Brooke: One of my favorite Jill quotes is "self-care is healthcare."

You've got access to a pharmacy in your own body. Thank God we have amazing doctors and therapists and people who can see things that we can't. But what I really want people to embrace is that this is preventative medicine.

One of my students who I have worked with for almost 8 years- and he's in the book- his name is Eric. He has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, sometimes known as hereditary sensor motor neuropathy. It's a peripheral neuropathy that doesn't' get the PR the muscular dystrophy does. In HSMN your motor and sensory neurons become unmyelinated  in your limbs. You lose the ability to fire your muscles. You also lose the ability to sense body placement, and all you are left with is sensing pain. Medication is really the only resort for people with HSMN.

Eric reached out to me when he was using the highest legal dose of Fentanyl- 1000 times more potent than street heroin. Getting off medication became one of his goals. He ultimately was able to resurrect movement patterns that his doctors said he never would have- moving his toes and fingers, feeling the soles of his feet. It took us a year and change, but he was able to get all the way off Fentanyl through these practices. He took control of his healthcare and started to use the "rubber drugs" as a way to medicate instead.

I have a student in the book who has MS and she was wheelchair bound and found a way using the Wahl's protocol which is a highly regarded version of the paleo diet (in resources), and the Yoga Tune Up therapy balls as approaches to get off of all medication. She can now use her hands, which she couldn't do before, and  is using her hands to cook and be a professional chef and inspire people to better living.

These are people who are emblems of self-care healthcare.

Brooke: One of the things I love about your book is that it's all heart. There are such rich stories in there of people who are recovering from really significant things that people usually write off as "that's it." Progressive diseases like these, or even recovering from emotional wounds or traumas.

I put out a call when I started writing this book to ask folks who had been using the YTU balls for their story and I expected to get a lot of stories about rotator cuff tears, knee stuff, back stuff... all these musculoskeletal things. I ended up getting all these stories  from people with Lupus, or MS, or cancer recovery- there was this disease category. But the category that most surprised me and most filled my spirit are the stories of people who dealt with unbelievable emotional trauma.

Emily Sonnenberg who was raped as a young teenager and how her body armored itself for years. She was suicidal, couldn't breath deeply, and started doing these intense fitness practices that were turning her into a rock. She found her way to Todd Lavictoire's YTU class in Canada, and she laid her abdomen down on the Coregeous ball- which is one of the diaphragm resurrecting tools we use- and was finally able to breathe for the first time in 7 years and to finally face all of the emotions that had been bottling up in her. That was the beginning of a transformation. Her life is 180, 360 inside out changed because she was able to process her grief on her own terms in her own way when her body was finally able to let go, and she could re-parent herself through these practices.

Brooke: I was in tears reading Emily's story because I had met her at one of our YTU summits and didn't know her story until I read this book. I read it and emailed her immediately to tell her how amazing she is.

The bravery to share this story- there are so many women who have been violated, sexually assaulted and raped and have somehow shut it down and moved past it. They don't have access to be able to regularly to let go of the stress that lingers from that trauma, and to have a comb to be able to comb through where you get restricted or stuck, or where you hold on to the hell. It is a gift.

Brooke: You yourself went through a really significant journey- you dealt with an eating disorder and you say that for a time that you were abusing yoga in the same way you abused food.

I am a psychological runner- a runner from the family dynamics that were not supportive to my own expression of emotion. I shut down in my own way. I starved myself, I threw up, I used my body aggressively. A lot of people wouldn't think yoga is aggressive but I literally stretched myself end to end and destabilized my body completely. I was that yogini that could do everything- I could do all kinds of crazy-town things. I was in a lot of denial about my own aches and pains, I was in denial about my compulsion to practice. It destroyed relationships, it affected friendships, it affected my job.

Addiction to food is really difficult to deal with. You need to eat to live. I did heal that part and then it transmuted into this other pie-piece of addiction which was an addiction to stretching. Stretching calms you down- that's one of the great things about stretching. It turns off your stress switch. I was addicted to that because I  was so freaked out on the inside.

I do think that in the exercise and fitness industry the dirty little secret is that there is a lot of body dysmorphia- there is a lot of intense dislike of the body. My goal is for everyone to live playfully and peacefully. Rolling around on balls is playful! Ultimately it is a great treat for you! It helps you to find peace in areas that are unresolved.

Brooke: There are things like in exercise, stretching, and yoga- that can be missed- that the therapy balls can find.

The nooks and crannies are waiting to be touched! You are a Rolfer and you touch nooks and crannies on people all the time. I use you and every grate therapist that I have had the privilege of being touched by. I have a photographic memory for sensation and for touch and movement. So if I have the privilege of being touched by someone as gifted as you, I want to figure out how to replicate that for when I might now have access to you, or I might not have the funds to hire you every other day when I want to have this nook or cranny managed. So the therapy balls and the roll model approach helps you to redecorate from the inside out, and to talk to your fascial seam system. Then the next step is a conscious awareness of how are you holding yourself in your life. How is your posture? How is your breath? And then pain can't find its way into you in the first place.

Brooke: It's one of the reasons I fell in love with your work in the first place is that is was an opportunity to teach people how to work on themselves which is always the goal.

Teaching people to fish! Fishing for their blind spots.

Brooke: Good pain and bad pain- there are some basics about when you should not lean into a therapy ball, and then there is also this divide among therapists about whether you should ever feel pain at all in a treatment.

Bad pain is going to set off an sympathetic response. You are going to have difficulty managing your breathing, you may feel bad emotions- they would make you tense all over, they make you scream out in pain, wincing pain. And you know this because when you fall it hurts, when you stick your hand on a hot plate, it hurts. Hopefully you are sensitive enough to recognize the big, "ow that hurts!". It is untenable discomfort.

Good pain is when you are managing your breathing, when the move stops you feel better. With bad pain you might hit big nerves and you will feel electricity, numbness, tingling. The tingling of thrunking over nerves is clear. The yummy, champagne bubbles tingling is good pain.

Good pain when the ball is removed you feel a rush of warmth, your range of motion increases, you feel emotionally more relaxed, your breathing deepens.

Brooke: And the controversy within the manual therapy fields is people who believe that a treatment should never hurt. I appreciate what you are saying as a Rolfing practitioner for many years, and as someone who got better with a lot of manual therapy.

The  pain is already there. What the techniques do is to reveal to you where you have already been holding tension in your body. You don't want to use the ball like a drill bit. You want to gradually coax the tissues from their state of stiff stickiness into a more hydrated nutritionally perfused balanced ecosystem in that area where you are stuck or stiff or tight or hurting. At the same time, it's not like you are placing the balls on every place that hurts. This comes with practice. I explain this in the book but I also can't control how people are going to use the balls at home, or in gyms. But I present how to differentiate- trial and error is going to be your best guide. I also don't want people to have fear of hurting themselves. People are more afraid of a rubber ball than of swinging a kettle bell. Swinging a kettle bell around is a lot riskier than lying on a pliable, rubber, grippy ball.

Brooke: Dr. Steven Capobianco has been using dynamic ultrasound imaging and seeing some encouraging things.

I met him at the Fascia Research Congress in 2012 I was presenting Eric as a case study there (case study in resources). Dr. Capobianco and I stayed in touch, and I was writing the book and he sent me an email saying he had started doing some research with the therapy balls. So I have the videos of the dynamic ultrasound- he's in the early stages of seeing the increase in slide and glide of the tissues and the fluffing of the fascias post-rolling. It's really exciting. I am not a research scientist so I like that our users are out there in the universe doing these studies.

We are also at Cedars- Sinai and are doing some questionnaire studies with people who are participating in our classes. There is another practitioner who is creating a program for those who are relief workers in hospital settings who are suffering from compassion fatigue. This is a stress condition that care workers get. Elise Gibney is creating a study and creating techniques to help care for care workers.

Brooke: Help for the helpers! I love it. You and I are fellow fascia nerds and I love that you describe fascia as the aqueous knitting fabric of the body. How do the roll model therapy balls remodel the fascia and what is the time frame on that?

I refer to it as your seam system. It is the thing that interconnects all parts of your body, and it's living. It is full of cells that replicate. There are many studies ongoing to try and understand fascia and it's relevance. So some of the things I say in the book may be out of date in a few years. I study as much as I can to validate my own experience of transformation- of pain relief, the desire to optimize my body. Every part of your body has its time frame of total cell renewal- what you start today will pay off immediately because you will feel better, but the new setting tone of the fascia in your body will take about 2 years.

Brooke: A lot of people hear years and get disheartened. But I think it's so exciting to think that in only a couple of years you will have a completely different fitting 3 dimensional"suit" on the inside out.

Most people try to remodel fascia to get more pliable and flexible. I am the opposite. I spent years overstretching my body so I have been on this path of stabilization for the past several years. I remain incredibly mobile but I have been doing lots of weight training and strength training to try and ratchet it in and retrain my body in a way that is more stable. I have done this all through my pregnancy and it's been about 2 years and so I can honestly say that I am healthier, stronger, and feel more regulated than I have at any point in my life. I don't want to do the Chinese splits anymore, and I don't want to wrap my legs around my head anymore.

Brooke: Like you said we are on opposite ends of the spectrum- I am the super dense person who needs to be always taking off the suit of armor, but the people who I see in my practice who suffer so much are the hypermobile people. It's really challenging, so it's encouraging to hear about the ability to ratchet that back a bit.

You can reset your connective tissue in either direction. You can attempt to become denser, or you can attempt to become more diaphanous. I haven't talked about this much because I am learning the language of strength and conditioning. I am working with an incredible coach Josh Landis  who is also an NKT (Neurokinetic Therapy) guy and is studying PDTR (Proprioceptive Deep Tendon Reflex) and he gets my movement patterns and we have found some really amazing blind spots.

Whichever direction you are remodeling working with your fascia its still a good idea to brush and floss. That's part of what the therapy balls do. Therapy balls give you feedback in your tissues and they bring self-awareness to the proprioceptive network in your system. The biggest challenge for me with hypermoblity is that I couldn't sense where my joints were. I had silenced many mechanoreceptors, and now that I am building tendon strength and mastering congruency in the shapes of strength and conditioning I have a lot of new mapping going on because of bringing better matchups in my capsules. I am able to get a better sense of where I am in space because of that.

Brooke: It's hard for me to pick a favorite strategy of yours, but the Coregeous ball work which you have a great section on in the book, I used that to rehabilitate some scar tissue I had from a C-section that had gotten wrapped up in my right psoas and I had ultrasounds to make sure no one had left scissors or a sponge in there or something, and all I needed was a Coregeous ball and I am radically different.

Helen MacAvoy had an employee who was dying of liver cancer was looking for a live donor and Helen thought, "Why not me?" She was a match, so she donated a portion of her liver to her employee. She had already had 2 c-sections, and then she had this new 14 inch scar that was the exit for her liver. The repatterning of her body around the scar tissue was very significant and she has been using the Coregeous ball to restitch her life back together. A lot of the stories in there are of people being born again because of the amount of agency these tools. No other tools have given me that.

Brooke: What are you playing with you in practice these days?

I pretty much started writing the book the moment I found out I was pregnant, so I wrote the whole book while pregnant thinking I could finish it. And I went into labor and the book wasn't done. So I had another 6 months of figuring out how to be a new mother, nursing around the clock, and trying to finish the book. I have a standing desk. I have a couple of aches and pains for funky positions of holding the baby, of craning my neck to look at the baby.

Then as soon as I turned the book in I had all these new creative ideas so I have a lot of things I'm working on. And luckily 24 Hour Fitness reached out to me to put a program together called Treat While You Train which is the name of a program I developed with my friend Kelly Starrett. 24 Hour Fitness wants me to come up with a class format based on that epic DVD series so I am channeling my creative energy there.

I love your blog I love your podcast. You have the most interesting and interactive audience and I want to meet all of you so come and hang out. (book tour schedule in resources!)

Home play!

Let's roll! Why not choose a therapy ball sequence that delights you from these that Jill offers on Whether your area of concern is your neck, upper back, shoulders, lower back, hips, or your feet she's got you covered here. Let me know how it goes and if your fascia suit is feeling happier afterwards.


The Roll Model book

The Roll Model contest- win a free trip to LA to train with Jill! (today, 11/11, is the last day to enter)

Roll Model book tour (I'll be in NYC at Soho Yogaworks rolling with Jill on 11/23- come play with us!)

Yoga Tune Up

The therapy balls

L. Manchikanti and A. Singh, "Therapeutic opiods: a ten-year perspective on the complexities and complications of the escalating use, abuse, and nonmedical use of opiods.":

Terry Wahls protocol for MS

Coregeous ball

Fascia Research Congress 2012- Jill's presentation

Treat While You Train- Jill Miller with Kelly Starrett

If you liked this episode

You might also like:

Bo Forbes: Mindfulness Expressed in the Body

Steve Haines: Body Maps and Interoception

Jonathan FitzGordon: Psoas Release Party!