Thursday, August 30, 2007

Good Posture, Part 2

Good alignment (also known as good posture) is so important to graceful aging, that I’m continuing the advice from my last post. Posture contributes to youthful movement in three ways.

1) Good alignment reduces the wear and tear on joints, tissues, and organs so the body lasts longer.
2) Core muscles are used to maintain good posture. Active core muscles promote suppleness and put feebleness on hold.
3) Good posture looks better! A slump is the signature posture of being beaten by time (and, ironically, teenagers).

An easy way to work on your posture is to practice sitting in alignment. There are many ways to get into “correct” alignment, but here is one of my tried and true methods.

1. Sit with both feet on the floor to support the entire weight of your legs; feet and knees in line with your hips.
2. Put your hands under your behind to find your “sit bones.” (Be careful not to squish your fingers.)
3. Rock back and forth and notice how your sit bones point forward when you lean back on your tail and how they point to the back when you roll your hips forward.
4. Experiment to find the spot where your sit bones point straight down into the Earth.
5. Remove your hands.
6. When your sit bones are straight, your pelvis is level and your spine is aligned without any further effort from you.
7. Gently press your feet into the ground. If your pelvis is level, you will feel a slight lift through your spine.
8. Relax your arms and your neck.

You may feel more effort from the insides of your legs and your lower abdominals to keep this posture. That’s good! But it should also be easier on your shoulders and neck.

If you practice just once every day, your body will develop the strength to stay in alignment for longer and longer—and you will reap the benefits of a more aligned body.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The New Rules of Posture

Exercise is important, but how you use your body everyday has a bigger impact on your overall mobility. That’s why healthy posture is the cornerstone of muscle and joint vitality. You’ll find the information you need to improve your posture in Mary Bond’s book, The New Rules of Posture (Healing Arts Press, 2007, $18.95)

The old rules say that good posture is a matter of placement. The new rules “approach posture as the expression of both mind and body.” Mary guides her readers into good alignment that they can feel.

The book is a collection of stories that we all can relate to, beautiful drawings, and exercises that integrate emotional and physical experience. The exercises are actually explorations into the components of posture: breath, pelvic floor, the core, shoulders, and more. The shoulder exercises are brilliant—a must for anyone with long-term shoulder issues.

We rarely stand still for long, so a posture system that pertains only to sitting or standing has limited application. The New Rules of Posture is about life, working, driving, washing the dishes, so it’s sure to make a difference in how you use your body, and therefore how long you’ll enjoy your mobility.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Waiting for an Airplane

As I sat in the airport, watching the sun rise and waiting to board a plane, I had plenty of time to watch people’s movement patterns, a favorite activity for any Structural Integration practitioner. One woman tapped her fingers, keeping time with the melody in her head. A young man shifted his weight from side to side as he sat cross-legged on the floor. A woman, slightly older than me, stretched as gracefully as a cat and leaned over the back of her chair.

The rest were still, other than the occasional glance at a watch or mouths moving to chew or talk on the cell phone.

When time came to board the plane, you could see the results of stillness transformed into stiffness as most people hobbled, inched, and slogged to the gate. You could tell who moved while they were waiting, they easily transitioned from one position to the next.

Of course, I was undulating—wiggling as unnoticeably as possible—while making my observations. Undulation is mandatory to survive long distance travel without aches and pains. Try my Unnoticeable Undulation next time you have to sit still for any length of time.
1. Sit with your feet and sit bones well grounded.
2. Press the heel and ball of one foot into the ground. Feel the force travel up your leg, hips, and low back.
3. Carry the minuscule wave up your spine and through your neck.
4. Release the pressure from your foot and control the gradual movement back to neutral.
5. Repeat the press, wave, and release with your other foot.
6. Alternate side-to-side, like a cat kneading its paws. Use 10 second or more for each side. Focus on the continuity through all parts of your back and try to keep the shift at your shoulders to less than half an inch
Please share your tips for coping with long period of sitting, either in a plane, the car, or at a long meeting. Just click the comments link so others can learn from your ideas, too

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wobble Chair

My chiropractors, Scott and Jill Massengill of the Center for Natural Healing at Straight Chiropractic in North Bend, have a new therapeutic chair that’s fun, because it encourages undulation. The chair’s promotional literature reinforces many of the same ideas that I preach: movement is necessary to supply nutrients to the spinal discs, and daily exercises of 5-7 minutes are required to keep the discs and connective tissue healthy.

“All of the chemicals and materials of normal spinal discs are present even in pathological and aged spinal discs. But spinal discs don't have their own blood supply so there has to be another way to pump the nutritious fluids into discs and then squeeze out wastes. While physical activity can create a pumping force, Vert Mooney, M.D., a world-renown researcher and orthopedic surgeon cites loading and unloading the lumbar discs as the best way to create a pumping force that produces fluid exchange. And that's exactly what the Wobble Chair does. For a strong, healthy, pain-free back at any age, we prescribe performing loading and unloading exercises with the Wobble Chair twice daily."

“A daily regimen of 5-7 minutes full-range-of-motion exercises are absolutely essential for daily metabolic interchange, nutrition intake, and elimination of waste products in order to maintain healthy, well-hydrated spinal discs, ligaments, and tendons. (The Aging Lumbar Spine, Bernini P.M.D. et al. Saunders, 1982)”

You can learn more about the Wobble Chair with the following link. Go to page 9 for the Wobble Chair.

And, click here for an article that compares the Wobble Chair to other chairs and machines that promise the same results:

Undulations also create a pumping action through the spine, as do other exercises like yoga and dancing. The more of these types of activities that you can build into your life, the healthier your spine will become.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Healthy Muscles, Part II

Last week, I introduced the concept of undulation as an activity that adds variety, and therefore youthful movement, to your body. A couple weeks earlier, I explained the basics of keeping your muscles healthy (Healthy Joints and Muscles). In this article, I’ll tie the two together and show you that how you move determines how healthy your body can be.

Muscular activity regulates much of the flow of fluids throughout your body. When it contracts, a muscle forces fluid from the surrounding connective tissue. As it relaxes, fresh, available fluid flows back in. A muscle can become dehydrated and dried out like beef jerky if it’s chronically contracted. It may also start grabbing nearby tissue for some temporary additional strength, causing adhesions that can later constrict movement.

Without fresh fluid from regular use, a muscle can become stagnant. A brace-like structure may develop when the connective tissue lays down extra fibers to support the immobility, for example sitting over a keyboard for hours. Asking a muscle to contract with all that extra fortification is like asking a piece of plywood to bend. A “tight” muscle may actually need to be shortened instead of stretched like you may think. For example, in the habitual rolled-forward posture the upper back, neck, and shoulders are elongated, but stretching these tissues actually creates more stiffness, not less.

Obviously, movement is vital to keeping your whole body healthy, but it has to be the right type of movement to avoid injury. I divide injuries into two categories: 1) overstretch and 2) overuse.

Overstretch Injuries
If you stretch too far, you can actually create tears within muscle and connective tissue. These tiny lacerations get repaired with scar tissue, which, by nature’s design, is inflexible and stiff. Going for the “burn” is too much and counterproductive.

Stretching is most effective done only to the point of first sensation, which requires an awareness of subtle changes.

Overuse Injuries
Unless you were a prodigy, you probably didn’t learn math all at once. But for some reason, we all want our bodies to do the physical equivalent of calculus right out of the starting gate. It just isn’t possible. And when we try, try again, an injury from overuse is usually the result. A much more effective long-term strategy is to build up your strength gradually and let muscles rest after intense activity.

Another common cause is using one part of the body more than it is designed for, such as bending at one vertebra, rather than spreading the movement over several, or over-rotating the neck, because the torso does not. The tissues around these overworked areas soon become worn out and exhausted. By learning to use your whole body, these types of injuries are preventable.

In summary, we need to move, but it can’t be too much or too little. That’s why I’m a big believer in undulation. It encourages activity with the focus on paying attention to your body’s messages and getting more movement from still places so those inactive tissues become hydrated and healthy.

This article was excerpted from Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation (ISBN #978-0-9796179-0-4) Chapter 3: Characteristics of a Youthful Body.

Monday, August 6, 2007


What’s the difference between the way old and young people move? The answer is variety. Children crawl over the couch, under the table. They look between their legs, using their bodies for sheer enjoyment. They wiggle; they squirm. Old people move in the same way, every day. They rarely do anything new with their bodies; they are set in their ways.

Don’t be discouraged if you are feeling more old than young. You can regain youthful movement by adding variety.

Another difference is that children stop a movement when it becomes uncomfortable. When playing tag, jumping rope, or sitting still isn’t fun anymore, they stop. Unlike adults, a child won’t naturally force herself beyond her limits. It would seem silly to a child to stay on the treadmill for a full hour if her body had enough at 47 minutes. That’s another lesson, pay attention to what’s enough—and stop.

Undulation is an exercise that will help you add variety to your movement and listen to your body. It’s fun and easy and improves the health of your muscles and joints. Try this:
1. Sit in a chair evenly on your sit bones.
2. Move your upper body; sway to the left and the right.
3. Sway for one minute, and notice which parts of your spine move easily and which are stiff.
4. Stop, breathe, and start again. Initiate a new movement from one of the inflexible places, perhaps from your neck, hips, or between your shoulder blades.
5. As you continue, cast your attention inward to the many different places in your spine. Keep your movements soft and easy.
6. Stop about every minute and begin again from a new place. The quality and quantity of movement will vary depending on what part of your body leads.

However you do this exercise, it is correct. The only exception is if you feel pain.

And here’s a variation that will add even more variety.
§ As you sway from side to side, notice the shape of your spine as it curves.
§ First imagine a C-curve with your head and hip on the same side moving toward each other.
§ Move so that the bow or apex of the curve travels up and down your spine. As you do this, the C-curve will temporarily change shape to an S-curve.
§ Let the curve morph from a C-curve to an S-curve and back again over and over.

Even though undulation is simple, it’s super effective at lubricating the joints of your spine so you’ll feel better and create even more movement in your body. You can read more about undulation and get additional exercises in a book I wrote called Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation. Learn more at And, you can view five, short undulation videos at

Just remember to move on to something new when your body is tired of the exercise. Stay active with variety to regain the mobility of your youth.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Don't Gripe, Just Do It

I’ve been griping and grumbling about it for months, but now I’ve decided to just accept the fact that some things in life require more work than they used to. Take sex, for instance. The sparks of passions used to ignite every time I got naked in my bedroom. Removing my clothes doesn’t produce the same effect anymore. After all, I’ve been married to my darling husband for over 22 years, and he’s seen my body about 10,000 times.

Staying in shape isn’t as carefree either. Consistent aerobic exercise (ugh!) is required to maintain a healthy weight and prevent heavy breathing after a single flight of stairs. I can’t just stop at aerobic exercise either. I have to stretch and undulate and lift weights and do yoga at least weekly. Of course, my body deserves it. Physically, I’ve been able to do anything I’ve wanted. Well . . . except for being a high school cheerleader. But with all this consistent exercise, I’m in better shape than at any time in my life. I’m sure I could do the cheers and kicks to make the squad now!

While some things take more work, it’s only fair to recognize the many others that come more easily. I used to fret over almost every decision. How will it affect others? What’s the future impact? Is it the best choice? What will other people think? The self-assuredness that comes with age frees me to focus on more important things.

And, that’s worth a little extra time—and work—to take care of myself. So, while I’m griping about exercising, I just do it, because without it I won’t be strong, flexible, and able to do the things in life I want.