Friday, December 26, 2008

Undulation of the Week, Tree Tops

Like many of the undulation exercises, Tree Tops can fit right into your daily activities. When you notice the trees around you, simply get grounded and imitate their fluid movements. The trees in this video inspired me.

Expand your ability to undulate like many different types of trees: palm, oak, redwood.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Constructive Rest Position

When you have too much to do and not enough energy to do it, consider a version of the power nap. Just five minutes of rest using the constructive rest position will recharge your batteries, and if you have 20 minutes to spare, you will stand up totally refreshed. Note that your mind can race through its lists, but after a couple of minutes, even it will relax. Try it and let me know how it works for you.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Partners, Undulation of the Week

Do you know someone with a stiff spine? After just a bit of undulation practice, you can help him or her loosen the kinks by following your lead -- back to back. Whether sitting or standing, this is a lot of fun. Just be careful to work within your partner's range of motion.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Body Gratitude Meditation

Most of us take our bodies for granted. During the holiday season this is even more true as we have less time for exercise, more activities that add stress, and a banquet of poor eating choices available at every turn. The following meditation will give your body the recognition it deserves and create a sense of calm and empowerment.

Turn your attention inward and breathe.

§ Notice your breath. Your lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide over 15,000 times every day. Thank-you, lungs.

§ Your heart beats about 100,000 times every day of your life. Thank-you, heart for keeping me alive.

§ Life-giving oxygen is carried from the lungs and heart through hundreds of miles of blood vessels to nourish every cell. All without conscious thought. Thank-you.

§ Your bones not only give you structure, but the marrow inside makes all your blood cells. Talk about a multi-tasker. Thank-you, bones.

§ The ligaments, muscles, and connective tissue create your shape and make it possible for you to move. Each part conforms to how you use it. I’m glad for my movement.

§ The skin is the largest organ of the body, about 20 square feet, and is the first line of defense in protecting us from the outside world. Thank-you, skin.

§ The immune cells further this protection and fight disease and cancer on a daily basis. The colds we get are few compared to the number that have been detected and eliminated already. I appreciate my immune system.

§ Lymph is the highway for the immune system. This silent transportation network reduces inflammation and keeps us healthy. I am grateful.

§ Seven glands secrete the hormones that create a finely tuned symphony of chemical messages and function. You are beyond my comprehension, but I appreciate you nonetheless, endocrine system.

§ The organs (in addition to the skin): liver, stomach, intestines, pancreas, kidneys, bladder and more work in ways I can’t fathom, but also can’t live without.

§ The brain and billion nerves in the body tie function together with a network that coordinates the other systems.

Express gratitude for each part. Every second of every day, they work in concert with precision and artistry while we’re busy navigating traffic, surfing the internet, chomping down fast food, or daydreaming. For a few minutes I will recognize the miracles needed to keep me alive.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Tornado, Undulation of the Week

Do the parts of your spine feel like one, stiff board? Undulation will help you loosen tight muscles so that the vertebrae have more independent movement. The Tornado Undulation helps you work up and down your spine to create more freedom and flexibility. It's fun, but start slowly and take time to work up to a tornado-like frenzy.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Healing Starts with Compassion

If part of your body is not working properly—a sore back, drop in energy, broken toe, chronic pain, or frozen shoulder—do you want it to be fixed or healed? The attitude that you bring greatly affects the process and outcome. What's the difference?

When I think of fixing something, I remember my dad working on the car, his coveralls oily and knuckles knicked. He returned from the garage triumphant after restoring order to that darn (although I don't think that's the word he used) part.

Healing has a different character. I think of an army medic attending to a wounded soldier, his blood-stained hands administering aid as his gaze and words convey assurance.

The basic difference is compassion, the foundation of any healing process. The very idea of fixing has an adversarial component. Healing is cooperative and supportive.

Furthermore, fixing may restore to the original state, while healing allows for a situation that is better than new. A broken bone heals to be stronger than the original structure. A fixed frozen shoulder makes it possible to resume former activities, while a healed frozen shoulder brings a new sense of relationship between the arm, shoulder and spine and even greater awareness and range of motion than enjoyed before.

When part of your body is "broken" consider carefully how you approach the situation. That part is actually You and will probably respond to compassion and healing more satisfactorily than a challenge.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Waking Spider, Undulation of the Week

Although this Advanced Undulation does require core strength, it is very fun to do and one of my favorites.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Don't Let Life Get You Down

Do you need a role model for having fun with life regardless of your experiences? Let me introduce you to Nick Vujicic, a man with no arms and no legs who has retained his perspective and sense of humor better than most of us.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Snake Arms, Undulation of the Week

This undulation feels very good if you have sore shoulders or sides.

Wake Up with a Back Ache

My first thought this morning was, “Oh, my muscles hurt.” With a squeaky groan, I rolled over only to find another set of sore spots. Every movement triggered a new pain. Yesterday’s tasks of moving heavy things to take down the Nightmare at Beaver Lake sets had taken its toll on me. My low back, upper back, neck, shoulders, even the spaces between my ribs were crying for help.

Some people would start the day with a handful of ibuprofen, but I had another option: undulation. I moved gently and slowly, squirming in bed to move like a baby discovering its muscles. My intention was not to stretch, but to rehydrate the muscles and ligaments I abused yesterday.

After about five minutes of Free Form, I rolled out of bed and onto the floor. I loosened the front and back of my spine with Personal Wave. After about a minute, my rickety movements turned smooth.

Then turned onto my side for Mermaid, which lubricated the sides of my low back and hips.

The next rotation was lying on my tummy for the Snake undulation, a subtle movement to get the nooks and crannies in between the vertebrae.

After that I felt better enough to get on my hands and knees for Whirlpool, with special attention on my neck and low back.

I finished with a few Snake Arms standing up. (To see videos of undulations, click here.)

Now my left side feels very fluid and limber. My right side still has a few complaining spots, mainly in my ribs and neck, the places that took the greatest toll from lifting heavy objects for hours. A bath with Epsom salts might be enough to take away the remaining aches.

Let’s face it, some activities can be hard on our bodies. Back aches are all too common. It helps to have an collection of remedies at your disposal, especially those that don’t involve medication.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Cure for Stubborn, Inflexible Muscles

How do you feel about the stiff muscles in your body? Are they stubborn and uncooperative? Do they get in the way of your full enjoyment of life?

Maybe the trouble isn’t in your muscles. The underlying ligaments, cartilage and discs don’t receive direct blood supply, so they depend on gentle motion to bring in nutrition and take away waste products.

Sway your spine and notice where the movement is easy and what places find it difficult or impossible to participate. Any place that can’t move is malnourished.

Give a stiff place one minute to be the center of your attention, let it determine how to sway, let it be the leader of your body. Discover how little time it takes to be rejuvenated, how willing it is to be part of you when it gets what it needs.

If you spend hours a day at a computer, or in the car, or engaged in repetitive stillness of any sort, your stiffness may simply be a plea for an internal drink of water, a taste of nutrients, a call to take out the toxins accumulated in the muscles.

Undulate—sway, wiggle, squirm—in any way that makes those inflexible places more flexible. Because the movements are small, you can do it anywhere: at your desk, in your car, even waiting in line at the grocery store. You can learn 52 undulation exercises that will unlock your spine in Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation and the 4-CD audio version, Undulation Exercises. Try some out here:

Monday, October 13, 2008

Old Faithful, Undulation of the Week

Don't discount the value of simple movements to nourish the spine's cartilage, ligaments, and discs. This simple undulation also eases tension in the back and improves posture.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Prevent Poor Posture

“I walk like an old person in the morning,” one of my clients told me. I wondered if she hobbled, shuffled, took short steps, or was just stiff, so I asked her what she meant.

“I have horrible posture.” Oh.

The elderly often stoop under a heavy cloak of past injury and poor habit. On the other end of the spectrum, toddlers spring up from the ground without the burden of malformed muscle and connective tissue.

Parents have more information to pass on about the birds and the bees than they do about good posture. So most people run around with the mistaken notion that pulling shoulders back is the correct way to stand tall, but doing so actually adds tension to the upper back and is one of the most common habits that eventually leads to a stoop.

Good posture is so simple and it builds core muscles, heals injury, and perpetuates more ease.

Rather than concentrating on the upper body to stand tall, focus your attention on the feet and legs. Make sure your hips are not forward of your ankles—most people need to shift their hips back and move the torso slightly forward. Try it and notice how this alignment requires your inner abdominals to work.

From here, relax your arms at your sides. If you feel you could be taller, lift your chest, push your feet into the ground and reach through the crown of your head. Your shoulders naturally fall back and down without strain when you lift your heart.

While this “ground-up” method is not familiar, most people are often surprised at how easy it is to have good posture. The “shoulders-back” method is a heavy burden that doesn’t need to be born by anyone—young or old. You can take a few years off your frame by practicing ground-up posture every day.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Spinal Flow, Undulation of the Week

Learn to pay attention inward and tune into subtle body sensations with the Spinal Flow undulation. Start with your heart beat. Put your hands on your chest and feel the beat. Bend your spine, open and close your fists, and move your legs in cadence with the beat. Then partner with other systems: your digestion, breath, and spinal flow. Slow down to match your internal rhythm.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Body Has Layers of Rhythms

A symphony is playing inside your body right now. A harmony of rhythms keeps you alive, but when one system loses its tempo, the melody—that is your health—suffers.

Take a moment to tune into this miraculous song that plays day in and day out. Your heart beat, the whisper of your breath, gurgles of digestion. More subtly, your lymph system cleanses in a slow flow. Your brain and spinal cord are bathed in craniosacral rhythm. Even your organs dance in a back and forth motion every seven seconds or so.

What we commonly think of as aging is disruption in the flow of these systems. For example, the breath and visceral organs get bound up in patterns of past injury or stress. This is often because we incorrectly assume that the body is built like a machine and we limit the variety of our movements, as though we were a part of an assembly line.

Instead, try to enhance your internal flow. Consciously expand your breath every day. Nourish your heart beat with cardiovascular exercise. Move with variety—slowly, slinky, silly—move like the organic being that you are.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Spirals Undulation

Once you've learned to manipulate the core muscles around your spine, you can release very deep places with advanced undulations such as this one: Spirals.

Friday, September 19, 2008

5 Ways to Develop Body Awareness

Being more in touch with your body has practical benefits like being healthier, because you can avoid illness and injury more easily. It also makes for a more full experience of living. Here are five ways you can develop your own body consciousness.

  1. Sit or lie down and listen to your body for ten minutes. Just notice your sensations without judgment or the need to do anything. Afterwards, write your impressions in a journal.
  2. Breathe. Notice the smoothness and count of each inhale and exhale. Send breath different places in the body.
  3. Several times throughout the day, ask yourself: “How am I feeling?” Notice that it is different that what you are thinking.
  4. When you feel something, such as tight shoulders, a sore low back, or twinges in the hips, stop for a minute. Pay attention to what you feel and make adjustments if appropriate.
  5. Don’t expect the body to speak logically in full sentences. That is the way of the mind. The body is more like an artist; it speaks in poetry, colors, and imagery.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bellows, Undulation of the Week

Like a bellows that fuels a fire with air, your side can pump energy into your discs and muscles, vitalize your breath, and tighten your waist.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Body Unconscious

Ignoring our bodies’ needs has been ingrained since early childhood.
“Don’t cry. That didn’t hurt.”
“Wake up. It’s time to go to school.”
“Sit still and be quiet.”
“Push through the pain.”
Every evasion mutes the body’s intelligence. After all, why should it talk if no one is listening?

In addition, lack of education about basic physical functions leads to ignorance that causes daily strain. For example, most people don’t know:
§ Each foot has 3 arches.
§ You can regulate your nervous system by controlling your breath (more than just taking a deep breath when upset).
§ The best way to have good posture is to push into the ground, not pull up from the shoulders.
§ The nerves that power your arms come from your neck. That’s why lean-forward, computer-work posture contributes to carpal tunnel syndrome.

It’s no wonder that so many mind-body relationships resemble a dysfunction marriage between tyranny and passive-aggression.

Mind: Get up and go to work now.
Body: I’m tired.
Mind: Work harder.
Body: I hurt.
Mind: You can rest now.
Body: I don’t want to sleep.

Restoring body consciousness is possible. My next article will give you several methods to improve the mind-body connection and will help you:
§ Avoid Injuries.
§ Be more in tune with your intuition and creativity.
§ Exercise more.
§ Eat better.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Inchworm, Undulation of the Week

This undulation has many benefits. It's playful. It's a reason to get on the ground (Never lose that ability, it keeps your legs strong!) It isolates tiny muscles around the spine--many you never knew you had. If you have children, they'll enjoy doing this exercise with you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Undulations for Back Pain

Every time I give an undulation class, someone with chronic back pain gratefully reports relief. That is the reason I teach—and, of course, I love the excuse to undulate for an hour.

This week’s class had an unexpected twist. A 9-year old girl joined us. It was fun to see the fluid motion of a young body in the mix. Afterwards, she told me that her back had been hurting all day, but now “felt all better.” She then insisted that her mom buy my audiobook so they could do the exercises at home.

It may seem as though back pain needs a monumental solution. However, the answer can be as easy as small movements that lubricate your spinal discs and ligaments. Give it a try. You can listen to sample exercises by going to: and

Monday, August 25, 2008

Friday, August 22, 2008

Functional Exercise

I’m in the process of writing a series of short books on undulation: 5 Undulation Exercises for Low Back Pain, 5 Undulation Exercises for Computer Users, Undulations on the Ball, etc. After that my next book will be about the daily activities that are necessary to keep strength and balance as we get older.

I developed this list after I taught a class at a retirement community and learned than many seniors aren’t able to get on the floor. Actually, they can get down, but have such trouble getting up that they stop using the full capacity of their legs and then start a downward spiral of weakness.

So here are my 7 Things You Need to Do Every Day to Stay Active Longer. (I intend to find a shorter title before it’s finished.)

1) Avoid injury by avoiding painful movements
2) Breathe consciously and fully
3) Explore the range of motion of all joints
4) Squat to develop the big muscles of the legs, thighs, and hips
5) Stand on one leg (one, then the other) to build hip stabilizer strength
6) Add variety to your movements with undulations or other new activities
7) Hug somebody

By the way, I'm teaching a class at the Issaquah Senior Center on Tuesday mornings that incorporates these exercises.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Swing, Undulation of the Week

Do you remember the joy of swinging as a child? Recreate the wonderful feeling of flight right in your living room and strengthen your back and your core, too.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Learn from Olympic Rowers

About a year ago, my right shoulder froze (see Now, my left shoulder is restricted in movement, because I repeatedly took it beyond its range of motion when practicing a dance last week. I’ve also been watching the Olympics; the rowers remind me of good shoulder body mechanics.

1) Each stroke of the arm starts in the feet.
2) The motion connects fluidly from foot, through leg, through torso, then the shoulder and arms carry through.
3) The entire body is engaged, not just the arms

You don’t have to be an Olympic rower to benefit from using your arms this way. Stay connected through your core to your feet when lifting a heavy bag of groceries or opening a heavy door to prevent injuries and gain strength.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Jerk, Undulation of the Week

We are told to let go of stress? But how? Send stress flying out your fingertips and surging from your skin with a twitch.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympic Undulations

There’s plenty of opportunity to observe undulation as you watch the Olympics. Here’s a great example. I found a great video on a triathlete’s blog, because it talks about undulation. (This site is informative, too.) Look at Michael Phelps breaking the 200 m butterfly world record in Melbourne last year.

His undulations underwater, especially after each turn, are absolutely amazing. No wonder he is so strong!

Also notice how the athletes are shaking their muscles to relax before the race. This is like Undulation #29, The Jerk. Try it next time you want to shed some unnecessary tension.

You’ll find plenty of undulation in every sport. The runners who let the motion flow through their bodies will be faster than those who pound the pavement. The crew members who row in an undulation from feet through fingers will be more powerful than those who pull from arms and shoulders only.

If you see a particularly amazing undulation while watching the Olympics, please post a comment to let me know to watch for it.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dance to the Music, Undulation of the Week

Simply put on your favorite music and let your body follow along for relaxing and refreshing exercise.

Friday, August 1, 2008


August is here, the month of relaxation. While we don’t live in France where many people take the month off, we can adopt a less stressful attitude, and this starts with regular relaxation. It’s not slacking—no—this is an important activity for your health.

According to the Mayo Clinic, relaxation techniques help to lower blood pressure, slow heart beat, increase blood flow to tissues, and reduce muscle tension. Other benefits include improved immune system response, more complete healing, better sleep, and usually a happier life.

Sitting in front of the TV doesn’t count though. Dr. Weil’s website describes a very effective progressive relaxation exercise. There are a variety of relaxation therapies, including the use of music and aromas. My mom gave me a bottle of essential oils for “Peace and Calming.” It’s amazing how effective taking the time to smell a soothing fragrance can be! Most people find being in nature to be soothing, like fishing or a walk in the woods.

Like all other health habits, relaxation is best practiced regularly. Experiment and find the techniques that work best for you.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Snake Charmer, Undulation of the Week

If you sit at a desk or drive for most of the day, your back muscles probably get stuck in a certain (and probably not beneficial) position. The Snake Charmer undulation works the kinks out and strengthens muscles that have been sleeping while you've been working.

Friday, July 25, 2008

DeTox Your Body with Diet

As part of a 9-day yoga intensive workshop, we eliminated sugar, alcohol, and caffeine from our diets. I decided to go a step further and stay away from dairy and gluten as well, since I know my digestive system is sensitive to these foods. After a week on the “diet”, I notice more energy overall and that my muscles and connective tissue are much more supple. That led me to wonder, how do sugar and gluten make muscles and connective tissue sticky, and how does a good diet make fascia healthy?

According to the 20-Day Rejuvenation Diet Plan, when the body can’t fully digest food, it creates toxins that travel through the blood stream to other parts of the body. Also, when the body does not have optimal nutrition, its ability to eliminate waste is diminished, so the byproducts of muscle contraction like acids and calcium build up in the connective tissue.

Detox diets and regimens have become very popular lately, with wild promises and bizarre combinations. My father-in-law claims the best detox is to eat nothing but grapes for a day. I don’t think that you have to resort to coffee enemas or intestinal insult to clean your insides. Instead, I propose that there are two parts to a plan that reduces the load on our internal organs and allows them to function more optimally. Step one: eliminate foods that are hard to metabolize. Step two: make sure that the body is getting what it needs for optimal health.

It’s just common sense to avoid environments that are harmful, such as cigarette smoke, pollution, and noxious chemicals. Eating hard-to-digest food can clog up your system in the same way. According to Wikipedia, some foods to avoid when detoxing include caffeine, processed foods, sugar, and fried foods.

One of the advantages of eliminating junk is that you replace empty calories with more nutrient-rich food, but your body may need even more support. Water is essential for any cleansing process; the body depends on it for everything. Also, even with nutrient-rich food, many people need a vitamin and mineral supplement. Some people have found taking an enzyme supplement helps with digestion, making the nutrients in food more available. And, we can’t forget fiber, the colon’s vacuum cleaner. Dr. Weil gives reasonable diet advice, including an anti-inflammatory diet.

One more thing: if you’re asking your body to detox, it needs the energy to do it, and that means a good balance between activity and rest. Exercise enough to flush the waste products out of your muscles and stimulate your lymph system, as I outlined in a previous post, Detox Your Body with Movement. But also make sure you get enough rest, because that is when your body is best able to heal.

The liver, lungs, kidneys, intestines, skin, and lymph system are designed for daily detox. We can help them do the job with sensible eating habits. Be wary of extravagant promises though, as noted in the article from WedMd. The idea is to get healthier, not to deplete your system.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Yoga Blaze Community Event

I'm pleased to be co-sponsoring an event for yoga professionals (teachers, teachers-in-training, therapists) together with the Yoga Barn and Yoga Blaze on Saturday, Sept. 13 from 2:00 to 4:30.

The Yoga Barn
660 NW Gilman Blvd., Suite C6, Issaquah, WA

Enjoy an afternoon in the company of yoga teachers. Have fun. Share experiences. Hear how yoga was clinically proven to be effective for low back pain, more effective than physical therapy or home exercises in a recent scientific study.

You have the opportunity to participate in two free workshops and partake of refreshments and sangha. Come for all or drop in for any part that fits your schedule.

2:00 to 2:30 Undulation and Yoga led by Anita Boser
2:30 to 3:45 Social Time with light refreshments
3:45 to 4:30 Robin Rothenberg presents Safe Yoga Tips for the Low Back, including elements of the Essential Low Back Program, a yoga practice based on the National Institutes of Health study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dec. 2005.

There are several comfy places for tea, coffee or dinner in Issaquah, so the socializing can continue afterwards, as well.

Undulation is the vital movement that nourishes joints and muscles. You’ll learn fun and easy movements to incorporate into Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose), Vrksasana (tree pose), and Chakravakasana. You can also use this technique to create ease after strenuous poses, to warm up, or to encourage your students with injuries or chronic illness.
Anita is a Certified Hellerwork Practitioner and viniyoga student-teacher.

Learn some simple sequencing secrets to keep your students’ lower backs stable and pain-free. Easy to work into any style of yoga practice, these principles reduce risk, especially in vinyasa and other flow practices that emphasize mobility. Based on the scientific study that has established yoga as a therapeutically healing practice for the lower back.
Robin has presented on low back pain at SYTAR (Symposium for Yoga Therapy & Research) and at the 2007 NAMA conference on anxiety. She is on the advisory board for IAYT, (International Association of Yoga Therapy) and is an adjunct faculty member at Mt. Royal College in Calgary.

If you have any questions, feel free to call me at 425-765-2713.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Feel Your Spine, Undulation of the Week

The best way to know what's really going on in your spine is to test your range of motion so that each vertebra receives individual attention. This works well for low back or neck pain.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tight Muscles Are Not All the Same

Most of my clients (or should I say most Americans?) have tight muscles. While tightness is certainly uncomfortable and a request for attention, it’s not a useful adjective for diagnosis, because tightness is caused by different factors. Treatment for one type of tight muscle can actually make another worse. I'll explain six types of tightness so you can respond to your muscles’ complaints more effectively.

#1 – Short and overused
After a long hike or intense workout, the muscles in your legs may feel tight and sore, because they have been overused. The muscles are contracted and could benefit from gentle stretching, especially while they are warm from activity.

#2 – Long and overused, but weak
When in an unbalanced posture, some muscles will be short and contracted and others will be long for counterbalance, which creates stiffness that feels like tightness. Computer posture is a great example, as shown in the illustration. The muscles in the front of the chest are short and overused, the upper back and shoulders are overstretched and working in a compromised, weakened position. They need to be shortened and strengthened. Isometric exercise like squeezing the shoulder blades together is effective. (As a matter of fact, half the benefit of a doorway stretch is stretching the front, the other benefit is shortening the muscles in the upper back.) Follow this link for shoulder blade squeeze instructions,S,89941.

#3 – Underused and weak
If a muscle isn’t used, it will atrophy and the surrounding connective tissue and fascia gets sticky and dense. In computer posture, several of the arm muscles fall into this category. Gradually increase strength through exercise to rebuild the health of the muscle and feeling of suppleness to the fascia. Multiple muscle exercises like mini push-ups or bench press is better than single muscle exercises on a machine. Here are instructions for a wall push-up:

#4 – Strained
Muscles that are overused to the point of strain tighten up for protection. The first step in healing is rest. Ice, heat, or a combination can help, too. Then gradually introduce exercise and stretching. You can read more about injury treatment here:

#5 – Trigger points
Strain can create trigger points and so can structural imbalance, poor posture, and being cold. These knots are often described as tightness. The best treatment is warming the muscle, pressing or massaging the tender points, and then stretching.

#6 – Scar tissue
Muscles and connective tissue that have been damaged, either from a sudden injury or continual microtrauma of poor alignment, repair themselves with stiff, inflexible scar tissue. Manual therapy like deep tissue and cross fiber friction massage is an effective treatment. Sometimes stretching helps, but overstretching creates even more scar tissue.

You can’t lump all tight muscles together and treat them the same way. For example, lengthening or stretching a long and overused muscle or muscles with internal scar tissue makes them even more stiff. Become aware of what underlies your internal feelings and you’ll improve your muscle health, prevent injuries, and discover new insights about yourself.
However, there are some types of exercises that are good for your muscles, ligaments, and joints at any time. You can read more about why here:
Also, download a free copy of 7 Undulatiosn to Relieve Office Tension and try seven exercises that relieve tight muscles in the neck, shoulders, hands, and back.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mermaid, Undulation of the Week

If you can't get to a warm beach, you can simulate swimming on your bedroom floor and use Mermaid to rinse the kinks out of your low back and strengthen your hips.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Stronger than Rock Hard Abs and Buns of Steel

Does your idea of a strong body include rock hard abs and buns of steel? It’s ironic that our metaphors for strength are rocks, concrete, and metal. Just remember that rocks and concrete don’t move, which is what the human body is designed to do.

As the Roman philosopher Ovid said, “Nevertheless hard though rock may be, it is hollowed by the wave.” The photos from my recent vacation on Oahu reminded me how powerful water is. So did the wave that gave me a face plant into the beach. I'll be picking sand from my hair for the next week.

Our bodies are mostly water. When you emphasize your fluidity, you gain long-term strength.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Back Massage, Undulation of the Week

When you can’t get an appointment for a massage or if you are short on funds, you can do it yourself. This undulation works the sore places out of your back.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Essential Low Back Program

Back pain is as common as weekend gardening and surfing the internet. Fortunately, there’s a new tool available to relieve and prevent low back pain: the Essential Low Back Program by Robin Rothenberg, a booklet and 5 audio CD set. The practice outlined in the program was developed for a National Institutes of Health study, and 78% of the participants who followed the program experienced significant reduction in their pain levels—and still had relief after six months.

The booklet is a pleasure to read with plenty of illustrations and photos. It gives background information that anyone with back pain needs: basic anatomy, posture, and the mind-body connection. One of my favorite lines from the book is: “It rarely occurs to us that the body may, in fact, be expressing the unspoken frustrations and needs of the heart.”

Each of the 5 CDs include a separate yoga practice which progress from entry level and builds up to a strong, dynamic sequence. They are easy to follow, as if you were receiving a private yoga session in your own living room, even if you’ve never done yoga before. This isn’t the twist-yourself-into-a-pretzel kind of yoga. This is a therapeutic practice that starts with beneficial breathing (good for anyone), moves on to a sequence of exercises that strengthen and stretch the back and hips (also good for anyone), and ends with much needed relaxation (that’s the essential part).

I highly recommend this program for anyone with chronic low back pain or who wants to improve spine health, or who just wants another good yoga practice. You can view excerpts at this link:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hula Hoop, Undulation of the Week

There are so many playful undulations; it was hard for me to pick just one for this post. Hula Hoop is a great exercise and even more fun when you aren’t worried about dropping the hoop.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Get Up and Play

Have you noticed the US Dept. of Health and Human Services new message, “Get Up and Play an Hour a Day?” It isn’t just for kids; adults and teenagers need more play in our lives, too.

A Shrek and Donkey video created by DreamWorks and hosted by the Ad Council is run as a public service ad on TV. In it, Shrek and Donkey drag kids from the TV and take them to a playground to enjoy monkey bars, swings, and the slide. View it here:

But what about adult play? I’m designing a class for the Issaquah Senior Center, so this subject is on my mind a lot lately. My ideas include a hula hoop contest, a beach ball game, musical chairs (hopefully that doesn’t look like tackle football), follow the leader, and an obstacle course.

Of course, undulation is play that you can build right into your day without the awkwardness of interrupting elementary school students at recess or toddlers at the local park. Fun undulation exercises like Swing that you can do on a chair, Snake that lubricates your spine as you inch along the ground, and Spirals that work the kinks out of your back.

Try Sideways Roll to remind you of the joy of rolling down a hill. You can view a short video of Sideways Roll here. (It takes up to a minute for the file to load once you've clicked the link.)

One of the benefits of play is variety; you go from the swings to the monkey bars to the slide and back again. That’s even more important for adults who are usually stuck in a repetitive job, whether that’s at a desk or computer for hours a day or driving the kids between a million activities.

Variety is the purpose of undulation. You can follow along with the audio for Mermaid, which is sure to bring a smile to your face as it swirls the stiffness out of your spine. (Again, it can take up to a minute to load.)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Undulation of the Week, Whirlpool

After you’ve released the tightness in your spine with the beginning undulations and built strength with the intermediate ones, your body will be able to transfer movement from one vertebra to the next. Whirlpool, a mastery level undulation, feels delicious.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Agony of De-Feet

How much do you know about the unsung heroes of your body, the ones that hold you up and keep you moving? Take this short quiz and equip yourself to treat your feet better.

How many bones are in each foot?
a. 12
b. 16
c. 22
d. 26

How many arches are in each foot?
a. 1
b. 2
c. 3
d. 4

Are shoes good for your feet?
a. Yes, wear shoes as often as possible
b. Yes, but only if you wear orthotics
c. No, stay barefoot as much as you can
d. The jury is out

Each foot has 26 bones with the capacity for almost as much movement as the hand. Three arches create a pyramid in the foot that, when balanced, evenly support the entire weight of the body. This site has good diagrams of the bones and arches:

Unfortunately, feet don’t get the opportunity to realize their full potential. We almost always walk on flat ground in shoes that prevent articulation of the bones. Some people do need to wear shoes and orthotics, but most of us would benefit from a regular barefoot walk on a forest path, rocky river bank, or grassy terrain.

“You Walk Wrong” claims Adam Sternbergh in New York Magazine. His insightful and funny article can be read here: On a similar note, I wrote an article years ago entitled “Your Feet are in a Straightjacket”

You don’t need to forgo shoes, just give your feet a little TLC and some variety. It will be good for your entire body.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Happy Dog, Undulation of the Week

This undulation meets the requirements listed in my article about coping with fatigue through exercise. Happy Dog is gentle, fun, and it feels good.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Fatigue and Exercise

Exercise can improve your mood and adds to your energy reserves. But if you are dealing with fatigue—either on a chronic basis or just for a day—how do you get enough energy to start exercising in the first place? And how do you keep yourself from depleting what little stamina you have?

First of all, don’t gamble all your get-up-and-go on one activity, even exercise. Always keep a bit of energy for yourself. Scale back your expectations of accomplishment, start small, and slowly build up over time.

Also, have fun. If exercise is drudgery, you have to use precious energy just to get started. But if you do something you love (swimming in the ocean, walking in the woods, undulating, dancing, etc.), you’ll be invigorated. The more you can do, the more you will want to do.

Focus on movements that feel good. Pain is an energy-zapper and signals that you are causing injury. On the other hand, exercise that is pleasurable will nourish your body and feed your spirit. As soon as activity starts to feel bad, stop and either modify what you’re doing to feel good again or call it a day.

I’ll be presenting at a workshop, entitled Coping with Fatigue through Exercise, sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of King County on Wednesday, June 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the North Bellevue Community Center ( The keynote speaker is Ted Brown, MD, MHP, Head of Rehabilitative Medicine from at Evergreen Medical Center. ( I’ll lead movements that make it easier to exercise.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Balance Scale, Undulation of the Week

This exercise can be built into your daily activities, at the gas pump or grocery store, in the shower, or while unloading the dishwasher. To loosen and strengthen your spine, create a wave that starts from the ground through your foot, leg, and SI joint.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

No Pain, No Gain - No Way

“No pain, no gain” is so ingrained. We’ve heard this saying so often and for so long that it plays inside our heads as a proven fact. This silent message pushes us to exceed our limits and often causes injury that prolongs this so-called “good for us” pain.

It’s time to change this outdated belief. But don’t just take my word for it. There are many other healthcare experts that warn you to avoid pain during exercise. The links to their articles give you more detail about how pain communicates injury, not strength.

Fitness star, Kathy Smith: “remember your workout should not be painful.”

Celebrity trainer, Harley Pasternak: “pain is not required for a successful workout.”

Jody Welborn, MD in the United States Masters Swimming newsletter, Sept. 2002: “Sore muscles are not the sign of a successful workout, but rather signify microscopic injury to the muscle, tendons and ligaments.”

Even the American Medical Association newsletter (Jan. 24, 2005): “It is key to remind people that the adage ‘no pain, no gain’ is wrong, said Clarence L. Shields, Jr., MD, an orthopedic surgeon at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles.”

We need a new catchy saying to replace the one we’ve brainwashed ourselves with. I suggest: “Pain equals strain.” What are your ideas?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Free Form, Undulation of the Week

The Free Form undulation is an empowering, body-focused meditation that teaches you to look, feel, and hear inside so your body can lead movement. The benefits include release of sore spots, better body awareness, and learning that your body knows what it needs and how you can provide it.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mindfulness and Healing

Where have you spent the last 24 hours? How often was your mind aware of your body? If you’re not in your body, where are you? Probably at home when you’re at work, and at the grocery store when you’re at home, and with your kids, your spouse, your parents, orphans in Africa, soldiers in Iraq, and many other places.

Sometimes pain is a reflection of this fractured consciousness. Although it seems counterintuitive to bring awareness back to what seems to be the source of the pain—the body—actually, it’s a profound learning experience that can dramatically reduce pain.

In Transformation and Healing, Thich Nhat Hanh gives easy-to-follow exercises and identifies several benefits of mindfulness: calming the body and becoming aware of where the body is, what it’s doing, and how the parts interrelate.

Calming the body reduces pain that comes from tension and anxiety. Becoming better aware of body position and action gives the opportunity to prevent the continual microtrauma that we inflict on ourselves everyday. Reflecting on the body parts individually and collectively increases pleasant feelings from the many places in the body that are working well and not hurting.

I first learned how powerful meditation can be from a nurse who discovered this method to relieve her back pain. She credits non-judgmental awareness with developing inner awareness. What could be better for your health? She now offers meditation courses and has an information-packed website.

Bringing attention to your breath is powerful. It reflexively brings calm and energy. Meditation doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Hip Hiker, Undulation of the Week

When I sit on the Wobble Chair before my chiropractic appointments, it reminds me most of the Hip Hiker undulation. This undulation softens and strengthens the muscles along the sides of the low back.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Passive Undulation Machines: Back2Life, Chi Machine, Hula Chair, Wobble Chair

I’m pleased to see more avenues for undulation coming to the forefront. Last week on TV, I saw an infomercial for the Back2Life machine, the “12 minute back pain answer.” Just lie down, bend your knees, put your calves on the machine, and let it align your spine with a passive undulation. In case you want to know without having to watch the entire 30 minute spot, as I did, the cost is $199.

A similar machine has been on the market for several years, called the Chi Machine. They range in cost from $99 to $350 and do basically the same thing, but the legs are straight instead of bent.

The Hawaii chair as demonstrated by Ellen Degeneres in this hilarious video is another option.

Of course it works better if you keep your feet on the floor!

My August 16 post highlighted the Wobble Chair, another passive undulation machine, The chair is about $200, but my chiropractor will also sell just the top wobble part, which is about $100, to set on top of a hard chair. You can read more about it at this link. The Wobble Chair is available only through chiropractors and is described on page 9 of this catalog:

You could spend $100 or more for a chair or machine that helps you stay limber and hydrates your discs. Or you could learn to undulate on your own. Self-undulation has the following advantages over passive undulation:

1) You can undulate anywhere without a chair or a machine. Nourish your spine in line at the grocery store, in your car waiting for the light to turn green, or in the shower. All without having to set aside 12 minutes a day.

2) Passive undulation loosens muscles. Active undulation also strengthens the tiny muscles around the spine.

3) Studies show that passive treatments aren’t as effective in the long run as strategies that are patient directed.

4) The undulation book is less than $20, the 4 CD set is under $22 from You can Look Inside the book by following the link on the right side of this page.

The Hip Hiker undulation, shown here, closely recreates the Wobble Chair motion. The Personal Wave undulation,, is great for low back pain. The Coffee Grinder undulation is a tame version of the Hula Chair and a video is is shown here along with other undulation videos:

Monday, May 5, 2008

Paint Your Head with the Floor, Undulation of the Week

This is one of my favorite undulations for relieving neck pain. The key is to move slowly and discover new muscles—both tight and weak—in the neck. (Undulation #26)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Relieve Neck Pain with Undulation

Last month at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida, I had the opportunity to see dozens of wild species native to Florida. Every single animal undulated: manatees swimming, a snake reaching for a branch, otters wrestling, turtles paddling. The birds especially caught my eye. I don’t think they have neck pain, because they work out the kinks with their own movement.

When people want to stretch the neck, they usually stretch as fa-a-a-ar as possible, pulling the muscles to maximum elasticity or even beyond. Birds don’t do that. Even when the owls turned their heads to look behind, they kept their movement within a comfortable range. There was no straining.

The herons used their necks in all activity. When taking off or landing, the neck rippled with flight rather than being held stiffly, like most people do. Reaching into the water encompassed the entire body, flowing from foot to leg and through the spine and neck. Try reaching forward. Can you let your neck flow forward and back as you do so? Feel how much more ease you have this way.

Even flapping wings, which is thought of as a mechanical back-and-forth motion, was circular—almost a figure 8. Give it a try. Pump your arm forward and back, like swinging a tennis racket halfway. Feel the tension in your arm and neck. Then swing in an oval shape, letting your elbow move up and down and the motion of your wrist and hand follow the elbow. Let your opposite hip move, too, so your spine can undulate. Notice how much better it feels.

The flamingos’ necks were a constant sea of motion. Every step, gesture, noise sent a wave that traveled out the top of the head. How could they have neck pain with that constant internal massage? Similar to the flamingos, the swans’ necks moved like silk rope, without effort or tension, and then, just as easily and gracefully, straightened like a palm tree reaching for the sky.

Photos by Dope on the Slope blog,