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It’s time to change this outdated belief.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,