Monday, December 28, 2009

Undulation in Sculpture

Fluid movement is beautiful whether in a human body or piece of art. The Morning Sun recently ran an article about a local artist with an exhibit called Organic Dance. Photo by Sean Steffan of The Morning Sun.

If you find fluid movement to be awkward in your body, use this sculpture by Pittsburgh artist Jake Steven Fincher as an inspiration to move. Line your body up to mirror the first column in the exhibit and then imitate the second then flow into the third and down the line. It’s no wonder that Fincher calls this piece Undulation. The solid pillars move and it stimulates fluid movement in the viewer as well.

Fincher’s exhibit at the Harry Krug Art Gallery at the Pittsburgh State University through mid-January.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Snap, Crackle & Pop

Does your body make noise when you move? Such as:
--> Crunching when you roll your shoulders.
--> Knees snap and pop on stairs.
--> Back cracks when turning.

There’s no need to freak out over the sound of crunchy muscles. They are, however, a warning to proceed with caution. The noises come from hardness in the body, such as calcification in muscles and fascia or tight ligaments and tendons, where there’s supposed to be suppleness. It’s as though the soft tissues are turning to bone.

To avoid the crunching, many people stop moving. Unfortunately, this makes the situation worse. Nutrition starved muscles stay surrounded in metabolic waste, including calcium that forms into crystals. Ligaments become malnourished since they depend on movement for fresh blood flow. Tendons that stay still become tighter.

An “all or nothing” attitude toward exercise gets us in trouble. Ignoring the sound’s messages is just as damaging as being stopped by them. Here’s an example from my personal experience. My hips used to pop when extending my legs. How interesting, I thought. Will it pop again? Yes. And, again? Yes. After a few times it would start to hurt. This was because the iliopsoas tendon was snapping over the top of the hip joint. Each pop was alerting me to damage.
The answer was to extend my hip in a way that didn’t create a popping sound to stretch the muscle and tendon at the limit without pulling it off track.

The noises from your knees may be telling you that you’re wearing one side of the joint more than the other. Running up and down the stairs without awareness ingrains patterns of misuse. Slow down so you can pay careful attention to your alignment with the knee coming straight over the middle toes. Also try to lean forward a bit at your hips, especially when going down the stairs. Find the alignment to avoid the pains and pops and you’ll create less wear and tear.

Tension around the shoulders is so common that almost everyone has calcification in the tendons and muscles around their shoulder blades. The hardness can melt, however. This is one of the reasons people seek deep-tissue bodywork. Fluid movement such as small shoulder circles can also dissolve the crunchiness. Make circles forward and back and also sideways over your ribs.

When you hear the snap, crackle and pop of petrified tissues watch your alignment and use your movement to restore fluidity.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Exercise of the Month: Constructive Rest Position

The energy of the natural world encourages us to slow down as winter approaches. Nights grow to maximum length and facilitate more sleep. Slick roads necessitate slower speed to stay safe. Cold weather hampers outside exercise.

The social world encourages us to do more during December. Decorating, sending cards, baking, parties, shopping, trips to the post office, travel, and more are packed into the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

Finding time to rest this month will help you tune in to the natural rhythm of life and give you more energy to enjoy yourself. That’s why this month’s exercise is to practice relaxation with the Constructive Rest Position.

Traditionally, the constructive rest position is done with both feet on the floor with the physical aim to release the iliopsoas muscles. It's used to counterpose psoas strengthing exercise such as Pilates and can be helpful in alleviating low back pain. The photo above shows a variation with is more restful: raising the legs and resting them on a chair.

1. Lie down on your back with knees bent and feet on the floor or calves on a chair.
2. Place a small towel under your head if needed to keep your neck in line with your spine as shown in this Alexander Technique description.
3. Place your arms in a comfortable position, by your side or on your torso.
4. Quiet your mind and rest for two to twenty minutes.

For me, the Constructive Rest Position is like a power nap without the side effect of waking up groggy. If you’re short on sleep or feeling frazzled, try it and give yourself a boost.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Exercise: Think Pretzels

Even with willpower, it's hard to avoid overeating at Thanksgiving. There is just so much good, comfort food on the table. If, like me, you overindulged on turkey, potatoes and pie, and if your blood pressure is starting to rise with all the activities planned for the next month, I have an exercise for you.

Twists stimulate the organs and also enhance the exhale, the relaxing, calming part of the breath. They can be done seated, standing, or lying down, making this a versatile pose to incorporate into your day.

As noted in this Yoga Journal article which shows three easy twists, it is best to elongate the spine the spine before twisting. It is also best to flex the spine afterwards. You can use the Personal Wave or Old Faithful undulations to accomplish both.

In her video, Strength & Spirit, acclaimed yoga teacher Ana Forrest says, "Spiral up, don't grind down." I find that good advice for any movement, especially twists.

Also, focus turning with your exhale, draw in your lower abdominals to support your low back, and initiate the spiral action from the base of your spine working up. Extending your exhale gives you the opportunity to go deeper into the twist and further calm your nervous system.

As noted in the Barber Pole undulation, the slower your movement, the more you will activate the smaller, core muscles around your spine.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Exercise of the Month: Nose Circles

The British may be known for their stiff upper lips, but Americans may be known by our stiff necks. Tension at the base of the skull, limited range of motion in the neck, and headaches are experienced by many adult Americans – especially if you sit in front of a computer. Here’s a quick and easy exercise to take the pain out of your neck, called Nose Circles.

1. Sit with good posture so your spine is aligned, shoulders are relaxed and head is not forward.
2. Put your palm flat against your nose. Draw a circle with your nose on your hand. The smoother you can make the circles, the more tension you will release.
3. Go the other way.
4. Spiral in and out.
5. When you get the hang of it, you don’t need your hand against your nose. You can just draw the circles in the air.

This contracts and relaxes the suboccipital muscles at the base of the skull so the head can float more freely on top of the spine.

This exercise is excerpted from the newly published, 7 Undulations to Relieve Office Tension, available for free by clicking on the link.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Get Rid of Your Pain in the Neck

You are probably creating stiffness and strain in your body right now as you sit at the computer. If you’re like most people, you grip the mouse and your eyes and head drift toward the monitor. You can relieve this muscle tension by taking a minute here and there throughout the day for a special set of exercises that counteract the effects of sitting in front of a computer.

You can do these simple exercises right in your office; some you can do even when you're commuting. Each one can be done in a cubicle and several can be done while sitting---at a desk, in a car, even while stuck in the middle seat on a cross-country flight or on the bus.

Are you ready to tackle the slouch, the sore shoulders, the tingling fingers, the pain in the neck? You can protect yourself from carpal tunnel syndrome and relieve the pain of early arthritis by downloading 7 Undulations to Relieve Office Tension for FREE. Within minutes you can be flexing your spine and shaking out stress.

The exercises will help you to:
1. Reverse the slouch of poor posture,
2. Flush stiffness from your fingers,
3. Add flexibility to your spine,
4. Free your shoulders,
5. Wake up your core muscles,
6. Shake stress out your fingers, and
7. Relieve that all-too-common ache at the base of the skull.

Download your Free copy of 7 Undulations to Relieve Office Tension now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Don't Wait to Weight Lift

In response to the cooler, wetter weather many people are working out inside. It’s good to incorporate weights into your health routine since our bones need weight-bearing exercise to stay strong. I found the following article on the Posture Exercises website and it is published here with the permission of the author.

I particularly appreciate his attention to posture. Whenever you exercise with good alignment you reinforce that in your body.

Here are some free bodybuilding tips for those of you who are going to be doing some weight lifting at the gym. Those of you who are interested in posture exercises that can be done at home (without any additional equipment) should check out the Posture Confidence Program. Those of you interested in a complete body building program should check out Vince DelMonte’s Body Building Program.

Before you read about the specific posture exercises, here are some main bodybuilding training tips to keep in mind:

1. Never break form; if you can’t do any more repetitions, just stop. People breaking form to get more repetitions is the number one reason people get injured. Not only that, when you do an exercise with improper form, it is no longer effective. You are only cheating yourself. Do the full range of the exercise in correct form to ensure you get the most from your workout. This is the most important bodybuilding tip of all of them.

2. As a general rule, whenever you are doing an exercise, try to keep correct posture. With these exercises, it is extra important, since these exercises are the ones focused on developing correct posture. Make sure the rest of your body is in a comfortable position as well (feet flat on the floor, chair at a comfortable height, etc.)

3. When exerting yourself, breathe out. When preparing for the next repetition, breathe in.

4. Don’t rush through the exercises or try to get through them quickly. Do them at a controlled pace, focusing on correct form.

5. The ideal amount of repetitions are between 12 and 15, three sets total. It is especially important that you aren’t trying for more weight than you can handle. Your primary focus should be on keeping correct form, and after a while you will develop muscle memory, and it will become more automatic. Once you become comfortable with the exercises and have developed good muscle memory (at least two months), you will start to get a good feel for what weight level is good for you, and whether you should start going for more weight.

6. This tip is hard to explain, but once you are at the gym and start lifting, you’ll understand what I am saying. A lot of back exercises use your arms as a secondary muscle (specifically, your biceps). The goal is to get the focus on the back muscles, so when you do these exercises, try to pretend your arms are an extension of your back. In other words, flex and focus on your back, while pretending your arms are merely levers to get the job done. This is one of the main mistakes a lot of beginners make, and they end up working out their arms more than their back (although you will develop some nice biceps!).

7. Last but not least of my bodybuilder tips, do a warm-up! Nothing makes less sense than starting to lift weights out of the blue. Do some jumping jacks, run on the treadmill, do some shadow boxing, or other warm-up exercises for at least 10 minutes. Some people are very big on stretching, but there is a lot of controversy over how effective stretching really is, and some even believe it does more harm than good. I’m not going to recommend one over the other (and personally I never stretch), but I will say ALWAYS WARM UP!!!

Those are all my tips on bodybuilding. Keep these in mind when you are doing your posture exercises, and you will be well on your way to correct posture and no more back pain!

For simple posture exercises that can be done at home, definitely check out the Posture Confidence Program or the Perfect Posture Program. Those of you interested in a complete body building routine should check out Vince DelMonte’s Body Building Program.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Exercise of the Month: Tree Tops Undulation

As fall sets in and the wind sets the leaves falling from the trees, it is as important as ever to stay grounded. You can improve your footing by practicing good standing posture, but I've chosen a more fun exercise for the month, the Tree Tops Undulation.

Step #1 - Get Grounded

Stand with your feet hip width apart and toes facing straight ahead. Balance your weight evenly over both feet and over your balls, heels, inside and outside arches. Sense into the ground below you. Try to determine what the earth is like 5, feet, 10 feet, 20 feet down. Grow mental roots into the soil.

Step #2 - Sway Your Spine

Imagine that you are a tree and that a gentle breeze is blowing. Sway with the breeze, lift your arms as branches if you like, staying rooted through your feet.
This is an "exercise" you can do anywhere and it's a great way to spend time when you are waiting . . . for the copy machine, for the pot to boil, in line at the store. (Hint, keep your arms down and breezes small when doing this one in public.)

Here is a YouTube video of trees swaying in the breeze with my voice walking you through the instructions.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Scarf it Up

Even though it hasn't dipped into the freezing temperatures yet, it is still the time of year to wear a scarf every morning if you are prone to develop stiffness, soreness or pain in your neck.

Trigger points can be activated by cold, according to several sources. Even the time it takes from walking out the front door until your car warms up is enough to aggravate any latent trigger points in the trapezius or sternocleidomastoid. (Don't be afraid of the long names, they are just muscles in your neck.)

Also, when you are sleeping make sure that your blankets cover your shoulders and around your neck to avoid waking up with a stiff neck or headache.

(Photo from

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nourish Your Muscles with a Salt Bath

When clients leave my office, they usually carry a snack-sized zip lock® bag of salt, with a request from me to take a bath with them. I give the salts away to relieve muscle and connective tissues soreness and to support the body’s chemical balance.

My first introduction to salt baths was when I was in karate. After an intense workout our sensei would suggest (in that commanding way that Senseis make any suggestion) a bath with one to two cups of Epsom salts dissolved in the water. He didn’t know why, but would recommend it for every ache and pain. I sometimes wondered if I should just dunk my head in the bathtub when I had a migraine.

Then I became a Hellerwork practitioner and after a few years in practice (and no more migraines, by the way) I referred a client to another Structural Integrator, who gave her a bag of Epsom salts after the session. My client told me that every place that was in the bath didn’t hurt and every place above the water line was sore. So then I started giving my clients Epsom salts, too.

Clients asked me why they should use the salt baths. It didn’t seem professional to say “I don’t know” or “It’s a good luck charm,” so I did a little research. At first, my queries led me to believe the salts helped flush toxins like lactic acid from the muscles. While that is one small part of what Epsom salts do, they are more important for what they add to the body rather than what they take away.

A friend who is an acupuncturist extolls the virtues of Epsom salts and recommends it to her clients. Doing a little research via the internet, we found the Epsom Salt Industry Council’s website. Epsom Salts are made of magnesium sulfate, MgSO4 and according to the Council, magnesium aids in chemical reactions, especially those of muscles and enzymes, and sulfates flush toxins and improve the absorption of nutrients. The U.S. National Library of Medicine credits magnesium with:

* Contraction and relaxation of muscles
* Function of certain enzymes in the body
* Production and transport of energy
* Production of protein

One day I was very sore after an intense session of yoga and went searching in the bathroom cupboard for Epsom salts. There were none. Oh no. Would sea salt work? After all, swimming in the warm ocean is therapeutic; perhaps because of the salt. However, the main component of sea salt is sodium chloride, not the minerals muscles need. A bit more searching under the sink produced a small bag of hand-mixed bath salts given to me by a client. This ½ cup of salts was better than nothing so I tried it and was amazed. Amazed!

This small bag of salts was much more effective than two cups of Epsom Salts. They were Dead Sea salts. The chemical composition of Dead Sea Salts is more complex than Epsom Salts. According to the Saltworks website, Dead Sea salts, Bokek® brand are comprised of:

Magnesium Chloride (MgCl2) 33.3 %
Potassium Chloride (KCl) 24.3 %
Sodium Chloride (NaCl) 5.5 %
Calcium Chloride (CaCl2) 0.2 %
Bromide (Br-) 0.5 %
Sulphates (SO4) 0.15 %
Insolubles 0.03 %
Water of Crystallization 36.4 %

Perhaps magnesium chloride is more easily absorbed than magnesium sulfate or the addition of potassium and trace of calcium make the difference.

Recently I have new client with fibromyalgia who has been using Epsom salts mixed with fresh ginger. She finds that more effective than plain Dead Sea salts. So now my give-away baggies include a mixture of Dead Sea salts and Epsom salts, for the mineral formula from the Dead Sea and the boost of needed magnesium from Epsom salts.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Body: An Engineering Marvel

While my sons were home from college this summer, the TV was often tuned to the History channel especially to watch Modern Marvels and Engineering Disasters. They are equally fascinated with how buildings, bridges, planes, and cars are built and the flaws that destroy them.

Structure determines how well an object can fulfill its function. For example, a building must have certain design features to survive an earthquake. The same is true for our bodies, but our bodies go one step further. The way we move either strengthens or deteriorates our structure, making function and form more related.

Let’s look at some of the anatomical marvels we take for granted and how aligned use enhances, maintains and strengthens structure.

Marvel — The Feet, Legs and Pelvis
The 26 bones of each foot are arranged in three arches, an elegant design that makes it possible for an area less than one square foot to hold up and move hundreds of pounds.

The foot doesn’t just bear weight, it’s movement (or lack thereof) determines functionality throughout the body. A foot that rolls along the ground with each step translates freedom to the hip and massages the sacro-iliac (SI) joints

Good range of motion in the ankle takes pressure off the knees and facilitates hip flexion and extension. Feet and ankles that rest on the ground in alignment transfer a ground reaction force (think of it like an anti-gravity reflex) through the arch of the pelvis to lift the spine and take pressure off the neck and shoulders.

It’s clear that the body is designed to MOVE and move freely. Many of the disasters that damage us come from inhibiting our full movement, such as the following examples.

Shoes — Heels and stiff soles thwart the foot’s ability to roll and limit foot and ankle range of motion so the next joint up, the knee, is overworked. Flip flops and shoes without backs require tension in the plantar fascia to hold them on and create a flat footed walk, which compresses the hip joint.

Flat ground —The foot’s many joints are designed to walk on rocks, sticks, and bumps. Instead, we almost always walk on flat, paved ground. Many of us have even lost the strength to walk barefoot on sand for any length of time.

Take off your shoes and admire the engineering marvel of your structure. Walk in the grass or on a beach to feel the connection between your toes, feet, ankles, knees, hips, and spine.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Exercise of the Month: Strengthen Your Neck Core Muscles

Head Turns
Stand at a wall with your knees bent. Feel your buttocks, upper back, shoulders, and back of your head on the wall. There should be a small space between the wall and your low back and also the back of your neck.
  1. Lengthen the back of your neck and slightly tuck your chin so your face is not turned up nor down. This position alone may tax your neck core. If you feel the muscles in your neck working, stay in this position and breathe deeply for several breaths.
  2. Once you feel comfortable in the position, add head turns. Turn only as far as you can without any twinges or pain in your neck.
  3. Swivel your face to the right as the back of your head turns to the left. You will hear your hair sliding on the wall if the center of the movement comes from the center of your neck, which is what you want.
  4. Turn both directions up to three times.

You can print this exercise and tape a copy to your bathroom mirror as a reminder. Notice how much better your neck feels and how your range of motion improves with just one minute of daily exercise. (It's pretty good for your thighs, too.)

This next exercise strengthens the neck core even more.

Neck Flexion
Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet on the floor.

  1. Put a finger at the base of your skull and lift your skull, but not the rest of your neck, off the floor about an eighth of an inch and rest back down gently. This movement is too tiny to show up on a photograph.
  2. Remember that core movements are slow and small.
  3. Feel down your neck for a bony bump, which is the back of a vertebra. Now lift this bump and the base of your skull, but not the rest of your neck, up just a tiny bit. Lift and release gently, slowly, just a fraction of an inch using each vertebra in your neck as the pivot point.
  4. Don’t Do Any Movement That Hurts! You want to feel the muscles in the front of your neck doing the lifting, not the muscles in your chest or abdomen.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Core Muscles of the Neck

This is the third and final article in the series of core strength. As previously noted, the core isn’t limited to the abdomen, but each section of the body depends on active function of core muscles to work optimally. The neck’s unwieldy task of balancing a 10 pound head makes deep muscles vitally important in this fragile part of the body.

Most people feel tension in the superficial muscles of the neck. The trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles are common headache culprits. While the usual complaint is pain in the back of the neck, many of the core muscles are located in the front, such as the longus colli, longus capitus, and scalenes. When these muscles aren’t used, they become stiff and inflexible and the neck loses its ability to manage the weight of the head. (Imagine trying to balance a full one-gallon milk jug on a wooden dowel.)

Core muscles are small, so it is best to use small movements to strengthen them. In addition, their slow twitch muscle fibers contract and relax more slowly than other muscles. Keep this in mind when doing core exercises and be patient as these muscles develop.

Exercising the core muscles in your neck, shoulder, hips, spine, and torso will make all other movement easier and reduce your risk of injury. The core muscle exercises described in this series are easily done and won’t even cause a sweat. Devote time every week to keeping your core—and therefore your entire body—strong.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Core Muscles of the Shoulders

Previous articles in this series have described the core muscles of the torso and hips. We’ll continue with the shoulders and in the next cover the neck core.

What’s all the fuss over core muscles anyway? Your grandmother didn’t need a personal trainer to teach her about the core. Is this all some scheme to get us to sign up for exercise classes?

Your grandma knew how to use her core, because she built strength in her body with daily activities. Nowhere is this more evident than in her shoulders and arms. Imagine washing your laundry by hand and hanging it on the line to dry. Or scrubbing the floor on your hands and knees. Chances are your grandma walked farther and carried more than men do today. Those simple activities develop strength in the core. Today’s pastimes, watching TV, loading the dishwasher and working on the computer, bypass the core.

Take the current sedentary lifestyle, add our fascination with speed and pretty muscles, and the result is a modern epidemic of core weakness. So let’s put things in reverse and find the core muscles of your shoulders.

Raise one arm in front of you and continue to lift it up -— as long as it doesn’t hurt anywhere -— until your arm comes alongside your ear. Do it again -— but this time take more than ten seconds to lift your arm and another ten seconds to lower it. As before, don’t do any movement that causes you pain.

Moving slowly requires the use of the core, so if it felt substantially different the second, slower time, then using the core of your shoulder isn’t a habit. By the way, you can slow down any movement to improve your use of the core. Try walking by taking one step every second to feel more of your torso and hip core.

The core of the shoulder includes two sets of muscles, those that keep the shoulder blade in proper position (most importantly the serratus anterior, trapezius and rhomboids) and those that stabilize the arm bone in the shoulder socket (the rotator cuff: supraspinitus, infraspinitus, teres minor, and subscapularis).

Here are some exercises that will help you strengthen both sets of the shoulder core.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Core Muscles of the Hips

Core muscles are the new focus in the fitness industry. They protect the low back. Pilates strengthens the core. Advertisements promise a strong, sexy core if we buy their products. The problem is that the core can be illusive for the average person to find. That’s because the body has more than one core.

The Hellerwork Client Handbook compares the core to the inside of an apple. Core muscles are deep inside the body, right next to the bones. These muscles have more leverage and, when working properly, also stabilize the skeleton. When the core does not stabilize, joints are more prone to injury, the body is weaker, and other muscles get confused about what to do.

All muscle groups have superficial muscles and core muscles. Let’s delve into the core of the torso and core of the hips. Follow up articles will explain the core of the shoulders and the core of the neck.

The core of the torso is like a cylinder around your midsection, comprised of four muscle groups: the pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, multifidi, and diaphragm. The pelvic floor (actually a group of six muscles) creates the bottom of the cylinder. The transverse abdominus encompasses most of circumference as a girdle around the belly. The multifidi fibers, one to four inches long, fan out deep within the superstructure of the spine. The diaphragm caps the core; each breath turns this cylinder to an ever-changing, dynamic powerhouse.

When all parts of your torso core are strong and work together, you can lift more, bend over more, and do all kinds of movement with less risk of injury. The torso core is also an important base of support for your legs, arms, and neck.

The hip flexors lift your legs. If you rely on the rectus femoris, tensor fascia lata, and sartorius, you will be weaker and in less balance than if you use the core hip flexors, the psoas and iliacus, sometimes called the iliopsoas. These core muscles attach to the front and sides of the lumbar spine and deep inside the pelvic bowl. They have more leverage and bulk than the superficial muscles, but they also depend on stabilization from the torso core to work.

How do you know when you are accessing the deep hip flexors? One clue is that your pelvis does not rotate. Sitting in a chair, lift one leg. Does your low back shift or your hip lift up? If so, your iliacus and psoas are cheating and your low back is taking the brunt of the movement.

If you can hold your pelvis perfectly still and lift a leg, your torso and hip core are both getting stronger. It’s what makes a karate front kick so powerful. Even more challenging and strengthening is lifting both thighs with a stable pelvis, the action in the Pilates Teaser and yoga’s full boat pose (Navasana).

I gave readers an Easy Core Exercise in my previous post, Balance Between Abdominals and Back Muscles. Another way to wake up the core is with the Relax and Flow undulation. In both cases, the exercises use small, slow movements since the core is comprised of slow twitch muscle fibers. If you can do these exercises with complete pelvic stabilization, then you will be ready to take on more intermediate core exercises.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Balance Between Abdominal and Back Muscles

I confused a client yesterday by saying that her core muscles were stronger than most peoples, but then also telling her that her core was weak. Say what?

She was quite athletic with strong muscles throughout her body. The problem was that her core muscles weren’t as strong as her abdominal muscles. This imbalance was a source of her low back pain.

Core muscles stabilize the skeleton and give leverage to other muscles. Using superficial muscles like the rectus abdominus, pectoralis major, latissimus dorsi, quadriceps, and gluteus maximus without participation from the core will pull the skeleton out of alignment and create injury to ligaments and spinal discs.

Is Your Ab Workout Hurting Your Back” by Tami Parker-Pope, published in the New York Times June 17, 2009 gives a great explanation and a video with some good exercises.

I agree that the exercises in the video are good for the core, but what is the core? I wrote about that previously in the article entitled “Core Exercise” with an easy exercise called Engage Your Core Through Your Feet to help you find those illusive core muscles: the pelvic floor, transverse abdominus, and multifidi. Finding the correct muscles is after all the first step in using them.

Here is another very simple (that doesn’t mean easy) exercise where you use the core to stabilize your low back, which is its real function, as you lift your legs. It also engages the core hip flexors, the psoas and iliacus muscles, but that's a different article.

Easy Core Exercise
1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms at your sides.
2. Tilt your pubic bone up toward your chin and then your tailbone back. Go back and forth a few times and find the middle. Is your sacrum on the floor? If so, you have equal range of hip flexion and extension.
3. Adjust if necessary so that your sacrum is firmly on the floor.
4. Do not let your sacrum or hips move off the floor (this is the key) and lift your left leg so that your knee comes toward your chin, only as far as you can without moving your sacrum.
5. Press the opposite foot into the floor (use what you learned from the Engage Your Feet by Using Your Core exercise) if needed to stabilize.
6. Repeat with the right leg.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Undulations Complement Chiropractic Care

Undulation exercises were recently noted in an article co-written by Kimberly Kohr, DC and yours truly as useful adjunct to chiropractic adjustments. It was published in Dynamic Chiropractic.

Motion through each segment of the spine is good for your spinal discs and nervous system. Undulations are good for the structure and they also increase body awareness and functional movement patterns. “An exercise that first and foremost increases awareness will start a cascade of positive change.”

Three exercises are given as examples: Feel Your Spine, Easy Sway and the even-popular Tailbone Penmanship.

The article coincides with the introduction of new exercise handout sheets for chiropractors to give patients between adjustments. Three sheets are available, for the:
 Sacrum and Low Back,
 Neck and Upper Back, and
 General Spine Health.

Samples handout sheets are available upon request.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Get a Grip on Tension

Tension doesn’t only come from big, stressful situations like a pile of unpaid bills, pending deadlines, or an argument with your spouse. Tension can creep in through your hands when you least expect it and covertly lodge itself right between your shoulder blades.

How can you get a grip on your stress and stop tension in its tracks? The secret is to loosen your grip.

Is your hand on the computer mouse? Notice how much pressure you are using and its effect into your shoulder and neck. Relax your fingers, palm and wrist. Use a feather touch to move the mouse. Every time you loosen your grip, you turn tension into comfort and take pressure off your carpal tunnel.

A common stressful environment is the car. Release tension there by loosing your grip on the steering wheel. Turn the wheel with relaxed palms and flexible fingers. The fluid motion will translate up your arms and relieve the tightness in your shoulders.

Anything you put your hands on—-a pen, the telephone, your toothbrush-—can increase your tension or release it. Turn your iron grip into a liquid caress and feel some of your stress melt away.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Angels of Relief for Demons of Hand Pain

Seeing the Angels & Demons movie trailer motivated me to read the book for a second time. The 569 page paperback is hard to put down as I couldn’t stop running along with the labyrinth plot through the streets and cathedrals of Rome. In the first reading, I stayed up all night and read almost the whole book. This time, I’ve spread it out over four nights—a great read. However, I’ve noticed that my hands are very sore from holding a book open for three hours every night.

As a structural integrator and massage therapist, hand pain isn’t new to me. I have a solution, the Octopus Undulation, which I do every night after work. It works like this:

Start by slowly moving the tips of your fingers of just one hand in a wave-like motion. Use the movement to explore and wash away the stiffness in the first knuckles. Let the movement creep up your fingers, massaging each knuckle in turn with the movement. Then continue into the web of the hand. See if you can move your palm so it is as fluid as an octopus. Gradually incorporate your wrist, forearm, elbow, upper arm, and shoulder into the movement—as though you don’t have any bones.

Now feel the difference between your two hands. You’ve just given yourself a massage!

Normally I can wash away my hand stiffness with just one minute of this undulation. However, after holding a paperback for several hours, I need about three minutes on each hand. This exercise is useful after knitting, pruning or computer mousing—anything that requires repetitive motion of the hands.

You can view additional Undulation Exercises here.

I’m looking forward to watching the Angels & Demons movie. I hope it lives up to the majesty of Rome and thought-provoking ideas in the novel.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Inversion Therapy for Low Back Pain

A good friend of mine has an inversion table. When I visit her, she offers its use like others would offer a glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice. “Would you like to lie on the inversion table? It’s good for you,” she says.

Yoga practitioners have touted the benefits of being upside down for millennia. Poses such as Downward Facing Dog, Handstand, Headstand, Shoulder Stand, and Legs Up the Wall Pose put the body in a position where the effect of gravity is reversed, giving the lymphatic system a boost, aiding digestion, and reducing the spine’s weight-bearing responsibilities. There’s the added advantage of learning to see the world from a new angle.

Headstand, handstand and shoulder stand all come with risks, however. Without building strength and dedicated, regular practice, you can easily hurt your neck with these poses. In addition, inversions should be used cautiously for those with high blood pressure, according to a study published in Physical Therapy and are also not advised for people with glaucoma.

You can read more about the benefits and risks of yoga inversions in this Yoga Journal article.

Inversion tables offer many of the same benefits without the potential damage to the spine. Simply hop on, rotate yourself to the desired upside down angle and rest or read. I even saw one advertised on TV recently.

The most promised benefit is to take pressure off the spinal joints, decompress nerve roots and rehydrate the discs between the vertebrae. A study published in the Archives of Physical and Rehabilitative Medicine in 1978 concluded that short periods of inversion increased spinal length and decreased nervous activity of the low back muscles. Being inverted is a type of gentle traction. The angle of the table determines the rate of traction.

There are many brands of inversion tables including Teeter Hang Ups ®, Body Flex, Body Max, FitForm, Paradigm, and Ironman Relax. You can even use a well-built inversion table to do exercises such as curl ups, but be sure you have an extra sturdy model. It’s also important to follow all safety precautions for these products. Just like being in a handstand, you run the risk of falling down if not properly secured.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Un-Wind to De-Stress

It is exactly three hours and six minutes since I started to install my new printer. I bought the printer, because I have a 600-page job that I wanted to have printed and stuffed into envelopes tonight. The old printer was just going too slow. After more than two hours of computer freezes and aborted installation attempts, I was starting to get stressed and the tension was welling up in my neck and shoulders.

As the seconds ticked away on the installation program, I started to count and lengthen my breaths. That helped, but as the situation progressed, I found my tension mounting again.

While waiting for responses on the on-line chat with the support department, I remembered to undulate. My breathing was already steady and I could concentrate on moving my spine in a flowing manner, feeling each vertebra and releasing the restrictions with simple movements. Easy Sway is my favorite to release tension and I fall into it quite naturally--when I remember.

A flowing motion in the body creates more ease to "go with the flow" during the trials of life. Unwinding physically literally unwinds the mind. Try it and see if you don't feel less stressed when your body moves in a fluid way.

By the way, the new printer works--double sides copies, no less! I won't have the project complete tonight, but it's not the end of the world.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Self-Care: Lymphatic Massage

Staying in good shape requires a commitment to regular self care. Sometimes it’s a chore, like flossing teeth, regular check-ups, and – for me – jogging. Other self care is downright pleasurable, like the lymphatic drainage massage I enjoyed yesterday. It was so relaxing—therefore good for my mental health—and also helped to detoxify my body.

According to the Upledger Institute®, “the lymphatic system is critical to our body’s ability to drain stagnant fluids, detoxify, regenerate tissues, filter out toxins and foreign substances, and maintain a healthy immune system.”

I certainly feel refreshed today, light as though my body isn’t dragging around a lot of excess baggage. Since my lymph system was cleansed with gentle, purposeful massage strokes, which cleared the sludge from my system, I’m not surprised at this feeling.

I use lymphatic drainage massage as a general tonic, but it is extremely helpful in cases of swelling and post-surgery. You can learn more here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

5 Rhythms: Treatment for Repetitive Strain

Repetitive motion is the source of many modern injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, golfer’s and tennis elbow, and thoracic outlet syndrome. I’ve found that it’s not just what movements we make, but how we move that creates the strain.

Gabrielle Roth created the 5 Rhythms of Movement, which I find helpful in any activity. Can you type using all five forms: flowing (like undulations), staccato, chaotic, lyrical, and in stillness -- or are your fingers stuck in staccato?

Repetitive motions tend to become mechanical. Is it any wonder that our flesh and blood bodies complain about being turned into robots? Try to vary your movements so your body can regain its organic healing powers.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Swan Lake Inspiration

I had the pleasure to see the Pacific Northwest Ballet's opening night performance of Swan Lake last night. It was truly masterful and reminded me of my childhood ambitions to be a ballerina--before I realized that I was clumsy and uncoordinated. I may not be able to do a pirouette or kick my knee to my shoulder, but there are swan-like things we can do to stay limber, feel young, and improve our grace.

1) Hop on one foot. Every kid knows this is fun, but what we forget is how much it strengthens our hips.

2) Twirl around. This is best done in a clockwise direction, that is to the right. The Sufi practice adds the direction of having the right palm facing toward the sky and the left palm facing toward the ground.

3) See how far you can kick each leg up. This strengths the front leg muscles and stretches the hamstrings.

4) Move one arm (at a time) in an imitation of a graceful swan neck. Let all the tension out of your fingers, hand, and wrist to get the image of a swan head.

5) Slowly wave your arms up and down, like a swan taking flight.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Relieve Money Anxiety

My office rent was due two days ago. The boys’ tuition is due now. My quarterly taxes are due by the end of the month. These thoughts provoke stiffening in my spine, tight shoulders, and a contraction of my energy inward—the physical manifestations of tension. As my body tenses and breath shortens, I find new things to worry about, the anxiety gets worse, and the cycle of tension is continues.

However, if I start to move, to sway, to undulate with easy movements through my spine, my breath lengthens and immediately the “where will the money come from?” doom starts to lift. The more I explore different movements, the more my mind opens to new possibilities. “Ah, the money for the rent is already there. The money for tuition is on its way. Why am I worrying about the end of the month now?”

Anxiety of the mind creates tension in the body. Fluidity in the body promotes a calm state of mind. Undulation is a great stress reduction technique.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Everyday Exercise 4: Socks

How important is the ability to stand on one leg? You might think that it isn’t too important, unless you practice yoga or sleep like a flamingo.

There’s a moment when your entire weight is held by one leg every time you take a step. When people lose this strength they start to shuffle. Weight bearing on one leg is obviously necessary to go up or down stairs. Also, when you lose the strength to stand on one leg, you lose your overall ability to balance.

I practice my “single leg stance” skills when I put on my socks in the morning. The challenge is to stand on one leg, lift the other leg, keep my balance, and get the sock on. Sound easy? Actually, there are a few compensations to watch out for.

1) Try not to let the standing leg jut out to the side. By keeping the hip directly over the ankle, you will be strengthening your hip stabilizer muscles.
2) Try not to let the standing hip lift or fall. This will again strengthen the hip rather than relying on the low back.
(You can see that I do a little bit of both in the yoga Tree Pose photo. It’s easier to stay in line if you lift your bent knee straight ahead rather than out to the side.)

Important: stand right next to a wall or dresser so that if you lose your balance, you will not fall down. Also, on the days when your hip muscles are weak, you can let the wall have a little of your weight to make it easier.

Try it and let me know how it works for you. Also, what other ways do you have of strengthening one leg? Do you brush your teeth in Tree Pose?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Everyday Exercise 3: Bending Over

We bend over every day, to unload the dishwasher, pick something off the floor, or put on our shoes. Each forward bend gives you the opportunity to create tension in your neck -- or to let go of it.

Notice the tendency for your eyes to be the center of movement with the head craned forward to see what you're doing. This excess contraction creates tension in the back of your neck, right where many of us feel pain.

Instead, let your neck relax and your head hang down before you come back up.

Also, press into your feet and use the muscles through your entire legs, front and back, to start the movement. Be sure that your tush muscles contract before your low back and that your abdominal muscles are engaged.

It's a very different experience, one of relaxation and strength, rather than the typical one of contraction and tension.

How many times can you build this into your day?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Everyday Exercise 2: Stairs

As noted in my previous post, you can build exercise into your every day activities with some awareness around simple activities. Take the stairs for example. Do you thrust yourself up the steps, in other words is your head two steps forward of your feet? If so, you are missing an opportunity to build strength in your legs and core and release tension in your neck and shoulders.
  • Place one foot squarely on the step and keep your knee in line with the middle toe.
  • Lean forward at the hips so that your nose is in line or just behind your toes, not in front.
  • Press evenly through your entire foot, ball, heel, inside and outside arches, and use all the muscles in your leg and hip to lift you up.
With a little practice, you can go quickly up and down the stairs, but slowing it down really strengthens the hip stabilizer muscles.

You can apply these principles when you are on the stair stepper at the gym, too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Everyday Exercise: Sit and Stand

There are ways to get stronger and more flexible in our everyday activities, and most of us miss these opportunities by being in too much of a hurry. For example, every time you plop into a seat or thrust yourself up from a chair, you lose the opportunity to strengthen your legs, hip stabilizers, pelvic floor, and core muscles. Add vitality to your body by sitting down and standing up correctly. It won’t take but an extra ten seconds.

To stand up, scoot to the front of your chair. Make sure that your knees are pointing directly ahead and that they are aligned directly over your ankles. (For added benefit and to protect your joints, don’t let your knees fall in or out as you stand.) Lean your torso forward from the hips so your belly folds toward your thighs. When you’ve leaned far enough that your nose is over your toes, press evenly through both feet to lift yourself to standing.

To sit down, simply reverse the process. As you bend your knees (aligned straight ahead, remember?), reach back evenly with your sit bones (your tush, in other words) so your nose comes over your toes. Gently lower down until the chair is supporting your entire weight.

The added benefit of standing and sitting this way is that it relieves tension in your neck, which usually tries to “help.” Of course, the neck can’t lift us up, but that doesn’t mean the muscles don’t usually tense there.

When I teach this to a group, there is usually at least one person who has lost the strength to support their entire body weight with just the legs. Don’t let that happen to you! Practice this at least once a day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Variety of Movement

Life requires movement. At a minimum: breath and circulation. Optimally: continual development. Lack of movement results in stagnation, illness, and injury.

We need to move. But what if, like me, you aren’t a born athlete or even very coordinated? I loathed PE class as a child, which only highlighted my physical ineptitude and caused constant embarrassment. The worst humiliation was the annual Presidential Fitness Challenge, which consisted of a bent arm hang (my spindly arms couldn’t hold me up two seconds), sit ups (I could do a couple), the 40 yard dash (picture skinny, pale arms and legs flailing wildly), and my nemesis, the 600 yard dash. (Dash, ha!, I was lucky to finish limping across the finish line with a stitch in my side a full 15 minutes after everyone else.)

I am so thankful that fitness has a broader definition today. Without yoga, belly dance, undulation, and of course, Hellerwork Structural Integration, I would still be awkward and unhealthy. Today’s emphasis on fitness also involves “the core,” an unknown idea 30 years ago.

Move regularly and vigorously to keep your heart, lungs, lymph, muscles, and even your brain healthy. If you haven’t already found a way of moving that fills your body-mind with joy, try something new to exercise different muscles and avoid stagnation. Here are some types of holistic exercise that you may find pleasurable and effective.

Nia. This low-impact aerobic program combines jazz and modern dance with low impact martial arts, yoga, and healing arts techniques.

Tai Chi. Don’t let the flowing movements of Tai Chi fool you into thinking it’s not beneficial. Slow movements use more core muscles and counteract the stress we often feel. Quigong is different than Tai Chi, but offers similar benefits.

Ecstatic Dance. You can put your favorite music on the stereo and dance ecstatically around your living room. Another option is a group gathering with world music that starts at a mellow pace and gradually builds up to high energy. Everyone is encouraged to move in a way that feels good and disregard the way they look.

5 Rhythms. Gabrielle Roth says that she likes to “drown out” our self-critical voices with “the beat.” Her 5 rhythms practice includes flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical, and stillness. I was first introduced to the 5 Rhythms in my Hellerwork training and I find it applicable in everything from typing to jogging.

How about creating your own favorite form of exercise? What do you love? If volleyball, tap dance, and tae bo are your thing, put them together every once in a while for a new type of exercise, all your own.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Love Your Body

Few people truly love their bodies. We usually have more criticism for them than admiration, even though they make our lives possible—even pleasurable.

When you look in the mirror, what’s the first thing you think? It’s typical to say, “I look too fat.” Or “I need to lose __ pounds.”

Then we get into specific flaws. My breasts are too small. My hips are too large. Look at that flab. And my neck. What to do about those wrinkles? And that cellulite, ugh!

It continues with criticism about our bodies’ function. It’s not strong enough or flexible enough or energetic enough or fast enough.

How many negative comments do we make about our bodies for every positive one?

What’s ironic is that the mind is making all these nasty “observations,” as though it is the body’s fault. But what part of us decides to work nine hours a day and leave no time for exercise or healthy eating? It’s the mind, of course!

No wonder there’s an epidemic of internal conflict that shows up as lethargy and dis-ease, including immune system disorders, depression, and chronic pain. Since the mind and body can’t get a divorce, it’s time for some serious counseling.

Here’s a start. Give gratitude to your body for everything it does. Let it make some decisions in your life. You might be surprised that it wants to swim, dance, or play. If given the choice, your body will naturally lose weight, be stronger and more flexible.

Next time when you look in the mirror, send your body some love. Find ten good things about it before you allow a criticism to creep up. It truly is amazing—and it is one of the best parts of you!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Looking for a Sensual Valentine's Gift?

Valentine’s Day is about love, not material things, so get your sweetie what he or she really wants—a more sensuous you. You don’t need to go shopping. Sensuality doesn’t come from cologne, Victoria’s Secret or poetry. It’s being more comfortable in your own skin, so you can connect intimately.

How do you get more sensuous?
1. Slow down from a hurried everyday pace into the slow-motion rhythm of a tango dancer making an entrance. Let go of any movements that feel programmed or robotic. Saunter.
2. Pay attention to the details of everything: yourself, your mate, your environment, even when (or maybe especially when) you are dropping your clothes in the laundry basket.
3. Move like you are being admired; highlight your attributes and strike a pose every now and then. Add a flourish to routine activities.

Here are two fun undulation exercises to get you in the mood.

For Ladies: Snake Arms
1. Stand with your feet comfortably apart and flexible knees.
2. Lean to one side. As you lean, reach your arm out to that same side.
3. Come back to center. Move from your spine first; draw your body toward the opposite side and reach with the other arm.
4. Take minute to sway from side to side, remembering the tips for sensuality. Slow down, pay attention to the details, and move like you are being admired.
5. Now that your spine is flowing, add to the arm movement. As you lean to the left, reach with your left arm and raise it up with your bent elbow higher than your softly bent wrist so that your fingers point to the floor.
6. When you lean to the right, the right arm reaches and raises elbow first, as your left arm drops gradually, with the elbow leading arm and wrist bent so that the fingers point to the ceiling.
7. Let your spine and shoulders roll with the movements, all the way through your neck and out the top of your head, but be careful of whiplash with your neck.
8. As you get more comfortable with this movement, spread your feet farther apart so that your body can sway further to each side.

Especially for Men: Tailbone Penmanship
(Teach your man this and you’ll both be happy!)
1. Get on your hands and knees, with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hip joints.
2. Warm up your body for a minute. Move your hips, back, and shoulders.
3. Pretend your tailbone is a laser pointer that sends a beam of red light to the floor between your ankles.
4. Draw a cursive letter “a” with your laser pointer. Take your time and try to smooth out the curves.
5. Go through the alphabet from “a” to “z.” Try to initiate most of the movement from your pelvis, rather than your legs, so your hips swivel on your thigh bones and nudge your spine from side to side.
6. Coordinate the movement of your tail and spine to create more flexibility in your low back.
7. Write “I Love You!”

What you do next is up to you.

**Both exercises are excerpted from Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation, the audio version is Undulation Exercises.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Top 5 Benefits of Undulation

There’s plenty to do to stay healthy: aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching, good nutrition, relaxation techniques, laughing, breathing, brain exercises. It’s hard enough to find time for well-rounded routine self care, so it takes compelling reasons to do something new and different.

Here are five compelling reasons to incorporate undulation into your regular habits. The additional benefit is that it only takes five minutes a day to gain these benefits.

#1 Undulation increases flexibility. Most people think that stretching is the key to flexibility, but often muscles are dehydrated and encased in stiff connective tissue, which stretching doesn’t change. If your muscles are crunchy and tight and stretching hasn't helped, try undulation. The flowing, micro-movements of undulation make muscles more pliable and flexible.

#2 Strengthen core muscles. Hundreds of muscle fibers surround the spine—and most go unused in the average person resulting in back pain and stiffness. Typical exercise leaves these smaller muscles, like the multifidi, semispinalis, and rotators, weak. The small, focused movements of undulation strengthen core muscles around the spine.

#3 Nourish the spine. Fluid filled discs provide cushion between the vertebrae, which can shrink and bulge when not in optimal condition. As a matter of fact, up to one-fifth of your spinal height comes from the discs, so if you’ve become shorter with age, your discs have probably shrunk. Since the discs don’t receive blood supply, they depend on gentle movements to stay healthy. Undulation is just the right amount of movement to nourish discs and ligaments.

#4 Increased body awareness. Many injuries can be avoided when you are in tune with your body, am I’m not just talking about stubbing your toe or missing a step. When you take a few minutes every day to listen to what your body needs and respond accordingly, you develop a different awareness that benefits your entire life. Undulation teaches you to tune in.

#5 Other movements become easier. The spine is the center of movement, so when it is flexible (see #1), strong (#2), and healthy (#3), every movement more comfortable, from looking over your shoulder to swinging a golf club to reaching into a cabinet.

Try the undulations shown in these videos and audio samples. If you want to learn more, check out Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation. If you are already undulating, remember to incorporate five minutes into your daily activities for a strong, flexible, healthy spine; while waiting for the computer to turn on, in the shower, or between the buzzes of the snooze alarm.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Free Form Undulation

When you have a tight spot or kink in your back, you can use a specific undulation from the book or CDs to relieve the stress, or you can use Free Form to engage your body's wisdom to unwind and relax.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Movement Nature Meant, Ruthy Alon

Ruthy Alon, a Feldenkrais practitioner, emphasizes that movement is the essence of being alive. She says that whoever you are, in whatever condition, you can always improve the quality of how you move. She encourages you to feel safe and comfortable and to investigate the variations of movement. For example, how do you go from lying down to sitting up, in a way that is both comfortable and efficient?

Watch how gracefully she moves, how she uses the “momentum of the spiral” to move gradually and comfortably.

I love how she undulates for fun and also builds this vital movement into everyday activities.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Undulation of the Week To Release Your Neck

There's been a fair amount of neck pain in my life lately. Several of my clients have reported it, I've had a bit, and the weather has been a royal pain in the neck, too. I've used the Yes-No-Maybe So Undulation to relieve the stiffness and creakiness. Here's a video.

You can also do this sitting in a chair or standing. The "Yes" part is a bit more difficult, but the "No" and "Maybe So" are easier, especially when standing.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Low Cost Exercise

Low-Cost Exercise
Eliminating unnecessary expenses is a natural reaction to the downturn in the economy. At the same time staying active and healthy is more important than ever, so it makes sense to recommit to your fitness goals. (Who wants to pay for a doctor’s visit or medication, especially when money is tight?) If a new treadmill or gym membership isn’t in your budget this year, here are some low-cost ideas to keep your exercise habit fresh and inspired.

You can find many good videos on You Tube, just be careful to follow someone with expertise and safety advice. Here are two aerobic exercise videos, but you can also search for other areas such as strength training, yoga, belly dance, and more.

Expert village Aerobic exercise

Beginner’s aerobic

You can also put a CD in your music player and dance. Your favorite dance tunes will not only get your body moving, you'll improve your mood, too.

Your local library also has exercise books and tapes for free!

Another idea is to call a friend for an exercise date: a hike, bike ride, or maybe to try some of those old Tae Bo tapes that are gathering dust. Better yet, call a friend who has the new WiiFitness or WiiSports program. Fifteen minutes of video boxing or playing tennis will get your heart rate up.

Low Cost
You may not be in the market for equipment, but you can round out your fitness with a new exercise book. Here are some to consider.

A Bit More (But still under $100)
Investing in a session with personal trainer or private yoga or Pilates instruction can help you develop a satisfying home practice. These professionals will work with the equipment you already have to tailor a workout plan just for you.

Staying in shape doesn’t have to be expensive. When we were kids—riding bikes, climbing trees, skipping rope, and basically just using our bodies as they were intended—spending money wasn't required for motivation. Rediscover your youthful enthusiasm for movement and you’ll establish a fitness habit that isn’t dampened by economic trends.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Routine Physical Exam, Written by Jim Dohn, DC, CHP

Everyone knows regular physical health check-ups are important.
How about regular functional, emotional and spiritual health check-ups?
Do you exercise your body regularly?
Do you have some form of regular meditation or prayer?
Can you touch your toes?
Can you hold a sit up position for 10 seconds?
What’s on your gratitude list? Is it getting longer as you get older?
Have you written a fears and resentments list? Is it getting shorter as you get older?
Is there one other Human Being who knows you completely?
Do you breathe completely and steadily for a time each day?
Do you have a regular service commitment?

Just wondering.


What would you put on this list?