Tuesday, December 28, 2010
I often wonder if what I write in my blog is making an impact on anyone or if it is just a means for me to transfer information out of my head and practice my writing skills. So I took a poll of my blog subscribers and asked for their favorite articles. I'm glad to have received a response! Here are the top five.
Doing Dishes Can Be Hard on Your Health
A tongue in cheek look at how common household chores can cause unsuspected injuries.
Standing Alignment, Exercise of the Month
Those of us who teach standing alignment, like my belly dance teacher Aleili, can feel like a broken record repeating and repeating the hows and whys of standing tall. However, standing alignment is the base of all movement.
A New Twist on Everyday Exercise: Fun!
This post features a video from TheFunTheory.com that shows how people choose exercise when it's pleasurable, like the piano stairs installed in this subway.
Fascia is near and dear to my heart. How good to know that more people are finding it fascia-nating.
5 Ways to Stop a Pain Cycle
This article was the most researched and informative article of 2010. It is required reading for my clients with chronic pain.
I have to admit that my list of favorite articles is quite long. In looking back through the year, I realize that I like what I write about and am glad others do, too. I already have a slate of articles planned for 2011, but if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Slow Down to Do More 12/20/10
Exercise of the Month: Legs Up the Wall Pose 12/14/10
Gutsy Health Moves 12/4/10
Book Review – Mudras: Ancient Gestures to Ease Modern Tension 11/7/10
Move Past Self-Consciousness 10/28/10
Pacing fitness goals, jogging, Salmon Days Fun Run 10/4/10
Exercise of the Month: Bridge Pose or Pelvic Lift 9/5/10
Book Review: Align for Life Align for Life 8/30/10
Flip Flop Fiasco 8/12/10
Doing Dishes Can Be Hard on Your Health 8/6/10
Exercise of the Month: Engage Your Core Through Your Feet 8/2/10
DVD Review - Yoga Link: Core Integration 7/25/10
Fascia Refresher 7/11/10
Fascinating, Fascia-nating Fascia 6/14/10
Exercise of the Month: Squats 6/9/10
Body Rolling Book Review 5/20/10
Spontaneous Motion 5/15/10
Exercise of the Month: Standing Alignment 5/7/10
91-Year Old Yogini 4/22/10
These Shoes Were Made for Walking 4/19/10
Exercise of the Month: Head Waggle 4/8/10
A New Twist on Everyday Exercise: Fun! 3/17/10
Folders by Heather Denniston, DC 3/10/10
Exercise of the Month: The Anti-Crunch 3/3/10
How To Melt Your Fuzz Buildup 2/23/10
Book Review – T5T: The 10-minute Rejuvenation Plan 2/17/10
5 Ways to Stop a Pain Cycle 2/9/10
Exercise of the Month: Happy Baby Pose 2/2/10
Body Fat 1/27/10
Book Review: Muscular Retraining for Pain-Free Living 1/19/10
Assess Your Health 1/12/10
Exercise of the Month: Hula Hoop 1/5/10
Monday, December 20, 2010
First I notice my breath. Without any attempt to change it, I just notice where it is constricted. For a moment, I don’t have to DO anything since breath expands with simple attention. To enhance the effect, I take several full, deep breaths, immersing myself in the act of drawing in energy and releasing unwanted tension from every part, every cell in my body. I follow the swell of inhale from ribcage to toes and the discharge of negativity as it flows up and out through my nose.
Then I tune into the many other internal rhythms. Heartbeat, digestion, craniosacral, lymph flow. Slowing down to sense the subtle – even when I can’t feel it, even when I just imagine the rhythm of cerebrospinal fluid pulsing around the brain and spinal cord, even when my brain is crying that this is nonsense, we have work to do – I get in touch with my internal resources and less attached to the tension in my external muscles. I lose rigidity and gain sway.
Refreshed, I see the to-do list with new eyes. It is no longer an endurance race fueled by nerves and a whip. I am in the flow of accomplishment, handling tasks with finesse and ease. When I lose the flow, I simply need to slow down and rediscover it inside myself.
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Our bodies are naturally in-tune with the seasons; during winter we need to give ourselves the opportunity to store energy like a tulip bulb, absorb nutrients like an acorn, and be less active during the day like the sun. Try Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani in Sanskrit) when you feel like you need a 20 minute nap, but only have 5 minutes or when you need a 2 hour nap, but only have 20 minutes. It is also a great way to wind down from a hectic day to give yourself more restful sleep.
The only tricky part is how to get into this. Sit next to the wall as close as you can with one side of your body touching from hip to shoulder. Swing your legs up as you turn and bring your upper body and head to the floor.
There are several variations that you can try to find the one most comfortable for you.
1) The easiest, but not necessarily the best, is to simply lie down with your hips directly on the floor and touching the wall. Use a rolled up blanket or pillow to support your neck if needed.
2) If this pulls on your hamstrings (remember the idea isn't to stretch, but to relax), then you are better off with "Legs on a Chair Pose," otherwise known as the Constructive Rest Position. It's not a coincidence that I chose that for the Exercise of the Month last December.
3) Although it's a little more work to set up and get into, the full version of Viparita Karani involves lying with the low back on a folded blanket or bolster so the hips are raised. This allows the chest and vertebrae of the low back to open more fully.
4) Rest with your arms at your sides, palms up if that is comfortable for your neck and back.
5) If you put a yoga strap or belt around your thighs, you can let go of more tension in your legs and hips. This is also a necessity for anyone with sacrum issues.
6) As shown above, a sandbag balanced on the feet provides extra grounding and relaxation. It's hard to put it there yourself though and usually requires a helping hand.
To come out of this pose, bring your knees to your chest and take a few breaths before rolling over (carefully) on to your side.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
As beneficial and effective as it is, Hellerwork Structural Integration cannot resolve every type of musculoskeletal pain. Even though the holistic approach of Hellerwork encompasses the relationship of body, mind and spirit, the source of dysfunction can be more systemic. Several clients have had breakthroughs in their pain by turning their attention to their guts. This is the story of their successes.
A healthy diet is imperative for anyone with pain or injury. Lack of Vitamins B and C and folic acid perpetuate trigger points, but these are not the only vitamins needed. One client had nagging upper back and shoulder pain. Hellerwork helped, but the pain returned with activity. A physical exam in August revealed that she was severely deficient in Vitamin D, even after spending every summer day outside wearing shorts and tank tops in the year we had record-breaking sunny days. After a week of Vitamin D supplements, she was pain free. Another client’s pain diminished after receiving Vitamin B12 injections.
Minerals play an important role, too. Magnesium and potassium supplements relieve muscle cramping and soreness. But if digestion is poor, nutrients aren’t absorbed by the body. That’s one reason I give clients a combination of Epsom and Dead Sea salts; in a bath, they penetrate the skin directly into muscles and connective tissue.
Enzymes can also be taken as supplements with good results. Digestive enzymes help the small intestine break down food so the large intestine can better absorb the sustaining elements and expel waste. Enzymes are also essential for muscle action. One client gained control over her muscle soreness after trying an enzyme combination product recommended by a friend.
A complex chemical balance is required for optimal physical function and improper inputs can create havoc. Food sensitivities cause the intestines to leak digestive waste, which accumulates in the body and burdens muscles and organs. Reactions to food are completely individual. I have difficulty with soy, dairy and gluten. A colleague achieves optimal athletic performance when she avoids all starches. A client has muscle pain if she eats broccoli or potatoes. (Believe it or not, she is as sad about not eating broccoli as I am about not eating bread.)
Many dietary factors affect muscular health. Processed foods lack antioxidants needed for cell regeneration. Food sensitivities put digestive waste into the blood stream and outside the muscles. Vitamin deficiencies deplete general energy levels, upset chemical balance, and deprive muscle cells of vital nutrients. How do you know what strategy works best for you? I recommend consulting with a professional who specializes in digestive issues to create a plan based on your symptoms. We are fortunate to have many qualified, naturopathic doctors, nutritionists, and even chiropractors who have extra training in nutritional healing available locally.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
When I am particularly impatient or stressed, I touch the tips of my thumbs and middle fingers together in a circle and relax my other fingers. While navigating a voice mail menu maze, standing in line at the Issaquah post office, or stuck in a traffic jam, this hand gesture (also called a mudra) keeps me from lashing out and facilitates the deep breaths I need for calm. Emily Fuller Williams’ new book, Mudras: Ancient Gestures to Ease Modern Stress is an easy-to-use guide for mudras that release, relax, restore, recharge, reframe thinking, and refresh the mind.
Hand gestures are often used to enhance a state of being. “Hang loose” comes naturally when in Hawaii just as making a fist does when angry. And, they are powerful and fast-acting. While a clenched hand can intensify irritation, you can use the same idea to create a more peaceful state of mind for yourself. The author suggests holding the mudra for three minutes, but I find a shift in just a minute.
Of the 20 individual mudras included in this book, my current favorite is to release chaos by pulling on my ear lobes. While it doesn’t magically clean up the disorder around me, it does help me to see a clear path through the clutter. Others gestures in the book show how to release jaw tension, chase away sadness, and increase confidence.
You can buy a copy direct from the publisher, Parenting Press.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Rachel is too self-conscious to be stared at and avoids Phoebe, until one day she decides to try it herself. "This feels great. I feel so free so graceful," Rachel concludes.
There are so many things that are good for us that we don't do, because we are too self-conscious. Simply stretching at work or undulating on a bus would make a world of difference in our physical comfort. Think of it this way. If more of us were willing to enjoy the free movement of childhood on a regular basis, it wouldn't be so weird.
Monday, October 4, 2010
On Sunday I ran the Salmon Days 5K Fun Run sponsored by the Rotary Club of Issaquah. Jogging, a personal challenge for me, has been a lesson in many areas. Most importantly, it is teaching me to pace myself, which I need more and more as I get older.
I took three short walking breaks, but ran most of the way. In my definition, the word “run” encompasses the wide range of movement that is faster than speed walking. I run/jog on the slow end of the spectrum. Others are swifter. For example, just a few minutes after the 5K started the 10K winners were sprinting toward the finish line.
If I had been able to jog the entire way, I would have met both my goals: 1) keep one, consistent pace, and 2) to finish in 32:00. Instead my time was 33.27. Still, not too bad, all things considered. My jogging partner, Kristy, was able to go the entire distance. Congratulations, Kristy!
This has been a long lesson in pacing. I first entered the Salmon Days Run in 2007 and walked half and jogged half. The following year, I was sure I could avoid walking. Nope. Not the next year or this year either. As I plan for the 2011 run, I figure I have a few pacing options.
1. Increase my jogging practice from once a week to twice a week.
2. Keep jogging through the cold, rainy winter months. (I usually start in April or May.) An idea: if I entered another 5K in June, I’d have incentive to keep training.
3. Jog slower from the start of the “race.”
4. Accept walking for part as my destiny.
Post Script. My friends who know how much I hate to jog always ask why I do it. Partly, it’s because aerobics are my weakest fitness link so I know I need it. Also, jogging is free and flexible, no gym membership or class time to keep. Mostly though, it is because I advise my clients to do things that they hate to do, like stretching or undulating or exercising at all. I try to not be a hypocrite.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, with a few inches between your knees and feet so they are lined up with your hip sockets.
- Press your feet into the floor. Refer to the Engage Your Core Through Your Feet exercise to be sure that you are using the entire span of each foot.
- As your footprints deepen into the floor, move your knees away from your face.
- The focus is on pressing down and away so the lift comes as a natural result. Do not contract your buttocks to press up from below.
- Hover or continue to lift up vertebra by vertebra into full bridge.
- Come down slowly and consciously with the continued emphasis on pressing down into your feet, moving your knees away from from your torso, and keeping your tailbone lifted toward the ceiling until the very last moment when your weight is back on the ground.
Monday, August 30, 2010
The first 45 pages of this book provide an overview of the series, giving preparation for your expedition into self-discovery. Then there is a session-by-session elucidation of the alignment issues, movement lessons, and emotional awareness.
It’s impossible to include every promising movement lesson in a 75 or 90-minute session. Align for Life provides the depth of multiple movement lessons and the bonus of self bodywork techniques that further empower the client to independently get results. I am reminded of something significant every time I open this book. For example, I just remembered to release my own pecs (that’s pectoralis majors) in six breaths.
Our relationship to our bodies is as entwined as our fascial network. It may be difficult to investigate the many facets of interconnection during a session, but this book is a resource for self-exploration. Here’s an example from the section on session two.
Try out the following perspectives so that you feel the sensations and how
your structure shifts.
Walking on egg shells
Standing in fear
Standing up for myself
Sometimes my clients say, “I want to take you home with me.” I’m sure they don’t want another mouth to feed, but what they would like is a reminder to stay “in line.” Dan Bienenfeld is a human movement and potential expert. I highly recommend that you take his book home with you. You’ll be empowered to be integrated and aligned for life.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
People look at me in disbelief, down at their presumably-innocent flip flops then back at me as if I'm joking or crazy. What could be the harm in those so comfortable, flexible plastic pads? Give me a minute to tell you how flimsy footwear not only is bad for your feet, but also for your breathing, your hips, and general state of tension.
If a shoe is not held on your foot by a strap around the heel, your foot or toes must grip so the sole continues along the ground with your foot. "I don't feel any gripping," most people tell me. That's because your feet are so used to that level of tension, it seems normal. After my feet were released in a Structural Integration session, I could feel how much muscular effort it took to hold on flimsy shoes.
Flip flops symbolize laid-back relaxation. Ironically, wearing them creates the opposite effect in your body. Gripping feet and toes cause tension in the pelvic floor, which signals the body to stay on alert and creates shallow breathing. An inflexible foot limits movement in the hip above and adds pressure in the hip joint.
It's too bad that we just can't run around barefoot. That's what's best. Flip flops feel the closest to barefoot, hence their popularity. In reality though, they start a chain reaction of tension that builds up and compromises the entire body.
While I recommend throwing away all flip flops (sorry landfills!), I realize they can be handy to walk to the pool or to keep freshly polished toenails from scuffing. Just don't wear them all day. Or if you do, be prepared to release the tension they cause.
Friday, August 6, 2010
Dishes Vulnerability #1
When you lean forward with arms in the sink, you’re asking your latissimus dorsi to work when it’s stretched and that makes it weak. If you stay too long in that position, you risk straining the muscle or having your connective tissue harden around it. Take frequent breaks to step away from the sink and undulate for several seconds, especially after lifting heavy pots or anything medium-sized filled with water.
Unloading the dishwasher can be just as dangerous as doing dishes by hand. Even though it’s not as static as standing at a sink, there’s more bending forward involved, especially when taking dishes out of the bottom rack, which poses two risks.
Dishes Vulnerability #2
The ligaments that hold your vertebrae together can stretch only a tiny bit. When the spine bends for extended periods, the ligaments can get microtears, which are extremely painful. The answer is to counterbalance the stretch on the back of the spine with control in the front of the body. When you engage your transverse abdominis (the inner corset as described by New Rules of Posture author Mary Bond), you add strength to the muscles and ligaments around your spine. Learn how to engage your transverse abdominis in this article.
Dishes Vulnerability #3
Just as hazardous as bending forward is standing back up. Many people bend forward at the hips, but arch the low back to return upright. This puts tremendous pressure on the spinal discs. The most functional way is to connect to your feet and use your legs and hip to stand up rather than depending on the back muscles. If you have problems with this, hold onto to your tush when you bend over to remind yourself to engage your glutes.
Dishes Vulnerability #4
Putting dishes away in lower cabinets often requires unique bending and twisting that rivals the most advanced yoga pose. This can cause in a crick in the neck, shoulder or back. The answer is to squat down rather than bending over. It’s also a good idea to use two hands rather than one to keep the body in better alignment.
Protect yourself from the hazards of doing the dishes with careful attention to good body mechanics. Not only will you avoid unexpected and unnecessary injuries, you will develop the habit of using your core every day.
Monday, August 2, 2010
- 1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet comfortably close to your buttocks.
- Push down through your feet to push yourself “up,” as if you were getting “taller.”
- Push with your heels only and notice how the line of force travels up the back of your legs and hips. This is the chain of muscles that most people use most often, and it's not the core.
- Push with the balls of your feet and notice how the line of force travels through the inside of your legs and up the front of your hips and spine. This is getting closer to the core.
- Push equally with the balls of your feet and your heels. Notice how much is on the inside and how much is on the outside arches.
- Push evenly with your heels and balls with 60% weight on the inside arch, 40% outside.
Now that you've found your core, notice how you can engage it through your feet in many activities. You can use your core in something as simple as sitting in a chair (notice where the weight is in your feet) or in various exercises like Pilates and weight-lifting. This is also the foundation to the Relax & Flow Undulation.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
If you follow the menu, you’ll start with a breathing primer after the short introduction. Miller’s method of describing yoga breathing and her ability to explain why it is foundational to practice are exceptionally well done. This segment is as valuable for advanced yogis as for beginning students.
Next on the menu is the Core Integration Workshop, in which each asana is explained in detail. If you are new to yoga or don’t feel confident in your core, then it is worthwhile to learn each piece of the practice as Miller leads you through each part of the abdominal core and how it is used in the practice. The instruction is complete including a warm up, the diaphragm and pelvic floor, rectus abdominis and obliques (which are technically not part of the core, but important to get moving so the underlying core can activate), the transverse abdominis, psoas, and total integration.
She teaches a version of Happy Baby in the warm up segment with undulations of arms and legs. I find this a wonderful way to gently activate the core, similar to my Waking Spider, which has now been renamed Blooming Lotus. There are also lovely undulations in the locust sequence.
All of the poses are available to beginners, although several progress to an advanced level. In the leg lifts and side winding sequences, I was not able to do the most advanced poses, although as I continue with practice and strengthen my core, I will eventually be able to complete every one.
Now that I’ve been through the whole DVD, I simply use the Core Integration Practice for a one hour morning practice. I’m pleased to have a yoga practice designed by someone else that includes undulations.
Speaking of the Spinal Undulation, which is the Core Extras, Miller demonstrates a version of Cat and Cow where the movement travels sequentially through the spine. Although I do think undulations are better experienced from internal experience rather than trying to duplicate another person’s movement, in this case I find Miller’s description and demonstration to be a useful aid.
Whether you are interested in strengthening your core, deepening your yoga practice, or adding undulation to yoga, this DVD has something to offer.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Many people are unaware they have fascia, even though it is a source of their aches and pains. We know about muscles, bones, organs and nerves, but aren’t taught about the tissue that holds it all together. As a client you may already know about fascia, but it never hurts to get a fascia-nating refresher.
Fascia wraps every muscle, bone, organ, nerve, and blood vessel and holds the body together. It doesn't just wrap around muscles, but also wraps the fibers within the muscle. It creates a three-dimensional web of support that facilitates — or inhibits — your ability to function and move.
Also called connective tissue, fascia is comprised of a gel-like substance that suspends fibers and cells. Healthy fascia is slippery, like freshly made Jello® so muscles and organs can glide easily, The gel of unhealthy fascia is dense and sticky, like Jello® that’s been in the fridge for a month or even Elmer’s Glue®. To keep the glide in your gel, move fluidly throughout your body every day, especially after being still or tense.
Collagen and elastin fibers give fascia its shape and structure. The fibers line up based on lines of force in the body. Repetitive motion, overuse, and injury cause the fibers to become disorganized, which prevents smooth movement. If your hamstrings are tight, it might not be because they are over-contracted. It might be because they are encased in fibers that line up at cross purposes with the direction the muscle needs to move.
Most people think the answer is to stretch, but that runs the risk of creating micro-tears in the tissue, which get repaired with even less organized scar tissue. If you stretch and it burns, you are creating micro-tears. The best time to stretch is after activities like running, gardening, and biking. The fibers align more easily when muscles are warm. Or participate in activities that stretch while the muscles are being contracted, as in yoga or some martial arts.
The condition of your fascia is important, because it communicates between and coordinates muscular actions. You have more efficiency and ease of motion when the gel is healthy and fibers aligned. By the way, Hellerwork Structural Integration is helpful on both accounts.
*Technically, the duodenum is the first part of the small intestine, which is why I didn’t know it by name. We considered it separately from the small intestine, because it is in a different compartment
Monday, June 14, 2010
Finally fascia is getting its due.
A recent article in Men's Health entitled "Everything You Know About Muscle is Wrong" describes how the inner, interconnected web is as important as muscle to fitness, athletic performance and pain-free living. Fascia creates the bounce and resiliency that we associate with youthful movements. It also can ingrain our ineffective postural habits, which causes strain and stiffness.
So how do you keep your fascia healthy?
In the article, Steve Maxwell, a former Jiu Jitsu world champ and current personal trainer, recommends exercise that uses balance, ROM, being fluid, and elastic recoil. Think of the activities you enjoyed as a child, those that use your whole body and are playful.
Even though we may not be able to jump like we did as children, we can bounce and swing. One of exercises recommended in the article is the exercise of the month, which is highlighted in this blog's previous article.
What do you do to keep your fascia healthy?
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
- Stand with your feet hip width apart or a little wider and your toes pointing straight ahead.
- Sit down and back with your spine straight and low back long, Move slowly as you sit back so you can focus on your alignment.
- Keep your knees in line with your toes and don't let them go forward of your toes. Concentrate on keeping your hips back more than your knees forward.
- As soon as you reach your comfortable deepest squat, press evenly into both feet and stand up quickly.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
It uses a soft ball, like the ones you buy at a toy store not fully inflated (the frog ball above was a fun find that I use regularly), or you can purchase specially made balls from the Body Rolling company.
I had been rolling on a ball to work the tight spots out of my arms -- after all I can't see a structural integrator every week -- and the principle is the same. It's also similar to undulation in that your body is moving slowly and developing internal awareness. The difference is that your body weight creates more the resistance against the ball.
Body Rolling requires more flexibility and range of motion that most undulations and it includes the arms and legs, while undulation focuses more on the spine. I think this is a good next-step if you like undulations and want to go deeper. The author also has another book that is more technical and written for bodyworkers and manual therapists.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Michael also noted that in the Daoist traditions (Chinese medical arts), the joins is a resevoir of chi (energy). When a joint is weak or injured, it borrows chi (energy) from nearby joints.
The spine has 125 joints. As the central pillar of the body, its range of motion (or lack thereof) determines the ease with which a person can move. Try some of these undulations to create more chi in your spine.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Research done at the University of Aberdeen as reported in the New York Times article, Abstract Thoughts? The Body Takes Them Literally, notes that people who are thinking about the future lean forward and when recalling the past most people lean back. Being in alignment helps a person be present. Letting go of bad posture habits helps us make better sense of what's going on around us.
So spend a few minutes every day standing with focus on alignment of your hips over your ankles, your ribs over your hips, your cranium over your ribs with your shoulders and arms relaxed. Ground firmly to the earth below you, as though you have deep roots and draw a line of energy up your inside arches and legs, through your spine so the crown of your head subtly lifts toward the heavens. Stay in this space, the present moment, for as long as you can hold your attention here. I practice this when I'm waiting anywhere, such as when my computer is starting or when standing in line at the store or bank.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Tao Porchon-Lynch teaches yoga. She's quite a dancer, too. See for yourself on this CNN video. The savasana she leads her students through is quite beautiful.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Walking can nourish the cardiovascular system, improve brain function, reduce stress, and strengthen muscles large and small. But not if the foundation of the gait, that is your shoes, isn’t up to the task.
Improper shoes create muscle tension and inhibit your stride and its effect throughout the body. How do you choose the right shoe?
Karin Edwards, a Rolfer from Portland, has written an excellent article with four simple tips for choosing shoes. They should be flexible and lightweight so you can feel the ground through the soles, with a neutral heel and wide toe box. For more details on shoes and how to walk once you’ve found the right pair, read the entire article on her website.
Give your feet the freedom of shoes that allow their full potential, then each step can spread from toe to head.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
A colleague who lived in India for a while observed this interesting culteral movement and surmises that it is the reason why Indians have more fluid structure than Americans.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Bring back the toys!! I vote for a swing set in front of every office building. What gets your vote?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
My husband, Brent, and I recently visited my mother in Canada. During our stay, after some rigorous shopping, I politely offered to drop the two passengers off at the door to my mother's condo complex. I went on to park my vehicle. I located a suitable spot about two blocks away. I parallel parked, which I am proud to say I am exceptionally proficient at, and hopped out, slammed the door, and sprinted back to the condo to rejoin my husband and mother for a late afternoon siesta. Siesta led to dinner, DVD and an early bedtime. The following morning, we packed up and I started on the first of several trips to the car to deposit our bags before departure. Once outside, I was approaching the vehicle thinking about the long trip home when I noticed a police officer parked along side my car. I then noticed an odd substance coming from my exhaust pipe...exhaust. This was one of those moments where you hear an audible click as all synapses collide to an irrefutable conclusion. I understood what had happened. I had left the car on for the last nineteen hours.
Before I had the opportunity to imagine the many possible outcomes of my oversight from the day before I was approached by the twelve year old Kelowna Police officer. He inquired if I was the owner of the vehicle. I replied in the affirmative and then he asked if I was Heather Denniston. (Synapses clicking fervently). How could he know who I was unless he had done an extensive national data base search? He had done an extensive national data base search. He stared at me, actually all over me looking for signs of car jacking, abduction, kidnapping, domestic dispute and I am sure several other unspeakable differential diagnosis he learned during his recent matriculation from cop school that might possibly explain why a car would be left running for an entire night with no driver inside. The officer fired a litany of questions regarding where I was staying, who I was staying with, did I know where I was, what was four times four and who is the prime minister of Canada? (The final fact I am sad to report to my countrymen I did not know.) Despite my failure to answer final jeopardy I apparently passed the examination because the adolescent, after more staring, got in his cop vehicle and drove away. The expression displayed on his face through the windshield of his cruiser was somewhere between bewilderment and disgust. I stood for a long time, my car quietly purring behind me, trying to compute how a sane woman could walk away from a car that is running.
After regaling this story to a very good friend she just looked at me with a knowing look of friendship and she patted my arm and said "folders" I said "pardon me?" she said, "Folders Heather, you have too many open at one time."
As I sat across from her over lattes, listening to her wisdom, one of those foggy questions of deep personal character suddenly become clear. Almost every goofy, absent minded thing I have done in my life, and my family has a long litany of examples they could provide, has to do with too many folders open in my brain resulting in a lack of focus on the present moment.
After my good friend brought the folder problem to my attention I have been making a concerted effort to maintain a present moment consciousness. I realized I might not be alone in trying to overcome this issue so I thought I would put together a small local list of "folder-clearing" options on the Eastside.
1) BREATH: An amazingly overrated physiologic phenomena. I recommend practicing deep breathing techniques in the following breathing-friendly locations in Issaquah.
1) On top of "Poo-Poo" Point on Tiger Mountain
2) Beaver Lake Trail
3) Eastside Meditation Group
2) STRETCH: Movement has the amazing ability to stimulate your nervous system and dramatically improve focus and brain function. Check out the following best spots to stretch.
1) Yoga Barn
2)Village Green Yoga
3) Active Body Pilates
4) Shakti Yoga
3) ORGANIZE: Many of us have too many folders open because we have not organized our external environment. It is essential to establish practices that simplify our immediate surroundings so we don't constantly think we have to be working on everything at one time.
1) Debbie Rosemont
2) Robin Stephens
3) Mission: Organization Strategies & Solutions to Clear Your Clutter. Author: Amy Tincher-Durik
4) HELP! If you find yourself unable to control the busyness of business in your head you may need a professional coach/counselor to help you work through all the things you are trying to manage in this season of your life.
1) Susan Sterling: (425) 369-8224
2) Diane Burgert: (206) 540-8007
3) Nancy Logan: (425) 646-8932
5) NATURE: Hike, put your bare feet in the grass, garden, swim. Do something that reconnects you with nature. Have you ever noticed that your brain sorts things out much more effectively when you are outside communing?
1) Foghorn Pacific Northwest HikingAuthors: Scott Leonard & Megan McMorris (Available at Barnes and Noble)
2) Beginners Hiker Club
3) Issaquah Alps Trails Club:
After the juvenile police office drove away with his "I can't wait to tell this back at the station" smirk I made my way back to the condo and sheepishly explained to my mother and husband what had happened. It was odd; they both looked vaguely like the cop before he drove off.
Once Brent and I headed off down the highway, save a quick trip to the gas station to refill my depleted reserves, I spent some time thinking about folder management. I fear I will always be a trite absent minded but I am pleased to say with some of the above mentioned simple solutions there have been no further vehicle endangering incidents.
Heather Denniston DC
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
The key to this exercise is to keep your back and hips absolutely still. The legs are simply levers creating more resistance for your abdominal muscles.
1. Lie on your back with your neck and arms relaxed.
2. Bend one knee so the foot is on the floor and raise the other straight leg up toward the ceiling.
3. Don’t let your hips and back move. At all.
4. Lower the raised leg toward the floor, but stop before your hips shift or your heel reaches the floor, whichever comes first.
5. Raise the leg without tilting or shifting your pelvis or low back.
6. Keep breathing and repeat.
1. Lie on your back with neck and arms relaxed. Breathe easily.
2. Raise both legs toward the ceiling.
3. Lower both straight legs toward the floor as far as you can without tilting, shifting or rotating your pelvis.
4. Raise and lower your legs as you breathe steadily.
5. Stop as soon as you cannot hold your stability.
For the therapeutic version, try the Easy Core Exercise in this article.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This is the matrix that holds us together – sometimes too well creating internal tightness.
Watch this video by structural integrator and anatomy expert Gil Hedley to learn how to keep your connective tissue healthy and stay limber. (Warning: it includes images from cadavers so you can see how fascia gets stuck. Don’t be squeamish.)
Gil’s explanation of sticky fascia as “fuzz” is brilliant. Of course, I am even more delighted to hear him recommend undulation (i.e., wiggling and stretching) as an antidote to stiffness. And, look at his movement! Gil is a fine example of fluidity.
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
However, the exercises as described in The Fountain of Youth were so difficult that it was easy to get injured unless you were already proficient in yoga. Carolinda Witt has broken the exercises down into safe and manageable steps so anyone can learn to do them. She has written T5T: The 10-Minute Rejuvenation Plan.
What makes the exercises so special? Not only is it an overall body workout, “the T5T program harnesses and develops this highly complex system of life energy. The Chinese call this energy Qi (pronounced “chi), the Japanese Ki, and in India it is called prana.”
In addition to the five exercises, I especially enjoy the warm-ups. They help me to relieve stress and loosen my joints. Each exercise has directions for preparation and cautions to avoid injury. The more difficult ones are broken down to be learned over a period of several weeks.
A companion DVD is also available.
I can’t claim that I’m up to the ideal 21 repetitions of the exercises, nor am I consistent yet. However, I am getting experienced enough to do them without referencing the book and feel better when I do.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Neil Pearson, MSc (RHBS) BscPT, BA, BPHE
International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Vol 18 (2008)
“Yoga for People in Pain”
As a warning signal, pain is helpful. It usually indicates injury and encourages change to promote healing and prevent further harm. Unfortunately, pain messages can outlive their useful purpose and take on a life of their own.
Fifty million Americans live with chronic pain and an additional 25 million have acute pain from an illness or injury according to Kathryn Weiner, PhD, the Director of the American Academy of Pain Management. More important than statistics is the fact that hurting prevents people from enjoying life. If not stopped in its early phases, pain can create a cycle that lingers and eventually becomes chronic. Therefore, it’s important to relieve pain as soon as possible.
Pain may be alerting you to one of the following five cycles, which can be resolved.
Pain Cycle Scenario #1 – Inflammation Gone Wild
Inflammation is a natural part of the acute healing process. Blood flow increases to injured areas of the body in order to bring nutrition and carry away damaged cells. When the inflammatory process doesn’t turn off, internal swelling puts pressure on sensitive tissues and creates more pain and prolonged injury.
You can control inflammation naturally with RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Notice the first criterion is rest, which means the body needs a break from all stressful activities. Ice, compression and elevation take time, but it’s worth it to spend 15 minutes icing with the body part elevated three to four times a day.
Diet is also a factor. Marcelle Pick, Ob/Gyn, NP identifies foods that help and hurt in an article about joint pain and inflammation for Women to Women. Hydrogenated oils, saturated fats, and sugar contribute to inflammation. Omega-3 oils and dark, leafy, green vegetables counteract those effects.
If natural remedies aren’t enough, there are always over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as ibuprofen and naproxen. Note that acetaminophen does not reduce inflammation. Some people resist taking any pills. However, if you are caught in an inflammatory pain cycle, you will be tempted to take even stronger and more harmful pain relievers unless you get inflammation under control.
If all else fails, cortisone injections can be used to dramatically reduce swelling in a particular area. However, this option is used after others have failed, according to Robert Leach, MD, editor of the American Journal of Sports Medicine.
Pain Cycle Scenario #2 – Unconscious Repetitive Injury
Sometimes pain tells us that we have a bad habit which causes internal injury. The habits are so ingrained that we aren’t conscious of ourselves or the negative effects. It may start with tension in the neck and shoulders and then send pain into the arms and hands. Poor posture in front of a computer or in a car is often the culprit. Other posture habits create different injuries. Low back pain is commonly the result of sitting back on the pelvis.
This isn't a one-time injury, but instead small injuries that recur faster than the body can heal.
An assessment of your posture and movement patterns can determine if your pain is the result of an ineffective movement pattern. Structural integration practitioners are trained to spot these patterns as are physiatrists and physical therapists who treat the body holistically. Once diagnosed, the challenge is to stop the behaviors that create injury and develop new, better habits for movement. But you can’t even start the process without becoming aware of the harmful patterns.
Pain Cycle Scenario #3 – Cascade of Trigger Points
Tension is a natural reaction to pain. Muscular tension adds strain to already overloaded or weakened muscles, which increases pain. Trigger points are small sections muscles that are stuck in contraction and send pain to the surrounding or a distant area. If trigger points persist, new pain points will develop in surrounding muscles which can become a web of agony that is hard to unravel – not to mention the tension that increases every step of the way.
One solution is to decrease tension with relaxation techniques and reduce stress in the muscles. Progressive relaxation is one of the easiest techniques to try on your own and can be done in as little as 15 minutes. Lie in a quiet place and tune into your breath. Tighten the muscles in your toes as you inhale and as you exhale relax them as much as possible. Work up the muscle groups in your body (calves, thighs, buttocks, etc.) squeezing the muscles on inhale and letting go as much as possible on exhale. By the time you tighten and release your jaw and eyelids, your whole body will be much calmer.
Relieving the entire pattern of trigger points is also necessary, which requires a combination of warming the muscles, pressing the points, and stretching according to Hal Blatman, MD author of Winner’s Guide to Pain Relief. Many times you can do this yourself. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook is also an excellent resource. It’s important, however, to get every point or the pattern can return. Massage therapists who specialize in trigger point therapy can help. The most extreme cases might need trigger point injections (usually injected with an analgesic called lidocaine), which can be administered by a physician or physical therapist.
Pain Cycle Scenario #4 – Pain and Depression or Anxiety
People with chronic pain are at higher risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders according to Harvard Health Publications, and people who are depressed are more sensitive to pain sensations, as the brain pathways that process pain and mood are related. Depression or anxiety and pain can become a vicious cycle as stress increases pain and pain increases stress.
The Mayo Clinic website recommends autogenic relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation and visualization to decrease wear and tear on the body and mind. The progressive relaxation exercise noted above can be used, as well as other activities you find to be restful. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, a form of meditation, has been found to be extremely effective in increasing the ability to relax and the ability for patients to cope with their symptoms including pain.
Exercise produces endorphins which reduce the perception of pain and increases the feeling of well being according to WebMD. Walking is one of the most common and helpful, but any enjoyable exercise such as biking or dancing will help combat a pain and anxiety/depression cycle.
Slow breathing is also effective. Researchers at the Barrow Neurological Institute in Arizona found that study participants who tried to slow the breath rate to half could diminish pain and improve their mood pain as reported in hc2d, a global healthcare news site. One way to slow your breath is to exhale through pursed lips, like a whisper. Another technique is to count the inhale and exhale and increase the count of each (especially the exhale) slowly and incrementally.
Medication is another option if natural remedies aren’t successful enough. Certain pain conditions respond to anti-depressants or a combination of anti-depressants and analgesics. Physicians who are experienced in treating patients with chronic pain, such as physiatrists or rheumatologists, have the best knowledge to determine if this will work for you.
Pain Cycle Scenario #5 – Amplified Pain Messages
Some of the latest research is finding that pain receptors can become oversensitive and produce pain signals out of proportion to the actual condition of the body. In this case, the message is a bit like Peter crying wolf.
Neal Pearson in the article noted in the opening paragraph puts it so well. “The body and nervous system may amplify the signals to get attention. Pain could then intensify without further tissue damage, the experience of pain could spread to new areas, previously non-painful movement might become painful.”
“New Culprits in Chronic Pain” in the November 2009 issue of Scientific American details how the sensing neurons can become overly excited and create pain without a stimulus. In this case the body–mind is misinterpreting sensation, but that doesn’t change the amount of pain felt. In some cases the pain gets worse and worse.
Researchers are developing new medicines to affect the sensing neurons and combat pain in a different way. That doesn’t mean that current natural methods won’t work. Alternative health care like acupuncture and yoga therapy can affect the nervous system to restore a more accurate internal sense of sensation, called proprioception.
Finding the Right Solution
It’s also possible that pain cycles are the result of more than one cause, for example inflammation and depression or unconscious habits and tension. As a result it can take a bit of trial and error to find a combination of approaches that work for your particular situation.
A journal can help you recognize and track your cycles and document what techniques that are most helpful. With practice, you can decode the incomprehensive messages of your pain and find some relief.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
• Lie on your back and bend your knees into your chest as you exhale.
• Spread your knees and feet as wide as you can, as though you are bringing your knees into your armpits. (As in the photo in the link above.)
• Reach between your knees to grasp your inner arches (or toes or ankles) with your hands.
• Pull gently with your arms to set your hip joints and open your hips as you lengthen your back.
• Breathe easily.
This is a great yoga pose to incorporate undulations, as shown in this video.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
I participated in the Coal Creek Family YMCA's Health Fair last weekend. The most popular booth was the Body Fat Calculation, where a personal trainer used calipers to measure skin thickness in several places to determine the body fat percentage for the curious. We stood in line to have our skin pinched, reveal personal information, and then receive the (usually) unhappy news.
If you'd like to check your own body fat percentage with less embarrassment, there are several available online. My favorite is from HealthStatus.com. You will need a tape measure for your waist, hips, and neck, plus your height and weight. The Body Mass Index calculator uses wrist and forearm measurements instead of the neck. This test isn't as accurate as a caliper test nor the even more trustworthy, expensive, and wet body dunk test, but it is easy to do and private.
According to the American Heart Association, a body fat percentage of 18.5 to 24.9 is healthy. Less than that is underweight (yes, we do need some fat for healthy organ functioning) and 25% or more is overweight. More than overall weight, the amount of weight from fat is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
There is considerable variation between the tests, so you can't take one as the ultimate answer. However, taking the time for a few tests will give you valuable information about your health.
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Those who are willing to do what it takes to get out of or prevent pain, and
Those who don’t want to make any changes but want pain to go away.
If you are the type of person who has been looking for changes to keep you pain-free, I recommend Muscular Retraining for Pain-Free Living by Craig Williamson, MSOT. In this enlightening text Williamson notes that kinesthetic dysfunction (the inability to sense and perceive parts of the body) creates Dysfunctional Movement Patterns (DMPs) that cause internal, repetitive injury.
Unfortunately, most people have many dysfunctional patterns that cause pain, for example sitting in front of a computer with shoulders rounded and head forward, lifting objects by hinging in the low back, straining the neck to stand up, and walking with misaligned knees to name a few. However, this book will help you discover and correct these ineffective tendencies.
“If you want to discover a new way of using your body or performing an activity, you need to break free of your DMPs. You do this by letting go, by feeling your muscles and alignment in new ways, by coordinating your movement in new ways—and by observing what happens.” (p. 49)
I like that Williamson uses easy-to-understand language and comprehensively covers sources of dysfunction, from bad habits to past injury to poor posture to unconscious emotional tightening. The movement explorations in the book help you build your kinesthetic awareness and the exercises help you replace ineffective patterns with effortless, balanced strength and flexibility.
My favorite part of this book is the emphasis on non-forced movement. “In fact, muscular retraining involves moving as easily as possible by avoiding the use of any unnecessary muscles.” (p. 46)
If you’ve suffered from chronic pain and think that the key to pain relief is to try harder and do more, Muscular Retraining for Pain-Free Living will be a pleasant and effective change of pace. If you live relatively pain-free, the advice in this book will help you stay that way.
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
I started a de-tox diet on Sunday; we'll see how long I can go without sugar, gluten, dairy, alcohol, caffiene, and all chemical additives. My goal is 14 days to give my liver and digestive system an internal make-over.
To help you get started with your health goals, I highly recommend a health assessment. HealthStatus.com offers several free assessment tools that help you determine your general health, cardiac, and diabetes risks and other surveys to measure your overhealth health and fitness. The tools are free, but you will need to create a user login first.
According to WebMD.com, a combination of diet and exercise is the most effective to control weight. In addition, exercise has additional health benefits in terms of reducing blood pressure, improving mental health, and decreasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Why not pick up a new form of exercise this year? My fitness assessment accurately notes that I need more aerobic exercise. So I'll start jogging again soon (and this year wear my MP3 player to make it more fun) and will go swimming and dancing every month.
However you decide to improve your health in 2010, I wish you the best. Please feel free to share your goals if it will help you commit to them.
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Don't worry if you can't keep the hoop up for long, like the little girls in this video, you'll still get good exercise just trying. Soon, you'll be like the ladies who can hoop and squat and smile all at the same time.
Additionally, your spine will get nourished with undulations, especially as you master the movement and use deeper, core muscles.