Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Reader's Favorites

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 Refresher
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

2010 Blog Posts

Here's a summary of the articles I posted in 2010. Next up will be a review of reader favorites.

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

Slow Down to Do More

My to-do list is 21 items long today. When I think about my list, my breath quickens and body tenses like a jittery racehorse aiming for the finish line. I can spend an entire day – nay, sometimes a week – in this mode. But I’ve learned to notice the warning signs: shoulders lifted toward the ears, breath too shallow to notice, body too held to relax, disconnection from my surroundings. When I am aware, I can quickly transform to a more calm state by changing the focus to my internal environment.

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

Exercise of the Month: Legs Up the Wall Pose

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

Gutsy Health Moves

This article is excerpted from my Keeping in Touch Newsletter.
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.