Saturday, March 26, 2011

Article #200

Since I started this blog in July 2007, I have posted 199 articles. This is number 200. My goal has been to offer doable ideas for staying healthy with a focus on modern-day physical fitness. Doable means being able to incorporate them into your everyday life and beneficial for anyone regardless of the physical condition. The complex nature of the body and its connection to the mind and spirit makes this a limitless subject. I try to sort through the ideas and offer them in short, entertaining segments.

There are recurring themes in this blog, ideas that bear repeating, such as:

Stay within your personal abilities to avoid injury
The cultural “push your limits” belief often results in strained muscles and ineffective compensation patterns. I love Nike’s slogan “Just Do It.” But that doesn’t mean that you have to do a marathon or lift all the weights in the gym. Just do whatever you do regularly do and you’ll naturally progress.

Add variety to your routine
This is especially important if you spend most of your day in repetitive tasks, like driving or computing or bodywork. Of course, I believe undulation is a silver bullet, a way to easily undo the strain of stillness and overuse. A client suggested that I include an “Exercise of the Month,” which I’ve done since July 2009. From undulations to relaxations to core strengthening, each month offers a quick and easy way to add variety to your fitness.

Mind, body and spirit are connected
Your attitude toward your body makes a difference in how much pleasure or pain you experience. Playfulness and compassion are better companions than rigid obligations and punishment. Trudging through exercise or work, although sometimes necessary, creates patterns of tension that can be harmful in the long run. Joyful activities create ease and are just as effective at increasing strength.

I hope that the ideas I present will help you live more comfortably in your body. I invite you to offer suggestions for future articles or share techniques that have worked for you.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Single Leg Stance - Exercise of the Month

Staying strong enough to stand on one leg sounds easy, but the hip stabilizers on most adults (who sit most of the day) are too weak to do this without compensation. The answer is to stand on one leg in alignment every day. Build it into your routine, like when brushing your teeth or waiting for the computer to start up.

Stand tall and transfer your weight from both feet to one, without shifting your hip more than an inch to that side. I recommend holding onto a chair, counter or wall to start. Watch for and eliminate any of the following compensations.

Do not let your hip sway far to the side. Keep your side and rear muscles engaged so your hip does not jut to the side. Also, do not lift or drop one side of the pelvis as shown below. Your core muscles are required to keep your pelvis level.

If you can maintain balance on one leg without lifting or shifting your pelvis, let go with your hand and maintain the single leg stance building up to a minute or more. If you can’t maintain the balance without holding on, gradually reduce the number of fingers that touch the base of support.

By the way, the beautiful model in the photos is Tori, my new assistant. She is enthusiastic about structural integration, very pleasant and capable, and, obviously, a good sport.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weak Hips Lead to Back Pain

Many people – especially women – have an embarrassing secret. Most don’t know this about themselves until the situation is desperate, until the consequences are dire, until it is almost too late to correct the problem. The secret is this. Their hips are not strong enough to carry their body weight.

It seems like an overnight phenomenon: a sudden, unexplained occurrence of back pain. But the conditions have been building, unnoticed for years. After age 35, our muscles turn to fat at the rate of about 1% a year in a process called sarcopenia. As we get older, we also tend to add pounds. The muscles that stabilize the hips get weaker and weaker, the body adds unconscious compensations, until eventually the back muscles that have been substituting finally give up. The only solution is to rebuild the strength of the hip stabilizers, usually starting from square one, a long and tedious process.

I encourage you to prevent this problem in your own body. Appreciate a strong, well-endowed touché. Start early and exercise often to build your bum. (In other words, it might be better if your rear was bigger.)

One of the easiest ways to learn if you have developed destructive compensation patterns is to observe yourself in a single leg stance. This exercise also builds balanced strength around the hips. I’ll give step-by-step instructions for a Single Leg Stance, as the Exercise of the Month, in my next blog post. You’ll also get to meet my new assistant, Tori, who will model correct single-leg posture and demonstrate ineffective patterns. Stay tuned.