#everydayposer : Think INSIDE the Box!

Here is some wellness news that I came across in a recent Time Magazine (Feb. 16, 2015): mindfulness helps children in learning. Whoa! As opposed to mindless learning? We need studies to figure this out?

Maybe so.  It seems that we need to qualify everything. Even things that should be common sense. A colleague of mine recently gave a public talk about alignment and Restorative Exercise™ (RE). Someone in the audience wanted “proof” that the theories behind this approach to movement was valid. Well, the theories behind this approach are that 1-movement is a biological requirement and 2-bodies respond to that which we do most often, not what we do most enthusiastically (read more).

I’m going to propose a proof: bed sores. Stasis eventually brings about cell necrosis which, I’m pretty sure, isn’t good. Here’s another: overuse injury. Repetitive movement creates friction and eventually, tissue damage. There may be studies that confirm these findings, however, I’m going to suggest that it is sufficient for this rant er, blog to simply rely on common knowledge.

About this blog: it is about what you do at your desk–inside your “box.” Are you able to work without creating physical damage? If your desk job IS causing health problems, then how does that affect your success and eventually, your company’s?

Sitting is the new smoking and standing work stations have become all the rage, but standing has problems as well. Going back to RE, movement is the biological requirement. So it’s not sitting OR standing, but rather changing positions that is going to be most beneficial to your workday/life outcomes.

Here are some changes of positions I have devised behind my desk:

standing on my rocks!

standing on my rocks!

squatting on my BOSU!

squatting on my BOSU!

lunging on rocks and BOSU!

lunging on rocks and BOSU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing positions often will help to relieve the pressures our bodies feel, both in stillness and repetitive movements like typing. Small stretch breaks should occur every 20-30 minutes with a complete change in position to follow. Remember, it isn’t what you do at the gym for one hour, but how you move your body (or don’t) for the other 15 hours of the day that counts. These 3 positions change the degree of my hip flexion, the rocks create a variety pressures on my feet and “encourage” me to alter my stance, and altering my relationship to my screen allows my arms, head and eye positions to change. The BOSU has tons of other movement options when I’m not doing desk work as well. And the rocks are fun to try to pick up with my toes.

Another very cool and hip way to change positions often is to get an IKEA “Bekant” desk. Of course, between sipping kaffe and looking suave and making the desk go up and down every 5 minutes because COOL! and needing to run to the loo because KAFFE! and HAIR! I doubt that my work outcomes would be very good. But if you show this video to your employer and suggest that you need either one of these (with the very cool matching  chair, file, and attitude) OR a much cheaper BOSU and a pile of rocks–I’m betting you’ll get an okay update your desk in some way. Bring some proof if that is what it takes, too. This blog will suffice.

 

 

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Walk b4 u Run #everydayposer

We don’t really have to teach a baby to walk. They will move through the necessary phases of rolling over, pushing up, crawling, pulling up, cruising, and then taking a first step.  However, as we enter adulthood we slowly take on habits that override our natural reflexes.

Here are the activities that typically make up a day in the life of a modern Westerner (I especially like the 70’s era TV pic): images-13 images-12

 

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What do you see that is common to all of these photos? (hint: seated posture with hip flexion–which isn’t so much a hint as the answer)

It is no wonder that our running gait looks like this:

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Looking carefully at these two runners, neither one of them is really extending their thigh relative to their torso. The woman in red looks like it–her leg is back and she is closer to extending, but she is also leaning forward considerably. Try drawing a line from their ears down to the midline of their pelves and see how far you can draw it into their upper legs. Hip extension happens when the femur (thigh bone) is moving towards an angle larger than 180 degrees.

I’ve been doing walking gait analyses on clients now for about 6 months. And probably everyone I’ve filmed flex forward at the hip and knee to take a step. You might argue that is how we are supposed to walk and run.

My mom always told me that I shouldn’t be influenced by what everyone else is doing. I bet your mom did, too.

Think about paddling a boat. Which way do you push? Do you reach waaaay forward when you put the paddle in? Nope. You put the paddle in close to you and push back. The way physics works is to move forward there needs to be a backwards force. And that push should start from the point closest to the center of mass to be most effective.

Walking (and running) then, should be EXTENSION of legs (and arms too). If we flex at the hip to move forward, it means that our glutes are not doing the work.Want a toned butt? Try using it! Extension is where it is at, baby! And if you watch that baby learning to walk, that is exactly what you will see! Notice in this photo, the leg she is landing on is directly beneath her. Draw that line from her ear to the middle of her pelvis and you’ll find her thigh is behind her. No hip flexion is happening in either leg.

Unknown-3Here is a final image of a group of children running. Notice the amount of movement behind their bodies:

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If you have a habit of sitting more than 2-3 hours per day, go back to walking before beginning a running program pretty, pretty please! Learn how to extend your hips and arms again. I think you will find it extremely challenging and a way to really improve your ability to run well too!

#everydayposer Holiday 108

In yoga, the number 108 is considered auspicious–mathematically it is the total of 1x2x2x3x3x3 (each digit being auspicious alone, too). If you repeat a practice 108 times, it is believed to bring about change. On Winter’s Solstice, we repeat 108 Sun Salutations to bring change to the length of our days. Well–hopefully that would happen regardless, but it’s nice to take some credit 🙂

Okay, so there are LOTS of ways to bring about change besides repeating a series of asanas. Mantras, repeated 108 times, can bring about a change too. Or how about listing something and including 108 items on the list? Last year I listed 108 reasons why I love what I do. It really created a sense of gratitude within me for the wonderful opportunity of the practice and community of yoga.

This year, I want to list 108 ways we all can become an #everydayposer–and change habitual patterns for better health. I’m doing this in one attempt and without taking a break or planning or proof reading! Here goes:

  1. Sit on the floor rather than the couch
  2. Change your seated position every 30 minutes–get creative!
  3. Wiggle your toes RIGHT NOW! Even if they are in shoes
  4. As soon as your toes are out of shoes, stretch your toes apart from one another
  5. Try to lift your toes individually–even if you have to help them
  6. Roll a ball around under your foot–moving from the toes to the arch slowly
  7. Stretch the bottom of your feet by pressing toes down and lifting your heel up
  8. Stretch the top of your feet by turning your toes under and pressing your ankle forward
  9. Stretch your calves (I do this at the bathroom sink–try a rolled up towel!)
  10. Rotate your ankles in complete circles–if there is a part of the circle that is choppy, go slower there
  11. Flex your feet strongly and try to move your shin bones by turning feet out an in.
  12. Put a small soft ball behind your knee and do #10 again
  13. Stand up and see how that feels now! Then do the other leg/knee
  14. See if you can lift and lower your kneecaps while sitting
  15. See if you can lift and lower your kneecaps while standing
  16. See if you can balance on one foot and count to ten without wobbling
  17. See if you can balance on one foot while lifting and lowering your kneecap (on the balance leg)
  18. Stand up and close your eyes–notice any movement or discomfort when you do
  19. Try it again while balancing on one foot.
  20. Read about proprioception
  21. While standing, place weight in your heels and see if you can lift the front of your feet (one at a time)
  22. Check your toes and see what direction you are pointing them
  23. Compare that with what direction you would LIKE to go
  24. Align your “wheels” (ie feet)! Honestly, we do this to take care of our cars–but what about our bodies!!
  25. When you bend over, notice what part of you bends
  26. Next time you need to bend over, try a different part (ie–bending at your hips rather than your back)
  27. See how many ways you can bend over!
  28. Bend over at your hips and hold it for 30 seconds at least 3 times per day–you can totally hold on to something!
  29. While hanging out for that stretch, feel the back of your knees. There will be two indents in the knee “pit”–try to move them so they are pointing straight back (you will need to rotate your thigh a bit).
  30. When you are ready to stand up, try to use the back of your hips to do so
  31. While you are sitting on the floor, tuck and untuck your pelvis–try to sit on the front edge of those “sit” bones (the pelvis will be untucked and you will feel your back of hips stretch again!)
  32. Roll a ball around under one of your butt cheeks along the sit bone.
  33. Check out how that feels! Do the other one
  34. While standing, try to press down more on one foot and see if you can feel the other leg float up off the floor (don’t bend the knee or try to “lift”–just press down enough to make your standing leg longer)
  35. Do that whenever you are standing in line at Meijers instead of reading People. Switch legs when one gets tired
  36. Walk sideways rather than front ways down one hallway in your house. Every time you go there.
  37. While waiting somewhere there are chairs, kneel on the seat with one leg. Press your hips forward slightly until you feel a stretch at the front of the leg
  38. Always chose to do something different than sitting if you can!!
  39. If you need to sit to be polite, don’t lean back–use your core musculature rather than the chair back
  40. To activate your abdominal muscles, rather than doing a “crunch” move–which would make your pelvis tuck (and remember # 29!) try pulling your front ribs down. Blowing hard will give you the “feel” for this
  41. Try to get the feel and also be polite by not blowing hard all the time!
  42. When your ribs are in the correct position, your sternum will be vertical
  43. Now try to sit up “straight” without moving your rib cage.
  44. So let’s get into shoulders, shall we?
  45. Look at your hands when you stand up. What part is facing forward?
  46. Do you like slapping your legs when you walk?
  47. Or what movements DO your arms make when you walk?
  48. Try to turn your elbow points back and thumbs forward–see how that feels at your shoulder
  49. Notice how your feet and knees should point forward and elbow points should point backwards. Think about this often–check where they point whenever you think about it.
  50. Stretch your fingers apart right now!
  51. Stretch your knuckles by interlacing fingers and pressing your fingertips into the back of your knuckles
  52. Do it again with your fingers interlaced the “weird way” (switch which index finger is on top)
  53. Stretch one finger at a time with the wrist underside pointing up and the finger pressing down
  54. Spread your fingers apart and flip your hands palms up/palms down slowly. Notice any stretch sensation in the shoulder.
  55. Now, with fingers spread and palms up, bend at the elbow, press your elbow into your sides and then slowly turn the hands outward–rotating at the shoulder. Hold when you feel a stretch. You might want to have a cookie platter in each hand while doing this. It’s nice to feel useful.
  56. Go out into the snow and make snow angels!
  57. Pretend you are a dog and crawl around on the floor
  58. Pretend you are a monkey and hang from a branch
  59. Pretend you are a bipedal human and go for a long walk
  60. Pretend you are a cat and take a nice nap (or try to jump up on the counter in one easy leap–your choice!)
  61. Try to move your shoulder blades around on your back. Move them up, move them down. Move them toward one another and move them apart.
  62. Hold them down and apart and now move your arms all around.
  63. Find out which movement of your arms also moves your shoulder blades. Slow down and move in tiny little circles in that area (still keeping your shoulder blades in place)
  64. Be ready to ask a question if you are called on 🙂
  65. When you are driving, try to press your rib cage back into the car seat while lengthening up through the back of the neck.
  66. With the new air bags, your hands should be lower than 10-2, so at a stop light, check your hand position–switch to 4-8, turn your fingers out and stretch your wrists. Then please place hands firmly back on the wheel to drive, but maintain the lower hand position.
  67. If you are stopped for a longer time and don’t need to watch for a light, keep the back of your neck long and rotate your face as far right and left as you can. Then tip your head down on the right and left sides. If someone DOES honk, just waive friendly-like.
  68. Check your chin position right now! Is it jutting forward? Give it a little tuck in and back. Do this EVERY time you look at a screen–computer, tv, or phone.
  69. Right now! Look outside if you can and soften your gaze, letting your eyelids relax a little bit.
  70. Play “eye spy” and name all the things you can in your peripheral vision.
  71. Bring your thumb up in front of your eyes and focus on it. Slowly pull it closer and farther away. Then to the right and to the left. Let your eyes follow.
  72. Then roll your eyes around in circles.
  73. Rest your eyes and close them gently.
  74. Find a place to sit outdoors and listen to all the sounds you can. Name them as you hear them. Then see if you can listen to the quiet within you and soften your hearing.
  75. Breathe through your nose. Notice the air on the edge of the nostrils and list as many things as you can about the sensation of breathing there.
  76. Now, check out what position your tongue is in inside your mouth. Is it pressing anywhere? Can you soften it and feel a gentle presence all around your soft palate? How does that change your nostril breathing?
  77. Stick your tongue out as far as you can.
  78. What tongue tricks can you do? Circles? Can you make it wide? My favorite–can you make ripples in the edge?
  79. What about your jaw? See if there is any tension and try to relax it.
  80. Then belt out a few Christmas tunes! Pretend you are Bing Crosby and move your jaw all around while you do!
  81. Stand up right now and stretch! We’re almost there!!
  82. Now sit down as far as you can without a chair. Hold please.
  83. See if you can make your shins vertical
  84. See if you can untuck your pelvis
  85. See if you can press your ribs back and spread your shoulder blades.
  86. See if you can lengthen the back of your neck
  87. See if you can move your arms all around
  88. See if you still like me 🙂
  89. Okay, now stand up again
  90. And then try #82-87 on one leg
  91. Now I know you don’t like me
  92. Remember the season is about loving everyone and peace and good tidings
  93. Now sit down and find a comfortable posture
  94. Close your eyes
  95. Let your head hang down a bit
  96. Follow your breath from your nose to your chest and focus on the movement of your breath around your heart
  97. Feel the movement of inhale, and then the movement of exhale
  98. Imagine that whenever you inhale, your heart opens a little bit
  99. Imagine that every time you exhale, you let go a little bit of anything that isn’t really important
  100. Focus on what IS really important and let it move into your heart space
  101. Pay attention to what you are feeling
  102. Listen to what your heart is saying
  103. Forgive yourself
  104. Accept where you are and be fully present to everything that is happening in this moment
  105. Imagine a future that is in line with your heart’s desire
  106. Allow your imagination to run wild
  107. Know that your intuition is very wise and that it speaks through your imagination
  108. Write down 108 ways that you can become the change you wish to see in the world

#everydayposer: Contents Under Pressure!

Ahhh, so we have been exploring stretching. And now we are coming to the time of year when we stretch our stomachs. Hello holidays! Let’s revisit the drawing of areas in the body that tend to have tension:IMG_1498

In my last post, I exhibited how stretching the back of the legs can have a release throughout the entire back side of the body. I also, in my blog before last, explained that stretching is a temporary thing due to the elasticity of muscular tissues. So here, in THIS post, we see that my little stick person rather than stretch regularly AND change lifestyle habits (in this case wearing those 1-inch heels), the heels have remained and tension patterns are still present.

No problem–if things get a little tight in the back, there is plenty of room in front, right? Except that this poor little stick person is likely to suffer from back pain if the abdominal muscles aren’t able to provide support. Enter the six-pack abs!

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Everything looks good now! And unfortunately, many, many fitness and health professionals will do exactly that: add tension to help with tension. Which works, sort of, until….

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We see A LOT of abnormal abdominal issues in our country. And not just at Thanksgiving. Issues that have to do with pressure (no stick pictures on what that looks like–I’m going to let your imagination run wild!). Pressure caused by tension. By each of us, to ourselves. It’s time to stop the madness.

Stretching may only create a temporary release to tight muscles. And that is a good thing to do because, even for a little while, you can relax. But more importantly, attempting to stretch an area that is tight lets you know that it IS tight. The next step isn’t to tighten up more, but to find out why the tension is there in the first place. And then start to change your lifestyle, slowly, and stretch, regularly, and you might find that over time you feel better. In many ways. You sleep better, don’t burp as much, your knees don’t ache as much, tension headaches disappear, constipation is eased, sneezing doesn’t require a change of pants…..you get the picture.

So, enjoy your holidays. Enjoy your family. Take a walk and stretch your legs together. Eat together. Sit on the floor together. Hang from a tree together. If you go shopping, look for shoes without heels for each other. I have some other gift thoughts as well: a Squatty Potty, toe separators–like from a pedicure–or toe separator socks, yoga classes (maybe from yours truly?), a hanging bar for your house–even better, line a hallway with several bars so you can monkey swing! There are lots of ways to relax and relieve pressure. And wouldn’t that be the BEST way to enjoy the season?!!

The Back of the Heel is Connected To…The Back of the Head???

In my last blog, I talked hamstrings. Now let’s look at the cervical compression that the drawing showed:

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I WILL eventually get to low back issues, but this post is going to address the connectivity of connective tissue. How it’s all, you know, connected.

Here is a selfie of me checking the tension in my neck by dropping my head (passively–I am not “pushing” my chin down) and very scientifically measuring the distance between chin and chest with my fingers:

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I apologize for the poor color and want you to know that taking a selfie one handed with an Ipad is REALLY HARD to do!!!

But–can you see that my chin is clearly two fingers away from my chest? And then I did about 5 minutes of calf stretching (2 minutes each foot done singly and then 1 minute of both legs together) and my selfie now looks like this:

photo 1

Barely one finger. And I emphasize that I was NOT pressing my chin down, it simply released to this position after stretching my lower leg. GO NOW AND TRY IT YOURSELF!! Now, in my last blog I wrote that stretching a muscle doesn’t necessarily result in a lengthened muscle, however, that said, it isn’t for naught that we “stretch”. Fascia DOES respond to tensile (ie stretching) forces and responds by allowing an increase in mobility. I love fascia. You should too. Stretching an area of the body (in this case the lower leg), results in an increase of flow–blood in/lymph out–and an overall softening of the fascial fibers. Sort of like wetting a dried up piece of leather–well, in a way exactly like that–the fibers soften and become malleable. The fascial system has wide ranging connections–along our back side it has fibrous links from heel to forehead. This is similar to grains in wood–if you look at a chunk of sawed wood you will see how one line flows into another.

Stretching DOES serve a purpose and it is something we all need to practice, because our lifestyles don’t regularly take all of our joints through a complete range of motion. Generally our shoes shorten the potential range of the ankle. Our chairs limit knees and hips to a 90 degree angle–which is really not an exciting place for those joints to be. We just need to begin to rethink the whys and hows of our stretching practices. In this example increasing the fluidity of my lower leg resulted in relaxing the tension in my neck. But there is a catch: if my daily activities lead to a reduction of mobility in my lower leg, stretching that area will not have a long lasting effect. In fact, I checked my neck mobility again after a couple of hours of sitting and it was right back where it started. I didn’t feel like taking another selfie, however. Sorry.

Stretching is one part of a whole body movement program. In the very distant past, our ancestors had to do a lot of wide-ranging movements that created multiple demands on their bodies. We have adapted to our current lifestyle–which doesn’t include those ranges of motion and isn’t a great thing for optimizing our health. While our necks are relaxed, let’s stretch our minds together and explore more about what whole body mobility means! Watch for my next post for more!! This is sort of starting to feel like a mini series 🙂

The Silence of the Hams #everydayposer

I’m talking hamstrings today. How tight are yours? Many of my clients come to me with a goal to reach their toes again. I sympathize–I have reached longingly for my toes too. But tight hamstrings aren’t the end of the world, right? I mean touching my toes, while nice to do, isn’t really a problem, is it?

Spoiler alert: it is. Well, it is important to have mobile posterior hips if you value your pelvic floor. If you wish to end chronic back pain. If you would like to rid yourself of tension headaches. If breathing matters…

Wait, a minute! Our ability to breathe depends on loose hips? Yes my friends, the old saying is wrong–it is TIGHT hips that sink ships. Here is a relatively poor, but sort of accurate drawing (I did myself!) of two bodies:

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The posterior body of the drawing on the right is tight. All over. And eventually, this poor stick figure will begin to have some amount of trouble in the tight areas. We tend to seek help for low back problems and lay low for tension headaches, but this tightness is a whole body issue–and symptoms will continue to crop up along the posterior connections as long as there is any amount of tension anywhere.

So, we can stretch out of it, right? I’m sorry, but no. “Stretching” a tight muscle is much like stretching a tight rubber band. It just springs back to its original length. And to complicate matters more, all your tissues are connected. Stretch your back, but not your hamstrings, you still have posterior tension. It shouldn’t be hard to reach our toes at all–small children do it easy breezy. So we get old and tight, nothing to be done, end of blog. Wrong again, banana nose. Let’s check out the difference of those two stick figures again and look at what started the back body tension: the one inch block beneath the heel. Which is my equivalent of drawing a shoe.

But, I know that you don’t wear high heels shoes, right? Now I’m the wrong one. Here is a photo of my husband’s running shoe (he LOVED doing this project by the way):

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When seen from the inside, there is a one inch rise from the ball of the foot to the heel. I don’t encourage you to take a band saw to all your shoes, but know this: ANY amount of rise in the heel will crumple your back side into a screaming knot of pain someday. Will you change your shoes now? Run a band saw through them maybe? The length of your connective tissues (muscles, tendons, fascia and the like) depends on what you do all day, everyday–not what you do for a few minutes in an exercise class, even one like yoga where you “stretch.”

I’m running out of words and time for this post. SIGN UP to get my posts and the next installation which will be how to test the posterior body’s tension!! A REAL cliff hanging kind of ending, I know, but you can handle it. In the meantime, check your shoes!

Motivation, Me, Malala & YOU

I want to know–what motivates YOU? I’ve been struggling with a new blog post for over two weeks now. Lots of ideas; that part wasn’t a problem. And I like to blog. But I just haven’t been able to get the work done. I want to, because I want to give away another of Katy Bowman’s books, Move Your DNA, and THIS post will reveal the next way to win. Feeling motivated? Read on!

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But I want to motivate you, my dear reader, to not only try to win a book, but to change your life. I can’t do that for you–I have a hard enough time changing myself! Knowing what motivates you would be helpful.

I can tell you what motivates me: fear and pain. Yep those two get me going every time. When I see people struggling with mobility I am motivated by fear of becoming them. I would like to keep moving as I grow older. And when, in my 40’s, I started to hurt myself by moving forward (aggressively, you know, from fear), pain motivated me to evaluate how I was moving.

Maybe that is why I haven’t been motivated to write this blog. Because until now, the deadline was far away enough to not be afraid of missing the opportunity to share with you. And of course, it is always sort of scary to write down something really personal, so that motivated me to do anything else. And, since I’m using this format to gauge my readership, I might painfully discover how little my blog is really read.

But. Here I am!! And if you are reading this, yay! And I have to admit, I am also motivated by inspiring people including students, teachers, and leaders. This week Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize. At 17. Her motivation was a dedication to seeing girls get access to education in Pakistan. She motivates me to be a teacher worthy of her efforts and the efforts of all my clientele that come to me to learn how to move and become healthier.

And REALLY I want to know: What motivates YOU???? Here’s how you will register to win Katy’s book: answer my question. Reply to this blog or comment on On The Path Yoga’s Facebook page with your honest answer. I will put your name in the drawing and let you know by the end of October if you are the winner. Thank you! By knowing what motivates you, I can be  a teacher worthy of your time.