#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!

IMG_1499

 

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….

IMG_1501

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?!!

Everyday Poser–Yoga in the Loo

I hear this a lot: “I don’t have time to do yoga.” That is why I started this feature of my blog called #everydayposer and am featuring ways to sneak postural awareness into your life. I would love for you to make time to come to classes, too, of course. And especially classes at On The Path Yoga (wink wink). But, even if you come to classes two or three times a week, it is the daily practice of awareness that will begin to bring your practice to fullness and light.

So today, let’s shed a little light on your bathroom. How much time do you spend there brushing your teeth and you know, sitting around? Two ideas to bring yoga into your day without adding a minute of time to your schedule:

#1 a calf stretch while brushing teeth or washing hands:

IMG_1311

Most of our back body tightness starts here, so to relieve back pain, this is the BEST way to start your day! (Even better than Folger’s in your cup.)

#2 a deeper squat whilst sitting:

IMG_1312

I sort of can’t believe that I’m posting a picture of me on the toilet, but, here it is with our bamboo Squatty Potty that we have in the studio. So that makes this photo sort of classy. I have a less classy version at home. And I had a member describe the Red Green version her husband created with paint cans and duct tape. Super classy!

The importance of this position for proper elimination can’t be overemphasized. It is the design of the body to squat to poo, but most American toilets have the hips high–sometimes even higher than the knees. Anatomically, the rectum is in a forward position and cannot easily relax unless the hips are flexed closer to 30 degrees. A squat also does a whole lot of good for low backs, too. And healthy knees. Not to mention how important it is to take the hips through their entire range of motion.

So there you have it. Two ways to integrate postural awareness into your day. If it seems too basic to be yoga asana, well, try to come into Warrior pose with calves, hips, or lumbar that are too tight. Try entering into a meditative state while feeling constipated. I’ll end with a quote from Vanda Scarafelli: “As the sun opens the flowers delicately, unfolding them little by little, so the yoga exercises and breathing open the body during a slow and careful training. When the body is open, the heart is open.”

Open your heart when you close that bathroom door and try a little yoga in the loo!

On The Path to a ReVolution (with a capital V)

Oprah called it a va-jay-jay to avoid censorship on TV. Michigan State Representative Lisa Brown said the word vagina in the state house and was censored by Ray Bolger. Brown’s response was concise: “Vagina, by the way, is the correct medical name of a part of women’s anatomy lawmakers want to regulate.” She later spent a day out front of the Capital reading The Vagina Monologues with the play’s author and women’s rights advocate Eve Ensler. The media was a-buzz with the V word.

Last month Naomi Wolf released Vagina: A New Biography, and she uses vagina extensively to refer to everything from the front to the back, as well as the interior, of a woman’s lower anatomy, while also complaining that she doesn’t like the word. Wolf states, “ When you think vagina in our culture, you get associations that are either coldly, repellently clinical or at least tediously health related.” The term vagina IS anatomical (although technically it refers to only ONE part of a woman’s pelvic anatomy), but Wolf feels using it clinically is tedious and repellent??

I certainly agree with Lisa Brown that when we are discussing legislation–or any other acts that impact women, we need to be able to use correct terminology. Would she have been censored if she said va-jay-jay? And is Naomi Wolf just trying to ignite the media by overuse of the term vagina? What is it that makes society squeamish and outraged about our anatomy and physiology? And what cost does this inability to have effective conversations regarding health, sexuality, and gender identity, have on us individually and as a society?

First, I want to discuss Wolf’s book. If I were her editor, I would have probably had her change the subtitle to “A New Autobiography,” since it is so largely about her personal experience. Also, her research is questionable. A recent review of the book by Toni Bentley in the New York Times refers to Wolf as a “dilettante assuming a mantle of authority.” I agree with Wolf’s basic premise that sexuality is a matter of physiology that is both anatomical and chemical. The same reviewer states, “phrases, (like) the ‘vagina-brain connection’ populate her book. Call it what you like, but the fact that a woman’s genitals are connected to her brain is not news.” My own criticism is that Wolf basically asserts that the only connection is a neuro-chemical one. Very little research or discussion is directed at the physiology of the pelvic floor muscles that those nerves travel through to carry impulses to neurotransmitters. Her own experience of “reawakening” occurred after a lumbar surgery that place a rod in her spine and opened up her pudendal nerve plexus. She acknowledges that “a lifetime of grudging exercise had strengthened my back and abdomen enough to have kept any worse symptoms from manifesting,” but then fails to fully address the musculature of the pelvic floor and lower spine.

Wolf interviews Nancy Fish, a therapist at SoHo Obstetrics and Gynecology. Fish states, “We are so in the Dark Ages when it comes to medical care and understanding in the area of the vagina. When I say ‘pudendal nerve,’ no one knows what I am talking about. People in the medical profession don’t know what I’m talking about! Women need to become more comfortable with their vaginas.”

okay

I have spoken with many women that are uncomfortable with their vaginas. But it is due to vaginal dysfunction rather than any problem of discussing or understanding anatomy. They have  consulted and discussed and tried very hard to understand and “become more comfortable.” Ever had a physician advise you to do a Kegel by squeezing off the flow of urine? As if our ureters are the same thing as our vaginas. If the concern is pelvic floor weakness, why prescribe strengthening a sphincter muscle? And is discomfort due weakness or tension of the pelvic floor? Personally, I don’t find these  clinical distinctions tedious! If a medical professional tells us to do a Kegel while maybe not even knowing what the pudendal nerve is, should we follow their advice??

Here are some disturbing stats: According to the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, American women with at least one pelvic floor disorder (PFD) will increase from 28.1 million in 2010 to 43.8 million in 2050. Dark ages, indeed. Kegels have been around for over 50 years. Why are these disorders on the rise?

I don’t expect that a lack of satisfying the “goddess array” (Wolf’s term for feminine sexual needs) is the reason for this increase. And although I truly appreciate all the efforts by activists like Eve Ensler to help women in war-torn countries recover from sexual violence, as well as Lisa Brown’s straightforward approach to legislation of women’s rights, I think we also really need to address the inability of our own medical establishment to be effective in treating women’s health concerns such as PFD. I strongly feel that this is at least partially due to our societal difficulties in discussing these issues using non-judgemental, specific, and correct language. Sexuality, politics, and integrative health all need to address women’s whole bodies, including their vaginas, in a comprehensive and effective manner.

I’m not going to go into all the information that IS available about PFD issue in this blog. If you would like to do your own research, I’ll to refer you to my go-to-girl in this area: the Katy Says blog on Katy Bowman’s Aligned and Well website. She is a biomechanic with an infectious sense of humor and a ton of knowledge regarding pelvic floor health. And I’m going to invite area women who would like to engage in a non-censored discussion about PFD and Kegels and vaginas to our Women’s Weekend 2012 workshop, “Goin’ to the Y: Pelvic Floor Health” on November 3 at On The Path Yoga. And maybe we can begin a revolution that leads all of us down a path of being comfortable with our bodies and a better understanding of women’s health.

A model of the female pelvis, showing bones, muscles, ligaments and nerves. Complicated, but certainly not mysterious and hopefully not disturbing.