Reflections

Song of Good Hope

Song of Good Hope

There are times when a great yoga practice starts with a thoughtful poem or lyric and ends with a fantastic song.

Trust me, find a space in your next practice for Glen Hansard’s “Song of Good Hope,” from his newly released CD Rhythm and Repose.

The first stanza, “If we’re gonna make it / Cross this river alive /You better think like a boat /And go with the tide” is such a sweet and perfect line, well befitting a yoga practice.

In so many ways, yoga is all about going with your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual tide. Hard to struggle and resist the natural ebb and flow, those disorderly fluctuations of life – better yet to prepare yourself as best you can, steer in the right direction and trust that “you’ll be fine babe, it’s just rivers and streams between you and where you want to be.”

I love this song. I hope you do too.

 

FLEX YOUR  MUSCLES: YOUR BRAIN & NEUROMUSCULAR RE-PATTERNING

FLEX YOUR MUSCLES: YOUR BRAIN & NEUROMUSCULAR RE-PATTERNING

BRAIN S FITNESS

The nervous system is conditioned to operate in a specific way and it takes a conscious effort to change and engage with our mind and body towards better movement, more symmetrical movement.

When we move with intention and purpose, it does not take a rocket scientist to understand that it can lead to optimal wellness, as well as optimal learning. More an more coaches, athletics therapists, practitioners and psychotherapists are paying more and more attention to the benefits of neurological re patterning and neuromuscular corrective movement. “Re-patterning” really means “retraining” the brain to more efficiently use both sides to perform tasks, rather than limiting itself to using only one hemisphere at a time.

This also applies to somatic memory and re-patterning techniques used in neuromuscular training. Neurologists have discovered that we can use the body to “re-pattern” or retrain the brain to change inefficient pathways into more efficient ones. The knowledge of the connection between the brain and the body has been well documented.

Many medical doctors, as well as athletic coaches use a technique called “patterning” or “Brain Integration Therapy” which consisted of exercises replicating the crawling movements of a baby to help students with head injuries and other severe neurological dysfunctions.

For instance, Brain Integration Therapy known as Brain Gym, was introduced by Dr Paul Dennison, an education specialist, incorporated research from many other fields to further explore the mind/body connection. This incorporates performing specific tasks; followed by “re-patterning” techniques which stimulate the neurological connections within the brain and facilitate whole brain learning.

CORRECTIVE MOVEMENT IS THE KEY TO NEUROMUSCULAR RE-TRAINING

Does this sound familiar! The body, as we have previously discussed “the somatic body,” holds onto emotions, patterns, feelings and belief systems.  Some of which are positive, while others no longer serve us. This can be attributed to previous injuries, poor movement patterns, even trauma or childhood nuances that we have not yet let go of and thus, our physical body reacts by offers us feelings of “unwell,” “pain” or discomfort.

When muscle recruitment is less than optimal, that can be a sign of anything from injury to compensation to poor motor learning. Neuromuscular patterns are akin to thought processes or computer programs essentially. Now, when I say “corrective movement” I am referring to any exercise that corrects or improves better mechanics. This can be movement and performance coaching, specialized yoga, kettlebell work, body weight work – anything that promotes better motor learning and in a sequential manner based on the individuals unique mechanics.

SOMATIC MOVEMENT

Somatic patterning is an approach to body therapy that integrates the knowledge of human kinetics and kinesiology with practical applications and corrective movement exercises to improve posture and movement mechanics. Integrative Bodywork facilitates relaxation, structural and neuromuscular re-patterning, and overall healing.

This work nourishes the body — injuries, low energy, imbalances, and uncenteredness are transformed. Whether you need regular work or need a one time gift to yourself, I encourage you to try this work.

The FMS (Functional Movement Systems) assist with this re-patterning because it is based on pediatric development and what coaches call RNT. By taking a client back to pediatric patterns, they can release pent up “somatic emotions,” in their tissue that they may not even realize is preventing them from achieving better movement.  In the therapeutic sense; this style of somatic learning is seen often in Yoga and fascia stretch.

THE ATHLETE’S CORNER

For an athlete, neuromuscular re-patterning come in the form of DNT (dynamic neuromuscular re-patterning) or RNT (reactive neuromuscular re-patterning). RNT operates on the premise that the body will do what it needs to maintain balance – homeostasis.  I am a bif fan of combining this approach in association with Sport NLP (neuro linguistic programming) can support breaking fear based barriers.

Gray Cook often says, “Does turning on your glute give you a better squat, or is giving you a better squat a better way of teaching you to fire your glute?” The chicken and the egg complex.

For instance; let’s take the basic squat pattern (a hip hinge) or chair pose in Yoga. More often when trainers/teachers visually see a client performing an exercise inefficiently, we cue them verbally. For instance “keep the knee tracking in line with the hip,” or “don’t let the knees rotate out.” And the client replies…”I’m trying…. or I don’t get it.”

Many faulty movement patterns, the body doesn’t recognize that the pattern it’s maintaining is sub-optimal. It’s compensated and over time that specific (yet foundational movement pattern) has been altered.

To assist the client in recognizing the error in proprioception; the coach/teacher can  apply a small amount of force to get the movement pattern to correct itself and the client to “feel” the correct movement range of motion. In other words, if the knees tend to drift medially from the midlines of the feet during a squat, then pushing the knees inward while instructing the patient/client to resist the push will cause him/her to activate the muscles that externally rotate the femur (thigh) in the hip more intensely. This will allow the client to understand somatically, as well as neurologically how to clean up and correct the movement. Then you can verbally cue tempo, control, breathing etc.

CONCLUSION

The last 4 part series has been an exploration on the science behind the connection of mind and body, more importantly, between our connection to motor learning, acceptance and improvement towards optimal health of the mind, body and spirit. Buddha, said it best…”what we think, we become,” sometimes we just need a little nudge.

Make sure to stay in touch with my weekly posts on facebook! https://www.facebook.com/pages/YogaFORM/211465704181

Great is the Sun

Great is the Sun

Summer solstice couldn’t be more glorious! Nothing better than Sun Salutations in the actual sun! If you’re celebrating summer soltice on this bright and hot day, here is a poem to aid in the speldor of the sun…

Great is the sun, and wide he goes
Through empty heaven with repose;
And in the blue and glowing days
More thick than rain he showers his rays.

Though closer still the blinds we pull
To keep the shady parlour cool,
Yet he will find a chink or two
To slip his golden fingers through.

The dusty attic spider-clad
He, through the keyhole, maketh glad;
And through the broken edge of tiles
Into the laddered hay-loft smiles.

Meantime his golden face around
He bares to all the garden ground,
And sheds a warm and glittering look
Among the ivy’s inmost nook.

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.

– Robert Louis Stevenson

How Becoming a Teacher Made Me a Better Student

How Becoming a Teacher Made Me a Better Student

I had been practicing (and intermittently teaching) yoga for years before I decided it was time to take my Yoga Teacher Training at Live Yoga in the summer of 2011 and finally certify to teach. I picked a teacher that I loved (Dan Clement from Open Source Yoga) and embarked on an experience that would change me in more ways that I could ever imagine.

Although I had been attending classes for all those years, it wasn’t until I became a yoga teacher that I truly started learning what it means to be a student of yoga.

I’m not saying that understanding yoga is inaccessible to students, or that the light of yoga only comes with teaching it. For me, it wasn’t until I needed to articulate to others the benefits and purposes of yoga that I truly started integrating my knowledge into my own practice.

Many experiences as a teacher have deepened my personal practice: when students ask me about the philosophy behind the practice, or the anatomy behind the body; when students describe sensations or emotions during poses and how yoga helped them to heal; when students want advice for rehabilitating injuries and conditions; when students push too hard in class, or not hard enough; when students recount failures and successes and how yoga helped them to develop a fulfilling life.

Teaching so many wonderful people has enriched my own understanding and appreciation of yoga in profound and unimaginable ways. Here are a few of the things I have learned and integrated into my personal practice as a result of teaching and observing my students:

  • My body is unique and beautiful. Seriously. Nobody has my bones, my history, my evolution with my body. Nobody knows my body like I do and how it moves, how it responds and what it needs to feel healthy. My practice needs to be sensitive and respect this uniqueness. Sometimes that means I don’t do a pose even though my neighbour is doing it. I’m ok with that now, because my body is mine and I need to take care of it.
  • I require and deserve respect, patience and love. At All Times. Absolutely and without exception.
  • Every class/day/experience is an opportunity to learn (about myself and others). It doesn’t matter who I am talking to, who I’m learning from or which students are in front of me. Every person has a story that is interesting, full and inspiring. Even in mundane or tense moments of life, there are opportunities to learn and grow.
  • I deserve compassion and care, from others and especially myself. In yoga you explore your body (and spirit at times) and learn things. Sometimes you learn that you can’t do certain poses or exercises, while at other times you learn you can. This ebb and flow is an integral part of the practice. It is not yet another chance for judgement, repulsion or disappointment. I may never get into poses that make me look like a pretzel- that doesn’t mean I am less spiritually developed, physically fit or deserving of love! I try to understand and love myself for all my limitations and abilities alike. They are what make me ME.
  • Yoga should be shared. There is so much variety in yoga. So much that can help with health and wellness. I am to spread the word. Not in a dogmatic way, but in a way that expresses and abounds from the passion and belief I have in what I do.
  • Yoga isn’t about getting your legs behind your head, it’s about integration, health, vitality and wellness. That’s right. No one is meant to do ALL the poses that have ever been invented. There are a variety so you can pick and choose what works for your body. I do what feels safe, good and beneficial, I modify some to suit my needs, and I always give myself permission to leave some poses out completely.
  • I aspire to live my yoga on and off my mat. The more I learn patience, determination, how to overcome challenges, enjoy successes, demonstrate care and compassion on my mat, the more I want to be the person I am on my mat, all the time.
  • When I soften my practice, things open up (but sometimes when I get too soft, I need to energize too!). I used to practice power, hot and flow yoga all the time. I thought that to improve and get stronger at yoga, I needed HARDER classes. I have started to realize that a consistent, softer practice, with lots of intention, exploration, alignment and care has wielded far greater results for me. I make time for Yin and Restorative now. I make time to rest and breathe. I am gaining strength and energy with less tension. My practice is getting more advanced in a natural way – and I am having so much fun doing it!
  • Committing to my practice sets me free – whether that means a full practice in the morning, or just a few minutes of breathing, reading or relaxation at the end of my day. Making the practice of yoga part of my daily routine keeps me connected and fulfilled.

Sharing the wisdom of yoga as a teacher has made me a much more sensitive, caring and dedicated student. I am so blessed to share a practice that I love with others, and have them teach and inspire me in my own practice as well.

I hope that as a teacher, I continue to learn and get inspired by my students, so that I can deepen and expand my practice always.

My beloved teacher Dan Clement is running a 200hr YTT at my home base, Live Yoga in White Rock this July. Feel free to drop in on one of my classes at Live Yoga or Hari Om Yoga (in Langley) and share your light with me! Or comment below and share what you have learned from teaching/practicing yoga!

Amy, loving life from any perspective. (Photo, Roxana Albusel Photography, www.roxanaphotography.com)

 

 

 

BARE ALL BAREFOOT PART 4: PERFORM BETTER & BE “PARASYMPATHETIC” TO YOUR FEET

BARE ALL BAREFOOT PART 4: PERFORM BETTER & BE “PARASYMPATHETIC” TO YOUR FEET

For the past week and a half I have been re-experiencing the same physical breakdowns that have plagued my ultra running for nearly 2 years. These include:

  • Left hip hike (also known as lumbo-pelvic dysfunction)
  • Left side – minor referral in the SI Joint and glutes
  • Left  side- dislocation of T2, T8 and T10
  • Right side – Medial  “Soreness” around the right knee
  • Right minor “plantar fascitis”

Aka – a whole set of awesomeness. Now, reviewing many of my earlier posts, does this not sound a lot like breakdowns in the spiral line; which many runners and ultra linear athletes fall victim to. Most of us tend to go directly to the source of our pain, and for me this has always been the left side of my low back  everything else is really just along for the ride. However, when we follow the line itself we can see that all of these “symptoms” are merely just that – referral and energy blocked area of the larger scope of the issue; which is instability of the pelvis due to improper foot placement when running.

FACT – I am a heel striker! There I have said it, my skeleton is out of the closet. Another confession, I pitch forward and forward head carrier. You now know all my secrets. This brings me to my next food for thought on the runners list of recovery and preparation – manual therapy. I am a big advocate of RMT and FST, as it allows us A-types to chill out, focus on proper parasympathetic integration and connective tissue work to passively (but actively) break up binding in the areas of blocked energy.

Be “Parasympathetic” to Promote Whole Body Recovery:

On Friday, I had the opportunity to hop on Gael Bishop’s massage table and within minutes was literally feeling those areas unbind and release. An integrated approach to health and wellness, as well as, performance enhancement is key to any persiodized program.

How can RMT and FST assist with recovery and prepare the tissue for your next phase in training? Moreover, What general effects does massage have on the parasympathetic and sympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system and the endocrine system?

“The purpose of massage therapy is to prevent, develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment physical function or relieve pain (Massage Therapy Act, 1991). Massage Therapy is recognized as one of the oldest methods of healing, with references in medical texts nearly 4,000 years old. It is a widely accepted and effective treatment for reducing stress, decreasing muscle pain and stiffness, and for aiding in rehabilitation and postural realignment.” This little snippet of a excerpt was taken directly from Gael Bishop’s website.

Gael has been in the fitness industry for over 18 years and continues to inspire her clients to achieve their goals.  Her experience as a Personal Trainer, Group Fitness Instructor and Registered Massage Therapist places her clients in very good hands.  Gael is committed to teaching her clients to “Trust Their Strength”, learn about their bodies and discover a new level of health and well being.

The human body is a finely tuned interaction of organs and systems. “the close inter-relationship between the somatic, autonomic and endocrine systems makes it impossible for pathologic changes to take place in any one structure without causing adaptive changes in other structures.” Edner, quoted in Chaitow (1983).

The Autonomic Nervous System is a system of nerves and ganglia that act as an interconnected web or “communication highway” with the distribution and reception of predominantly involuntary impulses to the heart (beat and contractile force) smooth muscle (vasoconstriction or dilation of arterioles) and glands (increasing or decreasing their secretion).

It can further explained by looking and the two sub-divisions – the sympathetic and the parasympathetic systems. While the sympathetic nervous system serves all parts of the body, the parasympathetic Nervous System is confined to the head and trunk.

Generally associated with the fight/flight response by its role in sedating the body and restoring it to the resting state it was in prior to sympathetic stimulation, where the ANS is a modifier of activity; either increasing or decreasing movement to respond to external and environmental stimuli.

Massage stimulates the sensory and proprioceptive nerve fibres of the skin and underlying tissues, and that these messages pass along the afferent fibres to the spinal chord, producing various effects in any zones supplied from the same segment of the spinal chord. … Such reactions are called reflex effects. When we take into account the make-up of the fascial system, an interconnected matrix which resemble, at the microscopic level, mini tubules that send nutrients and transmit nerve impulses to every aspect of the human body and every system; therefore, the benefits of massage are great. It can not only produce a local effect but may can establish a soothing effect on the body as a whole; as it can increase the sympathetic response.

Massage also may cause vasodilation in the skin and muscles by stimulating receptors of the sympathetic nervous system. Deep tissue massage often leads to a sense of relief and peace during or after the event – even if some of the deep tissue work is painful at the time of treatment. If we (as the client) also focus on linking this treatment with deep breathing – the brain can then be signaled to secrete the necessary hormones necessary to relax tissue even further, which aids in recovery and relaxation.

“Painful, stressful, and emotional experiences all cause changes in hypothalamic activity. In turn, the hypothalamus controls the autonomic nervous system and regulates body temperature, thirst, hunger, sexual behavior, and defensive reactions such as fear and rage.” (Tortora and Grabowski, 1996). Therefore; it is also safe to say that the parasympathetic system is integral to maintain “being chilled out,” as many athletes tend to be very “A-Type” keeping our muscles in tune with our response systems will aid in all aspects of our performance and phases in training.

“Back’ Tracking to the LPHC:

Taking a quick review of my own personal physical stress, the lumbo-pelvic complex. THE lumbo-pelvic-hip complex (LPHC) is a region of the body that has a massive influence on the structures above and below it. The LPHC has between 29 and 35 muscles that attach to the lumbar spine or pelvis (1,2). Above the LPHC are the thoracic and cervical spine, rib cage, scapula, humerus, and clavicle. These structures make up the thoracolumbar and cervicothoracic junctions of the spine, the scapulothoracic, glenohumeral, acromioclavicular (AC), and sternoclavicular (SC) joints. Remembering back to our 4 part series “Shouldering Responsibility,” we identified that the shoulder is not solely comprised of just the glenohumeral joint, but there are 4 joints to consider.

The LPHC is directly associated with both the lower extremities and upper extremities of the body; which is why promoting the relationship that exists between the hips and the shoulders is important to note. Because of this relationship and dysfunction of both the lower extremities and upper extremities can lead to dysfunction of the LPHC and vice versa. In the LPHC region specifically, the femur and the pelvis make up the iliofemoral joint and the pelvis and sacrum make up the sacroiliac joint. With runners, and improper gait cycles, the femoral head of the femur can literally jam the hip socket and compress the joint, shortening the leg and adding compression to all the lower limb joints (hip, ankle and knee).

Collectively, these structures anchor many of the major myofascial tissues that have a functional impact on the arthrokinematics of the structures above and below them. It is no wonder that there can be no isolation of one area to soothe the pain associated with biomechanical breakdown – it is a series or sequence of release and corrective control needed to effectively “treat” my “so-called” injury. RMT and FST sessions is an integral part of recovery days and during my peak training (especially gearing up for a 101km ultra run in late May).

Connecting the Nervous System to our Feet:

One branch of the nerves found in the feet stems from the largest nerve in our body, the sciatic nerve. Hence, the importance of your peids and the appreciation of the force and loud we apply on our feet per day. We know that the hands and feet house the majority of our bone structure. Our feet come with 26 tiny bones and last week we looked at the integration of the arch (plantar fascia) and the Achilles Tendon; which act as springs in our body to effectively distribute energy and loud through human locomotion.

The sciatic nerve consists of two nerves, the tibial and the common peroneal. These nerves are tied together by connective tissue and the wonderful adaptability of our fascial systems (primarily connected to the spiral line in the case of my LPHC). The sciatic nerve sends its two branches down the leg into the foot. In the foot these nerves branch out again, with many divisions nourishing the entire area. Thus the importance of regular manual therapy on the posterior and spiral lines are integral to optimal functioning and performance output for any athlete with similar symptoms of bio mechanical breakdowns. Add in a little traction – and as they say “Bob’s your Uncle” (Bob actually is my uncle so I can this without generalizing all the Bob’s out there.”

More than Just a Reflex: “Reflexology”

If you are an athlete, make sure to ask your RMT or FTS therapist to treat the feet, or even add in Reflexology; the trigger points in the feet can also aid in more than just “muscle and tissue” release, but in identifying the areas of pain that are usually associated with organs and areas of other discomfort in the body. Hence why all these manual therapies are important at one time or another, much like our bodies, there is no isolation of one being better than the other. A unifying theme is the idea that areas on the foot correspond to areas of the body, and that by manipulating these one can improve health through one’s qi.

Around the world and throughout history, reflexology has been rediscovered time and time again. Archeological evidence points to ancient reflexology medical practices in Egypt(2330 BCE), China(2704 BCE) and Japan (690 CE). Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving the physical act of applying pressure to the feet, hands, or ears with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on what reflexologists claim to be a system of zones and reflex areas that they say reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work effects a physical change to the body.

This concludes our 4 part series on “BARE ALL, BAREFOOT.” Next week we will have a 2 part series on Golf, Fascial Stretch and Stability. Get Ready to “Swing” into action!

Sources:

BARE ALL, BAREFOOT PART 3: A Review of “The Perfect Runner”

BARE ALL, BAREFOOT PART 3: A Review of “The Perfect Runner”

The Perfect Runner is a stunning film of the evolutionary process of “running” or better yet – “human locomotion” and begs the question, are humans literally born to run?

The documentary “The Perfect Runner” debuted on CBC’s “The Nature of Things” in March and naturally I was eager, eyes peeled to the screen, giddy with anticipation of hearing yet another story of “why I love running so much and why it has always felt natural to me.”

The Perfect Runner follows anthropologist and host Niobe Thompson on his own quest with the “barefoot professors”; Harvard scientists, Dan Leiberman and Dennis Bramble, who ignited a fire with the barefoot running boom that has taken over the world of bipedal endurance athletics with their theory that humans are “born to run.”

These two leading proponents of the “born to run” hypothesis, speculate that we were programmed to run before our brains grew enough intellect to know it! Let me clarify – “because the growth of the human brain proceeded after the emergence of the running body, it was not our intellect that first guaranteed our survival on the ground,” says Leiberman.

 

Bipedal Homo sapiens  – The Natural Endurance Athlete

Let’s take a peek at the mechanics of what makes us unique – The body of Homo sapiens can do two things remarkably well: stride efficiently and regulate body temperature. Leiberman and Bramble show us that the human body is loaded with specialized running features.

The human leg, from the spring mechanics of the arched foot to the neuromuscular web of the facsia lines that bind an interconnected matrix from the tips of the toes to the scalp, following the network of long tendons running up the calf and thigh, is a perfectly formed marriage of muscle and energy-returning “springs”.

The gluteus group is an area that most runners lack stability and strength in and yet (because we sit on it all day for work, humans are not meant to sit, we are meant to move), it ­ is unique to humans among the primates because it propels us forward while stabilizing our torso as we stride and progress forward. Another key mechanical asset, is the nuchal ligament (described much like a large rope) – runs up the back of the head to stabilize the cranium during running, this allows for proper head carriage during locomotion and if we didn’t have it – we would have bobble heads.

Our longer arms, in comparison to our primate cousins, are structured to swing as counterweights to our body’s motion without tiring our shoulders. The muscles of posterior chain and anterior chain, along with the deep arm fascia prevent the shoulders from wobbling all over the map, and literally hold the arms in a perfect sequence as they swing in conjunction with our stride. And then there is our elongate form – long legs, narrow hip, tall torso; which give an elite runner a stride length of 3.5 metres, much farther than any four-legged competitor.

It is relentless natural selection that has promoted the survival of runners; the Homo body form emerged rapidly in response to the changed environment, a classic evolutionary “state shift”.

The Barefoot Debate:

Over the course of the last couple posts I have outlined various reasons why being barefoot is advantageous, as well as why runners are advantageous. The vote still stands that neither one is better than the other, it just depends on your why, when and how.

Pros to running in shoes are protection from the elements and shock absorption. The cons of running with shoes are more hell strike, which actually increases stress into the body. Running barefoot has the benefits of better proprioception and body awareness during movement, research shows that habitually barefoot or minimally shod humans tend not to land on their heels, and instead strike the ground in a way that leads to reduced stress and very low collision forces. We use our natural springs.

 

“Why is one of the world’s poorest countries home to some to the world’s best distance runners?”

This is an excellent question!  In a visually stunning exploration of the human body and our apelike ancestors, we learn how for over 2 million years Homo sapiens have survived in changing environments across the globe – a world ripe with predators.

Africa, is the heart of the world’s top endurance athletes, and uniquely enough is also the birth place of human civilization. Something called the “Persistence Hunt.” The Perfect Runner features unique footage of the only “persistence hunt” ever filmed; which helps unlock the mystery of why humans made a series of paradoxical trade-offs as they evolved, losing strength and natural defenses as they became hairless bipeds on the scorched African plain.

For the past 2 million years, humans have proactively hunted for food – no surprise here. Using this practice called “persistence hunting”, hunters tracked and ran their prey to exhaustion. Yes, the cheetah may be able to sprint and out run the human, but much like anaerobic threshold training any body (man or animal) can only sustain that energy output for a certain amount of time. Homo sapiens would track the hunt and ultimately through endurance – paying close attention to sustained energy output.

On the other side of the globe and moving from one of the hottest places on earth to the coldest – Niobe travels to the most remote part of Arctic Russia, a place where running is still a way of life in the small rural villages. A herder’s life is constant movement – coined “cowboys without horses, running alongside their reindeer” over the ankle-breaking tundra.

 

Taking Cues from Natural Runners:

Niobe goes on to say – “Meanwhile, in the world of elite endurance running, coaches have been taking cues from natural runners for decades, learning from the success of the Ethiopian, Kenyan and Moroccan athletes who dominate the international top ranks. AtNorth America’s Athletics Coaching Centre at theUniversityofAlberta, a long-standing collaboration with Ethiopian runners, including the legendary Haile Gebreselassie, has insured that the rising generation of North American athletes emulates the best African runners. Coaches eschew cushioned running shoes, concentrate on foot strength, use barefoot running as a training method, and always promote forefoot-strike techniques.”

This is definitely a movie worth watching, one that even if you are not a runner, is a great tool to visually see the evolutionary process of hominid and bipedal endurance. Now, I have a hankering to go out for a run!

 

Sources:

The Perfect Runner: http://www.theperfectrunner.com/

Dan Leiberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, HarvardUniversity: http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~skeleton/danlhome.html

Leslie Kaminoff’s YogaAnatomy.net Newsletter

Leslie Kaminoff’s YogaAnatomy.net Newsletter

I’m not sure why it took me so long, but I finally signed up for a weekly online newsletter at http://yogaanatomy.net/ delivered by Leslie Kaminoff, a leading anatomy teacher and author of the  #1 best-selling yoga book “Yoga Anatomy.”

Once a week, I receive an email that features tips and information about yoga and anatomy. Every email features a different pose and its anatomical intrigues: for instance, Halasana (Plow Pose) a couple of weeks ago included information about the muscle groups, skeletal movements and rotations, as well as implications for the breath and a couple of excellent animations to illustrate the pose.

Kaminoff also includes a quote of the week. An ardent fan of a well-intentioned quote, I especially appreciate this inclusion. They are often perfectly straight-to-the-point. Just what a yoga student needs to hear:

There is nothing wrong with you that you have one tight hip and one loose hip, or one leg that wants to turn out a little more than the other. This is what it is to be human. So give yourself a break.

The newsletters include a short video on various topics related to teaching. They also provide information about signing up for his acclaimed Yoga Anatomy Course, previously only available at his studio (now available online!). “The Breathing Project in NYC, has helped teachers and practitioners from yoga, dance, pilates, and somatic therapy backgrounds improve their teaching, enhance their personal practice, and provide better experiences for their students and clients.” (http://yogaanatomy.net/)

If you aren’t already receiving the weekly newsletter from YogaAnatomy.net, sign up now! Visit www.YogaAnatomy.net and provide your email address in the top right corner. Enjoy the wonderful information from Leslie Kaminoff!

Choosing You: An Interview With Cliff Harvey – “Live the S*** out of life!”

Choosing You: An Interview With Cliff Harvey – “Live the S*** out of life!”

“Life has to become, more and more, closer to laughter than seriousness” ~ Osh

Choosing You! by Cliff Harvey

For centuries we have looked upon motivators, great leaders, gurus, elders, chiefs and other influential people in our lives to inspire us in progressing through our own personal journey of greatness.

Our traditions, experiences, trials and tribulations, passed down from one person to the next are a form of story telling that can give us a glimpse of the common thread that lies within each of us – the power to live a life of abundance, and a healthy happy long life in connection with those closest to us.

I have been given the opportunity to probe the mind of someone I consider to be “a guru”, “a great leader”, a “change maker”; someone who has lead me on a personal reflection of my own, to discover my own truth, my pursuit for compassion and love; and I wish to share that with you over the next several weeks.

In May and August 2012, Cliff Harvey; author, motivational speaker, world recognized mind-body-coach and naturopath will be holding workshops and seminars inVancouver(focusing on several areas of Life and Purpose, Spirituality, Holistic Health and Wellness), whilst on a North American speaking and book tour.

Cliff began his journey in the health and wellness industries as a strength coach and nutritional consultant and has had the privilege of working with Olympic medalists and world champions,RugbyCanada, BCRugby, Emirates Team NewZealandand Field HockeyCanada,  as well as populations with chronic illness and special populations. Cliff also holds specializations in the areas of Psych-K; as an Advanced Facilitator; Reiki Level lll (Master); and is a Homeobotanical Therapist. Aside from his workshops and seminars, Cliff is also an accomplished author; his books including the 2007 release: “Choosing You” and his latest offering: “Time Rich Cash Optional: an unconventional guide to happiness” released in 2011.

Over the course of the next 4 weeks my Saturday morning blog will take you on a journey of personal reflection, as I introduce Cliff’s methodology and holistic teachings, in hopes of giving you a glimpse of his upcoming workshops and seminar scheduled this summer.

An Interview with Cliff Harvey

Q. Let’s start with your upcoming workshops; currently inNew Zealandand what your thoughts are forVancouver?

A. The real focus, both here and on my North American tour is to roll out a weekend workshop based on the exercise from both Choosing You! and Time Rich Cash Optional. There’s also be a lot of additional material drawn from 14 years in practice helping people to be happier and healthier. I’m really excited to be able to connect with people in that type of setting and present some extremely practical tools and exercises to help them deeply connect with their life of passion and purpose and to set and achieve the right goals…the goals that will make it a reality.

Outside of that I will be presenting several workshops on the Mind-Body connection – both from a health/life perspective and also for athletes to achieve sporting and performance success. The final workshops are focused on Holistic Performance Nutrition and Conscious Communication skills…so really there is something for everyone!

Q. You have two main portals; your publishing and work as an author and speaker and your holistic clinical work as a natuopath and mind-body coach (among a plethora of other modalities). You are incredible accomplished for an early 30 year old, and seem to have achieved what most work up to later on in life, what has been your driving force to excel? How have you balanced all the work, play and education? How do you manage it all?

A. That is a great question Sarah…

So often people start with ‘How do you fit it all in?’ Not what the driving force is!

I guess the driving force for me has been quite simply that I had a realization that whatever we do, if we are living a life that is congruent with our ethos and values and congruent with our highest purpose, is a conduit by which we can make people happier. All of the things I do in practice and in my speaking and writing have that as the end goal or highest purpose. I also have very eclectic tastes and marry that with a tendency to become super-engaged (some may say obsessed!) in things that interest me. So I have done, and continue to do several different things as part of my work-life. I see the whole complex (work-life-play) as being one in the same, especially when you love what you do, and do what you love.

Take today for example: I got up around 6am, had a leisurely breakfast, then did some writing, planning for clients, communications (email etc) and then headed to the gym at 10am for my usual training day which consists of 90min of weightlifting and a further hour of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After that it’s home for a short siesta in the sun and then back to the office to either see clients or do more writing or project work. It’s currently 6pm NZ time and in effect I have trained for 2.5 hours, chilled for some time and worked or 7 hours thus far, I may or may not go for a surf, a walk on the beach or to a friends for dinner. It’s not a conventional schedule and some may see it as hectic, but really it’s not…it’s just a flow of life.

So often people think they ‘don’t have enough time’. But that just means that they are spending time on the inconsequential. I sometimes wonder how to fit all the things I really want to do and love doing in, but that has quite a different context to feeling like time is the enemy. The key is to simply look at life as an adventure. Do things, try things, love things. And part of that is loving to lie down, chill, relax and have quite time too. My latest book looks at the idea that time is the very currency of life, and therefore happiness…

Q. Why “Choosing you”? This is a title that I am sure jumps out of the stands for most people, and as we know the title of the book is usually the hardest to “choose” when writing a book (or at least that’s what I have heard from authors). What is your personal connection with the title?

A. Choosing You! is a book about the power that we have in choice. The title actually came to me early on in the process (as did Time Rich Cash Optional) and I think that it sums up very effectively the onus of the book, which is that you can choose who you want to be and how you want to live, and you can do it right now. 

Q. In 2001 you were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and you mention in your bio that this lead you to re evaluate your health and the meaning you placed on what constitutes “health.” Can you elaborate of some of the fundamental changes or epiphanies you have had re structuring your life and living with Corhns?

A. The diagnosis affected me on many levels. At the time I became very sick, lost around 36lbs and was constantly in severe pain, unable to eat many foods as everything seemed to affect me negatively and was heavily anemic due to blood loss. It was at that time that I had a great realization – that LIFE is a choice. I could allow myself (a choice) to slip into a semi-permanent hospital bed (or a grave!) or decide to fight for life. I chose the latter and the rest is history. Things didn’t correct themselves over night but it was certainly the turning point on my road to recovery. In the subsequent years I had many realizations of the interconnectedness of the mind, body and spirit in health, and this lead me to become much more holistic in my clinical practice, and incorporate spiritual concepts that I had learned over my youth and adolescent years, and in doing so integrated a lot of what previously was my home life and work life, until even they gained greater synergy.

The most important thing that hardship does though is makes you more human. The various things I’ve been through, from illness to grief, trauma and loss, have all made me more empathic, more compassionate and ergo a better person and better practitioner. 

Cliff Harvey, ND, Dip.Fit, HbT, Adv. Psych-K, Reiki lll

Learn how you can transform your deepest driving desires and intentions, as well as how to access your hidden potential and recognize the possibilities that are always unfolding around you. Feel free to follow along and purchase Cliff Harvey’s books, “Choosing You” and “Time Rich Cash Optional” and unlock the tools and inspiration to move to the next phase of success and fulfillment, with effortless ease.

Join us over the next 4 weeks as we look at Cliff Harvey’s integrated approach and vision for his upcoming seminars.

Week One: a Hip Guide to “Unconventional” Happiness

Week Two: Conscious Communications with the self and other

Week Three: Mind-Body Strategies for Optimal Performance on and off the mat

Week Four: Choosing You! Connecting with your life purpose

 

Sources:

Katoa Health Publishing: www.katoahealth.com

Website: www.cliffharvey.com

Blog: www.cliffdog.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/choosingyou

Facebook: www.facebook.com/cliffharveyauthor

Author’s Amazon Page: www.amazon.com/-/e/B004JBBX66

Yoga’s Missed Connections

Yoga’s Missed Connections

The “I Saw You” section of The Georgia Straight and “Missed Connections” from Craigslist are among my favourite readings. I love the romance of an anonymous stranger reaching out to someone they met for an instant, or didn’t meet at all and wished they had.

I am enthralled that in the ever-more-chaotic miasma of our cosmopolitan lives, where we see and interact with dozens, if not hundreds, of people in a day, a profound connection might occur and prompt its participants to reach out to the vast and endless annals of the interweb, in the remote hope that the message of “I would love to talk more” or “can I take you for tea?” might be read and reciprocated.

Joyously, I soak up the messages that were never intended to be received. Connections so sweet and lovely they prompted just an expression of “you are beautiful” or “I loved your shoes”. These are random, anonymous and perfectly simple expressions of the lasting effect of a chance glance or meeting.

Most of all, I relish the details – how the love-struck describe their Romeos and Juliettes, the setting of scenes, the short conversations, and other observances that contributed somehow to the ignited spark. I love how people write about these moments. Their few words speak whole volumes about how simple and joyful relationships can occur in an instant if we are open to receiving them.

Obviously, I have a specific enjoyment in missed connections that occur around the practice of yoga. These contain sightings of people with yoga mats, as well as encounters on and off the mat. Yoga’s missed connections are often playful, honest and fun accounts.

I offer for you, dear readers, one of my favourite missed connections recently. It made me smile:

Was performing new bus-yoga, when you told me about your bus reading, that you usually did. Was interested in what you were reading about. I had on some skull fingerless gloves from Urban Empire, with the felt insides; they are very cool (at least I think so) and very comfortable. I was meeting a friend for dinner, but you got off on the stop just before Gilmore. Would you want to go for a peppermint latte?

It has it all –the intrigue of “new bus-yoga,” incredible detail of clothing and its importance to the author, as well as the request for a future encounter. Love it. Did you two ever meet for a peppermint latte?

Send me your favourite yoga “Missed Connections”! And please, please, please keep writing having experiences that warrant an expression of love and appreciation. Long live these sweet connections.

image via jezebel.com

Shouldering Responsibility: The Mastery of Integration, Are You “Packing”?

Shouldering Responsibility: The Mastery of Integration, Are You “Packing”?

Yoga is both a personal expression and a private odyssey. It is the martial art of the soul, and the opponent is the strongest you’ve ever faced: your ego. — Scott Sonnon”

 

Myofascia is a flexible network of tissue that surrounds, cushions, and supports muscles, bones, and organs, and at the microscopic level, its structure are microtubules that transfer nutrients, sensory input and act as a riverbed containing the flow of interstitial fluid; which is a critical influence on the immune and hormonal systems. Fascia is also our protective barrier and our primitive shock absorber that sits on top of and intertwined within our muscles and organs. In daily life, this connective tissue is an underlying determinant of movement quality, free flow of energy within the tissue, mood, alertness, and general well-being.

On Thursday night I was given the opportunity to come out to a Police Judo class at SFU, operated and instructed by Vancouver Police Officers with Odd Squad Productions; Sgt. Toby Hinton and Al Arsenault. Both Judo and Yoga activate the deep arm fascia and, as we know shoulder and elbow injuries are common place in both of these sports. When postures or arm locks are performed incorrectly, or when too much force is applied, this can lead to serious injury if not performed correctly.

As part of our Shouldering Responsibility series, our focus is going to be two fold (1) to showcase the importance of the fascia system in relation to Judo and Yoga (2) to educate on proper shoulder stability and “shoulder packing” which is used frequently in both Yoga and in Judo, primarily in arm locking, counterbalance/ transfer of energy and integration of the nervous system and communicating our visceral threshold.

The Mastery Of Sport:

Judo (otherwise known as the “gentle way”) is a martial art rooted in combat sport, grappling and joint maneuvering. Very practical for law enforcement and relative tactical training, but it’s also very closely linked to Yoga because of the grace and flow and mutual respect between the teacher and the student.

A style of Yoga closely linked to martial arts; (one that I have been practicing quite recently) is called Prasara Yoga; which embodies the 3rd mode of Hatha yoga, incorporating both Asana practice and Vinyasa, or breath linkage. Prasara Yoga is  founded by Scott Sonnon, formerUSAnational martial arts team coach, international champion and internationally acclaimed Yoga Teacher and Author. This style of Yoga provides counterbalance to the body through dynamic flow and resyncing the breath through movement and structure.

The Fascia System: Integrative Primitive Patterning

The fascia lines that deeply affect shoulder stability and engagement can be broken down into smaller, integrated segments, such as the:

  • Fascia over deltoid
  • Subscapular fascia
  • Supraspinous fascia
  • Infraspinous fascia
  • Pectoral and axillary fascia
  • Clavipectoral fascia

For a review of the deep arm lines please see our previous article from week 2 (Shouldering Responsibility: When Mobility Goes Over(your)head). Most injuries are connective-tissue (fascial) injuries, not muscular injuries—so how do we best train to prevent and repair damage and build elasticity and resilience into the system.

All of these fascia lines come into play in both the arm locks in Judo, and shoulder stands/inversions in Yoga. As previously mentioned, we have 4 joints to consider when loading the shoulder and arm or counter locking when force is applied. These joints are  the glenohumeral joint (GHJ),  acromioclavicular joint (ACJ), and the sternoclavicular joint (SCJ),  and the The scapulothoracic joint.

Shoulder Packing:

Keeping the integrity and movement of all 4 joints within the shoulder complex; to maintain scapular stablity on the tspine as the scapula rotates upwards, the scapula’s position on the tspine has to be maintained through the application of force to full posture or to full joint lock out.This requires what is now being called shoulder packing, – maintain the scapula’s position on the tspine while it upwardly rotates, making sure the sub-acromial space is not compromised.

As I engaged with the movements I realized how important the role of the fascia system is, by way of communicating the visceral response to joint locking and nervous system integration. In Yoga, most of our transitional poses (downward facing dog, rockstar pose, shoulder stands and head stands) require a great deal of shoulder and upper extremity stability. There seems to be some confusion as to what packing the shoulder actually is, when to do it and why.

Keeping the shoulder packed does not mean to limit or stop the normal scapulo-humeral rhythm in an overhead movement or subduing an opponent. In fact, packing the shoulder will actually reinforce and create proper overhead movement mechanics, as well as “turn on” the deep arm fascia which enhances sensory output and nervous system integration with the fascia reinforcing the intentional focus on proper motor-programming.

In shoulder stands and inversions, as well as in arm locks which are followed after the basic throw thechniques in Judo – known as the Ashi Guruma (Foot Wheel) and Deashi Harai (Advancing Foot Sweep). There needs to be simultaneous engagement of the lat, serratus, and traps in the proper sequence as the humeurus moves into the overhead position.

This keeps the scapula stable on the tspine while it properly upwardly rotates, allowing the rotator cuff to build and maintain tension for humeral stability, keeping the humerus in the glenoid with the proper PICR as it moves into the overhead position. This keeps the sub-acromial space uncompromised and impingement potential at its lowest.

To see this in action, I came across this video by way of Jena Fraser, RMT and West Vancouver Chiropractor, Dr. Carla Cupido at Baseline Health, this video represents how shoulder packing protects the shoulder joints (gleno-humeral [GH] & acromio-clavicular [AC]).

Watch how space is preserved and structures aren’t jamming into each other when the subject raises their arm for a overhead press using fluoroscopy imaging:

1. With no shoulder packing – muscling the arm up – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=bkJi23yKTDs

2. With shoulder packing – a stable complex/proper biomechanics –  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ibmcNJta5vk

 

Sources:

Flouroscopy of the shoulder complex: Video found via Jena Fraser, RMT with LifeMark Richmond Oval and Dr. Carla Cupido with Baseline Health -West Vancouver Chiropractor.

Scott Sonnon Prasara Yoga – http://www.prasarayoga.com/index.php

Scott Sonnon –  http://www.rmaxinternational.com/flowcoach/

Vancouver Police Department Police Judo – http://vancouver.ca/police/about/judo-club.html

Odd Squad Productions – http://www.oddsquad.com/

Shouldering Responsibility: The Nervous Systems Highway (week three)

Shouldering Responsibility: The Nervous Systems Highway (week three)

Fascia is our third top communicator in our body, thus it’s no wonder that it is often described as our body’s natural transportation system (next to the nervous system). As we know it is a web of tiny fluid filled microtubules that exist in a multidimensional structure surrounding every cell in our body, head to toe, in and around every organ, muscle and joint. Microscopically, fascia is arranged in tiny micro-tubules, composed of collagen and elastin. Form follows function and these tubules act as a mini transportation system.  Blood vessels and nerves travel within our fascial highway. In turn, fascia itself receives a profound number of nerve endings and innervates 10 times more than muscle. It is a fundamental structure in which the circulatory system and nervous system rely on sensory feedback and input/output.

Majority of chronic pain in the body is caused by dysfunction in the muscles, instability or lack of mobility.  In other words, chronically tight or strained muscles that are stuck in patterns of compensation are frequently at the root of significant pain, as well as the pain referral will usually show significant breakdowns in other areas along the restricted line or muscular sling. It’s common for muscular imbalances to build up in the body without any symptoms at first. The body is extremely dynamic and will often adjust itself to numerous imbalances for long periods of time without there being any pain at all.

Many rotator cuff injuries are secondary to fascial problems. Shoulder problems may be due to the blade not gliding or a restriction in the ribs that prevent the arm from going up and extending the way it should. Failure to resolve patterns of muscular compensation through appropriate treatment can predispose the shoulder to further injury.

Sometimes a simple movement such as reaching behind you or above you can push the problem over the brink.  For instance, lets use “frozen shoulder” as an example; which is a pain in the deltoid muscle, caused by strain and fatigue when the shoulder blade no longer moves freely. After a while, the deltoid becomes ischemic, meaning it’s blood flow is significantly reduced. And then you have a muscle that’s working overtime, without an adequate supply of blood to nourish it.

A protective neuromuscular response in the body, is to limit movement to avoid further pain or damage and thus allowing the fascia to shorten up and inhibiting muscular movement. This can lead to stress and inactivity, which can result in unconscious bracing of the shoulder muscles and gradual tightening of the surrounding tissue.

Neuromuscular re patterning and structural integration are ways that can assist the body in reaching it’s ultimate alignment.  They involve an analysis of the existing alignment and patterning within the body, manipulation of the soft tissues including muscles, ligaments and fascia, and a plan that will encourage the body to stay aligned between sessions.

Modification of upper arm coordination and shoulder girdle placement is greatest addressed in conjunction with alterations in the cervical vertebrae and tonic neck reflexes

For lasting shoulder pain relief, it’s essential to follow the stages of rehabilitation in the proper order:

1. Eliminate spasms, fascial binding and hypercontraction in the tissues (Manual therapy such a neuromuscular therapy, myofascial release, structural integration bodywork)

2. Restore proper biomechanics (Soft-tissue re-patterning, corrective movement, structural bodywork)

3. Restore flexibility to the tissues (Stretching, somatic movement, structural yoga, fascial stretch therapy)

4. Rebuild the strength of the injured tissues (Physical therapy exercises, corrective movement, strength conditioning)

5. Build endurance (Aerobic exercise)

Shouldering Responsibility: When Mobility Goes Over(your)head? (Week Two)

Shouldering Responsibility: When Mobility Goes Over(your)head? (Week Two)

Raise your arms overhead. If you can’t extend your arms up without your arms bending or feel tension in your neck or how about scrunch your face up like you just ate something sour – then you are in for some challenges in your yoga practice! Guaranteed downward facing dog is probably not your favorite pose, but do not fear because improving your shoulder mobility and fascial elasticity in your arm lines can be done, with a few simple corrective movements.

As we know, corrective movement is all about unblocking tension and reducing compensations through better movement mechanics. This is why it is said that Yoga is 90% waste removal. Our fascia plays a significant role in integrating the systems that aid in removing waste and unwanted tension that is limiting our movement and experience on and off the mat.  Many systems integrate together to achieve this, and the facial system is a large contributor.

Most injuries are connective-tissue (fascial) based, not muscular injuries (this happens after the body’s blocked energy has to go somewhere, and results in an ”ouchie”—so how do we best train to prevent and repair damage and build elasticity and resilience into the system? By listening to our body, and be reducing tension on the joints.

When we talk about shoudlering responsibility, the deep arm lines – take the front lines!

The fascia of the upper torso and arms are comprised of multiple designations (4) intertwined in the webbed matrix known as the “Deep Arm Fascial Lines.” The 4 Arm Lines run from the front and back of the axial torso to the tips of the fingers. These lines connect seamlessly into the other fascia lines particularly the Lateral, Functional, Spiral, and Superficial Front Lines.

These lines (for which we have 2 on either side of the body) are the following:

The Brachial Fascia, derived from the Pectoralis major and latissimus dorsi medially and from the deltoids laterally. It differs in thickness, being thin over the biceps brachii,  but thicker where it covers the tricpes brachii and is continuous by covering the deltoids, and the pectoals group attaching above (and to) the clavicle,  acromion as well as the spine of the scapula.  This fascial line forms a thin, loose, membranous sheath for the muscles of the arm and is composed of fibers disposed in a circular or spiral direction, and connected together by vertical and oblique fibers.

The  antebrachial fascia (or antibrachial fascia, deep fascia of forearm) is continuous with the above , as with the brachii fascia and follows from the elbow to the wrist and finger tips via the the palmar fascia; which consists of resistant fibrous tissue arranged in longitudinal, transverse, oblique, and vertical fibers and is a dense, membranous investment, which forms a general sheath for the muscles in this region.

The Arm Lines affect posture indirectly, since they are not part of the structural column; however they are integral for sensory input in response to our environment; such as examining, pushing, pulling, manipulating and interacting with our external world.

When we talk about the arm lines, you will also notice we have included the pectorals group and the latissimus dorsi as significant muscles contributing to the efficiency of shoulder mobility. These two muscular groups contribute substantially to tight “shoulders” when they too are tight, because they significantly limit shoulder flexion in overhead extension, as well as pull the shoulder into internal rotation, which can lead to kyphotic posture and forward head carriage.

Another honorable mention in shoulder limitation is the rhomboids group (sitting in between your  spine and your shoulder blades).  These muscles pull your shoulder blades towards the spine and promote a proud chest. If tight these muscles will prevent the scapula from movement at all.

Fortunately, there are many Yoga poses you can perform to improve your shoulder mobility and alignment in downward facing dog, shoulder stands and inversion.  Try adding these shoulder openers to your home practice and move more freely:

  • Myofasical release with the foam roller –  ( focus on mid back and under the arm for the lats)
  • Thoracic Extension with a towel or roller for chest expansion –  (place along the length of the spine)
  • Eagle Pose (arms) – (stretches the rhomboids)
  • Cow Face Pose – (arms) – stretches the triceps, lats and shoulders)
  • Bridge Pose – (passive bridge, place a block under the hips along the pelvic ridge and sacrum)
  • All fours posture with reversed palms – (stretches the anterior forearms and biceps group)
  • Cobra Pose – (focuses on stabilization of the spine and spinal flexion)
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