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Part 2: A Hero’s Journey and Back from PTSD: Captain John Croucher, Platoon Leader of the PPCLI First Battalion

Part 2: A Hero’s Journey and Back from PTSD: Captain John Croucher, Platoon Leader of the PPCLI First Battalion

ENDURING FREEDOM

Officers endure 25 kilograms of body armor, a Kevlar helmet and a tactical vest gleaming with weaponry, heavy equipment on their backs, and regular army issue sunglasses and scarves pulled up over their faces to protect against the dust that seems to billow out of every crevasse; where our Canadians are deployed to the Afghan landscape, moving across the desert like sand-colored, camouflaged characters from a mainstream movie flick.

In 2006, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed approximately 2,500 Canadian Forces personnel to Afghanistan; of which 1,200 comprised the combat battle group. Platoon commander Capt. John Croucher — Captain John to his troops or simply “The Sir” was assigned to the the PPCLI First Battalion.

The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI, generally referred to as The Patricias)  is one of the three Regular Force infantry regiments of the Canadian Army of the Canadian Forces. The 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (1PPCLI) is a mechanized infantry battalion and uses the LAV III (light armored vehicle) as its primary fighting vehicle, used to patrol and survey. The battalion is made of four rifle companies, one support company and one command and support company.

I met Captain John Croucher in 2007, after his deployment as part of his rehabilitation treatment. It was a day I would never forget, and his personal story is one that I continue to carry with me. His bravery, courage and strength go beyond the call of duty and his ability to endure and persevere after severe injury and occupational stress are a tribute to what the make and model of a solider should strive to be. What always struck me the most was how humble he was, how open he was about his experiences, and how his thoughts were always for his men – their health and well-being, pre and post deployment – always for  his team, his platoon. He  put others first; it was and has always been one of his most endearing qualities.

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The Art Of War:

Most of what we know of war, what we “think” of war; is not what is all encompassing of war. For those of us who never step off the comfort of our own soil in our own backyard, our representation of combat is merely what we see in the news, in the media or in movies. We cannot fully appreciate what it truly means to go to war, what it means to lead men into battle, to be responsible for their lives and your own and more importantly, to put your life on the line for your country – for the security of your family. Yet, Captain Croucher does and during my year and half as his movement and rehabilitation coach; he confided in me several times about the war in Afghanistan, what it was like and his role as platoon leader.  I had always had a yearning to serve my country and have always respected and honored the code and community of our military and law enforcement officers, hearing these stories were at times comical – boys being boys, very GI Joe, and other stories of hardship. It is no easy take being a solider. It is a discipline and a family unlike any other. One routed in…  “one for all.”

Afghanistan has always been an ancient focal point of the Silk Road and a passage or  human pilgrimage, since the dawn of time. Three decades of war made Afghanistan one of the world’s most dangerous countries and with this comes a dangerous place for civilians and villagers as well to reside.

Captain Croucher’s duties; not only included platoon leader, but included communications, negotiations and meetings with district governors, village headmen and local police chiefs, when and if necessary and most often these took place in village mud huts, open orchards and the occasional office. However, I have been told these “offices”  are far and few between. The national drink of choice is chai or sweet hot Afghan tea, and by the sounds of it Captain Croucher drank a lot it on his deployment.

In a Globe and Mail Interview with journalist; Christie Blanchford, Captain Croucher confided;  that many elders are frightened of the Taliban, many villagers do not want trouble, and allow whomever to come into their houses late at night demanding food and shelter. They really have no say in the manner. This is no way for anyone to live. Any country where the lines between law and human rights are blurred, people live in fear, they are afraid for their lives and those of their families.

“Some of them might be sympathetic to the Taliban, but most of them aren’t on anyone’s side. These people just want to be left alone.” – Captain Croucher.

Canada in Afghanistan:

Canada has always been a strong supporter of the United Nations Peacekeeping, and has participated in almost every mission since its inception. These efforts are focused on four priorities: (1) investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health; (2) advancing security, the rule of law and human rights, through the provision of up to 950 CF trainers, support personnel, and approximately 45 Canadian civilian police to help train Afghan National Security Forces; (3) promoting regional diplomacy; and (4) helping deliver humanitarian assistance.

Canada’s role in 2006 (and all deployments over-seas) is not always just combat related, but includes elements of peace keeping and supporting and protecting the civilians; their needs range from a new water well to such basic supplies as blankets and food. Reporting back the needs of the village was also part of Captain Croucher’s position; this helped to bridge gaps, keep the peace and formulate Intel.

At the young age of 33, confident and in peak physical shape; Captain Croucher seemed invincible and his team respected him highly. The name “The Sir” is a testament to that honor and respect. With considerable pride, John spoke with confidence, that he had been deployed with 38 guys, and with 38 he returned to the mud-walled compound every patrol that Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry they then called their home away from home. Day in and day out they would patrol. Captain Croucher would always say patrolling is a necessary evil, and IEDs are always on their minds. Officers know the danger, yet no matter how much training one undergoes to prepare for combat, you never really can prepare enough. Always be ready, always be on guard.

May 25, 2006:

May 25th 2006 was not unlike any other patrol day; the officers went through their daily checks, headed out, but it was on this day that Captain John Croucher’s world would change. On May 25th, Captain Croucher’s LAV was hit by an IED; which this would be the third to hit Alpha’s second platoon. This strike left Captain Croucher severely injured. His recount of that day are words I find it hard to read. This excerpt is taken from an interview with The Globe and Mail’s journalist Christie Blanchford (2).

“My first push with my arms immediately told me that I was getting no help from my legs. I pushed myself out and onto the back deck of the LAV.

“I was on fire, the right side of my body from toes to mid-body was on fire. I tried patting myself out when I noticed that my right hand was burned extremely badly. I was having no luck putting myself out, and knowing that the guys were on the ground, I rolled myself off the car, falling to the ground some eight feet, where the guys noticed me and started to put out the fire.

“The pain was incredible but the crew had a stretcher beside me in no time. Within seconds I was rushed back to the safety of cover behind a G-wagon, all the way demanding to know how many guys were hurt, very concerned about these numbers and the possibilities as I watched the vehicle go up in flames. The checks confirmed that everyone else was okay, non-life-threatening injuries only. My only thoughts were for my crew. Myself, I took the worst of it, but that’s the way every commander would want it: Keep the men safe.” 

Captain Croucher’s injuries included first- and second-degree burns from ankle to hip on his right leg and on his hand, as well as a broken fibula and tibia. His right ankle was literally a shattered mess, where he had to undergo eight surgeries at three different hospitals in three different countries; the first a Canadian-led base hospital at Kandahar Air Field, the second at a U.S. military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, and finally the third in Canada at the University of Alberta, and to top it all off  a shattered heel and a large puncture wound from shrapnel; where 70% of his lower limbs had significant reduced motor control and atrophy after the long stint in the hospitals.

When I started working with Captain Croucher he had difficulty walking, and performing basic movement patterns like bending at the knees into a hip hinge, or rotational patterns that required the ankle, knee and hip to work together. The neuromuscular control had to be re built from the ground up and from the inside out. Restoration of muscular strength, stability of the neighboring joints, and mobility/ degree of freedom in lower quadrant was the primary focus of our rehabilitation.

As tough as a man is, no matter how resilient they are, that sort of traumatic experience can leave a any man scarred psychologically and Captain Croucher had a long road of recovery ahead of him. The physical trauma; albeit long and arduous for Captain Croucher, was not the major obstacle. Captain Croucher knew shortly after his injury that the major barrier would be overcoming the sheer horror of the experience and mentally and emotionally processing it all.

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The Nightmare of PTSD:

After a month or so from the attack, after the haze of pain killers started to wear off; Captain Croucher started to make a list of the “things to do” to get back to active duty. “The Canadian Armed Forces has screening protocol in place for post deployment, mental health screening. I knew a month or so after that I could be suffering from PTSD and I wanted to get the best treatment I could, so I could get back to active duty,” he said in a phone interview with me. “

Captain Croucher went on to say in our interview several weeks ago; “there is still a lot of stigma attached to being labeled with PTSD, and many officers do not come forward. The CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) were not ready for the amount of injuries coming back when we first deployed officers to Afghanistan, therefore we just  didn’t have enough professionals to go around. After 2006, the CAF implemented better strategies, mandatory post deployment mental health screening, and consult with leaders in these fields. ”

Captain Croucher had always been a step ahead of the rest; a loyal military and family man, a great friend, and someone who always stressed being proactive and diligent in the face of adversity.During the early stages of his treatment, Captain Croucher knew Vancouver had some of the top resources for treatment so he put in for a transfer.

After Captain Croucher’s transfer to Vancouver he started his treatment with a Vancouver based clinical psychiatrist, by the name of Greg Passey; who, Captain Croucher said was instrumental in his treatment and moving forward with overcoming PTSD. Mr. Passey has spent over 22 years in the Canadian Forces as a Medical Officer in Canada, Norway, the United States, and Rwanda, specializing in PTSD, occupational stress disorders/injuries.

Captain Croucher also received support and treatment through the 39th Brigade, composed of Canadian Forces (CF) and Primary Reserve units, all of which are at the 39 CBG Headquarters located at the Jericho Garrison on West 4th Avenue. For his physical treatment and rehabilitation, I was honored to support Captain Croucher with weekly movement and yoga classes, and he continues to be a good friend and someone I admire greatly.

Now, more than ever Canadian soldiers are coming forward to make claims for psychiatric disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Captain Croucher noted that there has also been a large concern within the military on officers claiming to have PTSD and associated stress disorders for disability insurance. Since mental health is subjective and we do not yet have wide spread standardization for screening, treatment etc it can be difficult to navigate the system on your own and it can also be hard for professionals to diagnose.

Back in the Trenches:

Today, Captain Croucher is back in Edmonton with the PPCLI officer working at 1CMBG;  in the light infantry battalion, they are trained in a variety of insertion methods (parachute, helicopter, vehicle, boat, and most importantly by foot) and in a variety of complex terrains (e.g. urban, mountains) that would prove difficult for mechanized forces. Most recently, Captain Croucher was deployed a little closer to home –  to Calgary to help support rescue and emergency response during the latest flood.

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For those who struggle with significant life challenges, who have seen and experienced beyond the normal range of trauma, those who live each day with chronic pain – there is hope. If you are a returning vet or a family member of a returning vet  I would encourage you to ensure there are no mental health risk factors. This can be performed with a professional or you can take the self-test located (here), through the PTSD Association.  The stigmatization and labels that come attached to “the invisible wounds” are of immense magnitude. Unfortunately we live in a society that does not acknowledge the deep wounds that cannotbe seen. But this is changing as rapidly as the numbers of people with PTSD are increasing and more people are speaking out and telling their stories. Hero’s like Captain John Croucher.

Happy Canada Day!

 

Sources:

(1)     Canadian’s In Kandahar – National Post

(2)     “Absence from his men adds salt to his wounds;” by Christie Blanchford, Globe and Mail on July 14 2006 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/absence-from-his-men-adds-salt-to-his-wounds/article1106075/ Christie Blanchford: [email protected]

(3)   The book “Fifteen Days” by Christie Blanchford

(4) PTSD Association – http://www.ptsdassociation.com/about-ptsd.php

“TMJ” YOGA & YOUR TEETH

“TMJ” YOGA & YOUR TEETH

Temporomandibular joint disorder, TMJD (in the medical literature TMD), or TMJ syndrome, is an umbrella term covering acute or chronic pain and inflammation of the temporomandibular joint, which connects the mandible to the skull. The primary cause is muscular hyper- or parafunction with secondary effects on the oral musculoskeletal system and are seen quite often in individuals who suffer from high stress, poor sleeping (clenching of the teeth) and poor posture.

The temporomandibular joint is susceptible to many of the conditions that affect other joints in the body, and in our clinical field of corrective movement management, we see a lot of this common disorder. However, TMJ is what seems to develop after a long period of time where the client goes untreated or neglects to acknowledge the breakdown signs.  Over time, our bodies adapt to our everyday movements to make it easier for us to function and get through the day; however, in time, these adaptations come at a cost and slowly change and pull our bodies out of alignment.

This specific disorder transcends the boundaries between several health-care disciplines — in particular, dentistry and neurology, corrective movement and pathology — there are a variety of treatment approaches and bridging the gap between your dentist and movement coach may be the key towards living pain free.

Yoga isn’t just for your muscles, it can also help protect your teeth and limit your trips to the dentist and need for oral corrective care.  But, if you do have to go to the dentist then we have the team for you.

The teeth have it! Oral Care is a great place to start

Dr. Melissa Skinner, Dentist and local athlete, has graciously offered to lend her experience and expertise on oral care, relaxation and TMJ so that we can understand this specific disorder that plagues so many and often goes mis diagnosed. In addition to the exceptional team and the great office location;  your dental experience is more like a spa. You have your own private booth, TV and head set and blanket. Yes, I said your own TV! All one would need is a green juice and a mani/pedi and you have a day at the spa.

Graduating top of her class from UBC School of Dentistry, Dr. Skinner is committed to lifelong learning, and is a member at the Kois Centre in Seattle, Washington. After finding numerous clients with TMJ related concerns, I took the liberty to ask an expert. Here are a few questions I posed to Dr. Skinner:

Q.  Hw often do you see TMJ (or even the initial signs) in your patients? And how does this affect their oral care?

A.  Temporomandibular disorders are very common and seen daily in the dental office. Those with jaw joint pain have difficulty opening their jaw, and commonly have limited opening. This affects oral care because it is more difficult for these patients to brush and floss their teeth.

Q.  Sleep clenching seems to be a contributor to TMJ pain. Since this is more of an unconscious act many perform due to disruptive sleep and stress. What are your thoughts on this and how can it be prevented?

A.  Clenching and grinding of the teeth are common habits that present themselves by chipping or wearing teeth, tired facial muscles, sore jaw joints and sensitive teeth. It can be caused by a poor bite and stress. Treatment is a removable appliance worn nightly that protects the teeth from further damage. Prevention is through bite correction, relaxation therapy, counselling to manage stress, yoga, and physiotherapy.

Q.   Most of this blog piece centers around the muscles and poor posture being the major cause, but in many cases it’s the teeth that can be the initiator. Correcting the way the teeth fit together seems to be where practitioners should start when confronted with TMJ. How does one check to see if their teeth are contributing to stress and pain?

A.   A bad bite can lead to clenching and grinding of the teeth. It’s a good idea to have a dentist check the bite to see if there are unhealthy tooth positions. If one tooth hits before the others, the chewing muscles become protective. Rather than bumping into that spot each time, the teeth close and the chewing muscles maneuver around the interference. This places extra strain on the muscles and they eventually become tired and painful. Interestingly enough, to reduce the pain, we clench our teeth harder! Babies do this by biting against a teething ring to decrease the pain of erupting teeth.

Q.  We know that such tightness and compression in the jaw and neck can lead to arthritis, cause nerve pressure, an increase in neck muscle injuries and in oral care does this affect the necessary salvation and inner workings needed to protect our teeth and oral cavity?

A.   As we mentioned, the teeth take the abuse from  clenching and grinding. Our teeth are not meant to take forces all the time. So they wear down, crack, get receding gums and become sensitive. But, the rest of the oral cavity and saliva flow are not affected. So long as the patient isn’t on medications, that can commonly cause dry mouth.

Q.  Are there specific treatments that you suggest in your profession to help treat TMJ related pain?

A.   Any TMJ pain is worrisome.  I know this is a sign that something is out of balance. It is possible that if nothing is done, the pain can get worse quite quickly.  It’s important to try to identify what is causing the pain. Is it the bite? Is the patient clenching their teeth and wearing  the joint? Does the patient have arthritis? Are there high levels of stress? … Once we know this, we go ahead on treat the pain. A splint to wear at night is a very common treatment to protect the teeth and provide some jaw relief by opening the bite.  If it’s a bite issue, we treat anywhere from tiny tooth adjustments to full orthodontics. Stress management is important for some patients. Others with muscle fatigue would benefit from massage therapy and physiotherapy that specialize in the jaw joint.

Q.  Since tooth decay is one of the leading causes of disease in children, how often do you see signs of problematic symptoms that could lead to teeth clenching, stress and changes in children’s oral structure?  And what advice can you offer to new parents to help steward their children into positive practices at home?

A.   A cavity in a baby tooth can get large at a very fast rate. This can cause a toothache. Pain can cause clenching, poor eating habits, poor attention and increased stress. Cavities also cause the teeth to shift forward in the mouth. This causes crowding of the permanent teeth.

My advice is to start oral hygiene habits early. Even when a baby has no teeth, it is a good idea to clean the baby’s mouth with a washcloth during bath time. Praise your kids when they clean their teeth, and be involved! Be a good role model, check that their teeth are clean and help them brush. Try making it fun by placing stickers on a calendar or using a cute timer to let your child know when it’s been long enough. Of course, getting regular dental visits is not only important to check for cavities, but teaches the child to love the dental office.

Q.   I feel very privileged to not only have you as my dentist, but as my friend and supporter. Third Street Dental is the key sponsor for the upcoming “RUN4MOM” Memorial run focused on supporting the positive face of mental health and education on the mental well-being of our community. What do you do to stay healthy? And Who is your dentist?

A.   Being healthy helps me tremendously at work. It helps me manage stress and helps my body handle the physical demands of dentistry. I absolutely love  hiking with my adorable Labrador. I enjoy yoga and love running. I recently ran my first half-marathon!

My dentist is the amazing Dr. Gail Landsberger, who also works with me at Third Street Dental!

 

What Muscles are Affected?

Most of the time it is a result of poor posture and ergonomics at work, living with stress and not knowing how to relax and often those who hold stress in their shoulders and neck and after long periods of time begin to forward head carry. We call this upper crossed syndrome (see previous blog post on upper cross syndrome – )  When we talk about forward head carry, there are many muscles that help with head and neck movements. The top 3 that I find with clients that are hyper tonic (high stress) are the longus capitis; which helps to reduce the lordotic curve of the cervical vertebrae and is a deep flexor muscle in the neck whose job is to laterally flex, rotate, and flex the head and neck.

Next up we have the anterior scalenes, and the sternocleidomastoid (SCM). When the SCM is overworked it becomes fatigued quicker eventually leading to chronic forward head posture (head/neck extension). The levator scapulae is also a high functioning culprit where it’s main function is to lift the scapulae. It also works in conjunction with the pectoralis group (minor particularly) and the rhomboids (postural muscles).

As the muscles pull down on the base of the skull and upper neck, they also pull up on the scapula. All this adds up to compression on the cervical vertebra.

How can Yoga help?

Decompressing the muscles around the jaw line and neck are crucial to limiting stress in this area, and it starts with the practice of meditation, deep breathing and sensory awareness. Practicing a simple modified vinyasa sequence of child’s pose to downward facing dog to upward facing dog can help the flow of blood to the jaw and cranium, as well as improve the articulation of the spine.

Sequences to improve posture and reduce stress to the jaw and neck muscles:

  • Seated meditation (focus on softening the tongue and facial muscles
  • Seated cat flow (working in all 6 motions of the neck, extension, flexion, lateral extension, rotation)
  • Cat flow series to child’s pose vinyasa (mentioned above)
  • Cobra and sphinx poses (to help relax spine
  • Supine cervical and lumbar corrective movement (passive hip rotations)
  • Bridge pose variations to promote length in the spine and occipital ridge trigger release.
  • Soft tissue rolling with the foam roller (mid back, lats, glutes)

Conclusion:

I believe it is an important practice to work with other health care providers who believe in a holistic approach to optimal wellness. Dentistry is one of the most neglected pillars of our health and ultimately, it should be one of the first. For more information on Third Street Dental and Dr. Melissa Skinner, please see the information links below.

Dr. Gail Landsberger. Dr. Melissa Skinner. Dr. Henry Tom.

Fun Fact:

Third Street Dental is a community driven family oriented practice. This July 29th Dr. Skinner will be participating in my annual “RUN4MOM” Memorial Run that takes place over a span of 57km, supporting mental health and suicide prevention in our community.  They also support a plethora of community initiatives centered on youth and family well-being.

Sources:

Vancouver Meditation Group

Vancouver Mediation Group is a Self-Realization Fellowship composed of members and friends of SRF, a worldwide, nonprofit religious movement founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda for the purpose of disseminating Kriya Yoga, a definite scientific technique for attaining direct personal experience of the higher power.

These techniques are available in a series of weekly lessons sent to your home in Vancouver from their international headquarters. The lessons contain techniques of energization, concentration, meditation, and the higher technique of Kriya Yoga, as well as instructions on how to live a balanced material and spiritual life.

Through its worldwide service and teachings, Self-Realization Fellowship seeks to awaken a greater understanding of the harmony underlying all true religions, and a fuller expression in this world of the love that unites all people when they realize their oneness in Being/ The Universe/ Higher Power/ God.

More information about the Vancouver Mediation Group, visit their website here, or the SRF headquarters: Self-Realization Fellowship.

SUN SALUTATION FITNESS CHALLENGE 4 THE KIDS

You can put kids in sports. They put themselves in the game…

Karma Yoga offers many teachers and students the opportunity to give back to their community and stay healthy through the asana practice of Yoga & meditation, and this time it’s for the kids.  Between Novemeber 1-7th, Athletics 4 Kids is holding a Fitness Challenge acrossVancouver and BC, and anyone can participate!

Did you know that more than 1/3 of Canadian children cannot participate in sports or recreational activities due to financial barriers? A4K helps raise awareness and funds so that kids can live their dreams and participate in sports, which as we know is fundamental to their development.

The concept behind the challenge is easy; participants sign up with their gym or studio, join a team and choose to tackle a bodyweight workout of 250 – 1000 repetitions based on their personal fitness level. The goal is to finish the exercise as quickly as possible and collect pledges/donations in your community to support your efforts.

This is the 4th year of the Challenge and it has grown by leaps and bounds every year, but we need your help to continue this momentum in order to get the kids in YOUR community off the couch and into the game.

How does Yoga fit into this challenge?

Easy, YogaFORM has hopped on board to teach A Sun Salutation Series at numerous gyms, inVancouver and on theNorthShore and you can participate.

The Sun Salutations will be based on how many you can comfortably perform within a 60min session ~ 250, 500 or 1000 meditative Sun Salutations, you can choose to move through them in a hatha style flow or bring a powerful Vinyasa intention and get your sweat on.

I will be teaching various fun and challenging modifications to this ancient practice of honoring the sun through the dynamic asana sequence Surya Namaskar!

With 3 – 4 classes to choose from throughout the week of November 1st – 7th you can choose to attend one or all of them, join our team and get your pledge on!

The drop in rate for the class will also be donated directly to the A4K Fitness Challenge!

How to join the YogaFORM/ Sarah Jamieson team or register for a class?

Check out my YogaFORM Facebook page for more details on locations and contact information. I you are interested in
participating please comment on our Facebook page or email me at [email protected] and I will send you the karmic details and class A4K Yoga Sun Salutation schedule.

Together we can support kids and their dreams! Let’s get out there and play! Ask your local gym or studio if they are supporting Athletics 4 Kids and get involved!

For more information on A4K visit: www.a4k.ca

For our Team YogaFORM Page visit:  http://www.gifttool.com/athon/OurTeamPage?ID=1731&AID=1666&TID=10689

 

THE FASCIAL PROTECTOR: THE EMOTIONAL DIVIDE


Fascia keeps us together in recognizable form. It is a tough, stiff, elastic connective tissue that is the protector – the foundation of our energy force, all our other systems in the human body.  This fascial net serves as a barrier from the outside world against pathogens and transmits immediate feedback to your brain about your surroundings.

In Yoga we practice mindful meditation and asanas to bring peace and harmony to our state of physical and mental being.  As a teacher, coach, and student of Yoga sometimes I find my own practice just isn’t enough to heal my body from the constant compression and mileage I place on my structure day after day. Sometimes, it needs a little more TLC.

As an advocate for an integrated approach and what practitioners are now calling, “structural integration,” it’s no wonder the fascia has gained traction within the medical and holistic communities.

Have you ever thought of the connection of our emotions and thoughts connected to our fasica system?

As we know we have well over 16,000 thousand thoughts per day and that can (and does) affect our bodies. Emotion can be stored as a memory within the body cells and when emotions become trapped within the tissue energy can become blocked, when left can result in physical symptoms, like pain and discomfort, anxiety and interrupted ease, throwing our fascial connections and relationships to our bones, joints, muscles and organs off balance.

In these instances your body is in a self perpetuating cycle. i.e. your mind starts to affect your body and vice versa and thus to break the cycle, we need to change our thought pattern, we need an intervention.

This past week, I spent a few hours with an amazing holistic practitioner, located in Vancouver. Robin Turner is a registered Kinesiologist, who specializes in Fascial Stretch Therapy (FST). Over the course of both our conversation and my own FST treatment we discussed the importance of whole body breathing, emotional restrictions in our tissue,
all of which is connected to the fascia system and reflex receptors.

With any deep bodywork there is a potential to release some emotions or memories stored in the tissue. This is a great opportunity to probe your mind and reconcile with any pent up unresolved thoughts that affect your optimal well being. The slow FST dance your coach takes you through stretches, not only fascia, but also alters the collagen and softens the viscosity, causing greater ease in movement and less pain in your daily existence.

The principles and ideology behind Fascia Stretch Therapy and Yoga are very familiar and they share many commonalities. As part of our own path and duality of life we must understand that the stress we place on our minds and bodies require a balance of this duality (ying and yang), and it is in these lessons where we learn to navigate our path to better, more mobile health and wellness.

Much like after Yoga, after a session of myofascial work it is important to honor the emotions you are experiencing, embrace them and learn from them. When we do this, we open the door to not only better movement and symmetry, but a better relationship with ourselves and our surroundings.

 

For more information on Robin Turner, BHK, RK, CFT-1 and FST, please visit : Body Engineering Personal Fitness Inc. at www.bepersonalfitness.com

THINK TANK REVIEW: BRIDGING THE GAP BETWEEN STRENGTH & CONDITIONING AND YOGA

Tonight I was given the opportunity to attend a “Think Tank” session to discuss the ‘state of the industry’ in health, fitness and sports performance. Carmen Bott, newly appointed Director of the NSCA of BC invited over 30 health professionals to openly brainstorm and discuss strengths within our scope of practice, industry standards, pitfalls, trends and presentation topics, as well as, what we would like to see implemented into the next NSCA Conference. A wish list if you will!

L.A Clippers Blake Griffin, Mens Health Magazine 2011

Who was in the room? Strength coaches, personal trainers, educators, RMT’s a physiotherapist, athletic trainers, FST’s, a yoga teacher (me); and at this networking gig… there was no pink elephant in the room, just unbridled passion for harnessing human potential.

Honored to be invited and to sit next to these leaders in strength and athletic performance, I quietly wondered if this was a little out of my league. Many years ago I made the slow transition out of sports conditioning to Yoga, then to corrective movement; therefore, what could a Yoga teacher possibly bring to the table?

I had a realization.  The goal of a health professional is not to solely enroll in courses, or engage in discussions we already know the answers to, but to continue to learn and evolve our scope of practice, so that we can integrate a holistic approach to better serve our clients and our industry.

A background in the physiology of flexibility, the fascial system and the traditional holistic methodology of “Yoga” would be a very beneficial topic up for discussion in this group and on the flip side, learning more about strength conditioning and athletic based performance metrics would most definitely offer me the chance to better communicate with my clients that fall under the auspices of athlete and strength based populations.

As we know, teaching fascial stretch or Yoga to a rugby player, will be much different then teaching Yoga to an endurance athlete or a dancer. Why? Genetics, muscle tensity, sport performance, gender etc! Our genetic make-up and muscular and fascial composition make all the difference. As a Yoga Teacher, read this next sentence…

“Each has a unique genetic make up that requires a specific repertoire of movement patterns, release techniques and conditioning metrics for improved mobility and stability  for better movement and performance mechanics.”

Now, re-read that sentence if you are a strength coach? Doesn’t it sound like we are trying to achieve the same destination? The answer is YES, we just look at the mechanics a little differently.

This is why understanding the dynamics of strength coaching is so important if you teach to a population inside athletics. Moreover, an integrated approach is so integral to anyone with the goal of improved movement and human potential for that fact.

What is the NSCA?

The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) has become the worldwide authority on strength and conditioning for athletic performance.  They have achieved this accreditation by supporting and disseminating research-based knowledge and the practical application to improve athletic performance and fitness on a myriad of levels.

This think tank was a great representation of how we can each play a role and impact the evolution of our industry and better serve our clients. The science and the health sectors are constantly changing, and with the integration of holistic wellness outreach, I truly believe there is much to be learned and benefited from when we combine the science of biomechanics and human kinetics with the art of traditional Yoga. A practice that for over 5000 years has been rooted in the very embodiment of human performance potential – mind, body and spirit.

For every Ying, there is always a Yang!

Sources:

To learn more about the NSCA please visit:  http://www.nsca-lift.org/

To learn more about Carmen Bott please visit:  http://www.carmenbott.com/

Shark Fin Soup Ban?

Shark Fin Soup Ban?

As Yogi’s and Yogini’s we learn to live our lives with more compassion.  However, the practice of yoga is not only on the mat.  Yoga is about more than just the Asana.  We are living yoga each and every moment of our lives, by learning to see the divine in all people and all creations of the universe.

It was announced on CBC News that Green Party Leader, Elizabeth May is calling for a ban of Shark Fin soup in Canada.  She is collecting signatures for a petition she plans to send to the House Of Commons.  This is a topic that I feel very strongly about.  If you are unaware of the shark finning industry.  Please watch the documentary Shark Water by Rob Stewart.  It is important for us to live consciously.  To be aware of where our food comes from and how it got to our table.

Sign the petition here: http://www.divepro.ca/

REVIEW: LULULEMON ATHLETICA & THE SAN FRANCISCO MARATHON

 As we all know travelling can sometimes put a damper on your routine, especially if you are heading out of country for an event.  However need not fear, where there is a will there is always a way. 

More importantly, where there is a Lululemon, there is always a way!

Tomorrow I run the San Francisco Marathon, my RUN FOR A CAUSE platform has gone global by supporting both the Canadian Mental Health Association of North and West Vancouver and the San Francisco Mental Health Association. I will be running 42km and advocating, educating and supporting those struggling with mental health and addiction, in honor of my mom.

As we all know Yoga is one of the most therapeutic practices one can embody and practice, as it not only focuses on the discipline of the mind, body and spirit, but it also harnesses the power to go inward and process our greatest strengths and fears. When I travel and RUN FOR A CAUSE I always make it a priority to find a local Yoga studio to rest my weary limbs, and the San Francisco Marathon has managed to combine Yoga & Athletics beautifully.

“Karma Yoga, means giving back and investing in one community” Lululemon knows this mantra well and as part of the extensive Runner’s Expo, Lululemon’s Ambassadors & Runner Specialists will be in full force teaching classes all weekend long for all the runners. And classes are even open to the public!

The runner superhero side of my personality finds solitude in every event expo, as I am able to meet participants from all across the globe, who flock to the expo to seek out community, network, pick up any last minute racing finds and prepare for race day. Combining this energetic frequency with the vibration of a balanced Yoga practice (under the same “serene” roof) is a recipe for perfection leading up to any event.

Lululemon has always been at the top of their game, combining Yoga with organic innovation, towards an authentic space from which they can harness the power of balance and sport. More racing events are seeing the advantage of combining the runners asana practice for the body, and the necessary mindful asana of the mental discipline found in Yoga, which mimics the “runners high” we feel when we stride effortlessly on race day.

The Runner’s Expo classes Lululemon provides, along with their ambassadors create a space from which we can set an intention, visualize our outcome and prepare our body, mind and spirit for race day. Tomorrow I will run the San Francisco Marathon with my BIB displaying “RUN4MOM” and I have Lululemon Athletica San Fran to thank for “Namaste-ing” me into action! More importantly, they are filled with runners, like me, who are so incredibly excited for game day, the ambiance was more then inspirational.

Make sure to stop by the two locations on Grant Avenue and Union Street.

My review – Refreshingly awesome, and ready for the marathon!

SOURCES:

RUN FOR A CAUSE: www.sarahmjamieson.wordpress.com

San Francisco Marathon  Expo & Lululemon Athletica: http://www.thesfmarathon.com/

Lululemon Grant Avenue: http://www.lululemon.com/sanfrancisco/unionsquare

Lululemon Cow Hallow: http://www.lululemon.com/sanfrancisco/cowhollow

FIND BALANCE OUTSIDE THE LINES: THE LATERAL LINE

We live a world were our structural language is centered around cause-and-effect. Western world requires us to understand systems by dividing them into their own unique parts, in order to define the contribution of each identifiable bit in relation to the whole. The concern with this line of thinking is that the human body is not assembled out of parts, it is a uniquely connected whole.  

Yoga and fascial based philosophy works to embrace the very notation that when you change or impact the structural components of one line, you innately effect and structurally change them all. Thus, we are a sum of all parts – a web of connected myofascial mass.

Last week we looked at the role of fascial communication, a great tool towards linking mind and body, and over the last several weeks have looked at 4 out of the 12 fasical lines related to athletics and prevention of injury.  In this article we continue to discuss the interconnected web of our fasical system with the Lateral Line.

For many linear athletes a common structural breakdown related to a lack of lateral stability, or a lack of rotational mobility, stem from a weak link in the lateral line.

Why? Simple – runners and cyclists are forward motion repetitive athletes and if not balance out with lateral mobility and rotational stability based movement patterns, common strain patterns can start to surface; such as knee pain, ITB pain, or pelvic deviations.

The Anatomy:

Your lateral line transverses each side of the body, starting at the neck, with then scalenes and sternocleidomastoid, then connects to the iliocostalis cervis, traverses in a woven pattern  to your torso at the external and internal obliques,  lateral ribs and intercostals, and deep QL’s. Following along the lateral line then connects fascially over your TFL, IT band and gluteus group; which further connects over the fibular head to your peroneals and then the fibular malleolus.

In movement the lateral line creates lateral flexion in the spine, abduction of the hip and eversion of the foot, as well as acts as an adjustable “brake” for lateral and rotational movements of the trunk. It also helps to balance out the left and right sides of the body.

The repetitive habitual movements seen in running and cycling, forms one’s posture, and the posture requires changes in the structure – the body’s fascial ‘fabric’. In other words, a gesture becomes a habit becomes a posture and eventually lodges in our structure. Thus compensations can occur and becomes a reality, like rounded back or forward head carry, but can be treated and fixed.

Adding in rotational mobility drills and side flexion and extension movement patterns can improve overall performance and establish balance in all the lines discussed previously.   

In Yoga the lateral line can be strengthened by integrating these asanas:

  • Half-moon pose  
  • Triangle pose
  • Gate Pose
  • Lateral Side & Extended Angle Pose
  • Mountain Pose with Lateral Flexion

Soft Tissue Release to these areas can reduce tension to the lower mechanics:

  • TFL (tensor fasciae latae)
  • ITB (Illiotibal band)
  • Gluteus Group

 Sources: Thomas Myers – Anatomy Trains

A Reality of Gratitude

Google image search

In yoga, we are reminded by our teachers to take a moment each day to be grateful for all we have. We sit on our mats, eyes closed, and give recognition to how lucky we are. In class, relaxed and clear headed, this gratitude seems easy to find. But each day, outside of our yoga kula, this gratitude is often buried by life and its many happenings.

I recently visited Bali, Indonesia. A getaway I’ve dreamed of for years to make my surfing fantasies a reality. I pictured crystal clear ocean, white sandy beaches surrounded by colourful hibiscus and a peaceful tranquility. Everyone I’d met who visited the tiny island has a love story they attach to it. And I wanted mine.

From the moment I stepped outside the airport and onto a nearby street to catch a taxi, my mental image of Bali vanished as the reality took over. Traffic like I’ve never seen, four person families speeding along the road’s shoulder with no helmets in sight. Rows of run down shacks and empty lots of debris lined the streets.

I thought hopefully to myself, the beachside areas will be better. They were worse. Packs of locals trying to sell you anything from a flower petal to a paper fan chase us along the crowded walkway. Men in rickety boats constantly call to us for a “good price” island tour. Young children, shoeless and unaccompanied, reach for me to give them money, after all, in this part of the world we are rich. Millionaires to be exact.

As much as there is beauty in this very bustlingly popular place, I have never had my eyes opened quite like they were each day in Bali. I’ve never desired to come home after being away. I’m always upset on the last day of my vacations, dreading the routine life that awaited me. This time, for the first time, I looked forward to it. To the clean water, air, streets, and homes. To the opportunity, education, activities, and food. To the mundane job, routine weeks, orderly transportation, and safety.

It’s funny how we often go away to relieve ourselves from our realities only to learn that these realities are a blessing. My recent third world experience reminds me to take my gratitude with me outside the yoga world and keep it from being buried in my daily life.

Courage To Fall

blogs.forbes.com

In a conversation with my pal Jennifer before class started last night, she filled me in on some changes she is making in her life. Risks she’s decided to take because the saying, you never know until you try, deems to be true (funny how clichés tend to be true). Yet, making a big change, or trying something foreign or different often brings a sense of fear along with it.

For instance, I find myself going to lengths of comparing pros and cons before I make a big decision that will bring change to my life. I’m unsure if the idea for change sparks from a right feeling or desire, or the need for a challenge. So I weigh all the thoughts surrounding the risk for change and take my time before making a final verdict. Then I stop and ask, who cares?! Why do the things we lean towards need to be justified if they feel right?

Last week in a Vinyasa Power Flow class, I took several risks. My shoulders and arms violently quivered as I attempted four arm stand and side crow over and over again. I pushed myself because it felt right. I was determined that my body could manage. I knew the worst that could happen was I’d fall, and I did. Flat out like a pancake I just splattered onto my mat. My body, at that point had enough. But instead of harping on my decision to take this risk with my body, I laughed. Falling is actually kind of fun. Instead of beating myself up over failing to do the pose, I gave myself credit for trying and making progress.

Why is risk taking in yoga, when if done improperly could result in injury, so carefree? So unruffled? We will inevitably fall out of the pose, but we hold our dignity while we do it. We know that after falling, we’re merely right back to where we started and nothing less.

This notion is so simple in our yoga Kula, yet so hard in our outside community. How do we incorporate the courage to fall into our daily lives?

To quote the risk taking Jennifer, I’ll always have what I have now, so if this change doesn’t work out, I’ll be right back here. And here, the now, isn’t such a bad place to end up.

How do you bring your yoga mentality into your daily life?

YOGA. BELOVED PETS. SONG BIRDS UNITE! A 2012 CALENDAR PHOTO CONTEST

HOT OFF THE PRESS: An opportunity for yoga teachers and students to get involved in something revolutionary AND play with their pets?! You bet!

Three songbirds of renowned talent and compassion; Melissa McClelland, Janine Stoll and  Lisa Winn founded Ladybird Animal Sanctuary, a multi-tiered safe haven for abandoned animals, a means of advocating for our furry friends, and a call to action in our communities Canada wide to help reduce the extraordinary number of cats and dogs euthanized each year.

Social Change meets Yoga once again; and Ladybird Sanctuary is pioneering a great marriage of sorts, by combining our devotion to Yoga and the devotion to our beloved pets to help animals everywhere! 

Leveraging their talent as musicians, songwriters and singers; they have co-created the Yoga Calendar 2012 project; which is generating a huge blissful buzz amongst Canada’s Yoga community!

Ladybird is currently calling for submissions across Canada; photos that capture and convey the playful, poignant, relationships we have with our pets and our yoga practice. Take a photo of your best downward or upward facing dog, cats flow, pigeon pose or any other pose displaying you and your lovely pet and you could win a spot in their 2012 calendar and be featured on their website!

Proceeds from the 2012 Yoga Calendar will go towards a safe haven/ rescue adoption space for animals to help take the load off local shelters bursting at the seams, as well as therapeutic programs for animals, community outreach programs and workshops on important topics; such as spaying and neutering your pet.

 If you don’t have a pet, but advocate for the protection of our furry friends you can still take part! Full spectrum of contest guidelines can be found by visiting their website or Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/ladybirdanimalsanctuary  or by simply emailing [email protected] on how to get involved!

 What a great way to combine Yoga, your beloved furball and social change for the betterment of all creatures big and small!

Sources:

Ladybirds Animal Sanctuary: http://ladybirdanimalsanctuary.com/

Melissa McClelland:http://www.melissamcclelland.com/

Yoga A-holes Unite

Define Yoga A-hole you may say? If you read Lia Aprile’s April 19th article with the Elephant Journal, How to Tell if You’re a Yoga A-hole, you may find yourself in many of her descriptions. I know I did and I hate to say it Vancouver, but yoga a-holes are all over this city.

My definition of a yoga a-hole is a self proclaimed yogi who doesn’t actually live up to the true yogi lifestyle . We open with om, stay present with our Kula, maintain gratitude throughout our classes, smile, breathe, sigh. But the moment we step off that mat, we leave our yogic mentality at the door. Rushing to leave the studio, pushing our way through the doors, we don’t smile, our breathing quickens, and we begin to create mental lists of all the things we have and want to do.

In class, we preach we don’t need anything. We could go on living without ever getting any more than we currently have and we’d be fine. Completely fine. But in reality, want and need become interchangeable. We strive to gain. Push our limits. Try and taint fate. And all the things we claim to believe during our practice mean nothing in our real lives.

We talk about being present and gracious. We write about it, share our stories with family and friends, recommend it to those who will benefit from it– but do we live it as we preach it? I know I don’t.

I cannot list the amount of times I have told someone he or she should go to yoga. It will help you stay present, focus on what’s truly important, teach you how to breathe, make you feel better about yourself and your body, place you in deep relaxation…as if I’m more enlightened than them because I practice this in the studio. This make me an a-hole. We must practice this in our daily lives to have the  benefits come to light.

How do we turn off our brains as we do in class and listen to our hearts? How do we carry the skill from our lessons  into the world? I don’t know about you, but I feel I’m in need of a good ass kicking to banish the yoga a-hole from my being and actually practice what I preach.

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