Part 1: Foam Rolling NOT Myo Fascia Release? Say What!

Part 1: Foam Rolling NOT Myo Fascia Release? Say What!

self-myofascial-release-collection

Human life involves movement. Movement is behaviour and it is communication. From the moment, we wake up to the moment we go to bed we are moving. It’a an endless array of activity expressed from our nervous system to our neuromusculoskeletal system to order to produce movement ongoing all day long.

Movement can also be a stressor, when we push too hard, when we create injury or just from poor habits, this is why in corrective movement we prepare the body FOR movement and FOR our daily activities, not just exercise. Not doing so can result in an inability for the tissues to efficiently accept, communicate and properly adapt for the load in which we apply, which can result in injury and pain. Most often this includes elements of “self soft tissue rolling.”

This 2 part series was spawned by a recent video circulated earlier this month called “Foam Rolling is NOT Myo Fascia Release,” by Dr. Andreo Sipna, Sports Specialist Chiropractor and Medical Acupuncturist and Manual Therapist out of Ontario, Canada. His findings and approach are valuable to our industry in understanding the difference between rolling for release and actually changing myofascia structure.

In the health and wellness industry we speak of health first, before fitness. Part of this health model is ensuring the layers of our skin, muscle, fascia – all tissue, are ready for life’s movement.  One of the trends we have seen over the course of the last few years, has been that of “self myo fascia release,” using rollers, trigger point balls, magic sticks and knobby things of all shapes and sizes.

Research is starting to show that even though self foam rolling and other tools works for movement preparation, and for those who require a little tone reduction, but  it may not be the best tool for breaking up scar tissue or for those with significant structure concerns and have excessive mobility issues.  Scar tissue that causes adhesion, contractures, and tissue fibrosis, cannot be changed through self means (self administered techniques).

Most often, clients are asked to preform “rolling” before their workout as a warm up, but what is rolling good for? And do they perform it properly? Do they know why they are asked to roll? Is it the right prescription for a client?  And is it enough? These are questions that circulate  in our industry, where many health professionals have differencing views on whether or not foam rolling can benefit the body. 

As is with any debate I look at rolling and how it will benefit movement, it’s two pronged (1)  rolling is only as effective as the coach who provides the tool and educates the client  (2) are you using these tools to reduce tone, or are using these tools to reduce pain and break down scar tissue? Both of these questions ask you to know the difference between tone/tension and scar tissue/fibrosis.

My place in the debate is this: There is scientific data that foam rolling or “self” myofascia release does indeed,  warm the system, release surface tension, and reduce tone, but it is temporary and if a client suffers from chronic pain, has scar tissue or adhesions, it most likely will not be enough to truly break up fibrotic tissue, as a stand alone method.  There is also scientific data to say that rollers and trigger points can’t break up scar tissue, it compresses vs laterally shear and therefore, the more effective approach would be hands on treatment. Again, tis is client specific.

Perhaps the best place to start is building from the inside out – a brief look at the fascia and at how scar tissue forms.

Brief Overview of Fascia Layers:

We have the outer skin covering the muscular skin and tissue and between the muscular skin and tissue we have a layer a connective tissue layer, which has been known as the subcutaneous fat layer. However, upon closer examination of this layer we can see that the is made of the scaffolding of fascial tissue, where pockets of fat live. It adheres the skin and the the underlining tissue.  This is known as the Superficial Fascia layer.

The complexity of fascial tissue can be simplified into three divisions: fascia superficialis (superficial layer), fascia profunda (middle layer) and deepest fascia (deepest layer). Since fascia is a contiguous interconnected soft tissue, each layer smoothly transitions from one layer to the next. Thus there is no “clear” division between layers.

There is a movement between these layers, which can be seen merely be touching your skin and feeling the bouncy, a gliding effect between these layers of connective tissue and muscle tissue. However, with age, previous trauma or injury or even lack of movement and a sedentary lifestyle, the connective tissue layers can start to become fibrotic or abnormal.

Recently, a video has circulated by Dr. Andreo Sipna outlining that rolling, in fact, is not myo fascia release. Now before we get into that debate, take a quick read below on his findings related to the difference between surface tension and inside tissue tension, in it’s relationship to scar tissue development.

fascia

Fibrosis & Scar Tissue:

When the fascial tissue becomes more mature, more dense or restricts normal movement, it becomes stiffer and can form fibrosis of tissue or scar tissue.

This can happen on two levels:

1. Inter layer restriction (via the Inter Sliding : the restriction of movement of the skin, on top of the muscles and fascia themselves.

2. Intra layer restriction: the restriction between the layers of the fascia and profunda within the same bundle, meaning within the same particular layer.

Fibrosis occurs anywhere in the fasica, and it will adhere to different structures and bind them together creating adhesions, contractures, and scar tissue. This limits joint range and mobility, can cause compensation and pain and movement dysfunction.

The tag ling “Rolling is NOT myo fascia release,” has spawned the debate on how we classify myo fascia release and whether or not rolling is a tool to administer for fascia release. Dr. Sipna believes it is not, while others believe it is. There is research on both ends of the spectrum,  pro and con. My ideology is to never take sides, but to appreciate both conversations. For the sanctity of this post we will look more at Dr. Sipna’s side of the debate.

The Myo Fascia Release Debate: Continues

When we talk in relative terms, most people will interchangeably use the words “myo fascia release” and “foam rolling or trigger pointing” as soft tissue release techniques. When we discuss soft tissue release, we need to understand that what we need to establish is relative tissue motion between the two layers that are bound together from the scarring or fibrotic change in tissue. The only way to achieve this is not merely through compressing the tissue, but by adding in relative tension and relative movement and in doing so establish afferent motion to start the process of breaking up fibrotic tissue.

In the recent video, circulating social media by Dr.Andreo Spina; his approach outlines the various processes that cause soft tissue injury, in his article written for Canadian Chiropractic, titled “Targeting Fascia.” I have noted his findings below.

“Each fibre, bundle and muscle is encased by fascia. The goal of soft-tissue therapies has never been to tear muscle proteins apart. It has been to remove restrictive scar tissue, or fibrosis. But where does this fibrosis form? Here is a list of the various processes that are known to follow soft-tissue injury:

  • Remodelling of connective tissue with lower tensile stiffness and lower ultimate strength;
  • Randomized collagen fibre direction and deposition (i.e., fibrosis);
  • Inability of collagen bundles to slide easily past one another due to cross-linking;
  • Substitution of collagen types with those of lesser strength.”

Compression + Tension + Movement

In other words we must be able to slide these layers over the other, or create motion between two fascia planes we are able to break down fibrosis through afferent motion.  Rolling can support better movement in tissue, but it cannot fully break down scar tissue or fibrotic tissue on its own.  A great explanation of this can be found in the video titled “Why foam rolling is NOT myo fascia release” by Andreo Spina (Functional Anatomy Video) to conceptualize this, he speaks of the inability for rollers and soft tissue tools are unable to create that relative tissue motion because they cannot grab onto muscle and hold them as muscles and tissue slide past one another and are usually held to trigger point without movement, either passive or active.

His conclusion is that research now shows that when it comes to foam rolling, alternating fascia composition requires a lot longer that simply a stroke or roll over the tissue or skin. Studies show that it requires 2 minutes minimum of tension/load or imparted load in order to cause a fascia release to occur. He goes onto say that these tools are still useful if we want to increase soft tissue healing by causing small amounts of tension, they can have a temporary relief in pin pointed pain, but we cannot consider these tools to take the place of hands on treatment and we cannot have long term changes in fascia composition or release adhesion or fibrosis using rollers or tools of this nature.

My conclusion, after watching this video is that soft tissue release is a very subjective term. He makes great points about the lateral shearing needed to break up fibrotic tissue, but to rule out foam rolling as a technique entirely, I am more on the position of keeping an open mind and giving clients tools they can self manage. Research shows significant progress for reducing tone uses these tools, but again it’s client dependant and how the unique make up of, injuries, past history and current biomechanical factors for make up that client.

When there is significant history with combative sports, structural traumas, high stress and mobility restriction I usually refer clients to an RMT, KMI structural integration specialist or other professionals engaging in applications of hands on treatment. Rolling will only make some temporary gains.

Next week we will look at some great responses to the video  post and offer insight into the other side of the debate, which is rolling and self managed myo fascia release tools can be of great benefit.

Food for Fascia thought!

Sources:

Dr. Andreo Spina, Sport Specialist Chiropractor, Inter. Speaker, Mobility & Movement specialist -creator/instructor- Functional Anatomy Seminars including the FR® & FRC® systems – Video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnYdzaoMyQ8#aid=P–lv2vjPlQ 

“Targeting Fascia,” article at Canadian Chiropractor  – http://www.canadianchiropractor.ca/index

Corrective Breathing Un Covered

Corrective Breathing Un Covered

Breathing is one of the most complex things we do all day. It is both a conscious and subconscious task. Proper breathing is the root of all healthy and functional movement. Think about the current popularity of muscle activation, meaning simply just because you create activity in a temporary isolated situation,  does that re setting carry over into other things, after the corrective exercise?

As coaches we spend most of our day “activating tissue,” we work on getting the glutes to fire, or the core to engage, but what about breathing. Do you consider breathing as part of someone’s health and fitness?

The same is true for a breathing exercise, we can use it to activate the breathing mechanics, but it too has to relate back to function’ which means carrying over improved movement or breath to other tasks; not just the one you are currently working on. The FMS screen can be used as a tool to look at opportunities to re-coordinate or reconnect breathing to improve health.  As a healthcare professional my first responsibility is to start with health, not necessarily performance or fitness.

First things first, assess risk and catch the red flags; this can be done 2 fold;  (1) identify if poor breathing is structural or (2) identify if poor breathing is situational. This directly relates back to the biopsychosocial model we looked at in as well as understanding the different kinds of BPD (breathing pattern disorders).

respiratory-muscles

Structural:

Identifying if there is a structural problem, an obstructed airway, a deviated septum, a closure of some kind thus can alter breathing and will be key in your program design and standard operating system for screening.  When people have horrible postures, rounded shoulders, forward head carry it could be because of an anatomical dysfunction. This can increase anxiety, cortisol levels, reduce adrenal function and increase likelihood of paradoxical breathing. Often called “reverse” breathing, occurs when the abdomen contracts during inhalation and expands on exhalation. Paradoxical breathing associates with the expectation of exertion, sustained effort, and resistance to flow, and stress. Clients with chronic airways obstruction also show in drawing of the lower ribs during inspiration, due to the distorted action of a depressed and flattened diaphragm As a result, this pattern causes very rapid fatigue.

Now what if that posture is where the airway is the largest and by telling our client to stand up straight reduces the client’s airway? If your airway is compromised… the body will resort to the path of least resistance – compensation.

Did you know: Three out of four Canadians report sleep apnea (75%) were 45 years and older. On average, these pauses in breath during sleep can last for 10 to 30 seconds, until the brain reacts to overcome the problem. With each episode of apnea, blood oxygen levels are reduced (hypoxia), and sleep is disturbed as the sleeper must wake briefly to resume breathing. In daily life, the person is restless, anxious and usually very fatigued.

Let’s take the airway out of the equation and move onto situational.

Situational:

The first place to start is assess the risk. During my consultations I will ask clients the following questions to gain a deeper understanding if altered breathing is a concern. Then I move onto the FMS screen.

Pre-screen questions for risk:

  • Do you have seasonal allergies?
  • Do you cough often?
  • Do you have episodes of bronchitis or chest congestion?
  • At higher threshold training do you resort to hyperventilation breathing?
  • How is your sleep? Do you have problems staying asleep? Do you have problems falling asleep?
  • Do you feel anxious or fatigued?
  • How much stress would you say you have in a week?

Before you prescribe an exercise – you must know the WHY!

Breathing changes movement; but lack of movement can also change breathing; therefore, take mobility off the table first. Key points you should consider; mobility, then stability or motor control. Remove the negatives and mobility restrictions, this frees up space for the mechanics of breath to work efficiently.

When looking at breathing, look at the mobility of the neck, the shoulder girdle, the thoracic spine, or how about the hips? When performing the FMS screen I can usually pick up breathing red flags  because the first two things we look at in the Functional Movement Screen for their influence on breathing are shoulder mobility and the active straight-leg raise. Both of these restrictions can help restrict authentic breathing.

Shoulder mobility is more than just looking at the shoulders; it addresses thoracic extension and flexion. Can you actively extend your spine?

The active straight leg raise showcases active symmetry and the ability to lift one leg in an unloaded position and it tells us a lot about a person’s hip and core function.

If mobility restrictions are taken off the table and there is no risk of structural concern, then some of the below breathing coordination exercises can encourage the resetting of authentic breathing.

Breathing Corrective Exercises:

Seesaw breathing: Reversal breathing (paradoxical breathing). see-saw breathing is a way to de-emphasize chest breathing and improve abdominal breathing. Start by identifying the 2 main cavities of your upper body, your chest cavity and your abdominal cavity. Find and settle into a comfortable breathing rhythm. Observe where your breath naturally goes, and which cavity naturally changes shape. Just observe. Now, as you inhale, allow the abdominal cavity to change shape and expand while keeping the chest cavity still. Exhale. On the next inhale, allow the abdominal cavity/belly to remain still while allowing the shape change to occur in the chest cavity. Exhale. And repeat for 5 mins.

Crocodile Breathing: Crocodile breathing is another way to illicit bio feedback, it gives a different sense of feedback than seesaw breathing where the belly expands both side-to-side and pushes into the floor, lifting the low back. Lie face down with your forehead on your hands. Breathe into your stomach. Of course, the air doesn’t go into your stomach, but the idea is to breathe deeply enough so that a person standing beside you would see your lower back rise. Keep your neck and shoulders relaxed.

Check out this video from Barefoot Running, Charlie Reid:

In the FMS level 2 courses we look at crocodile breath as a great example of screening the breathing. As a corrective movement coach, corrective exercises should be a temporary measure of re setting and re-educating your clients, but also so you can pull the new thing you gained into other activities, so that it becomes functional. You’ll breathe better the next time you run. You’ll breathe better the next time you lift and you’ll breath better when you sleep and recover.

Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns: Breath Changes Movement

Breathing is the primer to all human movement. When breathing is altered due to stress or prolonged periods of stress, the cycle of anxiety and poor breathing can significantly alter a person’s well-being.

BPD – Breathing Pattern Disorders:

Breathing pattern disorders (BPD) – the most extreme of which is hyperventilation – are surprisingly common in the general population. Dysfunctional breathing is described as chronic or recurrent changes in breathing pattern causing respiratory and non-respiratory symptoms that can impede performance and optimal movement. Most often it is an umbrella term that encompasses hyperventilation syndrome and vocal cord dysfunction; which can be further broken down into specific dysfunctions.

Diagnosed dysfunctional breathing affects 10% of the general population. However, we see a high number of the general public with altered breathing patterns due to stress, poor postural habits and pain. Despite decades of research BPDs, together with a range of the resulting pathophysiological biochemical, psychological and biomechanical effects, remain commonly under-recognized and under addressed by health care professionals as contributing to pain, fatigue and movement dysfunction in general. The physiological consequences of unbalanced breathing can be profound. The body starts to adapt both structurally with a range of systemic symptoms (raised shoulders,  upper chest breathing, jaw tension, headaches, chest tightness and reduction in thorax expansion); as well as physiologically (the body struggles to maintain chemical balance, deep sighing, restless sleep, exercise induced breathlessness, frequent yawning and hyperventilation, and fight or flight reactivity).  Both mind and body are affected by ‘poor breathing’.

Some of the most common dysfunctional breathing patterns are hyperventilatory, apical, thoracic, paradoxical, periodic, respiratory alkalosis, hypocapnia and hypoxic.  These may appear exclusively or in combination depending upon the state and level of the individual’s respiratory dysfunction.

  1. Hyperventilatory: is the state in which breathing occurs in excess of metabolic requirements, leading to an acute reduction in partial pressure of carbon-dioxide (PaCO2) and a predictable set of physiologic changes. This rapid-breath pattern uses accessory muscles and restricts diaphragmatic movement being predominantly situated at the thorax.
  2. Apical Breathing:  It refers to a pattern of breath that contains most movement to the upper chest. Breathing plays a major role in both posture and spinal stabilization. Some of the symptoms with this pattern can exhibit chest-raising that elevates the collarbones while drawing in the abdomen and raising up the diaphragm. Those who are “open-mouth breathers” attempt to increase intake by breathing through the mouth vs nose, but this provides minimal pulmonary ventilation resulting in the accessory muscles used in this pattern consume more oxygen than it provides. In exercise, these individuals fatigue quickly. Bio mechanical compensations can include rib head fixations or classic lower/upper crossed patterns of muscular imbalances.
  3. Thoracic: Closely related to apical breathing, these “chest-breathers” typify aggressiveness. This pattern lacks significant abdominal movement, being shallow and costal. Enlarging thoracic cavity creates a partial vacuum by lifting the rib cage up and out through external intercostals muscles. When our breathing movement is kept to only part of the chest or thorax, fewer muscles are engaged. Those muscles that are used have to undergo more stress and more movement to facilitate breathing rhythms. This reduces pulmonary ventilation, since the lower lobes receive the greatest blood volume due to gravity.
  4. Paradoxical: Often called “reverse” breathing, occurs when the abdomen contracts during inhalation and expands on exhalation. Paradoxical breathing associates with the expectation of exertion, sustained effort, and resistance to flow, and stress. Patients with chronic airways obstruction also show in drawing of the lower ribs during inspiration, due to the distorted action of a depressed and flattened diaphragm As a result, this pattern causes very rapid fatigue.
  5. Respiratory alkalosis: This involves a rise in pH of the blood, from its normal levels of ~7.4 due to excessive CO2 exhalation during rapid breathing. An immediate effect is smooth muscle constriction, narrowing of blood vessels, the gut etc, as well as reduced pain threshold and feelings of anxiety, apprehension (Leon Chow 2014)
  6. Periodic: This pattern demonstrates rapid-shallow breathing, followed by a holding of breath, followed by a heavy sigh. It is an over-responsiveness to CO2 concentrations in the bloodstream. This “airy” panting “blows off” or flushes out the CO from the bloodstream, which causes the brain’s autonomic system to shutdown respiration until the CO2 level raises to appropriate gas mixture. In the Periodic pattern, this cycle perpetuates. This pattern can be created through sustained anxiety, or by post-traumatic stress syndrome (Sonnon 2014).
  7. Hypoxic: Otherwise known as breath holding. This is often seen in swimmers, as well as clients who push too hard and cannot control breathing through exertion. This results in a reduction of oxygen (O2) supply to tissue, below physiological levels. Preparation of perceived exertion, this pattern comprises an inhalation, withholding of exhalation (breath retention) until the perceived exertion concludes. Holding the breath dramatically increases intra-thoracic and intra-abdominal pressure, causing health risks such as, fainting associated with Vagal nerve stimulation, increase in blood pressure, and hypoxia (lack of oxygen). (Sonnon 2014)
  8. Hypocapnia: Deficiency of Carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood resulting from over-breathing/hyperventilation (HVS), resulting in increased pH, respiratory alkalosis (Naschitz et al 2006). (Leon Chow 2014)

Changes in Breathing, Causes Changes in Movement:

As a clinician or doctor diagnosing this would be your specialty, but as a movement coach, this is outside our scope of practice. However, most often through screening breathing techniques, I can most often determine if someone’s is an apical breather, if their diaphragm is dysfunctional, and or most often, using more of one side of the rib cage or the other. In association with this there are two major areas affected by dysfunctional breathing; they are optimal thoracic spine mobility, and optimal lumbo-pelvic control. In BDP the thorax and hips most often becomes stiff. Why?

Stiffness and sloppiness alternate when we consider the joint by joint approach. It is a present and observable phenomenon producing many common movement pattern problems. Often if you don’t have the necessary core stability, the T-spine will get stiff and this also works in reverse. If the T-spine is too stiff, the core stability will be compromised. Logically we must make sure these areas are mobile, because if the hips and T-spine aren’t mobile, the lumbar stability we create is synthetic and it will not stick outside the session. Most of us make the mistake by assuming sloppy knee, stiff ankle, stiff T-spine without considering the potential problems above and ­below.

How about the diaphragm? How often do you assess breathing? If the posterior aspect of my diaphragm attaches to my pelvis and I do not breath well, or I apical breathe… my hips and lower back can become tight, thus, my hip flexors can become tight because they transverse through my diaphragm. Or how about blood flow to my lower limbs? The aorta also transverse’s through the diaphragm. Breath is critical to well-being.

It can work either way. It’s not about finding what came first, the chicken or the egg—you have to catch both or you can’t manage either.

Corrective Strategy:

I always start by addressing and screening a client’s breathing, as well as addressing their stress. Most often clients are told to breath deeper or practice deep diaphragmatic breathing, and in some cases this can improve proper breathing mechanics as it does encourage the biochemical release of relaxation hormones. However, most often this can result in a client feeling anxious, dizzy, nauseous etc.

Why? We often incorrectly attribute this to O2 saturation, when actually the ratio of CO2 to O2 permits the release or retention of O2 from the blood (Sonnon 2014).

Changing your breathing pattern is critical to optimal health and wellness.  Increasing CO2 retention, can utilize more O2 from each breath, which in turn leads to better circulation and oxidation for tissue health, as well as prevention of disease and injury.

Screen the breath first I usually will screen in standing, supine or prone,

Supine: have the client lay on their back, knees bent and if possible, place your hands on either side of the ribcage. Ask them to breathe normally, and then into your hands. This a great way to see if a client breathes more with one side vs the other.

Prone (crocodile breath): Client lays on the floor on their stomach. Place one hand on their lower back and upper back and ask them to breathe into your hands. Watch for rises in just the chest, both hands should move together.

Standing: I ask the client to close their eyes and breathe normally. I place on hand on the upper chest and one hand on the back. As the client breathes I lower the hand in the back to the mid back and then lower back to determine if they breathe fully. Then I place one hand on the belly to see if the client can belly breath.

I use all of these when screening, especially if I feel breathing is compromised.

In the first early stages of coaching, address exertion and watch a client’s physiological adaptations. With the help of a team, working with other health practitioners, below is a list of suggestions for re training proper breathing mechanics:

1.     Reduce the synergistic inputs to the pain process (i.e. modify adaptive demands)

2.     Deactivate trigger (or tender) points

3.     Remove noxious input from scars

4.     Enhance spinal and general joint functionality

5.     Improve muscle recruitment, strength, flexibility

6.     Pay attention to exacerbating factors in diet, lifestyle and habits (sleep, exercise, posture, balance, breathing)

7.     Consider emotional/psychological factors and lifestyle stressors

8. Your corrective strategy should include breathing techniques and corrective exercises to help strengthen the diaphragm and re pattern/re train the ribcage for adequate activation of breathing mechanics.

 

Additional Sources:

Gray Cook – http://graycook.com/?p=35

FMS – Functional Movement Systems – http://www.functionalmovement.com/

Scott Sonnon – 6 Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns – http://www.rmaxinternational.com/flowcoach/?p=443

 

Health vs. Fitness: Are They The Same Thing?

Health vs. Fitness: Are They The Same Thing?

Health and fitness are words that become interchangeable in our industry, but they actually aren’t the same thing at all. These two words are most often used incorrectly and can get lost in industry jargon.

So what’s the difference? In order to answer this question effectively I would like to introduce the term the “biopyschosoical model,” fist before we get into defining them.  This model takes into account the spheres of one’s overall well-being.  Notice I did not say “health” or “fitness,” here either, I said “well-being.”

The Biopsychosoical Model:

Tis model is best understood in terms of a combination of biological, psychological, and social contextual factors rather than purely in biological terms of the human structure (our physical body).  Many clients come to us because they want to “feel better,” “get fitter,” “be less stressed.” Yet, most often this in related to the physical body only, and as we know the physical structure of a human is merely one proponent of someone’s “well-being.”  When we use the words like health and fitness  we need to identify the pre-requisites. After that address the systematic activities that need to be established to prevent or rehabilitate health problems that allow for greater fitness gains and ultimately promote optimal well-being.

untitled (10)Take pain for example, or movement dysfunction This model is used most often in the clinical practice, but as a Movement Coach is a very critical piece of analysis we can use as a reminder that health and fitness are not the same.

What’s the Difference?

Let me ask you this?  If there is pain, does this mean a person needs better health or better fitness? Do they just need to move more? Have we identified what kind of stressors  they exposed to at their work, lifestyle etc ? What’s their nutrition like, do they fuel their body for proper health or proper fitness?

Let’s outline a simple framework for not only defining these separately, but let’s breakdown an easy operating system towards acceptable transition from health to fitness.

What is health? Health can be considered the level of functional or metabolic efficiency of a living organism. Therefore, in humans, it is the general condition of a person’s mind and body, usually meaning to be free from illness, injury or pain.

What is fitness? Fitness is a general state of health and well-being or specifically the ability to perform aspects of sports or occupations. Physical fitness is generally achieved through correct nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest.

Can you see the difference?

I want to bring your attention to the phrase ‘free of pain.” If a person has pain, their health is at risk. Not just physically, but biochemically, neurologically and psychologically.. Pain changes movement. Pain changes our chemical reactions and it changes breathing ; which can lead to dysfunction, limiting their ability to perform fitness related tasks. 50% of patients with chronic pain will increase their chances by 50% towards having a mental health problem; like depression, anxiety or sleep related disorders.

Why? because pain changes and affects your health. If there is pain, then improved health is first and foremost. Fitness cannot even be considered until the pain is at a manageable level where the client can feel confident in movement.

How to Screen Health vs Fitness:

Every person on our planet, no matter how athletic you are, or how many organic fruits or veggies you consume or super foods you add to your recovery shakes – when we look under the hood we can always find asymmetries or dysfunction – and this can cause pain. We all have them at some point in our lives, your coaches, your health practitioners – all of us, because we are all human and because our external environment is in constant state of flux  and when our external environment changes, so does out internal environment.

The goal is minimizing risk  and pain is by addressing movement dysfunction early on and ensuring early intervention with injury.  Look closely and you will often find that a tight muscle is limiting a movement pattern where motor control or stability is poor and vice versa, too much mobility can cause inhibition of tissue and instability of the joint.  Look at your profession; every profession has its physical and biopyschosocial risks that has the potential to lead to injury. Pain not only changes movement, it changes your bio chemical reactions, secretions and operating systems of your organs. Most affected by this is your breathing and cardiovascular health – dysfunctional movement = dysfunctional breathing patterns. This increases anxiety in the body; which in turn creates tonic, tense tissue!

Prevention is key and what you choose to do should make it move better, and that’s dependent on the tools in your coach’s toolbox. The FMS Movement Systems is one of those tools, along with the SFMA (selective functional movement assessment). Both are baselines for  health (the SFMA – when there is pain) and fitness (the FMS – movement and transition to performance).The SFMA protocol and top tier breakouts are a guideline from which you can see from the figure 1 that help to triage the impairment so you can know the direction to take the client’s health. This is for the clinician, not the coach. So if you are a coach, having someone to refer to with SFMA experience is key. Now, this is not the only assessment out there, but it is one of few that use language that is easy for any coach or client to understand. Using a language that is common to all, allows for greater intra-disciplinary support – working together as a team.

entry-point-slide-450x337 (2)

Your Gateway to Fitness:

The FMS Systems is merely one tool in your toolbox towards screening a client for health concerns and or fitness readiness. Apart from the FMS and proponents of musculoskeletal testing, I also use a postural poise screen and certain strength benchmarks once a client has been cleared from pain..

If you flunk a movement screen due to pain or movement-pattern incompetency, the best coaching in the world most likely will not help much. As a coach, my job is to correct mechanics, improve movement and empower clients to live an optimal lifestyle. Even with a major movement restriction, compensation or limitation, we can always find positions where you can still encourage movement competency and increased load, but there must be pre requisites for applying load. These pre requisites start with mobility, then stability and then strength. The reality is we want a moving, dynamic evolving and adaptable human being, not someone who knows how to program a treadmill well.

When you pass a movement screen, you can undergo further load-focused testing and you are now ready to look at corrective strategies and transitional training.  Thus you can now move into fitness. Test and retest for much-needed bio feedback on how to improve performance and skill sets.

This is why the patterns of the FMS movement screen, the SFMA and the corrective models are so important. As Gray Cook says “acceptable movement patterns under appropriate loads usually improve, but we must first agree on situational definitions of acceptable and appropriate.” Much like agreeing upon acceptable definitions of health vs fitness. Understanding the vast difference can help you, as a coach systemically change your client’s life – not just physically, but improving their own biopyschosocial approach.

Empower Women & Girls Globally: Join Walk In Her Shoes Vancouver

Empower Women & Girls Globally: Join Walk In Her Shoes Vancouver

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On Sunday March 9th, 2014 WALK IN HER SHOES 103 KM RELAY Celebrates 

103 years of International Women’s Day

Vancouver’s Sarah Jamieson, founder of RUN4ACAUSE joins forces once again with CARE Canada for the annual Walk In Her Shoes campaign. An annual run event, that aims to empower women and girls globally.

Vancouver, February 1, 2014 – To help break the cycle of poverty and in celebration of the 103 years of international women’s day (IWD), Sarah Jamieson  of RUN4ACAUSE & CARE Canada want to empower Vancouverites to join a Walk In Her Shoes 103km relay team.

Who is CARE?

CARE focuses on global issues such as maternal and child health, education, economic empowerment, adaptation to climate change and emergency relief. The necessities to empowering women, children and whole communities through the ability to live, learn and earn.

CARE Canada’s staff, many of whom are citizens of the countries in which CARE works, help strengthen communities through an array of programs that work to create lasting solutions to root causes of poverty.

What is Walk In Her Shoes?

She needs to walk an average of 6km per day to gather the things she needs to keep her family alive. CARE & RUN4ACAUSE are challenging you to try and experience what this is like. On Sunday March 9th, join thousands of Canadians in celebration of International Women’s Day to empower women and girls to fight global poverty – Join Walk In Her Shoes.

How Can You Help?

RUN4ACAUSE & CARE are challenging Vancouverites to participate in our 2014 Walk in Her Shoes campaign. This 103km relay is divided into 8 relay legs ranging from 10km – 12km in length and each supports a specific CARE project. You can join as part of a team and run or walk at your own pace or become a run ambassador. As a run ambassador, participant or volunteer you inspire your community to help CARE empower women and girls in the developing world.

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Here’s how you can get involved:

  • Sign up to be a Run Ambassador and build a team for your relay leg, supporting a specific CARE project.
  • Join a relay team, walk or run at your own pace.
  • Raise funds to help women and girls fight global poverty.
  • Donate to our cause here and see how your support can impact below

This is your chance to…

  • Learn more about global issues.
  • Become physically active.
  • Inspire girls around the globe.

What Impact Can you Make:

Your support and donation is then leveraged at 3:1 ratios by our Canadian Government; thereby increasing the impact! All projects are instrumental towards empowering women and girls around the world.

How does your donation impact these families?
  • $10 can purchase schoolbooks in a child’s native language for a year.
  • $25 can purchase life saving vaccinations, treatment and micronutrients which prevent a child from diseases like malaria, anemia, and diarrhea.
  • $26 can provide a week long leadership training course to an adolescent girl to help her understand her legal rights at home, work and in the community.
  • $60 can purchase clean water for a family and help build a well.
  • $100 can help a woman start a business.

What The Numbers Tell Us:

  • When women earn an income, they reinvest 90 percent of it in their families.
  • For every year a girl spends in school she raises her family income by up to 20 percent.
  • Educated girls grow into educated women, who have healthier babies and are more likely to educate their children.
  • When a girl in the developing world receives seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children.
  • Engaging men, boys, girls, and women can transform gender roles and increase gender equality.

Join today…

To register contact Sarah Jamieson @ 604 789 0203 or Email: [email protected].

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Why Compensate: The 4 Types of Tissue Compensation

Why Compensate: The 4 Types of Tissue Compensation

imagesCAK79GHC1.       Tissue Tightness, Tension & Tone:

The four corners of the dreaded “T.” Tightness, tension and tone often become interchangeable when discussing a lack of mobility in tissue, yet they are vastly different things bio mechanically.

  • Tension: Whenever you train a movement pattern, the tissue (muscles and fascia) retains the tension generated by the degree, direction, range and load and is specific to the tissues used.
  • Tightness is usually determined by a lack of tissue length. Take the hamstrings for instance; during the (ASLR) active straight leg raise screen if a person scores a 1 or 2 actively, we then check the muscle length through the passive range. If the client till cannot straighten their leg or score higher; we can assume the hamstring tissue is tight.
  • Tone: However, if the client has improved range in the passive hamstring test, and can indeed reach the optimal 70 degrees, then this is most likely not a muscle length issue, but one of too

much tone in the tissue (tightness in the resting state of muscle) and a lack of motor control.

2.       Myofascial Restriction/ Density:

Deep fascia are layers of dense fibrous connective tissue that interpenetrates and surrounds muscles, bone, nerves and blood vessels of the human body. It provides connection and communication in the form of tendons, ligaments, aponeuroses, retinacula, septa, and joint capsules. It encompasses bones and nerves and is the nervous systems transportation highway.

Our fascia also has the capability to initiate relaxation. Deep fascia can relax rapidly in response to sudden muscular reaction or rapid movement, this ensures that the tissue does not tear and limitis end range response. When we neglect to release residual tension from our fascia, the pre-tense tissue lays down collagenous fibers to make it easier to maintain, which substitutes for muscle activation. It is this collagen which gives it it’s strength and integrity, but when there is an increase in tension the fascia bag increases in thickness as a counter measure to limit movement and effort. Thus resulting in compensation. This diminishes mobility.

3.       Sensory Motor Amnesia/ Motor Control:

Sensory Motor Amnesia (“SMA”) is a term introduced by Thomas Hanna, the inventor of Somatics.  SMA occurs when inefficient patterns of muscular activation become so habitual you can’t sense or control them due to the nature of habit. For example, those who have desk jobs or spend many hours seated often struggle with neck and shoulder pain. Part of this is because of the nature of their job and thus have forgotten how to relax tissue such as the neck, low back and shoulders, and thus we often see a concurrent concern with the inactivity of engagement or how to activate muscles like the glutes or “core.”

This leads to weakness, inefficiency, poor coordination and eventually pain.When tissue can’t move through a particular range or degree of direction, our connective tissue/ fascia web adapts and reacts by reducing biofeedback and innervation of the tissue. This means less of the muscle is activated and less of the nervous systems signals make it to the desired tissue to result in the desired movement pattern. If left dormant too long, the tissue can start to develop protective mechanisms to avoid any and all movement. This can result in bio mechanical compensations and dysfunction, which can lead to injury.

Somatic Yoga and Corrective Movement are two modes of rehabilitation which have showed significant success and are designed take your body goes through all the subtle little movements you have unconsciously avoided for years. It takes precise concentration and attention to recover them without “cheating” or deviating into a compensatory pattern.  After the movement is recovered, it is integrated back into your movement patterns, leading to increases in performance and reductions in pain.

4.       Fear – Reactivity:

This is a great term, which I first came across in Scott Sonnon’s TacFit course. It relates to the tissue’s inability to recover and recoordinate itself to its true resting and activation state. It’s defensive in nature, where muscles and tissue develop measures to protect itself from moving into an unknown, dormant capacity. Tissue will react by bracing, shaking, flinching or freezing because of the fear associated with long term forgotten movement potential. Our muscles can then start to atrophy, adipose tissue can accumulate and our fascia can thicken. Compensation can come in the form of pain, injury, increased tone or inability to move as you once could. This fear then becomes embedded in the muscle memory system and can be more than just a physical issue, but then a mental and emotional one as well, which could lead you to not pursue your goals or aspirations.

All 4 of these compensations must be carefully monitored. We must stay under the radar of the signs so that we can counter balance and not reinforce compensatory patterns. The more we move, the better we feel and the more we see not just our gym time, but our profession, our daily activities as “movement” as well the easier it will be to provide functional balance to our integrated system.

The Power of A Story: How to Build Shame Resilience

The Power of A Story: How to Build Shame Resilience

“Shame derives its power from being unspeakable. That’s why it loves perfectionists – it’s so easy to keep us quiet. If we cultivate enough awareness about shame to name it and speak to it, we’ve basically cut it off at the knees. Shame hates having words wrapped around it. If we speak shame, it begins to wither. Just the way exposure to light was deadly for gremlins, language and story bring light to shame and destroy it. “ – Daring Greatly be Brene Brown

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Yesterday I was given the opportunity to speak to an amazing group in Vancouver; The Twenty Ten Group. Invited by my good friend, fellow ultra marathoner and adventure seeker Graham Snowden.  One of my opening snippets of any presentation or talk always starts with the importance of telling one’s story. Telling our story can be a very powerful and profound thing. It can connect. It can inspire and it can heal. When telling my own story of triumph over adversity I am always reminded by Brene Brown’s work in vulnerability and more importantly “resilience tool” called “Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training.” I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on telling ones story of challenge, adversity and the long road to understanding and healing.  It all starts with shame vs guilt.

Shame:

Shame is something we all have, but don’t want to talk about. It’s that little voice in the back of your head that tells you no, or can’t, or don’t. Shame is lethal.  Brene Brown’s distinction between shame and guilt is equivalent to an epiphany. Understanding the distinction between the two can make or break your resilience to fear and achieving greatness. It boils down to our self-talk.

Shame = “I am bad”

Guilt is “I did something bad.”

Brown’s Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training offers real and raw guidelines, with a step by step approach towards better understanding this human paradox, while at the same time building shame resilience.

Gremlin Ninja Warrior Training

We all have feelings of in-adequacy or failure from time to time, but without this there would be no feelings of success, joy and elation. There would be no evolution. The human race would become stagnant.  It is through our mistakes, we learn the path of righteousness and experience what it feels like to get back up and stand tall after being knocked over by life’s unpredictability’s and nuances.

Each of us at some point has come face to face with our enemy or have come to face to face with what hinders us, and in doing so we must prepare effectively to properly manage the situation and come out victorious. This is no easy feat and most often we are unprepared and wind up stumbling around in the dark searching for strategies.

In the book Daring Greatly, Brown uses the metaphors of masks and armor as examples of how we have learned to build walls in self-protection against the dark arts of discomfort of vulnerability, and a world where scarcity, fear, criticism, shame and never enough dominate our very existence.  Yet, we must contend that we cannot live an authentic and wholehearted life without removing the armor and letting go, so that we can let in.

That’s the thing about walls. We may protect ourselves from the outside, but we also shut ourselves, opportunities and people out as well.  Viking (fight) or victim (flight), are not viable options for dealing with vulnerability.  She offers practical daring greatly strategies to help us embrace vulnerability and courage; using the way of the warrior or the Ninja as opportunities to fear and shame resilience.

The Way of the Warrior and the Ninja: Combat Warfare

Ninja: The historical accounts of the Ninja are scarce, yet the early 15th century holds glimpses of emerging “spies” whose functions were espionage, sabotage, infiltration and assassination and open combat with a high degree of honor and valor.

Warrior: A warrior can be defined as a person skilled in combat and warfare.

Gremlin: a mythological creature commonly depicted as a mischievous creature who sabotages or dismantles.

What do all of these things have in common?

They have duality. They have a Ying side; where they act in accordance with their values; which are integrity, honor, discipline and trust in the system. Yet, they also have a Yang side; when we connect these definitions we can see that there is an opportunity for not construction of greatness, but de construction as well. Each one has a quality of sabotage and when it comes to fear, shame and guilt the mind has an amazing ability to mask these as “protectors.”

“You don’t have to do that, let someone else.”

“Why do you fix, what ain’t broken.”

warrior understands that most often the greatest enemy, or foe, we face, is usually ourselves. As humans we have a propensity to self-sabotage our best efforts through a masked villain called fear. This fear can be veiled in emotions like anger, dis trust, sadness, helplessness, bitterness, shame and guilt, but they all stem from one word, and that’s fear.

The ability to own and engaged with our vulnerability determines the depth of our courage and the clarity of our purpose; the level to which we protect ourselves from being vulnerable is a measure of our own fear, resistance and disconnection. Humans are not perfect. Humans are imperfect, and that is what makes us authentic. Vulnerability is at the heart of being authentic.

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Ask yourself these questions:

  • What drives our fear of being vulnerable?
  • How do you protect yourself from vulnerability?
  • What meaning do you place on the word “protection”?
  • What do you gain or lose when you build up walls and disengage for fear of failure?
  • How could you own and engage with your vulnerability/ your gremlins, so you can start transforming the way you live, love and bring about change?
  • Are you a leader in your own life? If not why?

Brown dares us to have the courage to be vulnerable, to show up and be seen, to ask for what we need, to talk about our feelings and have the hard conversations. She asks us to tell our own personal story of both trials and tribulations in an effort to live a life of courage and authenticity.  As the book cover articulates it is about transforming the way we live, love, parent, teach, and lead.

Meet Your Thoracic Mobility Mark: The Rib Pull Bow And Arrow

Meet Your Thoracic Mobility Mark: The Rib Pull Bow And Arrow

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Last article we looked at the spine and how the nature of our seated, sedentary lifestyle restricts not only movement, but wreaks havoc on the surrounding joints, tissue and systems. We mentioned that we must address the entire spine when looking at improving posture and addressing compensatory dysfunction, however, it is clear that when we closely inspect the thoracic spine, it is profoundly different than the cervical or lumbar spine regions, because it is right smack in the middle of our structure.  The thoracic spine typically has twelve segments, and it has a ribcage attached to it, providing significant stability and support, which can also become tight, restricted and lack proper function. It is common to see a reduction in proper breath mechanics with an immobile t-spine.  It is located between the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine, therefore, because of the nature of its locations all bottom‐up or top‐down movements will be forced to go through the thoracic spine and when the thoracic spine is limited, so are the other regions.

If we can understand the mechanics of the thoracic spine, then we can use the principles of how the FMS systems of corrective movement can assist clients in creating meaningful, sustainable changes in movement and pain management.

We first must look to understand coupled motion; which can be easily explained by any movement of the spine in one plane is normally accompanied by a compatible spinal movement in another plane.  For example when there is spinal lateral flexion, this is always accompanied by spinal rotation. The lateral and spiral lines of our fascia matrix allows for our structure to properly rotate, twist and turn. Restricted thoracic mobility will cause changes in the joints that are meant to be stable (aka the ones above and below) this decreased stability in distal points, results in repetitive-injury, microtraumatic dysfunction and pain. Therefore, I would also like to add that most often when a client comes to me with shoulder issues or shoulder pain, addressing the thoracic spine is pivotal. Rarely are the symptoms of thoracic spine rotational dysfunction presented in the thoracic area.

In the last article I also mentioned the “anterior dominant society” which continues to play a significant role in addressing t-spine rotation. The majority client who have limited thoracic spine mobility, have also limited movement into flexion; therefore we most often see dysfunction in extension. The cobra pose was one mobility drill or stretch if you will, we used to improve spinal extension and anterior chain opening.

Therefore, today’s article features a great t-spine mobility drill to help improve mobility, rotation and release of both the anterior and posterior upper chain, as well as introducing rotation to our spiral and lateral lines.

The rib-roll thoracic spine stretch is one such corrective exercise. It not only focuses on rotation, but also re activates the rib cage and shoulder mechanics into working with the thoracic spine in rotation.  It has the ability to stretch many dysfunctional areas at one time and is and easy and effective drill to perform at home, at the office or pre workout.

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How to Perform the Stretch: Rib Pulls (progression 1) and Bow and Arrow (progression 2)

  • Client should be in the side-lying position with hips and shoulders stacked.
  • If needed, use a cervical spine support to maintain a comfortable line with a “packed (neutral) neck.” Too much lateral flexion in the neck will enable the tissue to brace.
  • Flex the top leg up to 90 degrees and hold onto it with your bottom hand.
  • Place a support (foam roller or pillow) underneath the knee to lock the pelvis and prevent excessive lumbar spine rotation (if the knee is too low, you will turn this stretch into a lower lumbar stretch not a thoracic spine stretch)
  • Place the hand on your rib cage to assist with end range. Focus on the posterior shoulder blade as well, almost like trying to touch the top posterior deltoid to the floor.
  • Place the other hand is placed on your top. knee and is holding it down with the bottom leg straight.
  • At end range, assist with bottom hand, pulling torso farther into the stretch.
  • Look in the direction of the rotation and exhale on the rotation and inhale on the return to starting position.
  • Try not to strain your neck or pull too hard at the end range, this should be a gentle movement. A good benchmark of too much stretch is an inability to breathe through the diaphragm. This is a sign that your nervous system has reached a high threshold barrier.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXMNzHry7Rg

Progression 2: Bow and Arrow

  • Client should be in the side-lying position with hips and shoulders stacked as per the first progression with knee under foam roller and shoulders stacked.
  • Place the hands one on top of the other in extension
  • Reach the top hand forward gently, pulling the shoulder blade away from the spine, then gently like drawing the bow of an bow and arrow draw the arm across the bottom arm and chest to open into your t spine rotation.
  • Take a few breaths and focus on allowing the posterior shoulder to work its way to the floor.
  • You should aim to take 3-4 breaths in each rep so that the connective tissue can relax.

 

Enjoy!

Sources:

http://graycookmovement.com/?p=118

An “anterior dominant” society

An “anterior dominant” society

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Man’s Not so Great Invention (for our structure):

Over the course of human evolution there has been one invention that is used around the world, yet has de evolved our structure. That invention is the invention of the chair, and with this, our modern bodies have started developing tendencies and compensatory patterns. From the age of grade school we are taught to sit for hours in what we now know to be the hardest position for our structure to hold. The seated position is also the most amount of energy expenditure used and not in a positive burning calories way.

Those of us who are sedentary, or spend countless hours seated at a desk, as well as those of us who are active, seem to migrate to a group of similar mobility and stability problems as we age. Our society overall is what we call an “anterior dominant” society.  Almost everything we do in our lives results in muscle length and stretch imbalances, sloppy and stiff joints and as a result our daily posture compensates.   Many injuries have been linked to these structural changes ranging from cervical and occipital ridge headaches, to shoulder impingement or dysfunction, to low back pain and herniated discs, to mal aligned hips to plantar fasciitis. All apply.

One of the most significant tendencies I see in my practice is less than optimal mobility in the thoracic segment of the spine, rounded shoulders, forward head carriage and poor posture overall. At the least 80% of clients have some form of low back pain, and this usually comes with a concurrent trigger of pain or soreness in the upper neck and shoulders. It’s the chicken or the egg complex really. Pain changes movement. Which one came first? Most often, we don’t know, but what we do know is that addressing the major point of dysfunction is key, and that we must also address the joints above and below.

The T-Spine & Posture:

The thoracic region has a tendency toward stiffness and rigidity and most often could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility. The architecture of this region is designed for support, but poor postural habits can promote stiffness and then decrease the body’s natural ability to rotate. When this happens the joints above and below the thoracic region can become sloppy, less stable and this increases the client or athlete’s risk of injury. We need to ensure we do not just address these symptoms, but follow the breakdown of the whole chain and consider the rest of the structure, by looking at both a lack of optimal mobility in the T-spine, but also the instability of the lumbar and shoulders (the joints above and below).

A Functional Approach:

Changes in posture over decades cannot be reversed in a short period of time; we may not be able to change posture right away, but we can remove any negatives and poor postural habits at work, and in daily activities.  This requires a combination of therapeutic approaches and models, some of which could include:

  • Functional assessment of structure and compensation
  • The funcational opposite – postural positions that provide decompression and relief to the client
  • Lengthen shortened muscles
  • Release postural trigger points
  • Inhibit overactive muscle groups
  • Activate inhibited muscle groups
  • Strengthen synergistic force couples
  • Normalize proper joint biomechanics and arthrokinematics
  • Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS)
  • Corrective Intervention Strategies for pain management
  • Client education and management resources

Yoga and Therapeutic Movement:

As a yoga teacher and movement specialist, after I have assessed and evaluated my client, we move onto our corrective strategy; which will usually include addressing 1 or 2 dysfunctional patterns that have the highest risk factors, and we do so by implementing corrective exercises into their daily prescribed program.

Here is one of the key stretches/ yoga poses I offer clients who require more spinal mobility and postural change.

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Yoga: Cobra Pose

One of the first stretches we give to clients when addressing postural imbalances and thoracic limitations is cobra pose. This particular pose focuses on the second bulleted point above; “the functional opposite.” If you spend hours seated in that anterior dominant position then this pose if a great way to decompress the structure and improve thoracic extension. Once you have achieved better extension and reduced tension in the front and back lines, thus making it much easier to move into rotational patterns.

                              Seated Posture           Cobra Pose

Head                          Flexed Forward            Extended Back

Upper Neck              Flexion                            Extension

Lower Neck              Flexion                            Extension

Shoulders                 Round Forward            Back / Packed

Thoracic Spine        Flexion                            Extension

Lumbar Spine          Flexion                            Extension

Hips                           Flexion                           Extension

Knees                        Flexion                            Extension

Ankle                        Dorsi Flexion                 Plantar Flexion

 

Extension exercises are often used in therapeutic approaches to rehabilitation, but this is an exercise I give to all clients who may not experience low back pain, but spend many hours seated throughout the day. Prevention of injuries is most important in the hustle and bustle of our society. Once you have increased extension in your thoracic spine, you can then start to move onto rotational exercises and stretches to improve mobility. Next week we will look at rotational exercises for improving t-spine rotation, as well as how this can affect the lumbar region and shoulder regions of our body.

Own Your FORM: Linkage vs Leakage

Own Your FORM: Linkage vs Leakage

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The human body is a system, a machine, and like any system they can leak energy if not properly tuned up for peak performance. In Movement Coaching this term pops up a lot regarding the join by joint approach. In kettlebell and clubbell training this refers to properly locking out joints to reduce torque and undue load, as well as force leaks.

Most of corrective movement is based on addressing compensation and dysfunction in the body and looking for these leaks in the system and in movement.  One of the most important aspects of movement coaching is addressing the joint by joint approach and educating clients on the importance of this concept. Looking at how one joint works in conjunction with another can improve overall performance and connection to the tools they use for strength gains, as well as preventing injury.

Definitions:

Linkage refers to the structure; our mechanics working in an efficient and effective manner, joints packed, and tissue ready, moving without pain, without compensation or dysfunction. When our joints and systems are linked, we move with effective energy output, and with synergy.

Leakage refers to the opposite, where our structure performs inefficient movement, usually due to dysfunction or compensation in the body. The systems and joints do not move as they should and thus performance and energy is reduced and less efficient. Most often this occurs without the client or athlete’s knowledge, increasing the client’s risk of injury.

Coaching Linkage:

I encourage clients to look at the structure as a system of links; from hands to feet, inside to outside and to use this visualization every session as a sort of check list to avoid potential injury, avoid leaks (which over time can lead to injury), and to avoid decrease in performance. The joint by joint approach teaches athletes to look at the body as a whole system vs a compartmentalized system.

When you teach proper technique or address correcting a client’s lifting who’s been performing compensated patterns for some time, we have to consider and address what happens to their training lifts. The answer is that to move from leakage to linkage their performance output for a short time will almost certainly go down temporarily, but it is absolutely necessary for long-term sustainability and performance gains.  You are building a foundation for progress and crisper movement.

In Gray Cooks Athletic Body in Balance, Gray discussing this linkage vs leakage as the following:

“It is possible for an athlete to perform well even when poor form is used, but eventually the athlete will experience breakdown, inconsistency, fatigue, soreness, and even injury.

It should be the goal of the training program to create efficient movement in the activity. This will conserve energy, keep the athlete relaxed, and allow the athlete to practice more and compete with less stress.

The problem is that poor form may be easier, more familiar, and more comfortable, and it may even seem to take less energy than proper form. Proper form, however, will take far less energy in the long run.

Poor form, even if it leads to some initial success, will eventually rob the athlete and cost far more time and effort than what is required to fix the weak links. Poor form can incorporate less overall muscle activity and therefore seem easier, but don’t confuse this feeling with efficiency.”

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The Deadlift: Shouldering Responsibility

As an example of linkage vs leakage we will look at the mechanics of the deadlift; which not only includes the hip hinge, but the mechanics of the shoulder complex as well; which is greatly overlooked. We can explore this importance in the 2 phases of the KB deadlift; the “Lift” and the “Unload” phases.

The Lift:

The three directions in which forces are applied to human tissues are compression, tension, and shear in the deadlift . In a lift such as the weight being lifted and center of mass of the upper body and arms are a relatively long way from the vertebrae, and this creates torque (moment of force) that is transmitted to the lumbar vertebrae. Although the vertebrae are a collection of joints, we can visualize that the disc between lumbar vertebrae 4 and 5 is the center of rotation for this force and thus must be managed to ensure prevention of injury and proper distribution of load.

Coaching clients on locking the surrounding joints is an effective tool of bringing attention to possibility of leakage and replacing it with linkage. Locking the joints can act as a tool to visualize a “power source” in the locked elbow. It sends “energy” up the forearm and down into the shoulder. Simultaneously the arm is “growing longer” towards the kettlebell and “pressing hard into the shoulder socket”.

Very quickly the athlete or client will realize that the strength of his shoulder complex and lats in the deadlift is significantly dependant on the locking of the elbow and wrist because even if there is a minor bend in the elbow, the shoulder will destabilize and there will be a loss of control with minimal engagement of the lats .

How about the scapulothoracic complex? The mechanics of this complex are crucial because if the scapula does not perform efficiently there will be leakage in shoulder packaging.  In the scapulothoracic complex, there is only one boney connection of the scapula to the entire axial skeleton (rib cage or vertebra) and that’s at the sternoclavicular (SC) joint. This is where the top end of the collar bone and sternum meet. The acromioclavicular (AC) joint and the SC joint are at each end of the collarbone connecting the shoulder girdle to the rest of the body. But that poor scapula is floating on the rib cage, held in place mostly by muscles and by two joints that aren’t much bigger than the joints in the index finger will result in leakage.

Cueing on how to engage and pack the shoulder effectively can greatly improve an athlete’s success in the deadlift pattern. When your structure has increased stiffness, this ultimately improves the transmission of the force up the chain with minimal waste and minimal loss of energy. The lift becomes much easier and flawless.

The Unload:

Once the athlete has lifted, the eccentric phase of lowering the weight is often not a focus point and where the athlete is fixated on the lift, the unload phase they can reduce efficiently by letting go of shoulder pack or losing mental fortitude. I coach clients to process the deadlift in two phases and we use verbally cueing for both. Pressing the KB “down” as you deadlift the KB up is a great way of ensuring linkage in the lift, but also coaching the athlete to stay stiff as they unload  the body around the trajectory of the bell, moving through the hips will trigger more lat lock which then helps stabilize the shoulders more importantly the spine.  The shoulders don’t move much during deadlifts–they stay back and down without protracting. The ankles, knees, and hips move and the arms “slightly” rotate in the shoulder joint, but the shoulders themselves do not round forward. This is what is meant by linking joints.

This is a process of not only restructuring mechanical patterns, but patterns within the brain. Muscles and tissue don’t just “leak” efficiency; they are trained to do so.

A great demonstration of how to coach “linkage” can be found in this video by Gray Cook: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ile7azMZpLA

Conclusion:

Not only does the “leakage” reduce the power of an athletic move but also it increases the stress on the joints. Replacing “leakage” with what Dr. Stuart McGill calls “linkage” is central to any system of strength training and or corrective movement. Whether that be training with kettlebells, Olympic lifts, clubbells sports, endurance athletics or yoga; making the connection to linking joints and systems will result in improved performance and reduction of risk overall. There is always the possibility of sacrificing form for output and this leaks the body of energy and potential; therefore, ensuring you are practicing proper technique for crisper coordination and movement.

Dare To Evolve: A Worldwide Evolution

Dare To Evolve: A Worldwide Evolution

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Today’s blog post is dedicated to my very good friend, Shane Heins, founder of Dare to Evolve.  This weekend marks the first  Club Evolution 2 day intensive workshop in Vancouver, held at Engineered Bodies, Strength and Conditioning in Port Moody, BC.  As a Movement Coach and founder of YogaFORM, I am proud to be participating in this two day event, as well as providing the decompression YogaFORM cool down for our participants.

Shane`s mission has always been to empower people from the inside out, to use the physical sphere as a means of inward reflection and a vehicle for change. He believes; inherent within each and every one of us, resides an essence so noble, a being so gifted, that it bursts at the seams. It bursts with such brilliance as to be a beacon of light in the darkest corners of sorrow, a healing salve from the most tormenting prison of pain and unending hope in the face of grave calamity.

Dare to Evolve isn’t just a workshop designed to teach fitness enthusiasts about this new tool… called the club. It’s designed to be a vehicle for change. A tool from which you can connect with and build skills from the inside out, top to bottom, leaving you grounded, more in touch with your present self and able to overcome the obstacles that come with life’s unpredictability.

Connecting to your tool and grounding yourself were the first two key fundamentals of today’s workshop. Finding engagement with the ground allows us to firmly root. Finding activation in our “core” allows us to firmly balance and feel solid in our structure and finding flow in our movements allows us to feel connected to our body and mind. These are the principles The Club Evolution is built upon.

To pay tribute to his expertise and guidance in our industry’s movement revolution, I would like to feature some of my favorite inspirational articles from Shane Heins, which can be found at his Dare to Evolve website:

The Worldwide Shift.

We live at a time that is undergoing an immense transition from the way the world has “worked” for the last few generations: Economically, socially, technologically, and industrially. We are thus needing to redefine our place in this changing world and what the value is that we bring to it.

Which can seem insurmountable when thinking about overcoming the:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Dissatisfaction
  • Depression
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Low energy
  • Frustration
  • Sleeplessness
  • Low self esteem
  • Anger

… to name a few of the things that so many of us feel in our lives.

But there is so much information out there, it is an overwhelming prospect just to start! Where do you start?

Straight to the Heart of the Matter.

Because that is where it starts. The heart. At the core of who you are is an incredible gift to the world. One that only you can unveil. In those moments when we feel the:

  • Heat in our chest
  • Fire in our gut
  • Intensity of inspiration
  • Exhilaration of joy…

…We catch a glimpse of our gift’s potential. But only a glimpse, as it won’t stay still for long. It’s energy is so great it can’t be chained down. Our ability to harness it, however, can. Harnessing it is what happens here at Dare To Evolve.

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The Missing Link.

There are two primary modalities currently at the forefront of this modern transformation wave. There is the Self-Help stream and the Fitness stream.

Self-help resources and those that teach them have exploded over the last decade, turning it into a multi-billion dollar industry. It is not uncommon to walk into a household and see various copies of self-improvement books lining the shelves (We have some on our shelf too). Much of what is shared is really good information, with a few stand-outs leading the pack. But the approach generally tends to be via addressing the mind:

  • Unlocking mental blocks
  • Deconstructing mis-construed perceptions
  • Discovering unconscious thought patterns
  • Creating a framework to re-wire it all…

These are all very good, but the main difficulty with this approach is using the very source, that is causing us difficulty in the first place, in an attempt to change it:the mind. It can be done, but can easily turn into a convoluted path.

Now yes, the leaders of this pack also speak to the need of connecting to our emotions, essentially what lies at the heart of our motivation, but there is no real systematic way to nurture this. Most importantly there is no physical practice to tie it to. Why a physical practice? Because through the movement of our body, there is movement of emotion, freeing up movement of the mind.

The Fitness industry has been slowly, but steadily, changing it’s tune over the last decade, recognizing not only our need but also our desire for more than just a shapely butt, nice legs, chiselled chest and bulging biceps. It now speaks to training for the mind, body and soul. Which is amazing right? Shouldn’t it all be about more than just the surface “features” we develop?

The trouble is, most fitness professionals don’t have a means to translate the benefits of physical training into supporting the growth and development of the mind and the soul.

The trainers know moving the body is key, without a doubt, to the whole package of evolving our entire being. Yet despite all the lingo being used about fitness to enhance “mind, body and soul”, the approach is still largely to do so by:

  • Lose a ton of fat in the next 30 days
  • Build the chest and arms of a superhero
  • Tone up to get the shapely legs and butt everybody wants

From this also lies the risk of promoting the transformation of your physique as the source for developing your self-confidence and self worth.

To say that in achieving the ideal physique (as dictated by the industry itself) will be the source of your value in this world, may be well intentioned, but couldn’t be further from the truth.

To develop self-confidence and self worth, there needs to be more than just a shiny surface. Without the internal processes to match the external, it becomes a vicious cycle of starts and stops, of defeat, inadequacy and feeling unfulfilled. Sound familiar?

 

Bridging the Gap.

At Dare To Evolve, we use the platform of physical training (being grounded in what we instantly and tangibly feel as we come up against the tension and resistance generated over the years) as the vehicle for developing the innate qualities within us.

By consistently and systematically tapping into our inner qualities, nurtured through a budding intuition, we start interacting with our unique gifts regularly, gradually turning up the dial on the energy building as we harness the essence of what lies at the heart of who we are.

Harnessing the gifts that reside at the heart, we melt away from the inside out the chains and anchors that have tightened their hold on us.

Physically vibrant, driven by the very heart of motivation, we can now access with greater effectiveness and success all that the mind has to offer, as we strive to the heights of our capacity.

Dare To Evolve brings the elusive yet necessary bridge that connects the path to the immensity of our strength and power, unleashing on the world the gems of our utmost potential.

 

It Only Takes One…

… one you, one me, one us.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure…”

Do you Participate or Contribute?

“There is a fine line between Participate and Contribute.

That difference resides in the choice you make.

When we participate:

  • we are there, but it does not necessitate that we be “present”.
  • we need only take part, not take whole
  • we are in a position to receive without having to give.
  • we can do so without commitment

When we contribute:

  • we invest wholeheartedly in what lies before us 
  • we give of ourselves honestly to exploring the process
  • we step forward with the courage to share the best part of ourselves with each other
  • we value all present
  • we are grateful for all involved”

 

For more information on Dare To Evolve please click the link here.

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Your Body Is A Puzzle: The Joint-By-Joint Approach

Your Body Is A Puzzle: The Joint-By-Joint Approach

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The joint by joint approach has been growing  in both the clinical and conditioning fields, yet still not widely adopted. Human mechanics are systemic in nature and thus our approach to optimal health should be as well. Thus,  understanding  how one joint affects another is of great importance in any health and wellness field, because it requires you to map the whole body and to see it as a sum of all parts. Much like a puzzle, each joint is it’s own piece, but without the rest of the pieces the puzzle doesn’t work.

Over the course of our evolution, with the invention of the “chair,” and a amore sedentary lifestyle our modern bodies have started developing tendencies for dysfunction. In essence, our mechanics are de evolving and we must pay close attention to the warning signs. Those of us who are sedentary, as well as those of us who are active, seem to migrate to a group of similar mobility and stability problems. We can clearly see certain demographics showcase similar dysfunction and compensation, as a general overview of the population.  Of course you will find exceptions, we each have our own unique mechanics and coping strategies, but the more I work in corrective exercise and rehabilitation, the more I see these common tendencies, patterns and problems. Moreover, I see the growing need to educate clients and coaches on the joint by joint model.

The point in the joint-by-joint approach is not so much the 10 Commandments of Mobility and Stability, as Gray Cook mentions here: Make the ankle mobile. Make the knee stable. Make the hip mobile. Make the low back stable. It’s more about understanding the relationship of what is mobile, what is stable, what needs or lacks motor control and how deficiencies in one, effects the other. These words that we through around in corrective intervention; like mobility or stability is define a segment of the body that should be moving better or have more control. The whole point is to practice with a systemic approach to clear the joints above and below the one with the problem, so that the problem joint can now explore new range or degree of freedom of movement, or “turn on” inactive or inhibited tissue to improve mechanics.

A quick summary from Gray Cooks blog article called “Expanding on the Joint-by-Joint Approach” offers the reader a general overview of the mechanics from bottom to top, feet to head:

1. The foot has a tendency toward sloppiness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of stability and motor control. We can blame poor footwear, weak feet and exercises that neglect the foot, but the point is that the majority of our feet could be more stable.

2. The ankle has a tendency toward stiffness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility. This is particularly evident in the common tendency toward dorsiflexion limitation.

3. The knee has a tendency toward sloppiness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of stability and motor control. This tendency usually predates knee injuries and degeneration that actually make it become stiff.

4. The hip has a tendency toward stiffness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility. This is particularly evident on range-­of-­motion testing for extension, medial and lateral rotation.

5. The lumbar and sacral region has a tendency toward sloppiness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of stability and motor control. This region sits at the crossroads of mechanical stress, and lack of motor control is often replaced with generalized stiffness as a survival strategy.

6. The thoracic region has a tendency toward stiffness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility. The architecture of this region is designed for support, but poor postural habits can promote stiffness.

7. The middle and lower cervical regions have a tendency toward sloppiness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of stability and motor control.

8. The upper cervical region has a tendency toward stiffness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility.

9. The shoulder scapular region has a tendency toward sloppiness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of stability and motor control. Scapular substitution represents this problem and is a common theme in shoulder rehabilitation.

10. The shoulder joint has a tendency toward stiffness and therefore could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility.

 

Questions to ask yourself before working a particular pattern on yourself or a client:

  • I’m getting ready to train mobility or stability in this segment.
  • I either want this segment to move better or I want this segment to be more stable.
  • Have I truly cleared the joints above and below that can compound the problem?

There is no one way to approach this either. Some focus on top to bottom or bottom to top, or inside out. What is more significant is what will be best suited for your client and the systemic approach. We know that our skin and our fascia have an immense opportunity to offer us signals and communication from the inside out… or outside in approach. The brain and its information pathways work two ways. It doesn’t just send information down the spinal cord out to the hands and feet. We also take up information through the hands and feet as they have the highest degree of sensory feedback via nerves and tactile information sharing. Yet the hands and feet are rarely observed or brought into the training regime in traditional training.

Let’s Pick a Joint: Mechanics of the Foot:

Let’s look at the foot. Our shoes desensitize our feet. Our feet can become sloppy and lazy. The foot will keep flattening out to grab as much sensation as possible because the brain knows there is a problem. There is a lack of feedback. The brain needs more information to ensure the knee and hip work efficiently in association with the foot. If you’ve got bad shoulder positioning in a push or pull movement, you’re going to do things with your grip that aren’t as authentic as they could be. You will change the way you move, and the body will always take the path of least resistance – and compensate.

Understanding how each joint works and mapping the body as a whole should be a tool in every coaches toolbox.

To read Gray Cook’s full article and learn more about the joint by joint approach please click this link: http://graycook.com/?p=35

Can stress be positive? The answer is YES

Can stress be positive? The answer is YES

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In the hustle and bustle of city life, stress has become a way of life. If you aren’t stressed, you must not be working hard enough, right? You can’t possibly succeed if you aren’t sporting the external or internal wounds of a great battle, long hard days and nights….right?  Wrong! If you are THAT stressed, you are one day closer to death. How about that for a bold statement – and it’s true. Bio chemically we recognize that stress increases the production of cortisol; which in small quantities acts as an anti-inflammatory; however in large doses, like in cases of sustained stress it can be toxic. The adrenal glands have to work twice as hard, pumping out adrenaline and cortisol, suppressing the immune system and activating our fight or flight response. This in turn, is the starting point of that perpetual cycle of anxiety that many of us high functioning people feel, but what if I told you stress could be good? What if I told you by simply changing your perspective and relationship to stress – it could be good for your health, not always bad. Much like anything in life “good” vs “bad” feelings are just that – how we feel. Change your thoughts, and ultimately you change your feels and meaning you place on any one word… and today that word is stress.

In a recent Ted Talk called “How to Make Stress Your Friend” Kelly McGonigal PhD, is a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University, and a leading expert in the new field of “science-help” urges us to see stress as a positive, and introduces us to how we can choose to change how we feel about stress and offers us the best possible model for stress reduction: reaching out to others.

Dr. McGonigal reveals startling findings—including the clinically supported methods for training the mind away from default states and negativity that no longer serve us and establishing behaviors and attitudes aligned with our highest values and aspirations. As the world’s wisdom traditions teach and science is now verifying, our lives are in fact defined by constant change, when we can understand our biological and biochemical make up are rooted in connection, and compassion and that when we reach out to others we improve our health. Now, doesn’t that make you feel a bit better about your health?

In this Ted Talk one study tracked 1000 adults in the US ranging in ages form 34 to 93. They were asked two questions? How much stress have you experienced in the last year? They also asked how much time have you spent helping out neighbors, family, friends, and people in your community?  And then they used public records to find out who died.

Stress is the number one contributor to most preventable diseases in our world and for every major stressful experience you have (like really stressful) this increases the risk of dying by 30%.  BUT, these studies will show that wasn’t true for everyone; people who spent time caring for others showed no increase in stress related dying in bio markers. The catalyst – caring created resilience. How we think, and how we act transform how we use stress. When we choose to view our stress response as helpful, we create the biology of courage and when we choose to connect with others under stress, we create resilience.

Stress gives us access to our hearts and to the science of our brain – a compassionate heart, one of joy, love and appreciation for others. This gives us strength and energy. And thus, we make a pretty profound statement – we say to ourselves that we CAN face life’s challenges and that we do not have to do it alone. In last week’s article we talked about the Vagus nerve (compassion nerve) and how we are hard wired to connect with others, to be of service to others and to nurture healing within ourselves. The universe wants us to be happy, but not without a little hard work put forth first! This brings me to my second point of “stress” and that is “time.” As we age we seem to lose track of time, the seasons change, the days go by, sometimes it feels like  there is just too much to do and not enough time.

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What is time?

I recently taught at a workshop in Salinas California called “The Evolution Power Pack” held at Wolf Fitness Systems; a movement based health and wellness company who organized a two day smorgasbord of modules and workshops which were designed to cultivate the power behind connecting with our personal potential, using the power behind movement sophistication and physical challenges.

In the first module; Shane Heins, founder and owner of “Dare to Evolve,” opened with a profound statement that set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

His booming voice asked the participants; “this weekend I ask you to deeply reflect upon the idea of time, we know that we cannot change time, but we can choose to change our relationship to it.”

The ultimate vision behind Shane’s module “Clubbell Hero Evolution” offered each of us the opportunity to create room and space for transformation through connecting to what our personal goal were for the weekend.

This brought up an element of stress for me as I moved through the weekend, because it showcased some of the areas of my life that I find challenging to accept and process, yet are fundamentally on the flip side opportunities for growth and evolution. My goal was to create space for self-compassion; like in the hero’s journey – to feel liberated and to understand that one does not need to suffer to succeed, that one can succeed through ease and grace.  Some of the questions I found myself pondering were:

What patterns do I accept and acknowledge in my own life that require change?

What lessons am I learning or repressing?

What patterns am I repeating that no longer serve me?

What is my relationship to time and am I creating the life I want to live?

Why am I holding onto fear? What is it about the words” succeed with ease and grace” so daunting to me. Why do I feel I need to suffer, bleed, sweat and shed a few tears to succeed in life? And how does this relate to self compassion? What is self compassion?… and down the rabbit hole we go!

In Shane’s follow up blog to the attendees he showcased the importance of what it means to “Participate or Contribute,” and it dawned on me – was I contributing or just merely participating. In simplistic terms; was a creating my own future or merely just on the sidelines. Participating is great, but it has a limited expiration date, if you do not contribute you miss out on a lot of data needed for long term change. It’s like the old saying – “give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime,” or something to that nature.

Here is a short excerpt from his blog Participate or Contribute:

“There is a fine line between Participate and Contribute. That difference resides in the choice you make.

When we participate:

  • we are there, but it does not necessitate that we be “present”.
  • we need only take part, not take whole
  • we are in a position to receive without having to give.
  • we can do so without commitment

When we contribute:

  • we invest wholeheartedly in what lies before us
  • we give of ourselves honestly to exploring the process
  • we step forward with the courage to share the best part of ourselves with each other
  • we value all present
  • we are grateful for all involved

The Stress of Challenge and Adversity can Be GOOD:

It is almost impossible to eliminate all stress, but how we relate to it determines the outcome of our health and our prosperity in life. There is such a thing as “good stress.” Our goal should be to keep our stress level manageable. If we start to move away from those negative self-defeating thoughts we say to ourselves that are self-critical or when we assume the worst about someone or some-thing, we can move towards positive self-talk; which is a way of “re-programming” our brains and our attachments to “stressful” situations.

Many of the worries and anxieties we have are not based in the here-and-now circumstances of our lives, but are projections into the future – a future that may never happen. We each have a choice and an opportunity to pull back the reins and change our relationship to stress. Much like movement and health – routine and habits are created through committed, sustained practice. So the next time you feel stressed, take a step back and ask yourself why. If you can’t change the stressful situation ask your-self how you can change your relationship to it, to find the opportunity for growth, I guarantee you’ll feel much better and hey, maybe even perhaps turn that frown upside down!

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