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

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


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.


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.


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.




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

links 2

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.


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:


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


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.


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.


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

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


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:

Can stress be positive? The answer is YES

Can stress be positive? The answer is YES


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.


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!


The Science of Compassion: Nature Vs. Nurture

The Science of Compassion: Nature Vs. Nurture

What’s your most important goal/s?

What is the legacy you wish to leave behind?

Why does it matter so deeply?

Are you living your purpose?

How will you overcome the obstacles?

How can we answer these questions with sincerity, mindfulness and compassion and proceed with integrity?  While at the same time setting in motion the steps towards personal transformation?

It all starts with letting go of the fear and establishing a greater connection with ourselves, our values and our beliefs towards personal change.  In my own personal journey this is a two pronged path – one deeply rooted in the wisdom of ancient energy healing and meditation/movement practices and the one deeply engrained in the nature of the science and my obsession with Darwinian Theory. They both hold powerful portals to better understanding my own internal GPS, my position in the world, and my relationship to time and purpose. In my own process of what Brene Brown called “Gremlin, Ninja, Warrior Training” my personal resilience to suffering, (dis)ease, (heal)th, and stressful life challenges all stems from a greater understanding of my brain (even though pea like in mass), my relationship to time and my ability to always put compassion as the underlining foundation of my overall value system.



Train Your Brain:

Our understanding of the incredible power of the human brain and what it is capable is at an all-time high, in both the fields of science, as well as movement mechanics and energy healing. These new emerging fields of neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, and psychophysiology are opening new possibilities for greater health, happiness, and freedom from suffering, as well as a deeper understanding of our connection to the world, to technology and  the ever evolving fields of innovation.

This connection to the organ that is responsible for taking a third of our caloric daily intake; is even opening up connections to our brain’s biochemical and biological make-up with the current research in compassion and empathy.  A few months ago I wrote on the topic of “compassion” and how our brain is wired to be empathetic towards others – humans and the world around us. We see this not only in the homosapein sphere, but in our animals as well.

The Compassion Nerve:

The vagus nerve (or wandering nerve) is one of the most important nerves in our body. This nerve carries axons of type GVE, general visceral efferent, which provides parasympathetic innervation to glands of mucous membranes of the pharynx, larynx, organs in the neck, thorax, and abdomen, and all our skeletal muscle, as well as our aortic body and arch (known as our heart). The Vagus nerve is the biological building block of human compassion, because it’s connected to everything in our structure.

Since the dawn of time, we have been led to believe that humans are selfish, greed is good because it brings power and power rules the world. Altruism is an illusion and cannot be attained in our lifespan. Cooperation is for suckers and kumbaya singing hippies. Competition is natural, survival of the fittest.  War is inevitable. The bad in human nature is stronger than the good. And so on.

These kinds of claims have reflected age-old assumptions about emotion and who we are as a species. For over millennia, we have regarded emotions as the fount of irrationality, baseness, weakness and at times sin. Nothing good can come from being over emotional.  Hell, the idea of the seven deadly sins takes our destructive passions for granted and splays them out for all to witness.

Yet, biology tells us something different and it begs us to look at another age old question; which is are we a buy product o f“Nature or Nurture.” Usually it’s a little of both.

What if we have been looking through the wrong lens? What if perhaps, we have just led our brains down the wrong path, trained them wrong.

What if we chose to look at it this way: we were born into this world with pure love and joy and through the struggles of our ages, we “dis”evolved to believe that we are all alone, we have to fend for ourselves, etc. What if we accepted that this all crap propaganda and in fact –  This is “nurture” NOT “nature.”  These “beliefs” are learned skills, and thoughts, not our actual biological blueprint and thus – a new door opens.

FACT: The brain has neuro-plasticity and can be re wired to think and act in ways that benefit humanity and personal power. Ways that align with a more compassionate way of living. This is nature AND nurture.

The brain, as we know from research seems wired up to respond to others’ suffering—indeed, it makes us feel good when we can alleviate that suffering, dispelling the so called ideology that “all humans are selfish.”

At Princeton University a study was done on children and victims of violence – and what they found was astonishing. Take these two very different subject demographics and we find they are united by the similar neurological reactions they provoke when asked to contemplate harm to others. This consistency strongly suggests that compassion isn’t simply a fickle or irrational emotion, but rather an innate human response embedded into the folds of our brains – this is “nature.”

Yet, feeling compassion is one thing; acting on it is another. We can see and now understand the human propensity for compassion and science has shown us the effects compassion can have on behavior and to the relationship to the world around us, but can we actually cultivate compassion, or is it all determined by our genes?

At Berkeley, Dacher Keltner  wrote in his article called “the Compassion Instinct;” “Recent neuroscience studies suggest that positive emotions are less heritable—that is, less determined by our DNA—than the negative emotions. Other studies indicate that the brain structures involved in positive emotions like compassion are more “plastic”—subject to changes brought about by environmental input. So we might think about compassion as a biologically based skill or virtue, but not one that we either have or don’t have. Instead, it’s a trait that we can develop in an appropriate context. What might that context look like? It is based on our values, ethics, and belief systems.”

Recently, I met someone who has had a growing impact on my life and my ability to create greater resiliency to life’s challenges and he reminded of this amazing poem that in closing, I will share with you.


The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.


Don’t Let Your Tissue Get Uptight:  Tone Vs. Tightness

Don’t Let Your Tissue Get Uptight: Tone Vs. Tightness

tone 2

As a movement coach, the question of “what is the difference, between tone vs tightness” is a common occurrence and one that is of significant importance to those who suffer the burden of chronic pain and compensatory dysfunction. To better understand, not only the difference, understanding how to identify the different are key factors that can make or break your intervention strategy.

First order of business is looking at the tools for assessing and screening dysfunction and compensatory movement:

The FMS and SFMA:

The FMS and SFMA protocols are tools used to capture movement dysfunction at the level of the pattern and then address whether the limitations are mobility, stability or motor control based. On average many practitioners often attribute “tightness” as a lack of muscle length or “weakness” to muscle inhibition like having “a weak core” or “weak glutes.”  Now, they would not be wrong in their conclusion, but this is not the be all and end all. It’s only one piece of the puzzle and the puzzle (your body) has many moving parts that work together to give you performance output and synergistic movement. Now, the SFMA is only used by clinicians, therefore, my form of screening, is more an overall postural screen, luckily working in an integrated model, allows me to refer to a physiotherapist or most often the initial functional assessment has already been performed… now, I just want to see the client move through my own lens.

Our first role is to demonstrate how your muscle acts in association with the connective tissue, the nervous system etc and then also address how perhaps glute weakness affects a movement pattern, increases tone, redistributes engagement to other muscles; which in turn causes compensatory movement and tone.

Through this protocol we can go through the body like a checklist of the many imperfections we all carry on a day to day basis, or we could try to discover each individual’s major dysfunctions so that we can remove these negatives to uncover our strengths.   Corrective intervention and a well-designed strategy is crucial for improvement, doing more of any exercise; corrective or other, can result in more pain if we do not address the full scope of limitations. If they could do more, they would, but most often pain is a limiting factor… and they can’t.



Let’s take the ASLR drill as an example of addressing the vast difference between tone vs tightness.  During the FMS Screen and Y balance tests I will be able to identify the largest area of need, and most often in new clients with or without pain, the shoulder mobility (SM) and active straight leg raise (ASLR) are the two most often needing corrective intervention. The ASLR is also most often the starting point for the discussion of tone vs tightness.

Depending on your scope of practice, if you work in a clinical setting  like in rehabilitation, you can apply a manual intervention, by mobilizing or manipulating  a joint or you could apply soft tissue work either with our hands or tools; like the foam roller or magic stick, or if you are an RMT, FST or KMI practitioner you could provide deep tissue work into the muscles or on the fascia. You might use needles to do a musculoskeletal technique called trigger point dry needling, like in IMS or Acupuncture. Or if you are a personal trainer or movement coach, hands on technique may not be in your skill sets; therefore, educating the client and using corrective intervention is where your path for this client starts.

Let’s break down the screen first. Let’s say I deduce that Mr. Smith has the following:

  • D/S (deep squat) – 2
  • H/S (hurdle step) – 2/2
  • In/L (inline lunge) – 2/2
  • ASLR (active straight leg raise) – 1/1
  • S/M (shoulder mobility) – 2/3
  • TSPU (trunk stability push up) – 2
  • R/S (rotary stability) – 2/2
  • Spinal ext. – clear
  • Spinal flex – clear
  • Impingement test – clear
  • Total: 13 out of 21 (no pain, but a lot of discomfort)

To see the ASLR test, please watch this video:

From the basic screen we can see that Mr. Smith has alright movement, but is lacking in some areas and exhibits a low score of 1’s in his ASLR and an asymmetry in his S/M.  I see a lot of athletes and clients that have discomfort and limitations, yet overall do not score too badly on the FMS. The question then becomes why? From here I would then want to clear the spine and take a deeper look at Mr. Smith’s lowest score and asymmetry. This will include what we call “clearing” the spine and active vs passive testing.

I first start with his ASLR. I know that he cannot reach optimal range on his own, which is a minimum of 70 degrees in the leg lift. Therefore, I test this passively by assisting him. If I can take that leg through a larger range of motion and reach a 2 or 3, most often this is a motor control issue, not lack of hamstring tissue length. If I cannot then it’s certainly mobility and leg length. Sometimes genetics and structural elements can play a role, but I work with a lot of clients who do not have a tightness issue – its tone and motor control. That is 1 part physical and 1 part neuroscience. Motor control is in the brain and we know that Mr. Smith has poor motor control’ therefore, what are our next steps?

We could have a certain degree of muscle atrophy. We could have uncoordinated muscle behavior. We could have increased tone. We could have residual trigger points. What we have to do is identify, What are those motor control and movement limitations? What are the problems with mobility and stability?

tone 1

What is Tone?

Let’s focus in on the tone. In physiology, medicine, and anatomy, muscle tone (residual muscle tension or tonus) is the continuous and passive partial contraction of the muscles, or the muscle’s resistance to passive stretch during resting state with a reduced range of motion in active engagement. Tone isn’t bad, but in excess it can limit mobility, stability and power output. When stretch occurs, the body responds by automatically increasing the muscle’s tension, which is ultimately, a reflex which helps guard against danger as well as helping to maintain balance. It helps to maintain posture and declines during REM sleep when that “alarm” of protection is somewhat shut off.

Tissue that has an increase in tone, can be known as hypertonia; which can present clinically as either spasticity or rigidity.

Spasticity is velocity-dependent resistance to passive stretch (i.e. passively moving a leg quickly, like the kickoff in football will elicit increased muscle tone, but passively moving the leg, like in the ASLR slowly may not elicit increased muscle tone). Spasticity can be in the form of increased resistance only at the beginning or at the end range of the movement.

Rigidity is velocity-independent resistance to passive stretch (i.e. there is uniform increased tone whether the leg lift is passively moved quickly or slowly).That sucker ain’t going anywhere. Rigidity can be of the stiff board, or the resistance to passive movement is in a jerky manner.

We must also take into consideration tissue contractures, adhesions, scar tissue and past injuries or structural concerns.

Getting back to Mr. Smith, I now know that Mr. Smith has tone in the ASLR and as an intervention I ask him to foam roll his posterior line (back, lats, glutes and calves), maybe even use a little magic stick). This also will tell me where he has trigger points and an increase in “whoa nelly” that’s the spot, discomfort or pain.

We then re screen his ASLR… and there is an improvement, but we know that this won’t stick. This is a great way to educate the client on the connection between the brain –to-muscle connection, but also the relationship of the fascia and nervous system in connection with the muscle-motor control arena.

To gain a deeper perspective and larger picture, I would also screen Mr. Smith’s spine, clearing the cervical in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and then the whole spine in flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation, as well as thoracic mobility. The spine plays a significant role in ASLR patterns, as does the thoracic spine. Most often if the ASLR, the shoulder’s and spine will offer us more information on a client’s motor control and integration of their nervous system and fascia systems functionality, but for the sake of this article, we will just use the ASLR as an example of tone vs tightness.

Corrective Intervention:

By rolling and applying soft tissue release, allows us to free up space and by moving those segments completely changes the neuromuscular support around that joint and associated joints. It will most likely also free up some muscle tone and allow you to move through your spine and lower quadrants a little bit better. This is still without suggesting corrective exercise as of yet, now it’s time to focus on the active part of the intervention strategy. This is merely “protective” not yet “corrective. “Protective measures keep you from getting worse, but may not make you better. Corrective measures actually work toward helping you foster or start the reset process yourself.” – Gray Cook

From this point forward, I will assign a few key corrective exercises for the client to perform on their own 1-2x per day, and will also offer  a sequenced set of mobility movements to either prepare the client for daily life and/or sport, as well as a decompression set of movements to be performed at the end of their day or sport. This program is under 20mins, so that it’s time efficient.

At the end of that, we should see an appreciable change in something we measured. Below is a short sequence I use for clients with increased tone and low ASLR score.

Video on the ASLR correction:

Start: Screen ASLR

Corrective #1: 5 mins of breathing: diaphragmatic strengthening to re-engage posterior diaphragm. Recruiting the diaphragm and mechanics of the breath lowers anxiety, and connects the nervous system to the tissue, as well as biochemically releases chemicals to release and relax tonic tissue.

Soft Tissue Release: 5 mins of soft tissue release; including, foam roller, magic stick and tennis ball

Mobility Sequence:

  • Quadruped spinal rolling (cats flow, with emphasis on spinal waving)
  • Side cats flow (variations on exploring range)
  • Lumbo Pelvic facilitation: supine pelvic tuck and tilt with bridge pattern rolling
  • Bilateral hip rotations with legs crossed (TFL, ITB, lateral line and ribcage)

Corrective #2: Upper and lower body rolling pattern (unassisted and assisted)

Corrective #3: Leg Lowering Pattern (PNF, leg lowering 1 and 2)

Corrective #4: Hip Flexor Stretch with core assist to free up anterior line

Corrective #5: ASLR with core assist to recruit trunk and connect shoulders to hips and trunk to pelvis.

Re Screen ASLR: improvement in screen


  • Repeat mobility sequence (keeps it easy for the first set of notes)

  • Add in Rib pulls or thoracic rotations for good measure – we could all use more of that.

This would then be the clients homework for the next 2 weeks, and each session we work together, I progress or regress as needed. It’s also important to move clients from primitive patterns to foundational patterns, especially if they train with a strength coach or an athlete. Grooving the hip hinge and addressing single leg stance is usually on my session roster with a client so that they can see the long term picture of where and when these corrective exercises can improve performance overall.

To learn more about the FMS and Corrective Intervention Tools feel free to visit our website at or

Fascia: Your Body of Water In A Flowing State of Movement

Fascia: Your Body of Water In A Flowing State of Movement


A while ago I wrote a blog that looked at fascia and hydration, “Is Your Fascia Hydrated: H2O to Go,” but more from a runner’s perspective and why some runners/athlete’s experience cramps. Today, I want to feature more of the process of hydration in our fascia.

Water is essential to life – all life

Our bodies are up to 70 % water by weight and nearly all processes in the body require water for cellular function.  When we think of water there are two natural ways water flows through our bodies and it is a two part process involving the following;

  • Irrigation is your actual consumption of water and water dense foods in adequate amounts.
  • Hydration is the chemical process by which water molecules bind with proteins and other substances.

Water is a lifeline for health and well-being.  Hydration, the process through which the body moves water, continues to be explored today. Over the past decade there has been a growing exploration of the role of fascia in the human condition. And a new conversation has begun among movement practitioners, manual practitioners and researchers of the role of water and our fascia.

Hydration is controlled by the hypothalamus and the body will prioritize so that essential organs will remain hydrated. Connective tissue (including fascia and membrane) will be one of the first to dehydrate leading to adhesions and fixotrophia of the tissue. At the microscopic level fascia looks like little tubes that transmit nerve signals and nutrients, like water, so that it can move freely over muscles and flow (like water) with the state of movement of the human structure. A good note to self, is when you fee thirsty – you are already dehydrated. Same if you drink lots of water, and pee a lot, your body isn’t holding onto water, because you probably aren’t keeping it hydrated consistently on a regular basis – this all effects your fascia and your body’s systemic functioning.

When we look at fascia; hydration is a bio-mechanical, not a chemical process, because there needs to be movement for a reaction to occur. When we stretch the fascial tissues or palpate them, toxins are pushed out and released; which creates a space for fresh fluids to be reabsorbed – hence hydration of the tissue. The practices of Yoga postures (asana) and breathing (pranayama)  are bio-mechanical processes to cleanse our fascial tissues, as are structural integration and fascia stretch practical applications.

For a quick re cap of fascia and what it looks like, check out Gil Hedley’s Fascia and Stretching from the Integral Anatomy Series. It’s a great little video.

Fluid Dynamics and Fascia

In an article from the iroc yoga community I found an enlightening excerpt “ Water has continuously proven to be a fascinating substance. Dr. Gerald Pollack, a University of Washington professor of bioengineering , has developed new theories.  In his keynote address titled The Secret Life of Water: E = H2O to the 2012 Fascial Research Congress, he discussed a 4th state of water, which is “bound”. The bound state stands along side of the well known solid, liquid and vapor states we learned in school. It is in this 4th state that water is bound to the protein, collagen, creating special conditions within the fascia.  Pollack’s explorations include understanding how water in its “bound” state contributes to the flow of fluids through fascial tissue. We look forward to more application of Pollack’s work in the world of fascial research.”

Understanding that fascia is our biological fabric, our interconnected matrix to our nervous systems, our muscles, our joints and our organs; which ranges from the ropey tendons and ligaments, to the webbed like (but tough) visceral fascia that surrounds our organs, down to the delicate membranes that provide the ‘carpet-backing’ for your body’s other tissues.  Fascia has two main components – one is collagen protein and the other is a watery “ground substance” called extracellular matrix (ECM).

Movement Sophistication

Movement is THE most important factor (next to water) to keeping our tissue subtle and elastic. When we stop moving or practice postures that are negative on our structure, we can compensate and cause dysfunction and pain. The process of fluid flow in fascial hydration contributes to the feeling of pliability and suppleness; therefore movement is key.

It is normal to feel stiffer after treatment or after a Yoga class. Why?

Your body works in phases, and as the space or phase a few hours after being stimulated your body is entering into the state of fascial hydration takes place. The “stiffness” is not due to shortening of the muscle tissue, but because our tissues are busy drawing in fresh fluids and are thus rehydrating.

Stiff & Tightness are not the same thing:

Tight fascia affects the whole organism, because it’s all connected. Structural imbalances can cause overall and specific increased rates of nervous stimulation; which when left untreated can cause increased muscle tonicity (not to be confused with tightness), trigger points and somatic-visceral referrals into the organs. Thus the body overall, and especially certain systems, will be tight and ischemic. This can reduce oxidation, hydration and blood supply to your muscles, and long term can result in chronic pain or motor control deficiencies.

Superficial fascia has a tensile strength of 2,000 pounds per square inch. It can entrap more nerve endings and blood vessels than any other tissue. By Hilton’s law of physiology, this will have a direct effect on the underlying muscles and joint proprioceptors. Something to thing about.

Thus the more you think of hydrating your fascia and understand the process of “bones should float” in the body, the more likely you are to not have mobility issues that stem from tightness of the muscles and fascia.

In next weeks blog we will look at tightness vs tonic tissue.



* Sherri Leigh RMT:


Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain

Our Connective Tissue, The Weather & Changing Pain


There has always been a relationship between changes in weather and body aches and pains since the dawn of time (or at least since we became aware of the fascia system and moved away from the equator). The earliest recording dates back to the classical Roman age.

 Hippocrates was the first to write, in 400 B.C., that many illnesses seemed to be related to changes in season. The majority of people who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorders, and even those who have suffered structural injuries, like hip replacements, knee replacements, even witt post deployment and shrapnel recovery; all report findings address the feeling of severe or less commonly moderate pain when a weather front is approaching. These symptoms can also occur when the humidity level and or precipitation levels change. Much can be said about the impact of weather on our system as a whole.

Stiff neck, tight shoulders, and pain in the hip, low back and/or knees: You might be thinking it’s your joints, but it’s actually most often connective tissue. Fascia is a webbed, interconnected matrix, that acts like a sleeve that holds muscles, tendons and joints and ideally your bones and skeletal frame. It connects to our adipose tissue via our superfiscial fascia lines, holding the shape of our body and interacting with our nervous system.  As well, as our deep fascia, the thick white fibrous tissue that connect muscle to bone and then our visceral fascia, much like a spider web that encases our organs and co-mingles with our structure.

Jill Miller, a renowned Yogi and functional teacher, once said;

 “Fascia is your body’s soft-tissue scaffolding. It provides the matrix that your muscle cells can grow upon and it also envelopes, penetrates and surrounds all of your joints.”

According to the American Journal of Medical Sciences in 1887, the very first publication of documented changes in pain perception associated the weather with this change in body sensation and pain.  This case report described a person with phantom limb pain who concluded that “approaching storms, dropping barometric pressure and rain were associated with increased pain complaints.

Many of my clients who have had hip and knee replacements, also exhibit changes in structure, like tightness and stiffness in the coming of Fall and Winter, as well as those who are more susceptible to aches and pains, like those who a higher percentage of pain receptors and or chronic pain conditions.


The historical Lineage:

The term “rheumatism” was one of the first “terms” placed on this kind of condition and it is still used in conventional speech and historical contexts, but is no longer used in medical or technical literature. The term “Rheumatic Diseases” is used to refer to connective tissue disorders, but the scope is so very broad and we are constantly learning more and more about the connections of our fascia, nervous system and other systems. Although these disorders probably have little in common in terms of their epidemiology, they do share two primary and foundational characteristics, which cannot be overlooked.

They are:

1. Can cause chronic (though often intermittent) pain, and they are difficult to treat because we still do not have a prescribed standardized direction, or assessment for proper treatment in our healthcare system.

2. Collectively, very common – 1 in 4 Canadians will suffer chronic pain at some time in their lives; which is why there are many great organizations; Pain BC is one at the top of my health and wellness food chain; which focuses on programs, services and resources for people in pain, but also works with health practitioners and our heathcare system to educate GP’s and professionals who work with chronic pain patients one on one.

Case Studies:

There has long been said to be a link between “connective tissue” pain and the weather. There appears to be no firm evidence in favour or against, apart from the ramblings of scientists, as shown above in the 1800s. Yet in 1995 a questionnaire given to 557 people by A. Naser and others at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Pain Management Center showcased barometric changes and pain. It concluded that “changes in barometric pressure are the main link between weather and pain. Low pressure is generally associated with cold, wet weather and an increase in pain, because of the fact that they restrict movement. Studies have shown that changes in barometric pressure and temperature may increase stiffness in the joints and potentially trigger subtle movements that heighten a nociceptive response. Cold also slows down fine motor control and motor skill. This kind of alteration to our structure may be particularly problematic in inflammatory joints whose receptive and sensitized nociceptors are affected by movement overall.

Clear, dry conditions signal high pressure and a decrease in pain. We all know that when we are warm, we move better, and we feel better overall. Here are a couple great resources for people who not only have chronic pain, but also for those who are more sensitive to the weather and aches and pain.

Therapeutic Treatment:

Many of the clients I work with suffer from mild to acute chronic pain, yet many of them can attest to the fact, that in warmer weather, they feel better. As a Yoga Teacher and Movement Coach I understand that when a client feel pain, they immediately want to stop moving, stop all activity and this, in itself, can be isolating. One of the key foundations I focus on, is to keep moving, keep staying active. In many of my posts I discuss the difference between “rest”  and “relaxation,” the body requires both, but it heals best, not in “rest,” but in a natural state of relaxation. I have found two forms of gentle relaxation and movement; to be successful in many of my clients, including myself are what i like to classify as an internal and external relaxation. Now, both stimulate internal healing and both focus on connection with our external… but when I say “internal” and “external,” I am referring more to the benefits of on the systems, and it is a great way to educate clients on the physiology of changing pain and how everything in our body is connected.

They are the following:

Internal Relaxation: Infrared Sauna & Eucalyptus Steam:

Infrared rays are one of the sun’s rays. Infrared rays are the healthiest, penetrate into your skin deeply and they dissolve harmful substances accumulated in your body. The Infrared Rays vitalize your cells and metabolism through the stimulation of sweat glands, as well as vibration. When infrared waves are applied to water molecules (comprising 70% of our body) these molecules begin to vibrate and this vibration reduces the ion bonds and the eventual breakdown of the water molecules causes encapsulated gases and other toxic materials to be released. One of my favorite spots to go is Spruce Body Labs on Richards, it’s like a weekly spa visit with all the perks of self compassion (notice how I did not say self indulgent)!

Eucalyptus steam works much the same as the detoxification process,but it is a wet vs a dry sauna, and does not offer you the benefit of the infrared rays. However, what it does offer you is the healing benefits of eucalyptus.  Eucalyptus steam inhalation is recommended by many alternative practitioners for relieving nasal congestion and sinus congestion, usually from colds and flu, as well as healing tissue. .Toxic substances build up in the soft tissues of the body over time. Without a proper flushing of these toxins your muscles and connective tissue can become sore, create adhesion’s and stiffness and bind together; which reduces movement and increases tight, toned tissue.  The more you perspire – or sweat – the more toxins release from your body. I use a eucalyptus steam once a month to release any nasal and respiratory congestion. Beverly’s spa on fourth avenue in kits, is an amazing spot and it’s kiddy corner to YYoga, combining a class and a steam after – brilliant.

Both stimulate your internal organs and tissue to “sweat it out,” release toxins; which reduces stress, improves metabolism, accelerates healing, eases muscle soreness and tension, enhances heart function and improves connective elasticity.

External Relaxation: Warm Yin, Yin & Restorative Yoga:

Yin Yoga postures are more passive postures which are mainly performed on the floor, where the body and mind can be still The majority of postures equal only about three dozen or so, much less than the more popular yang like practices. Yin Yoga is unique in that you are asked to relax in the posture, soften the muscle and move closer to the bone. While yang-like yoga practices are more superficial, Yin offers a much deeper access to the body. It is not uncommon to see postures held for three to five minutes, even 20 minutes at a time. This style of yoga is very beneficial for clients who have pain, because it allows them to ease into the form and function of the pose. In my YogaFORM sessions with clients, I combine a Yin style practice with Qi Gong and elements of gentle movement sophistication flow sequences to gently open tissue and open the awareness of systemic integration. In the Fall and Winter, this can be very therapeutic for those who are affected by the colder months.




Pain BC – Pain BC works toward an inclusive society where all people living with pain are able to live, work, play, relate, and learn with confidence and hope, and without their experience of pain being a barrier to pursuing their lives, through:

  • Reducing their pain and mitigating the impacts of their pain on all aspects of their lives and their families’ lives
  • Accessing the pain management resources that they need, ranging from prevention to self management, and early identification and intervention to more complex and long term pain management programs

Ted Talk – “Elliot Krane: The mystery of chronic pain”

” We think of pain as a symptom, but there are cases where the nervous system develops feedback loops and pain becomes a terrifying disease in itself. Starting with the story of a girl whose sprained wrist turned into a nightmare, Elliot Krane talks about the complex mystery of chronic pain, and reviews the facts we’re just learning about how it works and how to treat it.

At the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, Elliot Krane works on the problem of treating pain in children”.




Pain BC:

Spruce Body Labs

Beverly’s on 4th: .

RECOVERY? ARE YOU GETTING IT? The Nervous System & Endocrine System Revealed

RECOVERY? ARE YOU GETTING IT? The Nervous System & Endocrine System Revealed

High Performance Training: Motor Skills

As our scientific understanding of movement, strength, even how to asses and screen for both injury and baselines  has evolved, so too has our movement capacity in sports and athletics.

Functional fitness means to restore and refine the balance of the human physique, as well optimizing homeostasis in the body through tissue restoration (ample recovery). For example, too much over-specialization on traditional strength models; like “body building” with pullups, pushups or squats creates a complementary imbalance in the functionally opposite direction which must be addressed, or we face first diminishing returns, then plateau, then regress, followed by pain and eventually injury. Like anything if you play that sport, you train for it, but if you do not, then you are ultimately not setting yourself up for success.

For most athletes the standards are higher; sometimes these standards come with playing for a high or elite level team, and some standards are the ones we place on ourselves , but most perform their cycles in spite of their fitness levels rather than because of them. They do well and survive because they had the passion and dedication to commit, but not always the right training. Even with effective preparation to perform at high intensity, does not give all athltes the ability to recover fast from high stress. Whoever recovers fastest wins, because if you do not – your risk for injury and possible your game/career ender sky rockets.

When we think of sports in essence we think about training the body, and in this, we think of only the musculoskeletal system (muscles) and the cardiovascular system, and neglect some of the other more important responses and adaptations in our body. Most sports require a variation of fine and complex motor skills performed at high intensity.

What happens when intensity increases?

How do our motor skills respond and adapt to high intensity training?

If you cannot answer these questions; you are setting yourself up for injury and possibly failure.

In high intensity training, you lose untrained, fine motor skills at approximately 65% heart rate maximum. (Heart rate maximum is 220-age). You lose untrained, complex motor skills at approximately 85% heart rate maximum.

You can increase how long you keep the skills, but with each new situation, a new stressor. You can only adapt to specific stress. So, you may be able to remain calm during “practice drills” but when game time hits, with another team you know little about, or perhaps embarking on an ultra multi day event, carrying 40kgs of equipment, to an unknown route, with unknown environmental factors, and if and when you are surprised, your chance of making mistakes increases substantially and the result is, you feel overwhelmed and do not operate at 100%. And much of this is also mental training, but I will save that for another article.  Whoever can recover fastest from surprise, mistakes and overwhelming odds… wins. That’s the paleo meat and hold the potatoes of it all.

Recovery = Systems Restoration

Notice, I did not just say “tissue;” much like the above, we need to start thinking of whole systems adaptation, not isolation of one system. Rest and recovery are critical components of any successful training program. They are also the least planned and underutilized ways to enhance performance. We must recognize that ‘Rest” is not the same as “Recovery,” just like “Mobility” is not the same as “Movement.”

“ Rest is relaxation, where there is an absence of activity. When you appropriately recover, you do not require or desire rest. See the difference. Rest should only be required when you do not sufficiently recover from excessive stressors, when you are under-recovered, you oscillate between excessive stress and forced rest; a common, viscous cycle in our industry. Traditional relaxation techniques become unnecessary if one fully recovers from excessive stress; relaxation is our natural state when our various nervous systems function as they should.”  (passage from my previous post of my “Movement Series”)

A great excerpt from Andrew Read; Master RKC and Endurance Trainer, in an article called7 Essential Elements of Rest and Recovery:

“ If you train for ten hours per week, you have 158 non-training hours or 95% of your time left for rest and recovery. Where is all of this “extra” time going and why do you walk into your workout dragging?

Training = Work + Rest.

It’s not. It’s multiplication. 

Training = Work x Rest.”


The Nervous Systems When Training:

Your nervous system cannot tell the difference between the physical threat and a mental or emotional threat.

Unfortunately, many athletes do not take advantage of this. Whoever endures, stays. But that is not TRAINING. That is merely WEEDING out those who are not yet trained for high performance stress. To TRAIN someone for stress, it must be woven into the conditioning. This isn’t a “sink or swim” approach.

The focus of the training must be upon how fast you can recover from a high intensity output so you can stay at your “A” game, both physically and mentally. “

Most often high athletes approach high level training preparation with a tenacity unlike any other, it is what makes them brilliant athletes, but the drawback is that they will push themselves beyond safety into over-training injuries and illness, and still keep going more with injury and while ill. We see this with retired athletes who no longer play at that level, but want to continue to train at that level because it recreates the same sense of glory on the field, court, track – whatever your place of sportage homage is.

The nervous system does not know the type of resistance, it only knows intensity. Your biomechanics do not know what kind of exercise you are performing; it only knows degrees, direction and load.  It only knows how much and how much stress. It cannot tell that the stress is from injury. It cannot say a broken shoulder is a different pain, than the pain of high intensity exercise like clapping pullups. It only knows the degree of stress. Therefore, your mental preparation and thought process tells the body – is this good stress or bad stress.

The body cannot tell the difference between heart rate maximum from exercise, and heart rate maximum from being shot at. It only knows heart rate maximum. Therefore, whoever recovers fastest from high stress in training without injury and illness, will be more operationally prepared to perform in high stress with injury and illness.

Do you see where we are going with this?

 “The first goal of training must be “do no harm.” This takes some mental paradigm shifting for many “hard-chargers.” I honor them for their willingness to sacrifice themselves, but they must not do this in training, so that they are able to be so honorable in combat.” – Scott Sonnon, Rmax International (TACTICAL MAGAZINE 2011)

Successful periodized sports specific programs include education behind how our body metabolizes and regulates stress and recovery. This boils down to two fundamental systems; the nervous system, and the endocrine system. If an athlete understand the biochemical responses, transmissions and transfers within their body; they will have greater success in energy output, intensity levels and when faced with unprepared game changing events; on and off the field.


The Nervous System in a NutShell:

The human nervous system is composed of two parts: the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system, which is composed of nerves and nerve networks throughout the body. The two main components of the nervous system, I have been especially interested in during my research into tactical training and response, is the somatic nervous system and the parasympathetic system, but let’s give you a run-down of the nervous system in its entirety.

The peripheral system (PNS) is composed of a number of nerves that extend outside of the central nervous system. The PNS can be further divided into two different systems: the somatic nervous system and the autonomic nervous system.

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for involuntary functions, as well as emotional responses like sweating or crying.

Somatic Nervous System: The somatic system transmits sensory communications and is responsible for voluntary movement and action. This system is composed of both sensory (afferent) neurons, which carry information from the nerves to the brain and spinal cord, and motor (efferent) neurons, which transmit information from the central nervous system to the muscle fibers. These are our transmission and communication highways.

The Sympathetic Nervous System: The sympathetic system controls the body’s response to emergencies.  Known as the fight or flight response, this system responds by preparing your body to either fight the danger or flee.

 The parasympathetic nervous system functions to counter the sympathetic system and restore the body’s functions. This system helps to calm the body, slows the heart and breathing etc.

How are the endocrine and nervous system linked? The brain structure known as the hypothalamus connects these two important communication systems together. The hypothalamus is a tiny collection of nuclei that is responsible for controlling an astonishing amount of behavior.  Yet, in most training programs the necessary education into the “why” we train and the “how” our body operates is still stuck in just the response and effects on the musculoskeletal systems, not how we internally respond, improve, degrade, progress, regress, etc. These two systems are paramount, and to be tactical operators and officers is a necessity.



The endocrine system is a collection of glands that produces a wide variety of chemical messengers called hormones; which are necessary for normal bodily functions. These hormones regulate processes such as metabolism, growth, digestion, and response to stress. The glands release the hormones directly into the bloodstream where they are transported to organs and to tissues via our interconnected matrix highways. At these target organs and tissues, the secreted hormone evokes a specific, pre-programmed response from the targeted cells. . The specific functions of the endocrine system include:

  1. regulating the chemical composition and volume of the body
  2. regulating metabolism and energy balance, including digestion
  3. regulating contraction of smooth and cardiac muscle
  4. maintaining homeostasis even during crisis events
  5. regulating components of the immune system, and
  6. regulating the integration of growth and development.

Thus, appealing to the endocrine system is one way in which the body coordinates its actions with information collected from the environment. The endocrine system is responsible for teaching the body to react to the physical, emotional and mental stress around us.


While the endocrine system consists of several different glands that secrete over 50 different hormones, the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland control such a broad range of bodily functions that they are often referred to as the master control center. Here is a breakdown of the major operations:

Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is located in the brain. It regulates many aspects of the body, such as heart rate, body temperature, water balance, and the amount of glandular secretions from the pituitary. It secretes hormones that help regulate the pituitary gland and also responds to their presence in a feedback mechanism.

Pituitary Gland: This small gland is tightly connected with the hypothalamus and secretes two hormones of particular interest to athletes. Anti-diuretic hormone( ADH ) promotes water re-absorption in the kidneys and is released from the pituitary when sensors in the hypothalamus determine that the blood is too concentrated, i.e., when dehydration occurs. For those deployed, away from water sources, or in hot climates, this could be critical. Adrenocorticotropic hormone ( ACTH ) stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol; while the pituitary secretes numerous other hormones necessary for growth and survival. Because cortisol is secreted under duress; and your nervous system cannot differentiate between physical, mental or emotional stress; occupations that require higher stress overall means the secretion of this chemical could degrade function. When your immune system is working overtime, your body relies on that fight or fight response, which if cortisol gets to high  – remains turned on, like an alarm clock you can’t shut off. More on that in the adrenal gland section below.

Adrenal Glands: We have two adrenal glands, one on top of each kidney in the lower back. Each gland consists of an outer layer called the cortex and an inner core called the medulla. Secretion from the adrenal medulla is controlled via the nervous system, whereas ACTH controls secretion from the adrenal cortex. The major hormones produced by the adrenal medulla are adrenaline (also called epinephrine ) and a related hormone called noradrenaline ( norepinehprine ). These hormones cause the changes that occur during an emergency situation ( the fight-or-flight response ). Such changes include: increased heart and breathing rate, increased blood flow to muscles, cessation of digestion, and increased blood glucose levels and metabolic rate. The adrenal cortex produces two main classes of hormones: glucocorticoids and mineralcorticoids. The main glucocorticoid hormone, cortisol, promotes the breakdown of muscle proteins into amino acids that enter blood. The resulting increase in amino acid levels in the blood then causes higher glucose blood levels when the liver breaks down these amino acids. Cortisol also favors metabolism of fatty acids over carbohydrates. This hormone works in opposition to insulin, raising blood glucose levels. In a different mode, cortisol counteracts the inflammatory response that can lead to the pain and swelling of joints in arthritis and bursitis.


The endocrine system can become fatigued just like a muscle that is continually overworked. At some point it just can’t produce the stress hormones as it should. A tired ( but not damaged ) muscle may recover in 24 to 48 hours, but it takes an overused endocrine system weeks to recover.

During high intensity training cortisol serves the body well by mobilizing energy stores and reducing inflammation. Afterwards, it temporarily blocks the desirable effects of insulin, and repair of the body is slowed. This is why recovery and recovery protocols, along with joint mobility is so important.

Even when the cortisol levels fall to normal after a few days, there are lingering effects from the disturbance of the endocrine system. If the body is called upon to respond to stress again, adequate levels of cortisol cannot be produced, resulting in a crash or hitting the way response. All motor control slows, along with mental fortitude.

The varied nature of these symptoms points to suppression at the level of the central nervous system hypothalamus/pituitary axis. That is, it isn’t just one gland that isn’t working right nor is it some simple nutrient deficiency.

In Closing:

When setting up a sports specific training program, or any program design for any client who is moderate to high activity;  these are two major systems you should consider educating your athlete or client on, so that you can fully understand the needs and requirements of your body moving into the phase transitions of your periodization. If your mentality is to “go hard, or go home,” you may very well be going home yourself, less one athlete, because that athlete in now spending the next 8-12 weeks with our physio team and in corrective movement.

As one of my mentors and friends; Carmen Bott, Performance and Conditioning Specialist at Fortius Centre in Vancouver; “Darwin was incorrect; it is not the survival of fittest who survive, it is those who adapt survive.”


Quantum Consciousness: The Power of the Mind and Meditation

Quantum Consciousness: The Power of the Mind and Meditation

mediatation 1


When we talk about states of being, most of us think in terms of emotion or feeling (happiness, sadness); which falls under the category of biochemically, via our individual internal electrical neural networks. When we experience emotions, the longest an emotion can circulate, stay turned or coast (biochemically) within our systems is a mere 90 seconds. In order for that feeling to last longer, you have to practice mental fortitude, stay within the moment and practice sustaining that level of internal chemical reaction for longer periods of time.

In other words, paying attention to any specific neural connection and emotion keeps the associated circuitry open, dynamic, and alive. The nervous system has to be reminded to keep firing the same circuitry over and over again. The stronger the feeling, the greater the number of circuits simultaneously fired.  This can be done through visualization techniques, guided meditation or practice, makes perfect. Some call this the quantum zeno effect. I have studied quantum mechanics for nearly a decade, and founds it’s interconnected matrix fascinating. Therefore, relating this to how we feel and perceive emotion is merely one aspect of our “quantum” conscious efforts to live happier and more fulfilled lives. Understanding the role and biochemical role our emotions play, allows us to deeper understand how important they are in how we think, do and be … and relate to the world around us.

The quantum Zeno effect:

The quantum zeno effect is a situation in which an unstable particle, if observed continuously, will never decay. Frequently repeated observations or biochemical that produce feelings, stabilize a system and slow the rate of change or decay. Fewer, less frequent observations destabilize a system and increase the rate of change or decay (anti zeno effect). One can “freeze” the evolution of the system by measuring it frequently enough in its (known) initial state. For the sake of this article, I will filter our focus to that of the power of the brain. I have written multiple articles on the power of neuoplascticity in the brain, as well as brain entrainment to help decrease stress, help cure (dis)ease in the body, quite the mind and body and aid in recovery, as well as decrease chronic pain.

mind 2

Quantum biology:

Quantum biology refers to applications of quantum mechanics to biological objects and problems. Many biological processes involve the conversion of energy into forms that are usable for chemical transformations and are quantum mechanical in nature.

In an article written by, Dr. Kingsley Dennis, PHD, called;

“The human body is a constant flux of thousands of inter-reactions and processes connecting molecules, cells, organs and fluids throughout the brain, body and nervous system. Up until recently it was thought that all these countless interactions operated in a linear sequence, passing on information much like a runner passing the baton to the next runner. However, the latest findings in quantum biology and biophysics have discovered that there is in fact a tremendous degree of coherence within all living systems. It has been found through extensive scientific investigation that a form of quantum coherence operates within living biological systems through what is known as biological excitations and biophoton emission. What this means is that metabolic energy is stored as a form of electromechanical and electromagnetic excitations. It is these coherent excitations that are considered responsible for generating and maintaining long-range order via the transformation of energy and very weak electromagnetic signals.

Human thought in the twenty- first century needs to work towards a new model that immerses the human being within a vibrant energetic universe. However, this need not demand that we throw away what we already have; rather, we can expand upon the tools that have brought us to our present position. There is an eastern proverb that roughly translates as: “You may ride your donkey up to your front door, but would you ride it into your house?” In other words, when we have arrived at a particular destination we are often required to make a transition in order to continue the journey. In this sense we can be grateful to a vast knowledge base of scientific and religious thought for helping us arrive at the point where we presently stand. Yet it is now imperative that we move forward. As Deepak Chopra wrote his post “Consciousness and the End of the War Between Science and Religion” how we move forward is likely to be centered in our understanding of consciousness.”

This begs the question, if we know that the power of brain and thought has the power to cure out ailments, provide deep understanding and joy within us – can this also affect the world around us. The answer is yes, it can, and we have seen it done.

mind 1

Maharishi Effect:

A great example of this is the Maharishi Effect was tested between the years 1972-1978. The Maharishi Effect  was designed to be a phase transition to a more orderly and peaceful state of life in society as measured by decreased crime, violence, accidents, and illness, and improvements in economic conditions and other sociological indicators. The scientists who discovered this effect named it in honour of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who predicted it thirty years ago.

Maharishi had predicted that when a critical sub-population of individuals – 1% – experienced and stimulated the field of pure consciousness through the Transcendental Meditation Programme, a type of macroscopic field effect of coherence would occur in the society and the quality of life would improve.

The first experimental evidence for this phenomenon came in 1974 with the studies of Borland and Landrith (1976). However a trial run in 1972 was observed in 11 cities in the United States; in which 1% of the population was practising the TM-Technique. Then they looked at one major index of the quality of life in the cities – the crime rate – and compared it which the crime rate in 11 other cities matching for population and geographic location. They noted that when 1% of the town’s population practised TM technique and the trend of rising crime rate was reversed, indicating increasing order.

In 1974 a group of 7000 individuals meditating on thoughts of love and peace were able to radiate loving energy which reduced global crime rates, violence, and casualties during the times of their meditation over the course of 3 weeks by an average of 16%.

Suicide rates and automobile accidents also were reduced with all variables accounted for. In fact, there was a 72% reduction in terrorist during the times at which this group was meditation.

Almost 50 studies have been done further confirming the benefits of global meditation and its direct impact on everything in the world, even so far as to have the results published in the Journal of Crime and Justice in 1981. We know meditation has endless health and psychological benefits, but it is now being explored by politics and sociology because of its undeniable energetic impact. Everything is energy, including your thoughts.

In the movie “What The Bleep Do We Know;” by Mark Vicente, we see that there are an infinite amount of possibilities and that we are all connected to living things around us – because we are all energy. It unlocked the vast questions, many of us had about the universe and our place in it. We give and take energy endlessly, all the time.

As adults, we are not easily convinced of things we cannot see, or scientifically prove; this is have been an on going debate since the dawn of time. Yes, children, whose minds are still developing and are highly creative have the opportunity to re shape the very existence of our world for the next generations to come.  Many of the studies now being focused upon, are this effects and impact on the world when children practice harmonious thought, play and meditation.

Could we eradicate violence from the planet, if children are taught to live more peacefully, and to be more compassionate to all?

Could we end suffering and poverty, and living a more connected life if children were taught peaceful means of play, interaction and ways of life?

I would hope and continue to believe that the answer would be yes.


Vedic Science:

What the Bleep Do We Know?

Dubrovnik Project:

The Compassion Nerve, The Wandering Nerve, The Vagus Nerve: It’s in our Physiology to Be Good

The Compassion Nerve, The Wandering Nerve, The Vagus Nerve: It’s in our Physiology to Be Good

Why do people do good things? Is kindness hardwired into the brain, or does this tendency arise via experience or perhaps through understanding great adversity? Is it inherited, or genetically encoded in our DNA? How do we, as humans, tap into our greatest compassionate selves?


Compassion research is at a tipping point: Overwhelming evidence suggests compassion is good for our health and good for the world!  Last week I came across an article that showcased one of the leading authors behind the neuroscience of compassion, Dacher Keltner a director of the Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley and it got me thinking about the brain’s connection, the neuroscience of what it means to be and do good in the world. The article was called “New Earth Physiology – Activating the Vagus Nerve” by Angela Savitri Petersen.

Keltner investigates these questions from multiple angles and often generates results that are both surprising and challenging. In his recent book, Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life (W. W. Norton, 2009), and he weaves together scientific findings to uncover the neurological knowhow of human emotion’s innate power to connect people with one another. It is his believe that this lays the foundation towards leading a good life. Our research and that of other scientists suggest that activation of the vagus nerve is associated with feelings of caretaking and the ethical intuition that humans from different social groups (even adversarial ones) share a common humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism – compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.”

You can see our natural connectivity and compassionate instincts in how our brains react to pain. Nerves connect all parts of the body to and from brain in order to improve immunological, physiological and hormonal functions of the body. Our nervous system is highly intricate and each and every nerve supply important sensory and motor information to the relay stations in the brain (neurons) to perform critical activities. The Vagus nerve is one of the most important nerves in the body with a number of functions and as it would seem when activated create results that are all encompassing – better for the world, and our humanity. People who have high vagus nerve activation in a resting state, we have found, are prone to feeling emotions that promote altruism—compassion, gratitude, love and happiness.


It’s in the DNA of the Brain

When we feel pain, or even see someone else in pain – we immediately empathize. This is the vagus nerve kicking in. We are hard wired to connect with others, even if in today’s world it might not seem so – we are.

And that’s not the only part of the brain that lights up when we see images of pain or suffering and distress. The amygdala—the brain’s threat detector—activates. This is the internal alarm system of the brain that turns on “fight” or “flight,” which is no surprise because we are also hardwired for survival.

When these two area’s are activated, and in highly compassionate people, there’s another area of the brain that Keltner has found lights up, a very old part of the mammalian nervous system called the periaqueductal gray; which is located way down in the center of the brain. This region is associated with nurturing behavior in mammals. We don’t just see pain or distress or suffering as a threat. We also instinctively want to alleviate that suffering through nurturance; whether that be our own or nurturing of someone else.


What exactly is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve is a bundle of nerves that originates in the top of the spinal cord, near the cranium and it is better known in Latin as the “wandering” nerve, because it wanders from the cranium, all the way down the spinal cord, to your lungs to help you breath and control heart rate, and into your spleen and digestive system.  It activates different organs throughout the body. When active, it is likely to produce that feeling of warm expansion in the chest—for example, when we are moved by someone’s act of kindness or when we appreciate a beautiful piece of music or visual landscape. This makes the vagus nerve one of the great mind-body links in the human nervous system. Every time you take a deep breath, your heart rate slows down, you can control your body’s function by connecting the mind-to body… via activating your vagus nerve.

In an article dated a couple years back by Scientific America “Forget Survival of the Fittest: It Is Kindness That Counts” David DiSalvo (the journalist) had a close encounter with Dacher Keltner, on an interview DiSalvo asked; “One of the structures in our body that seems especially adapted to promote altruism, is the vagus nerve, as your team at U.C. Berkeley has found. Tell us a bit about this research and its implications?

Keltner replies offering kudos to another top rated scientist;  “Neuroscientist Stephen W. Porges of the University of Illinois at Chicago long ago argued that the vagus nerve is [the nerve of compassion] (of course, it serves many other functions as well). Several reasons justify this claim. The vagus nerve is thought to stimulate certain muscles in the vocal chamber, enabling communication. It reduces heart rate. Very new science suggests that it may be closely connected to receptor networks for oxytocin, a neurotransmitter involved in trust and maternal bonding.”

Arizona State University psychologist Nancy Eisenberg has found that children with high-baseline vagus nerve activity are more cooperative and likely to give. This area of study is the beginning of a fascinating new argument about altruism: that a branch of our nervous system evolved to support such behavior.


Stress and the Vagus Nerve:

Your nervous system cannot differentiate between mental or physical stress – it just feels stress. The body’s levels of stress hormones are regulated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS).  The ANS has two components that work to balance each other; which are the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS).

The SNS activates or turns on your nervous system. It helps us handle what we perceive to be emergencies, when there is a threat, and is in charge of the flight-or-fight response.

The PNS aims to turn off the nervous system and helps us to keep the systems relaxed and calm. It promotes relaxation, rest, sleep, and drowsiness by slowing our heart rate, slowing our breathing, constricts the pupils of our eyes, decreases muscular contraction and relaxes tissue. Acetylcholine; which the nervous system uses as a neurotransmitter is responsible for learning and memory. It is also calming and relaxing, which is used by vagus nerve to send messages of peace and relaxation throughout your body. As we get older, our connective tissue starts to become more stiff and our bones more brittle, we stiffen up and your immune system produces more inflammatory molecules, thus our nervous system turns on the stress response, promoting system breakdown and aging.


Vagus and Inflammation

New research has found that acetylcholine is a major brake on inflammation in the body and understanding how to consciously refine the benefits found in meditation and therapeutic movement, like yoga and flow state energy work can help activate the vagus nerve – which leaves you not only relaxed, but more joyful and thus compassionate.

A ground breaking piece of research by Kevin Tracey, director of the Feinstein Institute and Professor and President of the Elmezzi graduate school of molecular medicine in Manhasset, New York, has been knee deep in research for, what seems like ions on how the nervous system (the vagus nerve) controls inflammation in the body, now known as ‘The Inflammatory Reflex’. Inflammation is one of the major contributors to aging of the body and plays a key role in illness and disease. Tracey’s studies on inflammation, and the physiological and immunological response to infection and injury has been instrumental and he has worked on the mechanism by which neurons control the immune system; which he relates much success and reverse engineering disease in the body by activating the vagus nerve!

Inflammation isn’t always bad either; the vagus nerve is the brake on inflammation throughout the body. Once the vagus nerve senses that there are enough inflammatory substances (the chemicals of inflammation) following an injury it sends a signal to the immune cells that make those chemicals and tells them to turn off production, without it – we might literally burst Much like applying a break to your car, so the car can stop at the red light.

Studies have shown that there is a great link between inflammation and pain AND compassion. Seems logical enough. Studies have shown that those who show high vagal tone, have less disease, rake high on the healthy scales, and are – you guessed it – compassionate and inflammation free.


Brain Wave Frequency and Clearing the Mind

Another benefit to activating the vagus nerve is the connection with brain wave frequency and brain entrainment. When we calm the mind, the brain can make the transition to delta, theta and even gamma waves; which can be extremely beneficial for those who have sleep deprivation, or sleep disorders, as well as those in high stress occupations. Research has found higher levels of gamma brain waves and thicker brain cortexes (the areas associated with higher brain function) in people who meditate or perform slow energy work.


It shouldn’t seem unnerving that tapping into our vagus nerve increases compassion; and with that being said increases the sustainable benefits towards positive change for our planet and our humanity overall – Ketlner thinks so, and I would agree.



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