Back pain can range from being mildly uncomfortable to seriously debilitating and is incredibly common in the American population, with around 31 million people suffering from back pain at any given time.
One of the key factors in preventing back pain is strengthening and stabilizing the many different muscles of the core. However, often when people hear of their ‘core’, their minds instantly turn to images of ripped six-packs and strong abdominals.
Your abdominals actually play a leading role in supporting your spine. Ironically however, if you predominantly focus your attention on your rectus abdominus (abs) to the neglect of your other core muscles, you are likely to cause imbalance and weakness, putting your spine at risk.
For this reason many gym junkies or fitness fanatics, who are have not been properly guided in the do’s and don’ts of resistance training, often experience back pain, or worse end up doing some real damage.
So in today’s blog I would like to have a look at both understanding how to prevent back pain, and ways in which we can manage it.
Back Pain Prevention
When it comes to back pain prevention, in relation to resistance training, the key word here is ‘Balance’. Remember that even if aesthetics is your driving factor, strength, stability and balance should also be right up there on your list!
So firstly, let’s have a look at the back and the many different bones and muscles that comprise and support it:
The spinal column – This is made up of 33 vertebrae, 5 of which are fused and form the sacrum (S1-S5) at the base of your torso, and 4 that form the tailbone. 7 (C1-C7) more of these vertebrae are grouped together in a region known as the cervical vertebrae, which start from the base of the skull and move down. Then there are 12 (T1-T12) thoracic vertebrae, which is where the ribs are attached. Then there are the 5 (L1-L5) that make up the lumbar vertebrae, which form the lower back. Between each vertebrae is a cushioning disk that works to absorb any shock as well as keeping the spine flexible and limber. If these disks are put under too much pressure, from overloading or inappropriate movement, they can become injured. These injuries can range from mild to severe (such as disk herniation). When this happens the spinal cord, that runs internally through the spinal vertebrae, is at risk. These types of injuries can seriously impact on your mobility and independence.
Muscles of the core – The muscles of the core all work to provide stability, flexibility, strength and movement to your torso and spine. They are comprised of a combination of muscles found in both the abdomen and back, as well as including muscles of the hips, pelvis and neck. These core muscles can actually be divided into two main groups, those that are attached directly to the spine (the inner group) and work to support and stabilize its movement, and those that are attached to these stabilizing muscles (the outer group) and work to create your movement.
The major muscles of the inner group include:
- Transversus abdominus
- Internal obliques (fibres)
- Quadratus lumborum (fibres)
The major muscles of the outer group include:
- Rectus abdominus
- External obliques
- Quadratus lumborum
- Erector spinae
Even though the outer muscles are the ones that control the majority of your strength and movement (as well as the ones you can tone aesthetically), it is actually the inner group of muscles that need to be worked on to help prevent and manage back pain.
The reason for this comes back to what I mentioned previously; ‘balance’.
If your strength outweighs your ability to stabilize your core, then you are putting yourself at risk. You can look as strong as physically possible, however if you don’t cultivate balance into your workout, and strengthen these inner muscles that work to stabilize your spine during your movements, then you are likely to experience back pain or potentially do some serious damage.
This ‘balance’ also applies to the front, back and sides of your core. So when designing your workouts, make sure you don’t focus too heavily on one part (e.g. your abs) with the neglect of others (e.g. your obliques and lats).
This might sound like common sense, but I have actually spoken to many people who complain about experiencing back pain and find it hard to believe because they think that they keep their ‘core’ so strong. More often than not, this is simply because their focused workouts lack the appropriate balance needed for core stability and balance.
Ways in which to manage back pain
When it comes to managing back pain I’d like to firstly make it clear the importance of seeing an advanced practitioner who will give you a thorough orthopedic assessment (we have several advanced C.H.E.K practitioners here at Ascend) if you are experiencing any back pain that falls outside of general muscle soreness. As you may have noticed, your back is fairly integral to your wellbeing, so it is important that you look after yourself and not put your back at further risk.
From a physiological standpoint, the key to managing back pain is to get to the ‘core’ of the issue (please excuse the pun). By this I mean gradually working at both strengthening and stabilizing the muscles that support the spine.
In order to do this we need to focus our attention on the inner core muscles that are actually stabilizing the spinal column, as well as working at ‘balancing’ our outer core muscles.
The muscles that play the leading role in postural integrity are the internal and external obliques.
- The external obliques, located on either side of your abs, work to protect the lumbar spine against any rotations or twists. It is these movements that are most likely to cause damage to your spine.
- The internal obliques form the base support for the sacrum, as well as supporting the external obliques in protecting against rotations.
So which exercises are most effective at strengthening and stabilizing these muscles?
There are many exercises that have been devised by physiotherapists to specifically target the muscles required for spine stabilization, however you may be interested to learn that many of these exercises have actually been adopted from yoga.
In an interview between Ben Greenfield and the CEO and founder of Mindbodygreen.com, Jason Wachob, Jason actually talks about his struggles with being a 6”7 athlete with chronic back pain, and how yoga has not only helped him manage his back pain, but also eradicated the issue.
Another key component to reducing back pain and stabilizing the spine is reflecting on the way we breathe.
Poor breathing habits can actually contribute to a myriad of health condition including anxiety, heartburn, high blood pressure, digestive complaints and increased muscle tension.
Increased muscle tension in itself can contribute to poor posture and back ache, however it is the use of the diaphragm that plays a key role in both causing and helping manage back pain.
The diaphragm is a dome shaped muscle, positioned underneath your lungs and lower ribs, in the centre of your torso. Its is responsible for breathing, aids in digestion and is also the chief stabilizer of the lower back. It actually shares fibers and attachments with the lower ribs, and the deep stabilizing muscles of the lower back, as well as the serratus anterior (muscles of the shoulder).
When the diaphragm is being poorly activated, through bad breathing habits, the stability and support it offers the lower back and spine is lost. This can cause weakness and pain in these areas.
So what is proper breathing, you might ask?
From birth we breathe in a natural state, where the diaphragm pulls downwards, causing the belly to protrude slightly. The enables the oxygen to fill all the way down into the lower lobes of the lungs. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. We do this when we are in a relaxed state, such as when we are sleeping.
The problem is that the stresses and pressures of life has lead many of us to develop poor breathing habits that involve shorter and shallower breaths into our chest region, instead of deep into our belly.
This shallow breathing style can not only potentially cause problems with back pain, it actually tends to exacerbate the stress that causes us to breathe like that in the first place.
Ideally this style of diaphragmatic breathing should also be utilized during resistance training as much as possible. Instead of holding your breath during stabilization exercises, try to adopt a deeper version of diaphragmatic breathing.
So if you needed another reason to take some time out to internalize and relax.. Now you have one!
I went to Bali for an adventure and some yoga, not to have my vagina steamed. But, steamed it was. Bali is everything you (probably) ever dreamed up, and so much more. The charming village of Ubud is the place that comes to mind for most people when they hear about Bali. While Ubud doesnʼt have beaches, and there are many exciting and adventurous experiences to have all over Bali, Ubud is an anomaly in the middle of Indonesia.
Asia is my favorite continent, and Iʼve explored most of it, either through living locally or through traveling. And never have I come across a place like Ubud. For the people of Ubud, being happy and healthy, as in genuinely happy and healthy, is more important than anything else. Being grateful, taking care of themselves, and spending quality time with friends and family far outweighs anything material. Every single morning, the Balinese, young and old alike, perform an inspiring ritual, which is very laborious to prepare. They express their utmost gratitude to their gods, as they believe it will allow them to live in harmony and live a balanced life. We might remember to be thankful on Thanksgiving, but they do it daily, as it is part of who they are. In the mornings, I quietly watched as the woman of our compound gave offerings to the gods, prayed deeply about everything, small and big, that she was grateful for. She then blessed the house, the swimming pool, our motorbike, our shoes, me. I, in turn, felt grateful as well, it was hard not to. The Balinese believe they are blessed, and in believing so, they are in fact, blessed. Beyond their amazing and inspiring mindset towards life, they take care of their bodies in a way Iʼve never seen in the Western world, or for that matter, even the Eastern world. To say they eat healthy is an understatement. Everything they eat has a purpose, and itʼs purpose is how it can boost or maintain their health. Their diet is pure and simple and clean and beautiful and so delicious. I felt as if I was living within the “foodporn” hashtag. I didnʼt even have to try to find healthy food, healthy food found me.
In Ubud, you will also find a commitment to relaxation, but not in a generic made for a postcard way. In a way where itʼs woven into the fabric of their culture. Everywhere you look, massages and body treatments of every kind are offered. The people who are offering these services believe this is an important part of your livelihood, because itʼs an important part of theirs. Believe me when I say, I tried every kind of service, each one better than the last. Which is how I ended up getting a vaginal steam bath. It is exactly what it sounds like, and feels even more amazing and cleansing than you can imagine. The craziest thing is that these services were not only incredibly cheap, but I never once got the feeling that anyone was trying to rip me off, which I have often felt in many countries around the world.
There are so many other things to love about Ubud. The yoga classes are incredible and inspiring. You donʼt even have to try to find beauty, because is exists everywhere, both in the landscape and in the people. You cannot help but to radiate happiness in such a place, as the Balinese do. And now you have a rainbow of reasons to go and see for yourself. Why not!?
This amazing experience, among many others, has inspired me to help others get out there and see the world. I want to help you see the world without breaking the bank! I don’t believe travel is for people who have lots of money to burn. I believe travel is for everyone who wants to grow, dream, learn, be inspired, LIVE, and so much more. Why Not Adventures, my travel business, grew from a hobby and a passion. Domestic or international. Short or long. All the details or just a few. Tailor-made. Creative. I can save you money and time planning your next adventure. Iʼve heard time and time again that while itʼs fun to go on a trip, itʼs not fun to plan it. In fact, if itʼs planned well, itʼs very time-consuming and can be a stressful process. Thatʼs where I come in. I can do all the research for you, so you donʼt have to, while most likely saving you money. I can give you as much or as little guidance as you want. Tell me where you want to go, what you want to experience, and I can help get you there at the best price. I can plan you the grandest adventure and all you have to do is pack (I can even tell you what to pack!).
Over the past 15 years, I’ve traveled as far and wide and frequent as possible. I’ve collected unforgettable experiences from all corners of the globe. I’ve met and friended people that have changed my world view. Travel has absolutely transformed my life for the better. Each new opportunity, asking myself, “Why Not?” Let’s chat about your ideal trip, because I make adventures happen! Where do you want to go?
Learn more at http://whynotadventur.es/ or find me on Facebook at Why Not Adventures.
Cold water therapy is nothing new, in fact the ancient Romans used temperature controlled baths to treat a host of different ailments and disorders. It was used widely even in the US until the early 1900’s when it fell out of style to make room for more pharmaceutical practices, but it never disappeared completely and is on the rise again.
Athletes have been using this technique for decades to speed recovery times from intense physical exertion. Ice baths are common post-game ritual for football players and other athletes because the vascular reaction that it promotes.
The initial submergence into the ice cold water, shocks the system to immediately regulate blood flow to the surface, opening your capillaries at the surface of the skin. As exposure continues after the shock wears off, blood shunts to the internal glands and organs a phenomena known as the Hunter’s reflex. This full reversal stimulates the autonomic systems and exercise smooth muscles and veins in a way that is otherwise difficult to accomplish. And it does it all naturally.
The technique is thought to have a host of different benefits that include boosting immune function, decreasing inflammation and pain, increasing blood flow to the organs, decreasing recovery time after intense exercise and even improving sexual performance. Though only a limited number of these benefits are fully proven, like pain relief and muscle recovery time, there are people using the therapy for the full range of benefits.
One of the most interesting claims for the therapy is an increased metabolism and as an aid to weight loss.
Exposure to cold, particularly cold water submersion increases metabolic rate for as long as the person is exposed. The body can increase metabolism between 25% and 40% of average during exposure. Given the mechanism of brown fat however, these benefits do not extend to after the body’s temperature has stabilized at a more normal point.
Brown fat is an organ, situate around the neck, collar bone and spine of adults. It was previously thought to be absent in adults and found only in newborns and infants but that has changed in recent years. Its job is to help maintain body temperature and it does this by burning energy for heat, mainly fat store.
Cold exposure makes brown fat work, burning extra calories to keep the body warm. The more often somebody is exposed to the frigid waters of cryotherapy the better adapt their body becomes by increasing the amount of brown fat available. Brown fat is literally a fat that burns fat; it is associated with leaner body shapes and less fat stores all together. Those who are obese rarely have any brown fat at all.
Cold water hits the body’s fat stores twice. Along with stimulating brown fat to burn, cold water therapy improves leptin sensitivity in those who are struggling with weight loss. In fact the leptin biofeedback loop is one of the most difficult parts of the weight loss journey to overcome. As fat stores deplete, the body stops producing leptin and you become hungry. The trick is if you don’t eat the body slows metabolism. Those who are overweight produce enough leptin, but the difficulty comes in their sensitivity. Cold exposure increase the body’s leptin sensitivity making it easier to loss the excess weight and keep it off.
Cold water therapy is a natural stimulant to the sympathetic nervous system (part of the autonomic nervous system the part of the body you don’t control consciously). Cryotherapy makes the main focus on a strong internal physiology as opposed to an attractive external physiology. The health benefits, while tangible are not necessarily visible. You will just feel the immense difference in yourself and your health.
I’ve been traveling a lot recently, squeezed into small seats on airplanes, not moving around the cabin nearly as much as I’d like. And, if you know me, I bet you understand how difficult this has been!
Slumped in an uncomfortable seat on a recent flight back to San Francisco, I began thinking about posture and how sexy it is when I see someone walking or sitting tall, chest out, and shoulders back. It’s like the person exudes confidence which is not only anatomically correct but also incredibly hot.
I became obsessed with this question: how does posture affect not only our structural alignment but what does it say about the way we feel about ourselves and how others perceive us?
Let’s start with a quick assessment… how are you sitting as you’re reading this right now? If you’re anything like most people, you’re probably slouched at a desk or better yet, on a couch not really paying much attention to your posture and healthy spinal alignment. Maybe you’re even hunched over, feet on your chair, taking up as little space as possible and contracting your body.
We’ll get into ways to promote healthy posture and how it affects everything from the way we walk and exercise in another post. For now, I want to explore why good posture helps us actually feel confident and present as sexy and capable beings… which we all are!
Check out this TED Talk I discovered on something called “power poses”, the idea that standing in a poised and confident posture, even when we may not feel this way, actually affects the cortisol and testosterone levels in our brains, which impacts our behavior and ultimate life outcomes!
It’s a concept that’s best summed up as the body has the potential to change our mindsets, which lead to behavioral changes, which ultimately impacts outcomes and success.
I’m curious. How do you feel about good posture? Have you ever “faked it until you made it” using a confident power pose to help you mask potential insecurity or feelings of inadequacy? How did this impact your outcomes?
I challenge you to strike a power pose. Make posture something you are obsessed with on a daily basis.
Hold yourself high!
Many of you have had some type of bodywork performed by one of our incredible practitioners at Ascend– if not, I highly recommend we chat! Seriously, everyone is so passionate and here to make you feel like the best version of yourself; we want to see you breathing, sweating, and smiling each day.
I recently had a bodywork session with a client that was truly special. She asked, “why do we contract and stop breathing when we feel pain or fear?” I was blown away by her question. It’s such a simple yet profound observation of our relationship to ourselves and our broader lives. After some thought I responded, “it’s a shared aspect of human experience, especially when our safety is presumed to be at risk.”
In the massage room, I work in harmony with the person’s breath; I believe it’s integral to the session. Bodywork, as opposed to massage, is an expansive practice encompassing different aspects of healing by integrating physical, emotional, and spiritual components of well-being. It’s designed to promote healing and awareness. When I breathe with a client, we bring life into an experience. We embrace the discomfort and discover vastness and expansion together. We identify restrictions and move with intention to release trapped energy and potential. In doing so, we cultivate a stronger mind-body relationship and a deeper awareness of the power of breath itself.
Practicing working with our breath gives us awareness and releases us from fear and its restrictive, isolating grip on our lives. That’s why it’s essential to lean in, breathe, and push up against the confines of our fear and physical, emotional, or spiritual pain. We must practice breathwork mindfully and resist the temptation to run and constrict, to hide in the egoic fear of our perceived pain.
When we feel pain, our automatic response is to run or recoil from the undesired stimulus. We shrink from provocation to protect ourselves and adopt a flight or fight physiological response. Unfortunately, consistent reliance on this mechanism is consistently restrictive, especially when we’re not actually in immediate danger. Our adrenaline and cortisol levels rise and we constrict our breathing. This is all evolutionarily great if we need to run from a threatening animal but provided the comforts of modern-day society, I highly doubt this is a real scenario for most of us!
What is real is the trapped fear and pain that dwell within each of us– residual reminders of difficult situations in life. As humans, we have a tendency to drag the past with us and the mind is quick to protect us. So much so that we begin to barricade ourselves into lives that resemble concrete walls– no fun and lacking both passion and intimacy.
So, why do we constrict and hide?
Generally, we fear situations that are out of our control– we fear not getting what we want or think we deserve and we fear losing. By contracting, we create the illusion of safety and security.
As we continually constrict our breathing, we begin to create trigger points in the musculoskeletal system which become holding patterns of unexamined pain. We often don’t even realize pain exists in a particular area of the body until someone applies pressure to it. Notice I use the word pressure here and not pain. While the automatic response is to hold our breath, pull away, and hide, true healing occurs when we breathe into the discomfort. When we draw our attention to rather than from it, we give it breath, life, freedom and we transform.
Using breath allows us to arrive to a still point of no time, no space, and no-thing–that is when change occurs. We can do this through bodywork and breath is our catalyst.
This is why it’s powerful when a palpable connection exists between bodyworker and client. We’re able to explore where pain resides not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally. As the client resists the temptation to withdraw by gently leaning into discomfort through breath, she begins to internalize the importance of expansive breathing.
Pain or discomfort becomes our entry point into a deeper and more meditative exploration of self.
I recently returned from a five-day fitness conference in San Diego and want to share how much I absolutely love and appreciate each and every one of you. Thank you for reading our blog, for prioritizing health and wellness, and for being such an integral part of our growing community at Ascend Body. I am so grateful to work and train among people who create a sense of fulfillment and bring meaning to my life each day. Thank you, truly.
We all experience times in our lives where our jobs seem unremittingly stressful, our kids (or furry friends!) get sick, or the car breaks down and we lose sight of what really matters in our lives– the people, activities, and ideas we hold close and true. We become so consumed and preoccupied by never ending to-do lists and deadlines that it becomes nearly impossible to appreciate “the now”.
Although it can be hard to admit, this happens to us all; it’s a natural part of being human and leading productive, coexistent lives. What’s important is how we respond to added stressors, unanticipated events, and those times where everything feels completely beyond our control. When it does, I find it helpful to pause and to either think or write about what drives me and create the time to actually do what makes me smile.
While I was away, I realized that having alone time in a hotel always affords me uninterrupted time to reflect and think about what’s important in my life– the reasons why I wake up each morning and aspire to do what I do with passion and grace.
I thrive in a community filled with love and positivity and want to share 5 aspects of my life that make me feel truly and uncompromisingly alive.
- Growth. Growth is one of my core values. I love to learn, challenge myself, and expand my worldview through listening and studying. Anything that has to do with the inner workings of mind, body, and spirit and their interconnected nature motivates me to adapt and grow. I am inspired by our infinite capacity as humans to transform through spiritual practice, reading, and quiet observation.
- Exploring my purpose. I love helping people thrive. When I see a client change, progress, or overcome I feel more connected to my purpose than ever. When someone experiences an “aha! moment” I can actually see and feel the light turn on between what’s happening in the brain and the body’s physical response; the shift is indescribable and truly magical.
- Exercising in Nature. Running, hiking, biking, climbing, and playing outside make me feel alive. When I “turn off” my brain, push through the fear of not having enough time, and I stop worrying about my to-do list, everything suddenly changes. Life seems simpler, more fun, and fuller. I just have to trust, let go, and get outside.
- Love. Feeling love for other human beings inspires me to live the best and truest version of myself possible. Shared vulnerability is beautiful and when I feel a connection, I feel whole.
- Playing with my puppies. Their sweet unconditional love reminds me not to take life too seriously and to never stop playing.
Introducing Ascend Body’s most dynamic class: The ELDOA Method, taught by CHECK Level 2 Coach – IAN RYAN. The only class of its kind in the country, this 1-hour long group fitness class begins with an intention (i.e. an area of the body to focus on), will follow with a warm up (awareness drills), and will finish strong with a series of mysofascial stretches and ELDOA’s around the intention.
Wednesday’s at 6pm
Sign up now! Register on MindBody
WHAT IS ELDOA?
In short, ELDOA (Étirements Longitudinaux avec Decoaptation OsteoArticulaire), or more easily translated to Longitudinal Osteo-Articular Decoaptation of the Spine is a revolutionary stretching and strengthening technique for the spine and joints throughout the body. ELDOA postures are very specific compared to other techniques. If a client experiences pain because of compression between the 5th lumbar and 1st sacral, the de-coaptation position should target this exact level and not the one above or below.
Myofascial Stretching is the safest and most effective way to create space and balance in the body. This technique of stretching is extremely advanced because of its specificity to correct the body’s tensegrity through the fascial chains and it’s solicitation of the nervous system.
Read More Below….
WHY TAKE THE CLASS?
- Reduces Joint Inflammation and Arthrosis
- Delays Disc Degeneration
- Increases Disc Hydration
- Increases Blood Flow
- Improves Posture
- Relieves of Chronic and Acute Back Pain
- Relieves of Neck and Shoulder Tension
- Improves Awareness and Overall Wellbeing
- Improves Recovery Time for Sports and Training
- Reduces Forward Head Posture
- Normalizes Disc Bulges
- Reduces Degrees of Scoliosis
- Increases Flexibility
WHO CAN BENEFIT?
WORKING PROFESSIONALS & STUDENTS
One of the most common postural problems is the forward head posture. Since we live in a forward facing world, the repetitive use of computers, TV, video games, trauma and even backpacks have forced the body to adapt to a forward head posture. Repetitive movements in a certain direction will strengthen nerve and muscle pathways to move that way more readily. The ELDOA Method classes help to reverse these pathways by re-establishing your gravity line, strengthening the muscles of your back and spine, and correcting tensions of the restricted, overused muscles in your body.
“I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger!” FIghting gravity and the effects of inactivity is a lifelong endeavor! What are you doing to keep your spine strong, mobile, and healthy? Chronological aging may be inevitable but just as psychological health can be maintained with mental exercises, your biological health can be maintained and improved with the proper physical exercises. And It is never too late to start!
In the ELDOA Method classes, all of the positions can be modified to your specific needs or restrictions. The ELDOAs and Myofascial Stretches are incredible tools to help combat the detrimental effects that aging can have on your body. You will feel younger, taller, and more energetic when you make ELDOA METHOD classes part of your lifestyle.
PRE AND POST SURGICAL PATIENTS
If we were to gather a group of middle age folks (45 average age) who have NEVER had back pain before and shoot MRIs on them all, here’s what we would find:
- 38% would have disc bulges,
- 37% disc protrusions (aka: contained herniations),
- 11% disc extrusions (aka: non-contained herniations)
- 4% nerve route compression by the disc herniation.
Some statistics of Low Back Pain and how it could be related to degenerative disc disease and herniated discs:
- Most common complaint among adults
- Lifetime prevalence in working population up to 80%
- 60% experience functional limitation or disability
- Second most common reason for work disability
- Despite advances in imaging and surgical techniques Low Back Pan prevalence and its cost are relatively unchanged
- 90% people age >50 have degenerative disc disease
If you are suffering from or have recurring bouts of back pain caused by spinal injuries, the ELDOA METHOD is what you need! These postures will alleviate your symptoms by addressing the cause at the source of the problem. Attending the ELDOA METHOD Classes will decompress your spine and reinforce ideal posture so you can help reestablish a healthy spine!
MORE ON ELDOA
Guy VOYER DO developed an ELDOA exercise for every articulation in the spine starting at the base of the skull and ending with the sacro-illiac joint. Disc compression existing at any level of the spine can be addressed through a specific ELDOA exercise. ELDOAs are not limited to just the spine. There are ELDOA postures for all joints of the sacrum and pelvis as well as the shoulders and skull.
ELDOAs are postural self-normalizing techniques designed for widening the space within a chosen articulation. This is accomplished by creating fascial tension to fix the vertebra below and contraction in extreme range to normalize the vertabra above the targeted disc. For example, it is possible in one minute a day to relieve disc compression between T6-T7 or even more specifically at the base of the long arm of the left sacroiliac joint. It is possible to create more room in a particular articulation with an exact position adapted to each person.
ELDOA postures are very specific compared to other techniques. If a client experiences pain because of compression between the 5th lumbar and 1st sacral, the de-coaptation position should target this exact level and not the one above or below.
Myofascial Stretching is the safest and most effective way to create space and balance in the body. This technique of stretching is extremely advanced because of its specificity to correct the body’s tensegrity through the fascial chains and it’s solicitation of the nervous system.
All muscles are wrapped in an aponeurotic sleeve and connected with each other through numerous fasciae. Everyone knows about muscle stretching; however, it is difficult to stretch a muscle if it is wrapped in a leathery sleeve which does not give. It is better to consider each muscle as links in chains extending throughout the length of the entire body. The goal of every Myofascial stretch is to put into tension the fascia that encases the muscles in order to normalize the length and function of the fascial chains. When you do Myofascial stretches, you correct structural imbalances and release tension across the joints which reduces inflammation and pain.
The flexibility gains from Myofascial stretches will improve your mobility, and overall health. As you become more flexible, you’ll find that you have better posture, greater range of motion, that you are able to perform tasks with greater ease, and you’ll suffer fewer injuries.
Wednesday’s at 6pm
Sign up now!
Mark Anthony Haviland C.M.T., founder and owner of Beyond Bodywork will be leading this multi-dimensional workshop with lecture and a collaborative hands on study of the Chinese Five Element System (which bridges the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies), Meridians and the potent acupressure points in the body. Included in this 6 hour condensed course there will be self care techniques using QiGong, stretching and self massage. All material covered will have a focus on how and where emotions are held in the body, with specific techniques of how to move blockages in the body with awareness and heartfelt touch. This is designed for anyone, however highly beneficial for personal trainers, massage therapists, yoga teachers, psychotherapists and anyone in the health and wellness fields. Again, this workshop is designed and presented for anyone to participate, sink in deeper to a more full sense of wellness and be empowered.
“All emotions are stored in the body. When left unattended these past experiences can cause blockages and dis-ease. Marks works with every client to process, decompartmentalize, and weave together that which is held in the soul, psyche, and body.” – Beyond Body Work
It takes much more than movement to truly reach our potential as a human being – that’s been my coaching experience over the last 15 years. This may seem obvious, but it also takes more than nutrition, hydration, sleep, and functional breathing to reach our potential.
I believe that for each of us to reach our dreams, it takes a willingness to look within and find the roots of why we are the way we are physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. What are the conscious/unconscious boxes we keep ourselves in?
What does this mean for me? In this moment it means that your physical body is simply a biofeedback mechanism for your more subtle energy systems – specifically our consciousness, which through our organs, glands, and musculoskeletal system gain expression.
It means that your physical body can guide you into your sub-conscious by paying close attention to what your body is sharing. I would also invite you to consider that even “random” injuries hold purpose and expression from our consciousness.
What we perceive is what we believe, and what we believe is what we perceive. Your perceptions of yourself and others literally create the movie you watch each and every moment.
If your current movie is seen through the eyes of the past, can you actually ever be present?
If you are unaware that you are responsible for your movie is it possible to change the film reel?
If what I am sharing is even half true, is it possible to cultivate healthy change without addressing your thought patterns?
I’ve had many clients come to me with issues related to posture, many of whom present with an upper cross syndrome (forward head, rounded shoulders, kyphotic thoracic spine). What does this posture really say about their state of mind and how they see the outside and experience the inside world?
In my experience, using only five of the six foundational principals – Nutrition, Movement, Hydration, Sleep, Breathing – will not change this person’s posture long term. If he perceives the outside/inside world as overwhelming, feels as if he has no personal power to take a stand, is afraid to share his heart openly, or is in a relationship in which he’s continually choosing to be abused physically, emotionally, and mentally, I would be highly surprised to see postural changes that hold unless these roots are addressed.
To see the future all you need to do is look to the past. Until these roots are addressed we will each continue to create the same “movie” over and over – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
The above is only my experience – it is only what I have perceived which has become what I believe, could this be true for you too?
Is it a possibility that most of us are running on empty or completely on credit? I’m not speaking about a monetary bank account – I’m speaking to our internal energy bank account, our vitality or chi.
If we have dreams of becoming leaner, stronger, faster etc… Could it also be possible that these ideas will be more difficult to reach unless we have an internal bank full of reserve energy?
Lastly, is it possible that we may also need to address the underlying mental and emotional blockages that are unconsciously draining our vitality from “behind the curtain”?
In my experience these are all possibilities, and I have found them to ring true often. In my first offering to the CHEK community, I thought it would be helpful to offer ways I personally cultivate energy, and pull the metaphoric curtain back to look within my psyche.
Below are guidelines to using healing exercises for both energy cultivation and connecting with deeper rooted mental, emotional blockages. These are only guidelines based on my personal experience, please feel free to use whatever works well for you. Choose any of the below or make up your own as part of your daily practice.
An energy cultivation exercise is any movement that is done using your calm, slow, deep breath as a guideline for movement pace (inhale with extension, exhale with flexion). Your tongue/mouth will stay moist, not dry, and your heart rate will not increase. My favorite guideline is imagine you just over-ate at a Thanksgiving dinner. The pace of movement would be one that you innately feel would promote digestion, not inhibit it. The zone exercises at the end of Terrence Thomas’s post last week are great examples of energy cultivation exercises.
Once you’ve selected your exercise, here are seven tips to maximize the energy and healing you’ll receive from the movement:
- I enjoy bringing intention to any given healing exercise, then during the exercise having focused attention to my intention. This helps to focus the mind and is a form of meditation. Where your mind is focused your energy will follow.
- As you do these “Energy” exercises, imagine that you are breathing in a deep cooling color which vibrates with the given Chakra – 1st Red, 2nd Orange, 3rd Yellow, 4th Green, 5th Blue, 6th Purple, 7th Light purple. If you aren’t familiar with the Chakra system, you can choose any color which feels soothing and healing to you. Imagine the color infusing every cell in your body, helping you to move any blockages which show up physically as:
- Past Injury
- Current pain
- Stability issues
- Tight muscles (yang) Breathe in Yin
- Loose muscles (yin) Breathe in Yang
- Simply guess what part of you is in need of attention. This is not an exercise in thinking, it is literally an exercise in guessing. For example ask yourself this question “if I had to guess, what part of me is in need of the most attention in this moment?” Pay attention to what arises in your mind, 2 year old self, 3 year old self etc… Once you have the age or moment in time that is in need of love, literally speak to that part of yourself and give yourself exactly what you need (out loud). It may seem awkward or weird at first, but the healing here is amazing and well worth the challenge.
- Wear the color of the chakra you are working on will help to attract that specific supportive energy during healing work.
- Chant affirmations during exercise that correlate to the Chakra you are addressing. (A beautiful book for affirmations and other healing modalities is The Book of Chakra Healing by Liz Simpson).
- Focused breathing into your organs and glands during healing exercise is another way to become intimate with your self. Before exercise, quiet your mind and gently ask for guidance as to what organ or gland needs nourishment, pay attention to what comes up, then focus intention and attention towards that system for healing during exercise.
- Purely focus on the flow of breath during any healing exercise. You will notice that your mind wanders away from breath and goes into “thinking”, recognize this, smile, and bring your attention and intention back to your breath.
These can be done anytime – when you are stressed, they can be used to decrease stress, when you are low on energy they can be used to energize you, your innate wisdom will give you exactly what you need in any given moment.