As we strive to excel in our physical performance, our drive often leads us to ignore signals of pain. Yet, pain is a highly instructive experience, and can lead us to understand so much more about our bodies if we learn to listen. The body's innate wisdom must be respected. Gray Cook eloquently describes the importance of heeding these signals; "The presence of pain in the movement matrix changes the rules of fitness and rehabilitative exercise. Because of pain, we cannot use physiological principles to attack movement dysfunction, nor can we rely on consistent outcomes of strength, endurance, and flexibility. Pain changes the way we move. It is unpredictable and highly individualized. We do not know how a body will move when pain dictates the movement; we just know it is altered from situations that are pain free... Pain is a warning sign. Long before pain represents a chronic problem, it can alert us to poor alignment, overuse, imbalance and inflammation... We embrace all other warning signs in our lives - a computer virus alert, the oil light on the dashboard- but when it comes to the body we act as if the warning sign of pain is an inconvenience. If we ignore pain's natural self limiting nature, we are ignorant of the lessons its ancient design provides."
While High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been widely accepted by athletes as a means to boost performance and lower body fat, studies have now revealed that it is also highly advantageous to those with chronic disease. Far more efficient, enjoyable and health promoting than long bouts of aerobic exercise, HIIT involves cycling through periods of all out intensity for a brief period of time such as 30-60 seconds, followed by a comparable period of moderate activity, for a total of about twenty minutes. The activity might include cycling, running, jumping, climbing, swimming, weight lifting, dancing, etc; the more variety, the better. Individuals should be cleared for vigorous activity by a medical practitioner before embarking on an HIIT program.
Benefits include enhanced glucose utilization, insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular and lung function, hormone balance, connective tissue health, reduced stiffness and pain, brain health, higher energy levels and improved mood.
I often here people expressing a desire to be more "flexible", when upon further inquiry, I learn that what thy are truly seeking is more "mobility". While this may seem like a case semantics, it underlines a key concept in strategies used to optimize one's movement potential. One's ability to move through a healthy range of motion depends on four parameters; soft tissue extensibility ("flexibility"), joint alignment, neuromuscular control, and strength. If a person is seeking a greater range of motion, and is only using stretching to increase flexiblity, not only are they approaching a small part of the mobility picture, but they may be doing more harm than good. The body always strives for a balance of tensile forces; a dynamic equilibrium between mobility and stability. If the body senses instability (ie an impinged joint, an overstretched tendon), it will send messages for tissues to tighten in response, to protect itself. If one attempts to release the tension by stretching, the body senses the resultant laxity of tissues and signals for them to tighten up even more. Thus, if you are striving to release ongoing tension somewhere in your body by stretching, and the tension prevails, stop! Instead, investigate why the tension is there; is the involved joint impinged? Is there a neuromuscular control misfire? Is there a strength imbalance? The body is extremely intelligent and ongoing tension is a strong clue that the body is trying to protect itself because you are moving in an imbalanced way. Listening to your body's signals and investigating the prime source of imbalance will lead to optimal healing, and performance. This podcast by Dr. Gray Cook, physical therapist and leader in human performance research, outlines these concepts with clear precision. Enjoy learning about optimizing your mobility.
Can you imagine being a solar powered individual, deriving all your energy from the sunrise or sunset? Never needing to eat? As wild as it sounds, one individual, Mira Hanek, has been doing so since 1995, with great health success, and he lectures around the world on the power of Sun Gazing to heal the mind, body and spirit. Hanek's beliefs center on the direct connection of the eye to the hypothalamus and pineal gland, an endocrine organ which produces melatonin. Dr. Mercola explains; "HRM believes that the light energy you take in while sun gazing activates your dormant pineal gland, which then turns your “brainuter” on. It is this activation that causes you to experience the magical conversion of sun energy into nutrition, healing of disease, heightened energy, increased psychic abilities and, ultimately, enlightenment." (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/01/08/feasting-on-sunshine.aspx).
The process is simple; gently gazing at the sun in the rising or setting state (not mid day times) for a maximum of 10 seconds to start, and gradually increasing the time by 10 seconds for a period of several months. After three months, improvements in health and well being have been documented. Hanek describes the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of sun gazing, drinking sun charged water (leave your water in a glass container out in the sun to "charge" it), and walking barefoot in the dirt (also known as Grounding; beach sand is the best!). While the exact health mechanisms are not understood, we all know the rejuvenating feeling of a barefoot walk on the beach, gazing at the sunset. And the profound effect this has on healing. I am curious to know of any Malibu Sun Gazer experiences in optimizing health...Enjoy the glorious sunrise and sunset.
Hanek's presentation can be found here.
Best to all,
On my personal quest to unravel the mysteries of myofascial tension patterns, I have been learning how pivotal jaw alignment is, in not only biomechanical health, but in preventing inflammation and disease. Because of the location of the jaw, beside cranial nerves and the top of the spinal column, any malignment in one's bite can have far reaching effects on the nervous system, and hence, on overall health. In addition to muskuloskeletal imbalances extending through the spine and limbs, (cases of intense knee pain have been observed to subside with correction of bite alignment) bite dysfunction creates chronic stress on the body, raising the nervous system to a state of flight or flight, and elevations in Substance P, heightening inflammation and impediing healing. Speech defects, oculomotor imbalances, eyelid droop, and anxiety have also been observed. Dave Asprey's Bullet Proof Radio recently highlighted this in an interview with Dwight Jennings, a dentist and specialist in dental orthopedics (https://www.bulletproofexec.com/dr-dwight-jennings-tmj-jaw-pain-substance-p-179/).
This is an area not often explored when addressing imbalances in the body, and yet, it is critical. My personal experience in correcting my life long habit of teeth grinding, and aligning my jaw with the guidance of local experts Dr. Bob Perkins, D.D.S, and Joy Moeller, a myfunctional therapist, is leading me to unravel chronic tension patterns in my body from head to toe. The effects of jaw tension are extensive; the good news is, so are the benefits of correcting it! If you experience jaw tension, consider seeking out a neuromuscular dentist or a myofunctional therapist to help you. In the interview cited above, several resources are made available, including the I.C.C.M.O. A relaxed and well aligned jaw is key to overal health and well being.
Wishing you all a vibrant, healthy, happy holiday season.
Haivng listened to another great interview with Mary Bond, I am inspired to share the information; Mary studied with Ida Rolf, and is leader in the field of balancing the body from within. Mary eloquently differentiates between support and stabilization and how this affects the way we inhabit our bodies. Support is received from the environment; if we trust our environment and feel supported, we may release tension and arrive at a sense of relaxation. Stabilization is generated from within, and demands internal tension, in essence to protect oneself. While healthy levels of tension are required for movement, too much tension will block movement and create compression in the joints. For example, the way we perceive our environment will determine the flow of our walk; from a relaxed fluid spiraling motion, to a rigid side to side type of gait. The tension we hold in our eyes and jaw directly relates to the tension we experience in our spine. If you spend hours in front of a computer screen or have experienced stress/trauma to your head or neck, you will benefit from this simple, quick exercise by master teacher, Mary Bond. This video oulines how freeing movement at the junction of the head and neck liberates movement throughout the spine. Small changes in how we perceive, navigate, and respond to our environment can have profound effects on the organization of our bodies, and thus how we move and feel. Enjoy the freedom! http://healyourposture.com/2013/08/free-your-head/