Archive for learning

Sitting Lesson

Sitting Better

Oh-Oh, another thing to do!  Wait, this can be a bit painless.  I have just made a short video that gives you some of the basic information you need to sit smart.  This means that it is the very basic information you can use to make sitting a bit more comfortable.  Now it does take some work.  Most of us are working way too much.  Some of us would love to get some work–(and get paid for it).  Either way we are all sitting around.  In fact as I type I’m sitting.  So it’s pretty universal.  Proper sitting is essential for those of us who are in pain due to improper sitting.   How do you know that this means you?  Just try it out!

View this video and see if it doesn’t help give you some things to work on.  Remember the work is in the practice, practice, practice–doing it well.  Of course doing it well means slowly coming to be able to feel what you are doing and then feeling how to change it.  Remember the key is finding out what you do by creating an ability to actually sense these movements and postures.  Then changing them becomes easier.  The repetition of the change helps then change the previous habit.

Note the details of sitting here pertain to sitting without the back of a chair.  The main lesson is especially pertinent for those of us doing a forward oriented tasks.  These would include writing, actively speaking or other table/desk type of tasks that focus us to the space in front of ourselves.

Video on Sitting

Conclusion

I want to thank my teachers who have taught me.  I simply have “stolen” their ideas and given them to you here.  Of course I must mention Swami Veda Bharati, who is the Michelangelo of sitting for meditation.  This video is only the introduction to learning how to mechanically sit better.  It is not a treatise on meditation or sitting for meditation.

The introductory course that is taught by me on sitting for meditation is at least 6 hours.  We break that up into two days of three hours each.  Much more is taught than just the mechanics, so this is only a start.

This sitting lesson is for all of us who sit–especially in the unsupported sitting position.  Sitting against the back of a chair–or oh my god, against the back of a sofa or pillow–is quite different.

Good luck in your practice and feel free to comment below–thank you–peter

Greatest Therapy Ever

Retrospective

Do you know the greatest therapy for a movement problem.  Practically if we are walking and talking, over time we will all experience life’s aches and pains.  This problem could be based on a recent trauma or just accumulated over our natural course of living the “way” we do.  So what do we do?

We often see someone who is an expert or helped someone we know.  Maybe we first see someone in a medical field or sports/rehabilitation area.  Let’s say we have developed a chronic neck complaint.  It comes and goes somedays.  It is aggravated by turning our head to look behind.  Our local MD told us to take some Asprin and get some exercise.  Anyway we aren’t getting any younger and this pain in the neck (we are told) is to be expected.

OK–now if this sounds familiar or even possible–we still would like to know what is the best thing to do.  What is the greatest therapy that could relieve this problem?  There are certainly lots of advertisements and no lack of recent claims for guaranteed relief.  Over time we have seen so many different types of therapy for similar problems.  The interesting observation is that some of them do work and many of them don’t.  It seems like we have ranged in our search from prayer to medication.  We have used tried body works of many kinds.  There are have been a variety of energy medicine approaches.  Proper exercise and a variety of modalities have their adherents.

Observation

Paying attention is key in anyone using some of the above mentioned methods (body work, energy medicine, exercise, modalities).

  • First do not seek the answer to what to do (Should I get Chiropractic or Physical Therapy treatment for my chronic stiff neck)
  • Start asking questions which lead you to first paying attention (What makes this problem worse and better?)
  • Compare moving in one direction to the opposite.  Really look at and feel how you move as well as how it feels.  Don’t just focus on the pain.

Next Step

First realize that the above observation outline is way to brief to properly address all the inquiry that is needed.  It is just a reminder that in finding what therapy to select, you start with observing yourself first.  Do not blindly follow an advertisement or blindly follow some anecdotal recommendation on who to see.  Let’s say you want to get going and get some relief or help.

The Greatest Therapy Ever Part 1

In my over 30 years of experience as a Physical Therapist and Yoga Teacher, I haven’t found it.  Wait, don’t leave just yet.  My point here is that I have seen so many different approaches come and go.  Many of them are still around as the time frame of even 50 years is relatively short.  It’s like the above waterfall picture–much has come and gone in this world of therapy.  (mainly gone in popularity of the ever changing present).

History

When I was a younger in the 50’s-early 60’s, if you had a sore neck you just continued along your way.  If it got bad for some of the older folks, they saw a medical doctor, who usually advised drugs and surgeries (many of which we don’t do anymore–we do new and improved ones now days).  A few saw a Chiropractor, often for a lengthy amount of time.  Physical Therapy was often palliative using modalities (heat, cold, ultrasound and cookbook exercises).  Some people did massage but not for these kind of pain problems (mainly a rub down after a workout at one of the athletic clubs).

I did not hear about energy medicine until that later 60’s and 70’s when therapeutic touch and acupuncture started to be known to me.  Later in the 70’s and 80’s Yoga and Osteopathic Manual Medicine came into view.  I trained to become a Physical Therapist in the late 70’s and started teaching Yoga in the 80’s.

Since then I have trained in many disciplines and continue to participate in continuing education in fields of health and fitness and yoga.

The Greatest Therapy Ever Part 2

This topic is the wrong topic for looking for help with pain and movement problems.

The Greatest Therapy or the Best Exercise or the Perfect Posture, etc is only a guide to begin.

Look to the Way in which these methods are used.  It is in the details of how a practitioner implements these helpful therapies.  It is in the details of how we practice these therapies or methods.

Note the variety of the therapies or methods used today.  There are certainly some popular ones.  As I have said before, they do tend to come and go.  Some of them have been around for longer though.

  • Look at all of them from this stand point of asking questions.
  • Do they provide more questions for you to answer, or do they provide only a cook book approach (the latter can be useful in acute problems)
  • Learning how to improve something that has been a problem for a long period of time doesn’t happen in a short period of time
  • Enter into a training program where you are being evaluated on a regular basis.  (this evaluation includes your own)
  • Practice under supervision.  Get regular feedback.  It is invaluable

There are many helpful approaches.  The approaches under the guide of a skillful eye is what is most productive in the relief of the problem.  If the underlying problem is eliminated or eased the accompanying symptom must improve.

Next

  1. Identify what you want different
  2. Ask many questions about it
  3. Participate in training classes and/or individual sessions with people who can provide skillful feedback
  4. Continuously and regularly re-evaluate and adjust your practice and therapies
  5. Get results!  If not review the above, add/delete until progress continues.  Learn and adapt.
  6. That driving force of progressing and re-balancing in all of us will provide the Greatest Therapy.  Just remove the obstacles in the way.

Consultation

If I can be of any assistance in your practices, please do not hesitate to call or stop by for a class or session.  Contact me here.

Strong Posture

Stability in Movement

Ability to maintain your structure in balance with ease and grace.  Look at the picture of a Mountain woman.  See the ease of alignment in this snapshot of posture.  Note that the posture is not static.  It allows for efficient organization for a task–whether it be active or passive in nature.

Posture is not holding a position.  Posture is a recognition of stability that can be expressed statically or in movement. The different factors that go into posture can be easily perceived from first looking at a static arrangement.  A posture that is easeful, graceful and efficient is strong.

Elements of a Strong Posture

  • Proper alignment of the structure
  • A balance of weight and forces efficiently throughout the structural arrangement
  • Balance of the facilitation and inhibition of the neuromusculoskeletal system
  • Allows for ease of multi-directional movements
  • Breathing
  • Leads towards a pleasant mindedness

Proper Alignment

There are many excellent models to demonstrate this integration of the structure in space.  The body can be looked at as an assembly of parts that we place in a certain relationship with the adjacent part.  This reduction of the structure to parts has advantages for ease of learning.  One of it’s main disadvantages is one is often left with trying to do and hold a particular alignment.  Again not always bad, just incomplete if one stops with the postural process at this point.

So keep all the parts aligned–OK.  Well first of all we all are a bit different.  Our structures have limitations in range of motion or flexibility.  So keeping your head with chin tucked and your chest up can be a problem for some.  If you have a flexed thoracic or chest spine that is rounded forward, you attempt to move the chest UP, can lead to increasing your lower back to thoraco-lumbar backward bending curve.

This pattern of our individual differences can and does lead to increased mal-alignment vs improved alignment.   These compensations we all make are often unnoticed.  They are silent in our sense of our posture.  If we have an experienced practitioner with us they can point this out.  Sometimes a telling view of (unknown) tagged photo, reveals these postural mis-alignments.

Our ability to feel is often more limited to our ability to see.  (Not true for all).  So seeing it helps.  Having a skillful eye give us feedback can be very revealing.

Also training our sensory positional and movement feedback system becomes integral.  One way to aid in this training is to start appreciating where you feel weight throughout the different areas of the body.

Balance of Weight and Force

Actually we start with developing a feeling sense of where the body is aligned.  The above sense of alignment is based on seeing our alignment usually.  This next aspect is complimentary and uses not the visual sense but this ability to sense weight and pressure.

Often we can start at the feet.  Always start with a question also.

Where do you feel the weight on your feet as are standing?

Do you feel more weight on the front or back of the foot–or is it even feeling?

Now for background on this section–it is important to notice that the question is on what you FEEL, not on what you Think you feel or just notice what your mind in your head would estimate, etc.  This discrimination of feeling vs thinking/knowing, can be actually hard for some people to distinguish.  They haven’t paid attention to what they feel in weight or pressure or force for a long time.  Their response is on what they think it should be.

Also when someone says they feel the weight evenly on their feet–you might observe that they are leaning backwards more and have more weight on their heels and very little on the front of their feet.  Are they wrong in what they said?

Absolutely not!  That is important to understand.  The question asked above was based on what they felt.  It was not based on what they are doing.  Do you see the difference here?  Intellectually I am sure you do.  As we work together I find that many do not really “get” the difference.  It is important to understand this distinction between knowing and feeling of weight when we are trying to develop greater and broader ways of sensing.

Remember doing is based on feeling/sensing information.  You can not button your clothing or zip your zipper if your finger tips have been numbed from the freezing cold.  Do you remember how fumbling your actions were then?

OK.  This training of posture is more than just standing tall or lengthening, etc.  There is as much training here as with any skill acquisition.  It can be made simple at first.  In relearning it doesn’t have to become laborious.  But in teaching it well you would be served well by knowing and feeling all these aspects that underlie sensing, learning and doing for creating strong yet dynamic postures.

Balance of Neuromuscular Facilitation and Inhibition

This can be a very long section.  Let me give a simple example of what I mean here.  In classes I teach, I will look for someone who stands in a classic sway back and has more of their weight obviously on their rear foot.  We will go through the above section of feeling weight, etc.

Next I will simple muscle test their elbow flexors as a group in standing.  Their elbow flexors 99/100 times test weak in their sway back and back weighted position.  Then simple manually help them stand in an easy neutral.  So there isn’t an extension pattern bias in their posture.  Retesting their elbow flexion results in demonstrably stronger elbow flexors.  Wow it seems like magic.  It is amazing every time.  The flexors are suddenly stronger.  Why?  I propose that the extension pattern in their first stance was inhibiting their flexors.  Simply balancing out this inhibition of the flexors through postural readjustment allowed more normal function of these same flexors.  No weeks of strength training needed.

This balancing of facilitation and inhibition patterns exist throughout posture and movement.  A lot of positive training changes can be accounted for from this model and this type of work.

Ease of Movement in Multiple Planes

When working to improve posture we must look at how it functions in movement.  Often when I just correct someones posture, they do it by holding something more.  They are trying to just do it better.  Standing better in the above example often is demonstrated by being stiff in ones posture.

If posture is looked at as a transition between movements, then we can become less stiff quickly.  If we have a forward head position.  Say we just correct it my doing that popular turtle movement of retracting the head and neck.  Well there are many things to feel in this relationship.  We will not cover the method of helping someone with a forward head posture per se at this time.

The idea is not in the simplistic and isolated cue of correction.  I want you to focus on how easy it can be to make these corrections if thinking about movement.  Now you have simply placed the head more over the upper back.  (I know this is artificial without addressing the other relationships–but bear with me, thanks).  Ask them to move the head by turning to look left and right.  Again work on this isolated cue of correcting the posture, but just add movement and then posture.  Repeat the posture with the movement.  Slowly or quickly sometimes the posture will become more easily repositioned without the previous stiffness.

There are many other ways of working with posture and movement together.  It becomes more dynamic.  I’m sure many are doing this combination.  It just can be refined more and more with all of these points together.

Breathing

This is a key in life.  Right?  Not only because if you don’t–then you can’t (continue life).  But breath here helps coordinate all the aspects of the bodies reflex mechanisms with the voluntary mechanisms.  There is much to say about breath.   The most important is to establish normal diaphragmatic breathing rhythms in the new postures.  If you can breath well you can do well.  You will even be more sensitive in what you are aware of in posture and movement.

Breath is key not only for life itself, but in living of this life

Notice when someone stops breathing.  They stop feeling.  They become stiffer.  Posture implies movement.  Breath is the support of this movement.  Stop the breath or breathe shallowly and your posture and movement becomes shallow and imbalanced.

Pleasant Mindedness

Oh, this is so important.  In training, especially posture we not only hold our bodies but our emotions and mental focus.  Non of this is bad.  Just simply try encouraging:

Have a pleasant mind or

Are you enjoying?

Immediately I find them smiling and relaxing and enjoying.  Wow, this is also magic.  Having a pleasant mind while training is like breathing.  It makes all the difference in learning and acquiring new skills.

Now find out about your posture and work with some of these aspects.  Include those that may not be as familiar or used as much.  If there is any way I can help, just let me know.  If you are in the Northern California area, please consider a consult at one of my offices.