More wife’s wife style than mine, I have grown to like this record, Sophia Knapp’s debut album Into The Waves.
This weeks weekend mashup, a collection of articles from around the web that don’t warrant a post of their own.
Can humans really feel temperature is a cool (no pun intended), and short video well worth watching. Videos like these are why I am so good at procrastinating.
I could care less that the guy is a vegan. The workout is incredible. I particularly love the stair climbing bit. My son Reggie was convinced it was a fake.
The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life. Honey can survive thousands of years and still be edible. It is truly a superfood with tons of medicinal benifits.
I haven’t written nearly as much about my interest in peeing as I have about sleeping and walking but I will try to pick up the pace as incontinence is soemthing I am looking to avoid. This link, What the Color of Your Urine Says About You has a great infographic about you and your pee. As a hepatitis C sufferer I am acutely aware of these markers.
An ancient city is found underwater speaks for itself. I just love stuff like this.
Finally, 17 commandments from water god Laird Hamilton. I particularly like #15.
I have been teaching people to walk correctly for a number of years now and people still look at me cross eyed when I share that. This remains why many of my clients are people that need pain relief and have not found it on all the traditional roads to wellness. I get the occasional person who sees themselves on a wedding video and wakes up to the need to move differently but for many I am a place of last resort. Obviously I would like to see that change.
It makes perfect sense to me that walking correctly can help with pain relief but for some reason this doesn’t occur to everybody. But no one, and I do mean no one, thinks that walking is bad for you.
A blog in the Times yesterday from the Science of Fitness writer Gretchen Reynolds (who I would love to get in touch with if anyone has a contact) titled Why a Brisk Walk Is Better starts with:
Walking, fast or slow, is wonderful exercise. But now a first-of-its-kind study shows that to get the most health benefits from walking, many of us need to pick up the pace.
I have no problem with the piece though I particularly like the comments that go after one of my favorite issues with so many pieces on the benefits and negatives of so many exercise articles—correlation is not causation.
What about walking correctly?
But that aside, this article and almost every article on walking—and needless to say I read a lot of articles on walking—says nothing about walking correctly. What else do people not care about doing correctly? Oh yeah, breathing which I have been writing about all week. These unconscious physical actions tend to get short shrift when it comes to technique.
Walking correctly is essential to making the most of walking as an exercise. Many people go through life without walking correctly and get away with it but that isn’t necessarily a reason not to learn how to do it well.
With that I’ll return to the title of the post. Walking correctly can help with pain relief. Walking in and of itself is good for you but it can actually makes things worse if you suffer from pain or are recovering from injury. Walking correctly is both a way to help you age gracefully and recover from pain and injury issues.
The body is designed to be self-healing if used well, and walking is a key component of using the body as designed. I know it might sound goofy that you should learn to walk but five years later I can tell you with confidence that learning to walk correctly can change your life for the better.
Alternate nostril breathing is a wonderful exercise that I will address in another post. This post on alternate nostril breathing will cover the fact that our two nostrils are working in different capacities at different times of the day.
At all times during the course of a day we have a dominant nostril. You can feel this with no trouble at all by closing off one nostril and inhaling, and then closing of the other and doing the same. You should clearly feel the nostril that is functioning more easily. And this workload will switch every two hours or so with the dominant nostril taking a backseat to the weaker one. And then two hours later they will switch again. You can check out a cool app on learning to breath here- Breathing Lessons.
This concept of our nostril breathing in different rhythms has always fascinated me. There are numerous reasons for why this happens. Our olfactory sense is one of them—at any given time one nostril does a better job identifying different smells depending on which one is dominant at that moment. Odd as it might sound some smells are easier to detect when breathing freely and more quickly while others are better distinguished through the more clogged nostril.
One of them aspects of walking correctly that I teach is that when our body works successfully half of the body gets to relax with each step that we take. With the natural function of alternated nostril breathing, one nostril gets a bit of a break as the other carries a fuller workload. This regular ebb and tide of effort and relaxation is essential to a healthy body.
The other day I wrote about chest breathing and its deleterious effect on our nervous system, particularly its ability to keep us stuck in the sympathetic nervous system. It is our autonomic nervous system, of which both the sympathetic (excitation) and parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous systems are a part, that controls the switching of this alternate nostril breathing.
Alternate Nostril Breathing and the Nervous System
Along with this rhythm of alternative nostril breathing we find that the brain alternates between hemispheres at relatively the same rate. These two rhythms correspond in an alternating pattern with the dominant right nostril working with the dominant left hemisphere. The right nostril is considered to be related to the sympathetic nervous system and the left connected to the parasympathetic nervous system.
The yogic breathing technique referred to as alternate nostril breathing, or nadi shodana, that I will write about soon, seeks to balance the left and right hemispheres of the brain and the energy channels known in yoga as the nadis.
A similar sense of balance and equilibrium is what I am trying teach people by showing them how to walk correctly. Balance across all planes of the body, mind and spirit is what we need to age grafefully which is all I really want to do.
Sleeping with my mouth taped shut is the latest in my endless attempts to improve the effectiveness of my sleep. I track my sleeping patterns obsessively with my Fitbit pedometer and slowly but surely my efforts are paying off.
I first learned about taping my mouth shut from a friend who studied the Buteyko breathing method. This was developed in the 1950’s by Ukrainian doctor Konstantin Buteyko as a treatment for asthma. The Buteyko method proposes the idea that many people are hyperventilating without knowing it. As I wrote a couple of days ago hyperventilation can lead to low carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
I tried this technique once before with limited results though I don’t honestly remember why I stopped. Since that time I have definitely put more conscious effort into breathing through my nose more regularly in my waking life so maybe that is why sleeping with my mouth taped shut seems so much easier this second time around. The first time I had general issues with panic that would come up when I first put the tape on. Now that is not happening at all.
People are often recommended to sleep with their mouth shut for sleep apnea but in that case there is a sort of mask that they sell that goes around the chin and crown of the head that keeps the jaw as well as the mouth shut. This same device is often suggested to help with snoring, though I think the mouth taped shut might help that issue as well.
As an aside I was asked in a yoga class recently what poses make me angry or uncomfortable and my reply was while the asanas themselves all make me happy the practice of exhale retention freaks me out. I have fairly good access to the breath and don’t have a big problem with holding my breath on the inhale but trying to hold my breath after exhaling takes me to the brink of panic in very short order.
But back to sleeping with my mouth taped shut. Strange positive things happen within minutes of trying to go to sleep with my mouth taped shut. If my nose is stuffed when I first lay down, it clears up within a minute or two and my nostrils clear. I honestly don’t know why this happens but it does consistently.
If I wasn’t taping my mouth shut I would breathe through the mouth all night long and there are many health advantages to breathing through the nose. For one, again relating to Monday’s post about chest breathing and panic, breathing through the mouth tends to activate, or more easily activate, the sympathetic nervous systems which controls our flight or fight response.
Breathing through the nose warms and moistens the air as well as acting as a filter against contaminants in the air. It improves the oxygenation of the blood as well as reducing the heart rate. And it can help with snoring.
For all of these reasons in addition to my compulsive need to improve the duration and quality of my sleep, I will continue sleeping with my mouth taped shut for a while. BTW, I am using a paper tape from CVS that is effortless to remove, and leaves little to no residue in the morning.
Psoas major release work is essential for people who have issues with the psoas muscle. These issues can include lower back, hip and groin pain. Psoas issues can also include nocturia (excessive peeing in the night), painful menstrual cramps and other related problems. The psoas is the main muscle we use when we walk correctly and our CoreWalking Program is designed to help people access the psoas muscle for walking and we have found that using the psoas correctly in both walking and standing—and even sleeping—can bring great relief to all of the issues mentioned above.
The idea of psoas major release work covers a lot of territory. There are psoas major release exercises that allow gravity to do its thing. These are among my favorite psoas major release exercises like Constructive Rest Position and Foot on a Block. There are more active psoas major release exercises like Block Lunges (another favorite) and then there are experiential psoas major release exercises like the one in the picture above.
The point of this psoas major release, Releasing Hands and Knees, is to see if you can extend one leg back without moving anything but the leg. If one psoas is tight this will be very difficult and it will also be very different on either side. The psoas is not the only reason that you might shift out of your stable center but it will always be involved.
Psoas Major Release: Releasing Hands And Knees
- This exercise explores the ability of the leg to separate from the pelvis and the spine.
- Start on your hands and knees with the hips over the knees and the wrists underneath the shoulders.
- Bring gentle tone to the pelvic floor and the lower belly and try to extend your right leg back, bringing the leg level with the trunk.
- Keep your awareness on the lower back and the pelvis, stabilizing the trunk to release the leg backwards.
- Only the leg wants to move. Try not to shift your weight to one side or the other, or lift one hip higher than the other.
This is an experiential exercise where you are trying to get a feeling for what the body is doing. The tighter psoas will be the side that can’t move without pulling the pelvis and the spine with it.
Chest breathing and belly breathing are the two most common types of respiration. Like many actions of the body breathing is simple yet complicated. Almost everyone takes it for granted and most think that because it happens unconsciously you don’t need to learn how to do it correctly. The same thing goes for walking and needless to say I think everyone needs to relearn how to walk.
Chest breathing is the default method for almost everyone I work with and teach. This is due to poor posture and societal norms. Chest up and shoulders back are the standard instructions most of us receive when being implored to stand up straight by desperate parents who fear slumping children.
Classic military posture employs these two instructions as well and as a result these images are deeply ingrained in our culture. When I ask an individual or a group of people to stand up straight this is almost always what I see—the front of the rib cage elevates and the arms move backwards.
The diaphragm muscle is the main apparatus of breathing. When we inhale the diaphragm muscle ideally has the space to descend a little which will create a vacuum pulling air into the lungs. When we exhale the diaphragm should ascend as the lungs return to their original state. This type of breath sees the belly distend a little as the abdominal contents push forward to accommodate a dropping diaphragm.
This will only happen if the spine is correctly aligned and the diaphragm muscle is free to drop. Chest breathing is the result of a diaphragm muscle that lacks the ability to sink down. In a diaphragmatic breath the chest is involved because ideally breathing uses the entire trunk expanding up, down, front, back and side to side, but the initiation of the breath should begin with the belly moving out rather than the chest lifting up. In chest breathing there is less ability for the whole trunk to get in the game.
As a result of chest breathing the muscles of the chest and neck, which are ideally the secondary muscles of breathing, become the primary muscles of breathing getting consistently overworked. The average person takes somewhere between 18-20,000 breaths a day, so that is a considerable amount of excess effort.
Chest breathing also tends to be faster, more shallow and much less efficient. Breathing is essentially a process of gaseous exchange drawing in oxygen (and other gases)and releasing carbon dioxide (and other gases). Chest breathing reduces the amount of oxygen we take in which can have grave consequences possible increasing stress, anxiety and tension, as well as negatively impact your blood pressure.
Excessive chest breathing can lead to living in a constant, though mild, state of hyperventilation which is the rapid breathing that happens with anxiety or panic. Rapid breathing creates low levels of carbon dioxide in your blood which causes many of the symptoms of hyperventilation.
There are numerous reasons for why so many people rely on chest breathing but like I said at the top many people are rely on chest breathing because of misguided ideas about good posture. When someone stands before me in their image of good posture and employs chest breathing I ask them to find a position where they can breathe diaphragmatically into the belly. Very often they report feeling slumped over or rounded forward when breathing this way.
My response it to tell them to stand up as tall as they would like without taking the breath back into the chest. This isn’t always easy but it is well worth the effort from my perspective.
Sketchblog: Day Books
Another foot in Andalucía. It seemed time for some surface anatomy. The foot to ground connection is basic, but moves beyond that in this environment, becoming not only conscious but close to obsessive here in Jerez de la Frontera, with my favorite tiles: dizzying patterns and the late-autumn cold. I live most of my life barefoot, except when we come here every year. And under feet is a challenge for me. My innate sense of balance is skewed. (I guess that makes it not so innate after all.) Doing tree on his floor in socks is quite challenging for me — well not so bad if I don’t look down. The floor can appear wavy and even to move. Concentration is key.
I generally travel with some small massage balls and I’ve put them down on various sections of the floor to see how much roll really here is. And not nearly as much as I would have thought. Most of the floor can hold the ball quite still. I was surprised. It’s funny how the mind-eye connection can make you feel like you’re tilting. I think of that heard-to-death yoga balance cue: “look at something not moving”. Well if that something is this floor you are in big trouble. “Not moving” is relative.
Speaking of barefeet and the cold floors and sidewalks of Andalucía: it’s Zambomba season here (kind of flamenco Christmas). Started yesterday really. Streets were thronged with people last night as my husband and I were off to a flamenco peña. There were some young women dressed up and scampering on the cobblestones ahead of us. They were barefoot — impossibly high-heeled shoes in their hands. The pain in the toes (and maybe even the balance-challenge of the cobbles) won out over the freezing sidewalks. I was glad we were headed to the cozy wooden floor of the peña — flamencos don’t work on tile or stone.
We watched Guys and Dolls, which is a fairly terrible movie that just goes on forever. Marlon brando has no business singing and Joseph Mankiewicz (who directed one of the greatest movies ever made- All About Eve) had no business directing a musical. But we got a soundtrack album and have been singing the amazing Frank Loesser songs every day.
I have been cooking the thanksgiving feast for my wife’s family and mine for the last several years. Thirty plus people crowd into our relatively small apartment and have at it. It is my favorite week of the year as shopping, prepping and cooking the meal make me happy beyond compare.
The first few years I messed with different turkey recipes that required flipping and basting and turning and what have you before settling on the recipe below that is hands down the easiest and best. One turn of the pan and that is all she wrote. You won’t believe how good it is.
I buy the turkey three or four days before cooking and dry brine it with salt and leave it in the refrigerator. An essential element is drying the bird inside and out. You can’t spend too much time getting the cavity good and dry. Any moisture creates the possibility of steaming rather than roasting which you really don’t want (this goes for your roasted chickens as well).
Have a happy holiday.
Simple Roasted Turkey:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Rinse inside and out, dry with paper towels and bring turkey to room temperature.
Sprinkle turkey liberally with salt and ground pepper and place into a roasting pan on a rack.
Cook, rotating pan 180 degrees after 1 hour; add a cup or two of water or chicken stock to pan if drippings appear to be turning too dark. ]
Check temperature in the thickest part of the thigh at 1 ¾ hours. Remove from oven when temperature is 165 degrees, usually 2 hour’s total cooking time for an unstuffed 13-15lb turkey. Let turkey sit for 30 minutes.