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The Wrong Way To Stand Up Straight

stand up straight stand up straightIf someone asks you to stand up straight, how would you accomplish the task? I ask people to stand up straight repeatedly over the course of a day and I often see the same physical answer to the response. Most people stand up straight or stand up straighter by taking the arms up and back which in turn lifts the chest.

This is an amazingly consistent response and from my perspective this is an unconscious action in need of changing. Here’s why:

The bullets above represent two essential pieces of the grand posture puzzle and taking the arms up and back in order to stand up straight will never be the right fit in a successful vertical arrangement.

It would be best to achieve good posture through the upward extension of the spine. And for me initiating the lengthening of the spine through the back of the body creates a softening at the front that allows for the arms to hang freely and the ribcage to orient for the freest flow of breath.

The search for better posture has to start with a retraining of the brain so that we perceive ourselves correctly in space and we learn to lose some of the unconscious patterns that we don’t know that we are employing.

Here’s an easy suggestion for today. Try to stand differently. Maybe not even thinking right of wrong or even trying to stand up straight. But stand differently. I would suggest taking the legs back and the upper body forward. You will feel like you are leaning far forward but this posture will probably be better than your default posture.

You won’t believe that when you first do it but I can promise you that the ability to actually stand up straight has to start with learning how to change your mind.

…and stop taking your arms back.

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Sunday Morning Music: Liam Hayes

I am excited to see Liam Hayes, who also goes by Plush, tonight at the Mercury Lounge, which is a venue that I love. Hayes is originally from Chicago and made a record in 2002 (Fed) that is remains up there with my favorites.

I’ll be following Liam Hayes with the Royal Rumble so that sounds like a fun evening.

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Sensitivity and Awareness: Everyone Feels Differently

awarenessMy wife would be happy to tell you how insensitive I am emotionally. And even though I am a yoga teacher I will admit to being less than totally aware of what goes on within my body. It has been a long journey to find a small amount of awareness.

But take perception outside of the body and I excel. My eye is what butters my bread.

There is a story that I tell about the beginning of my yoga journey and I am not sure if I have shared it on the blog yet. Soon after finishing our first teacher training my wife-to-be and I went to a week-long advanced training with a very prominent teacher.

At the end of the week, with some time to spare, we sat around and the teacher told us to move our sit bones a quarter of an inch and then move something else to feel the magic. And from the sound of the oohs and ahhs around us there was clearly some magic to be felt.

Not by me alas as I turned to my future bride and a said “they’re all full of it.” Suffice to say that I said it with the appropriate degree of righteousness.

Fast forward a few years and I was in some random pose and felt something in a way that turned the light bulb of humility on above my head.

So maybe those ooher,’s and ahhers weren’t talking out of their sphincters.

When I go to my chiropractor (who I worship) I don’t feel what she is doing on a subtle level while I have friends and clients that can elucidate the feeling they have in each and every bone.

The point of this post is to offer an incentive to patience. Awareness comes with perseverance. Yours might not be as profound as someone with natural sensitivity but tapping into and feeling subtle clues about your body is possible and well worth the effort.

 

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An Interview with Katy Bowman

katy bowmanBe Your Own Healer is a series of interviews I recorded last year with a group of healers and alternative health care practitioners.

The collected interviews offer insights and suggestions on wellness from each of these varied personalities.

They share their approach to their own work as well as how they work to take care of themselves.

We will be putting up one of these interviews each week for the next few months.

This week we will listen to Katy Bowman, biomechanist, and the creator of Restorative Exercise Institute. I am a big fan of Katy and her blog KatySays and had a great time talking with her.

To listen to the interview, click the link below:

 

Interview with Katy Bowman

 

You can download all of the interviews by clicking on the button below. Here is the list of other interviewees:

Jacoby Ballard, Katy Bowman, Elena Brower, Michaelle Edwards, Eden Fromberg, , Kate Hanley, Lora Krulak, Joanna Lindenbaum, Jill Miller, Lucas Rockwood, Vanessa Scotto, Aimee Gould Shunney, Kate Stillman and Brooke Thomas.

Download the Be Your Own Healer Interviews

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The Best Reason To Change Your Posture

change your postureThe best reason to change your posture is that you can. Simple as that.

I have been teaching people to walk for quite a while and I am still amazed by how few people think about the way they stand and walk.

I stand, therefore I know how to stand.

If only it were that simple.

I stand, therefore I stand and will likely degenerate in my spine if I ma nage to make it through a good number of decades.

That’s more like it.

We all reach adulthood with posture and movement patterns that are an amalgam of so many different influences— imitating parents and siblings; injuries and accidents; genetics; exercise or lack thereof. We are the sum total of so many things but we aren’t really aware of any of them.

The thing about unconscious patterns is that to change them you have to become aware of them and we are sort of hard-wired not to be aware.

Making changes to patterns a lifetime in the making requires an action plan heavy on repetition which is the main ingredient for facilitating the ability to change your posture. But it also necessitates a willingness to change and that willingness, for many reasons, is not easy to come by.

There is one thing though that the brain has devised that might be able to stir up some impetus to life altering action and that is pain.

Pain is the thing that sends most people my way. In truth it would be much smarter to change your posture before there is a painful need for it to happen but that is probably too much to expect.

I understand that, particularly considering that pain is exactly what it took for me to change my posture and the way I walk.



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Sunday Morning Music: Corbin Bleu

This one is for my son Reggie. I was hoping to wait out his High School Musical obsession but no such luck.

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Weekend Mashup: January 16th

Here is the weekend mashup for the week of January 15th. This a collection of links to articles that didn’t warrant a post of their own on the blog.

 

Compass-SingleLegBalance2Thomas MacDonald-CROP

I have been meaning to make a video of my family standing on one leg for a minute. This is from a study on Balance and the Brain.

 

Lemon-Peel-Heals-Joints-Recipe-After-Which-You-Will-Wake-Up-Without-Pains

Lemons have amazing healing compounds,

 

 

main.original

A simple and easy trick to fall asleep quickly.

 

WaPo-Abuse-Color

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger.

 

skincancer

Another natural healer. Baking soda and Coconut Oil. I have been giving coconut oil to my dog lately for some skin issues and it is working very well,

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Gluteus Medius Exercise: The Clam Shell

gluteus mediusGluteus medius seems to be the muscle of the moment, or at least the muscle of the moment for physical therapists. Or it could just be a coincidence but student after student in the last few months have mentioned gluteus medius issues they were working on in PT.

This raises the interesting issue of how many people are in physical therapy for one thing or another, and also speaks to the insidiousness of gluteus medius because so many people truly do have problems with it.

The gluteus medius pulls the leg away and rotates it internally, along with its close relation gluteus minimus. These muscles often suffer for a tight piriformis which they underlay. If the piriformis muscle is tight the muscles have no real way to find a health resting tone.

In yoga gluteus medius is working in such standing poses as eagle, Utthitta Hasta Padangusthasana and ardha chandrasana. Unfortunately in the course of yoga classes it is easy to recruit every muscle but the gluteus medius to accomplish an action.

So here is the classic physical therapy exercise that is almost guaranteed to isolate the gluteus medius as much as any other pose.

gluteus medius

Gluteus Medius Exercise: The Clam Shell (Two Variations)
  • Start by lying on your left side, with your knees bent and the right leg on top of the left with the feet together.
  • Maintain a neutral spine, engaging your abdominals if you need to.
  • Stack the hips and don’t let the top hip move backwards.
  • From this position, raise your knee slowly using your gluteus medius. Hold the top position for 5 seconds.
  • Lower slowly for five seconds.
  • Another option is to raise the top knee slowly, hold for five seconds and then lower slowly only about half way maintaining an active muscle.
  • Raise the knee back up work within these parameters.




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An Interview with Eric Goodman

Eric-GoodmanBe Your Own Healer is a series of interviews I recorded last year with a group of healers and alternative health care practitioners.

The collected interviews offer insights and suggestions on wellness from each of these varied personalities.

They share their approach to their own work as well as how they work to take care of themselves.

We will be putting up one of these interviews each week for the next few months.

This week we will listen to Eric Goodman, the creator of Foundation Training. I am a big fan of foundation training and incorporate a number of the positions into my yoga classes.

Eric has combined his experience as a strength coach, personal trainer and Chiropractor to create a simple strengthening program that facilitates the body’s natural healing ability and quickly improves degenerative movement patterns.

I enjoyed talking with Eric and I think you will find him to have great information and an easy way of getting his point across.

To listen to the interview, click the link below:

 

Interview with Eric Goodman

 

Here is the list of other interviewees:

Jacoby Ballard, Katy Bowman, Elena Brower, Michaelle Edwards, Eden Fromberg, , Kate Hanley, Lora Krulak, Joanna Lindenbaum, Jill Miller, Lucas Rockwood, Vanessa Scotto, Aimee Gould Shunney, Kate Stillman and Brooke Thomas.

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What Exactly Is This Yoga That I Am Teaching?

yogaLast week I read an interesting piece about alignment and its relative importance to yoga. It was written by an Indian woman who reflected on the eight limbed path and asana’s limited role in the grand scheme of the yoga practice.

I wholeheartedly agree with everything she wrote but of course have to add my two cents. I am a “yoga” teacher because that is the name given to the exercise practice that I teach. At this moment I could work at a gym or open a studio and try to sell “exercise” classes, or come up with a special name for my type of yoga, but I don’t think anyone would show up.

What I do is called yoga but what I teach is an exercise routine loosely based around traditional yoga poses with a very specific emphasis on alignment and posture. I think this is a legitimate approach but not genuinely yoga.

I’m not saying that all yoga teachers are like me but I wonder what the percentage is.

And I might add that I’m not ignorant of yoga philosophy. When I first began taking and then teaching yoga I dove fairly deep into the literature especially the big three: The Bhagavad Gita, The Ramayana and the Yoga Sutra.

Having run a number of teacher trainings using these texts I became wonderfully familiar with their content. And I love them. Especially the Ramayana with the awesome monkey Hanuman who I revered from the minute I entered Jivamukti Yoga Center in 1995.

But at the heart of the matter am a Jew with a healthy (I think) antipathy for all religions. I am fond of all of their philosophies and appreciate many of their rituals, but I also choose not to believe.

And yet I am a yoga teacher.

What is a boy to do?


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