Power Posing 101

Power Posing 101

Amy Cuddy's inspiring talk on how posture changes your chemistry. If you don't just want to fake it 'till you make it, if you want it to become a natural part of who you are, nothing is faster than Structural Integration.

 

Ready for change? Take the next step.

Ready for change? Take the next step.

There is nothing I enjoy more than witnessing and supporting my clients through their personal transformation. In addition to my Structural Integration practice, I am training to be a certified life coach with CTI, one of the most well regarded coaching institutions and I am excited to begin offering sessions.  If you are resisting a change, and are having trouble taking the steps to achieve your goals, this practice can be an efficient way to help you move forward.

For the first 5 clients, I am offering a discounted rate of $75 per session with a 3 month commitment.  If you aren't sure what coaching is or what it can do for you, I can offer you a complimentary 1/2 hour session to get a feel for the work. Sessions can be in person or via Skype.  

Lets get started.

Feel free to contact me by phone or by email. 
917.755.1833
transformativesi@gmail.com

How your organs affect your posture

I often integrate visceral work in most sessions and have developed a set of patterns relating restrictions in the musculoskeletal system to visceral restrictions.  What this means is that by balancing the alignment of the body the organs are positively affected, and by working with the organs the person’s alignment and movement can be improved.  I frequently work from both ends of the spectrum in my sessions.

I wrote this article in 2013 on the subject for the International Association of Structural Integration Yearbook on integrating aspects of Chinese Medicine to structure a Visceral Manipulation session.  It gives some insight into where my work is going these days.

IASI Visceral Article

 

Great Posture in Four Easy Steps

A friend of mine who is a writer asked for advice to prevent the aches and pains of sitting at a desk for long hours. Often times those knots we get in our backs are related to posture. Here’s a little experiment you can try while sitting at a desk, without the stress of trying to sit up straight. Most people think of posture as something you have to strain to do, but if you have to work to sit up, as soon as you think about something else, you’re likely to start slouching again. For this reason, good posture has to be relaxed for it to last.

1. Sit forward on your chair with the weight on the flesh in front of your sit bones with your feet on the ground. Leave your arms by your sides for the rest of this exercise. Your legs are about 1/3 of your body weight, so don’t let all that weight go into your seat, let it rest on your feet. See if you can get your knees lower than your hips with your feet still on the floor. You may need to raise your chair or use a cushion.

If you can’t do that and still sit at your desk comfortably, try bringing one leg back, so that one foot is in front of the other. You’ll notice that it’s immediately easier to sit more forward over your sit bones.

2. Now see if you can let your lower back and belly relax. Try rocking forward and back with one hand on your back and the other on your belly to find the most relaxed position. If this is difficult, most likely your knees aren’t low enough. This is especially true if you have tight hamstrings.

3. Let your head fall back so that you’re looking up and breath into the top of your ribs and throat. You should start to feel your upper ribs lift and open a little. Keep the back bend happening in your upper chest and not your lower back. Notice your breath expanding upwards.

4. Finally, leaving your jaw and neck relaxed, let your head float back up on top of your spine. Take a deep breath in your new posture and try looking around the room.

Notice how this new way of sitting feels. It’s okay to feel vulnerable or uncomfortable, but you shouldn’t feel muscle tension. If your back or hips feel tight, again try raising your seat, or try the back bend again and be sure not to use your muscles to pull yourself into balance. Good posture should be relaxed. If you feel vulnerable, try practicing somewhere you feel safe. If you feel upright and balanced, congratulations, you’re doing something right. Also don’t expect to be able to maintain this balance for long periods at first. Think of it as akin to restarting your computer. Things just work better if you do it now and again.

Balancing the Bandhas Through the Breath

In my last article about the breath, I wrote about the importance of contacting our inherent impulse to breath, and allowing ourselves to be breathed, rather than following an external or mental cue.  This exercise is no different, but it takes a little bit more refined focus and it builds off of the last exercise.

The Bandhas in Yoga, or “locks” (as in locks in a river) refer to the horizontal membranes of the body that provide containment and regulate the pressure of the different cavities of our bodies (our guts, lungs, heart and brains).

Where are they? 
The major diaphragms of the body are the respiratory diaphragm, the pelvic floor (muscles between your tailbone and pubic bone), the base of the throat, the base of the skull -at the level of the ear lobes (including the roof of the mouth and base of the eyes), the top of the head, and also the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.  The joints of the body are also diaphragms.

Why the Bandhas are important… 
When we are having trouble breathing, or our limbs are stiff or weak, it is often reflected by in how our breath moves through our bodies.  For example, if you puff up your chest you will notice that the base of your throat and your respiratory diaphragm have to tighten to retain the pressure in your ribs that allows you to puff up. These pressure regulators also have a dramatic effect on blood pressure, oxygen delivery to the cells, stress on the heart and overall health.  If they are too tight oxygenated blood isn’t able to reach the tissue and if they aren’t toned at all, there isn’t enough pressure to squeeze the blood back to the heart and we tend to feel sluggish. Balanced tone in the diaphragms leads to longer more balanced breathing and a lot less stress on the heart. When we are feeling our best, our diaphragms are gently pulsating between contraction and release to allow a smooth flow of energy through our bodies.

Ready to feel amazing? 
Lie on your back and notice your breath.  Allow your breath to come and go, without changing anything about it.  As you tune in, you may start to notice that when you inhale, all of the diaphragms naturally contract, and on the exhale, they all tend to release. Without changing anything about your breath, see if you can tune into the softening quality of the exhale.  As you begin to inhale see if you can continue to soften your diaphragms.  Since they all move together, you won’t actually have to focus on all of them to receive the benefits of this exercise.

At first see if you can bring your attention to just one or two at a time or try checking in with different diaphragms as you breath.  With practice, you will be able to open your attention to all of the diaphragms at once.  Just be sure you aren’t forcing your breath, either breathing harder or speeding your breath up or slowing it down.  Just let it flow naturally in response to the effects of your attention on the bandhas.

The overall effect of this exercise is that it will begin to feel as if your whole body is breathing, as if your lungs extend all the way from your fingers, to your toes and out to the top of your head, every cell expanding and contracting.  If this is easy, try the exercise sitting or standing. I hope you enjoy the experience.

A word of caution.
Big emotions can often come up when working with the breath.  If you begin to feel overwhelmed or even just light headed, take a break, this exercise should ideally make you feel more connected to yourself and more at ease.

Tips for Meditation

Many of my clients have asked what they can do to support the changes they gain from their Hellerwork series. I usually give an answer something like, “Yoga, meditation, chi gong, pilates, or anything that brings you towards a deeper connection with yourself.”

Meditation is one of the most direct ways to do that and it can be as simple as observing the inhale and exhale of your breath. Of course it’s often not as easy as that sounds. I came across the following advice on meditation and thought I would share it. It’s sound advice for beginners or experienced meditators alike.

I’ll add that if you don’t already have a meditition practice with a group that sits together regularly, I highly recommend it for avoiding many of the pitfalls that beginner meditators fall into. It can help to have some support from other folks going through a similar process.

WHAT IS THE RIGHT ATTITUDE FOR MEDITATION?
By U Tejaniya
Shwe Oo Min Meditation Center
Yangon, Myanmar

1. Meditating is watching and acknowledging in a relaxed way whatever happens whether pleasant or unpleasant.

2. Meditating is waiting and watching with awareness and understanding: not thinking, not reflecting, not judging.

3. Just pay attention to what is exactly in the present moment.
Don’t go back to the past!
Don’t plan for the future!

4. When meditating, both the mind and the body shold be comfortable.

5. The meditating mind should be relaxed and at peace.
You cannot practice when the mind is tense.

6. Don’t focus too hard, don’t control and don’t force or restrict yourself.

7. Don’t try to create anything, and don’t reject what is happening. However, as things happen or stop happening, be aware of them.

8. Trying to create something is greed.
Rejecting what is happening is aversion.
Not knowing if something is happening or has stopped happening is delusion.

9. Only when the observing mind has no greed, aversion or worry/ anxiety will the meditating mind arise.

10. Don’t have any expectations.
Don’t want anything.
Don’t be anxious, because if these attitudes are in your mind, it becomes difficult to meditate.

11. You are not trying to make things turn out the way you want them to happen. You are trying to know what is happening as it is.

12. You have to accept and watch both good and bad experiences.

13. You have to double check to see what attitude you are meditating with. A light and free mind enables you to meditate well.

Good luck and let me know how it goes.

David.

Stop breathing and let yourself be breathed

I’ve been working in a more extensive way with the breath with some of my clients lately. How you breath, and where in your body you breath really sets the foundation for finding more balanced alignment and more ease. A lot of yoga, meditation and holistic health teachers give instruction on the breath, but why we do these exercises is often misunderstood. I’m a big fan of a lot of these exercises, but sometimes they take us away from our bodies own natural breathing patterns, especially if we aren’t conscious of why we’re doing them. Believe it or not your brainstem, which regulates the breath when you aren’t paying attention, has a better idea of your needs for breath than you or I can consciously figure out. It’s important to to develop a deep sense of what it feels like to be moved by your own breath and allow it to flow on it’s own before doing yogic breath work. This will help you stay in relationship with the needs of your own nervous system as you begin to do more consciously regulated exercises. The more connected to the natural rhythms of your breath you become, the more you’ll realize that most of breath instruction came from some yogi who sat still and listened to their own body long enough to get a sense of what made them feel more whole, and more connected to their source.

So try this…
Lie on your back and notice your breath. Allow your breath to come and go, without changing anything about it. As you tune in, you may start to notice that each inhale and exhale is different. When you relax, or get excited, shift your thoughts, or become more present, the inhale and exhale will become longer or shorter and the rhythm will change. The natural pattern of the breath is to speed up and slow down, become deeper and shallower, moving in waves. If you’ve ever watched the ocean, you’ve noticed that the waves come in groups of waves called sets. Your breath will do the same thing as your nervous system adjusts to the ever-changing needs of your body. As you watch this ebb and flow, it will bring you to deeper states of calm.

Stop breathing
Now, if this is not happening naturally, it may be that something is blocking your natural breath from surfacing. This may help…

Let your mind off the hook, stop breathing, and wait. I promise, if you stop yourself from breathing, you will be forced to take another breath. When you can’t hold it anymore, let the air fill your lungs and rest. Watch what happens next with the question, “what does my body want to do next?” You will probably start to notice a new rhythmic quality to your breath as it moves on it’s own. Try this several times and see if you can tune into the impulse deep inside that is begging you to be breathed and allow this impulse to drive your breath. If you need to reconnect to it again, you guessed it, just stop breathing. The more you relax, the easier it is to feel this impulse, but don’t worry, it will eventually take over, no matter how hard you try to hold your breath.

A word of caution: Big emotions can often come up when working with the breath. If you begin to feel overwhelmed take a break, this exercise should make you feel more connected to yourself.

Staying connected to this impulse is at the foundation of any healthy breathwork or meditation practice.

Footwear Alters Normal Foot Function

According to this study conducted by researchers from Belgium and the UK, your shoes have probably shaped your feet to work differently than their original design.  They found that people who go through life unshod tend to have a wider forefoot, better weight distribution through the foot and they speculate, produce less impact as a result.

For a hit of how this might happen, try walking around on a hard floor without your shoes on and listen for the sound. More than likely, your heels are making a lot of noise when they hit the ground. This is often the result of wearing shoes with heel support. We tend to put our weight where we get the softest impact. But when we take our shoes off the padding is gone. When we’re barefoot, the impact of our bodies on our feet becomes our teacher. If you pick up your heel and poke it with your finger, you’ll notice that most of the padding is on the middle of the heel, not the back where you’re probably used to landing if you wear shoes (and who doesn’t!). Try walking letting the soft pad on the bottom of your heel land first. This isn’t easy if you’re used to it and the first thing you’ll probably notice is that you’re walking slower. Don’t worry though this is just the beginning of learning a gentler way to walk. The speed comes from the pushing off, but more about that later. For now, listen and feel if your walk is a little quieter or a little less hard on the rest of your body.

Thank You!

Gratitude is something I think about a lot. Lately I’ve been thinking about it less as something I feel like I should do and more as a solution to whatever is going poorly in my life. Often when I start to feel upset, if I look at the situation I’ll realize that the cause of my negative feeling, thought or sensation is a tunnel like focus on something negative. When I’m able to broaden my focus to what I’m grateful for, new opportunities always begin to appear in the periphery.

This isn’t always easy if your attention is easily drawn to negative thoughts, feelings, or sensations, so sometimes it’s better to take a break from the negative subject all together rather than to try and re-spin the negativity as positive. After spending some time focusing on what I have to be grateful for, when I return to the subject that’s vexing me, I’ll often feel better about it.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I received this email about Gratitude from a stranger, Dave Faagau. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I’m reposting it here. I hope you enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving. I hope your holiday season brings you much to be thankful for.

Here’s his email:

Most people do no realize the many health benefits of gratitude. Studies indicate that thankfulness is directly linked to physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Compared to people who do not live a lifestyle of thankfulness, research shows that grateful people
.

1. Experience higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination optimism and energy
2. Experience less depression
3. Better manage stress
4. Are more likely to help others
5. Exercise more regularly
6. Make more progress towards their personal goals
7. Have stronger immune systems
8. Have fewer symptoms of physical illness

Those are some impressive benefits that can be yours without even increasing your physical activity or changing your nutrition plan. All that is required is a grateful heart. Are you a thankful person? If you are unsure, then it may be in your best interest to consider the following questions:

Are you the type of person who dwells on the good or on the bad things that happen to you?

Do you tell others about the blessings in your life as much as you tell them when things go wrong?

Are you considerate of the people closest to you or do you often take them for granted?

Are you thankful only when things are going well or do you look for blessings even when bad things happen?

Is there someone you admire who is a thankful person? What other attributes do you admire about them?

Are you leaving a legacy of thankfulness that others will remember you by?

There is nothing complicated about gratitude. Quite simply, thankfulness is a choice. To say we fell grateful is not to say that everything in our life is great. It just means that in spite of all we see that is worthy of complaint, there is far more we can choose to focus on that is worthy of thankfulness.

Why not choose to extend the tradition of giving thanks through the entire year, instead of limiting it to the Holiday Season? Your physical, emotional, and spiritual health will all reap the benefits of a thankful heart. The choice is yours.

By Dave Faagau, a Fitness Specialist and owner of Total Body Training

Happy Thanksgiving!

Scientific Research into Structural Integration

Unfortunately, Structural Integration has drawn little interest from the scientific community. There is a growing amount of mainstream scientific research documenting the effectiveness of Structural Integration (SI), the therapy originated by Ida Rolf for reshaping the body’s connective tissue matrix. There has also been significant interest in SI at the newly formed International Fascia Research Congress, as knowledge and understanding of how important connective tissue is to the body’s freedom of movement becomes more apparent. One researcher reported that muscle contractions only account for roughly 20% of human movement and that after an action is initiated, the fascia does the other 80%, pointing to the possibility that connective tissue, the tissue we work on in SI work, is more important than muscles in determining how well a person moves. In 1992 a presentation was made to the National Center of Medical Rehabilitation Research on the effectiveness of Structural Integration used in the treatment of degenerative joint disease. A 1997 article in The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy reported that Structural Integration can provide effective and sustained pain relief from lower back problems. A 1988 study in the Journal of the American Physical Therapy Association indicated that Structural Integration greatly influenced the parasympathetic nervous system, which can dramatically influence the healing processes of the body. In conjunction with the California Department of Mental Hygiene, The Department of Movement Behavior at UCLA has also shown that Structural Integration creates a more efficient use of muscles, allows the body to conserve energy, and creates economical and refined patterns of movement. Other recent studies have shown a significant increase in hight after an 11 session series of Structural Integration. While there are volumes of research to be done to understand exactly how and why Structural Integration is so effective, to feel the effects it only takes the first session.

Yes, it’s true, your shoes probably aren’t helping much.

I’ve done a lot of research into shoes and posture. The impulse came after watching my clients walk out of sessions balanced, only to put their shoes on and see all of their postural compensations come back.  One of my experiments was to run barefoot for a year.  In the process, I learned a lot about how feet were designed to function in all of their varieties. This article is an interesting primer to understanding why we weren’t born with lifted heels and why most shoes aren’t so great for our feet. Here’s the article, let me know what you think… http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/

The trouble with shoes…

With snow and rain in the forecast for New York, you might think optimistically that it is your big opportunity to walk the way your body was meant to-over your center.  All that slipping and sliding really forces us to be over the center of gravity, something that most shoes with heels discourage us from doing. Wearing shoes with heels, even most sneakers, tilt us forward as if we’re standing on a hill.  To keep from falling forward and tumbling down the hill inside our shoe, our natural tendency is for the hips to go forward, and chest to go back.  This helps us to balance.  It also creates a kind of collapse, since our hips aren’t under us and the chest is behind us.  It’s the All American posture and you won’t see it in anyone who walks around barefoot or in flat shoes.  Go to any Caribbean beach town where flip-flops and barefoot walking prevails if you need an example.

What this does…
Heels also tend to shorten the connective tissue of the calves and as a result the hip flexors, and when you’re standing with your hips shifted forward the upper hamstrings shorten which makes sitting difficult.  When the hamstrings are tight they pull the sitbones under which makes an upright posture while sitting impossible without strain.

Gentle exercises to try…
Full body arching and curling is a fantastic exercise to find a balance stance, especially the arching part.  Standing, try arching back, your tail back and up as if you have a 6 foot squirrel tail and you’re trying to touch the back of your head.  Really exagerate it.  When your head goes back shift your weight into your toes, this helps the sitbones to lift.  With your tail back, weight in the toes, breath deeply, spiraling the arms back to open the upper ribcage.  Inhaling is important because it opens the upper ribcage and supports the shoulders to rest more on the back.  When you exhale, let your body spring back to neutral leaving your hips back, tail lifted.  You should naturally find a less collapsed posture.

You can also go back and forth following the inhale with an exhale into the heels, rounding the shoulders, but make sure you end by inhaling and letting your body come back to neutral.

Another one…
Calf stretches are good with the knee bent and the hips back..  straiten and bend the knees with the hips back, to work different parts of the calves.  Be sure to put even pressure in the ball of the big toe as much as the pinky toe ball so your feet dont twist.   This will help the hips rest more back over the center of the feet.

Flip Flops…

If this article finds you escaping the New York winter someplace tropical heels probably aren’t your biggest worry right now, but flip-flops might be.

For many people flip-flops or thongs force the wearer to lift their toes or scrunch them up (which is kind of like pushing your toes down while you lift them) to keep the sandal on.   Walk down any street in New York in the Summer and you’ll see someone struggling to both hold their cell phone to their ear andbalance while they shuffle along in this year’s flip-flops.  Holding that floppy footwear on is tough work and it’s kind of like multitasking for the feet.

Your toes were designed to respond to the ground, and they have a much easier time doing so if they aren’t having to wrestle with your footwear at the same time.  Lifting your toes is something that most yoga teachers will ask you to do to find your arch.  This is a great thing in yoga because it aligns thebones of the foot.  If you tend to pronate, you probably have a little trouble finding the ball of your big toe and lifting your toes really helps to find that part of your foot without loosing the alignment of your ankle.

Unfortunately, all that toe lifting makes our ankles and arches stiff, and makes for a hard landing on the heel when we walk.  When we are walking we want the arch to flex like a spring.  The spring of the arch provides shock absorbsion for our bodies, but it can only happen when the foot is relaxed.  If this is you, try this.. Standing, try placing the outside of your heel down first, then the outside of your toes,then the big toe ball and then the inside of the heel.  When you press your toes down, you might notice that it’s easier to lengthen them out as you press down.  This is the action you’re looking for in flip flops, instead of scrunching, pressing down as you lengthen through the toes.

Easier walking…
This exercise can help whether you’re in shoes, barefoot or in sandals.  When you’re walking, try starting by standing over the center of your foot (all four corners with equal pressure) with your knees strait but soft, feet relaxed.  Once you’ve found this posture standing, begin to walk.   If you try this barefoot on a hardwood floor your walk should go from loud and pounding to almost silent.  This is because you are landing closer to the center of your foot, instead of the back of the heel.  How you start your walk will essentially determine how you end up moving.  If you start over your center, you’ll end up walking over your center.

While flip-flops aren’t the best for your feet, if you wear them, you’ll want to find ones with a tighter strap across the top of the foot for a snugger fit, or one that allows you to press your toes down to hold the sandal on.  Your toes shouldn’t have to do anything more than respond to the ground, don’t make them hold your sandals on too.

I hope this helps,

David.