Archive for Health and Fitness
A loss of balance can happen even if we’re messing around with our body.
Balance can seem elusive at times and can be affected by a number of factors.
Compensations such as shoulders rolling forwards, palm facing backwards, bent knees, a slumping chest or even having a bad day can happen enough to begin to form such a posture over the long run.
This can lead to discomforts in the chest or upper back where high stress levels can put the weight of our world on our shoulders and can prevent us from reaching states of comfortable balance.
While we might attempt to straighten up, the weight of what is going in internally can continue to undermine us.
Bad life (fun) events such as being a Cleveland sport fan like I am, who for the past 50 years has lost count on the number of bad sports days can have an affect.
Letting go of bad (fun) events can be difficult since we can go to that sinking (movement and) feeling over and over.
So life and how we participate in it can affect us.
How to restore our body and balance using mindful movement
One way to restore balance is to employ mindful movement where you tap into the brain’s ability to direct an easy or gentle movement pattern.
You make the decision to do a particular movement and stay well within your comfort zone.
See, the doing of a movement is one thing.
Another is when you also pay attention to the feel or sensing of any number of movement actions taking place during the particular movement you decided to do.
When you direct the mind and body, thereby targeting the brain in a specific manner, you can enhance one of nature’s most potent acts to restore the body in order to re-balance.
This is a far different approach than regular exercise where that is more about doing.
Mindful movement is about feeling and sensing smaller movements or movement patterns while noticing certain self-adjustments of either a grand or minute orchestration of a particular movement.
You simply notice the inherent quality of your own movement taking place
Since the movement system involves any number of layers of muscles and fascia – which actually has more sense receptors than the muscles – there can be a lot of information to process, be aware of, and simply explore.
This approach can augment other physical types of activities in order to rebalance our faster pace of life and give us a restoring respite to recharge in a more playful and intelligent manner.
Plus, all of this can be done in a lazy, gentle, yet highly tuned in approach.
8 Somatics tips for the body and balance
Somatics, defined as the body experienced, covers many areas and here are some everyday useful tips you can use when you do easy, mindful movements such as somatics exercises to help restore balance.
You can also apply this to other forms of exercise too.
1. Move with the least effort
This often goes against many people’s idea of how to exercise, yet when we live in discomfort, this naturally makes more sense.
Even if you are highly active, you can pay attention to your movements by noticing your sense of effort rather than pushing with your efforts.
This has more to do with noticing the quality of movement itself.
This slight difference can make a big difference and help healing and recovery.
2. Breathe with your movement
Since we tend to go on autopilot when it comes to breathing, becoming aware of breathing and how this is impacting our sense of effort or the quality of a movement can be quite revealing.
You can use your breath differently and explore the differences it can make or mean when you shift your awareness.
You can do a movement and notice how you are breathing.
Do the same movement and hold you breath to feel or notice how this can impact the quality or feel.
Reverse your breath in terms of how you noticed yourself breathing to check in how this can affect a movement or the feeling of it too.
3. Move as a system not as a muscle
The big muscle–the brain–sends messages to the muscles and receives back information in our sensory-motor feedback loop.
When we become aware of how intimately involved our sense and level of effort is involved, that exploration can improve overall body balance since you’re tuning in to how you are connected throughout your entire body.
4. Thoughts can affect movement and impact our body and balance
As you do any exercise, choose to think a thought while feeling what muscles may be contracting in your body.
Or simply sit. Conjure up a thought and feel how your muscles respond.
Play with an emotion and feel what happens as you move.
What does a thought or state of emotion do to what you feel and how you move?
Can you tune in your sense of muscles turning on or off during a particular movement, exercise or simply noticing while sitting or standing?
5. Comfort is king
Any small adjustment such as using a pad or pillow can alleviate any struggle we might find ourself when it comes to positioning ourself for a movement, exercise or simply sitting.
There’s no need to tough it out.
Even the slight adjustment of an angle or body position may be the necessary thing to do so our body can be as comfortable as possible at that moment.
This can let us more fully experience ourself rather than taking away our focus in a movement or exercise.
6. An exercise can’t hurt us
People will tell me they tried a certain exercise or even our gentle somatics exercises and hurt themself or say – “that exercise hurt me”.
If we try to force our body (and it doesn’t have to be much of an effort), it can naturally react and pull itself back quickly since it will want to protect itself, especially if it is in an injured state or we’re early in healing.
Any random, thoughtless or thoughtful movement or exercise can turn up tension levels so pain signals can be ramped up if we over do it or rev it up too fast–even if we didn’t intend to.
Once the body has been programmed to turn up signals of discomfort, it can do so until the program gets changed.
So any arbitrary movement or exercise can seem to lead us to flinching, wincing or holding our breath, for instance.
To learn how to re-navigate our internal terrain of our movement system successfully is where we simply go back to the fundamentals and building blocks of movement itself.
“If” we bump into discomfort during any movement, exercise or exertion, we can use that information to bring our body and balance back as quickly as possible–while figuring out where our comfort zone truly lies.
More often than not, our compensations and habits of movement get us to bump the pain switch on – even to the point of it becoming chronic so the brain will naturally turn it up, though this can be reversed with a more mindful approach.
So it’s not so much an exercise, it’s what you do and how you do it.
You can change the quality of your movement in order to successfully exercise and comfortably move about.
7. Imagination is the least effort
In difficult times, you can use your ability to imagine a movement or exercise.
It’s highly likely you won’t hurt yourself using this approach, even though I get it–sometimes just getting to the position of a movement or exercise can be test our limits.
So to imagine or eke out even a micro-movement, this can start the process to get the brain to change the body’s negative response.
It might seem like you’re not doing much, yet this counter-intuitive approach of doing less, still wakes up the nervous system since the brain doesn’t differentiate between you imagining a movement and doing it.
Try this: Imagine a movement taking place. Then do the movement.
Ask yourself if what you imagined, felt like it did when you actually did the movement.
This might reveal more layers from an internal observation viewpoint and provide keys to successfully getting out of a particular body-mind jam.
Successful athletes have used imagination and visualization techniques. You can do the same by simply visualizing and feeling to the best of your ability – what it might feel like to move by not moving.
This can become a highly interesting, focused and mindfully effortless way to regain balance in the body.
8. Pain is our greatest teacher and gives us back our body and balance
In the practice of somatics exercises, you learn how to wield pain and discomfort to your advantage.
Pain is treated as a signal that you can change, intensify or dissolve since you can use the brain and body to change the output of tension levels through various feedback loops of information.
With a little practice and familiarity of a simple 3 step method which mimics one of nature’s acts to reset tension levels, negative experiences can move towards more comfort and pleasure. Once the brain remembers that it can produce more positive feel-good sensations, you’re well on your way to restoring and maintaining balance.
Somatics Body and Balance Movements
Somatics exercises move around many themes, levels and types of pain, stiffness, discomfort, and injury all leading to increased levels of comfort.
Take control of:
• your brain and your own awareness,
• tension levels,
• and effortless effort allows a fluid body to Move Easily and Restore Balance.
Recapturing the feelings of childlike, easy movement happens. Kinda like coming back to memory patterns where we once did this and now have the ability to restore it or enhance it using a brain and body connection.
The brain can be programmed to bring the body back to its natural state of comfort and pleasure and you can find out more in the Gravity Werks Insiders Club where we explore conscious movement to learn more about how we work and easily move from the inside out.
Simple movement patterns which can boggle the mind and leave the body refreshed, restored and in balance for more happy days ahead!
Wouldn’t you agree that your neck, shoulders and head oughta move freely, easily and without pain or discomfort?
Simple, easy head movements done with a certain level of awareness can give you a:
• more comfortable neck,
• ease tension in the shoulders,
• and this can shift good feelings to other parts of yourself too.
Hijacked by tension
If your head or shoulders have been hijacked by tension, there is a natural way to release the build up muscular tension.
However, it might have to do with the fact that an important and vital connection may be “off”.
By lying on the floor, you can find out for yourself if:
a) you can do a particular movement comfortably and
b) if you can feel or sense the connection.
Watch the video below and see if you can feel the connection.
Head movement and connection
Have you checked in with your noggin like that lately?
If you haven’t, it’s never too late to dial in.
You see, if we’ve endured enough head and neck pain, that movement among others can prove to be difficult.
When my years of neck pain felt like a hard sore block that wouldn’t budge or let me move freely. Moving my neck seemed like it was one of the hardest things to do.
Yet when you consciously remind your body of the available movements that you can do, your brain can release neurochemicals of relaxation.
Making the connection – even if it isn’t there initially – will come with a little practice.
Not just 1 muscle
Mobility – the ability to move freely and easily – can be restored by regaining necessary function of a number of muscles involved, not just one specific muscle.
So if we are limiting our movement on account of pain or high tension, then this type of splinting or guarding can actually reinforce it since the brain is subject to programs and will begin to feed in information to keep things held in check.
Of course, it might seem counterintuitive to move, if it hurts.
So instead, you can imagine the movement taking place since that way you won’t upset the apple cart, yet the brain and nervous system will get the idea that the possibility to move, still exists.
The brain doesn’t know the difference between an imagined movement and an actual movement. The information and nervous system pathways turn “on”.
You can even go so far as imagining the connections too.
This all helps to prime the pump for eventual successful comfortable movement.
Head movements and the connection to the rest of your body is evident when you play with mindful ways to feel or sense your self as to how it relates with the rest of your body.
We are one piece, last I checked. The more you check-in in a different way, the far easier it is to self-adjust and turn down pain, discomfort and tension naturally.
When you move somatically, which is where you fully experience your connections and subtle feelings or sense perceptions.
You can experience the freeing up of pain, stiffness and aches as you fine tune further and deeper into your information highway of the nervous system.
This type of internal exploration is what you naturally did as a baby and child.
You were exploring deep into your sensory and motor system of both movement and the subtle feelings of small probing movement.
And if you recall or watch any baby, there’s a heckuva of a lot of exploration with misfiring, falling over and work to do to get a movement down pat.
Remember how long it took us to snap our fingers? What a triumphant moment that was.
Besides, if you’ve lost your snap, you can get it back.
Of course, as we age it can feel like ages to get it back, but it doesn’t have to be that way when you begin to experiment and tinker again.
What’s It Take
So if you go to the well of stored memory and spend some worthy time to reopen some dusty files and connections, then comfortable feelings in movement can be restored as easily and as effortlessly as it used to be.
It just calls for some quiet internal observation of your present ability.
When done in a specific “slow manner”, the part of the brain which can make the necessary changes of tension, will move the body back towards comfort and control.
To be more comfortable, may take a variety of easy, gentle movements so the connection is clear and you regain the ability to maintain comfort for life.
So have fun and keep that head sliding, gliding, turning and twisting comfortably so by feeling and making the connections.
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Are you in the Nap Zone?
Want to remember more easily, be more productive and have better health?
Then take an afternoon zzzzz according to Brain Rules author, John Medina.
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NASA found pilots performed better when they took a short afternoon siesta. No wonder why my dogs use this same strategy and somehow continue to move well in a moment’s notice.
In the afternoon, your brain will try to get you to go down. In our hectic, busy, everyday life, our mind has got to keep us going so we can go-go-go and do-do-do. In the middle is a battle of the brain cells telling you one thing and you getting your brain cells to do another.
Or is it you ate too much pasta for lunch and you just wanna lie down with a fully belly?
The loss of sleep can harm you. You can get in a foul mood, your logical reasoning can slow, and your attention can drift.
Napping On the Job
While it may be hard to convince your boss, napping on the job or napping during the day may help. People like Pablo Picasso and many others knew napping, increased productivity.
The evidence is gaining and we can all benefit just like other countries or regions which understand how nature has some of the answers to better health built in. Or you can watch or ask Fido.
Check out John’s book, Brain Rules, and find out more napping benefits and other cool brainiac things which can lead to a healthier and fun productive life.
Remember the days when we didn’t have a soda machine in the school. I know as you know, things have changed. Kids still want to be or act like adults, like we did, for better or for worse.
How sports drinks ever made it into schools and be acceptable for young athletes still puzzles this 52 year old athlete who has greater hamstring flexibility than most 15 year old athletes.
Granted, as a young athlete I drank raw eggs in orange juice, ate a piece of Brach’s cherry candy in between sets at tennis practice, tried the protein drinks, and remember trying electrolytes. Maybe it was the 100 degree heat of West Texas which caused my eyes to squint and tastebuds to go off… Who would drink this stuff?
It seemed to taste awful, but a lot better than cod liver oil.
Today, I can’t tell you how many young athletes I see drinking what amounts to sugar – in their drinks, and in their coffee too. And I hear them say how tired they feel? At 15 or 17, that statement wouldn’t have occurred to us old school types who walked or rode a bike to school.
Wonder what would happen if we took away the busses and the sugar at school? How would any young person function? They could be all a twitter, no doubt.
When it comes to their future health care costs, they may roll their eyes. For you, what steps do you take to make sure you can feel well and keep on playing like you used to?
The Cat Stretch is what Thomas Hanna called the daily maintenance somatics exercise program in his book, Somatics.
The cat stretch is a misnomer even though we often see our furry felines appearing to stretch.
Cat Stretch is not Stretching
When a cat stretches, it is actually tightening or contracting a series of muscles. We’ve come to find out this is called a pandiculation. When we do this entire act, our muscles lengthen and become more relaxed.
Our clever cat uses its brain’s motor cortex to initiate a movement, which at first glance looks like a stretch. You’ve seen a cat round its back. It’s not stretching the back, it’s pulling the belly in and using the abdominal muscles to pull back.
Then… it’ll release itself. The abs are reset and ready to be used. Healthy vertebrate animals naturally reset their muscles and movement system periodically throughout the day. No wonder they rest so well. If only we could do the same.
Cat Stretch – 7 Simple Movements
Fortunately, some 300 years after we learned about pandiculations. This very act brings muscles to rest. The system of somatics exercises teaches us how to go cortical and re-establish length and comfort in our movement system. Watch the fast version of the cat stretch below.
Here is what the 7 simple movements of the cat stretch address.
1. The first movement wakes up the brain, spine and hips.
2. The second movement helps to release tightness in our front side, such as the abdomen. This will allow the back to further lengthen.
3. This movement relaxes the muscles of the back, from the neck all the way down to the foot.
4. The fourth move releases held tension levels in the hips and chest. If we’re locked-in from too much sitting or hard work, this is a go to release.
5. Most everyone’s favorite movement, this delicious move lengthens the spine, frees up the hips and shoulders… and is enough to purr along.
6. A 3 part lower body sequence to free up the feet and ankles and connect up to the hips, back and head. This helps to straighten out the legs for better walking and balance in running.
7. The final movement of the cat stretch addresses the neck, back rotation and hip mobility in a delightful seated manner. You may not need the car mirrors anymore after this.
Cat Stretch Audio Recording
Healthy animals do a number of morning resets. We can simply follow along with a morning routine of the cat stretch somatics exercises designed for the human animal. Once you learn the routine, it only takes minutes to remind the muscles of their natural length, while at the same improving the mobility we need for the day.
Just like a good cat stretch at night, we can drift off and sleep more easily too.
The Cat Stretch daily maintenance somatics exercises program is now available to download and enjoy in the comfort of your home – meow.
The holiday period can be a source of increased stress when there is little time to do all the things we want. The “to do” list may be a little longer than usual and increase any neck and shoulder pain.
As the pressures, tension and stresses keep adding up, what do we do to safely and effectively release the valve of pent-up demands on us?
The Stress of Neck and Shoulder Pain
All stress isn’t bad. There is both positive and negative stress. The good stress comes in thinking about all the wonderful gifts or things we’d like to do for our loved ones this season.
The negative stress may happen as we get ‘er done filling in the list with little time to do so. So how can we handle the negative stress so it doesn’t adversely affect us?
Pandiculate Neck and Shoulder Pain
One simple way is to pandiculate out the building negative tension. This way we keep it bay and can continue to take on stress as it comes.
Fortunately, we’ve systematized pandiculations as somatics exercises where we do very simple movements to get the brain to release chemicals of relaxation and this lowers tension levels.
In this giving season, you can give yourself a much needed break from rising tension which may add to any neck and shoulder pain.
Holiday Stress Buster – Neck and Shoulder Pain Audio Recording
If you haven’t accessed the free 15 minute audio routine to release the neck and shoulders. Try this for neck and shoulder pain.
You’ll be able to do these easy moves while your standing in line waiting or sitting in the car when traffic isn’t moving.
Have all the stress you want… and let it go as easily as a duck ruffles its feathers. Don’t let neck and shoulder pain slow you down for the holidays.
Certainly there are yoga poses where you turn the spine and pull back counter to the twist.
As one contemplates our breath and associated feelings, some people attempt to achieve greater length by trying to get more.
Twist and Shout Another Way and Lose the SMA
In Hanna Somatic Education, we use somatics exercises to engage the brain in order to affect a change of information the muscles receive.
Somatics exercises are unlike most approaches since we go at things from a brain based perspective where we use mindful movement rather than any static holding positions.
The brain, the one big muscle, can effectively reset the resting tension levels using a more delicate approach. Much like untying a knot, gently moving our tissues unlocks held tension and stiffness.
When we push a contracted area, the targeted muscles become shorter. They pull back to the known set levels. They have lost their way to neutral or rest with high tension levels. The term we use is sensory-motor amnesia (sma).
SMA, muscular stiffness, stress and high tension patterns are temporary yet ongoing phenomenons until we change things with a simple movement update using the brain’s cortex.
You are a self adjusting living organism and you can adjust the feel and sensitivity levels of your muscles so they remember their way back to neutral when you twist yourself about.
Birthright to Move Well – Twist and Shout
When I lived in the near 2 decades of chronic pain, I knew there was a way out. What I didn’t know was how to simply update the body’s movement software.
Using the brain and adjusting with what appears to be deceptively simple movement, I could live a comfortable life and take out any kinks, stiffness, stress, tension and recover from injury quickly.
Our birthright is to move well. When we get off track, we can use that space between our ears to get things back online, running smoothly once again. We can twist and shout for joy as often as we want.
Twist and Shout Class
The ability to twist our self in one direction and then another can be enhanced through conscious movement rather than arduous exercise or holding our self in position for any length of time.
If we find ourself sitting too much in a day, we can grow our spine to greater length by doing a few simple easy movements which may seem initially challenging until our brain remembers to inform the muscles to let go.
Surely they will… and you can twist and shout about it.
This week, I’ll be offering an online somatics exercise class where all you have to do is listen and follow along. You can join me live or get the replay.
You’ll learn one amazing somatics exercise pattern to counter what our back keeps encountering… its gradual decline and shortening.
In a few minutes, you can:
• feel taller, straighter and longer
• feel the back relaxing
• and have greater mobility so movement itself is freer
C’mon and twist and shout with us.
Have you seen the movie Hungry for Change?
If you haven’t, you can order the book Hungry for Change and then you can get access to the movie and watch it on your computer or ipad.
Check out this trailer for the movie Hungry for Change.
The Hungry for Change people will not only give you online access to watch the movie.
You’ll get these goodies after you get the book, Hungry for Change:
• the audio version of the movie
• Food Matters Recipe ebook
• a Visualization mp3
• and the soundtrack from the movie
If you’re not into dieting or you’ve tried any number of them, you might found out there’s another way to feeling good which can be way easier and tastier too!
After you order the book, to get all the goodies… which by the way, you’ve got until Saturday afternoon to do so. Then go here and get all the freebies listed above.
Get on Board with Hungry for Change
When Mom said to “eat your vegetables”. She knew what she was talking about. Thanks Mom.
Watch the movie, Hungry for Change, with your kids and lets end all the silliness about why kids are bigger and can’t move as well as we did when we were their age.