This NPR article hits right at home with what I love to share and talk about. Sitting is an art form and you can enjoy it! It’s a natural aspect of life. Sitting a lot is not the challenge. It’s when we don’t have a feel for the movement we just repeat old patterns.
Billions of dollars are spent trying to prevent and/or rehab back injuries. I think the medical establishment is failing in this area. Why? An enormous effort and promotion in research and therapy has been focused on “strengthening the core” (which, in reality, there is no core unless you are using the term to mean “center”). It’s not a weakness in a specific group of muscles because the human body is not wired that way. Movement is based on a neuromuscular system dependent upon receptors in the joints and tissue. It can’t be divided into sections and labeled, for example, “core muscles.” We sit down and get up from chairs by neuromuscular connections between joints and muscles. We have developed movement therapies and fitness programs focusing on muscles and not on the foundation of how those muscles connect and work together. I’ve spent my career “undoing” the good intentions of fitness programs and literally undoing “tension.” There is no need to protect your back if you skillfully understand the movement. The confidence comes in the experience of sitting.
Why do we say “good or bad posture?” We don’t say good or bad swim stroke. We say “I need to work on my backstroke.” When we talk about movements we love we say “I need to work on my form” as in golf. These movements we find engaging and we are connected to them. Yet we see the ordinary moments in our lives not as interesting, and as a result, we’re not good at them. We go searching for the fix with Google search, medical experts and fitness gurus. There is no fix. It’s literally an act of mindful connection, a true interest in the movement at that moment. That moment may happen to be putting on your socks, but it’s a human movement that is interdependent on the whole neuromuscular system, just like the swim stroke.
The natural movement we see with indigenous tribes is based on balance and connection. We get out of bed to experience the day not because we know it is a “good” for us to do. What if the act of getting out of bed became an experience we actually enjoy? Maybe we would surprise ourselves with a better golf swing!
This is an excellent video on how a breakdown can work for you. Often in my work with people they are in the middle of some sort of personal breakdown when their body is in breakdown as well. This is an opportunity for great change to happen and often does. I know for myself I now consider “breakdowns” as “breakthroughs”
Below is a testimonial of two fun energetic ladies who have been dealing with discomfort and limitations due to their scoliosis. They have adopted many of the McCall Method principles into their everyday movements and are here to tell some of their stories of how it works for them.
Scoliosis is an abnormal curvature of the spine. No one is sure what causes it. People with scoliosis develop additional curves to either side of the body, and the bones of the spine twist on each other, forming a “C” or an “S” shape in the spine. (medicinenet.com)
Curves measuring more than 40 degrees are defined as severe scoliosis and these ladies were at 40+.
I really enjoyed this article from Uplift because it gives a person an understanding of how the body is wired to be relaxed!
More and more I am realizing that so much discomfort in movement is created by tension that has become the “new normal” for the body. By understanding a little of how this very important nerve works you can undo unnatural tension and find a much more comfortable “new normal”.
“Unlike the other Vegas, what happens in this vagus doesn’t stay there. The vagus nerve is a long meandering bundle of motor and sensory fibers that links the brain stem to the heart, lungs, and gut. It also branches out to touch and interact with the liver, spleen, gallbladder, ureter, female fertility organs, neck, ears, tongue, and kidneys. It powers up our involuntary nerve center—the parasympathetic nervous system—and controls unconscious body functions, as well as everything from keeping our heart rate constant and food digestion to breathing and sweating. It also helps regulate blood pressure and blood glucose balance, promotes general kidney function, helps release bile and testosterone, stimulates the secretion of saliva, assists in controlling taste and releasing tears, and plays a major role in fertility issues and orgasms in women.” READ ON…
I really like this article about Social Anxiety from Mindful.org. Here are some highlights to the article if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.
Often, it’s our irrational thoughts that make us anxious. But sometimes those thoughts are so ingrained in us that they’re practically unconscious. Putting a little distance between you and your catastrophic thinking gives you a chance to reason that, even if the worst came to pass—which is unlikely—you could cope.
Self-compassion consists of being mindful and accepting of your thoughts and feelings; sending yourself kind messages—such as Even though I’m scared, it’s going to be OK; and embracing your common humanity by remembering that everyone is scared sometimes.
Take baby steps
At first one of the difficult things about anxiety of any kind is that the more we avoid doing something that makes us anxious, the greater the fear and anxiety grow.
Stop using your exit strategies
So one way to decrease anxiety is to identify your own exit strategy and experiment with letting it go. Why do this? It allows you to be more yourself with someone, which helps them to feel more comfortable in your presence.
This article from mindful.org brings to light something I have been loving, enjoying and sharing for years. Give the moment you live in the attention and you will begin to shift and feel better. The McCall Method is built on the principle that every movement of every day is worth noticing. This article takes one area of life that many of us enjoy and says just be there and notice what is happening when you exercise and you will enjoy it MORE!”
There is so much we can notice when we are moving or not moving. (I call this “Doing Nothing Well”).A classic McCall Method moment is noticing where your hips are and asking the question is your spine lengthening up? Is your belly being like Buddha and relaxed? How are your arms and shoulders? Are they free and allowing gravity to drop them away from your ears comfortably? So many wonderful things to check in with and enjoy. I think the main reason yoga is effective is the inward focus and slowing down of movement more than the poses themselves. We have so many “poses” or postures in a day that can be noticed and help create the mindfulness we hunger for and enjoy when we give it a chance. I totally understand the love of listening to music when exercising. I never used to listen to music when I ran but during the past few years I mix it up. (I love to break my own rules…isn’t that what rules are for …to be broken?)
When you notice where your body is and what it is doing in the moment from swimming to running to boxing (something I enjoy) you are ALL THERE. Research is showing what the article points out. If/when you mentally show up, you’re going to enjoy that moment so much more than just going through the motions. Mindfulness is the new buzz word and I like it. I’ve spent more than 25 years wanting folks to be interested in NOTICING the most simple movements and now it’s in vogue! I couldn’t be happier!
Being a physical therapist the word mindfulness was not really a go to phrase but the truth is it is the foundation of The McCall Method. The Balance Postures are just taking the most fundamental and basic movements and postures you live in, having you NOTICE them, relax in them and shift into a better place with them. This rebuilding of your posture opens up an internal awareness that is vast and so very useful in your life. This “undoing “of old postures and movement patterns that no longer serve you in turn opens you up to an intelligence in movement that has been there all the time.
Let Go and Get Tall
Tension. We carry it in our bodies involuntarily AND voluntarily.
Today’s stress inflicts tension before we even know it. And we tense up because we’ve been told it’s good for us – ‘Tuck your butt under! Suck in your gut! Lift up your chest!’ The trouble is, all of these commands prevent you from enjoying a strong, tall, natural, relaxed posture.
Just relax and let go of your stomach and you’ll automatically begin to undo this tension. You can do it NOW, no matter where you are reading this. If you feel a bit dumpy when you let go of your gut, like your stomach is sticking out, then begin to change the shape of your belly by shifting your posture and stretching up the spine. By doing this simple move you will begin to shift your entire spine and this will result in a taller appearance as tension releases.
It’s the tension or what physical therapists call “guarding patterns” in the body that contributes to pain. This is also why it’s hard to stand up straight or get your head back over your shoulders. The body wants to pull you forward because of the habitual tension around your spine. That habit started a long time ago due to our lifestyle of computer sitting, texting and staring at our cell phones. To shift out of this it may feel odd at first because you may not feel like you’re doing much when you stretch up the spine. Over time as you repeat this you begin to notice when your slumping sets back in, your shoulders creep up to your ears and head shifts forward.
As you feel this old pattern return, you can STOP and Get Tall Again!
How to do it:
1. Let go of the stomach.
2. Press your head up into a something like a small towel or beany-bag.
3. You will feel the stomach area draw in from the upward stretch. Re-relax your chest and abdominal area and repeat the stretch again.
4. Now walk tall into your kitchen or wherever you need to go and notice the difference in how it feels to be aware of what is happening
INSIDE of you than OUTSIDE of you.
5. Do this daily and notice how your gut gets smaller by just shifting your structure and relaxing your body. You may notice that tension begins to melt away as well.
DOWNWARD FACING DOG Adho mukha śvānāsana
People love this pose. As one of the most popular yoga poses, down dog can pose some problems for your shoulders if you aren’t aware of where your weight is all the time. The way you approach and do down dog makes all the difference in the world on how much you will gain from it. Properly done, most of your weight in down dog should be centered in your hips and legs. For many folks, the weight often shifts to the shoulders, neck, elbows and hands, which can injure
and/or hurt these areas. This video shows you how to shift the weight back into your hips without creating unnecessary stress to your upper body.
Some tips to get the most out of your Dog:
1.Keep the natural arch in the low back the whole time.
2. Use blocks or a chair to elevate your hands so the weight of your body is more in your hips.
3. Keep your knees bent so that you don’t lose your arch in your lower spine.
4. Let your heels come up off the ground. This also helps prevent you from losing the arch in your spine or position of your hips.
5. Stretch back in to your hips away from your hands by focusing on your crotch stretching back and up.
Have you ever wondered why repetition makes a difficult task easier? Actions such as riding a bike or skiing down a mountain go from what is called a cortical level (the cortex of the brain or higher centers) to a less conscious level of the nervous system through repetition.1 1 Thank goodness, or it would take hours to get dressed every morning! When we realize that movement experiences shape our body that should be our clue to connect riding a bike, walking, jumping and skipping with bending at the sink to shave, getting out of a car or carrying out the trash: they are reflex and voluntary. Postural response is shaped by experience.
Daily movements are important since they require skill much as a great tennis serve or the freestyle performed by an Olympic swimmer requires skill. The trick is to get movement to stick so that it’s a “no brainer.” We do that by writing a motor engram, a template that takes us from frustration to freedom by saving a move in our long-term memory.2 We write the engram by practice, by repetition. Consider this. It takes 5,000 to 6,000 repetitions to retrain the muscles of our body to coordinate as they did when we were a child.3
Before you give up, realize that in one day you probably bend forward hundreds of times. In one day! This is what repetition brings:4 To net a basketball from any angle takes 1 million throws to reach peak skill. It takes 1.5 million stitches to be a fine hand knitter.
A baseball pitcher needs 1.6 million throws to be a Clayton Kershaw.
So what’s a few thousand bends? It’s all in your perspective. However, if you’re going to take the time to do your thousand repetitions, make sure you are tuned in to how you are bending to get the best results.
1 E. Kandel, J.H. Schwartz, and T.M. Jessell, Principles of Neutral Science, Appleton & Lange, Connecticut, 1991, p. 534
3 O. Holten, H. P. Faugli, Medisink Treningsterapi, Illniversitetsforlaaet. 0608 Olso, Norway
4 F. J. Kottke, D. Halpern, J. K. M. Easton, A. T. Ozel, C. A. Burrill, The training coordination. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 1978, 59: 567-572. M. Trew and T. Everett (eds.), Human Movement, Churchill Livingstone Inc., New York, 1997, p. 43
Image 1 credit to Framepool. Image found at http://footage.framepool.com/en/shot/778815322-weeding-bending-paddy-field-cultivation-of-rice
An important way to prevent injury is to be more aware of basic physical stuff like standing, sitting, bending and “hanging out.” We often think back and knee pain etc. come “out of nowhere!” Rarely is that the way it actually happens. We just don’t notice small signs because these little interruptions of discomfort don’t hurt. They’re just annoying. But this is when we should take notice.
We are more conditioned to pay attention and remain attracted to the intensity of a movement. We think the more intense, the more is happening. These simpler movements don’t seem interesting and get pushed aside because we’re into more intense stimuli. The paradox is the subtleties like shifting your hips to be more centered when sitting or relaxing your chest and belly and stretching up from the back of you spine — ALL can have a great impact and grow to be not so subtle. There is less of the need to go out and seek more stimuli when you begin to feel or become more aware of the subtle movements inside of you. You become more comfortable. The seeking for more dramatic results needs to chill a little. Your awareness is being heightened when you become more sensitive to movements that can keep you from moving wrong over and over again. The McCall Method is built on this idea of noticing and increasing awareness around your daily movements and postures. The results are surprisingly satisfying. The more you pay attention to the small stuff the greater your chances of not being injured.