Jill's List Blog
A Juice Cleanse is your ticket to health! Or is it?
Over the last couple of years juicing has become very popular. Everywhere you look someone is talking about the life-changing effects of juicing. Recently, I even received a two day juice cleanse deal from Living Social! I won’t name names but the company offering the deal advertises “lose 12 pounds in 2 days!” Now, come on. Does anyone still believe that? While juicing has many benefits, it is not a cure-all as many people seem to believe. So, assuming you are not looking to lose weight so much as feeling more energetic and clear-minded, would a juice cleanse be beneficial for you? Maybe. Maybe not!
Ayurveda’s Take On Juicing
Ayurveda is clear on one thing: nothing is all good or all bad for anybody all of the time. And so it is with juicing. Juices by their very nature are cold, light and dry (no fat). Depending on whether you have more air (vata), fire (pitta), or earth (kapha) in you, those qualities may or may not agree with you.
In terms of energetic effects, juicing is:
- Energizing (at least initially)
But are those the qualities you are in need of? If you are feeling congested, mucous-y, foggy and uninspired, then most likely yes. But if you are like me and need more grounding, warming, nourishing foods to feel good, proceed with caution. Done for too long, juicing can easily be depleting because of the absence of protein and fats in juices.
In my late twenties I experimented with juicing. I started to feel SO energized, SO light and SO clear that I only needed 5 hours of sleep and didn’t know how to occupy all my waking hours! I also lost a lot of weight (which I didn’t need to lose) and I still remember vividly this feeling in my body that I could almost levitate, so light and buoyant I felt! I also started to feel spacey, chilly and unable to concentrate for long. Those attempts at juicing were inevitably followed by me binging on all the dense, starchy, fatty foods I could get my hands on, to compensate for the depletion that had occurred. These days I know better. I won’t have a juice (I don’t even feel like it) unless it’s 85 F or above. And if it’s humid all the better. The heat and moisture in the atmosphere is what my (mostly vata) constitution needs in order to benefit from the lightening and clearing qualities of juices.
Juicing and YOU
If you don’t already know your mind/body type, take this quiz to find out. If your constitution is Vata or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: restlessness, fatigue, anxiety, dry skin/nails/hair, constipation, difficulty falling asleep at night…. Then juicing is not for you right now. Wait until the weather really warms up. And even then, I suggest no more than one juice a day with two solid food meals.
If your constitution is Pitta or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: heartburn, any type of inflammatory condition (skin, gut, eyes, joints), anger, profuse sweating, bad breath, loose stool…You’ll benefit from juicing in moderation. Your constitution will likely welcome the cooling effect of juices but you still have to be moderate. Pitta types tend to have excellent digestion and a fast metabolism. Going on a “liquids only” diet can leave this type feeling ravenous and extremely irritable! Two juices a day with one large solid food meal should keep you satiated and pleasant to be around!
If your constitution is Kapha or you are experiencing several of the following symptoms: recurring colds and sinus congestion, fluid retention, feeling foggy and uninspired, excessively oily hair and skin, difficulty waking up in the morning even after a full night sleep… Bingo! You are the best candidate for a juice cleanse. A 2 to 5 day juice-only diet should perk you up nicely.
Those are general guidelines. Try juicing if you are so inclined and pay close attention to how your body and mind respond. Trust what you feel and become the expert of yourself. Don’t just follow the trend! Only by investigating honestly with an open mind can you figure out how much juice (if any) you can enjoy without upsetting your internal balance.
Sylvie Barthelemy draws upon her 16 years of experience in the field of holistic health to help people achieve optimum health, naturally. She is a Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Practitioner and Coach, with extensive experience as an Ayurvedic massage therapist and as a Yoga and Meditation Teacher. Sylvie particularly loves to help women who feel stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted to generate calm, clear and confident energy, using yogic and ayurvedic methods of healing. Check out her website HERE.
Ask someone from a western culture to show you the location of their mind and the finger goes right to the head. Ask someone from China or Tibet and the hand goes to the center of the chest: the heart.
From the western medical perspective, we are all familiar with the circulatory functions of the heart. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the organs and the tissues of the body.
You may have heard your acupuncturist talking about “heat in the Heart” or “Heart Blood deficiency,” two common Chinese diagnoses that can cause insomnia as well as anxiety. These imbalances can be corrected using Chinese medicine, but what do they mean and how do they manifest?
Suffering from insomnia or anxiety can mean different things. Some people have trouble falling asleep, but once they do, they sleep the rest of the night. Others may fall asleep right away, but wake up multiple times throughout the night. In worst cases, they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. What causes this?
From the Chinese medical perspective, the Heart is the residence of the mind or the shen. In Chinese, the word shen can be translated as mind, spirit, soul, etc.
Here is a metaphor to help explain this concept of the Heart’s shen and how it affects our sleep. Imagine that our shen, or spirit, needs a place to reside at night just as our bodies need a bed in a quiet dark room. The Heart is that bed in a quiet dark room for the shen to sleep in. But our Heart needs to be in balance before it can be a place of refuge for our spirit.
Imagine the Heart as a warm moist box with a lid on it. During the day, the lid is open and our spirit is out of that box expending energy and interacting with the outside world. But come nighttime, the spirit needs to rest just as our bodies do. Our body goes to bed in a quiet dark room and our shen goes to the warm moist box of the Heart and the lid closes. In the morning when it is time to interact with the world again, the lid opens and the shen emerges.
If you can’t fall asleep and your mind is racing, it is likely that your shen is not coming back to reside in the Heart, but is staying on the exterior surface of the body as it does during the day thereby allowing the mind to race. If there is heat in the Heart, that agitates the shen, just as our emotions get agitated on those hot sweaty days of a summer heat wave. The heart’s function of housing the mind depends on enough nourishment from the blood. If the Heart is blood deficient, it can’t keep that box moist enough for the shen to want to stay, resulting in dream-disturbed sleep. It’s like trying to fall asleep with bright lights on, no covers, and your front door wide open.
Regardless of your imbalance, here are five ways to improve your sleep:
1. Engage in anxiety and stress-relief activities. Try meditation, deep breathing, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, restorative yoga, talk therapy or anything else that relieves your anxiety.
2. Eat blood nourishing foods: small frequent portions of red meat (the size of a deck of cards two to three times a week), bone marrow broths, black beans, red grapes, leafy greens,
3. Avoid bright lights and technology for an hour before bed. This includes computer, radio, television, music (unless it is relaxing) and telephone. Do not use these technologies in bed.
4. Avoid caffeine and alcohol for 4 to 6 hours before bed. Exercise daily in the morning or mid-day.
5. Get regular acupuncture treatments & Chinese herbal therapy from a qualified practitioner.
The Heart is not the only organ that affects sleep or anxiety, according to Chinese Medicine. Sleep patterns can also be affected by imbalances in the Spleen, Liver, and Kidneys.
Elie Cole is a San Diego native, but having lived and studied in Central America, South Asia, and West Africa, she has many homes and families. Elie graduated from a traveling university called Global College, a part of Long Island University. Never having stepped foot on the New York campus, she earned her Bachelor degree in Social Change while traveling around the world.
Inspired by Mama Marta, Elie began her studies in massage therapy in 1999 at the International Professional School of Bodywork in San Diego. She owned Heal Thyself Massage Therapy, a successful massage practice, while studying Chinese medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego before transferring to Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, Oregon. Elie earned a Masters of Science of Traditional Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in 2007 and is now the owner of Nourishing Medicine, Inc. Since January 2011, she is the co-owner of Cypress Beauty & Wellness with Nancy Lisac.
What doesn’t taste fantastic when paired with peaches?! Try this delicious ginger salmon with peaces recipe for a yummy dinner that will surely become a favorite go-to recipe.
Ingredients: 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger, 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil,salt and pepper, 2 medium red onions and 3 peaches (both cut into wedges), and 4 6-ounce salmon steaks
Directions: In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, ginger, thyme, 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/4 teaspoon of both salt and pepper to make a vinaigrette. In a large bowl, toss the onions, peaches, remaining olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Season the salmon with salt and pepper and begin grilling, along with onions. After about 5 to 6 minutes on each side, add the peaches to the grill and cook for another 3 to 4 minutes per side. Drizzle vinaigrette over salmon and enjoy!
Borrowed from www.realsimple.com
The First Three Steps of a Good Pre-Conception Program
Once deciding to start a family, many women believe that once they stop using the birth control pill that they will fall pregnant. However, with infertility rates increasing and couples starting a family later in life, it is crucial that women follow these three steps when embarking on the fertility path. Don’t make the mistake of just “trying” for a year and then decide to see assistance. Finding out if there is a functional problem with either the male or female reproductive system is a prudent first step.
The Three Crucial Functional Tests
Testing the function of the reproductive system just makes sense. If you haven’t driven a car for 20 to 30 years, you want to make sure that all of the parts are working. Also, when women put off starting a family until their 30′s and 40′s and they have been on hormone altering medications for a long period of time, the body’s hormones can take a while to balance out again. I recommend that men get a semen analysis from the get go. It’s a non-invasive test and it’s smart to know in advance that the sperm count is sufficient and the swimmers are strong.
For women, I recommend getting an HSG (hysto-salpingogram) to make sure that your fallopian tubes are free from obstruction. This is a critical first test to get, because if there is something blocking the tubes, the sperm and egg can not meet. Secondly, I recommend a sono-hystogram, which is a saline vaginal ultrasound. This checks the uterus for abnormal structures, fibroids or polyps. Any of these issues can prevent a successful implantation and may even cause a miscarriage, so it’s prudent to make sure the uterus is in good shape to support a pregnancy.
A Smart Fertility Diet
A smart fertility diet doesn’t need to be complicated or difficult. You basically want to be smart in your food and drink choices. Avoiding toxins and consuming only nourishing foods is the most expedient path to preparing your body for pregnancy. Be smart! Don’t drink coffee, alcohol or sugar laden drinks. All that you really need is water. Really!
Smart women realize that preparing their bodies with a nourishing diet before conceiving gives both them and their babies a strong start. Women who eat well for a year before conceiving have better pregnancies with less complications. Also, we see less gestational diabetes, better birth weights and healthier babies overall.
Eat real foods that nourish your tissues and your hard working endocrine glands. Real Foods consist of organic, pasture raised animal protein, plenty of organic vegetables, full fat, organic dairy and healthy fats. Minimizing or eliminating grains and being mindful of stable blood sugar will reduce inflammation, keep moods stable and reduce cravings for sweets and junk food.
If you can imagine harvesting, slaughtering or catching your food in the wild, it’s Real. If your food comes in any sort of packaging with a long ingredient list, it’s not Real. Eating smart fertility diet isn’t difficult. Just trust your instincts.
Take Advantage of the Benefits of Acupuncture
Getting regular acupuncture is one of the most effective ways of preparing your body for pregnancy. Acupuncture has been found to help with fertility issues because it calms the mind, increases blood circulation to the reproductive organs and helps improve the function of the endocrine system.
Acupuncturists today enjoy a plethora of conferences, seminars and high level research focusing on fertility acupuncture. This makes choosing a fertility acupuncturist a wise decision when preparing your body for pregnancy. Finding an acupuncturist that specializes in fertility issues is easier now, than it was 10 years ago.
If you live in a metropolitan city, you will probably have the leisure of choosing between a number of well qualified acupuncturists. Ideally, you’ll find someone that is not only knowledgeable, but has a warm and supportive bedside manner. Finding an acupuncturist that you trust and are comfortable with will remove a lot of stress from the process and that can only be beneficial in helping you get pregnant.
Be Smart from the Start
Many of the women that I see in the clinic have been trying to conceive for over three years. Many of them have already done multiple rounds of Clomid, injectable drugs and IVF cycles. Unfortunately, very few of them have a diagnosis or a reason given for their infertility. If I could turn back the clock, I would encourage each of these women to be smart from the start and follow these three steps when first trying to conceive. Just moving forward without knowledge or information is a very disempowering pathway that often leads to more stress, confusion and frustration.
I don’t want to meet you after three years of trying in this fashion. Take my advice and seek your answers early and start preparing your body from the get go. Your baby will thank you someday for your wisdom in preparing your body for conception.
Amelia Hirota is a doctor of acupuncture and has been specializing in fertility since 2001. Dr. Hirota is passionate about educating and empowering her patients to make informed decisions about their health. In 2012 she produced a series of webinars, which have been called a mini PhD in Fertility. She owns and manages Phoenix Fertility Center in East Greenwich, RI.
Modern science is coming to the same conclusion as our wise ancestors: our hearts hold the key to our happiness, health and harmonious relationships.
Bodies under Stress:
A definition of stress could be “emotional unease.” It is not a particular event which causes stress, it is our reactions to or feelings about the event. In a stress response, we have over 1,400 biochemical reactions in the body. Cortisol levels (stress hormones) increase and DHEA levels (vitality, anti-aging hormone) decrease. High cortisol levels increase our blood pressure and sugar levels, they age us, diminish our memories and accumulate fat around our midsections and thighs. Think of the times during that day that your buttons get pushed! This is the stress response (survival physiology), which drains our energy! What if you could transform this stress response in the moment? You would think better, feel better and perform optimally.
We are taught the brain is our power center, and in many ways it is. Research at the Institute of HeartMath has proven that there are more neural pathways from the heart up to the brain than from the brain to the heart. The heart can perceive things (intuition) before the head can think them. Ever walk into a room and feel a vibe of tension? That perception is from your heart! When your heart is in a smooth rhythm pattern, the higher centers of the brain function optimally, coming out of our survival brains and creating new neural pathways!
Heart Rate Variability:
Heart rate variability is the beat-to-beat change in our hearts. Doctors look at this to see the health of our nervous system and the heart-brain interaction. Emotions influence this pattern! When we feel anger, worry, frustration, anxiety, disappointment, etc, a pattern is sent to the brain to minimize our higher brain centers (creativity, planning, impulse control). However, when we feel love, care, compassion and gratitude the heart sends a different pattern, and these centers function well. Have you ever been angry and said something you wished you had not? Yes, anger makes us stupid!
The heart has the ability to train our brain, respiration, digestion, immune, hormone and most other systems to work harmoniously. The heart is 5,000 times more powerful than the brain magnetically.This magnetic field around the heart radiates out 5 feet, and influences others. We can influence the energy around us and inside of us by feeling “heart” emotions. Feeling these emotions stops the stress response and the damage it inflicts!
Making the Shift:
Next time you feel stressed try this: focus on the area around your heart, breathe deeply into your heart and shift to feelings of love and appreciation. Doing this consistently in life changes your health, performance and relationships! Every time we do this we are influencing the energy within and around us! We co-create with spirit from the authentic self….our Hearts.
Debra Sheehan owns BodyMatters, Inc. along with her husband Tim. She has worked in the healthcare industry for 25 years. Debra coaches you in reducing the energetic of stress to bring more balance, clarity and resiliency into your life. She is trained and certified in massage therapy, orthobionomy, craniosacral and mind/body awareness. Check out her website HERE.
For the salad: 6 cups arugula, 1/4 seedless watermelon, 12 ounces feta cheese, 1 cup fresh mint, chopped
For the vinaigrette:
The juice of 2 large oranges, juice of 2 lemons, 2 shallots (pressed through a garlic press or minced), 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, freshly ground pepper for taste
Directions: Cube the watermelon and feta into 1/2 to 1 inch pieces, toss the watermelon and feta with the mint, combine watermelon mixture with the arugula in a large bowl, for the vinaigrette, combine the orange juice, lemon juice, shallots, salt and pepper in a bowl. Slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil while whisking vigorously. Serve over salad immediately. Or store separately in the refrigerator. Add grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon, or tofu for some added protein!
Adapted from Ina Garten
The postpartum period is an emotional time in a woman’s life. Between the joy of a new baby and the personal physical and hormonal changes, it can be challenging for mothers to have enough time in the day to take care of themselves while caring for their little one. However, it is vital for new moms to devote some precious moments to their health and well-being and reconnect with their own mind and body. Postnatal pilates offers a safe, effective and progressive means of reforming the body in just a matter of minutes.
The Pilates Method is a popular way to gain stability and flexibility. Core stabilization
involves training the deepest muscles of the abdomen, spine and pelvis to support the
trunk during movement and make the body more resilient to injury. Pregnancy and
delivery weakens each of these muscles and makes mothers especially vulnerable to
low back and pelvic pain and pathology. Thus, reactivating these muscles and
reconnecting the abdominal walls with the pelvic floor should be a priority in the early
stages of motherhood. Pilates promotes flexibility by encouraging the spine to move in
all planes of motion and the all muscles to lengthen and stretch with proper biomechanics within safe and appropriate range of motion. Over the course of a forty week gestation, a healthy weight gain can create postural misalignment that impacts flexibility and mobility. Muscle groups that often benefit from stretching due to childbearing include the iliopsoas, paraspinals, piriformis, gastrocsoleus complex, pectorals, and upper trapezius.
Despite its popularity for stretching and stabilization, Pilates follows several principles
that are often overlooked and offer significant benefits for postpartum women:
• Alignment: postural deviations occur in the upper and lower body as a result of the natural changes in the body during pregnancy and positions related to childcare. While expecting, elevated relaxin hormone levels increase laxity in the musculoskeletal system and causes changes such as increased lumbar lordosis and sacroiliac joint hypermobility. While caring for baby, mothers often tend to round their shoulders and place the head and neck in compromising positions while nursing, picking up the baby and pushing strollers. The forward posture becomes such a comfortable and routine position that moms don’t realize they have developed an abnormal change in musculoskeletal alignment! Pilates is a wonderful place to start addressing improper movement patterns and improving posture.
• Breath: Breathing promotes relaxation, reduction of muscle tension, and proper neuromuscular activation of the deep abdominal and pelvic floor muscles. Most importantly, it is amazingly easy to add into one’s daily routine because it should be employed with all movement!
• Whole Body Conditioning: With proper instruction, each Pilates exercise should require full attention from the brain and control of all body parts, while each session should train the mind, body and spirit as an integrated whole in order to be evenly conditioned. Postnatal Pilates workouts will train the upper and lower body to coordinate with the trunk in a functional manner to enable moms to love, nurture and play with their growing baby without muscle strain and joint pain.
Overall, Pilates is an incredible practice for the postnatal population by providing cleansing breath, promoting circulation, stimulating the neuromuscular system and rejuvenating the body with endorphins. Postnatal women will gain confidence, energy and stamina that they need to embrace modern day motherhood. Mothers typically return to exercise after a six week postnatal checkup, or later if baby was delivered via Cesarean. It is recommended that women receive a doctor’s prescription and work with a physical therapist specializing in Pilates. Specialized therapists are highly skilled in observing movement, offering tactile feedback, teaching modifications and progressing programs for safety and effectiveness.
Kristen Reynolds is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and PMA Certified Pilates Teacher in Boston, specializing in orthopedics and sports medicine. She offers one-on-one physical therapy sessions, private Pilates training and small group classes, including a Postnatal Pilates class at OMBE Integrative Health Center. You can connect with Kristen on Facebook and Twitter at @kpilatesrehab.
Ingredients: 1 cup raw cashews, 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut, plus a bit more for sprinkling, 1 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 tablespoon flax seeds, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, 18 pitted dates (really make sure there are no pits in them), Zest of 2 lemons, Juice from 1.5 lemons
Directions: In a food processor, process the cashews, coconut, chia, flax and salt until crumbly. It should look like bread crumbs. Add the dates, zest and juice. Process until combined. The dough will be a little sticky. Cover a 9×9 pan with parchment. Sprinkle coconut on the bottom and using your hands or a spatula flatten the mixture into the pan until even all around. Sprinkle with more coconut. Freeze for about an hour. Lift the parchment out of the pan. Using a good knife, cut into small, bite-sized pieces, or any size you’d like. Store in refrigerator or freezer.
Let me begin by saying that it’s reason enough to get a massage simply because it feels good. Extensive scientific research has proven that massage does perform a number of wonderful, therapeutic services for your body including:
• alleviates muscle spasm and soreness
• diminishes chronic pain
• increases flexibility and range of motion
• calms the nervous system
• lowers blood pressure and heart rate
• increases immune system activity
• reduces tension headaches
• improves concentration
• promotes restorative sleep and mental relaxation.
The therapeutic benefits of massage are many and certainly worth knowing. It is equally as important to know and understand the limitations of massage therapy before signing up for a session. Informed choice is always best. That being said, there are some serious myth-conceptions out there regarding the benefits of massage. I believe a brief debunking is in order.
MYTH #1: Massage releases and helps eliminate toxins from the body.
I have never encountered even one massage therapist who could give me the name of any specific toxin that massage helps eliminate from the body. It is a fact that the human body does store POPs (persistent organic pollutants) in fatty tissues and heavy metals in our bones, but there is no conclusive proof or research figures to support the idea that the mechanical pressure of even a deep tissue massage can release these toxins for elimination. I would however, suggest cutting down on the lead paint chips — and those preservative-filled snack cakes.
MYTH #2: It is important to drink water immediately following a massage.
My fellow massage therapists may not want you to know this, but as long as you are not suffering from respiratory failure, liver, or kidney disease, your body removes the wastes from normal everyday cellular metabolism just fine. Every minute your heart beats, your blood volume circulates through the lungs, liver, and kidneys. These organs, located deep enough in the body to be isolated from the mechanical pressure of massage, were marvelously designed to eliminate the by-products of metabolism — carbon dioxide, urea, and mineral salts. There is no immediate need to drink water after a massage in order to dilute these compounds. If you truly have an accumulation of these compounds in your body, you have bigger problems than a tall glass of water and a day at the spa will fix.
MYTH #3: Massage flushes out lactic acid and therefore alleviates post exercise muscle soreness.
I feel so sorry for this much-maligned wonder of biochemistry. Lactic acid is a key player in glucose metabolism. The body uses the energy from the breakdown of glucose to form ATP, which is the spark that sets off muscle contraction. It is actually the hydrogen ion (cleaved from adenosine triphosphate during extreme physical exertion) that is responsible for the burning sensation in the muscles. The production of hydrogen ions at such a high rate dissipates immediately after the exertion. Hydrogen ions do not build up and then hang around for days waiting for the massage therapists to wring them out of your body. The soreness you feel 24 to 48 hours after a workout is due to micro-trauma to the muscle fibers and the resultant inflammation. Important to note: Massage has been shown to help reduce inflammation response and promote the feeling of recovery from a hard workout.
There are many reasons to have a massage (list above). Who benefits from massage therapy? Anyone who routinely and/or strenuously stretches their physical limits through movement — running, cycling, swimming, hiking, dancing, tennis, strength training. Anyone with sore, strained or muscles that spasm. Anyone who is under stress. Anyone who suffers from tension headaches or high blood pressure or chronic pain. Anyone. Everyone. The absolute best reason to get a massage? Because it feels good.
After graduating from Washington State University with a Baccalaureate of Science in Kinesiology, Maria Baffo pursued her massage certification at the Touch Therapy Institute. She has also held a certification by the National Academy of Sports Medicine and is an indoor cycling Instructor. Maria has fourteen years of experience in massage therapy, and has provided massage in chiropractic, physical therapy settings, and her own practice in Westlake Village, CA. Visit her website HERE.
Posture, alignment and corrective exercise are hot topics in the health and wellness field. It is important to understand what it means when we tell someone that their posture needs some work, their body is out of alignment or they need special exercises to correct the problem areas. Most people understand that if they sit slumped in their chair for 8 to 10 hours a day, rarely take a break, and don’t do enough general exercise, they will sooner or later have pain. It is more difficult when someone who is fit, active and exhibits generally good posture begins to feel tightness or pain. What do we blame it on?
Good, natural alignment of the body is relative. Perfect posture does not exist. Health professionals are taught that when a person is standing, if their ear sits over their shoulder, shoulder over the hip, hip over the knee and knee over the ankle, that that is perfect alignment. But for who? Only for the person standing perfectly still. Bodies, even those that are standing and sitting for periods of time are generally in some kind of movement. If a person sits in perfect posture at their desk, with their feet on the floor, hips slightly higher than the knees, low back supported by a perfectly sized lumbar roll, chin tucked, shoulders relaxed, wrists, forearms, and elbows in neutral positions, they are usually also typing, reading, mousing, talking on the phone, and don’t forget breathing. These perfectly positioned people can still have pain. There are many other factors involved, like whether or not the person takes proper breaks, exercises on a regular basis, what their stress levels are and how they cope with life in general. There can also be underlying asymmetries in the body due to past injuries, surgeries or trauma that can create tightness or tension, even when someone is in good postural alignment. Let’s explore this last idea.
Poor posture is only one cause of imbalance in the body. If you slouched your way through high school and college and then on into your first desk job, you may be one of these people. The front of you is tight and the back of you is stretched out. Muscles that remain in shortened, tight positions over time, yep just like mom said, they stick that way and get weak. The stress on the body, including joints and even organs, increases, and pain or injury may develop as a result. A person can be taught exercises to correct the short, tight muscles in the front, and the stretched out weaker ones in the back as well as how to sit properly to decrease postural strain.
Asymmetries and alignment issues can also be caused by things like injuries, surgeries, illnesses and stress. The body, in its attempt to heal itself, will tighten and immobilize an area of injury, causing the connective tissue to adhere, shorten and dehydrate. The body can be left with areas that stop being able to contribute to normal movement causing other areas to compensate, leading to abnormal strain on muscles, joints and organs. You can sit up as straight as you want for the rest of your life but you will not fix this kind of alignment issue with perfect posture.
When the connective tissue (fascia) tightens, adheres and dehydrates in response to an injury, surgery or other trauma, the problem can be more significant than a cause that is simply postural. In this instance, corrective exercises are prescribed for part of the body that, compared to the other side, is restricted, tight, or painful, causing asymmetries, imbalance and poor alignment. The body is evaluated by a personal trainer, physical therapist or other trained professional and then the client is taught how to test themselves for asymmetries and use specific corrective exercises to balance them out. These exercises are done on one side of the body only, to help correct or balance the system.
How do I know I need this kind of specific corrective exercise? Most of us know when we have pain or dysfunction, but have trouble noticing before that. Most people live in this fashion, meaning that we only know we need help after something starts to hurt (the red flag). Which brings me to one of the most important pieces of health, wellness and healing; awareness. Practicing body awareness will help you to pay attention at the yellow flag stage. If you can catch a problem earlier, when it is just a slight tightness, strain or pull, you will be able to regain balance, symmetry and alignment with a few simple exercises. By using your awareness, checking in with your body and the way it feels as you move, breathe and exercise, you will find the flags before they are red, and go a long way toward preventing injury.
So yes, listen to mom and sit up straight, exercise more and manage your stress, but even more importantly, practice body awareness by paying attention to the body’s signals when they are mild. Ask your health and wellness professional to help you find and treat asymmetries with a few corrective exercises before you have pain and you will have the preventive tools for a lifetime.
Laura Probert, MPT, author of Living, Healing and Taekwondo, has practiced physical therapy for over 18 years. Her private practice, Bodyworks Physical Therapy, is focused on corrective exercise and hands on treatment, including myofascial release and craniosacral therapy. Classes and workshops explore everything from hands on healing to black belt fitness. Find more information at www.bodyworksptonline.com or www.taewkondospirit.com!