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A Healthy Back with NO Exercises – The Alexander Technique Way

“I’ve done no exercises, yet my back feels great!” That is the result of a 100-year-old method called The Alexander Technique. This approach has been used by thousands of people worldwide including Paul McCartney, Sting, Julie Andrews, Aldous Huxley, Linda McCartney, Paul Newman, members of the British Royal Family and Robin Williams. Yet why don’t more people know about this non-invasive, life-changing method called The Alexander Technique?  There are no ready answers, but one might guess its emphasis on observing and changing is not what we’re used to.  Alexander Technique is offered at most music, dance and drama schools throughout North America, Europe and Australia. However, it’s not limited to performers. Using the computer, brushing your teeth, walking to the car or picking up your socks can be a painful chore or can be morphed into grist for the mill. With guidance, everyday actions can be easier and stress free.

At its core, Alexander Technique identifies compressive habits that might otherwise go unnoticed, habits that affect how we feel. For example, if your back hurts as you hunch over the computer keyboard, you might be in the grip of a habit combined with misinformation. In our modern world of “faster stronger more,” the Alexander Technique takes a step back, slows us down for a close look at how we’re doing what we’re doing. Take washing dishes, as another example. Are your legs tensed? Are you bending at a false joint, somewhere in your mid-back? That hurts. Instead, you can learn to use your knees and hips to bend, thus allowing the spine and back to expand naturally.  Are your neck and shoulders chronically tensed?  The root cause is the startle reflex. Learning how to change this pattern is an essential part of the Alexander Technique.

Even our language describing our intentions can be unhelpful. Words affect us more than we realize. Take the word “posture.”  Instead of it producing a positive result, this word is often stiffening. Or the words, “sit up straight.” This phrase usually leads to contraction and pain.  Deepak Chopra said it best: “words are more than symbols, they are triggers of biological response.”  You can substitute the words balance, ease and expansion to assist change. Our stress hormone, cortisol, goes down when we are expanded rather than contracted. How to expand without trying is the essence of the Alexander Technique. It is taught through gentle hands-on guidance and verbal cues, looking at everyday actions such as sitting, bending, reaching, breathing, lifting, standing and walking.  Specialized uses helping the way you approach playing music, singing, acting, practicing martial arts, dancing …well, you get the idea.

Nora NausbaumNora Nausbaum offers both workshops and individual lessons in her downtown Grass Valley office. She has taught the Alexander Technique since qualifying for certification in 1988 at the Center for the Alexander Technique in Menlo Park, CA. Nora is also a professional flutist.  She can be reached at Nora@ATsierra.com or More information can be found on her website at http://www.ATsierra.com.

Guacamole Quinoa

The instructions are three short sentences — it’s SO simple. It’s perfect as a portable side dish, because it can easily be doubled or tripled for a large batch to take to a party, and can be served warm, room temperature, or cold. Additionally, against all odds, it stays bright green for 3 days in the fridge!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced
  • Juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with a press or minced and ground into a paste
  • 1 Roma tomato, diced
  • 1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne

Directions:

In a medium bowl, mash together avocado, lime juice, and salt. Add remaining ingredients, then toss to combine well. Serve warm or cold.

Recipe compliments of Foxes Love Lemons.

If It Feels Good Then by all Means, DO IT!

Huh? Seems kind of selfish doesn’t it? But what if you were to go with what your body, nature, the universe is telling you to do. In your job, your relationships…even the car you buy. Did you ever do something and it just felt sort of funny or wrong…then it was the wrong thing to do! Conversely, did you ever do something and it felt right? Then it was the right thing to do! We can all benefit from following our instincts.

When I was in my twenties (as in many years ago), I remember someone saying to me, “trust your instincts…they will guide you through life.” It didn’t really ring true to me at that point. However, as the years went by, I have found it to be very true!

Speaking of true – have you ever thought about your “true calling.” By that I mean what it is that is your purpose here on earth? We all wear many hats and your true calling will be varied. For example, you could be meant to have eight children (I hope not for your sake), work with kids, work in construction, be a marathon runner or president of a large company. If you really think about it, your true calling is basically given to you as a series of signs during your lifetime (as there is no such thing as a coincidence). The key to following the correct path is to be open minded enough to see it!

Many people either do not understand this concept or feel that they are very far removed from achieving it. This would be what’s known as a blockage – you may be standing in your own way and stopping yourself from realizing your own true calling. That being said, how do you get out of your own way? The first thing is, once again, to trust your instincts. If something feels wrong, then it is! You can apply this to any area of your life: jobs, relationships, financial decisions, what you choose to wear to the company picnic…anything. I urge you to try to get in tune to your instincts. I find that daily meditation is an important key for me to “tune in” everyday. I simply lay down for about twenty minutes and clear my mind.

How do I do this? Very simply, I count my breaths. I count to one and inhale, then to two and exhale, all the way up to twenty. Then, if I’m not yet cleared, I start again. Through practice I have learned to focus on only my breathing and it clears my mind. I find that this practice, everyday, opens me up to trust my instincts, which in turn attunes me to my true calling. I feel better, make better decisions and always sleep better. All from lying down and taking it easy!

Like anything else, meditation and other habits take practice and patience. The best things, like a Thanksgiving turkey, are done slowly and over time. If you are patient, positive and honest, you will succeed. You will open yourself up to your true calling very easily and you will enjoy doing it.

In our crazy, Type A, super fast-paced, society couldn’t we all use a bit of this? Besides, the idea of slowing down actually not only makes you feel better, it makes you more productive.

What is it that you want in your life? What do you want for yourself? For those close to you? Want to know something? You already have it! You probably just don’t know it! That’s right, you already have everything you need to be happy. All you have to do is open up your mind and your heart to receive them!

Andy Morris established A Better Life, LLC in May, 2011. A Better Life, LLC specializes in utilizing hypnosis, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and Reiki to help you to realize your potential. It is all about replacing some of your current habits, ones that do not work for you, with new habits, ones that do work for you! Our methods are simple, easy, fun and effective. A Better Life is located at 172 State Street in Newburyport, MA. It is managed by Andy Morris, Consulting Hypnotist and Reiki 3 Practioner (Master).

 

Four Ways to Reduce Stress with Chinese Medicine: The Liver

The Liver is the organ system that is responsible for circulating the Blood as well as the body’s energy, called Qi (“chee”) around the body. When either the Blood flow or the Qi flow becomes impeded in any way, the Blood and the Qi become stagnant and the result is pain and disease. There is a Chinese saying, “Where there is stagnation, there is pain and where there is pain, there is stagnation.” The Liver’s main focus is to move and to circulate in order to avoid stagnation.

Many things can impede the flow of Qi and Blood. Stress is probably the most common in our society. When we become stressed, our body tenses up. Maybe our chest tightens or our stomach ties into a knot or our shoulders start to lift up to our ears or our breathing becomes shallow or we overeat or hold our emotions in. All of these things stop the natural flow of Blood and Qi. Some of the possible effects of these stress reactions I listed above may include: heart palpitations, indigestion, headaches, dizziness, obesity, road-rage. Those are some serious consequences all stemming from a stagnation of Qi and Blood.

The Liver also regulates the menstruation because of its important role in storing and circulating the Blood. PMS symptoms are most often a signal that there is stagnation. If you experience irritability, crying, headaches, or cramps, then you can be sure that the Liver is stagnant in some way. In a healthy state, the body has a natural inclination to expand. When we are stressed out or experiencing PMS, the body begins to contract.

Reduce Stress By:

  1. Deep breathing. Either do it intuitively or find a Pranayama class (an ancient form of breath work originating from India)
  2. Exercise vigorously. Most people feel better after a good workout.
  3. Sigh. That’s right, inhale deeply and let out a sigh, it softens and relaxes the Liver.
  4. Everyone’s favorite: have an orgasm.

Spring Fling Potato Salad

The bright, crisp flavors of early spring inspired this perfectly packable potato salad, with just a bit of creaminess to keep the chill off until the danger of frost has truly passed.

Ingredients for the Salad:

3 lbs waxy potatoes (red and gold, cubed)
11/2 cups green peas (frozen or fresh)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
2 cucumber (small, seeded and diced)
4 scallions (sliced)
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Ingredients for the Dressing:

3 tbsps balsamic vinegar (white)
2 tbsps pomegranate molasses
2 tsps kosher salt
1 handful fresh basil
3 fresh mint (springs of)
3/4 cup buttermilk (plus additional as needed)
3/4 cup mayo

Directions:

  1. Boil the cubed potatoes until just fork tender, about ten minutes. Drain and reserve.
  2. While potatoes cook, bring a second pot of water to a boil and blanch peas for one minute, then drain and plunge them into an ice water bath to shock and stop the cooking. Set aside.
  3. To make the dressing, place vinegar, pomegranate molasses, salt, and herbs in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse until leaves are minced. Combine this mixture with the buttermilk and mayonnaise in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake until dressing is well mixed. Thin dressing with additional buttermilk as needed.
  4. In a large bowl, place potatoes, peas, cranberries, cucumbers, scallions, and sliced almonds. Toss with enough of the dressing to coat. Chill until ready to serve.

Recipe compliments of Yummly.com.

Three Myths About Core Strengthening for Back Pain

About 20 years ago, the principle of core strengthening started to gain wide acceptance as a strategy for preventing injury and treating various musculoskeletal conditions, especially back pain. This grew out of research studies that demonstrated a change in the timing and firing pattern of various muscles between groups of people with and without back pain. It has been long known that movement patterns change in the context of injury, and that these changes outlast the injury. However, this focus on core strengthening was based on several assumptions:

  • strengthening weak muscles can reduce back pain
  • certain muscles are more important for stabilization than others, particularly the transversus abdominus
  • a unique group of muscles (the core) worked independently of other trunk muscles

Let’s set aside these assumptions and look at the facts for direction about back pain prevention and treatment.

Myth 1: Strengthening weak muscles reduces back pain

If strength is the goal, then how much muscular contraction is required to stabilize the spine? The research tells us that the core muscles should contract minimally. In fact, upon standing the spinal erectors, quadratus lumborum, and psoas are nearly relaxed.  Walking involves 2% of maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) of the rectus abdominus and 5% MVC of the external obliques. Then lifting a 15kg (33lb) kettle bell causes these muscular contractions to rocket up 1.5%. [source]  This is all possible because of a complex coordination of minimal muscular contraction to orchestrate a balance of stiffness and mobility. Sweating and shaking at near 100% of your effort (think MVC) is a great way to get bigger muscles, but it wont improve the coordination.

Instead, training/rehab should facilitate coordinated efficient movements like rolling, standing, walking, stooping, and lifting. 

Myth 2: Training the transversus abdominis (TA) is the key to core stability

Early research into the role of the transversus adbdominis (TA) found that when performing rapid arm movements, patients with chronic back pain had a delayed activation of the TA. It contracted a fraction of a second later in those with back pain than those without back pain. Unfortunately, some assumed that the late contraction with causing/complicating back pain and sought to improve the timing by strengthening the TA. This resulted in many back pain patients being coached to perform abdominal hollowing (sucking in the belly button).

In actuality, the TA contributes to spine stability in synergy with all the other deep muscles (diaphragm, obliques, pelvic floor, etc.) It acts with these other muscles as a complete system, controlling abdominal pressure for breathing, talking, singing, laughing, defecating, vomiting…

Assuming that strengthening the TA with hollowing exercises can improve it’s coordination with other stabilizers is almost as bad as assuming that a delayed contraction of the TA is causing back pain in the first place.

Instead, training/rehab should facilitate subconscious efficiency of abdominal pressure system. One really does need to stabilize and breathe at the same time.

Myth 3: The “core” works independently of other trunk muscles

Most “core strengthening” exercises attempt to isolate “core” muscles from “global” muscles.  In fact, these muscles only exist independently in a drawing. When dissecting a cadaver, a knife is used to separate the bundles of muscles.  Thinking of a muscle as separate from an adjacent muscle is useful for studying anatomy but not for understanding function.  When your nervous system thinks, “time to scratch the nose,” it is not performed via muscle-by-muscle activation.  Instead, the nervous system performs a finger-to-nose movement. The neurological wiring is based on the movement, not muscle-by-muscle.

Instead, every training day is “core” day. Every rehab session should train movements, not muscles. 

Dr. Brad Cole  is a rehab physician treating functional, musculoskeletal pain with manual therapy, corrective exercise and other rehabilitative techniques. He practices at Cole Pain Therapy Group with a professional degree in chiropractic (DC), master’s degree in sports rehab and bachelors’ degrees in life science and in business administration. Brad is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA and strive to integrate the scientific principles of athletic functional performance to improve the life of any musculoskeletal pain sufferer. Visit his personal website HERE, and the website for the Cole Pain Therapy Group HERE.

Compelling New Evidence for Sports Massage

An exciting new sports massage study compares the recovery process of exhausted muscles that receive massage therapy to those that recover without massage. The best part is that researchers looked at recovery at a cellular level. This study is rare because it required actually taking a small piece of muscle from each volunteer several times- a major commitment! The New York Times story on the study results is here.

Ordinarily, after muscles are damaged by exercise or an accident, they become inflamed, bringing blood into the area with nutrients for healing, and immune cells to fight off any infection. We already know that after exhausting exercise, muscles are inflamed. Inflammation is a normal part of the healing process. It’s also painful, which is actually a helpful signal from your body to rest and recover!

Inflammation becomes a problem when the response is greater than needed, or when the body becomes trapped in a cycle of inflammation and doesn’t progress with healing. For example, when muscles are slightly torn from a good workout, there is no need for a strong anti-infection response such as would be appropriate for a wound.

Dr. Mark A. Tarnopolsky, the lead study author and a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario examined how muscles recover after strenuous exercise, comparing muscles that received massage with muscles that did not. The study found that muscles that received massage therapy during recovery from exercise had fewer cytokines, which are a part of inflammation. The massaged muscles also had more active mitochondria, the part of a cell that creates the energy needed to heal. The study authors theorize that massage may suppress the less desirable aspects of inflammation while still permitting cell healing- the best of both worlds! This is great news for athletes and sports massage therapists.

Of course, we already have some methods to combat inflammation besides massage. One can slow inflammation with over the counter Nsaids like aspirin, ibuprofen or Aleve. However, Dr. Tarnopolsky says that overuse of anti-inflammatory drugs may result in a person staying chronically injured. The body needs inflammation to take place as the first stage of healing, and if inflammation is artificially ended, the body cannot skip ahead to the next phase. Overuse of anti-inflammatory drugs may give the body no chance to progress through the stages of healing.

The study suggests that massage might be a better way to recover from the muscle damage caused by exercise. I for one would like to thank the brave volunteers who underwent multiple muscle biopsies so that we can know this!

Jen Jaynes is a licensed massage therapist in Boston, Massachusetts. She has been a professional massage therapist since 2006, and enjoys working with athletes and those who use their body intensively. During massage school, she trained in a western martial art of full contact sword fighting, and learned first-hand how effective massage can be for hard-working muscles. Learn more at her website HERE.

Potato & Broccolini Frittata

The recipe calls for broccolini, a variety of broccoli with thinner, longer stalks and smaller florets that keeps a dark rich green color after it is cooked. However, any number of green vegetables would work here, either standard broccoli florets or sauteed kale, etc. A great dinner frittata, heavy on the vegetables but with enough golden potatoes and cheese that it doesn’t feel overly abstemious. The cheese isn’t just baked inside, but broiled on top, giving the lid of the frittata a frico-like effect, a thin crunch of broiled cheese before you bite into all of the greens and potatoes below, and it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t require a whole lot of advance planning to make for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 8 to 10 small waxy potatoes (about 1 ounce each), scrubbed and quartered
  • 1 cup vegetable or another broth; just use salted water if you don’t have it around
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 8 ounces (usually 1 bundle) broccolini, trimmed and halved lengthwise or chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small red or white onion, thinly sliced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1 cup (about 3 to 3 1/2 ouncesgrated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Place the potatoes and broth in a large, ovenproof frying pan, ideally one that is 12 inches. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes, turning the potatoes often, until almost all of the stock has been absorbed and the potatoes are tender.

Add olive oil, broccolini and onion to the potatoes in the frying pan and cook over medium heat for 1 minute, turning frequently, just to get everything coated with oil, Then, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover the pan, cooking for 3 to 4 more minutes, or until the broccolini has become mostly tender.

Heat your broiler.

Beat eggs with half the parmesan, salt and pepper, and pour it over the vegetables in the frying pan. Cover and cook over medium (or medium-low, if yours seems to be browning too quickly) until the eggs are mostly, set. Sprinkle remaining parmesan over frittata and run the whole pan under the broiler, until the top is bronzed and the eggs are just set throughout, approximately 5 minutes, but this could vary due to how robust your broiler is (mine is terrible; it took longer).

Let cool slightly before slicing into wedges or squares.

Recipe compliments of Smitten Kitchen.

Adopting Healthy Habits as a Family

While not necessarily easy, intentionally forming healthy habits – and having your family get onboard with you - is possible. You just need to be armed with the following strategies:

- Create a plan. Focus on one area at a time. If you get too ambitious, you run the real risk of overwhelming your clan! Maybe you want to get active, eat more healthy food, and simplify your life, but you’ll need to pick only one and hone in on that to start. For example, begin by upping your activity level and scheduling regular family bike rides three days a week.

- Within your plan, think baby steps. Instead of “I want us to eat better,” try thinking about one thing that you can improve and implement that. Maybe it’s cutting out soda from your diet and replacing it with water flavored with fresh berries or lemon. Once you succeed in making that change you can add another healthy habit to the mix.

- Be realistic. Say you want to “unplug.” But the TV’s on, the laptops are open, and smartphones are buzzing seemingly 24/7. Putting a total moratorium on electronics usage is not only impractical; it’s unlikely to get you anywhere. Instead, call a family meeting and get everyone’s input on how to incorporate more face time and less screen time in your home. There are two benefits to this approach—by taking realistic steps to fix the problem, you are more likely to end up with a sustainable solution, and by getting family buy-in via a collective agreement, you are more likely see your loved ones comply.

- Be prepared for obstacles. There will be setbacks along the way, and that’s OK. There’s no room for perfection when it comes to making the change to a healthy lifestyle! Encourage your family to put past choices behind them and look at each new moment as an opportunity to make a better choice.

- Set a good example. By being the shining example of health and balance, your family members can model what they see you doing. You play an important role as guide and coach for your children as they make choices about eating.

- Make it fun! Be creative as you introduce these ideas to your family. Incorporate games or adventurous outings into your bag of tricks to create a positive correlation with their newfound habits. After all, it’s healthy to laugh!

- If all else fails… eat dinner together as a family. Research has shown that just eating together as a family can improve children’s nutritional health. Eat without the TV on and shoot for sitting down at least three days a week (ideally more).

Studies show that it takes a median time of 66 days to form a new habit. In the end, you’ll see that adopting healthy habits is more akin to running a marathon, not a sprint, and motivation is key. In this case, the reward of you and your family living more vibrant lives, at an ideal weight, with reduced risk of disease definitely justifies the effort!

This article came from the Sprouted Content wellness article library. The library’s mission is to help holistic practitioners SAVE TIME and GAIN CLIENTS. By providing more than 100 high-quality done-for-you articles that can be dropped into newsletters, blogs, video scripts, or e-books, Sprouted Content makes practitioners’ marketing effort much easier, which means they’ll feel less stress as they grow their practices. Go to www.sproutedcontent.com to learn more and take advantage of a special 10% off coupon – just enter coupon code: SAVETIME at checkout.

Raise an Allergy-Free Child

I frequently talk about ways that seasonal allergy symptoms can be treated without having to rely on medications. This goes for children too! How can you treat your child’s runny nose, sneezing and itchy watery eyes without the antihistamines that can make her so groggy and fatigued? Even better, how can these symptoms be prevented in the first place?

When it comes to childhood allergies, there are two factors that contribute in a big way: diet and antibiotic use. Recent studies have shown that antibiotics can lead to an overgrowth of candida yeast in the digestive system, which can ultimately affect how the immune system reacts to common allergens. Read more about this theory here.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes that diet is closely related to a wide range of childhood ailments including allergies and chronic respiratory congestion. According to TCM theory infants, toddlers and young children have weak and immature digestive systems that are unable to function as efficiently as an adult’s. Poor dietary choices, like too much processed, sweet or greasy food, can be the root cause of a host of problems.

Many parents in Western cultures tend to begin feeding solid foods too early, too quickly, or introduce the wrong kinds of foods. If the digestion is not developed enough to handle it, food will stagnate in the stomach and intestines and baby will have a tummy ache, gas, constipation or diarrhea.

It is believed that baby should not be fed solid foods too early because the digestive system is simply not ready. In Western cultures babies are sometimes encouraged to progress to solid food before they are really ready. A new study by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control talks about why we do this and the related effects it has on digestive health.

This premature introduction to solid foods is thought to be one of the causes of childhood allergies. The gut is overtaxed from the start, impairing the absorption of nutrients, and the cycle of poor digestive function begins. A good rule of thumb when introducing solid foods is to wait until your baby starts reaching for food from your plate, at around five or six months. Then, only try one food at a time. This way you will be able to easily see what she is able to tolerate. Babies should never eat anything cold or raw as these are way too hard for their immature systems to digest.

If your older child already suffers from seasonal allergies, it’s not too late to deal with them gently and naturally. Be sure to take a good look at your child’s diet. Processed and fast food, sugar and dairy are among the biggest offenders. An excess of foods containing gluten can also exacerbate allergy symptoms in some sensitive people.

For symptomatic relief, there are many natural remedies which are safe and effective. Children can be treated with gentle pediatric Chinese herbal formulas, acupressure, and homeopathic remedies. And if your older child or teen is willing to try it, acupuncture is an amazing therapy for seasonal allergy symptoms!

Joy RobertsJoy Roberts, L.Ac. is a NY State licensed and board certified Acupuncturist and a Health Educator. Hailing originally from Southern California, Joy has lived in Brooklyn for over 25 years and is deeply connected to the Brooklyn community. She is passionate about helping others learn to how to live healthier lives. Joy has a thriving acupuncture practice in Carroll Gardens Brooklyn, and is a facilitator for Start Your Engine, a non-profit program that teaches nutrition and other healthy living skills to women at risk for obesity-related diseases. Click HERE to visit Joy’s personal site.