Halloween, Feldenkrais, and the Magical Movement of the Skeleton

Halloween has to be one of my favorite holidays. I loved it as a kid, and I still love it to this day. There is something special about the decorations, the costumes, and the sheer spookiness of Halloween. And of course there’s the candy corn. At Halloween you can be anyone you want to be. You can even be yourself if you like.

Another thing I love about Halloween are all of the skeletons hanging around, so to speak. As a physical therapist I’m used to looking at the skeleton in a variety of different ways. But I fell in love with the skeleton during my Feldenkrais training. Because there is something magical about the skeleton.

Our skeleton is the very core of our being, and it is responsible for holding our structure together. It’s just like the foundation of a house or a building. Without a sound foundation, the structure will begin to collapse upon itself. Unfortunately, my husband and I experienced that for ourselves when water in our basement damaged the foundation. It was a very expensive  and impressive lesson to learn.

Our bodies are very similar to structure of a building. However, they are far more beautiful, both in design and function. That’s where Feldenkrais comes in to play. In Feldenkrais, we focus on moving from our bones and our skeleton, rather than pushing from our muscles. Our skeletal structure supports us, our bones move us, and our nervous system is the computer which functions as the control center. Our muscles simply contract and relax as a result of the messages they receive from the very sophisticated, highly developed and extremely intelligent nervous system.

I know, it’s a different way of approaching movement, and it may be contrary to your current belief system about the science of movement. However, once you learn to move from the skeleton instead of pushing through your muscles, you experience how movement becomes easy, elegant and effortless. The truth is, when you move from your skeleton, magic happens!

This Halloween, put out the decorations, put on the costumes, consume the candy corn, and take a few minutes to celebrate and honor your skeleton. After all, it supports you every single day of the year. And it truly is a remarkable structure. Most of all, have a safe, healthy, and Happy Halloween. Boo.


Sixty Days Of Cheryl: Reasons to Celebrate

Turning sixty is not the end of the world. As a matter of fact, I believe it’s just the beginning, and certainly something to celebrate. And I ought to know, based on personal experience.

Not that I’ve ever turned sixty before. But when I turned fifty, magic happened. Full disclosure–my thirties weren’t so great. My forties were a nightmare. I wasn’t sure I would even make it to fifty. But the closer I got to fifty, the more I began to look forward to it. If nothing else, at least it would signify the end of the decade from hell.

I was so excited about turning fifty that my girlfriends threw me a party, complete with a red tiara. This was an idea borrowed from the Red Hat Society. You know, the group of women who mark their fiftieth birthday by wearing a red hat and becoming a member of the special secret club that wears red hats and purple dresses in public.  

But I didn’t want a red hat. I wanted a freaking tiara. I felt like I earned it after all I had been through. My dear friends actually found red tiaras online. They bought one for me and three other girls who were already over fifty. We had a fabulous party, complete with a crowning ceremony, where the over-fifty ladies placed a red tiara on my head.

I decided to further ring in the big Five-O by celebrating “Fifty Days of Cheryl.” I began on the day of my red tiara party, and spent just a few minutes every day honoring myself in some small way. It started out great, until I got the stomach flu on the tenth day of Cheryl. Always the optimist, I figured I would just drop that one day and pick it up again on the following one. Unfortunately, it took me a week to recover and I dropped the remaining forty days. However, it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for turning fifty.

My fifties were the best decade of my life. Of course, some bad things happened. I lost both my parents, almost lost my business, and had to break up with my BFF. But I managed to walk through it all with the kind of strength, grace, and confidence that belies a person of lesser years. On the other had, I accomplished a lot in those ten years, and learned a lot as well.

I think that’s a pretty good track record, and the thought of turning sixty made me deliriously happy. I revisited my tradition from my previous decade, and started celebrating “Sixty Days of Cheryl.” So far it’s going quite well. So well that I think I’ll continue it through the rest of the year, even if I get the stomach flu along the way. Because if my fifties were fabulous, my sixties are going to be sensational! 

There are several life lesson’s in this story. First of all, it’s important to choose your friends wisely. Friends that stand beside you during the rough times and celebrate your successes during the good times are worth their weight in gold. Next, remember to do something each day to honor yourself and appreciate everything you have accomplished along the way. Also, don’t let a little thing like the stomach flu make you lose your focus. It too will pass, and life will be good again. And, make sure you put a tiara on your head at least once in your life–it makes you feel like the princess (or prince) that you are. Most of all–live well, look good, be healthy, and happy!   


Fit Tips to Step Up Your Walking Program

October is a great time to step up your walking program. The fantastic bright blue October skies, crisp air, and incredible colors make it an ideal month to get outdoors and get moving. Here are a few tips to keep you moving through October and beyond.

1). Invest in hiking poles or walking sticks.

No, it’s not cheating, it’s smart. There are many great benefits from using hiking poles or walking sticks, regardless of whether you are enjoying a hike on a mountain trail or a long loop around your favorite city park. Here are just a few of the benefits.

    a). Posture.
         Using hiking poles (or walking sticks) put you in better postural alignment. They help keep you in a more upright position with your chest up and your shoulders back. So, as you are working on your fitness and communing with nature, you are also reinforcing good posture.
     b). Spine health.
          Hiking or walking with the poles simulates a “normal” gait pattern with the use of your arms opposite your legs. This movement results in healthy rotation of your chest and pelvis, which is essential for a strong, flexible, and healthy spine.
     c). Balance.
          Not standing balance, but a balanced workout. The poles give you an upper body as well as a lower body work out. Also, since the poles put you in better postural alignment, the forces of gravity are going through your legs in a more harmonious way, working the back of your legs as well as the front. You work your gluts (butt muscles) as well as your hamstrings, resulting in stronger legs, a more shapely bottom, and significantly less stress and strain on your knees at the same time. Score!
     d). Distance.
          The poles help you go the distance, giving you a longer workout as well as a more balanced one so you can go deeper into the woods or further on your trail to continue to enjoy the glorious colors that October provides.
     e). Self-preservation.
          The little ninja in me can’t help from including this little tidbit. Having two poles with you can provide a handy dandy makeshift weapon when you’re walking in the woods. You never know when you might run into the unexpected four legged (or two legged) threat. As we say in my martial arts class, everything’s a weapon. Besides, if you have one, chances are you won’t need it.

2). Change your socks.

I don’t mean change your socks like your Mom used to tell you to change your underwear, I mean invest in a really great pair of socks. Usually our shoes get all the attention, but we forget about our socks. They’re more important than you might think, and they are worth their weight in gold. Besides, they can spare you unnecessary pain and problems down the road, so to speak. Or the trail.
     a). Comfort.
           A good pair of socks will decrease unnecessary friction, preventing painful rubbing and blisters so you can keep moving. Besides, a well-made pair of socks feel fantastic on your feet.
     b). Health.
          Socks made specifically for hiking and walking will wick away moisture to help keep your feet fit and healthy.

3). Stretch it out.

Walking and hiking is fabulous exercise, but can tighten the muscles of your legs and hips. Gentle stretching is essential to keeping your legs and hips flexible and your joints mobile and happy. Keep yourself flexible with the following stretches.
     a). Legs.
          Place your hands against a wall or door. Put one leg forward and one back, gently press your hips forward to stretch your calves. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
          Sit on the edge of a bed or couch with one foot on the floor and the other leg resting on the bed or couch. Straighten the knee of the supported leg, sit as tall as you can, and slightly lean forward from your pelvis (not your back) to stretch your hamstrings. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
     b). Hips.
          Lie on the floor, bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Bring your left ankle to rest on your right leg just above your knee to stretch the muscles of your left hip. Place your hands under your right thigh to bring your right leg off of the floor to increase the stretch. Hold for 15-20 seconds. Switch sides. Repeat.
I have a few additional tips to help keep your feet flexible as well, but I think I’ll save that for another day. You already have enough to think about, and you might be itching to get out on your daily walk.
Please feel free to share any of your helpful fit tips with me and my followers. I’d love to hear from you! Happy trails!