Expand your world with spinal flexibility.

    Many of us think of our spinal flexibility in terms of our ability to bend forward, backward, and sideways. What about rotation? Not only does rotation allow us to turn and look behind ourselves, but it plays an important role in healthy spine mechanics. Spinal rotation is also important for survival; we need to be able to turn to see who or what is behind us, to pull into traffic, to merge on a ski slope, etc. Unfortunately, we often don’t include rotation into our movement patterns. We also may have heard that “twisting” the spine is a bad thing and can cause injury. There is a difference between “twisting” and the gentle rotation that is necessary for a healthy spine. Here is a nice little exercise to open up the spine in healthy rotation.     1) Stand...

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Don’t worry….be happy!

    I recently found myself engaged in a conversation where I was suddenly and unexpectedly asked to name 3 things that made me happy.     This question was presented to me after I had just completed a 3 day Advanced Feldenkrais Training with Russell Delman, a highly respected Feldenkrais Trainer who presented his work “The Embodied Life”TM. His work incorporates deep personal introspection along with gentle self inquiry. Oooo, what perfect timing! I took the question very seriously and slowly began to consider my response, giving it the thoughtful consideration it deserved, accepting the question on a deep philosophical level. After all, what is happiness? What does it mean, “to be happy”? Does it come from an external source, or from somewhere deep within ourselves?     My...

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The sounds of silence….

    Do you ever feel overwhelmed, exhausted, frustrated, unable to concentrate, anxious and/or upset for “no apparent reason”? The chances are your brain may just be overstimulated from the never ending onslaught of information it recieves from TV, radio, cell phones, computers, texts, work, traffic, family responsibilites and just plain life in general.     Give yourself a true rest by turning off all of the electronic devices, and find a quiet place where you can be alone even just for a few minutes. I believe that sitting outdoors is the most restorative. Sit quietly for a few minutes and notice how your sit bones contact your sitting surface. Slowly  move your attention to your breathing….not to change it or “fix” it, or worry about if you are doing it the...

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Supported sitting….rest your spine.

    Do you sit a lot at work? Do you drive a lot? Do you find yourself experiencing back pain or discomfort when you sit? Most chairs at work, home, school, restaurants, etc., are not made to adequately support your spine in sitting. If you do sit for extended periods of time, your spine could use a rest. So, how do you do this? Try some of the following tips.     1) Always have your  feet flat on the floor in front of you. Resting on your toes with your heels off of the floor or putting your feet behind your knees puts unnecessary stress and strain on your spine.     2) Make sure that your knees are at a 90 degree angle to your hips. If your knees are above the level of your hips, it places your back in a flexed or rounded position. If your knees are below the angle of your hips, it places...

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Unlock your knees….effortless standing.

    Have you ever found yourself experiencing back pain, knee pain or foot pain in standing? Or that holding yourself upright even for short periods of time is exhausting? Here is a little experiment to help you find your way to effortless standing.     Stand up, and notice how you are standing. Don’t change anything, just pay attention to how you stand. Are your knees straight or bent? Is your weight on the front of your feet or the back? Do you stand more on one leg? Does your back feel tense and tight, or loose and flexible?     Now slowly and gently bend your knees. Does that change the sensation of your low back? Are your feet more solid on the floor? Now straighten your knees and “lock” them. How does your back feel now? How do your feet feel on the floor? Slowly...

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Treat your feet to no more pain….

    A lot of us experience foot pain during our lifetime. It may start out as small twinges of discomfort that is easy to ignore. However, your aching feet can develop into much bigger foot problems as well as leg, hip and back as well as difficulty walking. However, with the proper attention, including exercises and stretches, you can keep your feet strong, healthy, flexible and pain free. Not only will your feet thank you, you will be able to continue to enjoy the activities that you love and keep you healthy. Here are a few ideas to get you started.    Massage your feet.         Take the time to get familiar with the shape of your feet by massaging them on a regular basis. I suggest using a moisturizer or foot cream. Use a gentle but firm pressure, and give a little extra attention to...

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Neuro-WHAT???

    In my last post I introduced the principle of neuroplasticity as it appeared in an article in the Denver Post. The article reported a relationship between dancing and a decreased risk of dementia based on the principle of neuroplasticity.     So, what is neuroplasticity and what does it mean to us? How can we apply it to our everyday lives? Neuroplasticity can actually help improve our mental capacity and physical ability. Neuroplasticity refers to the flexibility of our nervous system to learn new things and allow for change through out our entire lifetime. Our nervous system (which includes our brain) stays healthiest when it is constantly active. Our brains are continuing to make new connections based on our experiences. The term “use it or lose it” certainly applies!    ...

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Dance into health, for your body and your brain!

I recently read a fascinating article citing the health benefits of dance, which included socialization and improved physical function. As a physical therapist and a classical dancer, that didn’t surprise me. The authors also reported that dance-based therapy can improve balance and gait among older adults. Again, no big surprise. However, the most amazing and fascinating correlation between dance and health was the strong link to a decrease in the development of dementia among people who danced. Wow! According to the article, a study funded by the National Institute of Aging and published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed a significant reduction of dementia in older adults, up to an impressive 76%! Although other physical activities such as golf, tennis, swimming, bicycling,...

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From crunch to dead bug……

    Let’s combine the exercises from my 2 previous posts. Many core exercises (as are done in Pilates) start from a position called the “dead bug”. Although beginners frequently struggle with this position, we already have a strong foundation on how to properly activate your core muscles and to isolate your transverse abdominus. (Please refer to my previous posts if you are new to my site, or you may want to to review them for a a quick refresher if you already have been following along).     Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Breathe in. As you breathe out, pull the lower abs firmly up and into the front of your spine. Breathe in, keeping the deep contraction of the lower abs. The next time you breathe out, slowly lift one leg off of...

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Core strength…..

We have all heard of the term “core strength”. But what exactly does it mean? Basically, having a strong core means developing the abdominal muscles that support our low back. A strong core helps to stabilize our spine and pelvis, decreases low back pain, protects our low back from injury, flattens our stomach and trims our waistline. In Pilates, we often refer to our strong core (or center) as our “girdle of strength”. So, how can we develop this girdle of strength? Let’s begin with a simple (but not necessarily easy) exercise to activate the lower abdominals. Sit on the edge of a firm chair with your feet on the floor. Bring your attention to your lower belly. Notice how the belly pouches out a bit as you inhale, and comes in slightly as you exhale. Breathe...

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