Fascia: The Critical Link, Part II

Welcome back! As we discused in Part I, fascia is our connective tissue, a very intricate and integrative system throughout the entire body. In this post we will discuss the composition of fascia on a deeper level, no pun intended!, it’s form and function and how it can be used for or against us.

There is a reason why we call fascia ‘connective tissue’.  It is because it, literally, connects everything and is connected to every system in the body, as we discussed in Part I. According to David Lesondak’s book “Fascia: What it is and Why it Matters,” he states that fascia is “a substance that surrounds and penetrates every muscle, coats every bone, covers every organ, and envelops every nerve.”  This is a very interesting statement since, going back to the cross-section of an orange theory from “Fascia, Part I”, fascia or connective tissue not only keeps everything together, but keeps everything separated as well.

Up until recently, fascia was not studied and researched in depth.  It has been, in the past, in fact, overlooked by most scientists. It was thought to be just a “coating” to the other important tissues such as bones, muscles, joints, and organs and was often thrown out during dissections.  What we have learned, however, is that is just as important, or more important, as these other parts of the body because of its form and function.

Let’s begin with Form: 

What comprises fascia?

  1. Collagen. Fascia is largely made up of several types of non-water-soluble collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, that, when laced together, becomes one of the strongest substances on earth.  Which makes sense why our bodies are heavily comprised of this!
  2. Elastin. This substance adds resiliency to the tissues and allows it to stretch up to 230 percent the original length and still return to its origial shape! Be careful…elastin can deminish with age (if you’re not moving!) and too much exposure to the sun.
  3. Interstitial Fluids or otherwise know as water. This substances makes up 70% of the fluids in connective tissue, allowing it freedom of movement in the body.  This is why keeping a water bottle near you throughout the day is very important!

Fascia, in essence, is what gives our bodies their shape or form. It allows the body to hold itself

‘Spiral Line’ chain of fascia            Photo courtesy of “Fascia: What it is and why it matters” by David Lesondak

and move into certain positions and then return back to it’s original form. As we stated in part I, it is formed in and around every cell, organ, muscle, bone, joint and so on. In fact, fascia, like muscles, can be thought of in terms of chains. From the deep to the superficial fascia, it is all connected in chains, one piece leading to another, connecting the entire body as one. Science has identified many specific chains in the body that all have particular functions. The photo to the left gives an example of one identified connective tissue chain. One ‘kink in the chain,’ so to speak, can determine how the surrounding tissues will function.

And then there is Function:

  1. Recoil. There are many functions to our fascial system. The main function of fascial tissues is to allow movement within our bodies and in turn be able to return to our original shape. Healthy fascia has ‘recoil’. This recoil is what allows the body to stretch and strengthen and move without the fear of changing the form of our body, as if we were clay in the hands of a child.  Many times there are disruptions in the fascial tissues that can interrupt this recoil function such as injury, misuse or underuse, which we will discuss shortly.
  2. Our ‘Other’ Brain. Fascia also has a very important function that we are still learning about to this day. I am talking about it’s connection to the nervous system. In fact, the majority of your nerves are embedded into the fascia. This is why it is so painful when you tear or cut a tendon or ligament, for example. But this is also how the body communicates to the brain and another reason we have body awareness and proprioception, or joint position sense. (Test of proprioception: Close your eyes and try to touch your nose.  The nerves in your connective tissues at work!)
  3. Emotional regulation. Have you ever experience a trauma to have it released physically with myofascial release, acupuncture, massage, or chiropractic treatment?  Or have you ever had manipulation to the tissues in the body and end up in tears for ‘no reason at all’? This is your nerves in the facial system and it’s connection to the brain at work! This is what are called SERs or somatoemotional releases.  It is believed that past traumas can be stored in your tissues as a sort of memory, only able to be released physically!

But when it comes to maintaining the form and function of our fascia, there are several things that could have an impact it’s health. Here are some examples:

  1. Injuries or Sugery:  These can be a cut, tear or even a simple bump or bruise that you never remember.  These microtears can create limitations from densly packed CT called scar tissue. Cuts from surgery or tears from injury*, for example, can be very painful and heal very slowly as they are full of nerves and have a very limited blood supply. It is important to make sure you receive the necessary treatment and take the necessary time to allow healing. For those of you who are active, this may require much patience on your part. You never want to push through any sort of CT injury or begin movement before the body is ready. This being said, however, it is important to gently move what you can around the injured area to avoid ‘gluing’ of the surrounding tissues, which can impede a timely return to preferred activites. When surgery is performed it is to fix a damaged area of the body. This does not come without side effects. When we have surgery on a smooth muscle such as an organ, or a skeletal muscle, what fills in the area that was damaged or cut is not more muscle cells necessarily but rather connective tissues, which are as not as pliable as muscles, therefore creating limited movement in those areas.  (*Remember: injuries can be from repetitive movements as well.)
  2. Not taking in enough fluids: Dehydration is not good for any of our systems to function properly, especially our connective tissues, which communicate with the brain about the body constantly!  Make sure you drink enough water (soda, sports drinks and coffee do not count!) Here is a simple formula: Drink 1/2 -1oz of water per pound you weigh.
  3. Not Enough MOVEMENT:  One of the largest issues we have with our connective tissues is the amount of full body movements we do NOT perform. And when I say FULL BODY movements I mean from the top of your head to the tips of your toes and everywhere in between!  When we do not move all of our tissues on a regular basis the body starts to, well, glue together. This can pull on the fascial and muscle chains causing imbalances the body, leading to compression of joints and pain/injuries.  When our tissues begin gluing, it becomes harder to move, leaving us with daily fatigue just moving through life! Not only that, our nervous system begins to ‘turn-off’ the areas that we are no longer using!  The solution? MOVE YOUR BODY, ALL OF IT, DAILY!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           I hope this post has given you a little more insight into the world of fascia; it’s form and function.  There are still so many things we do not understand about fascia. The more we study it, the more we learn about it’s importance in the body. But there is one thing we know for certain: balanced movement is what the body craves to maintain the fascial system’s peak performance. I can help you. Will you join me?

Reference: “Fascia: What it is and why it matters.” Written by: David Lesondak

Fascia: The Critical Link, Part I

What is webbed, wet, silvery in color and stronger than steel? No, it is not some hybrid super hero! It is, rather, something very intregal to form and function for all human beings.  It is fascia, or more commonly referred to as, connective tissue.

Fascia has become a buzz word creeping into descriptions of modern fitness classes and news articles, but what is it exactly? According to the David Lesondak, an allied health member in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC),  in his book,  “Fascia: What is it and why it Matters” it is “both a tissue and a system…know as connective tissue, fascial web, fascial net, fascial system, silver skin…” There are many different layers and connections of our fascia that are defined by location in the body or what it surrounds.

To put it in simpler terms: fascia is a connection of fibrous tissues bound together to support, and essentially “fill-in” around every part of our internal structures, including each and every cell. Imagine a spider web glistening with morning dew.  Under the eye of a microscope this is fascia, with the exception that the webs are constantly moving and shifting depending on movement in the body.

Another great example to explain fascial tissue takes us into nature once more; the cross-section of an orange. Let’s begin with the outside area of the orange.  What do you see? Perhaps many layers and compartments separated into sections?rawpixel-597446-unsplash (1)

Observing the outermost layer we find a white rind, durable enough to protect the fragile fruit that lies beneath. This is what we consider the superficial layer of our connective tissue or what is known as the superficial fascia.  This layer surrounds our outermost, larger structures, lies beneath our skin and is intertwined with fatty tissues. It is the thickest and most durable layer for good reason.

Next, we have the layer of the orange that comes off the thick superficial layer and separates the fruit into large, triangular sections.  This layer is known as the deeper epimysial layer. In the body these tissues surround each of our 640 muscles and what is often referred to as the “silver skin,” which may be seen when dissecting an animal.

Finally, take your orange and pull it apart until you come across the tiny, juice filled sacks.  This layer is the innermost layer known as the endomysium which surrounds each and every cell of the body.IMG_2480

What the orange cannot demonstrate for us, however, is how much further our connective tissues integrate.  Under electron microscopes, these fibers can be seen inside of cells, intertwined into every living part of us, suspending and supporting every living thing in our body.

To again explain the importance of these tissues imagine for a moment that our bodies were not supported by our connective tissues. This does not conjure up beautiful images by any means as our entire body would be displaced and we would look like a rather nasty, deflated blob of tissues, bones and organs, splayed onto the ground! Our fascia is important because it gives us our suspension, our shocks and literally that spring in our step!

In my classes, on a larger scale, I continually stress that we are not just “bits and pieces” but rather “chains” that run off one another and interconnect to function seamlessly.  In fact, these “chains” can be explained as “lines” in the body.

  • Superficial Back Line This group of tissues attaches at the plantar fascia under the bottom of the foot, and runs behind the heel, up the back of the legs, intertwines into the back and ribs to the base of the scull, up around the head and attaches to the front of the skull.
  • Superficial Front line  This line runs from the tips of the toes bilaterally to the jaw.
  • Lateral line This line governs side to side movement as well as mobility and stability.
  • Spiral Line.  This connective tissue chain helps us stay upright when we twist. 

Pretty impressive, huh? The placement of these tissues in the body should tell you how important it is to keep the tissues freed up. If one part of us is not functioning properly or “locked down” we can create problems in other areas of the body as well (which we will delve deeper into in an upcoming post.)

Join me for Fascia: Part II where I will delve a little deeper into the composition of fascia and how it can help (or hurt) us.

Information and photos courtesy of “Fascia: What it is and why it matters” by David Lesondak

“Unfollowing” The Path of Least Resistance

“The path of least resistance leads to crooked rivers and crooked men.”  

~Henry David Theoreau

Human nature is always apt to find the path of least resistance. For example, using travel apps to avoid heavily trafficked areas, searching for the shortest checkout line at the grocery store or even finding the closest parking spot at the gym just so you can run on the treadmill for an hour! (I’ve seen this a lot and I laugh every time!)

In reading quotes about the path of least resistance I realized that, depending on your life experience, to travel down the road of least resistance is following your heart and your own path; going with the flow.  In my experience, however, I find that going against the grain or “unfollowing” the path of least resistance, in other words resisting complacency, is where the real growth occurs.  And with that growth can come positive change.

When it comes to our bodies, it can be challenging but deeply rewarding to travel outside the path of least resistance.  In previous blog posts I have discussed how our bodies are inherently lazy.  Shortcuts are our friends and are much easier! That is until you find your body not able to move as it as it has begun the process of collapsing upon itself.  It does not function as it used to and every movement ends in discomfort or pain. This leads to, as the quote so eloquently states, “crooked men”!

Our bodies were intended to not only move, but to move in all the ways in which it was built. Our muscles, joints, bones, connective tissues, organs were made for a reason.  If we allow our body to become complacent, to allow gravitational forces to push upon us, to stop moving as we were built to or, in other words, to follow the path of least resistance, we not only risk loosing the mobility but the stability in our body, allowing tissues to wither away, which inevitably leads to imbalances, injury and/or pain.

RESISTING the path of least resistance can become mental as well as physical in equal measure. As we do (resist, that is) we can eventually find positive changes within ourselves, break down the walls of prejudice, become much more open and creative, and learn how much we can really accomplish, which in turn can boost confidence in ourselves. That, I believe, is worth the effort in going against true human nature.

In unfollowing your own path of least resistance, what is important to remember?

  • Know yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to avoid? What are you so passionate about that it has the potential to overcome any fears and get you outside of your comfort zone?  Remember why you are doing what you are doing! Is it remaining mobile to play with your children and grandchildren?  Is it to avoid your hereditary health issues? It is to have freedom to move without pain or fear of falling?
  • Start small. Don’t get overwhelmed by the big picture.  Start with hiring a trainer, going to a fitness class, walking around the block or just being mindful of your posture during dinner.
  • Celebrate every step along the way! Write each step in a gratitude journal daily, no matter how diminutive.  For example:                

Monday, March 18, 2019

I am grateful I walked a mile after dinner.

I am grateful I remembered to sit up taller while driving to work. 

I am grateful I found an Essentrics® class close to me! 😉

  • Don’t get caught up in what everyone else is doing or accomplishing. You have your OWN journey.  It is made special for you.  If you want to improve your situation, getting caught up in what others are doing around you may allow you to slide back into the path of least resistance. Stay focused and celebrate who you are and your PERSONAL accomplishments, one movement at a time!
  • Stand Tall. Literally. The more you go against the path of least resistance in your body by lifting up and out, the more breath you can take, the more relaxed you will feel and the less trapped you will become as time goes on.

I implore you to “unfollow” your own path of least resistance.  Make changes today!


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In Gratitude,


Your Infant Body

It was the creator of Essentrics® Miranda Esmonde-White who said “Treat your body as if it were an infant!” What an amazing thought!

We often go through life abusing our bodies.  As children and young adults we are invincible.  Our bodies are mobile, we have wonderful coordination and balance and we don’t hurt! Then as we age, we begin to feel the effects from those early years.  Sound familiar?

When we handle an infant, are we not gentle and soft and keep them safe from external harm? Then why, as we age, do we treat ourselves differently?  Sure we are stronger, have better coordination and generally know what situations to avoid that could possibly harm ourselves. But that does mean we should take our bodies to the extreme?

We only have one body to carry us through life, wouldn’t you want it to function optimally without pain?  The more you abuse your body in your workout, on the job or in everyday habits without repair through therapeutic practices or time off, the less your body will be able to handle any unavoidable extreme situations.  It may buckle under the pressure of too much force and strain.

Take, for example, Ronnie Coleman, eight time Mr. Olympia winner.  After years of hard, fast, aggressive workouts he is now handicapped because of excessive force and downloadcompression on his spine.  He has undergone multiple surgeries to “fix” his back, neck and hips but, unfortunately, he will never be as he once was.

Of course we may not all be bodybuilders and it does not need to be an extreme case such as Ronnie’s to cause an imbalance in the body!  If we keep adding insult to injury such as training incorrectly through pain or not resting when our bodies tell us to, then we are at a much higher risk of injury: temporary or permanent!

That then begs the question: how do we treat our bodies like an infant in an “adult” world?

~ When working out, pause to set up your position so that your body is in the proper       alignment before beginning your set.  Remember: proper alignment when standing upright, say for bicep curls, is ear over shoulder over hip bone over ankle. Because our bodies will take the path of least resistance, it is important to check your posture throughout the workout and reset throughout as necessary. This will not only protect your body in the long run but allow you to address the correct muscles for a better workout.

~Never lift weights too heavy for you.  The mirror is your friend. Turn to look at yourself frontways and sideways in the mirror during your set. If you cannot do 10-15 reps without causing a misalignment in the body, decrease the weight.  This will be obvious as you will begin to lean too far forward, backward or side to side. You may also notice a lifting in the shoulders or hips.  If you do not have added weights, such as in Essentrics®, be mindful of and strive for proper alignment in every routine to ensure safety and to address the correct muscles.

~Tell yourself in the moment: is forcing this really worth it?  When in a stressful physical situation, pause, take full, deep breaths and exhale audibly and slowly. This will reset your brain to tap you into a more relaxed state, perhaps opening you up to make a better decision.

~Give yourself time to heal.  Take your time when healing an injury and be mindful when getting back into it.  Do not be afraid, but rather cautious. Listening to the signs your body gives is key!

~Be kind to yourself: physically, emotionally, mentally.  Give yourself space, time and positive thoughts. Your body is beautiful and unique and capable of so much.  Take care of it. We are beholden as long as it carries us through this life!

Happy 2019 to all of my Body Awareness Coach fans.  I wish you a successful and healthful new year!!


Chronic Pain and Our Brain

Have you ever wondered what happens to the brain when we are in pain? Maybe you threw out your back and are laid up on the couch in agony.  Your Central Nervous System is in overdrive as it sends pain signals to the brain, saying “Pain! Pain! Pain!” Automatically your bodies adjust to avoid the pain.  Then, perhaps, in a couple days the pain subsides and we begin to have relief OR, if you are not so lucky, it continues to last for months or years!

There are 2 types of pain: acute, which is a rapid onset of pain and chronic which could have been brought on acutely and then persists for up to 3 months.  It is within those 3 months the pain should be begin to subside. If it does not, you have either one of two issues:

  1. The source of the stress that caused the pain in the first place has not been addressed, OR
  2. Your body has healed but you brain is still firing pain signals.

Think of it this way: Have you ever gone roller or ice skating and when you took your skates off after an hour or so and began walking again, you still felt like you were skating?  Your brain adapted to what the physical body was experiencing therefore created new signals in the brain to adjust to it’s environment.  But when you took the skates off, the brain hadn’t caught up yet to what the body was actually doing, which was walking and not skating.  It’s kind of like an echo.

This is what happens when chronic pain lasts longer than 3 months without proof of re-injury.  When exposed to pain for long periods of time the brain adapts into pain-mode even after the source of the pain has been healed!  It’s almost like your brain has this echo or a loop in the brain pattern that hasn’t yet readjusted.

If you have been in chronic pain for longer than 3 months, ask yourself the following:

  • I think about my pain during most of my waking hours or even wake up several times in the night.
  • I identify as a person in pain.
  • I talk about my pain a lot to others.
  • I have experienced a lot of emotional stress in my life.
  • Others identify me as “that guy/girl in (back, etc.) pain.”
  • I am depressed.
  • The MD says I should no longer be having pain because the source of the pain has healed and I have taken all the steps necessary to heal physically, yet I am still in pain.
  • I am dependent on medications to remain pain-free OR are the medications not working as well as they used to.
  • I am experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder around the pain or the activity that caused the pain.
  • I have tried many modalities to relieve my pain, i.e.: medication, massage, exercise, chiropractic adjustments, decompression therapy, dry needling, acupuncture, physical therapy, meditation, Reiki, etc. to no avail.

If you have answered “yes” to one or all of these, it may be worth it to seek out a professional to address the brain portion of the pain.  This could be a counselor, a psychologist, or even a hypnotist!

Physical healing isn’t the only portion that is necessary to finding pain relief!  I implore you to seek other ways to help you to re-think your pain!


References: “Forever Painless” Miranda Esmonde-White

“The Pain-Free Program” Anthony B. Carey, M.A., C.S.C.S.

Injuries and Movement

Very recently I sprained my foot. I wish I could say it was doing something fun and exciting but alas…I misstepped coming off a stepstool while painting our bathroom.  Needless to say not only did I hurt my foot (and my ego) but the cup of paint flew everywhere, in my hair, my eye and even in my mouth.  This doesn’t count the door, the cabinet and the walls.  Okay, painting done. Check!

Unexpected injuries happen more than we like.  Fortunately, they don’t have to be the end of the world.  (Maybe just the end of some activities for a short time.)  In the past I may have just iced it, babied it, and let it go without a diagnosis.  But here is what I have learned about injuries:

  • Get a diagnosis. Diagnosis is key, whether it is an examination or an x-ray.  It will determine the root cause of the problem and how to proceed with treatment. I have seen others who forewent a diagnosis only to end up in worse shape or in an otherwise preventable surgery.
  • Follow doctor’s orders. I am a big proponent of listening to your own body and doing what you feel you can, HOWEVER, it is important to bare in mind the advice of a body specialist. They have been trained in knowing exactly how to treat an injury.  If, on the other hand, your gut tells you the advice you are receiving is not aligning with your particular situation, get a second opinion.
  • Be mindful of imbalances. After an injury occurs our bodies are quick to make adjustments.  This is simultaneously good and bad.  After I hurt my foot, I naturally adjusted my gait to keep pressure off the injury.  This may have been good for my foot but a day later I noticed my opposing hip feeling tension and soreness.  I am sure you have seen someone with a lower body injury trying to walk?  Without asking you know right away something was injured. Their gait is disproportionate.  Other areas of their body are taking over causing tightness, soreness or even tears in tissues. This is why it is very common, post healing the injured area of the body, to have pain in another area from imbalances.  Depending on your injury this may or may not be avoided.  Body awareness, body work such as massage therapy or body rolling and/or physical therapy is necessary in maintaining good alignment not only for the injured areas but for the compensating areas as well.  This will make for a shorter healing time overall.
  • Don’t be afraid to move. It is very common to avoid moving when something hurts.  So we sit around and wait for the injured area to heal.  Have you noticed how much harder it is to move once immobilized for a time period?  Depending on the length of the immobilization, atrophy can occur making it harder to move.  This we are familiar. But, did you know sleeping eight hours can already begin the gluing process, let alone not moving several days or weeks after an injury?  Do you ever wonder why it feels so good to stretch?  It’s because it helps to recirculate blood and fluids around the tissues and melt the tightness in the body.  When we do not move for long periods we get “fuzz.”  This is actually tough connective tissue that forms between the muscle fibers.  When the muscles are not moved they get stiffer and glue us down.  This is why it is so much harder to move when we haven’t in a while.  And this is why a diagnosis is SO important.  If you are able (and allowed) to move, even if it hurts a little, DO IT!  This doesn’t mean crying while walking to the fridge and back, but make sure to do what you can.  Once I received my diagnosis I knew it would be okay to move my foot.  In fact, with a sprain movement is recommended for healing. Plus, I find the more I move, the less pain I have over time.  Now, that doesn’t mean I am running marathons or doing Cross-Fit but I alternate between icing, resting, moving and incorporating non-impact exercises such as Essentrics®.

If you are not at all squimish about the body I highly recommend Dr. Hedley’s “Fuzz Speech,” which will clarify my point.

And lastly,

  • Avoid injuries in the first place. Listen to your body, plan ahead and use common sense. When all else fails, refer to 1-4 😉

Here are some things to remember when dealing with an injury:

*Ice for Inflammation, Heat for Healing.  Once the inflammation is gone, you can use heat to bring healing blood flow to the area. Alternating between ice and heat is also a good option.

*Elevate the injury above the heart to reduce swelling.

* Put yourself first for a while if possible! Get others to help and wait on you!

Best wishes to remain injury free!


Feature image by: Mitchell Griest on Unsplash



Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain Linked to Diminished Lung Capacity.

Did you know that most people who suffer from chronic neck and shoulder pain only use one-quarter of their lung capacity? Yamuna Zake and Stephanie Golden, authors of “Body Rolling: An Experiential Approach to Complete Muscle Release” state that “If the lungs are not expanded to at least 50%…there will be restriction throughout the torso. Many people who suffer from chronic neck and shoulder problems do not understand how much these problems are related to lack of mobility in the torso-you cannot get full length through the neck if your thoracic cage is restricted.”  Due to this restriction adequate breathe is achieved by lifting the shoulders which in turn creates neck and shoulder problems from overuse.

But what causes this restriction in the first place? It all stems from these or other related issues:

  • Underuse of the thoracic area
  • Muscle cell atrophy
  • “Gluing down” of conective tissue
  • Skeletal imbalances
  • Restriction from injuries

Thoracic cage restriction is usually brought on by habits, work-related musculoskeletal disorders, injuries and otherwise.  This “gluing” down doesn’t happen overnight.  We may not notice our restricted breathing but we will notice pain brought on by our compensating behaviors, such as raising the shoulders for larger breath.  This, over time, can lead to neck pain, shoulder pain and headaches.

As humans we are inherently lazy creatures. (At a subconcious level of course!) Our bodies will only put forth effort into keeping parts of the body used on a REGULAR basis viable.  If the rib cage, spine, chest, abdominals are not moved AWAY from the center of the body on a regular basis, they become compressed, limiting lung space. And we need all the lung space we can get!  Oxygen keeps our blood flowing for increased energy, better digestion and reduction of anxiety!

In an effort to decompress the lungs for more breath and pain relief, here are some things to keep in mind:

Work the spine in all directions.

Forwards, backwards, twisting, lateral bends.  Move as our bodies were intended to move, DAILY! Here are some examples to work into the spine, abdominals, chest and shoulders.

Front to Back: Alternate between tailbone tucked under and upper back rounded, shoulders rolling in (Figure 1.1) to tailbone pulled back, arms behind and chest open. (Figure 1.2).  Gently perform these movements several times alternating sides.


Figure 1.1                                      Figure 1.2

Side to Side Lateral side bend with chair.  Hold on to the back of a stable chair.  Opposite arm up in the air-keeping the shoulder relaxed.   Breathe in and as you exhale, shoulder square, lean over the back of the chair pushing the rib cage out and up to the ceiling. (Figure 2).

Figure 2  Lateral Side Bend with Chair
  • Work the rib cage in all directions.

We tend to think the lungs are just in the front. It’s important to remember to expand to the front, sides and back of the rib cage.

  • Increase length in the abdominals and spine.

Our trademarked Neutral Elongation and Ceiling Reaches are great for liberating the abdominals, which in turn liberate the spine and rib cage. (Figure 3)

Neutral Elongation: Take 2 arms up in the air taking care not to push forward into your thighs.  Pull upwards using the ribcage and the abdominals.  It is important not to use the shoulders when reaching upwards but rather keeping them relaxed and away from your ears. (Figure 3)

Ceiling Reaches use the same stance as the neutral elongation but alternate one arm to the ceiling, pushing the rib cage out to the side wall when reaching, then alternate arms. (Figure 4)


(Figure 3)                                         (Figure 4)

Relieve stress in shoulders and neck.  If you do not have trouble with orthostatic hypotension (extreme dizziness going from bending over to standing position) try:

Zombies: Roll down one vertebra at at time, bending your knees and tucking under your tailbone.  Sway from side to side, relaxing shoulders, neck and jaw. Take in a deep breath to expand your “back” lungs then alternate droping fists to the floor (Figure 4). You should feel a pull alternating from the left to the right side of the lower back. Keep your

Figure 5 Zombie

shoulders relaxed as much as possible then draw circles with your fists above the floor, going both directions then switch arms.  This will liberate the shoulder joints.

Finally, bend your knees, tuck under the tailbone and roll up one vertebra at a time until your head is upright.  You may get a head rush so take your time to let the blood settle.  When upright, take a deep breath and roll your head down your chest from side to side, very slowly as you exhale.  You may roll your head back but DO NOT tilt so far back that you compress the cervical vertebra in the neck.


These simple exercises, along with a keen body awarness about your every day postures, can really help increase lung capacity to reduce neck and shoulder pain!  Keep me posted on your progress!

All exercises described here are property of Essentrics®.  For more information, please go to




Fitting Fitness Into Your Life When You’re a Single Parent

If you’re a single parent, you know it takes real strength to raise a child on your own. You do everything you can to take care your kid, but how do you make time to take care of yourself? Physical fitness can be challenging for single parents, but you have to stay healthy to stay strong.  Finding the time, money, and energy to keep yourself in shape can be tough. Thankfully, it’s easier than you think to stick to a fitness plan with these tips.

 Buy Basic Fitness Gear on a Budget 

 Raising a child is expensive. As a single parent, you know the value of sticking to a financial plan, and an expensive gym membership can throw you off track. Luckily, there are inexpensive ways to get the exercise you need. You can build a small home gym and bring workouts home with a few pieces of basic equipment. Pick up some weights, like a kettlebell and resistance bands, to start. To save even more money, scour online or local classifieds to find used equipment that won’t sabotage your budget.

 Workout in the A.M.

 For most parents, mornings are the perfect time for doing things on your own, including exercise. Try making workouts part of your wake-up routine. Aside from being more convenient, studies show that morning exercise can have a whole host of benefits. Getting your heart pumping in the morning will leave you with more energy, a sense of calm, and a positive outlook on your day. So try to carve out a few minutes in the morning to take a walk, lift some weights, or complete a quick yoga routine. Your mind and body will thank you later.

Exercise with Your Kids

 As a single parent, sometimes even mornings can’t offer time away from your kids. However, you can find ways to stay in shape even when your kids are always around. Kids can benefit from physical activity as much as adults. There are plenty of fitness moves you can do with your kids at home, so try a few out together. Or, take advantage of time outside to help both of you stay in shape. Work out on the playground, or go for a hike together. By working out with your kids, you’ll build your health and the bond you have with your children.

Remember: Exercise Produces Energy

 If you’re feeling exhausted all of the time, exercise can seem impossible. The stress and strain of parenting can wear you out, but exercise could actually be the perfect remedy. Not only does exercise reduce stress, but it also boosts your positive, motivating emotions. Part of this is biology — the body is regulating itself during exercise, but it also has to do with seeing and feeling the results of your efforts. Stick to your fitness plans for a few weeks, no matter how hard it may seem, and you’ll start to see and feel these positive results soon enough.

Prep Healthy Meals

 A key element in any fitness plan is sticking to a healthy diet. With a tight budget and busy schedule, eating healthy can be tricky when you’re a single parent. If you can find a little time on the weekend, however, cleaning up your diet can be frugal and easy. Planning easy meals gives you a chance to plan out your food for the week and make sure you have wholesome, healthy options for yourself, as well as your kids. By planning meals out ahead of time, you can avoid food waste that can waste your money and find better deals at the grocery store. Healthy food can help you stay in shape and lead to better health for your kids as well.

Being a single parent is hard, but staying fit doesn’t have to be. With a few tweaks to your weekly routine, you can stay on track to reaching your fitness goals. So do yourself — and your children — a favor and start making the time to take care of yourself so you can enjoy more healthy, happy years with your kids!

Photo Credit: Pexels

Article written by guest writer Sheila Olson of  Please visit her website for more great articles and information!

Relaxation: A “New” Concept in Strength Training.

I am no stranger to the old adage “no pain, no gain.”  As a former body builder, I pushed myself to the limit training 3 hours a day on a limited diet. I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of pain, as I learned through that process.  I wondered, is there an easier, more effective way to achieve the same goal? This lead me into thinking not about how hard but simply how to train body.

Our bodies are AMAZING.  It’s glorious to imagine everything working the way it should, at least most of the time. When I train my clients I tell them, care for your body as if you were an infant.  Do not push or force your way through your workout, let alone your life!

But how can we strengthen through relaxation?  In the Essentrics® program we teach our clients about the neuromuscular system, namely our muscle reflexes. Our bodies are equip with a really smart nervous system.  This is a system that works automatically to protect us from causing injury-especially when we use force.  Our muscle reflexes automatically relax the muscles and tendons to avoid tearing in most situations. When we extend our body away from the midline eccentrically, in a relaxed state, the muscle fibers safely work with the reflexes to “go to the end of a stretch” recruiting maximum muscle cells for strengthening purposes.  This extension also creates a longer, heavier lever, which in physics is much more strengthening!

The big question here: how do we relax while working out?   Relaxation comes when you can feel areas of your body through an awareness we call kinesthetic or body awareness.  This awareness first comes from a consciousness of what you are feeling (i.e. pressure, tingling, pain) and where you are feeling it (neck, lower back, shoulder).  Just like coordination, body awareness improves over time when practiced.  This awareness allows you to sense how to relax by connecting the mind to the body, giving you an opportunity to get the most out of your workout!

Pointers to help you to relax in your next workout:

  • Create a relaxing environment using music. Hard, fast, heavy downbeats in your playlist is fun, but not conducive to relaxing the muscles, especially when working with large, flowing movements. When I want to create relaxation in my Essentrics® class, I speak softly and use quiet, flowing music.  Download Bach, Yo-Yo Ma, or Brian Crain onto your playlist and use it in your next session.
  •  You are what you think.  If you imagine you are under the weight of a heavy barbell, your body moves heavier.  If you imagine you are a light balloon floating on a warm breeze, your body becomes lighter. Many cues I use to create relaxation in Essentrics® include “lift a light feather,” “gently pull on a silk sheet,” or “run your fingers through warm water.”  Put your mind in the right frame of mind and the rest will follow.
  • Deep Breathing. Breathing during any physical activity is critical to move blood and revitalize all systems.  This can be done automatically or consciously.  Deep breathing is a conscious breath utilizing more muscles to open up space in the lungs.  This type of breathing is said to bring the body out of sympathetic (fight or flight) and into parasympathetic (relaxation). The key is to inhale down through the belly, hold for a few seconds, then, making a round hole with your lips, blow out the air, taking twice as much time to exhale as you took to inhale.  Breathing in this way will tap into a nice state of relaxation.  Do this breath several times during the workout.
  • Leave your stress at the door. I begin my classes with a 2 minute mental “break” from the day.  This includes beginning with soft, slow music in conjunction with deep breathing down through the belly.  I then begin a process of shaking the hands, arms and shoulders with slow neck rolls and shoulder rolls. This mindless movement allows the thoughts you brought in with you to fall away, creating a relaxed state. This in turns improves body awareness and deeper relaxation during class.  Try these techniques before and during your next workout!
  • Practice, practice, practice! When we repeat patterns over and over such as relaxing the muscles in your workout, the brain creates new neuro-pathways in the brain.  When new pathways are created, so are new patterns of doing things.  This creates automation of our actions and happy healthy habits!

As creator of Essentrics® program, Miranda Esmonde-White states, “Relaxation is the NEW strengthening…the NEW power!”  The combination of relaxation and eccentric training, eliminating force, allows us to tap into much deeper, stabilizing muscles for ultimate strength and power!  Try relaxation techniques in your next workout and see if you notice a difference!

The Perfection Myth

“There’s no need to be perfect to inspire others.  Let people get inspired by how you deal with your imperfections.”  ~Unknown Author

This bridge featured in this photo by Delano Balten was most likely created hundreds of years ago.  It seems it would function the way a bridge should and needless to say it is esthetically pleasing, however do you think the architect was perfect in it’s design?  How many plans do you think he scrapped before deciding on this design? Do you think the architect was hard on himself for not getting it right the first time? Maybe. And do you think the stone layers were perfect in the way each stone was layed?  The answer is most likely not. And yet, the bridge works!

Nobody expects perfection, except us. I am no exception.  In fact, I have struggled with my need to have perfection, keep control and win every time. After all, doesn’t perfection correlate with success?

What is perfection really?  It probably means something different to all of us, I suppose.  “If I’m perfect so and so will love me more.”  “If I’m perfect life will go so much more smoothly.”  “If I’m perfect the boss will hold me in high regard and give me a raise.” “If I’m perfect I will make more money, raise perfect kids and never disappoint.”

Sometimes we have missed opportunities in life because we just didn’t consider ourselves “good enough.”  Or we procrastinate because we’re afraid to fail. Look, I’ve been there and I’m here to tell you that I’m not perfect, nor will I ever be.  I disappoint, I don’t do as well as I would like to, I am not the perfect parent or daughter or wife but I strive, every day, to do my best, based on the information available to me.  And to me that speaks volumes.

Did you know that the word fail doubles as an acronym?  First Attempt In Learning.  Pretty cool, right?  This is something I remind myself and my children on a regular basis.  And sometimes “failure” is the right step to actually get you to your goal!

How often have you seen others speaking of their imperfections and often felt better about it?  It’s not because we want bad things to happen to them, it’s because we can relate.  We are human and we are here on earth to learn and then make better.

Almost a year ago I quit my “day job” to be home with my children and start a business. Let me tell you that it’s not all been a cake walk, but I have learned so much about myself, and who I want to be as a parent, wife, daughter, friend and business owner.  It has been a struggle in learning that I’m not perfect and fully come to grips that I won’t be.  And if you ask me, this is where our friends and family come in to fill the gaps. To allow us that space to do as well as we possibly can then let it go and let others take over where our “weaknesses” prevail.

So when you eat something you shouldn’t have or you don’t get to the gym like you planned.  Just know that it’s okay and the past is already behind you, giving you new, fresh moments to move forward. Do not look back, do not regret what you have done or live with the shoulda’s and coulda’s but instead grasp that very moment in which you live and be grateful for it. Give yourself some grace-you totally deserve it!

So, what is the perfection myth? That perfection as we define it exists!  Embrace your perfect self in the midst of mediocrity!  I wish to inspire you, through my imperfections, to do the very best you can knowing full well things may not turn out perfectly or as as you expected.  Our personal journey is placed before us not to perfect it, but to live it!  So, go forth and live!  It’s time to embrace your own personal perfection, whatever that may be!

Best to all,