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Yoga: It’s for Everybody!

The first guest writer in my Village is not only a yoga instructor but an Essentrics lover and a dear friend of mine. I first met Betsy as a co-teacher at The Yoga Factory where I was fortunate enough to begin sharing Essentrics to my community. I have taken yoga classes before but what I felt made Betsy stand out was the thoughtfulness in which she taught her classes. The experience was truly about helping her students heal and find true change within themselves. Her energy exudes warmth, serenity and sincerity. This energy from an instructor can make all the difference in getting the most out of any bodywork practice. I hope you enjoy her article as much as I do! Jill

Yoga: It’s For EveryBody!

When I tell people that I am a yoga instructor, one of the most common
responses I hear is, “I am Not flexible. I can’t do yoga!” My response is, “What
better reason to start?”
Yoga* is a practice that originated in India and has survived and thrived for
over 5,000 years. As ubiquitous as it is in the West, there is still a lack of
understanding as to who can “do” yoga and what it “really” means/is. There is so
much to Yoga; for those who choose to dive deep into the practice and
philosophy, it is a way of life. For this article, I will focus mainly on the yoga
“asanas”; that is, the physical practice of Yoga.
The yogi and sage, Patanjali, described yoga as “the progressive quieting of
the fluctuations of the mind.” Through the physical practice, one can more easily
separate the true “self” from the thoughts, emotions and expectations that keep
us in a state of worry, clinging and grasping. Just as a rigorous workout helps a
person feel better inside and out, so too, does yoga.
It is believed that the original yoga poses consisted of 12 seated postures.
Now the number and variety of poses has (arguably) reached 84, with a great deal
of variation upon those postures. The styles of yoga vary as well. Two of the most
commonly practiced styles of yoga, very briefly described, are Hatha and Vinyasa.
Hatha yoga focuses on taking time to set up the pose, and then staying within it
for several rounds of breath, listening to the body and tapping into that energy.
Vinyasa yoga is a faster-paced practice, where the poses flow from one to the
other in time with the breath.
If all you know of yoga comes from advertisements and picture-perfect
social media posts, you may think that yoga is only for the young and lithe. Not so,
my good human. Yoga. Is. For Every. Body. Approaching the practice safely, under
the direction of a qualified instructor, with self-compassion and the knowledge
that yoga is never about ego or competition, allows a student to experience yoga
on their own terms, within their abilities that day.
The benefits are many. With practice, yoga brings flexibility, strength, and
helps develop healthy breathing and postural habits. Yoga improves balance, can
lower blood pressure, it’s good for your heart and can be a key component in
positive mental health. Yoga can benefit everyone from the office worker to the
professional athlete. (I have had an OSU football player or two in my classes,
alongside grandmothers. All are welcome!)

Aside from the physical benefits of yoga, did you know that the main
purpose of the yoga asanas is to prepare the body and mind for the practice of
meditation? And, oh, the benefits of mindfulness and mediation…That’s an article
for another day. In the meantime, if you are considering giving yoga a try,
remember that 5,000 years’ worth of yogis may just be on to something.
Namaste.

https://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/yoga-for-beginners-kundalini-yin-
bikram/
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-benefits-beyond-
the-mat
https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/practice/the-importance-of-breath-

About the Author:

Betsy McGann, yoga student, became a yoga instructor after rediscovering
the practice at age 39. She was busy and stressed, not taking care of herself. She
timidly walked into a yoga class – and she was hooked. She pursued her yoga
teaching certification shortly thereafter. Since then, Betsy remains both a
dedicated student and teacher, and strives to help others find the yogi within.
Her #1 rule is “Do no harm”. When practiced with mindfulness and honesty,
movement on the mat is never wasted effort. Betsy also discovered Essentrics
within this time, and loves the practice of both forms of movement. She feels the
benefits far beyond each class.
No matter what form of movement you choose, she wishes you well on your
Wellness Journey.

*Full disclaimer: I am one human who practices yoga. There is so much I
still have to learn. The Yoga umbrella is massive and the information could fill
1,000 libraries. I have posted a few links here to give you just the tip of the
informational iceberg.

Happy learning!
https://artsandculture.google.com/story/explore-the-ancient-roots-of-
yoga/rAKCRDl92CPuJg
https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11942/what-is-the-true-purpose-of-
yoga.html

It Takes a Village…

When it comes to healing the body I believe the way to do it is through space, and time and education. I feel very privileged to be able to provide a modality, such as Essentrics, that is a full-body expression of healing through movement. In the next several months I wish to provide to you, my readers, an education of movement.  One modality of movement alone can make a significant difference, however, by pairing modalities it could flip the switch to further or faster body healing and recovery.  The ‘village,’ mentioned in the title, is the support system given by many modalities that all play a critical role in the success of nurturing and healing the body. The key is to find the ones that speak to you!

Over the next several months I will be introducing you to my village. I have invited some of my favorite body work practioners to explain the benefits they provide through their modalities. Some of the modalities help to heal the body through physical movement, some energetic movement, while most a combination.  No matter what the source, the outcomes are very similar: to provide a step toward homeostasis, which in turn allows healing.  

According to Wikipedia, movement can be defined as the state of changing something’s position or location.  But movement is not limited to how we move our bodies-active movement-it can be provided as passive movement, which is movement created by a source outside the body.  The body is always striving to find homeostasis and when it cannot, on it’s own, a negative chain reaction can occur in the processes of the body. So, it all comes down to finding modalities that help you to feel good, that increase positive energy, alleviates stress and provides an overall sense of well-being or, in other words, a state of homeostasis. This is what I hope to help you achieve, not just through Essentrics but through a combination of modalities!

Now, I cannot move forward in this series without explaining the amazing benefits of Essentrics! If you already practice Essentrics then I am sure you know how it benefits you personally.  I will quickly highlight one of the most felt benefits of practicing Essentrics, which is done eccentrically: decompression

When something is decompressed, there is a pressure that is released. As we go through our day-to-day life our bodies can begin to collapse upon itself by finding the path of least resistance and settling right into those spots. Over time that compression can put bone onto bone causing arthritis, put knots into muscles restricting healing blood flow, and glue the connective tissues together, making it harder and more painful to move. This in turn can make you feel more stressed out!

The movement used in Essentrics focuses on upward and outward; movement away from midline. By doing this we train the body to ‘stay open’ to allow continuous healing and detoxifying blood to circulate even when you are not practicing. By using your arms and legs as your equipment to create extensions in the body this also strengthens muscles, puts pressure on the bones to strengthen and increase bone density and ‘spaces out’ the connective tissue (fascia) to open communication channels or what I like to call “waking up the nervous system” within the tissues.

I literally could go on and on about the benefits of Essentrics but I strongly encourage you to pop back into my older posts where I go into more depth about the practice’s myriad of benefits. Or contact me and try out a class!

Well, moving on! I am so excited to bring you our first post in “It Takes a Village…” series. It is up to you to find the best modalities to heal your body the way you see fit, however, keep an open mind!  Find a pracitioner in your area and try something you never thought you would try! It can open you up to new healing possibilities! 

Enjoy and please leave comments, questions or even suggestions about future posts below. I would love to hear from you!

In Graditude,

Jill, Your devoted Body Awareness Coach!

A Senior’s Guide to a Higher Quality of Life

Written by guest writer: Jason Lewis (strongwell.org)

By taking control of your physical and mental health, you can significantly improve your wellbeing. The principle applies to both young and senior members of society. If you’re one of the latter, there are several ways you can enhance your quality of life, some of which are discussed below.

Regular Exercise

Falls are a major risk that can affect a senior’s quality of life. Regular exercise can help you improve your strength and balance to reduce the risk of falling. Essentrics provides a great form of exercise for seniors who want to improve balance and stability. Several older adult programs are available in Westerville, Ohio, including exercise classes.

To remain motivated during your workout, listen to some of your favorite tunes or podcasts. A good, well-priced pair of headphones or wireless speakers can be a really great investment. Music accompanied exercise elevates mood, increases endurance, and can distract you from pain and fatigue.

Hobbies

Seniors need to involve themselves in rewarding activities that enhance their quality of life. Pursuing a new hobby can restore your sense of purpose and self-confidence. 

Maybe there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Or perhaps you have an old hobby you want to revisit. Hobbies and pastimes can include learning a new instrument, writing, bird watching, crafting, and much more.

Healthy Eating

Maintaining a healthy diet helps reduce the risk of physical health problems. It can also help you improve your energy levels and get a better night’s sleep, thus decreasing your risk of strokes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Many seniors need to focus on consuming more fluids, as your sense of thirst lessens as you age. You should also minimize your use of table salt and sugar, instead of Seasoning food with healthy herbs and spices, and choose healthy fats instead of trans or saturated fats.

Stay Connected

It’s vital you keep in touch with loved ones, even if they live far away. If you can’t visit in person, you could stay in touch via Skype or social media. If you’re unsure how social media works or not computer literate, you can enroll in a computer class at Westerville Library.

Joining social groups is another fantastic way of ensuring you remain socially active. There are several clubs and societies seniors can join in and around the Westerville area, including dynamic seniors on the go.

Start a Business

To maintain an active mind and ensure a happy and fulfilled life, more seniors are starting their own businesses. If you’re one of them, first do some research on getting started and how your new company will operate. One idea could be to form an LLC. By doing so, you’ll benefit from limited liability, tax advantages, and less paperwork. If you want to avoid costly lawyer fees, consider filing yourself or using a formation service. Remember to check Ohio regulations on setting up an LLC, as they’re not all the same.

Live Life to the Fullest

Attaining a higher quality of life in your senior years doesn’t have to be complicated. By following certain habits and staying active and socially engaged, you can live your life to the fullest.

Make a conscious effort to obtain a high level of body awareness by listening to Jill Roth at Body Awareness Coach.

Image via Pexels

It’s a NEW YEAR!

Ah, 2021, the year we’ve been waiting for! It’s here, FINALLY! Away with the “horror” of 2020, the year to be remembered for all eternity. I’m so happy!

So, why don’t I feel differently? 

I love a new year.  A time to refresh oneself; a time to be renewed!  A cleansing, if you will, of our past year’s unhappinesses with ourselves and what we did or did not accomplish, all to be washed away by the stroke of midnight on December 31st. But just like the magic that disappears for Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, so too can those goals of weight loss and plans to rise early for Cross-Fit and goals to update that resume or promises to not “yell at the kids”… poof, gone!

I am here to tell you that I am no different. I set my goals just like the rest of you and somehow I begin to settle into old patterns and ways of thinking. So much for a “brand new year”! But what I DID realize in 2020 was the importance of giving myself grace. 

In 2020, the popular theme seemed to be the need for “self care”.  Responsibilities and work-styles changed drastically last year, and so did our stress levels. What I realized is that if I do not take care of myself, everything around me will suffer as well. A lot of pressure, right? Ah, more stress!! 

I also learned that self care is a NECESSITY, not SELFISHNESS! (And don’t let anyone tell you differently-even yourself!) I am a woman of service, therefore it is in my nature to martyr myself; not good for me or anyone else around me!  So, I have learned to say “no”, to take time out for myself, and to do things that nurture my soul, but not out of obligation.  If you’re like me, here are a few suggestions that could help get you on track for this new year:

  • Prioritize your THOUGHTS. With so many responsibilities swirling around us on a daily basis it’s no wonder we get lost in world between anxiety and overwhelm, which does not bode well on our mood!  We can have so many (maybe too many!) embers in the fire that we get lost in “doing” and not just “being”.  Prioritizing your thoughts by writing them down can be the first step. (Plus it gets it out of your head and on paper, solidifying your goals.) Make 3 lists: things to be done NOW, THIS WEEK, and THIS MONTH and see if it shifts your perspective. 
  • When making changes, take BABY STEPS!  This is important because, just like a child, we sometimes need positive reinforcement along the way. Reward yourself on the road to your goal and not just when you achieve the goal.  This makes the end goal less daunting and more fun along the way!
  • Make your goal MENTAL. Every goal begins in the brain, whether it be a physical, spiritual or, yes, a mental goal.  If you have not made the commitment to yourself in your head, your body will not loose those pounds, for example, negative self-talk can take over and stress will overtake you! Time and time again quantum physics has proven that there IS such a thing as mind over matter. So be careful what you think! Which leads us to…
  • Learn to MEDITATE. We are naturally in a continued state of fight or flight. This self protecting mechanism ingrained in us is imperative for survival when encountering a bear or a stranger in a dark alley, but is overworked in our daily life. Meditation gives your brain the well deserved break it needs from everyday stressors that tax your body’s systems. It has also been discovered to decrease stress, improve your immune system, increase self awareness and love and even increase physical healing in the body! 
  • Move your BODY daily! And by movement, I mean exercise! Moving your body is like increasing the capacity of the heart.  The heart can only pump the blood so far around the body. By moving, it allows the blood to push around to all parts of the body (like having a second heart!) Movement also increases fluids in and around the connective tissues and encourages the breaking up of scar tissue, increasing freer movement, which, in the long run allows your energy levels to increase!  Daily movement allows us to think more clearly, lowers your blood pressure and decreases anxiety!  And movement doesn’t have to mean running a mile around the block! There are so many modalities of movement, such as Essentrics®, that gives you a non-impact option of full body movement in every workout while stimulating muscles, connective tissue and your nervous system!

Remember that every minute of every day is a new beginning! Don’t just wait for a new year to make changes. YOU are capable of GREAT THINGS!  Slow it down, meditate, reward yourself and give yourself grace! It’s going to be an AWESOME YEAR!

Jump-start Your Mental Health With Simple Self-Care Ideas!

Guest writer: Brad Krause @ selfcaring.info/

While self-care may be a recent term, it’s a fundamental concept based on the virtue of right and wrong. It’s about treating yourself right by attending to your physical, emotional and mental needs. Since we all have these aspects, everyone needs to embrace self-care — it’s not reserved for people struggling with mental disorders. The practice involves doing healthy things for yourself.

Why Is Self-Care Important?

Self-care improves various aspects of your life which are all vital in your overall health. By doing good things for yourself, you affirm your self-worth and build your self-esteem. Regular self-care also enhances your self-awareness. It helps you to direct your life to what you enjoy, and avoid things that drain your positive energy. When you love yourself, you’ll figure out new interests and shun your dislikes easily.

Self-care also triggers self-improvement. You create time to connect with different people, develop healthy relationships, and heal your body. It brings about a positive effect on your mindset and enables you to take better care of your loved ones.

Let’s look at some self-care ideas you might want to try.

Exercising

Besides boosting physical health, Psycom explains physical activities are beneficial to your mental well-being. Working out improves cardiovascular health and burns extra calories. Additionally, it releases endorphins known to boost the mood in the brain. Consequently, it reduces stress, helps to manage depression, and suppresses stress hormones like cortisol. Exercise is also an excellent tool for releasing anger and frustration. If your routine could use some tweaking, consider signing up for Body Awareness Coaching with Essentrics. This dynamic strengthening and stretching program targets all the muscles, joints, and bones in your body to help you gain a better understanding of it and to achieve better balance.

Healthy Eating

Nutrition is a cornerstone of health for a reason, the right foods fuel our body and supply the vitamins and nutrients we need to keep us healthy. It’s easy to fall into poor eating habits because of stress, but this can be a slippery slope. Studies have also shown a connection between depression and eating too many processed foods. To help you stay on track, look to meal plans or meal delivery services. You can also find an abundance of healthy recipes online that will give your mental health and your waistline a boost. In addition to eating healthy, taking a supplement can also improve your health. For a brain boost, try nootropic supplements, which can help you stay sharp, focused, and calm. 

Limiting Financial Stress

Many of us are stressed by the state of our finances. If you’re having trouble paying your bills, make saving money a part of your self-care routine. Your first steps should be establishing a monthly budget and looking for areas where you can save. For example, instead of spending hundreds on your cable bill, look at streaming options like Netflix or Hulu. You can also plan your meals ahead of time each week so you spend less eating out (and eat healthier). For homeowners, refinancing can help you save on your monthly mortgage payments. There are fees involved, so make sure to discuss refinancing with a qualified lender.  

Saying “No”

You can’t reject every obligation and request, but it’s vital to say “no” when appropriate. Just as KCParent explains, it’s crucial to avoid overcommitting yourself in order to prevent issues like stress and depression. Overcommitment can also contribute to health problems, including migraines, ulcers, and low immunity. Many people pile obligations on family and friends, and while staying engaged is good, overdoing it is not.

Similarly, many people overstretch themselves at work to maximize their income. But did you know that too much work can cause heart stress and premature death? Ensure you make time just for yourself. For instance, spend time listening to music, meditating, reading, and just relaxing. 

Getting Enough Sleep

We often deprive ourselves of enough quality sleep because we associate slumber with being unproductive. However, inadequate sleep hurts our waking lives immensely.

A few benefits of a quality snooze include:

  • Stress reduction
  • Better mood
  • Sharper memory
  • Healthier skin
  • Weight management

It’s essential to have uninterrupted sleep for about 7 to 8 hours every day. Ensure your bedroom is comfortable and your mattress provides the right spinal support. If your environment isn’t conducive to sleep, adjust it accordingly. For instance, if outside sounds are sneaking in, consider adding a white noise machine to drown them out. If light is peeking through your windows, install blackout curtains. Better sleep can mean better mental health, so take whatever measures are needed.

Self-care is all about quality of life. It revolves around better overall well-being, more strength, and being satisfied with the events around you. It’s a daily routine involving simple things such as relaxing, sleeping, working out, and more. Embracing a healthy regimen is the key to a happy life.

For optimal health in every aspect — mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual — consider Body Awareness Coaching with Essentrics. Sign up for a group class or personal training today!

Fascia: The Critical Link, Part II

Welcome back!  To review, I discussed in Part I how 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

IMG_4192
‘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!

 

If you have enjoyed this blog post, please follow and enjoy more to come!!

In Gratitude,

Jill

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!!

~Jill

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.