Mindfulness, Meditation, MBSR

imageDo you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?
– Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-Ching –

I am a poor at meditating. There I said it! I’ve tried, but I could never wrap my head around the idea that in order for me to free my mind, live mindfully and be fully present in this life could be dependent on me sitting cross-legged for any length of time. Any equanimity I might have experienced is disturbed by my body telling me to move.  My whole life, I have used movement, either in the form of dance or other form as moving meditation. It’s probably a combination of age and a lifetime of burning the candle at both ends that has me revisiting my commitment to including it my repertoire of self-care.
My closest practice to meditation has been constructive rest or what I call Adult Time-Out in a variety of positions, depending on time of day or how my body is feeling. My path to mindfulness has been through movement. Where I can cultivate awareness of sensation, equanimity, curiosity and Breath. And Breathe.  Just the fact, that I say I’m poor at meditating is a good example why, if I don’t do the practice regularly, I make really harsh statements and judgements about myself and then other people! Even though I say I am poor at meditating, which is a judgemental and almost self flagellation…it’s a practice that I’ll continue as it is serves so well

The practice of developing self-awareness, without judgement or reproach is a cornerstone of self-care.

The practice of observing one’s inner landscape, that’s filled with the never-ending self dialogue, for some of us the hard-wired self-destructive truths, the rehearsals of potential or past experiences and buffering it with neutrality ….is critical if you are dealing with health issues, whether they are neural or somatic (mind and body or mind-body).
The research in neurosciences continues to confirm the benefits of mindfulness. For many years research with peer-reviewed clinical studies, have been documenting the health benefits of mindfulness training.People report  lower blood pressure, fewer headaches, less pain or the ability to self manage symptoms more effectively. People also report the ability to optimize their emotional responses to external stimuli better. They were no longer held hostage to their emotions sabotaging their life. In a nutshell, somatic complaints were minimized and there were cognitive and psychological benefits.
With sophisticated imaging like MRI and PET scans, specific areas of the brain associated with different functions can be  observed. Along with cognitive benefits and reduced physical complaints, there is an observable change in the structural matter of the brain.

The state of our inner landscape is a major factor in how successfully we navigate life’s challenges. It is the tool we bring to the table in every situation we engage in.  A continuous practice (even if you think you aren’t any good at it)
This self-care method is harnessing our body’s natural capacity for healing,  while it actively changes your brain structure. This is pretty heady stuff, considering all the research that is accumulating about neurodegeneration.

I see many sick people every day and have for decades.  Some of them don’t need any more health care, they need self-care. This (below) is one of the first links I share with patients. Like the patients I see, many never find the benefits, because they are looking for another kind of “fix” and don’t even entertain the idea (by going to the website or other explorations) that they, themselves can influence their health. I understand. Sometimes we are so sick or in so much pain, that we need help, the situation is too much to deal with (that’s why they come to a doc)…BUT, this is one tool we can learn and practice…so that our situations become less “too much to deal with”.

With Unconditional Regards,

T


Ready?  This excellent free online resource has writings,videos,  meditations and exercises which make it, (I think) a valuable tool for anyone who has the motivation.
This one is excellent also!
Resources:

Harvard Unveils MRI Study Proving Meditation Literally Rebuilds The Brain’s Gray Matter In 8 Weeks

http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/


Body Play

Can you take any of the elements you are learning into to the field of life? How about eating? How about walking?  I’m doing the body scan (from the above program) and then I’m going for a walk.

Finding Space

The new year has brought  a lot of wonderful opportunities to my table. Along with these great things coming up, are obligations and deadlines all involving the computer.

As I continue to strive for more space between my joints, softness in my musculature and ease in my movements, being on the computer seems more and more unappealing! I’m finding a parallel in the goal of tending to my body and sharing this work that I’m also wanting more space in my life.

I’ve been a dance teacher long enough to remember when videos were via VHS, not YouTube and any communication with students or potential students was via word of mouth or written text on paper.

I’ve been a nurse long enough to remember when the most contact I had with a computer was using a digital EKG or heart monitor and the bulk of communication was spoken and documentation was handwritten.

I’ve been in this body long enough to remember what it felt like to hear my body’s voice when it wasn’t over run by the constant demands of my never-ending taskmaster in my brain.

My body has developed a voice of her own that is quite distinct from the taskmaster, and I want to listen to her for a while.  I miss her!

I’m still motivated to share, and that will happen again, either via this blog or videos.

Until then, join me in my next workshop
Self Massage and Body Play for Every Body
April 19, 2015 12:15-3:15PM at
Suzie’s Studio in San Rafael, Ca.
415-897-3281
Info

Going for a walk in the dark……ciao


What are you doing to keep space open?

3 Reasons to Learn Self Massage

Look how long our toes really are?  I used to think of them as short and stubby!

Look how long our toes really are? I used to think of mine as short and stubby!

Before you flip to another post because you are thinking “why do I need to know this”, give me a chance! You’ve been giving yourself massage all along even if you didn’t know it. I’m sure you can recall at least once where you have reached up and rubbed your temple or shoulder to relieve a headache or a tight knot in your shoulder . You have also been at the receiving end of a touch that started in infancy where you Mother caressed you to sooth your stomach ache or soothe you to sleep.  If you weren’t lucky enough to receive loving touch as an infant all the more reason for you to get comfortable doing it to yourself.

Self Massage gives us all the benefits that getting a massage give us.
It  softens and lengthens tight muscles, increasing joint space so we can literally decompress and restore range of motion to our joints, increases circulation with blood flow to enhance waste removal through our lymphatic system and increase oxygen stores to our tissues.
It encourages relaxation so that a normal breathing cycle can emerge. It’s an opportunity for us to quiet our sympathetic nervous system and welcome the work that our parasympathetic nervous system was designed to do.  While we quiet the mind we will be able to quiet the excessive muscular activity we often misuse for stability and mobility in our hyper-stimulated daily situations and activities.

Massage therapists  are trained to give massage, but they are also schooled in receiving the information bodies give back to them.  Their hands can tell if tissue is tight or spasmed, or long, released and springy!
By learning self massage, you multiply the sensory loops in which you give yourself information.  Via touch and receiving the touch. You are having a conversation with yourself, as you supply yourself the answers. The sensory feedback is supplied by the skin, muscles, bones, fascia, circulatory, lymphatic, central and peripheral nervous systems. While you may not understand all the science associated with this complex sensory landscape, do know, that your touch can profoundly affect these systems.
Outside of a clinical situation, or doing cadaver work, it is one of the best tools (as well as movement) for developing a somatic self-awareness.

1. Develop proprioception. Yes, proprioception is our sense of self in space. Some reports state that 75% of our propriocepters are in our feet and lower limb. It makes sense to release soft tissue, increase blood flow, restore mobility to our ankles and strengthen out feet.  Hard to make sense of it if you don’t know about your heel bone feels before  you bear weight on it.

2. Develop a 3 dimensional sense of self.  Many of us have a self-limiting idea of our own anatomy that we  learned early in our lives. Experiencing a side, front and back body with all its complexities and densities will enhance your physical literacy.

3. Release soft tissue to eliminate  pain and move more efficiently.  While self massage and getting a massage are beneficial, they both are a means to an end. That of restoring effortless organization in our body and pain-free movement.


 

Self Massage

Sit back in your chair and cross one leg over the other, so you can see the bottom of the foot of the leg you are crossing. Make a fist and start to knead or rake the bottom of your foot.  Dividing the sole of your foot into 3 sections, start at the big toe and go all the way to the heel, then the middle of your sole, then the pinkie to side.  Try going horizontally across the ball of your foot and the areas in between the pad of your toes and the ball. Moving horizontally again, go to your heel and and knead that area.
Grab your heel with your whole hand and gently twist back and forth like you were trying to open a drawer or unscrew something.
One hand on the top of your foot, one on the bottom and rub back and forth, the same motion you would use if you were rubbing your hands back and forth in anticipation of something.

Uncross you legs and put your foot under your knee, how’s it feel? Walk around and feel the difference.  Is your other foot jealous? Repeat on the other side, now go take a walk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Things About Jaw Position That You Should Know

IMG_4165jawJaw Tension.

Those of you who know me from the dance studio, have heard me repeatedly give direction on your jaw.  Release your jaw, soften the root of your tongue, let your jaw hang, smile! I’m kind of broken record for a lot of directions. Those of you who don’t dance, don’t worry you have a jaw. I’ve found a piece of research that supports my continual prompting that could aid in integrating that habit outside of the studio. Which is what I’d ideally like to happen for the majority of my verbal rants!  If you don’t integrate the behavior outside of the studio, it’s really hard to find it in the studio, considering most of you (and me) are spending less time dancing in your bodies and more time in daily life, computing, commuting and compressing with our bodies.

  1. The position of  your jaw can affect your posture. Relaxing your jaw is accomplished by exploring the relationship between your jaw to your head and your head to your body.  See the study. See # 6
  2. A jaw at rest or neutral has a low-level of muscle tonicity or muscle tension.  This is referred to the myocentric position.  I’m going to rely on my common sense and experience to categorize the muscular activity as eccentric. For us mere mortals, it should feel relaxed.
  3. Some people clench their jaw so much they can wear off their enamel, or crack a tooth. Dang! Can you imagine what their neck feels like? And you’ve probably heard about TMJ syndrome?
  4. Your jaw position can affect your weight distribution, pressure through the foot and gait stability. Psst! Check your shoe’s wear and tear.
  5.  And apparently, your body posture may affect jaw position.
  6. If you put your fist under your jaw right now and are unable to open your jaw fully, your head is in a really bad position.

Body Play
Touch your earlobe softly and caress towards your chin, feeling the broadest part of your jaw. Use your index finger and trace the outline of your mandible. Are you lifting your head and hyperextending your neck? Find your sitz bones and sit tall, can you unclench your jaw and let it hang? At what angle is your jaw in relationship to your head, the floor, the rest of your body? ideally, it should be at an oblique angle as opposed to  horizontal.  If it isn’t are you “sucking”  your lips or is there tension in your tongue?
Go for a walk, try 3 different jaw positions.  Teeth touching, jaw ligaments soft and hanging and the position in which your jaw is when you swallow.  See how each position  presents itself in terms of tension in various parts of the body. Is it easier to walk in one position or another?


Further Study
Try this exercise from Mary Bond, she nails it in her exploration of the root of the tongue and the spine. Me thinks she is a dancer!

Visualization Ideokinesis
I like my jaw soft, so I envision melted taffy. It’s soft but strong. Can you pull your taffy  ( jaw muscles) long?

That just made my mouth water…now go take a walk!

Whatchyoulookinat?

EYESkeletoncopyYes you! What are you looking at and how are you looking at it? We use our eyes differently for different situations.
I find that the way I use my eyes in everyday activities is as important to my overall posture and alignment as is a good warm up to a workout or dance class.
Loss of vision, close up work, particularly the computer are all things that narrow my peripheral vision. Creating a hyper-focus in front of me that starts a chain reaction of compression and collapse.  That attention to what is front of me, often disallows me to maintain an awareness of inner support.  My head collapses on to my jaw, my chin will jut out  compressing my neck, I no longer breathe efficiently….and that collapse follows me all the way to my pelvis, legs and feet.
Gazing down changes the  placement of the cervical vertebrae which in turn, effects blood flow, nerve pathways and influences misplacement of body parts below the head.  It can shift your whole body line forward or curled over itself…….displacing and compromising your mid-line(this is way important to me folks)….. you can have difficulty swallowing, balance, lack of freedom in the shoulder girdle…which shows up in other areas of the body in compensatory patterns, as it ( your body) tries to keep an upright position.
I often give the directive of “make yourself as big as you can” in the dance studio. You can apply this to your head and face.

Try to feel dimension and space in your head.  There is space in there, think of your sinuses or your palate.  If that feels collapsed or compressed, let there be space.  Let’s differentiate our face from our head, our face is where our eyes, nose and lips are. The base of my tongue is closer to  my neck, than my lips are. The nasal cavity extends behind me, towards my ears, my eyes are encased in a bony hollow that extends behind me into the head. The jaw hangs under my head and behind my lips. The head/skull is where the brain is. On top of and behind my face, balanced on my spine.

Envisioning and breathing into all this dimension allows me to realize that my sight doesn’t start at my eyeball or my glasses perched on my nose. It starts back in my head, behind me. Allowing an expansiveness in my face, head, breath and vision, while it relaxes my eye muscles, freeing up my lowered gaze, which is often locked by staring at a computer screen, mirror (hint, dancer friends) or lost in thought.

Diligently checking in with myself like a drill sergeant  may seem like a hyper-vigilance that’s counter productive and it might be if you are trying to “fix” yourself. Try to change that mindset to “find” yourself.  Dose the continual adjustments you make with the same compassion you would show a best friend, or a Mother’s soft caress to her child and let them become second nature.

Body Lessons with Terry

imageBody Lessons Self Massage and Body Play for Dancers

January 3, 2016 12:15-3:15 PM

$25 prepay by December 15, 2015 PayPal to terrydancer@yahoo.com or $40 at the door

Suzie’s Studio 425 Irwin St. San Rafael, Ca.
415-897-3281 Terry@BodyLessons.com to RSVP

Tight, Sore Muscles?
Are you tight because you are moving inefficiently or not moving enough.
We get tight because our muscles get hyper-tonic because of overuse, chronic use or spasmed because of injury. Are you wanting to develop self-awareness and learn tools for your own somatic exploration and self-care?
In this class we will learn self massage techniques using your hands, body weight and other commonly available tools ( provided with class fee)  for pain relief or as practice before you work out. I like mine every day, but I’m high maintenance! Learn to “scan” your body for chronic muscle tension. Explore a functional breath pattern and how it might restore suppleness and ease of movement in your neck, torso and pelvis. Learn gentle decompression techniques to maximize joint space and preserve our joints. (You do want to keep them, right)?  Gentle, yet powerful, energy work, movements and visualizations to test and restore your joint’s range of motion, enabling an ease in movement and a dynamic balance.

For those who have attended  this workshop, we will review basic anatomy and techniques used in earlier workshops and learn to find trigger points in the lower limb and self release to restore ease in the hip, knee and ankle.

Great for all bodies.

If Only Eye Knew

 

 

EyeshaveitAfter breaking my arm in Aqaba, I was reminded  of how my eyes are a big player when it comes to my overall function.  My right is stronger than my left. My eye doc suggests I  just wear cheaters: 200 for reading, 125 for distance.  But after complaining that I have CSS syndrome, he conceded in giving me a prescription for contacts.
I noticed my whole left field of vision was diminished.   I could still see, but mostly it was the left side of my nose that I was looking at. Granted, this all simultaneously occurred with the increased screen time that the ACA imposed on my once very physical job in health care.  I became a frickin scribe.  One word to describe the situation was myopic! This  for a person who never held a sitting job in her life was a major adjustment. My left eye felt frozen to my mid line, while my right could still experience peripheral vision. Whether that was really clinically true, doesn’t matter, it was my sensation of my experience, so it became a fact for my body.

Our eyes and how they move are one of our most fundamental, primitive movements we learn.  As an infant, it is one of the first group of muscles that we learn to control.  The gaze of our eyes is the primary impetus to our first movements, they telegraph out movements.  Without our full facility in using all the muscles of our eyes we (me) are operating like a car without all the spark plugs in, or different analogy, maybe like an electrical “brownout”.  In a sense, that’s what it is. All of our movements are controlled by electrical impulse that are generated from the brain. (In short).

The eyes receive that information. The cranial (optic,specifically) nerves feed directly into the central nervous system/the brain and then to the peripheral nervous system /spine. Cervical nerves (C1-C2, the neck) innervate the eyes.
This complex communication between the eyes, nerves, and eventually to your musculoskeletal system is what allows us  to receive information so that we can remain upright, balanced and able to coordinate movement.
The cranial nerves innervate the head and neck area,[10] including both somatic and autonomic motor innervation as well as sensory innervation. Together the cranial nerves supply sensory innervation of the special senses, such as taste, vision, smell, and hearing. They also supply afferents of the somatic senses: visceral sensation of the head and neck, balance, and proprioception, combining vestibular perception with proprioceptive information from the head and neck.[13
With time, that lack of mobility in the eyes will migrate and affect the rest of your body and motor control.  Research has shown a correlation in eyesight loss and depression. And we know it’s a risk factor for falling in the elderly.
You may have even started to notice as you read this on the computer, that your head is coming forward or that you are collapsing onto or into  yourself. Tilting your head or spine to use one eye more than the other or  seated in a less than ideal body position, is an immediate result, but unfortunately something that we reproduce many times throughout the day, days on end.
I’m playing with isometric eye exercises, eye re-patterning, Bates, and making up a bunch of my own to meet my specific needs. I also downloaded an “app” for eyesight. Yes, as I sigh..I’m not beyond the irony of doing eye exercises on a smart phone…


Try this if you want to feel how powerful your eye muscles are.

Sit back against the back rest, don’t do this on a stool! Take the palm of your hand and cup gently without any pressure on your neck.  Close your eyes and move your eyes left to right and up to down several times.  Cool huh?


Body Play

After you read this next section, sit back and close your eyes, uncross your legs, put your feet on the floor, take of your glasses. Or better yet, lay down on the floor, free from the constraints of gravity.

Deep easy breaths, sit tall or lay. Reach your R arm across to your L shoulder, L arm to your R shoulder. Take a few breaths, let you jaw relax, teeth separate, tongue relax, and face soften. Without consciously trying to move your head, start tracing a square with your eye path, keeping your eyes closed. Start with letting your left eye lead the movement. Clockwise and counterclockwise, don’t skip corners. Repeat it for your right eye.  Then change the orientation of your arms.
One of my most powerful eye maneuvers, eyes closed, laying flat…roll your eyes up into your head, 3 easy, lazy breaths. Take notice of how your body responds.  Do you feel your back on the ground more, do you feel your front open up?

Ideokinesis Visualization
This one really works for me even though I’ve never actually done the task.  Remember clothespins? My Mother used to hang sheets out to dry on a clothesline, so maybe that’s why this has a powerful impact on my body when I use this visualization.  Imagine you are doing the same, except your clothespins are at the back of your head, above your ears. Go ahead and feel your head, so you can develop a deeper sense of where you are taking yourself. You are your sheet, hang yourself from the deepest part of your head and brain. If your sheet is heavy with water, the weight of the water draining will cause your sheet to lengthen the fibers and unkink the wrinkles…This works eyes open or closed.

Now, get off the computer and take a walk or something!

 

6 Stops on the Road To Aqaba

Image

Skeleton webMDedit

Terry’s Body Map

I should have checked my Body Map before I left for the Middle East.
Actually, “Body Maps” refers to the imprints that our brain holds for movement. Areas that sense, coordinate and categorize movements and body parts.  But this map, is me.
1/ Alabama I cut my left palm climbing a fence when I was 2 yrs. old.
2/ Honolulu I broke my hamate bone in my left hand when I was 5 , actually someone else broke it for me!
3/ Waikiki My left ankle was punctured with a fishing spear when I was 6 yrs old.
4/ Cape Elizabeth, Maine I twisted my left knee running down a hill when I was 11.
5/ Scheherazade Night Club in South San Francisco, Ca.I got a bursitis in my left hip after I landed in a left front lunge going down a staircase.
6/ SF. Ca.I got a boo boo when I was in a car accident in 1994. I was broadsided on the driver’s side (mine), rear-ended, then I rear-ended the person in front of me. So you can see the 6’s are kind of random!
7/ Aqaba, Jordan I broke my left arm (medial radius) after a fall, no, not a fall, I tripped and flew 12 feet landing on cold tile floor in a restroom in  January 2012, the first day of Mubarak’s trial. Don’t ask me why I remember that.
I could have seen this coming. I really should have checked the map before my departure.

What’s your Body Map telling you?

Click here if you want to “map ” yourself!