Tag Archives: Health

Integrating mind and body into medicine

It is exciting to see the medical community steadily moving towards a well-rounded, holistic approach to health care.

Dr. Herbert Benson is a great example. He heads the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. Benson and his institute are working to integrate mind/body medicine into all areas of health care.

Benson sees health care as a “three-legged stool”:  one leg is drugs, another being surgical procedures, and the third as self-care or mind/body medicine which he classifies as the following:

The relaxation response (ways to de-stress, such as meditation)

Positive coping (cognitive behavioral therapy)

Physical activity

Nutrition

Social support

What’s great about the Benson Institute is not only are they promoting stress management for patients, but are educating doctors and health care professionals on how to integrate mind/body medicine into their practices, rather than just offering the text-book drugs and surgical procedures.

A quote from their own site states:

Primary care physicians often are taxed by patient complaints that do not seem to have a clear etiology, nor do the patients improve despite good medications and expensive procedures. Current studies show that stress or distress may have a significant effect on the onset, the course, and the management of many, if not all, diseases. Understanding a patient’s underlying stress physiology and coping mechanisms may enable physicians to better understand various clinical disorders and treat their manifested symptoms. -Benson-Henry Institute

Dr. Benson’s most recent book: Relaxation Revolution: Enhancing Your Personal Health Through the Science and Genetics of Mind Body Healing is now available.

You can hear an interview with Dr. Benson on the Diane Rhames Show, broadcast earlier today.

Meditation. It’s not just for Sissies anymore.

(Watch out phone viewers…quite a few videos below)

Yeah that’s right. Meditation is being claimed by the resistance movement. Quiet strength and mind body centering is attacking the establishment…silently.

As the benefits of meditation become more widely known, its new age stigma is being shed for a reputation of focus, skill and all around quiet bad ass…ness.

Breathe deep, growl low.

Take the Dharma Punx movement.

Noah Levine, a former druggie and multiple-time convict, learned how to meditate in jail and carried it out to the disenchanted masses. Levine’s meditation movement is gaining momentum among the disillusioned seeking something more from life than drugs, sex, MSNBC, and garage bands.

Although the Dharma Punx are bringing Buddhist philosophy to the streets, it must be mentioned here:  The Wu Tang Clan was first.

While Wu Tang’s philosophical references began with martial arts films, their inspiration validly comes from yet another, older, bad ass group – the Shaolin Monks. There is nothing wimpy about this club. Meditation is their way of life, creating focus, discipline and a centeredness from which they move. I can safely say a 60 year old man able to meditate while balancing one finger…is hardcore.

While meditating on your head might not be in the cards, there is still much to learn from their way of life. For example, here in this video are the simplest elements needed to meditate.

Russell Simmons

Of course, meditation has its celebrity fans. Tiger, Russell Simmons, Sting. Hands down, my personal favorite is David Lynch. Here is a guy who goes fishing into the human psyche, catching all the dichotomies (good and evil, black and white, etc) and exploring them in wild nonlinear, multidimensional ways. Doing things like this:

…while meditating twice a day for the past 35 years. Lynch is one of the most prolific artists out there today. Disturbing, beautiful and compelling. Taking concepts and running with them in various directions. Lynch is a badazzzz.

In the end I defer to The Man, Clint Eastwood. Yup, Mr. Eastwood has been practicing meditation everyday since the 1970’s.

So I gotta ask, Do you feel lucky Punk? Well do ya?

If not, perhaps a little mediation would help….

(I know. Oh so cheesy cheese, but hard to resist.)

Here are a few links for more information:

2009 Scienceline Article

June 2010 – Diane Rehms Show on the power of meditation

The NIH overview on Meditation

Putting the moves on while at the airport lounge


This is what I’m talking about.

We sit all day. In the car, at work and home, and for hours at the airport and then onto the plane. We take the brunt of demands, sitting down.  We get agitated, crabby and stressed, but do we really do anything about it? Take some action? No.

I, for one, am not going to take this siting down anymore, and I ‘m starting at the airport.

And why not? More and more people exercise at the airport. While you might be the lone spectacle at first, others will soon get brave and follow suit. A call to action takes time.  It’s kind of amazing long we ignore the instinct to move around and stretch.

Here is a New York Times article from this week about exercise at the airport and suggestions for seated stretches.

Below are my recommendations when you are hanging around the airport lounge:

1. Modified Arching

Extension with arm push

don't do this

This is the antithesis of sitting all day and is very important for spine flexibility.

Lying on your belly. YES. In the airport. Arms are out to the sides and bend your elbows. Palms are flat and all 5 fingers are touch floor. Press Up. Sense the force of the push traveling up your arms, into your back and down your spine. Continue to push your arms down and out into the floor and raise your head and chest off the floor. Keep the back of your neck long. Let your chest feel broad, your neck free, and your spine feel long. The shoulder blades should be drawn together behind you. The arms stay straight. Hold and take deep breaths. If you feel pain in your back, walk your hands out in front of you further, or prop your belly with your jacket. If you feel pain in gluts or legs. Stop.

2. Cat and Cow

On all fours (hands and knees), draw your nose towards the knees, round the spine and drawing the belly in. Next, extend your neck and tailbone up towards the sky, allowing the spine to sink towards the ground. Take deep breaths and move back and forth through these two positions, rounding and arching the back.

3. Roll Downs against the Wall

These feel great and provide a much needed spine stretch. Keep your tailbone fixed to the wall and follow the pictures and images below:

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

drape and reax the neck. Tailbone stays fixed!

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Roll up by lifting each bone away from the next as it presses into  the wall. Create space between vertebre.

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Arms can remain by your sides as well. Let the spine slide upwards  against the wall, stretcing towards the ceiling. Enjoy taller posture!

Don’t be shy. It’s for your own mind and body. Join in the movement revolution and I’ll see you at the airport. We can exchange knowing glances as we lay on the airport floor…


The Gardener’s Workout

It’s officially Spring…The season of Golf and Gardening backs pains.

Warm rays from the sun bring the need to weed, rake and plant. The one thing my gardening clients have taught me is that pain will not hold them back. The gardening must go on.

When engrossed in an activity like gardening we often lose personal awareness, which is partly why it is so appealing. Nevertheless, by the end of the day we regain that awareness quickly when a stiff back or neck presents itself.

What to do?

Here are a few tips and exercises to keep you in peak gardening condition for as long as possible.

– Use a Timer!

Get the timer out of the kitchen and bring it with you. Every 20 – 30 minutes, stop. Do some stretches. Change position and/or activity. Is it annoying to have to stop and move around? Of course it is, but keep in mind this will save you some aches, pains, and several more years of gardening.

– Mix it up

As mentioned above, change position and activity regularly. Multi-task. Instead of focusing on getting the yard raked in one day, spread it out along with a few other “have tos” over several days. This way your body is not stuck in one position or a repetitive motion for hours on end.

– 7th Inning Stretch. The Mid Gardening Workout

When your timer goes off and your body is craving a stretch. Here are 4 great movement options:

#1. cat and cow/ #2. child’s pose

Cat and Cow / Child's Pose

#3. quad stretch

Quad Stretch. Press your hand into the fence or wall for stability.

#4. elbow stretch circles ( from one minute movement)

– Gardening core strength.  The Pre/Post Gardening Workout

Your core is not your just your belly. It is the entire ring of muscles around the trunk and can even include muscles of the thighs and shoulders. 5 to 10 minutes of simple core strengthening exercises done both morning and night might help in preventing back aches.  Here are 6 exercises that will help:

#1. The Spine Extension and #2. The Forearm Plank (from the Easy TV workout)

#3. The Dead Bug Exercise (from Finding Your Fulcrum)

#4. “Clamshells” Side Lying leg movements

Lying on your side, bend the knees and make sure neck and shoulders are comfortable. Keeping feet together lift the top knee. Do not allow the pelvis to rotate backwards, torquing the back. The goals is to move only the leg, keep the pelvis and back stable. 10 to 20 times on each side.

Clamshells. Neck is long and relaxed. Pelvic bones push forward. Back is still. No twisting.

#5. “Chicken Wings” Side Lying External Shoulder rotations

Remain lying on the side. Using a light weight ( no more than 3 lbs.). Keep elbow glued to the side ribs as the forarm rises and falls. Shoulders stay down. Neck stays long. 20 on each side.

Chicken Wings. keep neck long and elbow in side.

Another view

#6. Wall Squats

Are a great way to build gardening strength while working proper knee and hip alignment. With or without a fit ball, Stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keep knees in line with toes as you bend downward. It is safest not to go past a 90 degree angle. Keep the tailbone reaching down to earth and the belly button scooped upwards towards the back of the ribs. Try 10 squats.

Wall Squat

Consider a back brace or corset support while gardening

It might not cure your back problems, but a brace or core support will remind you to stay aware of proper back placement when leaning over or squatting outside. It will help you be aware of your back.

– If all else fails, ask for help!


Get some help already!  I know you love to do it yourself, but it’s not worth the pain and perhaps ultimately having to cut gardening out all together. Plan, design, organize and get some minions at your disposal.

– More Information

A great website with wonderful ergonomic tools and ideas is offered through the University of Missouri Columbia, called Gardens for Every Body.

Happy Gardening!

Making Movement a Habit

Regular exercise is the only well-established fountain of youth, and it’s free. What, I’d like to know, will persuade the majority of Americans who remain sedentary to get off their duffs and give their bodies the workout they deserve? – Jane E Brody NY TIMES

The exacerbation in the writer’s voice in the article: “Even More Reasons to Get a Move On” is palatable. It is the frustration and dilema American’s face everyday.

This article is clear and concise. Exercise offers big benefits and little concerns. It’s a win win, but how to get people to do it?

If I had a nickel for every time I tried to get a client to do a few minutes of exercise a day…

In the same breath, I understand how hard it can be to stop and take time to do something for yourself.

It becomes less about the activity and more about learning how to create a new habit.

So, how DO you create a new habit?

Psyblog has a nice article about the science behind forming habits.

Most of the habit forming suggestions come down to:  1. defining exactly what the habit is, 2. list the benefits the new habit will bring to your life, 3. list the negatives if you don’t create the new habit,  and 4. remove roadblocks to new habit 5.commit to 3 weeks of new said habit.

This is a relative battle between each person and their habit. I think there is much more involved to truly make fitness habitual.  Some people do it in 21 days, others might take 100. Remember, we are talking habits, not temporary changes.

Here are 2 additional tips that will help make any fitness habit more successful:

6. Start small. If you could do 10 minutes to 20 minutes of exercise every morning – the time it takes for the coffee to brew – you could see and feel significant changes in your health and well-being over the course of one year.

7. Make sure it’s something you enjoy. I cannot stress this enough. If it feels like exercise, then it most likely won’t last. Listen to your gut and find that activity that will boost your heart rate and energy. Enjoying your new habit doesn’t mean it is always easy to get there everyday, but it must be something that once you are there and in the moment, you feel good.

Try This – Balloons of Strength

Blow up balloons.

You heard me. Get a cheapy pack of 100 and blow up about 20 to 30 in one sitting.

Blowing up balloons is a resistance based exercise for the diaphram, a key muscle not only for breathing, but for overall core strength. If the trunk muscles are weak, the diaphram suffers (and vice versa), as does your breathing…as does your neck and shoulder tension, as does your stress levels….see how all of this is an endless spiral?

Increase your lung capacity. Strengthen the diaphram. Build core strength. Release neck and shoulder tension. Let go of stress easier by breathing deeper.

Seems we have nowhere to go but up….go blow up some balloons.

Instantaneous Health and Black Food – Why we Love Japan

The Japanese are willing to try new fads. Theirs is a voracious and open appetite for all things new, quirky and different. Who can blame them?  I too might be enticed by the latest gizmos and research, but I’m keeping my skeptical face on…at least until everyone is gone.

Control

Teaching Pilates exercises is easy. They are exercises. Teaching clients to control their muscles in Pilates is difficult. Really difficult.

Little known fact: Joseph Pilates named his exercise program Contrology – The Art of Control.

Just because someone looks good doing an exercise, does not mean they are performing it correctly.  In Pilates we are taught to work from the core of the body outwards. Muscle control in Pilates, and for pretty much any movement, should begin with a fundamental understanding of the trunk….or as popular vernacular goes, the core.

This understanding, or awareness, of muscles is created by mind-body connections. It’s nothing new-agey or other worldly. It is a combination of cognitive function, motor skills, and neuromuscular training. Being aware means you have knowledge of a muscle and are able to contract it on command.  Muscles do have memory.

Example: Close your eyes and imagine shooting a basketball into a basket. You can mentally create the action. Hands holding the ball. Feet in proper stance. Knees bend.  Energy builds. Push off. Arms extend. And you shoot the perfect three-pointer…whether or not you made that mental basket is best left for a psychologist’s blog. Point is, you can feel the movement without moving.  That is muscle memory.

A large part of a Pilates instructor’s job is finding the right key to help you unlock mind-body connections. The key could be a word, or an image, or a feeling, but once able to contract or lengthen the specific muscle upon command, you have now created new muscle memory.

Eric Franklin is a movement educator creating mind-body connections by playing with imagery. Franklin supplements movement training with brain and body exploration. Again, it sounds new-agey. Trust me. It’s legit. Connecting creative thought patterns and feelings with the physical body can bring about new muscular connections. Franklin’s methodology is a nice complement to any Pilates, physical therapy, or exercise practice. Subtle imagery cues can make a large impact on muscle control down the road. Starting small in your movement is a sound way to begin proper muscle control.

Classic Pilates imagery cue: Imagine you are trying on a pair of tight pants. The zipper is almost zipped. There is about one inch left.  Take a deep breath and draw everything up and in so you can draw that last little bit of zipper up!

This image helps people feel the deep abdominal muscles. Once felt, it’s easier to understand how to contract them at will.

Attaining muscle control and knowledge of your own body keeps you strong and flexible.

So how do you begin?

#1. Your best bet is to start working with a knowledgeable trainer. Let them help you assess your body and find the best way to progress. Every body is different and to find your particular muscular control pattern is a personal battle.

#2. Practice small fundamental movements regularly to create more mind-body neuromuscular connections. IDEA Health and Fitness Association offers a nice list of some tried and true core connecting moves. Pick one or two that work for you.

For more information on the Eric Franklin and his movement method, check out his website.

Resolve

To do more of nothing.

Take time to be still.

There is wisdom in silence.

明けましておめでとうございます

(Happy New Year)

From Mind Body Arts

Magic Weight Loss and Brain Power Tips

Yeah, No.

Not really. No magic here. Mentos and diet cola looks pretty magical too, but it’s not. If anyone offers you magic solutions to health, you might as well be buying the Brooklyn Bridge. Has the price gone down on it yet?

There are only habits. Stopping old rituals and starting new routines. Doesn’t that sound daunting? It really doesn’t have to be. Start small. Go slow. Keep steady. Yeah, not glamorous, but it works.

Think Slow and Steady


Invest 10 minutes everyday in a new habit. No more.

Below are a few opportunities to start making changes. Pick only one. Who we kidding, we all want to do more. Go ahead and try a few, but stick to one. If you force too much too soon seeking immediate results, you will crash and burn. If you can keep that one new habit for a 2 months, then perhaps add another. This slow steady method goes a long way in helping maintain better mental and physical health.

  • Just 10 minutes of exercise first thing in the morning can increase your metabolic rate for the rest of the day.
  • Up your consumption of water throughout the day. Drink sugary beverages sparingly.  Be fully hydrated. This can increase your metabolic rate.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Big ugh, I know. Make it more interesting. Go seasonal. Get to know your local farmers. Frequent the farmers market or local grocer. Ask how they like to prepare the harvests of the season. My personal favorite way to eat most veggies is a quick sautee in olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. Bam.

  • Eat more fats. The good kind. As in HDL, not LDL.  Latest research suggest that cholesterol lowering foods such as avocados, almonds, olive oil, soy beans, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, chili peppers, oat bran, beans (kidney, pintos, black, navy, etc.), onions, fatty fish, and flax seed play a crucial role in lowering LDL and sometimes raising HDL levels. These foods fill you up and help your cholesterol stay healthy.
  • Drink Green Tea. This one is personal.  Although skeptical of touting weight loss benefits, green tea has been helpful in curbing sugar and nicotine cravings.  A little green tea after dinner helps in digestion and is a wonderful winter ritual rounding off dinner with a mandarin orange or two as dessert.
  • Journal 10 minutes a day. Huh? Yup. Get a notebook. Vent your anxieties, frustrations, write down your hopes, dreams. List three thing you are grateful for everyday. These little moments help clear the brain and make the rest of your day smoother, creating peace of mind and less stress.

Take your time and enjoy the process. As enticing as quick fix solutions can be, slow and steady habit shifts will keep the body and mind healthier throughout a lifetime.