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 Thoughts on Healing, Life, Self-Care and more...


Conscious Inhibition and the Alexander Technique

 The Alexander Technique teaches you how to be free from simply reacting in a "knee-jerk way" to the everyday stresses of life.  When you are cooking that delicate soufflé and that "important phone" call comes in you are pulled two ways simultaneously creating tension in your body and an "oh shit" emotional reaction occurs. Neurologically what is activated is a low level "fight, flight, freeze response". We create a holding pattern of stress by tightening our neck & shoulder muscles creating a downward drag throughout our torso & back.

You can learn how not to get caught up in this physical-emotional quagmire that is so prevalent in today's high stress sedentary world.  Remember back problems are the number one health issue in today's digital smart phone age. 

The key ingredient in the Alexander Technique is something that is called "conscious Inhibition".  

Many words have more than one definition and inhibition is one of them. On one level it is an emotional repression to some trauma one has experienced. a feeling that makes one self-conscious and unable to act in a relaxed and natural way.  I am not using this definition at all.  

A much more interesting and useful definition from a physiological perspective is our ability to create a space between stimulus and response. This may sound complicated, but it is not. Remember when you were around 3 or 4 years old and a parent or older sibling taught you how to cross a road.  They would take you by the hand and say, "Now we have to learn to stop at the curb and not dash into the street. I know you want to hurry and get to your friends house for their birthday, but first we need to 'Stop, Look, and Listen' and make sure there are no cars coming. I don't want you to get hurt.  Okay the coast is clear now, so continue holding my hand as we walk to your friends birthday party." Of course it took many, many tries to get this across to our young brains. However, after awhile we got it and eventually this 'stoping and looking first' became a natural and more conscious skill and we "crossed the street's of life" on our own.  

This is a clear example of conscious inhibition and implementing this is extremely important to a healthy and productive life. (I'm still amazed that people still try to "beat the car" by jaywalking and running across the street or even worse, trying to beat a train by quickly driving around a railroad crossing.) A lack of our ability to consciously inhibit one's impulses leads to problems and even injury.

There is a great quote by Viktor Frankl the renowned Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist that say it all...

   "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies growth and our freedom."

In the Alexander Technique the key ingredient is this mindful awareness of conscious inhibition. This is not simply an intellectual understanding. More importantly it is an awareness of how stress interferes with our balanced movement creating a lot of excess tension and downward pressure throughout our back and into our hips, knees, and ankle joints. 

You can learn how to observe this pattern of tension (without self criticism), stopping & creating a space between our "knee jerk" reaction, and then regaining good posture. As one of my mentors once said, "You are either loosing your length, or learning the art of regaining your length!"  The Alexander Technique teaches you how to do this simply and clearly.

Do you have your 'fire' under control? 

Summer is right around the corner and so are the hot temperatures. Love the summer months but not the heat? In Ayurveda, summer is known as the Pitta time of year. Pitta is made up of the fire element.

If you are someone who has a lot of Pitta in your body/mind, you tend to be more muscular, medium build, you can make a great leader, you're very task oriented, completion is important to you, you have a good appetitive and hate to miss a meal! When you get out of balance you tend towards rashes, acne, acid reflux, you can get a little ‘heated’, short-tempered, bossy, and quick to judge others. Sound familiar? 

Here are some tips to keep your ‘fire’ under control during the summer. Now is a great time to start changing your diet, exercise routines and lifestyle patterns. Don't wait for the summer heat!

• Get up early and go for a run or walk before the sun gets too hot. Or take a late evening hike. Swim, workout but do it either in the early morning or evening time. Not mid-day.

• Cool off with a morning smoothie:
¼ of aloe vera (I like George’s)
¼ of coconut juice
½ tsp. of coconut oil
½ tsp. of cumin
Chopped up mango, pear, papaya
Scoop of good protein powder (I like
Ancient Nutrition Bone Broth)
Squeeze of lemon or lime
Grate a little fresh ginger into it
½ cup of water or unsweetened juice of
your choice.

Blend in up and sip it down. 

• The bitter and astringent tastes are best for the summertime. Fresh salads with cucumber, mint, arugula, cilantro, fennel. Vegetables like summer squash, leafy greens, and sprouts. If your digestion is weak you might need to steam them lightly to digest them better.

• Avoid hot spices like chilies, hot peppers, and cayenne pepper, you know the ones!

• Use more spices like cardamom, coconut, coriander, saffron, mint, turmeric, and spearmint.

• Watch your alcohol intake, it’s heating to the body and mind!

• Drink your water! It’s easy to get dehydrated in the summer. Room temperature water is better than ice cold.

• Drink teas like hibiscus, dandelion, mint, and rose which are cooling and good for the liver and mind.

• Wear clothes made from fibers like cotton, linen, silk or hemp; they tend to keep us cooler. Also, wearing colors like blues, lighter greens, pastels, whites don’t attract the heat.

• Take time to get outdoors and enjoy the sun, 20-minutes a day gives us our vitamin D3, which is so important for us!

Most of all take the time to get out this summer and enjoy yourself, your family and friends!

Stimulus – Response  

Do you find yourself overreacting these days? It’s hard not too!

It’s been a turbulent couple of months with all the ‘changes’ we have gone through. I know for myself I had to take a break from the news, social media and even some friends in order to regain my inner calm and balance.

Stimulus – response…Stimulus – response…we are constantly bouncing back and forth in our reactional pattern of “I like this, I don’t like that.” We are caught up in a maze of comparisons without much conscious thought, clear intention or mindful awareness.

No wonder stress, that leads to all kinds of health issues, is rampant in our society....bad backs, poor posture, digestive issues, hypertension, and poor coordination is all too common. Almost to a degree that we start thinking that it’s “normal” or at best “just a process of aging”.

Luckily, I have the Alexander Technique that continually brings me back to my sense of whole self, which then allows me to be in this present moment.

The Alexander Technique is the “best-kept secret in the performing arts world”. It is taught at all the major performance schools, from The Juilliard School in NYC to The Royal College of Music in London. The reason for this is that the performer (actor, singer, dancer, musician) all deal with the fear of performing which they call ‘stage fright’.

However, you do not have to be a performer to experience this fear reaction (scientifically known as the ‘Fight, Flight, Freeze Response’). This re-actionable pattern happens to all of us anytime we are stressed with the uncomfortable realization “that what is happening to me, is not what I want to be happening”. There is a re-actionable picture comparison in our minds between what is actually happening now and what we wish were happening. For example, you’ve spent hours preparing a special meal and at the critical point in cooking that you actually need to be at the stove...that important phone call comes in that you’ve been waiting on all day. You are being pulled two ways simultaneously creating what I call the “Oh shit!” reaction, creating tension within your body and mind.

The Alexander Technique teaches you how to observe this pattern of tension. How to stop and disengage by coming back to a balanced length throughout your whole body letting go of the stress. The moment you do this you feel better because your breath is working freely and not being interfered with. The moment your breath frees, your thinking clears up and you make a choice of either turning the food off and answering the phone or letting the phone call go into voice mail and you continue cooking. In either case, your decision is correct because it is not made out of a stressful reaction. In essence, you change your state by changing your body posture. Smart balanced posture leads to smarter balanced thinking. The Alexander Technique works and it gives you that mindful choice. Hopefully, we can all learn how to create more space and joy in our lives.            Posted 3/16/17

Spring ahead….Coming out of hibernation.

Depending on where you’re living you might be seeing signs of spring approaching. The melting of the snow, leafs returning to the branches, rivers flowing and small buds peaking through the ground. Warmer days are coming! Ok, I live in Ojai California, where the weather is pretty perfect all year round. For those on the East coast, you might have to wait a couple of weeks! 

Spring is a great time for cleansing both the body and mind from the heavy, sluggish qualities of winter. Spring naturally brings us out into the warmer days and motivates us to shed the unnecessary weight and toxins that have accumulated in the body. Think of it as spring cleaning from the inside, out. 

Spring in Ayurveda is known as the Kapha season. The Kapha dosha has the elements of water and earth which tend to accumulate throughout our system over the winter months. Thus we tend to experience more the feelings of excessive heaviness, lethargy, being set in our ways, and congestion in our chest and sinuses.

Spring is thought to be the season of transition. As the seasons change so must your daily routines so that you live more in sync with nature’s rhythms. Having this awareness can help you to be more in tune with your own physical and emotional challenges. You can help ease this transition by paying attention to the foods you eat, your sleep patterns when you exercise and your moods.

Below are some tips that may help you align with the spring season so that you can maintain a healthy balance in your body, mind, and spirit:

~ Begin to align yourself with the change in the season. As we spring ahead it’s a good time to wake up with the sun.  Do a more invigorating yoga practice or exercises program in the morning.  This will help jumpstart your digestion and get your lymphatic system moving which aids in releasing toxins. 

~ Drink hot water with a squeeze of lemon or lime and a slice of ginger every morning. This helps stimulate not only your digestion and metabolism but can help with regular bowel movements. These are key to getting rid of toxins that accumulate throughout the body!

~ Does your digestion feel sluggish? Chop up some fresh ginger (1/2 tsp.), squeeze a slice of lemon on it and a pinch of salt. Eat this before your meals to help stimulate your digestive fire. 

~ Seek more stimulation! Spring is a great time to get out and focus on a new hobby or activity that you have been putting off. It’s easy to get in a rut during the winter! Now is the time to shake it off and shake it up! Try a new dance class or a game of tennis!

~ As the warmer weather approaches get outside and do more vigorous exercise. Running, biking and hiking will help burn off the heavy, stubborn energy that Kapha creates in your body during the wintertime. 

~ Use a Neti pot daily. This is especially great if you suffer from allergies and sinus flare-ups in the springtime. 

~ Eat lighter and earlier. Having your biggest meal of the day between 12-2 is best. Eat dinner before 6:00 p.m. if you can and take a walk afterward.

~ Enjoy lighter, warm cooked foods, like soups, vegetable, and grains. Emphasize the qualities of bitter, pungent and astringent tastes. These are helpful with detoxifying the body from that winter sluggish feeling.

Here is a basic list of foods to give you an idea of what to focus on: 

Vegetables: Asparagus, broccoli, brussel sprouts, dandelion greens, mustard greens, garlic, carrots, kale, spinach

Meats: Chicken (white), eggs, fresh water fish

Legumes: Black beans, pinto beans, mung dal, lentils 

Fruits: Cherries, pomegranates, prunes, limes, lemon, apples, berries

Dairy: (Best to minimize) Cottage cheese, goat cheese, yogurt (diluted)

Grains: Barley, couscous, quinoa, millet, basmati rice

Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower, flax seeds

Spices: Black pepper, ginger, garlic, cayenne, (most spices are good for Kapha especially the warmer ones that can help stimulate a sluggish digestion) 

Think lighter, get moving and enjoy the longer days ahead!       posted 3/12/17