What We Can Learn From Japan – Even Changing The Way We Grow Food

Say Hi To Japan’s High-Tech Indoor Veggie Factories

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It’s no secret that man is openly vulnerable to the random and unforgiving fury of mother nature. Droughts, storms, floods, and many other natural events could at any time, and anywhere, wipe out a major agricultural hub.

But no worries, Japan came up with a solution to this issue. Japanese plant physiologist Shigeharu Shimamura, along with GE, recently developed a special LED fixture that emits light at wavelengths optimal for indoor plant growth.

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They allow Shimamura to control the night-and-day cycle and accelerate growth. The systems allows him to grow lettuce full of vitamins and minerals two-and-a-half times faster than an outdoor farm. He is also able to cut discarded produce from 50 percent to just 10 percent of the harvest, compared to a conventional farm. As a result, the farms productivity per square foot is up 100-fold.

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Furthermore, the LEDs last longer and consume 40 percent less power than fluorescent lights. Ding-dong! This could possibly change the way the world grows food.

Underground Bicycle Garages

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Ha! Try this one bike thieves.

How does it work? Hop off your bike and guide it onto a small platform, insert your card, and voila. Your bike is stowed away out of sight and out of the way, safe and sound, so that you never have to worry about those insistent lock snippers. And it only takes about 10 seconds to retrieve your bike back.

These garages are built entirely underground (average about 38 feet), and can hold around 204 bikes.

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Better Vehicle Parking Garages – Automated Of Course

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Automated (car) parking systems (APS) are mechanical systems designed to minimize the area and/or volume required for parking cars.

An APS provides parking for cars on multiple levels stacked vertically to maximize the number of parking spaces while minimizing land usage.

The benefits?: Increased vehicle security, minimized parking lot damage, physically safer as no one is walking through, reduced engine emissions, better handicap access, minimized construction time, and reduced overall space needed for the garage. 

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Touchscreen Menus At Upscale Restaurants

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While some may argue that the use of touchscreens in restaurants is just another nail in the coffin for social interaction, I believe this idea to be a step forward with regards to efficiency and customer service. How often do you find your waiter/tress too busy to take your order? Or how often is your order taken down wrong to your disappointment?

High Speed Bullet Trains – The Shinkansen Gets The Job Done

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Japan’s main islands of Honshu and Kyushu are served by a network of high speed train lines that connect Tokyo with most of the country’s major cities. These bullet trains are called shinkansen.

Running at speeds of up to 320 km/h, the shinkansen is known for punctuality (most trains depart on time to the second), comfort (relatively silent cars with spacious, always forward facing seats), safety (no fatal accidents in its history) and efficiency. Thanks to the Japan Rail Pass, the shinkansen can also be a very cost effective means of travel.

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A shinkansen could take someone from Vancouver to Toronto (a trip that normally takes 4 days driving) in about 14 hours. The question is, what the heck are we waiting for North America? Follow suit!

An Organized Approach To Garbage Disposal

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Although not as eco-friendly as Costa Rica or certain European countries, Japan stands as an innovator when it comes to waste management and organization.

In Tokyo, trash (gomi) has to be divided into three categories (combustible trash, non-combustible trash, recyclable trash) for proper disposal. Each category is collected separately on a designated day. Signs in the neighborhood inform residents about the weekdays on which what type of garbage is collected. Burnable garbage is usually collected on two or three days during the week, while non burnable garbage is usually collected once a week.

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Norimitsu Onishi of The New York Times put it beautifully,

“Lipstick goes into burnables; lipstick tubes, ‘after the contents have been used up,’ into ‘small metals’ or plastics. Take out your tape measure before tossing a kettle: under 12 inches, it goes into small metals, but over that it goes into bulky refuse.” 

“Socks? If only one, it is burnable; a pair goes into used cloth, though only if the socks ‘are not torn, and the left and right sock match.’ Throw neckties into used cloth, but only after they have been ‘washed and dried.’”

Kamikatsu, a rural town of 2200, has gradually raised the number to trash categories to 44 varieties, including tofu containers to egg cartons, plastic bottle caps to disposable chopsticks, fluorescent tubes to futons.

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While incineration may not be the best option, Japan makes effective use of the heat energy released during the burning process, such as for power generation and water heating.

There Are Almost No Homeless People In Tokyo

Given the fact that Tokyo is the most populated metropolis in the world (39.2 million), one would naturally think there would be a high number of homeless people, similar to major metropolises in North America (such as New York and Mexico City).

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Thankfully this isn’t the case however. Last year, Tokyo hit an all-time low number of homeless people, a surprising 1700 (7500 for all of Japan, as compared with 600,000 for all of the United States).

Japan has historically had one of the lowest rates of inequality among developed countries. But where Japan is really surpassing the United States, instead, is in the social safety net it offers its citizens.

The Japanese Constitution guarantees its citizens “the right to maintain the minimum standards of wholesome and cultured living.”

Another reason for the low number of homeless may come from the strong support system of Japanese families. Though it is a difficult to quantify, the tradition of Japanese families remaining tight knit and supportive of each member is undeniable.

Time To Learn Something From The Japanese?

These are but a few of the amazing advancements playing out in the Land of the Rising Sun. Of course, no country is perfect, and Japan definitely has some things to work out (i.e., nuclear energy plants being built on fault lines…)

Needless to say, however, if you have an issue, Japan has a solution.

Source:

The Holidaze

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Body Mechanics – nourish your tendons and ligaments to keep your body on the move.

Tending to your tendons and ligaments may not be at the top of your “selfcare” priority list. But these structural connective tissues are necessary to keep our bodies moving efficiently—they enable us to sit, stand, walk, and perform virtually all physical activity. Weak or injured tendons and ligaments can be disabling and may lead to chronic pain, making it important to nourish them before problems arise. This becomes especially important as we age.

Tendons and ligaments are strong, flexible connective tissues that are an essential part of the musculoskeletal system. While they are related in collagen_proteincomposition—mostly collagen, with small amounts of elastin and other proteins—and ultimately work as a team, they have different functions in the body. Tendons connect muscle to bone, allowing muscle contractions to move your skeleton, while ligaments connect bone to bone, forming and stabilizing joints and keeping your skeleton intact. The Achilles tendon is one of the more commonly known tendons and the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a well-known (and commonly injured) ligament.

Tendon and ligament injuries are common in athletes and active people, in older adults, and in those who regularly perform activities that require repetitive movement, including work-related activity. Tendons are especially prone to injuries due to overuse, resulting in inflammation and weakening of the tendons. Heard of tennis elbow? That’s actually a case of tendonitis, which is inflammation and irritation of a tendon in the elbow, and rarely is it actually caused by playing tennis.

Collagen, the major component of these connective tissues, begins to degenerate and stiffen as we age. Additionally, tendons and ligaments have a poor blood supply, making existing injuries harder to heal, leading to decreased strength in those tissues and chronic pain.[i] Because the integrity of these connective tissues decline with age, leading to weakened tendons and ligaments and potentially an injury and/or chronic pain, it is important to support them with good nutrition and a few choice supplements.

Collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein that makes up all human connective tissue, including tendons and ligaments, and helps keep these tissues strong. As we age, collagen production slows and existing collagen can deteriorate, causing tendons and ligaments to weaken. A diet high in quality protein will provide the building blocks the body requires to make collagen, including the amino acids proline and lysine.[ii] Additionally, collagen supplements have been shown to stimulate collagen production, helping to maintain healthy tendons and ligaments.[iii]

Dark green vegetables are also excellent examples of food containing collagen producing agents.  Add drak green leafy veggies such as spinach, cabbage and kale to your diet every day.  They are packed with an antioxidant called lutein.  You need 10 mg to get results – which equates to about  4oz. of spinach or 2oz. of kale.  Also Soy products such as soymik and cheese contain an element known as genistein. The presence of genistein gives soy products their collagen production qualities, as well as helping to block enzymes that tend to break down collagen.  Just about any soy product contains enough genistein to be helpful, including soy products that have been developed as substitutes for meat products.

Oestrogen, derived from plants, is vital to making healthy collagen.  Lots of  foods contain plant ­oestrogens (phytoestrogens) that can help replace the effects of lost oestrogen. Try hummus, nuts, soy and pinto beans.

Lycopenesl  Red fruits and vegetables also are excellent sources to up the collagen content of foods in the diet.  The presence of lycopenesl in these types of foods helps to act as antioxidants, which in turn increases collagen production. Try adding red peppers, beets, and fresh or stewed tomatoes to the diet. Also include sweet potatoes, carrots and more.

Vitamin C. Vitamin C is required to convert the amino acids proline and lysine into collagen[iv]; in fact, vitamin C plays such an essential role in collagen production that a deficiency can weaken the tendons and ligaments.[v] The vitamin also reduces inflammation due to injury or overuse. In a human cell model of tendonitis, a proprietary combination of collagen and vitamin C suppressed a number of pro-inflammatory compounds and promoted healing.[vi] Good sources are green pepper (higher vit C content when cooked), dark green leafy veg like broccoli and sprouts, guava, papaya, kiwi fruit and oranges.

Anthocyanidins. The anthocyanidins found in dark-colored fruits such as cherries and blueberries, and in grape seed extract and Pycnogenol®supplements, have been shown to help the collagen fibers link together in a way that strengthens the connective tissue matrix.[vii]

Hyaluronic Acid. Hyaluronic acid is a component of tendons and ligaments and has been shown to stimulate collagen production.[viii] It is also comprises the synovial fluid that surrounds certain tendons, helping to keep them lubricated and moving smoothly.[ix] Researchers recently discovered that a thin layer of “skin” made of epithelial cells covers the tendons;[x] because hyaluronic acid is a major component of connective and epithelial tissues, it is thought to help maintain the integrity of this tendon “skin.” An animal model of tendon injury found that hyaluronic acid significantly speeded healing.[xi]  Hyaluronic acid or hyaluronate is available in capsules or injectables and found in glucosamine supplements.  Beans help your body produce hyaluronic acid.  Aim for at least two tablespoons of beans each day – broad or butter beans make a great substitute for mashed potatoes.

Gelatin. Gelatin-rich foods have long been a part of traditional diets—cultures around the world commonly consume all parts of animals, including the gelatin-rich cartilage and bones. Consuming gelatin has been shown to increase collagen proteins in the blood,[xii] helping to build the structure of both tendons and ligaments. One easy way to introduce more gelatin into your diet is to regularly make and consume bone broth, a savory broth made by simmering bones in water. (Ever made homemade chicken broth from a chicken carcass? That’s one type of bone broth.) Or consider taking a gelatin supplement.

Although caring for your tendons and ligaments may not occur to you until you are already suffering from pain or an injury, maintaining the health of these important connective tissues may just save you from an injury in the first place. A healthy natural foods diet along with a few choice supplements will help nourish these connective tissues, keeping them healthy and strong, and keep you moving smoothly through life.

Article adapted from: Lidsy Wilson, Healthy Hotline, naturalgrocers.com; Kim Jones, 9 ways to keep collagen healthy, The Mirror.CO.UK; Verdungal, How to increase collagen from eating the right foods, Heathcentral.com.

References
[i] http://www.sandiegohealthclinic.com/services/prolotherapy.html

[ii] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=fightdz&dbid=6

[iii] Wilson, L. “Structural Integrity: Collagen for joint and skin health” Health Hotline, Feb 2012

[iv] http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=fightdz&dbid=6

[v] http://www.nutritionreview.org/library/collagen.connection.php

[vi] Shakibaei M, Buhrmann C, Mobasheri A. “Anti-inflammatory and anti-catabolic effects of Tendoactive® on human tenocytes in vitro.” Histoland Histopathol 26, 1173-1185, 2011.

[vii] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12635161

[viii] Bruce A. Mast, Robert F. Diegelmann, et al. “Hyaluronic Acid Modulates Proliferation, Collagen and Protein Synthesis of Cultured Fetal Fibroblasts.” Matrix Vol. 13/1993, pp. 441-446

[ix]http://www.wellnessresources.com/health/articles/hyaluronic_acid_for_ten…

[x] Susan H. Taylor, Sarah Al-Youha, Tom Van Agtmael, et al. “Tendon Is Covered by a Basement Membrane Epithelium That Is Required for Cell Retention and the Prevention of Adhesion Formation.” PLoS ONE;  2011 January

[xi] Thijs de Wit, Dennis de Putter, Wendy M. Tra, et al. “Auto-crosslinked hyaluronic acid gel accelerates healing of rabbit flexor tendons in vivo.” J Orthop Res 27:408–415, 2009

[xii] Koji I, Takanori H, et al. “Identification of Food-Derived Collagen Peptides in Human Blood after Oral Ingestion of Gelatin Hydrolysates.” J Agric and Food Chem, 2005, 53 (16), pp 6531-6536

 

 

Pilates levels 1,2,3 how do we define them?

Pilates Level 1, 2, 3 Easy as A, B, C

I am writing this blog article with hopes of helping Pilates instructors come to a consensus on how to determine which level a client is at. Usually classes are rated as level 1, 2 or 3, 1 being a beginner level and 3 being advanced. Clients as well are often labeled 1 through 3. Pilates instructors go through 800 plus hours of training, focused mainly on the classical repertoire or the original exercises developed by Joseph Pilates himself. Some studios offer modifications or preparatory exercises along with the classical ones to assist people to develop the adequate strength to achieve the classical routine.

Now a days Pilates has established itself as one the best core strengthening programs. Many people are jumping on the Pilates band wagon; personal trainers, physiotherapists, kinesiologists or movement therapists, yoga instructors, chiropractors and I’m sure the list goes on.

The problem with various professions borrowing from the work is that it often gets watered down and mixed together with other exercises and for good reason. The basic Pilates exercises especially the basic mat exercises are excellent for developing the necessary core strength to stabilize the pelvis, spine, and shoulder blades. Thus, why Pilates is now readily integrated into physical therapy, personal training and fitness class programs.

Not only does Pilates develop core strength it’s many of exercises helps take people through a range of different exercises helping them explore movement patterns which they may have never experienced before. This opens peoples minds to new possibilities giving them a sense of feeling more comfortable and confident in their bodies. In a way it’s like playing music. You must learn the notes and how to play them then you can combine them into a multitude of different songs. You must learn and master the various exercises to be able to move with freedom or limitless motion. It is movement specialists job to help each client safely explore all of the Pilates exercises to understand movement possibilities.

Pilates exercises focus on spinal mobility with the limbs following the shape of the spine. The exercises can be grouped into shapes and what action the spine is doing. For example flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion are the main spinal actions. The body shapes include rolling or ball, pike, plank, standing and roll over or shoulder stand. The positions include quadruped or cat, lying supine with knees bent, lying prone, and side lying.

Pilates instructors have a knowledge base of over 260 different exercises from the classical repertoire. The exercises range from simple one limb movements such as the single leg lift, to complex actions involving a combination of spinal flexion, rotation and extension, such as snake. There is a basic exercise series that is demonstrated in the mat routine which works the entire body going through the various spinal actions, body shapes and positions. The same exercise routine is repeated on the various pieces of equipment; the reformer, the trapeze table or cadillac, the wunda chair, spine corrector and ladder barrel.

The equipment can make the routine more challenging by adding more resistance by working not only with your own body weight but also resistance from springs. The equipment can also make the routine easier by providing spring resistance to assist the client achieve the exercise. For example the push through bar can help the client lift their head and shoulders while performing the abdominal series, taking strain off of the neck flexors. Thus by applying the equipment in the right way the routine can become more challenging for advanced clients or modified for beginners.

The client should be able to experience all of the Pilates repertoire however, when it is safe and appropriate for each client. Thus the need to know how to identify when a client is a level 1 or level 2 or level 3 etc. I believe there is a dearth of knowledge in the Pilates industry to help instructors know how to identify level 1 through 3 clients. As to my knowledge this is not outlined in any Pilates manual but is eventually figured out by experienced instructors.

If the levels are not respected or if the client does not ‘get’ the lesson of each level then they are just going through the motions and potentially wasting their time. They must connect with their bodies and begin to understand how it is suppose to feel. The mind must become integrated with the body’s movement. One must become more consciously aware of how they can personally enhance each exercise by relaxing and realigning, breathing through it, exhaling or inhaling at the right time, consciously relax the hip flexors, engage the abdominals, etc. It takes time to get genuine change in the body however there are basic principles of the method which each session should strive to work towards.

Newbies or people new to Pilates and are easy to identified. They usually display the following;

  • unable to identify neutral spine with poor body awareness
  • decreased pelvic and lumbar spine stability
  • unable to connect breath with movement
  • poor positioning of shoulder, elbow and wrists
  • poor alignment of the leg with external rotation and misalignment of the ankle/foot

These clients need to develop body awareness and integrate their breath with movement. They need to be aware of how to glide the shoulder blades around the rib cage, open the front of the shoulder and know the correct placement of the feet, knees and hips. They need to understand what neutral spine is, be able to identify it and become aware of how to maintain it during essential and some level 1 Pilates exercises i.e. ab preps and footwork series. Often exhalation with exertion is recommended to relax the ribcage connecting he abdominals with the pelvis to assist the maintenance of neutral spine and pelvic stability. Once clients achieve this then they can safely begin Level 1 programming. Thus why often Pilates studios insist on private sessions prior to joining group classes.

Level 1 clients are working on developing greater core strength to be able to achieve stability of the pelvis, lumbar spine, and shoulder girdle during level one exercises. The level 1 repertoire develops strength of the transverse abdominals, back extensors, and shoulder blade stabilizers. It develops flexibility of the hamstrings and hip flexors. It connects the rib cage to the pelvis. It begins to help clients understand how to move from the core and hamstrings (footwork on reformer and single leg reach) instead of from the hip flexors and biceps. The level 1 client is also working on being able to hold neutral spine not only during a Pilates session but in daily activities such as driving, sitting, standing and walking.

Once the client has mastered level one exercises such as the roll up and keeping pelvic and lumbar spine stability during leg circles and rolling like a ball, and they have demonstrated that they are moving from the core and breath or the deeper intrinsic muscles instead of from external muscles; the hip flexors and biceps. If a client enters a level 2 or 3 class and cannot demonstrate a roll up or stable roll like a ball further work on the level 1 deep core strengthening exercises is recommended before advancing them. Any underlying medical conditions my limit how fast the client advances through the repertoire and my limit how far they progress with the work.Time restrictions may limit how far clients get through the repertoire.  It takes time any where from 3-8 months depending on the level of fitness and coordination of your client .

Level 2: Once clients have achieved shoulder blade, pelvis and lumbar spine stabilization during level 1 excises it is time to challenge then with level 2. Often once level 1 is solidly mastered clients can zip through levels 2 and 3 quite efficiently. Level 2 programming now challenges the other abdominal layers the obliques and rectus abdominus (i.e. roll over, double leg stretch, scissors and criss-cross), along with more challenging back extension work (i.e .backstroke) and rotational spinal movements such as mermaid. The hamstring flexibility continues and improving hip mobility begins to be focused on (i.e. side kick series develop and envelope). More hip mobility exercises including yoga is recommended by this author to improve hip flexibility.

At this stage the client should have broken old movement patterns of over recruiting the hip flexors and can now move from the core abdominal muscles maintaining a neutral spine. If not, level 2 and 3 work could compound the hip flexor gripping pattern.

Level 3 : Now body weight begins to be lifted and mobilized increasing the resistance and balance demands and complexity of the work (i.e. double leg lowers, corkscrew, jackknife and bicycle). By this stage shoulder girdle and pelvic and lower back stability should be well established. Now the body weight is being lifted or added to the programming and the complexity of the actions are increased developing balance between front and back and upper and lower bodies. Such as with the teaser or V-sit the even climb a tree, the client must find balance between the upper and lower bodies integrating the two halves. The psoas becomes a focal muscle. The client learns how to safely hold the shoulder girdle in a centrated position with more of the body weight acting through it such as with side lifts, kneeling side kick, leg pull facing down and up, up stretch, semi-circle, and snake. If shoulder blade placement has not been mastered shoulder strain and injury could result. Level 3 also works on more balancing exercises such as with all of the advanced roll over exercises already mentioned along with standing front splits.

If the client cannot demonstrate adequate balance during the Level 3 exercises nor lift their own body weight or have difficulties holding the centration of the shoulder then they should not continue into Level 4 programming until they can.

Another factor which should be considered on behalf of the instructor is that if a client is participating in a level 3 class it would be expected that the client would be fairly familiar with level 1 and level 2 exercises.  This may not always be the case, however, if the client has been attending Pilates for over 8 months it could be assumed that they have had the opportunity to do level 1 and 2 exercises several times.  Every exercise requires adequate cuing from the instructor in order for the client to perform it properly.  Yet often instructors teaching a level 3 class think that the client is familiar with the equipment and the lower level exercises exercises and may change the cuing for a level 1 exercise to focus on increasing the challenge demands of the exercise which may compromise the normal safety cuing.  Again all the more reason why if a client is put in a level 3 class they have the background necessary for it.

Level 4 work brings more balance and coordination challenges along with more full body weight lifting demands, such as push ups, control balance. The stages have been building layers of strength from inside out and integrating breath with movement. This stage now requires pulling it all together with more full body exercises (such as star, semi-circle) and introduces more complex triplanar exercises like star with rotation and twist. Eve’s twist, horseback, up/down combo, hawk, tendon stretch, parakeet, magician and chair exercises such as step downs, one arm push from plank all challenge the client to now lift most of their own body weight with some assistance from the equipment. This stage also introduces greater balance demands such as with arabesque, single arm kneeling series, standing side splits, back splits and kneeling kick forward.

Granite it is important to move clients through the repertoire to experience it and to try the different exercises even if they may not demonstrate the adequate strength or control. Often well trained Pilates instructors who have all of the repertoire under their belt want to share and demonstrate the advanced exercises and hurry their clients through the process. Yet, base core strength should not be compromised and it should be established prior to or while advancing people through the repertoire. With a strong core clients then can safely move through the exercises with a solid foundation.  Recently I have been seeing clients who have been doing Pilates for quite some time, over 8 months, yet they still are unable to do basic exercises such as roll like a ball, ab prep, the roll up and hold neutral spine during footwork. Which tells me they have not developed adequate transverse abdominal (TA) strength and the client will continue to use the hip flexor recruitment pattern – meaning that the Pilates instructor, has not done their  job yet.

To test this, see if they can stay stabilized during roll like a ball, have them do a simple ab prep and see if they can hold neutral, do half roll backs and see if they can stay out of the hip flexors and work just the lower abdominals and see if they can do a roll up without spring assistance.

It is our job to train the client to understand how to avoid over-using to the quadriceps and hip flexors and recruit the abdominal and psoas muscles instead. The person who taught me how to frame homes (god rest his soul he has passed away) always said to me over the simplest of things: “If you can’t do this (referring to a basic skill) then take up knitting!”

To me these are basic principals of the Pilates work. They are like building blocks to a house, without them the house looses it’s stability and eventually breaks down. It is all fine to point the toes, and straighten the wrists, however if the basic core concepts are not developed the pointiest of toes and straightest of wrists will not help engage the core and maintain neutral spine.

At a certain stage of programming perhaps level 2 or 3 the client should start to stand taller with better posture. Instead of hanging out on the skeleton in a slouched posture gripping through the hip flexors the client now stands or sits upright, engaging the deepest, intrinsic muscles to lengthen and hold the spine erect. With the activation of more intrinsic muscles, even while sitting, it takes more energy.  The more muscles firing and working and the larger the cross section of the muscle the more energy is used.   Thus metabolism increases and more calories are burned.  A proper diet in conjunction with Pilates training  weight loss can be expected in your client.

While feeling better and stronger, along with feelings of looking better (i.e. postural changes) it is expected that this ‘feeling good state’ motivates the client to respect and care for their body more with improved diet and even more activity – wanting to get out there and enjoy life. May that be a simple walk or bicycle ride to the park or store. The result of feeling stronger and better hopefully results in more overall activity, boosting metabolism even more. Thus weight loss can be an expected with the secondary effects of a well designed Pilates program.

Note: If you see any typos or corrections please email your findings or comments to samanthatreed@hotmail.com

“There’s too much confusion,
I can’t get no relief.
. . .
None will level on the line, nobody offered his word, hey”
. . .
“There are many here among us
Who feel that life is but a joke
But you and I, we’ve been through that
And this is not our fate
So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late”

From the Musical Legend Jimmy Hendrix, All Along The Watchtower Jan 21, 1968
Original music of Bob Dylan Dec 1967

Integrated Medicine ?

herbal-remedies-for-colds-flu I was bicycling home, I noticed a gentleman coming out of an office building, the sign above the door. It read “Integrated Medicine”. As I understand some physicians tend to be more progressive with the prescription of herbal remedies, than other doctors. Oil of oregano may be prescribed for a cold or mild respiratory infection. Having a natural health persuasion myself I think it great for a medical doctor to use natural remedies.  Thus the name “integrated medicine” mixing pharmaceutical and herbal medicines.  But the practice name “Integrated Medicine” made me ponder, as I cycled by, the broader sense of the phrase integrated medicine and how the word integrated is used and applied quite frequently with the Pilates method.

The way I think of integrated is when explaining how the body is pretty well held together with fascia, an envelope or sheath that wraps every organ and muscle in the body. This sheath is continuous, wrapping it’s way around every item in us – the matrix of the body. When an adhesion occurs in the fascia it causes a strain or stress on the envelop pulling it – like having a knot tied in your shirt – it doesn’t wear properly. This knot or stress/strain in the fascia can be caused from trauma, poor posture, vertebral subluxations, repetitive activities, even psychosocial factors. Resulting in reduced range of motion, stiffness, it may even make us feel nauseous or sick as the facial strain can affect the organs.

Often everything you do to help relieve this problem is ineffective. For example you think your hamstring or shoulder muscles are just tight and you do all the proper hamstring or rotator cuff stretches yet with little change or relief. The integrated medical practice mentioned above most likely will not be able to specifically treat such issues either, yet a referral to a Pilates instructor using an integrated approach will.  Pilates will stretch and relax held tensions and strengthen weak or lax muscles and train our muscles and other structures to work in a more balanced, integrated way.

Osteopathy, craniosacral therapy and some chiropractic practitioners have an integrated holistic approach to treating such issues.  Osteopathy and craniosacral therapy works mainly on the fascia of the body. Gentle minimal forces mobilizations of the spine and joints of the arms and legs encourages release of the fascia improving energy flow. Often the area of complaint is not what is treated as the body is looked at as a whole. You may complain of neck pain yet addressing an area somewhere else in the body like the knee may treat the neck.Chiropractic treatments adjusts the spinal column and limbs to help correct alignment of the joints, improves fascia and muscle balance or function.

Pilates has an accumulative preventative affect on the body.  It too takes an holistic approach working the body in an integrated way. Pilates does not look at the body in sections. Pilates doesn’t exercise the body in separate muscle groups, like in a weight room where we do bicep curls then leg extensions for the quadriceps, etc. Instead it makes the body work as an integrated whole – Pilates is a whole body exercise. Pilates training done with an instructor who has a good eye can help you develop better alignment, body awareness and fine tune the body bringing more strength or flexibility to where it is required.

Pilates instructors look at the body not as a bunch of individual muscles and angles of pull, but rather in facial or muscles lines. Julian Littleford Master Pilates instructor and part of the Passing the Torch Mentor program with Balanced Body University, describes it as starting with the inside arch of the foot, the line of action wraps around the calf to behind the knee to the lower glutes where the top of the hamstrings insert,  then connects to the mid-back and abdominals. After which it zig-zags through the body. When awareness is brought to this idea of the muscles wrapping through the body, muscles become integrated and act together pulling the body into better alignment moving from a central powerhouse.

Muscle actions are described in a cross from right to left, for example drawing the right shoulder blade to the left hip and vise-versa forming a cross connection from side to side. Similarly on the front the ribcage, diaphragm and psoas, muscle help connect the segments so that we move from a stable, connected foundation enabling force to be efficiently transferred from the upper body to the lower body and from one side of the body to the other.

Pilates training uses relatively light weights (springs) plus the individuals body weight with specific exercise sequences or repertoire which gets the muscles in the body to fire appropriately, resulting in efficiency of movement. The idea is to have correct muscle firing patterns – the right muscles working for the task at hand.

Other examples of whole body activities which integrate the muscles of the body are crawling, walking, running (when done properly), swimming, climbing, bicycling, surfing and skiing/snowboarding. Where the right and left sides of the body are reciprocal as one side of the body moves the other side is stabilizing and balancing the action of the other. “This is called reciprocal locomotion or coactivation of contralateral upper and lower quarter system throughout the body. For example the swing phase of gait or walking the lower body extremity and the right upper extremity are in tonic (flexion, internal rotation, adduction and pronation) pattern. During stance phase the leg is in extension with the opposite arm and they are coactivating in the phasic system (extension, external rotation, abduction and supination.)” S. Sahrmann, Diagnosis and Treatment of Movement Impairment Syndromes 2002. 

When the body is in harmony; muscles are balanced. Muscle balance keeps the interaction of the tonic and phasic patterns optimal for posture and movement. This interaction provides centration of the joints during movement, creating a balance of muscular forces to maintain joint congruency through movement. When the fascia is not caught up there is flow of energy from side to side and throughout the body. When the body’s matrix or fascia is flowing smoothly and body awareness has been trained, integration is easy as can be readily seen. For example when you observe a ballet dancer’s graceful routine they are moving from a strong connected foundation the lines of muscle force are balanced and strength flows. The muscles are firing properly not one more than the other and there is freedom of movement throughout there are no spots of tension or adhesion.

Often running, swimming, bicycling and other such repetitive activities can result in repetitive strain injuries. Runners with knee are foot injuries, swimmers with shoulder injuries and the list can go on. Muscular imbalances can cause facial problems and vise versa . Also there is a neurological link between the upper and lower body systems. Imbalances in one system can lead to postural compensation and adaptive changes in the opposing system leading to problems with co-activation and muscle imbalances.

What I believe is so powerful about Pilates training and it’s advantage over other fitness modalities is that you are under the keen eye of an instructor. Even small adjustments can make huge affects on overall strength and power. Instructor feedback helps you achieve better mechanics and body awareness which not only helps you avoid injury but helps you prevent and heal injuries. A good instructor can suggest the appropriate exercises to help clients change their body’s overall posture, muscle patterning, strength and flexibility. Along with your Pilates practice metabolism changes occur facilitating changes in body content; increasing muscle and lowering fat percentages.

Pilates training often involves some muscle re-patterning as some muscles are over used while others are under used and do not fire or work when they are suppose to. With injury this becomes even more evident as the local stabilizers, the intrinsic muscle tend to become inhibited, while the global stabilizers, muscles which generate forces to control the segmental tend to become overactive at a low threshold or go into spasm Dawson, A., Injury and Special Populations Manual, Merrithew Corp., 2010.

The Pilates method is a healing process taking people deeper into their body awareness and most of this is done through connecting movement with breath. Breath integrated with movement facilitates better strength connection. On the simplest level exhalation with exertion helps increase intra-abdominal pressure, lowers the rib-cage and scapula towards the pelvis activating the abdominal, intercostal and shoulder blade muscles. Often people in pain, aerobic athletes and stressed individuals have high chest breath with their shoulders and ribcage are stuck in and elevated position. The mechanical effects of achieving a full exhalation allows the ribcage to lower, the thoracic spine to relax and lengthen, the scapula to achieve full range of motion which all facilitates the maintenance of neutral spine. When a neutral position of he spine is achieved the spine becomes decompressed, the vertebrae are in the best mechanically efficient position to transfer forces through them. In this position with the breath alone you can invite more space between the vertebrae and lengthen the crown of the head away from the tailbone. Once all of the above is established by being able to perform the essential or level 1 Pilates repertoire then the breath focus can become the inhale.

Inhalation brings awareness to the deeper layers of abdomen activates the diaphragm. The diaphragm is responsible for inhalation as its fibers contract and pull downwards, causing more room in the lungs for air to be drawn in. The insertion of the diaphragm is right next to the iliopsoas. The iliopsoas is the strongest hip flexor and acts alike a mediator between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor. It and the illiacus muscles are muscles responsible for the posture of lumbar spine and pelvis as the iliopsoas inserts directly on to the lumbar vertebrae and the illacus on the ilium or the “bowl” of the pelvis. The psoas is an essential muscle to establish true balance of the body. Balance from front to back and side to side, like a guy wire aligning legs, hips and spine and the only muscle that attaches the spine to the leg as it crosses the hip attaching the head of the femur. It ties the legs to the lumbar spine and the diaphragm. I have heard runners express how the legs are truly your lungs. The iliopsoas and illacus are located in the root charkra, represented by the lotus flower and that is what these muscles are shaped like. The root charkra is for grounding and security, exactly what these muscle do for the body, Staugaard-Jones, J., The Vital Psoas Muscle, Connecting Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Well-being, , Lotus Publishing, 2012.

The diaphragm is active on the inhalation. But the activation of the diaphragm is complex, causing more intrinsic things to happen than the exhalation which causes more changes nearer the outside of the body in the rectus abdominus, external obliques, thoracic spine, and rib cage. The diaphragm is a mushroom shaped muscle that distends towards the pelvis responsible for increasing the lung volume creating a vacuum into which more air is drawn the lungs. The diaphragm insertion is close to the psoas and T12 thoracic lumbar junction. This point in anatomy is relevant as many muscles insert here the quadratus lumborum, the obliques, and the transverse abdominus. In the spine it is here the curvature changes from convex to concave or from thoracic to lumbar vertebrae important part in the spine for energy transfer. In movement analysis this point is significant as the facial lines intersect here crossing the body from left to right and top to bottom. A significant power point of the body Nichols, V., Body Matrix Pilates teacher training course, 1999.

During inhalation the diaphragm pulls downward pushing the organs into the stomach muscle hammock and also into the pelvic floor which accommodates by widening. The stomach muscles and the pelvic floor work together to support and balance activity of the diaphragm. When we inhale the lungs and ribs widen, the stomach and pelvic floor muscles stretch. During exhalation stomach muscles and pelvic floor contract to push the organs upwards again.

This system functions so well that is has permitted mammals to get into a position of domination on this planet. Mammals can even breathe with a minimal thorax movement, with just the diaphragm and the stomach and pelvic floor muscle (E. Franklin, 2003, p 61 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers).

” The diaphragm is also important for helping stimulate the organs, as it is connected to the organs via a facial sheath called the falciform ligament and the median umbilical ligament which passes into the round ligament of the liver. The round ligament of the liver changes at the lower edge of the liver into the falciform ligament of the liver. This runs between the two lobes of the liver to the diaphragm The diaphragm is hung from the heart, and the heart itself is hung from the cervical spine via ligaments. Following the line along the umbilical ligament is the bladder, so really the whole length of this ligament the bladder hangs from the neck.” Franklin, E.2003 p 90 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers, 2003

” When inhaling the kidneys lower with the diaphragm, when exhaling they move up. Often the kidneys lower too much which heightens the pressure on the urethra and the bladder, producing incontinence. The kidneys are not held in place by ligaments but are supported by the sucking effects of the diaphragm and held by neighboring organs. The kidneys and the bladder are central importance to the strength of the pelvic floor, as well as problems of the knees, the sacrum and the hips. The state of these organs also strongly influences the balance and posture of the pelvis as well as sexual energy. The kidneys are partially covered by the two lowest ribs and lie behind the transverse abdominal muscle, the psoas and the quadratus lumborum. Every 45 minutes they filter all our blood, distribute hormones and modulate the chemical composition of blood. The adrenal glands are small endocrine glands that lie atop of the kidneys. They consist of cortex and medulla. The medulla produces the well-known hormone adrenaline, which can put our body into a state of great readiness, efficiency and fitness. Movement of the diaphragm or breath work can stimulate the kidneys, bladder and the adrenal glands” (Franklin, E, 2003 p 84 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers).

“The back extensors multifididus is the antagonists of the pelvic floor muscles. Multifididus meaning split many times muscle. Without a strong active pelvic floor the back extensors do not benefit from the pelvic floor movement. When we activate the pelvic floor tighten the pelvic floor and pull together the tuberosities through a moving forward of the coccyx the lower spine flexes which stretches its muscles. If the floor weak then the back doesn’t enjoy this active stretching or flowing and gliding apart. The consequences is lack of blood supply and therefore tension in the back muscles. Inhalation pushes the organs down into the pelvic floor while exhalation lifts the organs and contracts the pelvic floor.” (Franklin, E., 2003 p 66 Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers, 200).

Blocking breath raises the stress levels which in turn has a negative effect on muscles, organs and continence. ” Stress lowers the tension in the muscles of the organs through the effect it has on the autonomous nervous system thus this is one reason why people have a paunch tummy in spite of rigorous muscle training” (Franklin, E., 2003, Pelvic Power, Princeton book company Publishers). Stress takes its toll on our body. We must breath fully inhaling and exhaling to release stress and have properly working organs. We must integrate our movement with breath to release fascia, stimulate organs, improve posture, reconnect with our muscles and deepen strength all of which will help us move from our core.

Note: If you see any typos or corrections please email your findings or comments to samanthatreed@hotmail.com

As we heal a space opens up and fills with joy.

Surrender is a most beautiful word. It is powerful and nurturing healing us as it provides both strength and compassion. As we understand the essence and meaning of the word surrender through out hearts, we begin to transform. As we transform internally the external world changes. “As within, as without”.

How to surrender is many faceted. The word itself has two parts. First we begin to release what is held by the mind, body and spirit. The release can be facilitated through focus and breath awareness. Along with this focus, the breath is brought to the forefront, causing the breath as the guide in scanning the physical sensations, mental thoughts and emotional feelings.

 With the release, an acceptance of “what is” happening is important. When we release and accept and embrace life in any moment we are surrendering. It leaves us open to the moment, to being completely present. With continuous practice of surrendering we build the ability to heal. As we heal, the space that opens up is filled with joy.

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 Surrender, heal and be in joy. 

By Irum Naqvi Master Yoga Teacher, part of Rancho Margot an Eco-tourism Ranch Project in Costa Rica

From: The Vital Psoas Muscle, Connecting Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Well-being, by Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, Lotus Publishing, 2012.

“How can an hour-long training session feel better than a massage?”

A Pilates testimonial from designer, writer, and activist Suzanne Dvells, on Twitter.

How can an hour-long Pilates session feel better than a massage? Beyond her status as a Master Pilates instructor Lynda Lippin possesses deep expertise in a wide range of fitness techniques.

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She cunningly wields a light-handed, wry teaching style that is equally demanding and distracting. Somehow she manages to put her finger on the point of concern, bringing results with amazing consistency.

After just one ten session series, I now commanded basic Pilates techniques that eluded me for years in the hands of other trainers. At the conclusion of a second series, distinct changes in my posture were evident. After a third series, I boast a new body.

Thanks to her many gifts, I walk away from sessions with a fresh point of reference for a healthier mind, body, and lifestyle.”

Would you like easier movement, better posture, and a new body? Nature First Health and Wellness Center now provides Pilates training. There are a few spots left open for Pilates privates or duets, some weekday late mornings (9:30-11:30 am) and afternoons (2 – 4 pm) at 160 Main St. in Erin $ 85, with package rates available.

Want a Pilates group class instead? You can try a form-function class with light equipment on Mondays at 9:30-10:15 am or a Beginner Mat class on Wednesdays 2-3 pm. $20, with package rates available.

Contact the studio to schedule – email info@pilateon.ca or call (519) 315-4221.

Hope to see you soon in the Pilates studio !

Alan Herdman – Pilates elder

I was taught Pilates from an instructor who had instruction from Stott and Alan Herdman of London England.  Alan is a Pilates elder and is part of the Pilates mentor-ship program called “Passing the Torch” sponsored by Balanced Body.  They have brought together the “best of the best” Pilates instructors to help shape the generation of leaders in the Pilates community.   A program for experienced Pilates teachers who would like to deepen their work through in-depth study with a Master Teacher.  To share our Pilates knowledge, grow and develop our community.

Alan will also be presenting on Pilates anytime website in the spring of 2013.  If you haven’t visited this amazing Pilates instruction site – please do!  You can take a class with some of the best instructors from around the world –  see the various Pilates instruction styles covering mat, chair, reformer and cadillac.   If you question your Pilates class at the local recreation center check this site out and see how the pros do it!

Alan Herdman – Master Pilates Apprenticeship Program