Human Bodies and NASA landing robots

The spine is often likened to a column. Similar to a pile of blocks, stability is found when the parts can rest on top of each other.  With that stability, the body needs less effort to move and be oriented.. This concept, although important and interesting is unfortunately very static. The spine is mobile! It can move,flex, extend, side bend, rotate or do any combination of these movements. Not to mention, that when we turn the pile of blocks on its side, they all fall apart, where as the body does not.

tensegrityguy.jpg

Tensegrity offers a more dynamic model of the body. When turned on its side, the tensional parts keep everything in place. When this is applied to the human body, our bones represent the rigid structures and our fascia form the tensional net that connects it all together.

Tensegrity models can also explain why the body can withstand enourmous amounts of pressure and sometimes opposing forces. According to present day biomechanical engineers, simple actions such as catching a fish on a 3-meter rod would fracture a human beings’ vertebrae and pull his arm off. When walking, our sesamoid bones in our feet would be crushed with every step. However, this does not happen because (like in a tensegrity model) the forces are distributed along the entire system. The conclusion is that our bodies are capable of functioning beyond the sum of their parts.

Why fascia in Yoga?

Last summer I attended Rolfing workshops with Kevin Frank and Caryn McHose. Both are teachers with a rich movement background and apply this wonderfully in their work. We explored eccentric movement, spatial awareness and length and how to apply this in Rolfing sessions. These concepts are central in Rolfing and have brought ease, health and harmony to my own movement practice. They are also central in the workshops I teach on Fascia in Yoga. In these workshops participants explore what fascia is and how to create length using two directions.

What is fascia and how does fascia influence our yoga practice?
Fascia can be found in and around muscles, in joint capsules, around organs and in the form of ligaments and tendons. It forms a spider web under our skin and in deeper parts of the body. A spider web that influences how we move and that can lead to pain if tension is not balanced. Fascia is crucial in strength transfer and proprioception. In the workshops we explore what fascia is and why fascia is so important. Based on scientific research but explored in your own body.

How to use fixpoint and direction?
By making use of two directions you can create length and ease of movement. We work on awakening feet, hands and sitting bones to create a stable basis. From that stable basis you cancreate length by finding direction. Length helps you move gracefully but also creates a safe position for joints who don’t like to be compressed. We also explore how to apply fixpoint and direction in adjusting yoga students. We start with simple movements and later apply these concepts to asana.

How to open fascial lines?
Commonly we think of back or front bending as an action of folding the body. If we instead change our focus to the parts that open, we find more safety and ease of movement. We explore the lines of fascia running through your body and how to incorporate them in our practice. We learn how to work with these fascial lines from an opening instead of bending perspective.

Agenda
13.03.2016: Well Being Luxembourg (10.00-17.30)
10.04.2016: Spirit Yoga Festival Brussels
16.04.2016: Vishnus Vibes Düsseldorf (9.00-16.30)
24.04.2016: Pure Energy Yoga Utrecht (10.00-17.30)
22.05.2016: Brussels Yoga Pilates
19-21.08.2016: Yogaland Festival
25.09.2016: Stretch London
08.10.2016: Brussels Yoga Pilates

Posture shapes who you are

In this this TED talk Amy Cuddy talks about her research on body language. She reveals how standing in a posture of confidence can bring higher testosterone and lower cortisol levels. Both hormones have a huge impact on how we feel. Cortisol is the stress hormone. It can lead to anxiety, bad sleep, overweight, headaches and a weak immuun system. Low testosteron can make us fatigued and give us difficulties to trust life and others. Hearing her talk about her research reminds me to the power of bodywork and movement. Helping people move better and with less pain is important. But helping people unfold and grow is what is so much more powerful. And they are so closely connected!

Fascia in Yoga on Yogaland

Yesterday I taught a short class on Fascia on Yogaland. Yogaland is the biggest yoga festival in Belgium and is a beautiful gathering of many different styles of Yoga. During the workshop we explored what fascia is, why it is important and how we can use it in our asana practice. Thereby emphasising opening instead of closing and finding two ends.

Had a full room and many enthusiastic reactions! happy to see so many people interested in this subject. More workshops to come!

Exploring the difference between opening your front line vs closing your back line in back "bending"

Exploring the difference between opening your front line vs closing your back line in back "bending"

10 series

Rolfing 10 series

Massaging a painful area of the body can give immediate relief. However, most of the time the underlying causes will make this effect only temporary. Rather than focussing on the area of pain, we should work with one's entire system. Rolfing ® does this through a protocol named the 10 series.

The 10 series is a quest into the client’s structural and movement patterns, which have been influenced by life habits, injuries and traumas. Each session builds on to the prior and prepares the next. In practice the process can take 8-15 sessions. The protocol gives a blueprint of structural and functional goals to be worked on in every session. For example breath is first addressed because everything (even walking!) is connected to breathing. If we work on other structures first, but there is not a healthy breathing process to support, changes are unlikely to last. Although sessions are sequential you don’t have to commit to 10 sessions from the start. I advise people to do one session and decide afterwards if they want to continue or not.

So what are the goals of every session? The goal of session 1 is to give the client more freedom of breathing. Session 2 works on feet and lower legs to create a connection with the ground. The third session works on the side line of the body, from ankle to armpit, in order to find balance from front to back. These first three sessions are called sleeve. They work on the surface of the body preparing for deeper work. Sessions 4, 5, 6 and 7 work on the deeper structures and are called core sessions. The last three sessions integrate all the previous work. They are often more movement oriented and focus on contra-laterality.

Feet like hands

Beautiful to see how this woman adapted her life to using feet instead of hands. But at the same time it might make you wonder; what happened to my feet? Feet are in many ways designed similar to hands. They consist of 33 joints and permit a great precision of movement. Feet hold a huge amount of receptors which make them essential for proprioception. Just like hands... Unfortunately, we often don't use and therefore lose this great capacity. And I see every day how important that is in postural and movement. How does this happen? There is no way around it that shoes have a big influence.

Wearing shoes is like wearing a cast. Wearing shoes with hard soles, we can't feel the ground and don't get to use our feet's proprioceptive qualities. In my practice I see how difficult it is for most people to feel where the weight falls on their feet. Gaining back this awareness is important because you can't find an efficient way of moving if you don't feel your feet. Besides the hard soles, most shoes have elevated heels. This brings us in a constant position of being downhill. Bodies are amazing in adapting and wearing shoes with heels will make the body adapt to..... being downhill. This starts with the feet but the compensations go up along the legs through the pelvis, all the way to the head and often lead to problems somewhere along that line. Shoes also often limit the capacity of the toes to spread. When the toes are pushed together we loose the capacity to use our big toe in the push-off phase in walking. This is a crucial moment in walking because in this moment we extend the hip and can find length and ease.

So what can we do? Try taking off your shoes as much as possible. Going for a barefoot walk in the grass can be a great stress reliever and can reset the sensory nature of your feet. Bring your awareness to your feet. Feel where your weight falls and what information you get. How does the surface feel? Remind yourself of the feeling of walking on warm sand next to the beach and see if this changes. Obviously we don't all live lives where we can constantly be barefoot but we can be mindful about what shoes to wear. Do they have soft soles? Are they flat? Can your toes move freely? I am by no means saying you have to stop wearing fashionable high heeled shoes. Just realize what happens to your feet when you make this compromise and make sure you alternate as much as possible with good or no shoes.