Living Long and Dying Short or Living Short and Dying Long?

By Renee’ Fulkerson

In other words, having a body you can trust and living pain-free. With a sustainable body that allows you to imagine all of the endless possibilities well into the future.

Or, having a body you cannot trust and maybe living with discomfort and or pain. A body that limits you from enjoying life and all the activities you love.

Living long and dying short or living short and dying long?

I had first heard this phrase in my first YogAlign Teacher Training. Then again recently in a two-week intensive YogAlign Posture Education Certification Course. I started thinking about the phrase once again and wondered do we have a choice? And, the answer was of course in almost all cases we do have a choice. I feel most certain if people were asked which they would prefer from the above-mentioned phrases living long and dying short would be the most appealing option. I know it would be for me!

Pain knows no age, race, or gender, and becoming aware of bad posture habits is the first step in changing the existing habit.

The most common issues I work with are neck and shoulder discomfort and or pain. Various aches and pains along the entire back body (mostly low back). Also, hip discomfort and or pain is an issue that comes up often.

The first thing we need to look at is our daily posture habits:

How are you standing, walking, and sitting? Do you find it difficult and tiring to stand for even a short period of time (such as doing dishes)?

When walking are you able to walk with ease? Have you ever looked at the bottom of your shoes to see how they are wearing (evenly or unevenly)?

Do you find it difficult to sit comfortably for any period of time? Have you created a sag in the support system of your chair or couch from sitting too much?

How does your posture translate into your workspace and weekend activities? These are all good questions to ask yourself as the answers will be very telling and helpful. And a jumping-off point into good posture. With good posture habits/ body mechanics, your life can be long and prosperous and without maybe uncomfortable and or painful.

Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons for neck, shoulder, back, and hip discomfort and or pain.

We are developed in the womb and birthed from a C shape or the fetal posture. At this point, we do most of our breathing from our bellies. Babies and young children will use their abdominal muscles (bellies) much more to pull the diaphragm down for breathing. The intercostal muscles are not fully developed at the time of birth. The baby has to grow to develop these. Once babies are placed on their tummies curiosity gets the best of them and they begin by lifting their heads to fully see their surroundings. Soon after they can get themselves up on all fours (hands and knees) and start locomoting forward known as crawling. Next pulling themselves up and walking supported by a person or object to eventually walking all on their own. During this process, we are developing the natural Lordotic and kyphotic curves aka shock absorbers in our spines. We are still very comfortable moving from the center of our bodies and bending at the knees with ease when picking something up.

Fast forward to today and as a teen, young adult, adult, or elder take a look in the mirror from your side profile or lateral line and what do you see. Natural Curves in your spine or have you returned to the C shape posture? If your answer is C not to worry we just need to shift some outdated posture habits. Also known as rewiring and updating your body’s posture software. But, before we do that we need to look at why this C posture is creating negative impacts on your breathing, mood, and possibly causing you discomfort and or pain.

Having the body in a perpetual C posture draws your chin to your chest, your pubis to your sternum, rolled forward shoulders, and forward head carriage just to name a few. Your spinal curves aka shock absorbers are non-existent and not putting a much-needed spring in your step. This C posture makes it quite impossible to get a full diaphragm inhale or exhale (as adults we should not be belly breathing). With proper diaphragm breathing, we can work on our good posture habits from the inside out (the diaphragm is a muscle and also needs to be exercised). The C posture puts all the weight onto your knees and can very easily add to those achy, painful, and unstable knee joints. As the body curls forward it puts the front of the body into full-blown flexion. Meaning muscle groups whose actual job is to be stabilizers are not being able to do their job. They instead are being enlisted out of necessity to keep the heavy forward-leaning body up. That forward pressing body is affecting the space for your organs and possibly creating some fear and anxiety emotions/ mood responses.

Meanwhile, the back of the body is stretched out and exhausted. Think of your back like a shirt riding up towards your shoulders and ears. Again take a step in front of the mirror and looking from the side angle or lateral line view are you able to see your vertebral column very close to the surface of the skin? If the answer is yes again the natural curves aka shock absorbers are not being able to do their jobs in keeping you agile and bouncy. The back body is also in need of some extra support to keep your head up as it is falling forward and calls in the fascia. The fascia lays down more fascia in the upper back area usually between the top of the shoulder blades to the Occipital (bulbous part) of the back of the head. Causing those tight and stiff feeling shoulders, neck and causing possible headaches. The lower back is not tight needing to be stretched it is stretched and exhausted in need of support. How does the back get the support it needs? Simple answer proper posture. Believe it or not, you have a muscle corset around your midsection made out of muscles and muscle groups which we call stabilizers. These stabilizing muscles and muscle groups are some of your most important and necessary posture muscles. Unfortunately, as I mentioned above if you are leaning forward in a C shape some of these stabilizer muscles start to work as flexor muscles. Just by getting your body back into its natural curves and proper posture we can tap into our body’s internal back support brace (stabilizers).

All of these above issues and so much more can be addressed and overcome with rewiring and reprogramming of your body’s posture motherboard.

Getting started:

  1. Breathing from your diaphragm and not your belly
  2. Balancing the flexor chain or front of the body. With the extensor chain at the back of the body.
  3. Firing up posture muscles and posture muscle groups that have forgotten how to engage.
  4. Creating tensegrity or balance throughout the body.
  5. Being mindful of how we stand, walk, and sit.
  6. Questioning movement, yoga, and exercise classes that put you intentionally in bad posture (reinforcing bad posture).
  7. If you tend to be hypermobile creating new habits not to take a posture to your edge ultimately pulling yourself apart.
  8. Find exercise, yoga, and movement classes that focus on real-life movement (reinforce good posture).
  9. Create a space for movement, health, fitness, and fun in your life.

Aloha

Loneliness and Movement Solutions? Sometimes you need to get creative.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Definition of lonely:
Being without company : LONE
Cut off from others : SOLITARY
Not frequented by human beings : DESOLATE
Sad from being alone : LONESOME
Producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation

I myself have had feelings of loneliness focus on the word feelings. When I verbally expressed this to a friend, she reminded me that this was a state of mind and not the reality of the matter. That got me thinking yes, I could reach out via phone, facetime, Skype or physically show up to another human being and connect.

Although that last part may be a bit more difficult given our current situation.

I have been able to continue to teach my regularly scheduled YogAlign classes and for that I am very grateful. Why because I work with a small group of regulars and one student generously offered to host our YogAlign classes at her home. Which of course has not been the case for many yoga teachers, students and beyond.

For the students including myself that meet several times a week for YogAlign this is part of our community, relationships and for some a lifeline. We are able to continue to move our bodies, fill our diaphragm with deep full breaths and best of all smile and laugh with one another. Keeping our spirits as well as our immune system/ body, happy and healthy!

My mom is a perfect example of a lonely state of mind. She is in her early seventies and has attended her regular exercise classes at her local YMCA for years. This weekly ritual has been her life line as she lives alone. She was able to join in community with others in group classes, socialize a bit before and after classes and then get her personal workout on. Due to our current situation and not having that resource she has an is having all the feelings mentioned above.

The solution?

Across the ocean on Kauai where myself, husband and teenage son live he too is feeling some degrees of loneliness. For him it is manifesting in feelings of boredom, unmotivated and lack of engagement. For most seventeen-year old’s school on a weekly basis is their life line. Meeting in community for classes, socializing during lunch, before and after school. With his school being completely virtual (online) he is missing out also on connection.

The Solution? Sometimes you haft to get creative.

We packed up all things precious to a seventeen year old (his gaming computer) and sent him across the ocean to his grammys. This was not necessarily easy for dear old mom and dad however, it felt right and he was all for it. Although none of us were sure how this would unfold? I haft to say we all have been pleasantly surprised with the outcome thus far.

It has been a little over a month now and there is more comradery, movement and breath on both parts. How? Aside from having a change they both are doing for each other. Meaning my mom is motivated to get up and get creative with cooking, work in the yard and take walks with her grandson. Joaquin is spending less time gaming (on his computer) out of boredom, also cooking, running errands and again taking walks with his grams. With more movement, breath and a few laughs this keeps their mind, immune system/ body, happy and healthy.

Remembering loneliness is a state of being (a feeling) is half the battle.

I have mentioned in other blog post that we are able to connect with the physical sometimes easier than spiritual as it is more tangible. That being said we can connect with unpleasant feeling just as easily to pleasant feelings such as joy. Once we are able to get motivated and get our bodies moving be it gardening, going for a walk or practicing YogAlign some level of joy is going to follow. You have everything on your side to succeed breath, purposefulness and movement. Maybe you won’t always have a partner by your side however, you still can create joy. I find listening to music with headphones or book on tap/ podcast while participating in activity proves to be a great companion.

Movement does not always haft to be a grand gesture. Washing the car is a pretty good workout.

Being a YogAlign teacher does mean I am going to follow a certain guideline of postures to teach and practice during class. That being said I never show up to teach with a planned class I teach to the energy of the students. During these last 6 months the energy has varied from day to day. With some comments before class being, I am just happy I am awake and got here. To follow up comments after class “am I going to be a lump today”? YogAlign was my big accomplishment for the day. To I now feel motivated to get others things done after my YogAlign class. All good stuff and I recommend honoring how you feel somedays you need to be a lump and other days a firecracker.

Playing with my pal Max.

I like to be playful when the energy feels heavy. Example after travel has opened back up some of my students who also happen to be grandparents will be traveling to see their precious grandchildren. Some of those grandchildren are infants and toddlers who of course spend most of their independent time on the floor. Because they are starting to lift their heads out of curiosity and necessity to create the natural curves in their spines. Littles are born with a C shaped spine and with head lifting and crawling they start to create the natural S curves in their spine. That being said we practice YogAlign postures that will allow them to get down on the floor, move around comfortably and trust their bodies to preform pain-free doing something they love with someone they love. When students are laying on their back on the floor getting in their last full body stretch or self-massage thinking savasana (final resting pose) is next I instruct to come to standing. And we all agree that there are not too many times during the day when you come to standing from lying on your back on the floor. Then we have glorious and well deserved final resting pose.

Practicing getting up and down off the floor from a lying on your back or stomach posture a few times. It’s all about movement.

That is the beauty of practicing YogAlign pain-free yoga from your inner core it is all about real life movements. Practicing movements that reflect who you are and how you live and want to live your life. We all have the ability to tap into feeling joy instead of loneliness and movement with breath is a beautiful way to get there.

See you on the mat.


The struggle is real.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

What does the struggle is real mean?
The struggle is real:
A phrase used to emphasize that a particular situation (or life in general) is difficult. It is often used humorously and/or ironically when one is having difficulty doing something that should not be difficult or complaining about something that is not particularly problematic.

When we were children growing up we moved our bodies though life with great ease. There might have been times we felt awkward in our bodies as they were growing and changing but still felt an ease in our movements. As young children turning into young adults we probably did not give much thought to the way our bodies carried us in our day to day lives. With the exception of the way we danced or if our parents told us to stand up straight because we were slouching. Fast forward to becoming an adult/ middle aged and beyond and suddenly what was not difficult or even obvious to us is now right in our face and possibly affecting our daily lives.

Why does our body begin to react in ways we are maybe not used to when we become an adult/ middle aged and beyond? There are many factors to consider however, I would consider stress, responsibility, finances and relationships in early adulthood could surely draw your shoulders up to your ears from time to time as the bodies way of reacting to the stressors. A job being stationary sitting at a desk all day could also contribute to the body talking to you through aches and pains. Starting a family, marriage and simply setting up a household are all heavy transitions from a single carefree life. Not to say these changes are not wanted and don’t bring much joy however, on the flip side take up a great deal of time, attention and energy. So do we blame our aches and pains and movement struggles on getting married? To this I say no that would be silly.

What once was a non issue in regard to our youthful body movements and stamina comes down to re-wiring the motherboard or simply creating new movement habits.

What do I mean by this? Our brain is wired to make things happen without much or any thought for example when we get out of bed in the morning we do not think to ourselves I am going to hobble to the bathroom or I am going to hunch over with my shoulders drawn to my ears it just happens. Why? Because these are are current movement habits. When we were kids we just jumped out of bed, wiggled and squiggled are way to the start of the day because those were are movement habits at that moment. Some days maybe we even dread that first step out of bed because we know it is going to be a struggle for various reasons. The struggle is real – having difficulty doing something that should not be difficult or complaining about something that is not particularly problematic.

The good news is you can rewire the motherboard and create new movement habits that will leave your body feeling pliable, happy and healthy once again. In YogAlign we refer to these changes as getting your kid body back. We let go of the regular tendency or practice of drawing our shoulders to our ears by becoming conscious with new positive habits. Example every time you get in your car when you sit (driver or passenger) draw your shoulder blades down underneath you and then simply rest and gently press the back of your head into the headrest. Yes, at first it may feel awkward and every other minute you may need to remind yourself to just relax – shoulders blades underneath meĀ  and back of the head gently pressed into the headrest. As this posture becomes more comfortable and familiar the rewiring will begin and this posture que and comfort will follow through to other opportunities for your shoulders to relax such as in your office chair.

In regard to YogAlign it is a practice that is pain free from your inner core utilizing the SIP Breath giving us the gift of lift. I see new students as well as some long time students struggle with push ups due to the lack of connection to the core and trying to lift the weight of the body simply with their arms and old and not useful habit. I then gently remind long time practicing students and sometimes myself to remember to use the SIP breath and core engagement to float their/ my pushup up. I also reassure new students once they utilize their core (powerhouse and not their shoulders) with the SIP Breath it will become a habit and so much easier. They will no longer be shaking in their arms and possibly causing an injury to their unstable arm/ shoulder joints and can relax their neck and shoulders by pulling shoulder blades down.

Of course we all know ageing, injury and ailments also plays a factor in our body talking back to us however, we must not get in the habit of blaming the above mentioned for all of our poor movement habits. After all we do not want our fondest memory of childhood to be that our back did not hurt.

Here’s to squashing the struggle by creating new effective and efficient movement habits on the mat and in daily life.