Saturday, September 28, 2013

Practical Guide of Physical Education - Georges Hébert (1912 - translation)

HERE is a translated copy of the great Georges Hébert's work on Natural Movement (la method naturalle). With an influence of the development of le Parkour and other Natural Movement exercise methods around at the moment, it's cool to see a historical training manual like this. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Psoas-Nasal Connection..?

Just a short post on an odd and interesting occurrence I have noted twice now..  Often when I find myself up at 1am, and not sleepy, I will have a movement exploration session (with lights off).  Twice now, I have decided to explore stretching of the deep hip flexor (psoas) muscle, via a number of methods.

Getting a stretch directly in the psoas is no small feat, and as I have mentioned in another blog, people often put themselves into poses/postures that should stretch the psoas, theoretically; but in actuality they have little stretch in it and no sensory awareness of it.  This was what I was doing for a very long time, too.  A true psoas stretch is an odd and somewhat confronting sensation (and it can be a very strong sensation).  It feels fantastic after it has been carefully stretched (passive, or better yet, PNF style).

Besides the wide-ranging postural, movement and gait benefits that are felt after this (or I should say, that I personally feel after I do it), I noticed a strange connection.  On the first night I really 'got into' psoas, and felt it tangibly relax (PNF style), I had a moderately strong head cold and blockages in both nasal passages.  After the post-isometric contraction relaxation of the deep hip flexor had happened, and I was in the 'relax and re-pattern' phase of the stretch, my nasal passage on the side of the hip flexor being stretched dramatically cleared.  Hmmm..  interesting.  I stretched the second side and, sure enough, the other nostril cleared.

Two nights ago, I was up at 1am again.  I decided to do some late night deep hip flexor exploration and stretching-with-awareness.  This time I had no cold.  What I did notice was a very large, tangible increase in my awareness of the breath going in and out of the my nostril, nose and nasopharynx!

Two attempts does not make anything conclusive, but it is interesting enough for me to continue to play around with.  If it turns out to be something, the method of its working is an interesting thing to contemplate.. does it work via freeing the movement of lumbar spine (thus whole spine) up; is it somehow linked to the nerves of the lumbar plexus being freed.. or something more reflexive.  First I need to continue to observe if it works every time. 

No nasal sensory enhancement from rectus femoris dominant hip flexor stretches, no matter how good a stretch I get from them (and they are great stretches for other reasons).  Simon Thakur's (Ancestral Movement) comment's from facebook were:

" ..could be some sort of stimulation of the autonomic nervous system. Either the sympathetic trunk in the deep abdomen, or the sacral branches of the parasympathetic system. Either way, there's a reasonable amount of evidence linking breath flow in each nostril to relative dominance of the opposite cerebral hemisphere..."

Do, please, let me know if you try it and get similar (or different) results.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Great Free Mindfulness Resource

Check out this free Mindfulness pdf HERE.  Shinzen also has a lot of great videos up on his 'Expand Contract' Youtube channel, if you're into that type of thing..which I am.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Freestylin' with Fascial Lat Suppleness and 'Tissue-wringing' Exercises - a Montage.

A few people commented on the lack of ability to see the 'lines of pull' in the soft tissues of my arms and back during my pervious fascial lat stretching videos - See HERE.  Tucking the t-shirt in was suggested, but I dislike the feeling of restricting this creates - so I just ditched the tee altogether. 

Some of these variants require a fair amount of flexibility and body awareness to start; indeed, they are actually really nice for people who are 'hypermobile' already - as is the tissue wringing style of soft tissue remodeling.  I am demonstrating the moves much faster than I do them normally.  This is to showcase the versatility of the humble hanging latissimus dorsi stretch.   Pick a variant that feels good to you in your body - and play around with it at a slow and exploratory pace. 

All of the moves shown have specific breathing enhancers (directed breathing techniques) that go along with them, but would have taken a long time to explain.  I'll break down some of the moves shown in later posts, with breathing; micro-movements; body awareness cues.  If you're a dabbler like me, you can always just play around with what is up and create your own versions.  If you come up with something good, email me or create your own clip.  I'm sure there are more great variants I haven't explored yet, and I'd love to see/feel them. 

OK, here's the Video:  Freestyle Hanging Fascial Lat Spirals

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Amazing 90 Day Lucid Dream [Dream Recall] Challenge

So, Simon Thakur has challenged me to a '90 Day Lucid Dreaming and Dream Recall Challenge'.  Which I have accepted.  We've also invited anyone else who's interested to join in, via the facebook group with the same name as this blog title ( I'd say no crazies, but more accurate is only people who are 'our kind of crazy' please. 

This should be a fun and interesting challenge! (Much more fun that the getting up at 5am one I set myself, and which I have failed the last 3 mornings in a row).

I played around with lucid dreaming before in high school (circa 1999), and have had maybe 25 - 30 lucid dreams in my life, of varying qualities (from more real than 'real life'; to waking up a few seconds after becoming aware I was dreaming).  Come on flying! 

This excerpt from facebook give an idea of what my dreams are like:

"Well, I'm back from my nights adventures gaining a white tiger as a pet; crash landing a flying car with Harrison Ford and Van Damme and seeing Tupac do a backflip out of a five story window, onto a swissball sized basketball (he got knocked out, but woke up and was all good.). Yep, my dreams are pretty awesome." 

One of the books pictured above Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming - Stephen La Berge is a pretty good introduction to lucid dreaming and the basics of how to go about attaining lucidity in the dreamworld.  There are also numerous boards and forums on the internet with much more information.

I will be interested to see how many lucid dreams (and how much control over the dream environment) I and the other challengee's get throughout the 90 days. 

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fascial Lat Stretching and 'Opening Up and Awakening the Sides'

The flavor of the month (last month now) seems to be stretching, un-locking and re-modelling the tissues of the lateral aspect of the body..

I have recently uploaded 5 videos onto Youtube, of various stretches I have been playing around with for the lats and their associated soft tissues and investing fascia, and of the Lateral Line (and the 'Deep Lateral Line' connection of the QL --> Diaphragm --> Mediastinum --> Scalenes; if you are sufficiently body aware and supple already); Back Functional Line and Spiral Lines (using the myofascial meridians terminology of Anatomy Trains - see 2nd edition of the book for the fascinating details).

I had started to play around with different vectors of stretching the lats (and 'sides' more generally) when I had access to ladders bars for training (I think a lot of people stuff around hanging off ladders bars when they are available..there's something natural and human about it).

I was talking with Simon Thakur, a while back, about 'Opening up, strengthening and becoming more aware of the 'sides' of the body - and lateral movement, especially lateral spinal waves and undulation' which led me to explore this fascial and neuromuscular stretching (soft tissue remodeling) aspect some more.

Here are the videos:
Basic 3 Lateral Line and Fasical Lat Stretches
Video 1 (Basic Hanging Fascial Lat Stretch)
Video 2 (Spiral Lat and Hip Stretch from Modified Pigeon Pose)
Video 3 (Hanging Fascial Lat Stretch with Spinal Wave and Spiral Movement Enhancers)

[+1] Here's a great basic side stretch video by Stretch Therapy/Monkey Gym Senior Instructor Olivia
Video 4 - Liv teaches the kneeling side bend
The 'basic' side stretch can still work wonders on more advanced practitioners, if they have the body awareness and micro-movement control of the spine - aiming at as pure a lateral flexion as possible. 

[+1] Also, Check out Simon's Lateral Spinal Wave VIDEO

2 Advanced Fascial Lat Stretching Variants (Get comfortable with the easier versions before attempting)  
Video 5 (Advanced 'Spiral' Fascial Lat and 'Opening up the Sides' montage)
Video 6 ('High Hang' Fascial Lat Stretching)

Besides opening up the often restricted coronal/frontal plane of movement, these techniques remodel the soft tissues over, around, between and inside of the ribcage - thus freeing the breath*.

Along with specific breathing pattern and diaphragm work (pranayama; qi gong; butyeko; etc) this can tangibly increase, not only the movement capacity of the body, but the sensations of being alive and offers numerous health benefits, too.

Hanging is *awesome*! Whether it's from some ladder bars; a tree; a door-frame; a bus stop, or bar - it feels great and has a simultaneous strengthening of the deep grip muscles (if you actually grip the bar actively) and stretching/re-modeling effect on the lats and other pulling muscles, and on the various chains of fascia and connective tissue in the arms.

You can also get into the 'poplar tree' of the various 4th layer(? - iliocostalis group; etc) back muscles via adding different spiral vectors and directed breathing techniques - which is great, as these muscles are notoriously difficult to isolate in stretch.

Once you get a feel for how the greater tissues of the latissimus dorsi can be wound-up, you can create numerous variants which can be done off just about anything upright that is stable (pole; doorway; tree; etc), to varying degrees of success.

Spiral vectors from the legs, trunk and arms work very well.  Multiple spiral vectors works even better. You can 'play them off against each other' and wring the adhesions out of your soft tissues.  Interestingly, the latissimus dorsi (and pectoralis major; among others) has a twist (spiral) in the morphology the muscle.. perhaps this is why they feel so good to twist like a wet towel? 

For me personally, the feeling and observation of how the lats, pecs and traps get involved in the straight arm gymnastics holds (especially when you are strict with keeping the sternum up; so, not holding for maximal strength, which uses the hollow shape, but training for max strength-control from a position of postural alignment), I have wondered if what was happening was that I was learning to use the lats, pecs and traps, in essence, as a 'secondary rotator cuff' - by training them to stabilize and control a straight arm in various positions.. not sure how accurate this is, but a tangible re-patterning of the muscles occurs when you learn to do straight arm work ala gymnastics, and various other holds, in combination with traditional concentric/eccentric work -  or at least this is how I experienced it feeling in my own shoulders and arms.

This alignment (upper thoracic extension/sternal lifting with scapulas allowed to move down the rib cage) is often not possible for a person to maintain on the rings or paralettes for very long, or at all (or even in daily life, for some).

This is often related to daily postural and movement habits.  Sitting in a chair, and having the usually things happen (tighter hip flexors; collapsed ribcage and diaphragm; hyperkyphosis; scapula coming forward and around the rib-cage; etc.) tightens the latissimus dorsi in a specific way; and predisposes you to use only a discrete sector of this massive and variable muscle when you do you strength training exercises.

This discrete sector is usually the over-facilitated sector anyway, and leads to thick ropey strands appearing in the lats as vectors of force have connective tissue laid down in their paths. I have observed this a number of times with people into strength and conditioning work; boxing and other sports involving repetitive pulling.  Certain fibers of the latissimus dorsi are heavily preferences due to scapula position; rib-cage angle and spinal curves (obviously, and especially, thoracic). I am sure it is not everybody, but it is an interesting pattern. 

Finally, on stretching longer chains of fascia and connective tissue more generally, I have found that these long chain stretches respond well to a number of different methods - other than just standard contract-relax (PNF), as emphasized in the beginning and intermediate stages of Stretch Therapy classes.

Some of the 'enhancers' I use are:

• Mirco-movement exploration (lots of different easy to more difficult vectors - simple sagital plane work; rotations; figure 8's, spirals and waves)

• Directed Breathing (especially for muscles/tissues attaching to the trunk and ribs/abdominal area). 

• Outside Support (Tractioning & Bracing via partner assist).  This often uses a belt (judo belt or fabric sash for comforts sake) or manual assistences.

* The name of a blog post I am writing about a core fundamental of the Physical Alchemy system.