How to Move Better, Improve posture, and Alleviate Pain
Over the last few years, we have rapidly increased our production and use of technology in order to find ease in communication, as well as the execution of previously deemed “complex tasks”. As these tasks have become easier to complete, collaboration on a project can now be done at ease from across the world, and information can be sought out for nearly every realm of category possible.
These tasks and duties have become increasingly efficient in their processes due to the growing field of tech, but on the contra, I encourage us to bring the magnifying glass to the other end of the spectrum, taking a closer look at how an increase of productivity in one area is pulling from another.
Paradoxically, this rampant new way of living has brought out a new framework for a similarly complex question.
With all of the progressions at glance, what are the real implications of this sudden change in behavior, physical stature and competency, and overall health?
If we can bring an increase in awareness of our habits and exposure to new information, we can veer clear of the gradual likelihood towards becoming consumed. Biological discrepancies, disguised as green flags are leading us in the wrong direction; many are starting to pay the price with decreased levels of overall health, purpose, and quality of life
I truly believe that not only can we live life more charged, but ultimately strip many of the physical and neurological issues we have been conditioned to think are permanent.
Through a simple 5 step process we can begin to grasp a better understanding of how we can implement strategies and knowledge towards a better quality of life, reduction of bodily pain, increased ability to think creatively, and overall competency on how to move like a real life ninja.
Creating Bodily Awareness
Implementing Proper Myofascial Releases/Triggers
Developing proper breathing mechanics
Provide yourself with new stimulus and experiences
Hydrate yourself properly
Posture as a Social Stigma
Think about your first interaction with a person whom you have just met. The interpretation we have of them within the first 5-10 seconds can give us a clear indicator on whether we like them or not.
Call it shallow, but we are taking into consideration on whether or not a certain individual is worth our time.
Chef’s, first dates, businessmen and impressionable people all have one common understanding. The presentation is everything. The same thing goes for first encounters since the beginning of time. How a person carries their authentic self, communication skills, and interactions within a conversation and a group will largely dictate that persons overall effectiveness at getting a majority of people to like, trust and befriend them.
What is interesting is the fact that not only does our presentation carry weight in the decision on whether or not we decide to eat a dish, reschedule for a second date, or close that deal, but even more so, the level of confidence that a person portrays.
Body language plays a huge role in how information is received, accounting to be held in higher regard than our actual words often! Have you ever been in a conversation where the person is saying one thing, but their body is communicating the exact opposite? We can clearly distinguish intention through communication if we are keen to it. It is important to duly note that our posture, awareness, ability to alleviate mechanisms of tension, and overall control of breath, play a critical role in how we communicate the verbal and non-verbal gestures.
The person with an open, inviting posture, clear vocal tone, and ownership of their own breath controls the conversation, sends an invitation of trust, and sets the stage for quality relationships for a lifetime.
The person with a closed off stature, often times portrays a sense of hesitation, insecurity, and shyness. All traits that may be counter-intuitive to reaching the apex of your human potential.
Guideline 1: Creating Bodily Awareness
When looking to develop a better posture, at rest as well as in motion, it is important to have a fundamental understanding of our current placement in space.
Many may think good posture may mean pulling those shoulders back, opening the chest, and walking not like a penguin, but in reality, it is the equivalent of stuffing all of your clean laundries into a drawer. Your mother would be very upset and probably slap you, as will life if we don’t straighten up correctly.
When in the discussion of posture and movement, we must disseminate the fact that both have clear and distinct characteristics and are not always perfectly interchanged.
The person with perfect posture may not be the best mover, and interchangeably, the person who moves exceptionally well may not always have perfect posture (although this likelihood is far more certain).
What can be found present in both instances, however, are a few key characteristics.
1. Sound Posture
2. Awareness towards neutrality of length/ tension relationships, present in muscles
3. Movement competency
4. Exceptional motor control (when to turn a muscle on/off)
5. Tissue resiliency in a multitude of directions
6. Idealistic breathing mechanics (control of the nervous system)
7. Symmetry in the ability to perform a task
While it would be aesthetically ideal to start in the best position to perform a task, it may not always be necessary for completion of the task at hand. It is highly possible and probable, that when looking at the mechanics of most major throwing athletes, for example, that postural distortion may be present and symmetry may not be idealistic as any immediate change may influence performance of refined patterns, HOWEVER, in the long term game of health, functionality, and the goal of mitigating and eliminating pain, I would argue that it plays a large role in how we go about achieving each quality.
When looking to develop better posture or ability to move, it is imperative that we consider our current level of awareness and ability to use a singular segment when necessary, as well as interchangeably when looking to perform a task. The systemic regulation of movement in tandem with our nervous system, otherwise known as motor control must be mastered.
Having the know-how and ability of how to disassociate the hips from the trunk, for example, will play a crucial role in how surrounding areas distribute stress. An inability to do so can be an anchor for low back pain, altered breathing, and a plethora of other possible mishaps. This can go a long way in the game of eliminating pain at the root.
What is hip decoupling?
Hip decoupling is a basic function that occurs every time we walk or run. It is the forward shifting of the right aspect of the pelvis, while the left aspect moves inversely into a backward shift.
So can I decouple just by walking?
There may be indications at a glance that may lead us to believe that this is a step in the right direction, however, it is not ideal for the following reason being. The Sacroiliac joint (SI joint) or the joint of the Sacrum and Illium, undergoes one of the most minute degrees of motion in our entire body (2-18 degrees), yet has a very large influence on our ability to move variably and minimize low back pain when calcified and neglected.
An increase in awareness of this area can provide us with tools to use when we are running into the feeling of compression that may be associated from sitting too long, or from a lack of variable movement.
Disassociation of the trunk and pelvis
Remember that middle school relationship you had, where you thought you were in love and would get married, having your significant other attached at your hip?
It’s always best to create some space via separation when things aren’t working properly. Same goes for our structural issues when experiencing mechanical difficulties.
In my observation of working with a wide and diverse population of persons, I have seen it commonplace for a majority of people to revert to rotating both the trunk and pelvis simultaneously in the same direction when asked to rotate. This specific task is often faced with difficulty when the subject is instructed to rotate opposing sides towards one another and return to a neutral position.
By focusing on the ability to complete this task, we allow ourselves to better move up and down the continuum of segmentation and integration, rather than just one or the other. This reinforces the concept of tissue variability as mentioned previously.
Check out this example for better thoracic rotation
Developing a practice of myofascial release
Posture and our body’s response to movement are largely neurological. That is because our nervous system acts as the computer in which to send and receive information in order to call an action, as well as respond to a threat to our environment, both internally and externally.
With this fundamental understanding, we can begin to conceptualize that we are ultimately a product of whatever stimulus our body has been exposed to over the span of our life.
If we are seated and looking at a computer for hours on end, it is likely that we will begin to experience some calcification in the muscles associated with those specific positions. When the body begins to inhibit and alter the relationships of tension, we largely compromise our ability to reach sound posture and pain-free movement.
By implementing a practice of myofascial release, or self-trigger point therapy, we can begin to normalize the function and relationship we have with two opposing ends that are equally important in performing a task most efficiently.
Some major areas of focus
Rectus abdominis – reinforce length of the abdominal wall, enhance the ability to elevate ribs and breathe via the diaphragm
Psoas- promote better rotation in the trunk and lateral flexion
Tensor Fascia Latae- Promotes balance/stability in the hips when standing, walking or running
Gluteus medius- Promotes balance/stability in the hips when standing, walking or running
External oblique- Will aid in ease of rotation/ elevation of the chest and abdominal cavity
Pec Major/ Minor- Will promote length along the front side of the body/ shoulders
Lattisimus Dorsi- alleviation of tension here can help create space in the shoulder joint and lumbar spine
Intercostals- assists in elevation of ribcage and diaphragm in inhalation
Developing proper breathing mechanics
I find it very surprising that our most important function is also the most overlooked when it comes to training/ posture/ performance.
Without an ability to receive and transfer oxygen effectively, how can we expect the nervous system, the primary motor of our capacity to move, to communicate information and deliver oxygen to new patterns of muscular and fascial integration?
Put in basic terms, there is an inevitability that we will run into problems somewhere down the road if we do not address the notion of breathing mechanics and its implementation throughout our movements.
Breathing is something that we often do not have to think about. It is an involuntary motor pattern for a majority of us. We go through the day, get short in our breath when we are sitting at our desk, and end up losing control of deeper diaphragmatic breathing and the muscles associated with it. In turn, an unseen tension of anxiousness begins to become more prevalent, specifically when we feel stress in high-pressure scenarios such as nearly missing a car accident or speaking in front of a crowd. The culmination of events such as these have the potential to compound into more complicated issues down the road.
A major shift occurred in my approach when I attended a workshop titled Wim Hof methods a few months ago in early June. Although I had a basic understanding of breath through the practice of meditation and other experiences, this one really solidified the importance of what it means to regulate your nervous system via our body’s most vital mechanism. Our Breath.
What I took away from the workshop is that with an adequate and consistent practice of inducing respiratory alkalosis, a state that humans typically reach when we receive some sort of neurological injury such as, heart attack, anxiety attack, preparing for birth, and so forth, paired with the reduction in visceral tone via breath hold and recovery breaths, we can begin to set the foundations for major progressions in the way the body deals with stress, inflammation, and pain minus the detriment of the injury. The received benefits through increased oxygenation of our blood is a remarkable thing
By cycling through our sympathetic (fight or flight reflex) or our parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems we can come to terms with turning on and turning off each one. A lack of an ability to do so has major ramifications when it comes to a movement for the reason being that many of us are exercising in a constant state of fight or flight!
This means our body is almost always under a state of high tension, leading to muscular guarding, inhibited ranges of motion, continued tissue stress, and a vicious cycle of pain.
We can combat the fight against short breath by working on our diaphragmatic breathing, or upper belly breathing. By consciously breathing from our lower abdomen into our upper, with emphasis on the elevation of our rib cage, we can begin to work these muscles that typically lay dormant.
No amount of physical therapy, exercises, or joint supplements can do as much for our ability to move without pain as a proper integration of breath and the myofascial release of the musculature surrounding the rib cage and diaphragm, in the long term. Without attention to detail, more chronic issues will continue to reoccur over time.
Provide yourself with new stimulus and experiences
Shifts happen when we are open to new perspectives of thought and question the current truths we hold.
When we are constantly bombarded with information of how we should work out, look, dress, and eat, it becomes commonplace that our thoughts are very much molded into a very fragile object. The strongest minds and most vindictive thought processes have been allocated through continuous curiosity, conversation, reflection, and action.
In regards to training movement and posture, we must firmly believe that what we are doing will work. It must be tested and results must be proven empirically.
Our environment largely shapes the way we walk, move, run, and communicate. It is imperative that we expose our self to many different modes of stimulus so that we can not only move more variable but increase our adaptability and resiliency in many different scenarios.
Change up your training ground
Always lifting weights in the gym?
When we confine ourselves to the same apparatuses we eventually miss out on a whole lot. We are neglecting ourselves of sunlight, fresh air, visual and tactile stimuli such as a backdrop, sounds of nature, or the feeling of our feet having to adapt to a rock underneath it. We are creatures of habit and a lack of environmental stimuli will lead to stiffness, inflammation and an inability to move freely. Spend some time training outdoors, running or jumping on unfamiliar surfaces, and using new and unfamiliar tools and equipment.
Hydrate Yourself Properly and Adequately
It is common to think of merely consuming water when we are told to hydrate. However, not all water is created alike.
We have seen and heard of instances about the amount of lead in the water in Flint, Michigan, as well as other areas that have failed water systems, leading to detrimental health outcomes and potential death. Just as we should aim to eat as clean as possible if we are looking at ultimately becoming less prone to sickness and other prevailing ailments, the quality of our water should matter just as much. Here is why.
Each of us is constantly exposed to many environmental toxins throughout the course of our day. Preservatives in shampoo, food, and our toothpaste all have the potential to influence our endocrine function, by having the lungs, kidneys, and liver work overtime in order to filter these forms of toxins and other metabolic waste from our blood.
While we cannot rule out every single toxin, we can begin by some of the largest ones by some simple guidelines I follow
Eliminating plastics bottles that may have held water for excessive duration’s of time
Primarily consuming Reverse Osmosis Filtered water
Reverse Osmosis water ensures the highest level of filtration, for ensured water quality free of toxins and chemicals
The only downside is that much of the nutrients are stripped as well, as to why I look to add back minerals with small trace amounts of Himalayan Salt and Lemon
Drinking from glass or PCB free containers
High heats plastics emit Polychlorinated Biphenyl’s, otherwise known as PCB’s, a familiar carcinogen that has been identified to disrupt thyroid and Endocrinol function.
As Hippie as it may sound, by adding the trace minerals of Himalayan Salt, Lemon, and the near crystallization of the water in the freezer (15-20 minutes), proceeded by mixing with a whisk or vortex in sunlight can actually restructure many of the minerals lost in the water filtration process. The relationship between light (photons) and (electrons) present in water with exposure to the sun will allow the electrons to absorb and re-emit a photon of the same wavelength, ultimately leading to more energy present in the water. The relationship between sun and water acts as a superconductor and can add many vital antioxidants to our hydration supply that we lose over the transportation and filtration cycles.
While water, electrolytes, and proper nutrition are king, here is another equally, often overlooked aspect of being properly hydrated: variable movement.
Movement As A Hydrator
As all of these factors are correct and play vital roles in our systems function and integration, our ability to lengthen and contract our connective tissue in a variety of circumstances will lead to the fascial absorption of fluid. GAGS (Glycosaminoglycan), a complex polysaccharide that is highly polar (water soluble) and has the ability to attract water into the muscle tissue.
This provides highly valuable to our body’s natural form of suspension, acting as both a lubricant for movement and a shock absorptive.
Collagen production is a key constituent in the fluidity and construction of our ECM or Extracellular matrix, which allows for the cell to cell communication and differentiation.
Our ability to stay hydrated through movement and nourishment has a paramount influence on the way our body communicates information, with research showing that the fascial system communicates information nearly 9 times more quickly than the central nervous system. The fascial system has proven to be as important as the rest of our body’s systems, acting as a second nervous system.
Upon days end, we are ultimately all existential beings. Our physical body is composed of our environmental stimuli, experiences, and trauma.
When assessing something such as our capacity to move, or neurological posture, we must take into consideration our daily work and the demands that they place upon our relationship with gravity. The hobbies we partake in and record of injury both act as heavy influences of our current stature. The extensibility of our big toe, for example, plays a large role in the glutes ability to activate properly. A neglection of any one area may lead to inhibited movement in another.
In order to create lasting change, it is important to fundamentally understand what current disruptors we are up against, to procure valid information through means of trial and error, and look upon the lasting change it has or has not created with an open mind. This will ultimately provide us with a new experience, a moment of realization that this thing may or may not work for me.
If I could suggest one thing to take away from this reading, it would be to expose yourself to as many new experiences and stimuli as possible. If you are always wearing shoes, take some time to walk around barefoot in your yard and get some feeling to the millions of sensory receptors our feet contain. Practice some self-massage, pick up a boxing class, work on your non-verbal communication skills, the list is really endless.
Often times we get trapped by one certain way of thinking, creating a belief system that this may, in fact, be the only way. We can free ourselves of this dogma by providing ourselves the experiences we need to shift the paradigm of thinking, providing us with a continuously expanding worldview.
These are the techniques and biological principles that I have studied and applied meticulously, hypothesized on, and put action towards, on not only myself but a wide and diverse population. The results have proven true and at the end of the day, myself and many others are now leading seemingly limitless lives embedded within the power of curiosity.