Welcome to my blog on various topics of health, well being, Posture and more.
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Michelle aka: Mickie
Phone: 0428 223271
Welcome to my blog on various topics of health, well being, Posture and more.
Ride your Bike!
I was recently visiting family back in the US. The weather was warm there and I found myself riding bikes everywhere. I don’t normally ride very much in the winter months in Tassie. Maybe it’s just me being a wimp, but I think more people tend to ride when the weather warms up. So here is a bit of advice for those looking to get their bicycles out of hibernation.
Posture is always at the forefront of my radar. Finding the correct position for your body while riding is key. I see a lot of people rounding their backs when riding. This is not going to do you any favours as it puts strain on the low back, neck and shoulders. This position held for any length of time along with riding on uneven or bumpy roads, can cause low back pain, neck pain and damage to the joints. You do not want to tuck the pelvis under you. Instead, remember to hinge from the hips with a straight back. My motto is, getting your backside out behind you lessens the tendency to round the upper body. Unless you’re racing, It’s far better to sit in a more upright position with your sit bones under you.
Choose the appropriate Frame size: For good bicycling posture, you will need an appropriately sized bike frame that allows you to maintain a relaxed shoulder and neck position, and allows you to touch your feet to the ground from your seat. A frame that is too small can cause you to scrunch up, tuck your pelvis, and round your spine. A frame that is too large can pull your shoulders too far forward.
Bike style: In some areas, road bikes and touring bikes—styles that require a deep bend to reach the handlebars—are very common. In other places, cruisers, hybrids, and flat-foot ‘comfort bikes’ are the norm. Pick a style that works best for you, but if you experience back pain, an upright model will likely be more comfortable and conducive to good posture.
Seat shape and angle: On most bike seats, it’s possible to change not just the height, but the horizontal position and the tilt of the seat. Make these adjustments carefully on any bike you plan to ride regularly. A small difference in the seat position can have a big difference on your posture as well as your comfort.
My Favorite is the older “saddle” style bike seats that cradle your pelvis, distribute your weight comfortably, and promote stacking. The slightly bowl-shaped curve of these seats provides lift in the back like a wedge, but catches your from sliding forward with the projection in the front.
I hope these tips have helped. Now all you have to do is get out there and enjoy the ride!
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271
It’s winter here in Australia. But these tips work all year round. So even if it’s summer where you are, try them anyway.
Whether you embrace a cold day or grumble and hit the snooze button on your alarm for the third time, the depths of winter can result in many of us feeling low, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Winter blues are strongly linked with falling levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin that occur at this time of year. Here are some ideas to help boost your mood and your serotonin levels this winter:
Cultivate Gratitude: Cultivating an attitude of gratitude can benefit our lives in ways that seem truly miraculous. People who consistently practice gratitude report stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure, and research shows that gratitude increases happiness and decreases depression. You can keep a gratitude journal and add to it everyday. Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them. Notice the beauty in nature each day. Nurture the friendships you have, good friends don’t come along every day. Smile more often.
Dance Yes,”Dance allows people to experience themselves in ways they didn’t know they could,” says Miriam Berger, a dance professor and dance therapist at New York University. “You can change your internal state through external movement.” Cardiac-rehab patients in a recent Italian study who enrolled in waltzing classes not only wound up with more elastic arteries, but were happier than participants who took up bicycle and treadmill training. Even watching dancing helps. MRI scans show that watching someone dance activates the same neurons that would fire if you were doing the moves yourself.
Happy Foods: We don’t just “feel better.” To feel better, we manufacture serotonin using an amino acid called tryptophan as the precursor. You can add a serotonin-boosting food at each meal: eggs, turkey, salmon, bean sprouts, asparagus, nuts and seeds, cheese, pineapple, tofu, spinach and bananas are some good ones to try. You can also eat curry Turmeric has emerged in recent years as a powerful antidepressant, in many cases equaling or even surpassing the effects of prescription antidepressants. Turmeric (or curcumin) increases brain serotonin levels.
Go out for a walk and get some sun: While too much of the sun’s warm rays can be harmful to your skin, the right balance can have lots of mood lifting benefits. If you can get yourself out for a quick 10-15 minute walk in the morning it will set the tone for a happier day. Sun and exercise both increase your serotonin levels.
Get a Massage: We’ve heard about the healing power of touch, but now research backs it up! A study conducted by the Touch Research Institutes at the University of Miami School of Medicine shows that massage increases serotonin by 28% and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) by 31%.
Pay attention to your Posture: Feeling taller tricks your brain into making you feel more confident. The next time you’re feeling sad and depressed, pay close attention to your posture. According to cognitive scientists, you’ll likely be slumped over with your neck and shoulders curved forward and head looking down. While it’s true that you’re sitting this way because you’re sad, it’s also true that you’re sad because you’re sitting this way. This philosophy, known as embodied cognition, is the idea that the relationship between our mind and body runs both ways, meaning our mind influences the way our body reacts, but the form of our body also triggers our mind.
I hope you try some of these tips to help boost your mood this winter. I will be teaching a FREE Workshop on Posture at the Neighbourhood House, Thursday June 29th at 6:30pm. Come along and see how posture can affect your mood and relieve your pain.
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns. I love that line. I often hear my massage clients say that their pain is a result of old age. This amuses me, as often enough, I am the same age or older than they are. They will ask me after giving a 90-minute massage, “Aren’t you exhausted?” I say, “Not at all, if anything, I feel invigorated.” It is all in the way I move when massaging someone. I use the larger muscles in my body to move around the table and put myself in a position of mechanical advantage to reach the area I wish to work on. I apply pressure where needed by using my body weight to get into those niggly bits. I bend without rounding my back to keep my own back healthy. I don’t buy into the idea that we have to become stiff and live in pain as we age. That is why I also teach people how changing their posture, can change their lives. By teaching people how to lengthen, strengthen and reshape their bodies, they can start moving and enjoying their lives again. The bottom line is “How you move matters.”
It breaks my heart to hear people having to give up the things that they love because they just can’t move the way they used to. I am not only referring to sports but things like gardening, dancing or even walking in nature. Learning how to align the body to work the way it is designed, gives you more freedom to move with less pain. People don’t get too old to move, they stop moving and then blame their lack of ability to do things on age.
“My creaky aging joints are unavoidable.” Actually, not exercising is what makes achy joints inevitable. When Australian researchers at the Monash University Medical School looked at women ages 40 to 67, they found that those who exercised had more cartilage in their knees. It suggests that being physically active made them less likely to develop arthritis. Even if you’re born with the healthiest set of genes, how you live your life determines how they behave over your lifespan. One way your genes can be changed is by how much physical activity you get. If you aren’t moving as much as you would like due to painful joints and muscle aches, I would suggest you look at why? Most of the pain we experience today is a result of imbalances and misalignment of the body due to poor posture. Correcting it becomes a very important first step in getting active again. Recent studies have proven that 90% of low back pain is the result of poor posture.
You don’t have to conform to the belief that as you age, your bones become fragile and your posture becomes bent. Remember, only death is certain when it comes to aging. Osteoporosis is definitely more common in older people, but it’s also very preventable. A study of females over 100 years of age found that only 56 percent had osteoporosis, and their average age at diagnosis was 87. Not bad, given these women grew up before the benefits of diet and exercise on bone were understood. Thankfully, you know better. Exercise should be part of the optimal management of every patient with osteoporosis. However, this is not usually the case as most physicians don’t know how to direct people when it comes to physical exercise in these cases nor do they have the time to follow up and track the results. Weight-bearing exercise, which works against gravity and stimulates bone formation, is more effective in preventing osteoporosis than non-weight bearing. Bones respond better to particular types of exercise, including: 1.) Weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking, hiking, stair climbing, tennis, netball, jogging and aerobic dance. 2.) Resistance training, doing planks or machine-based exercises like leg presses and seated rowing or using free weights i.e. dumbbells or ankle weights. 3.) Yoga won’t bulk you up but it will improve flexibility, balance, bone density, endurance, muscle mass, agility and energy level.
If I haven’t inspired you to start moving more at this point, perhaps you can look at how movement affects your sex life. Impotence and reduced libido are related to normally preventable medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. The solution is keeping yourself in shape. Something as simple as lifting weights a couple times a week can improve your sex life. And yes, sexual desire might decline a bit as you age, but that doesn’t typically occur until age 75.
The bottom line is, there is no universal definition of aging. How you’ll age is entirely up to you and the time to begin writing that definition is today. If you are looking to regain healthy movement in your life, see how changing your daily habits can change your life. Go to my teacher’s page for updates on Free workshops and courses in Australia www.gokhalemethod.com/biography/Michelle_Ball
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
When John Lennon was a young boy, his teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some kids said they wanted to be doctors, actors, nurses and teachers. John Lennon wrote, he wanted to be happy. When the teacher came across his answer, she said, John, “I think you misunderstood the assignment.” John responded, “I think you misunderstand life.”
Today we have more of everything than we have ever had before: more, choices; freedom; opportunities; education; more spending power; more TV’ channels; more ways of drinking a cup of coffee. The interesting thing is, that our happiness levels have not increased as a result of having more. In our striving and struggle to acquire more things, many of us have lost our true selves. So what are some things that might be blocking our happiness in our busy lives?
Here are some blocks to happiness, based on the teachings of Robert Holden, PhD. “The Happiness Project”
#1 The Pursuit of Happiness – When you are chasing happiness it becomes something outside of you like a needle in a haystack. You become so wrapped up in chasing happiness that you never really grasp it. We are living quicker than we have ever lived before. We tell ourselves we will be happy when… The longer we pursue happiness the longer the pursuit takes. In doing so, we forget how to enjoy our lives in the present moment. Children, no matter what they are going through, will choose happiness all the time. They focus on the now and not yesterday or tomorrow, and kids will find pleasure in the most mundane things. Perhaps we need to remember how this felt and choose to be happy now.
#2 Mind-Wandering. We will be happy once we find our purpose in life. Instead of living our purpose now, we’re off chasing the pot of gold and not seeing the rainbow right in front of us. When we are chasing purpose it evades us. Looking for happiness instead of living our joy. Looking for love instead of being a loving person. We put our lives on hold because we’re trying to find our happiness and purpose somewhere in the future. We’re not really living our life, we’re somewhere else. We understand that we should be living our life in the now. It’s just not the “now” now that we want. Our now is somewhere down the road. All of this adds up to something missing in our life. What is missing is YOU. You will never be happy until you stop the pursuit and get into your life.
#3 Positive thinking can mask our feelings of unhappiness. It can be your greatest strength. But, because you’re so positive, you are probably the last person to know you’re unhappy. Getting honest with your unhappiness is one of your greatest learning experiences. Meeting your sadness can help you make positive changes that need to happen. It can be a gift, even if it seems unpleasant at the time. “Happiness is the capacity to meet your sadness and handle it in a positive way.”
One of the greatest ways to find happiness is knowing what causes us to be unhappy. At first glance most of the causes of unhappiness are outside of us. They are in the circumstances, the events or our relationships. On closer inspection we find that we are playing a part in these situations. That is what we are going to look at now. How are we limiting our own happiness? Examples: (chronic busyness, focusing on what I could have done, playing the martyr, self-neglect, holding grudges)
Fill in the Blank Exercise: Do this NOW! Get a pen and paper and complete the following sentence 5 times. “One way I’m limiting my happiness is___________.”
You now have a list, a personal inventory of how you see yourself limiting your happiness. Take that list and see what’s not working for you. Then take an action to change something. You can do this with a friend or family member. Sharing your list actually helps you release things on it more readily. Knowing what doesn’t make you happy enables you to see more clearly what does make you happy. That is a good place to start.
Michelle “Mickie” Ball Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher – Ph: 0428 223 271 or email@example.com
We put value on many things in our life. Diet and exercise are considered important in today’s society to stay healthy and fit. But there is a blind spot when it comes to the importance of posture. Funnily enough it is something we use 24/7 and it gets little focused attention beyond trying to sit up straight when we catch ourselves slumping. This doesn’t last and it’s as bad for you as slumping.
What value can we put on properly aligning the organs, bones, and muscles of the body? In a nutshell, it: improves circulation and breathing; boosts the nervous system; supports organ functions; promotes muscle relaxation and stress reduction; enhances athletic performance; reduces risk of injury; and accelerates healing from injury.
Here are a few added-value tips to help you move towards healthier posture:
If you have any questions regarding your posture, contact me
Michelle Ball, Massage Therapist and GokhaleMethod® Teacher – Ph: 0428 223 271 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Every Bone Has It’s Natural Place
The particular arrangement of the human skeleton is a product of the demands of upright living and the constant force of gravity. Each bone has a natural place relative to its neighbours. As in the song “Dem Bones” by James Weldon Johnson, The foot bones connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bones connected to the leg bone, The Leg bones connected to the knee bone … and on it goes.
Our weight bearing bones need healthy stresses to keep them strong. If they are not stressed adequately enough calcium leeches from them leading to osteoporosis or osteopenia. Weight bearing exercises keep the bones strong. If the bones are misaligned and weight is distributed incorrectly, it can lead to arthritic changes in the form of bone spurs (osteophytes). Our spines, hips, knees and feet are subject to misalignment.
Foot Problems – When we went from being qudrupedal to bi-pedal beings, we developed a large heel bone to support our new upright position. The heel bone is made of cross fiber construction and can bear the weight of our bodies. The bones in the front of the foot are delicate and not meant for weight bearing. The problem is that many people now days carry their weight on the middle or front of the foot. This can lead to bunions, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoid bone fractures and planter fasciitis. Remember to keep your weight over your heels.
Knee Problems – Rotating the knees inwards can wreak havoc on other areas of the body. It can cause our hips to be misaligned in the socket and the feet to pronate causing instability in the ankle and the foot arches to collapse. It also directly correlates to underuse of the buttock muscles. In any case this posture can cause torn ligaments, damaged meniscus or arthritic changes in the knee. Solution- wrapping the leg muscles outwards will externally rotate the entire leg resulting in healthy alignment of the hips, knees and ankles.
Another problem is locking the knees. Locked knees causes tension in the leg and poor circulation. This can lead to improper hip position which can cause it’s own set of problems. Think “soft knees.”
Hip Problems – People today often let their hips ride forward when standing or walking. This causes the natural space in between the ball of the femur and the acetabulum (hip socket) to lesson, compromising the joint and causing a bone on bone situation. Bursitis, arthritis or even the need for a hip replacement could be the result of this unhealthy stance.
Hips pushed forward will also impede circulation by occluding the femoral arteries, veins and nerves to the legs and feet. Some situations that may result are cold feet, slower heeling of the legs, and Raynaud’s Syndrome.
Learning to align the hips over the weight bearing heel bone is key in avoiding these unpleasant scenarios.
Proper Alignment – When you look at yourself sideways in the mirror what do you see? Where are “Dem Bones?” If you are standing correctly the shoulder, hips, and ankles should be in a straight line. This tells you that you are putting healthy stresses on the right bones in the right places. Re-establishing correct posture is your ticket to preventing future problems caused by misaligned bones.
Article based on “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale
Contributed By Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher – 0428 223 271
For more information on current Gokhale Method® Courses in Australia go to www.gokhalemethod.com/biography/Michelle_Ball
I had been running for years in really expensive cushioned shoes. When I was in my 30’s I developed a sharp pain in my heels. I fixed this problem with orthotics as it was a quick fix. My arches were supported and the fascia no longer got inflamed due to the shortening of the foot. Supporting the arch in my foot lessened the pull on the attachment of the Fascia to the heel bone. I ran with these orthotics in my very cushioned shoes for 20 years. Then in my mid 50’s I developed runners knee. I couldn’t run anymore, it hurt too much. So I started bike riding. I found that if I pointed my feet outwards (externally rotating the leg) when I peddled, it didn’t hurt my knees. I took this concept back to my running. I read the book “Born to Run” By Christopher McDougall. In it, I discovered that really padded running shoes gives the body a false sense of protection. When the brain doesn’t perceive danger it does nothing to protect itself from repetitive actions like running with the knees misaligned or a hard jarring heel strike as was the case for me. I switched to a mid barefoot shoe and got rid of the orthotics. I found that consciously using my feet again and having a better connection to the ground was profoundly helpful. I became very interested in posture and mechanical alignment of the body and how it correlates and affects performance. After reading the book “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale. I signed up for the Gokhale Method Foundations Course. This is where I learned to walk a line with my inner heels on that line. This was the deal breaker for me. I found that this movement along with using my new found foot muscles and engaging my glutes helped externally rotated my leg and align my ankles, knees and hips. I am now 58 years old and I am happily running again without any knee or foot issues. Today, I just came back from a barefoot run along the beach. I haven’t had knee problems for over 2+ years now.
Conclusion: We are meant to move and run. Finding out the best way to do this is important. Our Ancestors didn’t have orthotics or marshmallow running shoes. Yet they managed to hunt and gather their food on a daily basis without all of the injuries that we incur today. Maybe our bodies are not designed to be supported with so many comfortable and corrective external objects. I believe, looking carefully at how the body is designed and relearning how to use it, is the answer.
Scenario: Imagine you are getting ready for a holiday. You’ve been planning it for a long time. You’ve spent every spare minute fantasizing about all the activities you will partake in. All the det…
Scenario: Imagine you are getting ready for a holiday. You’ve been planning it for a long time. You’ve spent every spare minute fantasizing about all the activities you will partake in. All the details have been meticulously prearranged and it’s now time to pack your suitcase. Your mission is to free the case from where it has been buried for far too long. You find yourself balancing on one leg and twisting slightly to get at it. Now with an unassuming tug you free it from its’ hiding spot. But wait, something’s wrong! That little tug has caused your back to go into spasm. How can such a small movement feel like someone has just stabbed you in the back? Ugh!!
OK so maybe this particular scenario has or hasn’t happened to you. But perhaps you have had the sudden onset of back pain that kept you from doing something you really wanted to do. Something like: a holiday activity; gardening; picking up your child or grandchild; maybe it kept you from going to work … All right that one may not seem so bad for a while. But it’s not so great if you can’t do anything fun either.
I am a massage therapist and I get many people coming to me with these types of scenarios. They will say, “I don’t know how it happened. I picked something up, sneezed, bent incorrectly or whatever and it just went out.” People on holiday often over-exert themselves or spend too many hours sitting poorly in a car or on an airplane. In any case it ends up with the same result, an annoying pain that keeps them from doing what it is they really wish to do.
Back pain is frustrating and can keep you from doing things you love. But I am here to tell you that it doesn’t usually just happen all of a sudden unless you’re involved an accident or something that really jars the back. According to statistics, eight out of 10 people will develop back pain at one point in their lives. And in many cases, people come down with a serious case of back pain for no apparent reason.
While it may seem to be something that strikes from out of the blue, it’s really just the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A whole syndrome of muscular imbalances precedes the movement or sneeze that triggers the back pain incident. It doesn’t take much to cause the muscle spasm to start, if for months or years those muscles have been forced to do something that they were not really designed to do.
It could be that you sit with a tucked pelvis causing the upper back to slump forward forcing spinal discs to bulge, ligaments to over stretch, and muscles in the neck and shoulders to get tense. You may stand with your hips thrust forward in front of the torso causing the weight to be disproportionate over your feet and your back to sway. Or maybe you suffer from hip imbalances because you don’t engage the gluteal muscles enough when walking or running.
These are just a few poor postural habits that come to mind. All muscles are fashioned to do a specific job. Some muscles can become tight if they continuously get used in place of muscles that are designed to carry that particular load. Also, muscles that are meant to do very specialised jobs become weak and underdeveloped when not used as they should be. Ligaments can become loose or over-stretched in both of these scenarios. This can cause the muscles to tense up and spasm in an attempt to protect the area.
In these cases, my clients ask me if massage will fix their problem. I say, “It can definitely help ease the spasming muscle and make you feel more relaxed and at ease. But unless you change your daily habits, it will rear it’s ugly head again.” Don’t get me wrong massage is a great thing…that’s why I do it. But changing your daily habits needs to also be addressed in order for real change to happen. Building greater body awareness is key. Most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to how our body is positioned in daily life.
I am a Certified Gokhale Method® Teacher. I teach posture and alignment courses to help students prevent or relieve back pain using everyday postures like sitting, standing, bending and even sleeping. People will often laugh and try to stand up a bit straighter when I tell them what I do. They will say something like, “Oh ya, my posture is really bad.” But what they don’t understand is that their poor posture habits are the key to them having back, neck or other musculoskeletal pain in the first place. I recommend to my clients and students that they start sitting, standing and moving in ways that help lengthen the spine and strengthen the muscles of the back, deeper abdominals and gluteals. There is a lot that can be done to help prevent sudden or not so sudden back pain from messing up your plans. But you need to make some changes to your daily habits for this to happen.
I teach Free Workshops and Gokhale Method Foundations Courses on posture and alignment. Check out my Teachers’ Page on the Gokhale website for a course near you or to request a course in your city.
Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher Ph: + 61 0428 223 271