The Universe of Magical Chaos

THE ENERGETIC BODY UNIVERSE

  • The universe of preventative care and healing where we consider the human body to be a whole miraculous machine of interconnected parts
  • The universe where healing outside of quantified data and research happens
  • The universe where we believe that when every expert tells us we will always have back pain, or we will never dance again, or we must have surgery to heal, we choose to believe there is another route, another path and an opportunity to heal against the odds we’re given
  • The universe where we believe that the body and spirit has the miraculous ability to heal itself

THE MAINSTREAM MEDICINE UNIVERSE

  • The other, alternate or parallel universe where diagnosis is the dictator
  • The universe of absolutes.  Formulas that should work for every person and every body exist in this universe.
  • The universe of mainstream medicine

One of my students, inflicted with a damaged ankle, told me that recently she has been feeling that she lives in and out of two universes.  She believes that her body has the miraculous power to heal in undocumented ways.  She feels empowered and aware of parts of her body she never knew existed.  She believes in her inner strength and that every cell and molecule inside and out of her body is connected.

However, after being fitted for necessary ankle stability boots at a prosthetics and orthotics center in Santa Monica, my student began to feel exiled from the Energetic Body Universe.  The consultant had supported the diagnosis her doctor had made. Her ankle was damaged “beyond repair.”  The ligaments were “destroyed.”  He pronounced her quite bow-legged and blankly stared when she informed him that she is now not as bow-legged as she once was.  He told her that she must always wear the pricey boots in order for her ankle to feel stable.  He was matter-of-fact and his comments were absolute.

My client has struggled for many years with severe foot pain and has had several acute left ankle injuries since she was a child.  Her ligaments are damaged and her left ankle and surrounding structures are tight and weak.  However, with dedicated Pilates and bodywork over the past five years, she has seen such great improvement!  The bones in her feet have spread and she is able to stand in neutral foot alignment bearing weight with less pain.  She is vastly improved.  “Damaged beyond repair” doesn’t apply when we refuse to accept that something can “never heal.”  Is only a full and complete recovery considered miraculous or can we accept any improvement in the face of a bleak diagnosis as a miracle?  I believe we can.

Absolute negative statements, “never” ”can’t” “won’t” create roadblocks to the healing process.  “Oh, the reason I can’t do that is because my ankle is damaged beyond repair.”  “Oh, don’t bother trying to help my back, because my doctor told me it will always hurt because of the degeneration of my discs.”

Lately, my once optimistic student has hopelessly referred to her ankle as destroyed, often citing the daunting words of her internist, “Well, those ligaments are just completely damaged.”  My fear is that she has forgotten all of her progress and that she will think no matter what we do, there is no hope in healing her ankle, because of this powerfully negative diagnosis.  She is floating in limbo, close to the edge of the Mainstream Medicine Universe!

Today, however, she had a breakthrough!  I think she realized that these two universes can intersect.  She has decided to gratefully accept the knowledge of these facts: Ligaments are not innervated with much blood flow.  They are beautiful bands of tough connective tissue that attach one bone to another bone.  Her ligaments, although damaged, are made of living cells and with the support of surrounding musculature and tissue, her ankle may possibly heal, strengthen and feel more supported.  Her new boots will aid this process and serve as a wonderful biomechanical tool as she continues to visualize those amazing ligaments and muscles lacing her bones together and supporting the rest of her frame.

Why can’t these two universes intersect?  We can appreciate the miraculous science and continuous ongoing research that we’ve been blessed with, and also humbly believe that we aren’t fully aware of the unlimited capabilities the body has to heal.  We don’t fully know the depths of space or the sea and all of the miraculous magic that may be, and similarly we don’t fully know the depths of the harmonious pandemonium within our bodies.

One of my teachers, Kelly Kane, told me that the body is chaos.  I understood this as the body being made up of so many elements: physical, visceral and nervous systems, mind and thought, emotion and spiritual energetic energy.  Complete and beautiful chaos.  It seems, therefore, irrational and somewhat narrow-minded to believe that there are only specific or absolute formulas or diagnoses that apply to every single one of us.

A universe of magical chaos.  Why not explore it and believe that within the harmonious pandemonium of the human body, there is an endless amount of healing power yet to be discovered?

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In-Depth Functional Anatomy Workshop

In-Depth Functional Anatomy
 
Part Two:
Shoulder Girdle and Upper Spinal Column
Saturday, February 4th 10am-3pm    $45
 
 
This course explores musculoskeletal anatomy and basic kinesiology principles—emphasizing the trunk, hip and shoulder girdle—as they relate to the teaching and practice of Pilates, yoga asana, and bodywork. Class is presented in a lecture-style format. In addition, we will learn to palpates muscles, bones, and ligaments on one another, as well as hands-on postural assessment techniques.  We will hone our eyes as we observe each other in movement or asana, as to appreciate the anatomical model in a 3-dimensional form, examining the way muscles shorten, lengthen, and stabilize joints. Issues such as core stability, common tension patterns, the body as a weight-bearing structure counteracting gravity, correct alignment, and injury recovery are addressed and investigated. This course will give you the tools needed to deepen your yoga practice and teach your students on a more intrinsic level with more advanced anatomical awareness, hands-on palpation skills and a keener eye.
Recommended Reading – Anatomy of Movement (Please bring it along if you have it)
Please email me if you are interested or have any questions!

Boundaries of the Body (and beyond) Lie within the Brain…

 

I am intrigued by the power of our brains, so much so that I often discuss it in class and frequently blog about it. I have previously posted about neuroplasticity and the brain’s remarkable ability to actually change, adapting itself to situations that are presented to it.

Jill Bolte Taylor‘s experience supports my beliefs and pushes my curiosity to another level. Dr. Taylor practices neuroanatomy, the branch of anatomy that deals with the nervous system.

In 1996, after suffering a stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain, Dr. Taylor was amazingly able to witness and study the effects of the stroke on her own brain and document the resulting changes.

Our brains are made up of two hemispheres, the right and the left. 

The right hemisphere processes multi-sensory input and connects us to the “whole” energetically.  It places us in the present moment.  It validates our being “right here, right now.”  It thinks in pictures and learns through the movements of our bodies.  It connects us energetically and molecularly to the global human race.

The left hemisphere thinks linearly and methodically, connecting the past and the future.  It categorizes and analyzes, thinks in language and connects us to our external world.  It reminds us that, “I am.”  “I am a single solid individual and I am separate from the rest.”

Taylor lost the function of her left hemisphere the day of her stroke.  She tells her story of how her thinking became disconnected, how she could no longer define the boundaries of her own body.  Her molecules began to blend with the molecules around her.  Her analytical left hemisphere was bleeding, impaired and unable to communicate with her right hemisphere.  Dr. Taylor’s ability to define herself as a single, separate, thinking individual was absent.

She speaks of her experience as reaching nirvana.  After she awoke from near death and her life-saving surgery, she felt expansive and wondered how would she squeeze her newfound magnificence and expansion back into her limited small body.  She contemplated if it would be possible to live in this state of being.

We have the power to choose which side of the brain we want to direct our path.  We can live more heavily in the consciousness of the left hemisphere of the brain as a single, solid individual, separate from the flow of life around us.

OR

As Dr. Taylor tells us, we have the power to emphasize the use of the right hemisphere of our brains moment by moment, which will consequently empower us to be who we want to be in the world.  We have the power to feel that “I am the life force power of the universe.”  We have the power to live beyond the limits of our physical bodies, to feel connected to one another compassionately, and to eradicate the feeling of separateness.

I am greatly inspired and quite excited by this concept. What an exceptional thought process from a neuroanatomist who was gifted the opportunity to study her own stroke and share with the world her discoveries.

Let us all be inspired to move beyond our pre-conceived notions and comfortable thinking patterns, to reach beyond the limiting boundaries of our bodies, and strive for nirvana.

In Depth Functional Anatomy Workshop

I will be hosting the first anatomy workshop at hOm Yoga in Laguna Beach Saturday, December 10th. 

All of the information is listed below and the workshop, as it is the first, is being offered at a low rate. The space is limited, so please let me know if you are interested!

This course is geared towards yoga teachers, Pilates instructors, bodywork practitioners and serious students looking to deepen their anatomical knowledge.

In-Depth Functional Anatomy

This course explores musculoskeletal anatomy and basic kinesiology principles—emphasizing the trunk, hip and shoulder girdle—as they relate to the teaching and practice of Pilates, yoga asana, and bodywork.  We will learn to palpate muscles, bones, and ligaments on one another, as well as hands-on postural assessment techniques. We will hone our eyes as we observe each other in movement or asana, as to appreciate the anatomical model in a 3-dimensional form, examining the way muscles shorten, lengthen, and stabilize joints. Issues such as core stability, common tension patterns, the body as a weight-bearing structure counteracting gravity, correct alignment, and injury prevention/recovery are addressed and investigated. This course will give you the tools needed to deepen your yoga practice and teach your students on a more intrinsic level with more advanced anatomical awareness, hands-on palpation skills and a keener eye.

Recommended Reading – Anatomy of Movement (Please bring it along if you have it)

Part One: Pelvic Girdle and the Lower Spinal Column

Saturday December 10th    10 am-2:30 pm   $45

Part Two: Shoulder Girdle and Upper Spinal Column   

TBA    $45

Please email me to register.

barbara@barbarastamis.com

Have You Logged Your 10,000 Hours Yet?

In his book, “Outliers: the Story of Success,” Malcom Gladwell gives us many reasons why success is not purely based on intelligence, ambition and personality traits.  He argues that one’s surroundings, family, generation, upbringing and culture play a major role.

In the chapter, “The 10,000-Hour Rule,” Gladwell quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin’s assertion that “ten thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert…in anything” Gladwell refers to geniuses of our time including Mozart, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and the Beatles, noting that they all mastered their amazing skills after a minimum of 10,000 hours of practice or study, and that without those 10,000 hours, they may never have achieved the heights they did.

Gladwell goes into much more detail about these hours and how they can only be achieved with special circumstances.  One small example: In 1968, Bill Gates, bored in public school, was transferred to Lakeside, an elite private school that happened to have a computer club.  This particular junior high computer club had a computer that used a more advanced system of coding in a time when most colleges didn’t even have computer clubs.   Bill Gates was presented with the opportunity to begin his 10,000 hours of computer programming and coding in eighth grade in 1968, when most young people his age hadn’t even seen a computer.

This was one of the many “special circumstances” that propelled Gates forward towards achieving his 10,000 hours.

This got me thinking about the application of this diligent practice towards the proper function of our nervous systems and neuro-pathways.  How much practice does the neuro-muscular system need to master proper joint function after years of improper joint function?  How long does it take for the nervous system to create a new and more beneficial habit to replace an old un-serving poor postural habit?

I tell students that breaking ourselves of improper habits takes time and diligence.  For centuries and for good reason, the yogis have taught and encouraged us to continue personal practice in our private spaces on and off of our yoga mats.  I encourage my students to incorporate what we work on in the studio into their daily lives.  A new habit will form with consistency and repetition.

I have read that it takes twenty-one days, thirty days, six weeks or more to break a behavioral pattern, a habit or addiction. I don’t claim to know the exactness of this statement, but it now sounds to me like it may take longer.  However, I do have first-hand experience working with a student who had her left side paralyzed after a traumatic spinal surgery.  She spends most of her time retraining her nervous system.  She has had to change the way that she perceives and feels movement.  Her brain has had to learn to function differently.  She has progressed beautifully over time by leaps and bounds, re-learning walking and re-learning the use of her hands and feet. It has been her priority to re-learn and re-structure her movement habits.  Because her practice is dedicated, she is surely close to logging her 10,000 hours of neuromuscular re-education!

Brainline.org

Neuroplasticity is a non-specific neuroscience term referring to the ability of the brain and nervous system in all species to change structurally and functionally as a result of input from the environment.[1] Plasticity occurs on a variety of levels, ranging from cellular changes involved in learning, to large-scale changes involved in cortical remapping in response to injury. The most widely recognized forms of plasticity are learning, memory, and recovery from brain damage. During most of the 20th century, the general consensus among neuroscientists was that brain structure is relatively immutable after a critical period during early childhood. This belief has been challenged by new findings, revealing that many aspects of the brain remain plastic even into adulthood. -Wikipedia

After reading “Outliers: The Story of Success,” and learning about the 10,000 hour rule, I view neuroplasticity also as a science of practice.  The brain will change and the body will master a new way of moving, but only with practice.  Most of us do yoga or Pilates once or twice a week, but upon heading out to our daily routines after leaving the watchful eye of our instructors, many of us cease to be aware of our bodies. But, we must apply our practice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!  (Yes, even while we sleep!  Propping ourselves with pillows and being aware of how we contort our bodies while we sleep is part of our practice). At some point after the 10,000 hours of determined and dedicated practice, we will discover that our body awareness becomes as much an unconscious part of us as breathing itself.

Many people recovering from injury, when beginning a new rehabilitation program, feel positive results quickly but then plateau for a while.  Frustrated, confused and impatient, they ask, “Why am I not progressing?”  “Why do I still have pain?”  “Shouldn’t I be much better?” Shouldn’t I be healed by now?”

Maybe, instead, it would be more helpful to reflect on this question:

“Have I logged my 10,000 hours of practice yet?”

Back Pain 101 (Instruction)

As fall arrives, our schedules and activities stir up and so do the little aches and pains within the body. Our bodies have been accustomed to the warmth of the sun and the restorative qualities summer and vacation bring.  As fall arrives it is important to listen to what our bodies are telling us.  We must be gentle and undo some of the tightness resulting from our busy schedules, obligations and activities.  It is time to dig in to your tool box and heal some of those aches.  I have, and I am feeling so much better!

Back Pain 101 

These are my 4 favorite and simple tools that help relieve back tightness and create a spacious and healthy spine… (Especially after a surf, hike or a long day of driving or work!)

Props you will need:

Feldenkrais Foam Roller (if you don’t have one, you should buy one!  They are handy for EVERYTHING!)

Tennis Ball or Pinky Ball

Yoga Strap, Belt or Towel

Yoga Mat

1) Lay out your mat and place your foam roller down horizontally.  Roll out those tight Iliotibial Bands (This is the band of tissue that originates up near the gluteal tissue and superficial hip flexors).  Roll the roller along the tissue on the side of your thigh from below the ilium of your pelvis to just above your knee.  Do this slowly, breathing deeply as you release.  NOTE:  This can be quite painful, so take your time and be gentle.  Roll both sides. IT Band Release Video

2) Lie on your back along the mat with your knees bent and feet flat about hip distance apart.  Grab your tennis ball and slide it underneath your gluteal tissue on one side (the fleshy part of your bum).  You will know the spot when you hit it, as it may feel tender.  Hug that knee into your chest and extend the other leg out straight onto the mat and let it relax.  Begin to make circles with the leg you are hugging towards your chest so as to release the tissue around the ball.  Make circles in both directions feeling the tissue release from the pressure of the ball.  Continue with long inhales and exhales as you allow your abdomen to relax. Feel free to move the ball to different areas as you find new spots that need to release!  Perform on both sides.

3) Continue lying on your back.  Bend both knees with the feet flat on the mat and hip distance apart.  Grab your strap or belt and loop it around your one foot.  You will gently move into a hamstring stretch.  Please see posted video for guidance. 

4) Hug both knees to the chest while pressing some gentle weight into the base of your pelvis as to keep a slight curve away from the mat in the lumbar spine.  Extend your legs out long and become aware of how the body now feels.  Take a few breaths here and remember to roll to one side to press yourself up to sit.

Please note that if you have been diagnosed with an injury, are in an acute stage of injury or are experiencing frequent pain it is best to seek the undivided attention of a professional rather than practicing from this instruction.  Also, please feel free to email me with any questions or concerns!

Seasonal Shift

We are not promised one day of our life. Each comes as a gift. Every waking is something of a surprise. Sometimes we wake to clouds and rain. Sometimes it rains for days. We may hesitate to play under heavy clouds, but those darker days are no less gifts than the sunny ones. Water and light are both elemental graces. I’ll welcome the rain today, and roll with the thunder, but I must admit I prefer the blazing sun!  Gil Hedley

Gil! I totally hear you!  Labor Day evening hit me hard.  The last week was filled with beautiful swell and sunny weather.  I am not sure if the sand or water was more filled with people at Malibu Pier.  The beach was pumping with sustaining swell, high energy and social activity.  Last night I drove up to Malibu again with a girlfriend happy to surf much smaller waves with much less of a crowd.  We definitely had a lovely night, but the evening felt a little blue.  The same energy had diminished, the air was chilly and the end of a long weekend hit us.  We lamented the end of bright warm summer nights…

As always, when something ends, another something begins.  So, even though it isn’t raining here and is a beautiful sunny day, I will await and welcome the crispness of fall, a time to cleanse and ground.  I will be grateful for the new work that will flow in, the cooler weather and even waking up in the dark on those short winter days.  I don’t have to love this time as much as I adore the summer, but I will practice to appreciate every day and feel blessed to experience every moment.