It's all in the Wrists: Experiential Anatomy

Do you have hands? Do you use them? 

Do you use them for handling technology, for creating your art, for cycling, for golfing? If so, it's more than likely that at some point you've also experienced pain in your hands, perhaps the term "carpal tunnel syndrome" has entered your thoughts, maybe you've got some weird aches in your elbows, and your shoulders and neck feel painful and tight at times. For my next two installments of " Breathe In, Work Out" I thought I'd focus on the relationship between these parts. 

( to go directly to the workout, click here)

To begin with, let's get a basic sense of the structure we are dealing with. According to Tom Myers, it's as easy as "1, 2, 3, 4, 5". ( if we ignore the fact that there is a tiny bone that is stacked on another bone in the wrist, then he's on to something)

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I don't write these blogs to lecture people on anatomy so much as I write them to give people a sense of how their bodies move on the inside, so I'm going to align with Tom's breezy delivery here, and explain it in a simple way.

You have one bone in your upper arm, which connects at the elbow to two bones in your forearm. These two bones connect to the first three bones of your wrist, which in turn connect to the lower four, which then connect to your 5 metacarpals( the finger bones in your palm) that then connect to the 5 lengths of the phalanges ( the finger bones that extend out of your palm).

To look at the way our hand positions travel up our arm, we would turn this upside down and arrive at "5, 4, 3, 2, 1".

Layered over your skeleton you have a beautiful and complex matrix of muscles, ligaments and tendons that move these bones in all of the intricate ways that have allowed humans to evolve beyond walking on all fours and eating only raw food. Indeed, it is in large part due to our manual dexterity that we have become the civilization that we are. And as usual, our strengths in certain areas create imbalances in others.

Most of our hand/wrist issues come from the need to maintain tight positions in order to manipulate devices, for example your cellphone, a paintbrush, your bike brakes, or a golf club. We repetitively do the same motion over and over for hours in order to create endorphin rushes, achieve artistic satisfaction, and earn our paycheck. Then we wonder why we hurt, or maybe we know why we hurt but we have no idea what to do about it.

Let's flip this 1,2,3,4,5 idea one more time.

Stand up and try walking for a moment just on the baby toe edge of your foot, then try the same with the big toe edge. Notice how you feel the impact not only in your foot but your shin, your knees, your thighs and your hips. Once again, acknowledge that you are, in fact, connected. 

By limiting range of motion in the fingers and palms ( we do this by only moving in certain ways all the time and  never exploring the other options ) we cause imbalances that travel up to the shoulders and the neck. 

So this week, I offer you an 8 minute sequence to restore range of motion in your hands and wrists. 

Enjoy!

 

 

My mission is to create a world where people are happy in their bodies.
I believe that happier people will bring us closer to a world that exists in
peace. 


Breathe On

Domini

Tee Time, Part 2

As promised, here is the Tee Time cool down sequence. 

Much of it focuses on restoring upper body flexibility and alignment. The velocity of the swing, coupled with the range of motion required in the shoulders can definitely cause some impingement out towards the end of the clavicle, so I included a resistance stretching sequence that resets muscle length in order to restore proper alignment of the shoulder girdle post game. 

There are some lower back and hamstring stretches, as well as hip flexor/psoas lengthening exercises, which hopefully will have you walking away loose and pain free. 

 

As always, I don't live in your body, YOU DO. Please make sure that you listen to it, and that everything you do feels good to you. 

If you are interested in Justin Russo and his out of the box approach to improving your game, check out his website. He offers a number of affordable group coaching series', as well as expert personal training. 

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Tee Time, Part 1

In the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of working with Justin Russo, a well known and loved golf instructor on the Monterey Peninsula, both in the studio and on the course. One of the most enjoyable aspects of this collaborative dialogue has been our shared love of "Zen and the Art of Archery", which has profoundly influenced both of our training styles. 

Last week I met him out on the range for my very first lesson, and we spent 1.5 hours practicing my swing, giving me both a profound appreciation for the techniques behind it, and a distinct muscle memory ( including soreness!) that lasted for about 3 days.


From that experience, I created a warm up and cool down to complement his training for his students. 

The warm up requires a golf club, putter, or iron. You will want to select yours based on "agreeable weight" ( we use the natural weight of the iron for some traction) and length ( you should be able to hold on to either end and easily raise and lower your arms). We focus on breathing, centering, opening up the shoulder girdle, then move down through the torso, waking up the abdominals and stretching the low back, then mobilizing the lower limbs. It's a lovely 10 minute sequence to prepare you for your game, or simply to start your day.

 

I'll share the cool down with you next week. 

Breathe On, 
Domini

Into Orbit - Workout

In this little sequence, we explore range of motion at some of the more common points of intersection in the body. For a full explanation of my approach, you can click here.

I put this together using a stability ball, which allows for support, along with movement. But if you don't have one, a chair, or the corner of a bed will do just as well.

As always, I don't live in your body, YOU do. 

Please be mindful and only do what feels good to you. 

My mission is to create a world where people are happy in their bodies.
I believe that happier people will bring us closer to a world that exists in
peace. 


Breathe On

Domini

 

Into Orbit - Experiential Anatomy

This week, I put together a brief exploration of the orbits of the joints throughout the body. 

I am certainly not the first person to explore the metaphor of the human body and it's relationship to outer space, and analogies abound. Here is a lovely visual called the " Infinite Zoom", for example, showing the similarities at every level of humanity to our infinite environment. 

 

Now, back to that universe within you... 

When we move a joint, we are typically taking one of the intersecting bones and taking it's opposite end in a range of motion. For example, to articulate the wrist, you could circle your hand, causing motion in the joint below. Given how our body is put together, nearly every joint has a circular possibility of movement, either because of the shape of the joint itself, or the rotational capacity of the bones meeting within it. To maintain range of motion, one must use it, so by "orbiting" one area around the next, we can gently rediscover ranges of motion.

We have more joints in the body than we have bones, and there are a number of different types, some that move more than others. For a helpful video that breaks this down, you can click on over here and learn all about them. However, to understand the concept behind this week's installment of "Breathe In, Work Out", it's not necessary to have committed them all to memory. 

A healthy human body will create movement in a "chain", where force and articulation are distributed harmoniously over a series of muscles, bones and joints. Visualize a whip cracking in slow motion, and how that movement travels through the length of a cord. That would be an example of well distributed movement. 

When a body is injured, or out of alignment, movement becomes restricted in one or more places, and the ability to evenly distribute movement is lost, as certain joints lose their range, and other joints are asked to take on more of the load, creating imbalanced movement in the body. Through repetitive motion, we can wind up wearing down on certain joints, while freezing others in perpetual lack of motion. 

The most articulate joints in the body are called Synovial joints, where the intersecting bones are protected by a fluid sack called a Bursa, that is filled with synovial fluid. As the joint opens and closes, this fluid is distributed throughout it, lubricating the points of contact and maintaining smooth range of motion. When motion is restricted, so is the ability to lubricate the joint, resulting in limited range, and in some cases, pain. 

Through repetitive motion, our body learns movement patterns, and over time, your body can teach itself to either loosen up your chains of motion, or further restrict them. So I created this little sequence to move through some of the more common points of articulation in the body, exploring an " orbit" at each one. 

I couldn't help but to include this beautiful version of William Orbit's "Triple Concerto", remixed by DJ Hanif Wondir, as the pairing was too appropriate. 

 

 

Inter Plane-etary - Workout

 

 I created this week's installment of " Breathe In- Work Out " for the lower back and hips, applying the concept of stretching out on multiple planes from one common source of tightness.

I briefly explain the concept behind my approach here

My mission is to create a world where people are happy in their bodies.
I believe that happier people will bring us closer to a world that exists in
peace. 


Breathe On

Domini

 

Inter Plane-etary - Experiential Anatomy

To seek out new planes, new dimensions, to boldly inhale where no breath has gone before...

In this week's installment of " Breathe In, Work Out" I thought we'd return to the topic of Inner Space, and add in the concept of co-ordinates. You see, when we're working with a human body, we are dealing with a three dimensional object that moves in multiple planes simultaneously, while changing shape in relation both to those planes, and according to volume. ( food, drink and air are all examples of volume exchange)

So  if you apply this concept to an area of tightness, you would want to traction the body in multiple planes, perhaps adding in some expansion via volume, with a focus of moving away from the greatest point of contraction. 

Although this sounds a little heady when it's written out, the concept is simple, not dissimilar to how you stretch out a wrinkle in your fitted bed sheet while making your bed. You pull that wrinkle out from the edges, stretching the sheet out on the plane of your mattress.

Now imagine that your sheet is stretched out around a constellation, where there are multiple points at different coordinates in space. In order to stretch out a wrinkle now, you would need to pull away at multiple points on multiple planes in order to create your smooth result. 

 

I created this week's workout to address out a common area of tightness for people: the lower back and hips. applying the concept of stretching out on multiple planes from one shared point,  using a triple inhalation for added volume exchange. 

 

You will need a chair. Don't overthink it. The best chair is the one you can use right now. 

As always, I don't live in your body, You do.

Please be mindful of your practice and take care of yourself.  

 

Inner Space - Workout

Where there is no movement, breath is movement.

The "still point"  that obsesses me is the bridge between breath and movement. The marriage of the conscious and unconscious. An action that defines the union of the soul with the body, the marker of " life", the crucial task that defines survival (with the first breath) and surrender (with the last). 

 

This is not just a philosophical love letter. 

This is a manual on how to create movement where there is none, on how to bring life back to the lifeless. 

I have written a brief essay breaking this technique down. It would be helpful for you to read it before diving in to the workout. I have done my best to keep your reading time to 5 minutes or less. 


This week's installment of " Breathe In, Work Out" is a 10 minute breathing sequence designed to release upper body tension. 

 

My mission is to create a world where people are happy in their bodies.
I believe that happier people will bring us closer to a world that exists in
peace. 


Breathe On

Domini

 

 

Inner Space - Experiential Anatomy

Where there is no movement, breath is movement.

 

A brief anatomical lesson: 

Your lungs are organs, and to that effect, they do not " breathe themselves".

Your lungs' resting state is that of a vacuum, and it takes a muscular effort from the "auxiliary muscles" ( so to say, the muscles that surround them) to pull them apart in order to bring oxygen in to your body. Let's think about this for a second... what "surrounds your breath?" 

 

Well, first of all, it comes in through your nose or your mouth, and travels down through your throat canal, then lodges in your lungs, where it is converted in food for your blood, and is then released through your mouth or your nose, as the muscles that were holding you open relax back in to their resting state. 

 

So we're talking about, oh, Face muscles, head muscles, neck muscles, chest and back muscles and ... does it go deeper? Let's see. Purse your lips and blow out like you're blowing out a birthday candle. Did you feel that? Ok, so let's include the pelvic floor. 

 

How are these muscles involved? In different ways: 

Up at the top, your nose/mouth/throat could be seen as your apertures, or : different openings to allow air in at different speeds. This is an area somewhat out of control, in that many of the articulations are created by nonspecific desires, such as " that smells great, let me open my sinuses and breathe deeply", or " I'm gonna sing this bass note for 4 bars now" a blending of both conscious and unconscious actions in the body, Both having very specific results>

 

Traveling down through the neck, your chest/upper back muscles are the primary ones involved in actively opening the body to receive breath. Think about how you spontaneously lift your arms when you yawn - a perfect example of unconscious movement for a specific and desired result. 

 

Below the ribs, the abdominals and pelvic floor muscles come in to play, mainly because of their interaction with the movement  the upward movement of the diaphragm,  of the peritoneum ( the sac that surrounds your digestive system), and the resulting vacuum that pulls the lowest ribs down, and engages the transverse abdominus up towards the lower back. 

 

To break down the organ movement, imagine two accordions on top of a water balloon. The accordions fill with air, through an active " pulling apart". The water balloon responds to a liquid or solid ( as opposed to air) volume, but can be easily displaced according to the pressure of the above accordions. These two organ systems are separated by a muscle called the diaphragm, which deserves a lot more attention than I am going to give it here. 

 

As you ask your body to intake air, the muscles of your chest flex, responding to the allotment of air decided by your upper apertures, given a range of circumstances such as temperature, stress conditions, sound issues, or ease of bodily movement. They cause the lungs to inflate, pulling in air and expanding the space inside the ribcage. That pushes down on on the diaphragm, which is forced to inflate, and at the same time, depress the digestive organs, pushing them out below the ribcage. 

 

After a pause, the body exhales, a controlled release of air. This is again achieved by conscious/unconscious actions of the skull muscles. The lungs deflate, they pull up on the diaphragm, which ( if left uninterrupted) pulls the peritonium up with it, and initiates the upwards and backwards movement of both the pevic floor and transverse abdominus as the muscular body is moved towards the spine.

Yeah. 

That happens every time you breathe.

So here's where it gets interesting. 

There is a term called " tidal volume" 

It refers to the amount of breath that you need to keep yourself " not dead". In essence, at a state of basic human body function expectations. 

It is demarcated by " apneas, as in, a pause in the breath. Ideally there is one between both the inhale and the exhale. It's usually the pace at which you breathe when your are sleeping. 

Let's just think about that... if the basic amount of oxygen exchange necessary for human survival is the range we have when we're sleeping, then our stressed out "awake" breathing patterns are not even keeping us functioning at a level that supports survival. 

Tidal volume is about 35% of your lung capacity, located in the middle of your range. Above that is called "Inhalatory Reserve Volume" and below is called " Exhalatory Reserve Volume". 

You can in fact, expand your lungs' capacity to breathe and by doing so, stretch your body out from the inside by working in to the IRV and ERV ranges, and I explore the key to developing that in this 10 minute breathing sequence for upper body tension.

 

For all those who marched today

Thank you. 

I made this for you. 

I had originally created a 10 minute Work-In on the ball to iron out the knots created by marching, and carrying signs, but was plagued by the knowledge that many have flown to Washington, or driven to major cities, and are not at home, and most likely have little more than a bag and a bed at the moment.

So I made a second one, using a bed ( also not my own) for the same effect.

Designed to release the neck, shoulders, upper and lower back, your psoas, butt, hamstrings and quads, and as always, uses the breath as a mechanism for deep release, emotional, physical and spiritual. 

Thank you for marching. 

Thank you for your solidarity. 

We face a long march ahead of us, and it is crucial to stay grounded and in our bodies. 

We must remember to breathe, now more than ever. 

 

 

 

This is Spinal Map

In order to work your core, you have to be able to feel it. 

Essentially, your core is what surrounds your spine, and so I created this somatic experience to activate not only the muscles that mobilize your spine, but also your awareness of their minute functions. 

You can practice this on it's own, or as an excellent warmup for any movement class you might want to take. 

It will change your practice.