Author: You As A Machine

46 year old. Wife and mother of two. I help you to help yourself. Be fit and healthy. Learning how to grow my own food. Working towards sustainable living.

Lunapads

Calvin Math

Calvin Math By Bill Watterson

It is not uncommon to come across people who have an aversion to math, and equally common to come across people with an aversion to human anatomy and physiology. I used to have an aversion to math but I’ve overcome it by looking at it in the same way I look at the human body. I don’t have to have all the answers locked up in my head like I used to think was necessary. All I need to do is know HOW to find the answers. The art of problem solving – that’s how the education system should have introduced math, and everything else for that matter. It’s the same for anatomy and physiology; it’s not necessary to know all the anatomical names (albeit helpful) to understand anatomy, but rather, knowing where to look to find the information. More fun, less stress.

If you have been reading my blog for a while you know that I love how the human body works – (in its entirety), I value taking care of the environment and practice personal responsibility for my actions.

I will preface this post with a readers’ discretion, in the case you are uncomfortable with the natural functions of the body…or math. Though there will be no quiz at the end, I will talk a bit about some staggering numbers that if we all do our part, those numbers can get smaller and more manageable.

Typically, men are forewarned about this subject to guard themselves should they prefer to make a quick retreat, but there are equally many menstruating people who would rather not discuss this monthly, biological function. You may have been taught to hide your monthly flow, or in contrast, openly discuss it with anyone, or to dismiss it entirely as if it didn’t even exist so as to not miss a beat.

Check out this funny video of men explaining periods. Stick around and read this post because it’s full of links to some really great information which highlight the health risks and the environmental waste involved with disposable feminine hygiene products. Besides, there’s a chance to win a twenty-five dollar gift certificate!

There has been a lot of buzz of late attempting to demystify the menstrual cycle from parody commercials, that first moon party video by HelloFlo to finally, putting to rest the battle over the tax on feminine hygiene products – The tax has been lifted across Canada!

Here’s the math part:

Each month the global population of menstruating people will require on average four to seven days worth of feminine hygiene products. Lunapads estimates that:

“…approximately 20 billion pads, tampons and applicators are being sent to North American landfills annually. On an individual level, each of the approximately 73 million menstruating people in North America will throw away 16,000 disposable pads or tampons in their lifetime.” [1] Your turn, to pull out your calculator and number crunch what that means on a global scale…Yikes!

It’s pretty clear where I’m going with what we can do to shrink those numbers – change to reusable, you can even make your own if you’re crafty. Let’s also consider for a moment exactly what most of those products are made from, and how those products react to the user and finally how those products will be disposed?

Out of sight, out of mind.

“…Use once and throw away…”

So what exactly is in these products? Read this short article by Titania Kumeh who explains it all in a very short piece for Mother Jones. And because of what these products are made from, women risk their health in a variety of ways from the plastics, viscose rayon, chlorinated and pesticide treated materials. Though the number of cases of toxic shock syndrome has gone down since the 1980’s, it still affects women today. California resident and model, Lauren Wasser barely survived the effects of toxic shock syndrome and lost her leg due to the bacterial infection in 2012. You can read her story here.

There are, however, companies who make organic products with our health and environment in mind, such as Natracare, Seventh Generation and Maxim.

What ever did women do before the advent of the commercially-made disposable menstrual products so readily available today? Read the History of Menstruation.

In general women used reusable cloths. Today, we benefit from a reusable silicone Diva Cup and reusable cotton and organic cotton menstrual pads as well as leakproof underwear or “Lunapanties with absorbency options to fit your flow.” And Lunapads has thought of everything – how to deal with quick changes on the go with their cute wet/dry bags by Planet Wise.

We can shrink the number of used feminine hygiene products going to landfill by switching over to reusable products.

I’m always switching things up: how I exercise my body, what I eat, trying my best at eliminating plastic waste and contributing as little as possible to landfill. As a result of switching over to Lunapads exclusively, and because I swim regularly, I have had to change my training schedule. For the last while, I’ve given up swimming during menstruation, which is about four days every three weeks or so. I’ve decided that I can do other activities during that time, like walking, which is one of the best forms of activity; Katy Bowman has a lot to say on this. Believe me, I know that not everyone can even contemplate this…I’ve been athletic my entire life and I can’t remember EVER letting my period stop me from doing any sport. I guess the difference now, is that my perspective has changed and having my period is a blessing as opposed to the ‘curse’ I grew up hearing about.

“Nothing’s going to stop me!” “Just Do It” “Push Through”…all for what exactly?

Taking these steps towards a healthier monthly cycle has introduced me to some amazing practitioners like Barbara Loomis, Rosita Arvigo and Renée Warner who practice the Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy, which “helps to restore the body to its natural balance by correcting the position of organs that have shifted and restrict the flow of blood, lymph, nerve and chi energy.”

Lunapads Samples

In the last year I switched over to Lunapads for both health and environmental reasons. I’ve also become a Lunapads Ambassador, which means I’ve got a box of unused samples to show around (wanna host a Lunapads party?) and can let you know when there are promotional coupon codes for you to try the products for the first time, to stock up on new patterns or give away as gifts.

For a little immediate incentive, enter my $25 gift certificate giveaway. I’ve got one gift certificate valued at $25. Redeemable at the Lunapads online store until July 1st, 2016.

How to enter? Leave comments or likes via social media – you know the drill. Make sure to include @ or # youasamachine so that I get notification and can enter your name into the draw. Enter as often as you like. More social media activity means more entries for you.

Contest closes August 1, 2015.

One lucky winner’s name will be randomly selected on August 1, 2015.

Good luck!

UPDATE: Aug. 2, 2015 Congratulations to Elaine Miller @GussieGrips 

UPDATE #2: September 1, 2015

After one month and many failed attempts at contacting Elaine Miller to claim her prize my son has pulled another name from the hat. The prize goes to:

 Anne-Marie Bonneau @ZeroWasteChef

Congratulations!

In the meantime, here’s a gift for everyone…for yourself or to share with someone else 🙂

Try Before You Buy

Try Before You Buy

Related Articles: [1] Lunapads: EnvironmentThe Midwife Is In, Why Switch? Sustainable Cycles, Let’s Talk About It! Eco Femme, What’s Really In That Tampon?, Novel Idea: What if We Actually Researched Whether Menstrual Products Are Safe to Use?, Menstrupedia Comic, 5 Things I do That Were Once Considered Normal

Disclaimer: I am not selling these products and am not trying to persuade anyone else to sell these products. I am a Lunapads Ambassador, which means that I can share product information with you and in exchange should you decide to make a purchase on-line and include my Ambassador Code #515021 at check-out, I will receive a small percentage of each referral. Thanks!

Also, the views expressed in this article are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lunapads or other companies mentioned. 

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Daily Maintenance for Your Face

Since about the age of fourteen I have had a clicking jaw, also known as TMD (Temporomandibular disorders). This disorder occurs as a result of problems with the jaw, jaw joint (or TMJ), and surrounding facial muscles. No one ever connected the two, but I think that the onset could have been triggered the night I broke a molar in half from deliberately crunching down on a popcorn kernel.

For the last thirty years, I have been living with a consistent and quite uncomfortable ache in my right jaw. Until today!

What changed? Well, as embarrassing as it is to admit, it was my snoring. Yes, you read that correctly. Snoring. I snore. Well, I did. I don’t anymore, and I will explain how I stopped…in ONE day!

My husband has always been a relatively light sleeper. And I wasn’t always a snorer. Over the last few years he would joke around with me and say that I had snored on occasion. But in the last six months my snoring had reached it’s peak! My husband was now sleeping with his head sandwiched between two huge square european pillows (the kind we use for propping us up while sitting in bed reading). He would wake me in the night by gently nudging me to get me to roll over…anything to stop the snoring! Of course, I would comply and other times I would ignore him (unintentionally of course, I was sleeping!).

It may have been a coincidence and who can ever say for sure, but in the last two years I had made some changes. I started orthodontic treatment and my body decided to stop sleeping with a pillow. Yes – my body decided. I didn’t consciously decide that I would no longer sleep with a pillow; I think that it had to do with all the body alignment work I was doing, and I maintain that it was my body that made the switch!

The braces are now off and I am wearing retainers 24/7 for a few more months, at which point I will only be required to wear them overnight (for the rest of my life to prevent my teeth from shifting back). I still sleep without a pillow, (intellectually and physically) I just can’t go back to using one.

Eventually, my snoring got so bad and my husband was so sleep deprived that we had to come up with a solution. I offered to go sleep in the basement or restructure our living quarters, but my husband didn’t like those options and would beg me to just go back to using a pillow. Finally, I asked him to record my snoring so that I could hear for myself. My husband has always been a great story teller and on occasion an embellisher…so, to my surprise, no, to my horror…there was not any fiction in his account. Take a listen. Keep in mind that the sounds you are about to hear were made by me: 43 year old female, standing 5’5″ weighing 118 pounds.

How is this possible? I sound like a father bear! Hearing myself was enough to launch immediate remediation. It didn’t take me more than a second to realize (from the sounds of it) that I am very unwell; clearly not getting enough oxygen during sleep and likely not experiencing necessary REM. I am a problem solver and boy was this going to be fun to fix!

That morning (it was Monday, March 9, 2015) when after sending the kids to school, I sat down to the computer and looked up how to stop snoring. Aside from explaining how to identify the cause in order to find a cure, the article outlined how to communicate with someone who snores and how to deal with complaints. I quickly jumped to the self-help section and noticed exercises for the throat. Very intriguing, which also reminded me of my friend Dr. Dana Colson’s book, which had a chapter on snoring and sleep apnea. In her book she describes some of these exercises but also recommends learning how to play the Didgeridoo as did this article. It is impossible to play the didgeridoo without properly balanced throat muscles. At the time of reading her book (three years ago) I immediately went out to buy a Didgeridoo, excited to learn it and teach my family. But because I wasn’t snoring at the time I let it go and focused my energy on other things.

On Monday, March 9, 2015, I started practicing the 5 suggested exercises from the how to stop snoring article.

  • Repeat each vowel (a-e-i-o-u) out loud for three minutes a few times a day.

  • Place the tip of your tongue behind your top front teeth. Slide your tongue backwards for 3 minutes a day.

  • Close your mouth and purse your lips. Hold for 30 seconds.

  • With mouth open, move jaw to the right and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on left side.

  • With mouth open, contract the muscle at the back of your throat repeatedly for 30 seconds. Tip: Look in the mirror to see the uvula (“the hanging ball”) move up and down.

  • From Dana Colson’s book following the diagram on page 64, I practiced her  suggestions which included the self-massage of facial muscles and self-applied pressure on trigger points.

The next morning (Tuesday) my husband reported that I had NOT snored. OK maybe it was a fluke? That day, I practiced all the above exercises and also added Didgeridoo playing. Wednesday morning: my husband reported that I had NOT snored that night either. So far so good. I kept doing my exercises and now feeling encouraged, I searched for proper instruction on how to do the circular breathing required for playing the Didgeridoo. I settled on Sashi. The exercises were tiring for me, which confirm that the muscles of my mouth, jaw and throat have a lot of re-learning to do. I think the snoring pointed that out.

 “The art of circular breathing, a technique that enables the wind instrumentalist to maintain an unbroken sound for long periods of time by inhaling through the nose while maintaining airflow through the instrument, using the cheeks as bellows.”1

Day Four (Thursday) morning: my husband gave me the most sincere gratitude hug and said: “Thank you! Thank you for working so hard at this. I am sleeping right through the night and feel so much better.”

It has now been one full week, and I am feeling so much better now that I am not struggling for oxygen while I sleep. There is also another plus to all this! My clicking jaw is not clicking anymore! I’m quite certain that the self-massage techniques outlined in Dr. Dana Colson’s book are to thank. I can open my mouth again, I feel like Steven Tyler. I know that I will have to include these exercises as part of my Daily Body Maintenance for the rest of my life. I look on that as a positive. It’s really nice to be more connected with oneself and to life as opposed to just rushing around and having others “fix” you with surgery or an appliance. Knowing that we have the tools to heal ourselves is human.

As a result of singing a-e-i-o-u, and wondering why these vowels are so effective, I found singer Alise Ojay who not long ago designed a singing treatment for snorers. Maybe all these years of not having confidence to sing was simply because I wasn’t exercising my singing muscles! Duh! Like with any muscle, if you don’t use it…

I find it so interesting that those of us who focus on health, fitness and body alignment somehow stop at the neck. Welcome to Daily Whole-Body Maintenance.

 

Related articles: 

Singing Therapy Brings Solace to Snorers

Singing Your Way To a Snore-Free Night

How To Stop Snoring

Didgeridoo Helps Stop Snoring

Initial 2 week Progress Report

I am so excited to share this with you!

In only two weeks of practicing the calf stretch from biomechanist Katy Bowman, SC’s back feels about 75% better! That’s what Daily Body Maintenance does, Folks!

I love chance meetings. Although it is quite telling that my chance meetings tend to coincide with daily errands. About two weeks ago I crossed paths with a friend whom I met eight years ago, when our kids were in kindergarten together. We run into each other a couple times a year…usually at the grocery store! Busy mom’s need to cut to the chase and so our 5 minute conversation covered a lot. My friend, SC (who also subscribes to my blog) so when she sees me will tell me that she is up to date on my writing. She quickly filled me in on her ‘bad back’ which referenced my latest blog post and within seconds I did a quick body analysis a la Katy Bowman and was able to get her to transfer he weight back on to her heels. From there I promised to send an email with some instructions on how she could start the process of releasing the tight muscles going up the back of her legs which would be the primary cause of her aching back. True to my word the following is the email that I sent. Feel free to follow the instructions and share it with others. All the information in the email is directly taken from the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman. But first to inspire you on your way, I thought I would share SC’s progress report which arrived to my inbox yesterday!

Hi Kathryn! Okay it’s amazing the impact of these small changes on my back.

I didn’t realize I was leaning forward when I walked! I find that alarming b/c I walk every day and I’ve been leaning forward!!! – when I see elderly people doing that and ironically I always think to myself, geez, I wish I could tell them they’re leaning forward and if they straighten they would feel better, and here I was, leaning forward!  NOW I am constantly telling myself not to lean.  It’s a tough habit to break. I find doing chores (i.e. washing dishes, cooking, computer work and even brushing my teeth) the most challenging as I’m used to doing all these activities at a severe forward angle! Now trying to break the habit is an hourly challenge!!  I can’t believe how ignorant I have been about my posture!

I have been stretching my calves 3-4 X daily – and I’ve been doing it over the yoga mat. It’s kinda nice b/c one of the girls usually will join me and we talk while we stretch. By the way, we have not been stretching efficiently or correctly.  C [10 year old daughter] has been in orthotics for over a year now and her calves are SUPER tight! I’m hoping all the stretching will help her feet as well!

My back feels about 75% better.

At work downtown, I have adopted WORK SOCKS that I slip over my regular shoe socks but I can only wear these WORK SOCKS within 8 metres of my desk. If I venture any further I may be confronted by a VP or worse, an external customer… so yes, I am finding the NO Positive Shoes a challenge.  But making the best of it.  Also, I know my left shoulder is injured and will need physio.. there’s weakness and compromised range of motion so I will need to seek professional help on that. [I think that the next series of restorative exercises will correct her shoulder but that remains to be seen].

By the way, I have forwarded your email to a couple of my girlfriends who are feeling pain in their back as well. I hope that is okay. If you have any other recommendations, I will gladly receive and practice them 🙂

Again THANK U!  I’m so glad I saw u at Choices that day! -SC

Here is my email: Hi SC, nice seeing you the other day! Change is difficult for people who really like change (like I do!), so I am very sensitive to how challenging it is for people who want to feel better but don’t really want to make any big or small changes. But it needs to be done and the best way is to start with one change at a time. So this is what I propose for you:

For one week only  (The following are some images I pulled from google just to help clarify what you are trying to do).

1) No positive heeled shoes Ideally, try to not wear any positive heeled shoes (any shoe that brings your heel above level with the rest of your foot). Which of course is difficult to do because even running shoes are often heavily padded under the heel. Avoid those rocking shoes. In any case, when you are home try to be bare footed.

The reason? Positive heeled shoes cause muscles to shorten and joints to become misaligned which are at the root cause of foot, knee, pelvis and back problems. The calf stretch (below: 3 & 3A) is just one of many exercises that is designed to help you lengthen all the tissue most commonly shortened by certain footwear. “The amount of time you spend in shoes with geometry-altering components is the time you spend shortening up all those muscles that you have been stretching out.” – Katy Bowman

In other words: for all the time you spend in footwear with heels you will need to spend that amount of time undoing those forces with these stretches. i.e. to restore your alignment. Can you still wear positive heeled shoes? Sure, but if you want to fix your back then you really need to stop wearing them for a while and reserve them for very important (occasional) occasions 🙂 The image below shows the distortions/ compensations that our body makes when we wear positive heeled shoes. 1A) Evaluation  Notice when you are standing (flat footed) if you are transferring your weight forward onto the front of your feet. Don’t do that. Ensure that you are weight bearing over your heels – all the time. When you stand, walk, stretch etc. Why? The bones of the forefoot are not designed to be loaded with our body weight. The heel bones (calcaneus and talus) are meant to hold our body weight. Which is another example why positive heeled shoes are so bad for us.

2) Parallel Feet  When you walk, stand or STRETCH, ensure that your feet are parallel. The outside of your feet should line up as in the image below (left). Notice that the toes are all pointing forward. parallel feet 2A) No Turn out This is how most people walk, with the foot (image 2A showing right foot incorrect) turning out. The left foot shows correct alignment so that all the joints work efficiently parallel foot + turnout foot

3) Calf stretch with 1/2 foam dome. If you don’t have a foam dome you can roll up a yoga mat or towel. (image to follow 3A) 

Do the following stretch 3x per day minimum. Work your way up to holding the stretch for 60 seconds each time.

How to do it:

  • you can hold onto a chair back, table top or wall for balance. Eventually you won’t need to.
  • place forefoot on top of foam. Press heel into floor.
  • ensure your body weight is back over your heel. i.e. your pelvis over your heel, ribcage over your pelvis, shoulders over ribs, head over torso…you get the idea.
  • your supporting leg also will have your weight back over that heel. (as in 1A)
  • Aim to get your hip over the heel as shown in the photo below (3).
  • Be mindful of how your upper body responds to the stretch.
  • Careful not to let upper body hunch forward.
  • Remember to keep your feet parallel when you walk and when you do this stretch

calf stretch alignmentcalf stretch with towel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1:2 foam dome1/2 foam dome (they sell them at local Fitness stores or on Amazon.ca )    If you can incorporate this into your life for the next one to two weeks then I would like to give you the next restorative stretch. Following these instructions alone will be very beneficial.

Good luck with it. Kathryn

Movement vs. Exercise

Katy Bowman, demonstrates natural reflex-driven movement

 

It’s finally happened.

I have found a teacher who has been teaching, blogging and publishing about body alignment and natural reflex-driven movement. She writes about how exercise as we’ve come to know it is what is actually causing more harm to our human-machine. Over the last (almost five years) you have watched me struggle through the transition from the discovery of HIIT to doing less exercise. I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that returning to pure biomechanics is the answer. And to boot, there is a resource already available for all of us to work from. Katy Bowman has written the “ever-elusive human manual”.

“Once you’re exposed to a very specific, mathematical approach to the functions of the body, everything begins to make sense — the pain. The injury. The cramping. The birthing outcome.”

                                                                                                          – Katy Bowman, MS

About three years ago, sometime in 2012 (approximately two years after starting this blog), I started to experiment with doing less exercise (which seemed a little odd since my blog was about health and fitness, but not completely disconnected, because I was trying to encourage physical movement, which is different than exercise AND I was having difficulty putting that into words). At the time I didn’t really have a name for what I was not doing anymore, except to refer to it as daily body maintenance. When people asked me what I did to keep in shape, I usually answered that I was experimenting with doing less; trying to see how I could maintain my health and wellbeing by doing less. But by less, I meant specifically doing less exercise, yet simultaneously, I was consciously increasing my active living component throughout the day.

“Exercise is not the flip side of the sedentary coin — movement is. While the difference may seem like an argument in semantics, these two habits are quite different.”

This was an odd transition for me, especially because I had been such a believer in exercise; mainly because it was all I knew – I had been a gymnast and sprinter, studied ballet, jazz, modern, flamenco, folk dance, was a cyclist, in-line-skater, body builder, yoga student. For a long time being a ‘competitive athlete’ was synonymous with my identity. After all, you are what you do.

Once I began teaching exercise as a job, I began to struggle with how exercise was offered to the public with respect to living a healthy lifestyle; I always felt that there was more to it, but didn’t know where to find it. Back in the early 1990’s, after becoming a certified Aerobic Instructor and Personal Trainer, I attempted to describe to a friend (thank you, Vanessa) what I was looking for in terms of body movement. She had recently learned about Pilates and suggested I look into it. Finally, when I did take some instruction, the Pilates philosophy hit home. Fortunately, the particular teacher I found had taken classical Pilates exercises to a deeper level, leaning on the restorative application angle. Yet, there was more to discover. I went back to university as a mature student to study Kinesiology, expecting to delve into the science and mechanics of movement, only to discover that The Kinesiology Department, was really the Physical Education department in disguise. They had changed their name based on enhancing job placement opportunities for future graduates. (Phys. Ed is the study of Sport Sciences meaning the study of exercise on the human body).

At present, after finding Katy Bowman, I now realize (because I am also gluten-free and think more clearly) that what I really wanted to study all those years ago was biomechanics. The good news? It’s never too late to start!

About three years ago, it occurred to me that in an effort to maintain a healthy functioning body into my nineties or one-hundred-and-twenties (because I plan on being here for a long time), I should practice now what I plan to be practicing in the future. Why would my activities be different in the future compared to the present if my goal is the same? We have enough years of research behind us to gauge that our modern approach to exercising our bodies is leading to early (or future) hip and knee replacements (or surgeries), it is not protecting us from the “affluent ailments” like osteoarthritis, diabetes and osteoporosis, from being prescribed medications, nor is it keeping us alive longer as if to protect us from death resulting from cardiovascular disease.

Which begs the statement:

“If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.”

“Alignment is not posture. Alignment is the position something needs to be in, in order to work correctly.” – Katy Bowman

For 2015, my goal is to study the introductory information put out by the Restorative Exercise Institute and then continue absorbing the rest of their on-line courses. I will share with you my progress but genuinely hope that you will consider investigating for yourself.

“People should know how to evaluate and repair themselves — and, better yet, know how to use their bodies in a way that prevents the affluent ailments.”

Exercise is not movement. Start by reading these three books.

  • Every Woman’s* Guide To Foot Pain Relief: The New Science of Healthy Feet by Katy Bowman 
  • Alignment Matters: The First Five Years of Katy Says by Katy Bowman
  • Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman

piano knabe

In fact, I’ve already given away a copy of Alignment Matters, to my piano tuner. He is a phenomenal musician who can play anything. But when he played a spectacular rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen…here take this book, besides the fact that I can’t believe you just played one of my favourite songs on my antique piano, but because you need to sit on your sit bones when you play the piano, and because I need you to play my piano forever!!! 

Oh! and I sent all three books to my Aunt Adrienne, in Ontario who was the person that first introduced me to Aerobics and Body Building (when I was sixteen). This month she turns sixty-nine years old and is a proponent of staying active. Post to follow, you won’t believe what she does. She will inspire.

If you have read this far then you deserve to enter your name in a draw to win a copy of Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. I have two copies but take note that the one I’m giving away is gently used, but if you want it (cause you really should read it), leave your name, an email or twitter handle where I can contact you (if you win) and tell me why you should get this book. If you leave a comment below, I will automatically have access to your email so you don’t have to leave it in your comment for the world to see, if that is a concern for you:)

Open to Canadian and U.S. residents only. You’ve got until March 1st, 2015 to submit your entry. UPDATE: Congratulations to LoLo, she wins a copy of Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman, MS.

* “…although the title and cover are geared towards women, this book is written for any person who is seeking a primer on optimal alignment and looking to establish a foundation that restores health.” – KB

“Motivation is For Amateurs”

The above quote by Chuck Close comes from page 43 in Seth Godin’s most recent book What To Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn)

It is such a great book filled with so much inspiration and mind clearing, smarten-yourself-up reminders and encouragement to engage in life.

I love people and love hearing the individual stories that make people tick. In the same breath I’m often saddened by the lack of drive and excuses I hear which prevent personal growth. There is a lot of talk as to making plans but those plans never materialize. Talk about being satisfied with the status quo but in the same breath complaints about everything. It makes my head spin.

Change. Everyday is a great time to improve oneself.

In this book Seth Godin points out a lot of our socially accepted excuses for not fulfilling our responsibilities.

“And what about getting in the mood? What about the motivation you’ll need to engage in this life? Our need for motivation is due to our need for reassurance. We are paralyzed by our fear that it might not work, and we let the fear demotivate us, giving us the perfect excuse not to create.”

And this is why I’m giving away a copy of this book. Just in time for the new year. I’ll ship a free copy to one person in Canada or U.S.
A winner will be announced and contacted on January 1, 2015.

Write as many comments as you like on this blog post, on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and/or Google+. Tell me why you deserve this book, why you need this book!! How this book will help you to make a difference? Use these hashtags #youasamachine #motivationisforamateurs

UPDATE Jan. 1, 2015 

Thanks to everyone for participating in this book giveaway. Congratulations go out to Maya as the winner. Because there were so many wonderful comments and many who just retweeted I had my daughter draw the winning name from a hat. If the book does not get claimed then we will draw another name. To all the others, I hope that you will go out and get yourselves a copy 🙂 and perhaps be inspired to share it with others!

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Would You Like To Volunteer?

Would You Like To Volunteer?

Send me your footage.

 Do you like to exercise but wonder if what you are doing is aggravating your body?

Do you have?

  • Severe foot pronation? Bunions?
  • Bowed or knocked knees?
  • Clicking joints?
  • Are you chronically injured?
  • One shoulder higher than the other? Hips unleveled?
  • Scoliosis? Kyphosis? Lordosis?

Do you feel as though you exercise like everyone else but wonder why your body doesn’t respond in the same way? How we eat plays an equally important role in our results but for this experiment I am focusing primarily on body alignment.

Part 1 of 2

I am looking for volunteers with incorrect body alignment. And by the way, none of us is aligned. We live in a world where we carry and haul things and are chronically imbalanced; one side of our body dominates. People who carry heavy handbags on one shoulder while walking; whether heavy or not, most often as a result only swing one arm as they walk, which causes an imbalance for the skeletal structure. Static sitting at workstations, slumped in postures, in intentionally characteristic and stylistic ways, while when driving the car, sitting on a bus or just posturing to look cool. All of these unwittingly or self-imposed postures can have and can leave painful and deforming side effects.

I am making a short educational video about the importance and relationship of correct anatomical alignment with exercise and everyday movement patterning.

I am looking for volunteers to submit video footage that they are willing to have critiqued and viewed publicly in the video I am producing.

As a result, your name or face need not appear in the video. I just need footage of incorrect body alignment in motion.

In exchange I will educate you on how you can help yourself correct any faulty patterns, either by email or you will learn this through watching the video once it has been complete.

Send me good quality, non-shaky, video footage (from your phone is OK) that is 15-30 seconds long (one video or multiple), showing clear foot patterning in walking or running from the front and back as well as arm swing. I would like footage of cyclists from behind showing leg placement. Also, swimmers, tennis players…of any sport, yoga, martial arts, etc. Sitting at workstations showing head and neck position. How about getting someone to take footage of how you look when you are looking at your hand held device? How do you sit in your car; as a passenger or at the wheel?

If you would like your name included in the final credits for your video contribution please indicate at the time of submitting your footage. However, I cannot guarantee that your video footage will make the final cut.

Only send footage that you are comfortable being included in my video for public viewing. By submitting your footage to me, it will be understood and agreed upon that the content will be considered my property and will or won’t be included in the final cut. Please only submit video of yourself, not of unsuspecting strangers. That’s just not nice.

Part 2 of 2

In addition, I have already selected a local volunteer from Vancouver who is willing to be filmed from head to toe on an on-going basis. This person is an avid exerciser who has some or all of the elements listed above. She is willing to experiment with following my advise for six to twelve months. The fun part will be to show footage of how simple it is to correct these imbalances, though it takes a lot of focus and being consistent. It definitely won’t happen over night and so I need a long-term commitment.

Deadline for the first video submission is June 25, 2014. How to submit your video(s)? Upload video(s) to YouTube. Keep them private and allow me to log in to view them. I would like to be able to offer suggestions that you would be willing to work on and then have you re-submit a second set of videos showing (if any) changes/ improvements.

  1. Create a YouTube account
  2. Once you have uploaded your video, click “Edit” under the video which is to be private. The “info settings” page will appear.
  3. Scroll down to “Broadcasting and Sharing Options” and click on “Private”.
  4. Click on “Limited Access URL”.
  5. A website address will appear in the box below.
  6. Copy and paste it into an email message.
  7. Or if you need to input an email address for me to access your private video use: youasamachine@gmail.com
  8. In writing indicate: “You have permission to publish my name for final credits; print your name here” or ” Please do not publish my name.”
  9. Please use landscape (horizontal) orientation for your videos. Not portrait (vertical).

Maybe you aren’t interested, but you know of someone who is? Please share this with your Facebook friends or share on Twitter!

 

THANKS!

-From Kathryn

 

Keep Learning. Be Consistent. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Smile.

Everyday Resolutions

The end of each December is a popular time

to turn over a new leaf.

Rather than making New Year’s Resolutions, I resolve to improve my weak links on a daily basis, as the need arises, and believe me the need arises. But New Year’s Day is as good a day as any to get started, however, it is getting started and never stopping that is what’s worth keeping in mind.

Over the years, I have adopted the motto: “If what you are doing isn’t working, doing more of it won’t work any better.” And I practice implementing these words into my everyday actions.

Be it how I communicate with my kids, how I make lifestyle changes to eliminating plastic from my life or how I am constantly making adjustments with my body alignment, which causes me to re-evaluate and reconfigure my daily body maintenance routine. (My week 3 Day 7 progression has evolved greatly in the last three years.)

We must practice accepting that what we are doing may not be right and that through exploration we can continue to make improvements. Unless of course, you desire to live your life like a store display mannequin, frozen in time, not having to think or to adapt or to change; believing that what you are doing is right and that the problems you face must be faults outside your control. Most of us don’t know how to eat properly for optimal health, most of us don’t know how our body works, most of us don’t really know that much about the world we live in and how to take care of it.

When we take pause and consider that in order to survive, all of us must thrive on being right, on having the correct beliefs. In other words, if we don’t believe that what we do is correct would we not be crazy for repeating them over and over again? For even the addict, though often knows what he does isn’t right can find an excuse to justify and comfort his addiction. And so he believes that he is right, even if only for a moment in time. (There are many levels of addiction, from coffee, chocolate, exercise, drugs, pharmaceuticals, supplements, social media etc.)

What makes us do what we do?

Try as you might, to control your life, change is inevitable. As our lives change it is wise to become familiar with change in order to adapt without resistance, which enables a symbiotic synergy with family, community and the environment on a larger scale.

I like change. Similar to a cat, I like to see how I will land, and I have learned that there is no one way to land, (although the ideal is to land on ones feet!) which makes it all that more intriguing. As a result, I find myself constantly fine tuning my behaviours and habits, which puts me in a prime position to say a thing or two about how to initiate change.

Here are some basic suggestions:

Q: I want to change ______, but how do I even get started?

A: Getting started can be as simple as having an idea and making the decision to follow through on that idea. However, within this simple step there are a few sub-steps to climb:

You need discipline to develop skill. But, you need to spend some time developing skill to become disciplined.  You must have the willingness and desire, also known as passion or wanting it badly enough to spend the time developing the skill to become disciplined in the first place. Achieving goals and changing habits is not linear but rather cyclical and overlapping.

How To Cultivate Self-Discipline

So even when a person is committed to making change and making personal improvement, you can see it is not seamless. It is not easy or foolproof. It still requires a lot of work.  To outsiders having self-discipline looks effortless, but for those who practice being consistent there is no compliment in off-hand remarks such as: “oh, well you have self-discipline”, as if it were built-in. As if those who achieve anything remarkable is born with a natural talent.

Anyone can develop self-discipline, but it doesn’t just manifest, it must be cultivated. Anyone can be fit and healthy, but it takes effort, discipline and education. It takes practice to become consistent with self-discipline. Period.

Q: I’ve made many resolutions in the past but have always fallen short. How do I change this behavior?

A: By being consistent. Self-discipline is borne from being consistent. Don’t give up on yourself. There is a lot of self-coaching that goes along with keeping your word to yourself. It’s also helpful to understand that goals change along the way. Just because you initiate change with a certain idea doesn’t mean you will stick to that forever. As you learn more about yourself you will be required to re-evaluate your strategy and fine-tune your approach as you go along. You are a work in progress. The goal itself isn’t the point. The point is to realize your human potential and perpetually raise your own bar.

The goal isn't the goal

Q: I tend to stick to a program when I have someone to answer to, like a personal trainer or when I go to a group class.

A: Learn to become accountable to yourself. Try not even telling anyone what changes you have planned. Learn the necessary skills from someone more skilled than yourself and employ self-discipline to become your own expert.

When I had a studio, many of my clients had more money than discipline. Instead of practicing what I taught them so that we could develop their skills to the next level they would use me as a crutch to put them through their paces. Be a willing student because money cannot buy improved health, fitness or skill.

Q: How do I create lasting change?

A: Setting a new habit requires repetition. Let’s say for example that you want to lose weight and get in better physical condition. I believe it is best achieved by making very small changes so as to not overwhelm oneself, which is the idea behind my 4-minute morning series.

Hopefully, as you go through the progressions, you will learn more about yourself (how your mind works) and your body and discover areas that need further exploration. Note: ALL areas need further exploration 🙂 My 4 minute morning series of progressions is the foundation for developing a consistent practice of self-discipline. It is simple but can you do it? Oftentimes it is the simple things that are the most challenging.

I believe that exercise is meant to establish a balanced musculoskeletal system. When we are in balance, our body works at an optimal level (which is different for everyone).

Important: If you exercise with poor body alignment you will only reinforce an unbalanced musculoskeletal system. Keep in mind that when you practice Yoga, run, walk, swim, cycle or lift heavy weights among many other activities, the point of what you are doing is to build an ideal structure that is trained to move in an optimal way when you engage in life: sitting at your desk, driving a car, sitting on a bus, walking, grocery shopping etc. It is the mundane repetitive activities associated with living that require this steady stream of awareness. 

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

―Archilochus 

~Happy New Year 2014 ~Happy New Year 2014 ~Happy New Year 2014 ~

 

Practice vs. Duration Part 3

Today, I came across this article by Naomi Simson, founder of RedBalloon. I think it fits in perfectly with what I have been writing about in my last two posts. I hope that you will enjoy it and join me in putting it into practice.

The Key To Success Is Practice

by Naomi Simson

Dandapani and Naomi Simson

How fortunate I am to have met Dandapani (pictured) on several occasions and to have listened – and embraced what he shares about energy.

I am asked regularly – “tell me the ‘one’ thing that made you successful?” And most do not find my answer uplifting, which is simply “hard work and persistence.”

I pose the question – “Is living a good life the same as a happy life?” The relentless pursuit of happiness is in itself more likely to cause unhappiness.

Does success mean to live every day in happiness… or is success to live a good life? A life full of many human emotions that we experience – not just happiness — does that equate to a successful life?

I found Dandapani’s work insightful and uplifting as part of my relentless quest for understanding the ‘experience of happiness’ and well-being.

As a child my parents would say to me “practice makes perfect.” – And they were absolutely right. What we practice (over and over again) is how we create the neuro pathways in our brains – these pathways can be altered but it takes a great deal of conscious thought.

Dandapani shared:

  • “Practice does not have the ability to discriminate between constructive and destructive patterns.
  • “What ever you practice is what you become good at.
  • “It is a conscious choice about what you want to practice.
  • “There is a difference between the mind and awareness.
  • “Imagine your awareness is a ball of light – As an exercise to see how this works let your mind focus your awareness on a particular thing (the last wedding you attended) – that area of your mind lights up – when it lights up that area of your mind becomes conscious.
  • “Using your will power and your consciousness you can take your awareness to any area of the mind you want to – and you can hold it there for a period of time.

Where awareness goes energy flows

Four areas of focus

1. Learn to Concentrate:

  • Concentration is the ability to keep your awareness on one thing for a prolonged period of time.
  • The more you practice concentration the better you get at it
  • The power of observation is a natural by product of the ability to concentrate
  • The best way to improve your concentration is to practice every day – integrate it into your daily life.
  • (May I suggest you put away your smart phone whilst you practice concentration – and turn off your emails and facebook alerts)

2. Developing your Will:

  • The ‘Will’ has to be cultivated, the more we use your will the stronger it becomes
  • Ways to develop your Will Power:
  1. Finish those things you start (do you finish the sleeping process by making your bed?)
  2. Finish tasks well beyond expectations
  3. Do a little more than you think that you are able to do

3. The art of a balanced life:

“A balanced life is about managing your energy. A balanced life is when we are able to consciously direct awareness in turn energy, in a proportionate way to all the people and things in our life that matter to us.

4. Courage:

It takes tremendous courage, will and self-compassion to break habits. To challenge yourself to live a different way.

Life is energy – harness it and direct it to the ones that you love and what matters most in your life and to the things that are fulfilling to you.

By wisely discriminating where your energy flows we channel it to the people and things that uplift us. We can remain respectfully detached from others.

The key to success is practice –

               all success comes from within.

As I say “If it is meant to be it is up to me.” – I have the power to determine where my energy flows – and as such practice leads to success.

(If you have a chance to attend one of Dandapani’s session – absolutely do.)

Note: The above article, The Key To Success Is Practice, was written by Naomi Simson.

Practice vs. Duration Part 2

Continued from Part 1…

We have all heard the saying: Practice makes perfect. I have heard myself say it too. A few years ago, Simon, my brother-in-law, who is a life long soccer player and coach, quoted Vince Lombardi:

“Practice does not make perfect.

Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

~Vince Lombardi

Of course it does! So why do so many parents continue to force their children to practice for extended periods of time? Pushing our kids or yourself, through dragged out practice sessions will not automatically an expert make. Regardless of duration, the focus should be on practicing with precision and accuracy for any amount of time. Here is a great article about just this. Click this link to read it in its entirety. The article discusses the benefits of practice outside of sport, music or theatrical pursuits. How practice in everything we do has its place. This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked and definitely rarely practiced. 🙂

“Just remember not to stop as soon as you – or your charges – know how to do it right. The goal in these vital skill areas is not mere proficiency but excellence. The value of your practice, therefore, becomes more intense as you get better at the activity.”

“A critical goal of practice, then, should be ensuring that participants encode success – that they practice getting it right – whatever ‘it’ might be,” the authors stress.

They suggest you want your participants to complete the fastest possible right version of the activity.

Take the example of a youngster learning to hit a baseball in the backyard as her father feeds her slow pitches. It may seem to make more sense to take her to a batting cage where she faces hundreds of 60 mile-per-hour pitches, but that doesn’t allow her to apply the small corrections to her form that is needed to improve. Instead, eliminate complexity until you start to see mastery, and then start building the extras back in.

The law of the vital few – 80 per cent of results come from 20 per cent of our activity – should be applied to practice, they say.

~Harvey Schachter paraphrasing from Practice Perfect by, Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi.

Over the last few years, my husband and I have been experimenting with the duration of our kids’ practice time for their music lessons. It used to be our rule that they HAD to practice piano (or whatever their chosen instrument was to study) for a minimum of thirty minutes each day. But, because we were met with so much resistance (it often took thirty minutes of cajoling or arguing to even get the practice time started) that it became such an unpleasant situation overall. Who wants that kind of energy in his/her life? So we had to rethink the entire process and come up with a solution.

Our solution was to shorten the practice time.

Drum Kit

It seemed too simple and it felt wrong. And part of me was unconfident that any real long term learning would take place because it had been drilled into me that practice meant time and time meant success.

But because I have been experimenting with shorter duration activities for myself, (bed stretches, Tabata’s, 4 minute mornings, short bursts of house cleaning etc.), I speculated that the same theory could apply to the kids lessons and possibly everything!

Now, what you must remember is that we are talking about kids and kids are not very different from adults. Kids in fact, grow up and in most cases mature into adults. So, logically, the training for a mature adult begins at birth (this is often overlooked, too). Most kids, from my experience, do not like being told what to do, and interestingly I have also noticed the same characteristic among adults. Just because they have chosen said extra-curricular activity does not always indicate that they will want to do or practice said activity. Most often kids want to do what they want to do, which now-a-days has more to do with external stimulation via computer screens and less and less to do with self-generated imagination and creativity.

So this is what we did. We sat down with the kids and reviewed how our current approach wasn’t working out very well and that we had come up with an idea that we would like to try.  Our son likes to play video games (and is very skilled for his age), so in an effort to make everyone happy we have allotted him one hour of screen time per day, (dare I say) on school days; on weekends he gets more time; and in the summer months we experiment with allowing the kids to self-regulate (ha!). During the week, he can use that hour however he likes, i.e., all at once or he can break it up. This is what he usually chooses to do:

When our son wakes up in the morning, he goes through his checklist of personal obligations (on his own):

  • Bed stretches (his version)
  • Personal grooming: brush teeth, wash face etc. (remembers to flush toilet, keeps his sink area tidy etc.)
  • Makes his bed
  • Gets dressed
  • Good-morning greetings
  • 10 minutes drum-kit practice (Sept.– June/ Monday to Friday)
  • 15 minutes video games/ screen time
  • Breakfast
  • Packs up school bag
  • (Sometimes another 5 – 15 minutes video games/ screen time)
  • Clean/brush teeth from breakfast food
  • Leave for school

Five days a week he practices his drum-kit for 10 minutes and once per week has a thirty-minute private lesson; and never practices on the weekends! The results have been remarkable. OK, he is a talented kid, and he really gets the concept that if you’re going to bother doing something-then try to do it right the first time. So for those ten minutes he practices with accuracy and precision.

If you are going to bother spending any amount of time doing something, doesn’t it make sense to be as focused as possible?

Yet, in the same breath, he is still a kid and even though we think he has the makings of a great musician, we do not want to break his spirit by forcing him to practice, even though we know he might grow up to appreciate having studied an instrument outside of school. We have learned that what motivates one child does not work for another, so we practice working with their individual personalities – what a concept! 🙂

Puppy

We think of our kids a little bit like dogs. When we were learning to train our puppies, we were taught that the puppy, being a pack animal, had to know that the human was the alpha. But what was equally important to understand was that using force to discipline a puppy will only cause fear, and break the puppy’s spirit. We wanted brave, good-natured and confident dogs not submissive dogs. Our job as dog owners is to learn how to communicate with our pet. We think the same thing can happen to humans. We want our children to grow up into contributing members of society who are confident and can think for themselves. The training for such an adult begins at the beginning. We need to learn how to communicate with our children and teach them how to make decisions, not control them.

How many adults do you know who were forced to practice an instrument that they disliked as a child/teen, excelled at it, but discontinued playing it? I know of many who played at very high levels but lacked the passion; they played mechanically and tell sad stories of the instrument that they had really wanted to play but weren’t allowed. Just as it is true that kids do not always know what is good for them and parents need to make executive decisions, like if you start something then you should finish it (you can quit after you finish the term), and you should do your best, you don’t have to be THE best. We think that giving our kids the opportunity to be consistent with their shorter practice time sets the tone for their individual success. It also maps out the potential for a successful and varied adult life.

Practice vs. Duration

If I don’t like doing something,

 generally, it means that I’m not very good at it.

Backstroke

When we are not good at doing something, generally, it means that it doesn’t come naturally and so it is much easier to push it aside and focus on what does. In my opinion, the only way to get good at something, or to be able to perform better at something is to practice. Is practice synonymous with time? I don’t think so. But, to explain this we need to talk about two elements: 1) being consistent 2) correct information.

Pool Lap Lane

I immersed myself into swimming about five years ago. Sure, I could swim to save my life, but I didn’t know how to perform any of the strokes with much proficiency or accuracy. The bottom line is that I didn’t know what I was doing at all; so I took lessons. I didn’t really like doing backstroke, and when I heard my internal dialogue say so, I knew that I would have to work on it (meaning practice) to change my opinion of that stroke. It didn’t and doesn’t mean that I have to spend a lot of time doing it, but rather, when I do practice, I practice with my whole being. I dissect the mechanics of the movement to understand what it is that I don’t like about it. Now I like it, because I can do it, because I understand it – because, I understand what I need to do. But, to be clear, being able to do something well doesn’t automatically make it easy to do. In fact, each time I revisit the backstroke (or any stroke for that matter), I focus on the precision of each micro-movement, which makes up the whole and I continue to break it down, which makes it more challenging. This is why my practice sessions are relatively short, because they are intense. Now at the time of posting this, I can barely recall having any dislike for backstroke anymore…like water under the bridge.

“Practice, practice, practice.” ~Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

Many people still believe that in order to become an expert at something, one must make an investment of nearly ten thousand hours worth of practice. This is a very popular held belief; it is not one of mine. This may sound like a contradiction but actually there is a distinction within this concept. Yes, I agree in practice, it is at the core of my being. What I disagree with is the statement of time. Duration or the amount of time spent practicing is meaningless. You can sit and practice for hours or years and still be mediocre at the thing you are practicing. Breaking down your body with hours of intense practice does not an expert make! Especially if that practice is done incorrectly. Intellectually, however, you may have become an expert in its theory. But, we all know that it is the application of theory, which is the goal. In other words, book knowledge vs. experience; a balance of both is ideal.

Sonia Simone writes: “I recently heard Yo-Yo Ma giving an interview about how he got started as a cellist. As it happens, Yo-Yo’s parents are both musicians, and had high musical expectations for their little son. So when Yo-Yo was three, they gave the boy a violin.

And Yo-Yo hated it. Wouldn’t practice. Wouldn’t focus. Didn’t have any zest for it. His frustrated parents finally gave up in disgust.

And then little Yo-Yo saw and heard something amazing, something that surprised and delighted him. Something that he knew was exactly what he wanted to play. It was a double bass — the violin’s really, really big brother. Now that was more like it.

He and his parents split the size difference, and Ma began to study first the viola and then settled (at four years old) on the cello. By seven he was a recognized prodigy, performing for Eisenhower and JFK, and by eight he played on national television, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

To have become so skilled between the ages of four and seven, he must have put in untold hours of practice. But they were hours spent on something he adored.

~ by Sonia Simone

Watch Karen X. Cheng. She wanted to learn how to dance in one year. You can too. You can learn anything if you set your mind to it. I have done it; I taught myself how to swim (I haven’t had a lesson in three years or so, but I keep on practicing, refining and researching. I taught myself how to do a Freestyle Flip Turn via GoSwim.tv and I continue to refine it. But don’t think that you need 10,000 hours to accomplish anything worth while. What you need is the WANT, the DESIRE and the WILL. And from that WANT comes the discipline to be consistent with practice. Just don’t kid yourself though, the practice has to be great! Practice with precision. Do it right, then practice again the next day and the day after that.

Read this: How To Become More Unstoppable Every Day

There is so very much to say on this subject; check back for Part 2…

In the meantime: Keep Learning. Be Consistent. Be Healthy. Be Happy. Smile.