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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

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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