Joyful Movement

Welcome to my blog. I've designed this site as a resource for existing and potential bodywork clients, and anybody else who has an interest in improving their relationship to their body.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Beginnings! Bittersweet Endings! All Coming 2016!

Next year will an exciting time for me as I embark on an new journey: I will be starting medical school at Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Vallejo, CA! This is the realization of a long-cherished ambition to serve the needs of those who are most vulnerable. I am forever indebted to the practice of Rolfing® Structural Integration, for inspiring me to move in this direction. But even more so, I am indebted to each of my clients for nurturing me on this journey and showing me countless shades of humanity, wisdom, humor and grace while inviting me--however briefly--into your lives.

My practice will be open through May, 2016. I will be working a normal schedule and taking new clients throughout the spring. As of June, I will be passing the Rolfing® SI reins into the capable hands of the talented (and growing) crew at Midline, and others in the Santa Cruz area. Stay tuned for more updates to come, including a big client Thank-You party around Memorial Day!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A Climb Called Homunculus

In Rifle Mountain Park, a sport climber's mecca in western Colorado, lurks a steep test piece of a climb. It is called Homunculus, and it is an overhanging prow of limestone dripping with improbable holds on which a climber hangs hopefully, her or his body sagging between the dismal points of contact offered to feet and hands.

The first ascent was made by a climber/physician who--I'm purely speculating here--noted the resemblance between a climber on Homunculus and the popular graphic depicting a homunculus. For a homunculus is a thing. 

It is an area of the cerebral cortex dedicated to sensing and moving different parts of the body. The graphic is a map showing what areas of the cortex are associated with the various body parts. The disproportionate sizes of body parts in the graphic represent the number of neurons dedicated to them. As you can see, the hands and face are pretty big. There are a large number of sensory and motor neurons innervating those areas. Makes sense: we need a lot of sensitivity and control in our mouths and hands to manipulate, masticate, and communicate. 

It's hard to see in this graphic, but it's also true that the toes and feet take up as much real estate in the homunculus as the entire trunk and neck put together. Why would that be? If you've been through the Rolfing® Structural Integration Ten Series, you may recall Session #2 and it's focus on the feet and lower legs. You may also recall the increased connection with the ground and improved balance you experienced after the session. Your feet and toes felt alive

When we esconce our feet inside protective shoes, we blunt the sensations those richly innervated appendages crave: our primary physical connection with the environment has historically occurred through our feet. The millions of nerve impulses traveling between the feet and the homunculus enable us to stand upright, balance on one foot, push off while throwing a spear, and chase down an antelope. That's why it feels so good to awaken the sensations of our feet, and probably why so many of us love receiving foot massages. Those nerves thrive on stimulation.

So, next time you wiggle your feet in the sand or tickle the bottoms of your feet with blades of grass (although not likely in California!), imagine that area of your homunculus lighting up. I will continue to daydream about that other Homunculus and imagine myself as the little figure with huge hands and feet splayed on its brainy underside.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Smart Stretching

Most of us learned to stretch in middle school gym class. For example, to stretch the hamstrings, we learned to stand with one foot crossed over the other and then bent over to touch our toes (or made a brave attempt). Problem is, we all learned it wrong.

How can that be? Well, consider your gym teacher. Where did she or he learn it? Probably not a physical therapist, kinesiologist or exercise physiologist. It's just the way she or he was taught, probably in junior high. There's no real science or reasoning behind it. Yet most people (even trainers and coaches) persist in teaching us to stretch that way. I've learned a lot about stretching from a book called The Stark Reality of Stretching, by Dr. Steven Stark. You can buy this book for 3 cents on Amazon--not joking. Or, give me a heads up and I'll have it in my office for you to borrow. 

What this book explains is that certain muscles in our bodies are stabilizers; meaning, they stabilize our joints so that we can safely execute movements without falling over or hurting ourselves. Stabilizer muscles are almost always partially contracted--they have tonicity--because that's their job. They are controlled unconsciously by our brains, and it's very difficult to turn them "off" consciously. Our hamstrings are an example of stabilizer muscles. Yes, they powerfully flex the knee; but more importantly, they stabilize the pelvis when we are standing. 

What does this mean? When you are standing, and bending over to stretch the hamstrings, the said muscles are firing like crazy to control your pelvis. In other words, they are NOT STRETCHING. Quite the opposite: they are shortening so that you don't pitch face-forward onto the ground. That "stretching" feeling you experience in the backs of your thighs during this maneuver is likely the sensation of tearing muscle fibers that are loaded beyond their capacity. You could also be stretching your glutes, paraspinals (in your back), or calves. But you aren't stretching the hamstrings.

So how should you stretch? Take gravity out of the equation: if you are in a sitting position with your weight resting on your sit bones, then your hamstrings have no work to do and they can relax. Alternatively, you can lie down on your back (my favorite) with your leg resting up against a wall. A doorframe works well for this because there's someplace for your other leg to go. 

Either way, aim for a gentle stretching sensation. Your body is smart: it has stretch receptors strategically placed in the belly of every muscle. These stretch receptors detect changes in length of the muscle, and most often the body's response to a lengthening muscle is to contract, or shorten, it. The more aggressively you challenge the the muscle by forcing it to lengthen, the stronger the contraction response. Therefore, aim to fly under the radar by stretching very slowly and very gently. You should feel distinctly under-challenged, but that's ok. Again, you should only feel a very mild stretch.

There's tons more about how to stretch effectively and how to stretch different parts of the body, so I encourage you to either get the book, or talk to me. Your body will thank you.

Fall Updates and Osteopathy

As many of you know, I am taking my healing practice to the next level by applying to osteopathic medical school with the goal of becoming an osteopathic physician, or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy). If you're curious what the difference is between a D.O. and an M.D., I've included a brief explanation at the bottom of this post.

The good news is, I am done with most of the major hurdles of coursework and the application process. Therefore, my schedule has opened up recently and I am back to working four days/week at Midline! (I am also involved in volunteer and internship positions, which takes up the rest of the week, in case you're wondering).

If you've been frustrated lately with finding an appointment time that works for you, I encourage you to try again, as I now have plenty of openings to go around.

The better news is, my summer vacation to Colorado was a SUCCESS--meaning there was much mountain biking, rock climbing, and rambling through the mountains with my dog Moab, and I am BACK TO WORK with renewed focus and vigor. I also attended the first of four (so far) medical school interviews while out there and my fingers are crossed for a good outcome.

The GREAT news is, all this talk of osteopathy and med school has done nothing to diminish my enthusiasm and love of Rolfing® Structural Integration. If anything, I am more excited than ever about what Rolfing SI has to offer and I have an even greater appreciation for how unique and valuable the work is, both in terms of its rightful place in anybody's overall healthcare strategy (IMHO) and its potential to elevate the human potential and spirit. I am determined to serve you, my clients, as diligently and excellently as possible in the time I have left.

Speaking of, plan on scheduling appointments with me through next June, 2016, give or take a week or two. That's almost ten whole months left to finally deal with that shoulder, or knee, or neck or...

Finally, some of you may be unaware that you can schedule appointments with me online. Just go to my website: and click on the "Schedule Now" link at the top of the page. You'll be instructed to register (sigh) with a username and password, and then you'll be on your way.

As promised, here is an explanation of what an osteopathic physician is:

An osteopathic physician has the same rights and responsibilities as an M.D. and undergoes similar training. However, D.O.'s receive additional training in Osteopathic Manual Manipulation (OMM)--a hands-on set of techniques designed to balance and align the body's structure in order to positively affect health (sound familiar?). D.O.'s also approach the body from a holistic perspective, acknowledging the unity of the body, mind and spirit, and looking for the root cause of illness rather than treating the symptoms. For more information, click here.