Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Path to a Healthier, More Productive Brain

According to Fred Gage, researcher at the Salk Institute, there is concrete evidence that neurogenesis (the creation of new brain cells) occurs in adult brains.

No longer is it believed that the brain is limited to the number of brain cells we are born with.

New brain cells are born well into the EIGHTH decade of life!

One of the main drivers of this process is voluntary movement/exercise. What supercharges this process is focused, directed attention to your movements.

You don’t have to go the gym to exercise to reap these benefits, however. In fact, pushing too hard and using too much effort will limit what you’re able to achieve.

You see, there is a scientific law that states that the more you slow down and the more you reduce your effort, the higher your capacity is to perceive differences.

The more differences you perceive in your movements directly translate to more movement possibilities for your nervous system.

By perceiving finer and finer differences in movement, you are actually increasing the number of dendrites branching out from your brain cells. These are the very parts of the neuron that tend to deteriorate with age (dendrites are the bushy projections through which a neuron receives signals from other neurons).

It has become a universal truth that the better connected a brain is, the better it will function - period.

And as Dr. Michel Merzenich, a pioneer in brain plasticity research states:

"Movement is inextricably controlled on the basis of ‘feedback’ from our bodies and brains, and movement control is guided very directly by the cognitive resources that guide all of our behaviors. They are weaker or stronger, enabled or disabled TOGETHER. Neurological processes that control the flow of cognition and thought are not really different from those that control the flow of movement — and in fact are complexly, inextricably inter-twined!"

With that being said, you can see how refining your movements to higher and higher levels of quality will enable you to refine your cognitive abilities as well!

You’ll actually become smarter!

Experience changes your brain structure.

Through your focused, directed attention to your movement experiences, you create richer and more complicated brain circuits.

It’s ALL in your hands (and brains).

Are you directing your attention to the same old stuff day after day, or are you slowing down, reducing your effort and looking for new ways to do things?

Let us know what you’re doing for yourself to create a more richly connected brain.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Posture or Acture?

We have all heard that non-neutral postures are associated with a higher incidence of work related injuries, but what does that really mean to us?

First of all, I believe the term posture to be inaccurate. Words are very powerful in terms of their effect on us. This is one of those cases.

And what the heck is non-neutral!?

Posture contains the root word “post”. The idea of a “post” implies a static position. This couldn’t be more inaccurate!

Posture relates to action, not to the maintenance of any given position.

Proper posture, then, should be dynamic!

Dr. Feldenkrais, who we’ve written about many times here before, actually coined the term “Acture” to refer to the body’s positioning.

What, then, is proper Acture, and how does it benefit us?

Proper acture, he stated, would give you the ability to move in any direction without preparation.

You are not coming from a place of having to “get out of your own way” to initiate action.

That is, if you have chronically held muscular contractions (think holding your abdominal muscles in for that “flat tummy” look), you have to work against those patterns in order to accomplish what it is that you’re trying to do.

I would then think that non-neutral means that you aren’t holding chronic muscular contractions that don’t serve you.

A neutral posture would then be described as having the skeleton aligned in such a way that would enable it to support the majority of our weight in our dance with gravity.

Sounds all well and good, but what does that feel like?

You see, unless we know what something feels like, we can’t integrate it into our daily actions.

We will go about our daily activities utilizing those muscular patterns that we have learned up to this point because they feel “right” to us – regardless of how inefficient they may be.

Telling someone to sit up straight, or stand up straight, or to “lift with your legs” doesn’t do them any good because if they have to consciously correct themselves, they will return to their habitual patterns because those feel “right” them. They don’t have to think about them.

Providing experiential learning experiences for people, then, is the ONLY way to facilitate changes in our Acutre (or posture if you still want to hold onto that term).

People need the feeling of what efficient movement is like for them.

As similar as we all are, we are all very, very different.

So providing an environment to enable individualized learning to better understand what efficient movement feels like is essential.

Essential to you and your employee’s health.

Essential to you and your employee’s productivity.

And essential for the health (and the bottom line!) of your business.

The question is, are you or your company neglecting this essential?

I hope not, because in a economy like the one we find ourselves in now, it will be those companies that take care of those essentials who will come out of this economic mess the strongest.

What are you doing to take care of the essentials in your business?

Start paying attention to yourself and the way you move more. Do you notice any chronically held contractions that you have to work against to initiate action? Let us know what you find out about yourself!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stress Management

It's More Important Than Ever!

survey conducted by a large pharmaceutical company demonstrates that now it’s more important than ever to take care of your employees in terms of health and wellness programs.

According to the results, stress in their home or personal life made them physically ill in the past year and 38% said the same regarding workplace stress. Nearly 30% of respondents said they did not get much work done when experiencing stress.

I’ve written time an again how important
stress management is to the overall health of a company. The cost of stress to U.S. businesses is $300 Billon per year! Left unchecked, it creates a cycle of dysfunction within both your employees and your organization that will spiral out of control.

Stress management is not simply about telling someone to calm down. In fact, according to research done by Fulbright Scholar Angela Patmore, and described in her book
The Truth About Stress, how we handle stress in our lives will either empower us our tranquilize us.

Patmore explains that by calming people down as a form of stress management, you “reduce their coping skills, making people more cowardly and unwilling to take up new challenges, through which they can grow in life.”

In these tough economic times, empowering employees through education is not a luxury, it’s a necessity – at least for those companies that want to thrive.

Amen to that!

Let us be reminded here that there are specific body patterns (breathing, muscular tension, movement, and structural alignment) to stress, anxiety, and fear. Employees need to be educated as to what their individual patterns are so that they have the “tools” to deal with them.

With those “tools”, employees will be more empowered, more effective, and more productive. And their company will be able to demonstrate a tangible return on that investment. It truly is a “win-win”.

Now, more than ever, we need to shed our scarcity mindset and begin to look at how we can enable our workforce to do what we’re asking them to do – and not make them sick in the process.

What have the effects of stress cost you and your company?

Leave us a comment and let us know any unique ways that you or your company are handling the effects of stress.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Monday, May 18, 2009

Your Brain, Learning, and Vitality

What is it that keeps our brains vital?

It’s L-E-A-R-N-I-N-G.

What type of learning is best?

To answer that question, we must first look at how our brains are organized.

What I’ve come to discover (and what neuroscience is now demonstrating), is that our brains are organized through movement.

Read that last statement again, slowly:

Our brains are organized through movement.

When you think about movement, what comes to mind?

More than likely, you mind goes to the movements that occur in our:


You know, all of those movements that allow us to move around and take action in the world.

Did you ever stop to think about it in more detail?

Like how you speak, for example.

The movement of your lips.

The movement of the air over your vocal cords, driven by the movement of your diaphragm, to create the sounds that make up the words that you use to communicate to others.

And don’t forget the movement between the nerve cells in your brain that initiates and makes possible this ability to speak.

Movement is the language of our brains, and our brains are the great organizer of ALL movement

Movement is everything.

Without movement, life ceases to exist.

What has been shown in recent research – what we as Anat Baniel Method and Feldenkrais Method practitioners have known for quite some time – is that the quality of our movements are a manifestation of the quality of the workings of our brains.

According to Dr. Michael Merzenich, pioneering researcher of our brain’s plastic nature:

"Movement is inextricably controlled on the basis of ‘feedback’ from our bodies and brains, and movement control is guided very directly by the cognitive resources that guide all of our behaviors. They are weaker or stronger, enabled or disabled TOGETHER. Neurological processes that control the flow of cognition and thought are not really different from those that control the flow of movement — and in fact are complexly, inextricably inter-twined!"

What we have found is that when you begin to refine your movements, you begin to refine the way it is in which you think.

It’s called ‘embodied cognition’.

And this is clearly demonstrated in this study.

What it shows is that movement actually helps organize our brains ability to solve problems – and solve them faster.


… from just movement?

How does 40% faster sound?

Gimme some-a dat!

As neuroscientific research marches on, you are going to see a new paradigm in terms of how this is implemented into educational and corporate training programs to:

Boost memory
Increase problem solving skills
Create perceptual changes in the way we take in and process information (which will increase creativity)
Enhance the way we handle stress and anxiety (which costs American businesses $300 Billion dollars per year!)
Eliminate repetitive stress injuries
And increase employee productivity

All through movement and attentional training.

We just happen to be at the forefront of this.

So if you’re looking for that edge, that extra something that’s going to enable you to outpace your competition. Give us a shout.

You’ll be glad you did.

What are you or your company doing to keep you (and your brain) from being stuck in the rut of rote repetition?

Let us know how you apply the power of movement in your daily life.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Movement IS Life

I have inspiration to write about my friend Adam as he is dealing with some pretty major issues in his life right now.

Due to an accident while on vacation in Nicaragua less than two weeks ago, he suffered a severely broken neck, and has (temporarily) lost his ability to move - he’s paralyzed from the neck down.

I say temporarily because with the brain and nervous system, nothing is set in stone. It is constantly changing based on experience. Provided the necessary experiences, some pretty miraculous things are possible.

The following statement has never rung more true to me that right now:

“Movement is life.”

Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais coined this phrase. He was a pioneer in his understanding of how truly important movement is in our lives, as well as how much potential for change exists.

However, with the majority of folks in the world, movement is so ubiquitous, so ever present in every moment in our lives, that most take it for granted.

It something that we are ALWAYS doing – there is movement always occurring in the body regardless of what activity we are taking part in. Heck, when you are sleeping, your ribcage is moving. Your diaphragm is acting as a bellow to both bring in, and then expel, the air that is keeping you alive.

When movement stops, life ceases to exist – it’s that simple.

What most often fail to realize is that this ubiquitous part of life – movement – can not only continue to be refined, but must be refined for us to experience life long energy and vitality, as well as mental acuity.

Don’t get me wrong; habits are a necessary part of life. If we had to think about everything that it is that we do on a daily basis, our ability to accomplish our goals would definitely suffer.

However, as with anything that we do, if we get entrenched into our daily habits, and we no longer seek novelty, we cease experiencing variations.

When we no longer experience variation, we halt the learning process.

Halting this learning process arrests our development and our ability to evolve.

You see, in life, never do we “arrive”.  Some may believe this to be so, but this is false thinking.

We are all on a continuum based on where we are at and what is possible. When we stop engaging in the learning process, especially with movement, we become entrenched in our habits and continue to “burn” in patterns of action that aren’t advantageous to our structures.

Unfortunately, we don’t notice the downside of our movement choices until later when we begin to experience pain and limitation.

When someone throws their back out tying their shoes, it wasn’t the act of tying their shoes that caused it. That action was simply the straw that, pardon the pun, broke the camel’s back.

It was the accumulation of all the poorly executed actions up to that point that enabled the simple act of tying one’s shoes to cause severe pain and limitation.

Once people (and corporations) begin to take advantage of this hugely untapped source of learning – movement – we will begin to see some amazing outcomes.

Productivity will skyrocket!

Don’t believe me? The Journal of the American Medical association has recently estimated that over $61 billion dollars per year are lost due to common chronic pain conditions! Seventy-six percent (76%) of that is while the employees are AT work!

On top of that, the impact of stress holds an estimated price tag to US businesses of over $300 billon dollars per year.

And again, as I’ve written many times before, stress is a somatic experience – we experience it with our whole selves. There is a body pattern that accompanies stress, anxiety, and fear.

When left unchecked, and no opportunities are presented to learn how to better deal with chronic pain and stress (when there are no opportunities to learn more efficient movement patterns), we enter into a cycle of dysfunction.

We begin to slowly circle the drain.

With movement, as in life, everything is a choice. You can choose to remain in your entrenched movement habits, or you can seek variation in what it is that you do when moving in the world.

Movement is ALWAYS good to upgrade for yourself.

And unlike most folks, Adam knew this. 

He appreciated what it meant to learn more refined movement. I have worked with him for over two years and to see what he had become was to see a more fully evolved human being.

His ability to handle stress had improved immensely. His output at work had skyrocketed!

And it could have played a part in saving his life – who knows!?

Regardless, I look forward to working together with Adam upon his return from Nicaragua.

Helping him to hopefully put the pieces of the movement puzzle together once again.

I ask you this: don’t wait until something (movement) has been taken away from you before you realize what a gift it is.

Take advantage of every opportunity to improve yourself - and your movement.

You might be shocked at the outcomes.

What do you do on a daily basis that takes advantage of, and improves, your ability to move?

Log into Adam's journal and send him some encouragement here.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Learning From Children

I was struck this morning by what a friend’s child said to her.

Her 8 year-old daughter said, out of the blue, “Mommy, every thought counts.”

It’s amazing sometimes when you stop a listen to the wisdom of children.

Children are pure, unadulterated, and they speak the truth.

They don’t yet have the stresses of life that most adults have layered one on top of the other.

They’re not interested in what they can’t do.

Their imaginations are FULL.

That’s right, little one - every thought DOES count!

Applying that statement to what I do, I would say that every movement counts.

Here’s why:

Many children are encouraged very early on to walk by their parents.

In and of itself, this is not a bad aspiration for parents to have – but to encourage it sooner than they are able to can, I believe, have long-term consequences.

When parents hold onto the goal of getting their children to walk early, children miss out on some very important learning.

They miss out on learning certain motor patterns.

You see, I believe that we (as children) learn to stand up lying down.

All of the fundamental motor patterns that are necessary for efficient standing and walking are learned while rolling around on the ground.

The first time a child stands up on their own, it’s purely by accident. They aren’t trying to stand up - they’re just trying to get to something.

This is why many children cry the first time they stand – they don’t know how they got there (and they don’t know how to get down)!

Only after the second time does standing become intentional for them.

So encouraging them to stand and walk before they’re ready means they’re missing out.

Not crawling (or not crawling for a long enough period of time) = missed opportunities for their nervous systems to experience certain motor patterns.

If a child is encouraged to go straight into assisted walking before learning to crawl, they develop inefficient ways of moving.

The reason that I am such a believer in this line of thinking is that I was one who went straight to assisted walking. I never learned to crawl, therefore I didn’t learn the underlying fundamental motor patterns that are necessary in order to be efficient in the way that I “use” myself.

And after dealing with chronic back pain for a number of years, I was told in my early twenties that I would eventually need to have a spinal fusion of the discs in my lower back.

Nuh-uh.   Not this kid…

So I set out on my own learning quest, and what I’ve found was this:

There is MUCH we can re-learn from children.

When we re-enter into the child-like movement based learning process and we “roll around” on the ground, there is a wealth of information for our nervous systems.

Using finely designed movements in a sequential order, we are able to re-learn what it’s like to move like a child again.

These methods are based on the body of work created by Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, as well as one of his most well known students, Anat Baniel.

These movement sequences are designed to bring greater awareness to your movement capabilities while working through a series of gentle, comfortable steps that involve thinking, sensing, moving, and visualizing.

The process facilitates the development of an enhanced awareness of habitual muscular patterns and rigidities that may be causing limitations in movement.

Through slowing down, you’ll be able to feel those muscular patterns that are limiting you.

And, as Dr. Feldenkrais said, “Once you know what you’re doing, you can do what you want.”

We have the capacity to expand our options for moving with increased sensitivity, learning to eliminate unnecessary effort, attend to our whole self, and better mobilize our intentions into action.

Tension and tightness in our bodies does not exist because your muscles want to be tense.

Tension is controlled at the level of the nervous system – not locally. Your muscles don’t have a desire to be tight!

When seeking solutions to our movement limitations, we need to address movement where it originates – in the brain.

Slowing down and reducing the effort gets the brains attention.

And what has been demonstrated in recent neuorscientific research is that focused, directed attention is the gateway that allows you to take advantage of brain plasticity.

When you apply the possibilities that brain plasticity makes available in terms of movement, you have a recipe that will allow you to move away from those patterns that presently cause you pain into new ones that aren’t limiting.

So, learn to move by rolling around on the ground again.

Have fun.

Pay attention to what you feel.

And remember, not only does every thought count – every movement does to!

What is it that you do that keeps you in a curious, child-like state of mind?

Leave a comment below with your thoughts on the above post.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Friday, March 20, 2009

Functional Training

I have been thinking a lot lately about how there is no dedicated training program for the development of the human brain and nervous system in business and industry.

We have Six Sigma training, Lean training, and Total Quality Management (TQM) training but there is no systematized method that industry uses at this time in order to train the nervous systems of their employees.

Their employees – the ones that execute the above systems!

What business has done is to encourage participation in specific learning modules/ seminars, etc. in order to enable their employees to learn more about their specific jobs, but hasn’t done anything to affect the big picture (developing the human organism as a whole).

As an ex-Physical Educator, this reminds me of the different physical training methods that exist.

There are those that have the bodybuilding type mentality – those that train each individual muscle simply for size without any regard as to how it works with the other muscles in the bigger picture.

Then there is the functional training group.

They are the one who concerned mainly with how things work together. They train to increase function, leaving the asthetics in the background.

However, when you would see a bodybuilder next to someone whose main drive is functional training, the functional trainer would have a better appearance by most people’s standards.

Bodybuilders are often referred to as being “all show, and no go”, which is a reference to how inefficiently they are put together (I would describe it by saying how poorly integrated they are).

Those concerned mainly with functional training will consistently outperform so-called bodybuilders in functional activities (aren’t all activities functional?!) because they have learned how to use more of their whole self, while the other training method produces a bunch of “parts” that don’t work well together because they haven’t been trained to work together.

And I won't even get into the shrinkage part of it.....

When looking at employee development in business and industry from this perspective, one can see that they are creating “bodybuilders” – they’re only training a small portion of their employees potential.

Corporations are missing out on fully capitalizing on their human element.

They are only training the “thinking” part of their employee’s self-image.

And remember, how you take action and function in the world is determined by your self-image.

As we’ve mentioned before, your self-image consists of four parts:

Feeling self image
Thinking self image
Emoting self image
Movement self image

The contribution of each of the components to any particular action varies, but each component will be present to some extent in every action we take.

To only train a small portion of our self-image is to miss out on an incredible opportunity for not only growth, but true transformation.

And in an economy like the one we’re in right now, we need transformation.

When corporations begin focusing on developing the entire human organism - their human element - we will begin to see how truly capable we really are.

Do you or your company approach your development with a bodybuilding mentality?

Send us an email and let us know what you are doing to stay ahead of your competition!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Learning From Great Athletes

I’ve been thinking quite a bit lately about great athletes and what it is that makes them better than the average athlete.

I feel that there is an incredible amount to learn from these greats, and that these learnings can be applied to the business world - and even your personal life, for that matter.

When I speak of great athletes, I am thinking about those that have rewritten the record books in their particular sport - Barry Sanders and Walter Payton come to mind from the world of football.

To look at them, they aren’t all that impressive.


Obviously, watching them play was impressive, but to look at their personal stats (height, weight, bench press, 40 yard dash time, vertical jump, etc.), they’re not that impressive.

They were short, undersized, and not particularly stronger or faster than their counterparts – even their counterparts that were benchwarmers.

Some would say that the differentiating factor was that they had natural instincts that made them better than their peers.


Instinct is a much over used term. Instinct implies an inborn pattern of behavior that all members of a species have access to. We as humans have very little instincts.  We have to learn everything it is that we do, especially in terms of movement.

So, then, what is it that they’ve learned that makes them better than the large majority of average athletes?

From my point of view, a large part of what makes the Walter Payton’s and the Barry Sanders’ of the world so much better than their counterparts is that they learned to how to be masters over their own muscular tension.

Let me explain a bit.

Barry Sanders and Walter Payton had the ability to turn tension on and off in their bodies like a light switch. They could go from tense to loose and back to tense quicker and more efficiently than their competition.

That ability is what allowed them to contribute to so many highlight reels throughout their careers. It allowed them to make those trying to tackle them look silly – they couldn’t get their hands on them.

They could stop on a dime. They could change direction quicker than anyone - and it often left opposing defenses grasping for air.

And they made it look easy…….

So then, how does this apply to the business world - to your personal life?

As I’ve written about many times before, stress is experienced throughout your entire self.

Each of us has an individual body pattern that accompanies the feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear - a pattern of movement, of breathing, of structural alignment – all of which is controlled (by your brain) through the muscular tensions in your body.

And those patterns have been learned throughout the course of our lives.

And from how I understand that our mind works, we cannot become conscious of a feeling before it is expressed by a motor mobilization. Therefore, there is no feeling so long as there is no body attitude.

That’s a HUGE statement. You might want to read it again.

There is no feeling so long as there is no body attitude (they are basically the same thing).

Heck, you can’t be an “uptight” person unless you are literally uptight!

The good news is that you have the ability to learn a better way.

You can learn to release those tensions in your body that aren’t serving you. You know, the ones that cause the muscles in your neck and back to “scream" at you by the end of the day. Those patterns that serve as the basis for fear, anxiety, and stress. Which, in many folks, will eventually lead to repetitive stress injuries and cumulative trauma disorders.

So, by learning to apply what the great athletes throughout history have, you can:

- Face your fears – and let them go

- You can stymie stress.

- And you can ace anxiety.

And by doing so, you prevent those people and situations from “tackling” you so that you can make that big play!

And if you make enough big plays, you will be inducted into your own hall of fame.

What have you learned (and applied) from those outside of your chosen field in order to better yourself?

Leave a comment with your thoughts on this article.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Refining Your Self-Image

Self Image – what is it? And what does it mean to refine it?

The most basic definition of self-image is that it’s a “mental perspective of yourself”.

How you take action and function in the world is based on your self-image.

And it’s interesting, that nothing in our educational system directly speaks to the development of our self-image. It’s as if it’s on the backburner.

Your self-image is made up of 4 components – all 4 of which are present at all times in everything that we do. Those parts of your self-image are:

1. Thinking self image
2. Feeling (or sensing) self image
3. Emoting self image (our ability to show emotion)
4. Moving self image

Your self-image can be systematically developed and refined to a much greater degree that it is at this point in your life. And in doing so, you will greatly enhance the way in which you function and take action in the world. 

And who doesn’t want to be able to take action more efficiently?

No matter where you are in life, how successful (or unsuccessful) you may be, you are presently at a point on a continuum. An ideal life isn’t about achieving a desired state, it is about the continued development of who we are and how we feel about ourselves. Through systematic development, you can accelerate your progress on that continuum.

The quickest way in which you can begin to refine your self-image (and increase the degree in which you function in the world) is through movement training. 

Movement training, you ask? 

Yes, movement training. 

Let me explain.

Movement is the original language of your nervous system. Well before we begin talking when we are children, our source of learning is movement. And all of us has heard that we learn more in the first years of our life than at any other time in our lives. This is because we are learning through movement.

Recent findings in neuroscience suggest that movement helps to organize the brain. 

Think about it: when you are moving (with awareness- this is the key - much like infants do while they’re rolling around on the ground prior to them walking), what do you have to do? You have to listen to your body (you have to focus on your senses). You have to feel, you have to think, and you have to notice where all parts of you are in space.

Notice how what you have to do while moving with awareness relates to the other parts of our self-image – it encompasses all of those parts!

The reason movement training is so effective at developing and refining our self-image is because we have such a rich experience of movement – when we focus our awareness on it. I’ve heard it said that 90% of our brain function during our waking hours is concerned with balance and the recovery of stability.

Methods exist to provide you with the ability to engage in the process of developing greater differentiation and refinement in: movement, emotions, thinking, and feeling.

The research behind this dates back to the 1930’s and 40’s – from a gentleman by the name of Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais. Dr. Feldenkrais was a physicist, and engineer, a judo master (the first person outside of Japan to receive a black belt), and for all intents and purposes, a genius. 

That’s right, a genius.

He pioneered the concept of brain plasticity 50 years before anyone else believed it to be possible. Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, refers to the brains ability to change as a result of experience.

According to the most recent data, actual physical changes have been documented to take place in the organization of the brain - in the form of new physical connections between existing brain cells, as well as the creation of new brain cells - based on experience

Just ponder on that for a minute...

When you take a moment to digest such a profound ability, you begin to realize the enormous potential for change that exists.

What are you doing to change for the better?

What does your company doing that is enabling its employees to learn how to take better action?

Send us an email and let us know what you are doing to further develop your own self-image.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Strengthen & Stretch or Learn How to Move?

I’ve often heard that in order to correct a bad back, you must:

- strengthen it
- strech it
- hold your belly in
- learn to lift with your legs
- keep your stomach muscles tight – all the time
- carry objects close to your body
- “brace” the entire area through muscular contraction
- lose weight

Blah, blah, blah…

An overwhelming majority of back pain is due to the effects of chronically inefficient movement patterns.  Movement patterns that cause us to not use our skeletons correctly.


Yes, by not using our skeletons correctly.

Let me explain…

The most efficient way to use ourselves is to have our skeletons do the brunt of the work in keeping us upright.

You see, we are in a constant ebb and flow in our dance with gravity.

Our reactions to the daily stresses of life, along with poorly learned movement patterns cause us to get “out of alignment” with our skeleton.

When we get “out of alignment”, our skeletons aren’t carrying their share of the load, which in turn contributes even more to chronic, habitual muscular contractions that aren’t necessary.

Which causes those “tight" backs (and shoulders, and necks, and hips, etc., etc., etc.)

And it causes joints to be in awkward and inefficient positions, and bear more of the load than they were designed for.

Which creates more wear and tear.

Oh, and let’s layer even more stress over top of all of that, which, as we’ve discussed before, is a somatic experience.

Repeated stress results in even more chronic muscular contractions.

And let’s face it, life is stressful.

It's a vicious circle.

When you put those together, you have the ingredients for repetitive stress injuries.

Chronic back pain is, in a large number of cases, a result of repeatedly being out of alignment with your skeleton.

It’s … a … Repetitive … Stress ... Injury.

Or a cumulative trauma disorder.  You can pick how you want to label it.

The good news is, is that it doesn’t have to stay that way.

But initially, you don’t need to strengthen it.

You don’t need to stretch it.

You need to engage in a process that allows you the opportunity to learn how to use yourself better.

Start moving like a kid again – but take it easy initially.

Roll around on the floor for a small amount of time each day.

Listen to what your body’s telling you.

Get away from repetition and seek out variation - in everything that you do.

What you’ll notice is that those repetitive stress injuries start to fade.

Then if you want to strengthen, then strengthen.

If you want to stretch, then stretch (just a little, though).

But learn how to move first.

What are you doing to avoid back problems and repetitive stress injuries?

For an article on how deal with back pain, send us an email and we’ll send it to you for free.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Bad Directions

I hate bad directions.

I finally broke down a purchased a new TV for our home, and had to mount it on the wall.

This is something that I’ve been putting off for quite some time, as I didn’t want/ need an excuse to watch more television.

I get my fill watching The Daily Show with John Stewart, American Idol, and So You Think You Can Dance. (I love his ‘take’ on current events, and I love performance shows)

O.K. - enough about my taste in TV programming - back to my mounting story.

It should have been an easy gig – mount the wall mount for the TV, then put the TV on it.

Simple enough, right?

It shoulda been!

You see, I was given a 30 page instruction manual for this darn thing.

30 pages to tell me how to put in 8 screws!

Oh, and the wall mount came with 48 different screws without telling me which ones to use. Aaaarrrggghhh!

Nowhere in those 30 pages of instructions did it tell me which screws to use!


So through a process of trial and error, my wife and I finally figured out which screws to use, got the T.V. mounted, and are now enjoying the little bit of T.V. that we do watch in high definition.

This experience brought to mind something I deal with on a daily basis.

I work with folks everyday who have movement limitations and pain – and they’re looking for answers.

They want simple, easy to follow instructions.

But, there is no instruction manual for us that tells us how to move in the most efficient way. And no, simply saying “lift with your legs” when bending over to pick something up doesn’t cut it.

We need to learn by trial and error.

Babies and little children do an excellent job at this.

Next time you’re around a small child, watch what they do. They attempt variations around everything it is that they do.

These variations are incredibly important.

Variations supply our nervous systems with raw data, if you will. Raw data that it can “pull from” at a later time in order to accomplish a task.

The way I’ve come to understand learning is that it’s not a linear process (it’s only presented that way). Learning is a process of extraction.

From those variations that you see small children taking part in, patterns are assembled from past experience in their brains in order for them to accomplish a task. Whether it’s picking up blocks off the floor or picking their noses, past experience allows them to be able to do those things.

These “variations of trial and error” are something the overwhelming majority of adults no longer participate in.

They get stuck in the ruts of daily life and stop experimenting with variations, with different ways of doing things.

However, once this process of experiencing variation is re-introduced in adulthood, you see some amazing things happen.

Limitations begin to fade away, pain goes away, and people begin living life more fully.

It’s deceptively simple.

But once you engage yourself in the process, you begin living you life in high definition.

And you don’t need 48 screws and a 30 page instruction manual to do it!

What are you doing in your life that provides variation?

Send us an email and let us know what you do to stay out of those ruts that most adults are stuck in.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Monday, February 9, 2009

Building a Better Brain

That’s right, you heard me correctly. YOU can build a better brain!

While I’m not advocating a Dr. Frankenstein approach to building a better brain, you have the capacity to change your brain (and the brains of your employees) – to build it up to better suit your needs.

Even the American Medical Association is jumping on the brain building bandwagon.

You see, it was accepted as gospel that when we were born, our brain was fixed. It was what it was, and it was only downhill from there.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

In a recent article in American Medical News, the newspaper for America’s physicians, it reports what we have known for a long time – the brain is dynamic and ever changing.

It’s called brain plasticity.

The plasticity of the brain is stimulated through novelty (i.e. – new experiences). In order to take advantage of this amazing property, you must constantly involve yourself in the participation of new activities.

When you challenge the brain with new skills and new ways of doing things, one of the things that increases are the connections in the brain – that is, it increases synaptic density.

Within the brain, the pathways and regions that are most utilized generally grow and become stronger while other parts that aren’t used shrink.

If, as you get older, you become set in your ways of doing your job (or anything else for that matter) and cease doing new things, your brain will shrink. And if you live long enough, you’ll begin to look like BeetleJuice. (Just kidding on the BeetleJuice reference, not the brain shrinkage one.)

Use it or lose it, baby.

The question then arises, what is the best (or most proficient) way in which to capitalize on this phenomenon?

According to the article, physical activity – moving – is one of the best ways to improve brain function. Not just any kind of moving, however, but movement with attention. Directed attention is one of the main drivers of the plasticity process.

And when participants are actively engaged in this process of applying awareness to their movements, balance, posture, coordination – and get this – cognition improve!

So it’s not simply that you’ll feel better and move better, which is an amazing outcome. This research shows that actively engaging in this type of activity will also improve your thinking ability, your reasoning abilities, as well as your memory.

Where do I sign up?!

Taking advantage of brain plasticity, and applying it to your and your company’s daily activities, will have positive effects on their productivity, and your bottom line. And your employees will be happier too!

What are you or your company doing to take advantage of these amazing developments in brain science?

Send us an email and let us know what you do to keep your brain sharp and in a learning mode.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get Rid of That Pain in Your Neck!

Gonna try a little experiment today. Normally we either conduct our movement lessons with our clients in person, or we provide them on CD's. Never have we just put the text out there for folks to follow along with as they read it.

This will take some
very focused attention on your part. But I promise you, if you do make it all the way through to the end (it will only take 5-7 minutes if done properly), you will notice some very interesting things about yourself.

This going to be a short lesson and it will be done in a chair. It can be used to help you find greater comfort when you are working at your desk or in front of the computer. You might also find that it helps you to be more comfortable driving.  

Try and remember any of the movements that you enjoy so that you can repeat them any time that you are sitting down and feel a little bit sore or stiff.

As we do this lesson please bear in mind the following guidelines:

1. Breathe
Pay attention to your breathing throughout the lesson. Notice if you can do the movements without interrupting the breathing.

2. Rest
Do not hesitate to rest when you feel like it, even if it is prior to the instructions asking you to rest.

3. Don't strain
Avoid using too much effort. It is important to stay within the range of what is easy, comfortable and pleasurable to do.

4. Observe
Pay close attention to yourself as you do the lessons. I will try and draw your attention to changes that might be happening but please try and notice anything that might be happening for you.

5. Make Small Movements, Take it Easy
As you do these movements stay within the range of what is easy and comfortable to do. Don't force. Don't strain. Don't use effort. Just look to see how can you move using a minimum amount of effort.

Relaxed Neck Left Side

1. Sit at the edge of your chair with you legs spread comfortably and your feet flat on the floor.

2. Gently turn your head to the left only as far as it is easy for you to turn. How far round can you see? Remember what you are looking at for later comparison.

Turn back to the middle.

Now turn your head to look to the right without any forcing, make sure that you feel no tension in the neck while you turn. Again be aware of what you can see so that you will be able to notice changes as they occur.

Come back to the middle.

3. Make sure that you are still sitting on the edge of the chair.

Put your left hand on the seat of the chair a little behind you to the left.

Lean on the left hand. 

Lift your right hand and place your chin on top of the back of the right hand as if to lean on the hand. Let you right elbow hang down.

Begin turning your head, together with your right hand and arm, to the left and come back to the middle

Repeat the movement gently and slowly.

Can you feel the spine twisting?
Do you feel movement in the ribs?
Do you feel the pressure increase on one of your feet as you turn?
Is your pelvis moving as you turn?
Is your lower back participating in the movement?

Rest for a moment.

Notice any changes are there differences between your right side and your left side?

Perhaps in the buttocks?

4. Come back to sit at the edge of the chair.

Feet spread knees above your feet.

Leaning as before on your left arm and hand.

Lift your right hand.  Place the back of your right hand under you chin with the elbow hanging down as before.

Again turn your head and your right hand and arm all together to the left as far as it goes easily and stay there twisted to the left.

Then gently and slowly, turn only your head back to the middle.

Then turn the head to the left past the hand and continue turning the head only right and left


Moving your head do you feel the movement anywhere else in the body?

Maybe in the spine back ribs hips ankles?

Come back to the center and rest for a moment.

Do you feel a difference in the way that your left buttock comes in contact with the chair compared to your right buttock?

5. Come back to sit at the edge of the chair.

Feet spread, knees above your feet.

Leaning as before on your left arm and hand.

Lift your right hand and place the back of your right hand under you chin with the elbow hanging down as before.

Again turn your head and your right hand and arm all together to the left as far as it goes easily and stay there twisted to the left

This time move only your eyes back to the middle (to the right), then move your eyes to look to the left. Keep moving your eyes right and left - very gently - otherwise you might get a headache.

Remember to breathe freely and let go of any unnecessary holding that you notice.

Come back to the middle and rest.

Do you feel additional changes in the way that you sit or the way you breathe?

6. Come back to sit at the edge of the chair with your chin on the back of your right hand.

Again turn your head and your right hand and arm all together to the left as far as it feels easy and stay there twisted to the left.

While twisted, begin rocking your pelvis. Once lifting the right buttock a bit off the chair and once lifting you left buttock slowly and easily.

Keep your belly soft as you do this – resist the tendency to pull the stomach in.

Gently repeat several times.

Come back to the middle and rest for a moment.

Do you notice further differences in the way you are sitting?

In your your whole spine? 
Your buttocks? 
The contact of your feet with the floor?

7. Sit at the edge of the chair

This time, simply turn your head to look to the left

Is it easier to turn than at the beginning of this lesson?
Can you see further?

Now look to the right and come back to the middle.

Is it more restricted to look to the right?

For a mobile and pain free neck remember to move your pelvis and low back and twist your spine whenever you turn your head the way that you just did.

Do repeat the movements any time that you are seated and feel free to experiment with any variations and similar movements that you can think of.

You may want to try repeating the lesson in the opposite direction - turning to the right instead of the left.

Did you do the entire lesson above? If so, what'd you feel? If you didn't, why not?

For more information on movement lessons that will help you learn how to move better, send us an email and we'll send it to you.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Monday, February 2, 2009

What is Your Body Telling You?

When watching the pre-game for the Super Bowl yesterday, I was struck by something Bruce Springsteen said in an interview when asked why he got into music so many years ago.

Not being a Bruce Springsteen fan, and not knowing him well, I would have guessed he would have said what any rock and roller might say - women, money, etc.

But his response was very atypical – and it really resonated with me. His reply was that he got into music in order to open up a conversation.

To open up a conversation.  Beautiful!

That simple statement made me think about why it is that I do what I do.

I want to have a conversation, too.

In fact, I think all of us want to be heard.

Some for reasons associated with vanity.

Some just like to hear themselves talk.

And some feel that they have something to offer their fellow human being.

I feel like I’ve got something to offer.

Here’s My Story:

About 11 years ago, after experiencing SIGNIFICANT back pain for about 5 years, I finally broke down and made an appointment to see a doctor about it.

After a battery of tests (X-Ray’s, MRI’s, etc.), a back specialist at St. Louis University informed me that I had the spine of a 65 year-old man.

A… sixty… five… year… old… man.   Needless to say, I was shocked!

I was ‘officially’ diagnosed with a bi-lateral herniation of the disc between L5-S1, and also with degenerative disc disease in the 3 discs that sat right above the herniation (My vertebra in that area are pretty much on top of one another with very little cushioning (disc material) left in between.

I was speechless.

As I sat there in a daze, he wrote me a very large prescription for Vicodan (I could have taken a 6 month vacation had I sold them for their street value!), and informed me that I would need a spinal fusion of 3-4 of my vertebra in about 10 years.

“Just deal with the pain as best you can”, he said, “and know that your athletic days are over.”

Over?!? I was four years out of college, and was hoping that my better days were still in front of me.

For a while, Vicodan was my friend. But don’t get me wrong, there were still days in which I could barely move or breathe it hurt so badly.

It became apparent that this was not a way in which I wanted to live my life.

I began researching everything that I could about back pain and the various treatment options that went along with my particular diagnosis.

Needless to say, it wasn’t very encouraging at all.

So, in order to make my looooong story short, I want to let you know that I’ve figured it out.

I’ve figured out how not to have pain.

And not only do I not have pain, but I live my life like a kid again.

Jumping and playing and rolling around on the ground with my dogs – just like a kid!

I’ve met others who have figured it out, too.

And it’s not about pain pills, or any fancy-schmancy gizmos.

It’s about having a conversation.  A conversation with yourself. 

A movement based conversation.

Learn to listen to what your body is saying. If you slow down and really listen, your body will tell you what it needs. And you’ll be amazed how quickly it responds.

But you need someone to guide you so that you can learn how to listen.

And that’s what I do.

I help those folks that need to learn how to listen to their bodies again, listen.

And those that learn how to listen, well, their Glory Days are in front of them, not in the past.

What do you do that helps you listen to your body?

For more information on what “learning how to listen” actually means and how you can implement it in your life, send us an email and we’ll send it to you for free!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Friday, January 30, 2009

Are you a Ticking Ergonomic Time Bomb?

By the end of the day do you have pain in your neck, upper back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, lower or mid back, hips, knees, or feet?

Do you strain your eyes to the point that by the end of the day they feel like they did back in college after you and your friends smoked a funny cigarette?

Do you generally feel stressed out, or perhaps you feel a low level of anxiety that seems to always be there under the surface?

Do you feel like you want to 'go postal' on someone at the end of your day?

Then you, like many people, are a ticking ergonomic time bomb.

What do you do about it?

How about you try this: (and hey, don’t just read it, follow along and actually do it!)

Come to sit at the edge of your chair, feet spread comfortably with your hands on your knees. (and ladies, if you’ve got high heels on, take them off. We love ‘em and all, but they wreak havoc on your body). Get those feet flat on the floor.

From this position, let your abdominal muscles relax, and push your belly out. Not a big movement, but a nice, small one (don't use a lot of effort). 

Return to the starting position. 

Do this several (8-10) times.  Do it with attention.

Your pelvis should be rocking forward as you do this movement.

Strive to make the movement as refined as possible (i.e. no jerkiness).  Make it smooth like butter.

Now relax.

Pay attention to your breathing. Is it easy, or do you strain to breathe? Just listen.

Come back to sitting at the edge of your chair.

This time pull your belly in. Again, don’t do a forceful movement, but a small, easy one. Your pelvis should be rocking backwards as you pull your belly in and round your spine.

Do this several (8-10) times.

Again, listen to your breathing. Strive to do the above movement without holding your breath.

Now relax again.

The slower you do it, and the more you pay attention to your movement, the more you will get out of it.

Now come back to the edge of your chair.

Let’s put the 2 moves from above together. Push your belly out, then pull your belly in. Your pelvis should be rocking forward and backward as you do this movement. Again, do this nice and easy. 

Repeat 8-10 times.  And while you're doing it, think about the following:

- How far up your spine can you feel this movement?

- Do you get taller when you push your belly out? 

- Are you getting shorter as you pull your belly in?

Pay attention to the way you move.

Paying attention is the only way you’re going to begin to notice what it is that actually causes you pain and discomfort.

This will then allow you to create move beneficial movement patterns that don’t cause you pain.

And the easier it is for you to move, the easier it’s going to be for you to do what you need to do.

… Let it be someone else who ‘goes postal’ because they’re stressed out.

What do you do so that you’re not in pain by the end of your day?

Try the exercise above a couple times today and let us know what it does for you.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Beating Stress

Stress impacts you in a variety of ways. It can:

Make you anxious
Make you angry
Make you argumentative
Make you aggressive
Make you depressed
Cause you to be “uptight”
Make you less productive
Affect your relationships
Affect your quality of sleep
Affect your quality of work
Make you weaker
Affect your breathing
Affect your thought patterns
Affect your movement patterns
Cause chronic over-secretion of stress hormones, such as cortisol
Affect your emotions
Affect your heart’s health
Cause excess bodily tension
Suppress your immune system – you get sicker easier and more often
Impair your brains’ function, especially memory
Decrease your ability to absorb new information or learn new skills

... and a whole host of other repercussions that come along with repeated exposure to stress.

According to the American Institute of Stress, stress is a somatic experience. That is, you experience stress with your whole self, throughout your entire body. It’s not just a “mental” thing.

Stress has a corresponding pattern of muscular action that goes along with it, and this pattern of action is individual to you.

Some feel pain in their necks. Some feel pain in their backs. Others have anxiety attacks.

For that specific reason, there is no one prescriptive answer to reduce stress (i.e. – you need to work out to relieve stress).

On the other hand, however, there is a single answer for how to prevent the fallout from stress.

First and foremost, you need to understand how stress affects you.

In order to do that, you need to be able to feel.

To feel?

That’s right, you need to be able to feel.

Sounds easy, but most people have been exposed to stress for such long periods of time, that they have repressed the feelings and bodily sensations that accompany it.

So, in order to reconnect with your feelings (not just your emotions, but the sensations that come from your body), you need to slow down.

Slow down?

Yes, slow down.

Based around the scientific laws that govern how your brain takes in and processes information, in order to develop and expand your capacity to feel, you need to slow down.

Slowing down allows your brain to take in, and process, larger amounts of information.

You become more in tune with the sensory feedback your body is giving you.

And remember, stress is a full body experience.

So, when you are able to tune in better to your sensory feedback, you are able to sense much earlier when stress is sneaking up on you.

When you feel stress sneaking up on your sooner, you have a better chance of not letting it get a grip on you.

And if you can prevent it from getting a grip on you, you can be more productive.

And a less stressed, more productive “you” makes everyone happy!

What do you do to prevent the effects of stress in your life?

For more information on what “slowing down” actually means and how you can implement it in your life, send us an email and we’ll send it to you for free!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

You’re Either Getting Better, or You’re Getting Worse

… you never stay the same.

These words are as fresh in my mind now as they were over 19 years ago.

This statement was burned into my psyche by my college football coach, Randy Walker.

He made a lasting impression on my life in many ways.

He always was striving for constant improvement. And he demanded that mindset from everyone he worked with.

His thoughts were that if you weren’t actively doing something to better yourself or your skills, you weren’t improving.

And if you weren’t improving, and your competition was, relatively speaking, you were getting worse.

You see, everyone wants to do better, to perform better. It’s just a matter of whether your actions are commensurate with your ideals.

Are you just giving improvement lip service, or are you actually doing the little things that are going to set you apart from you competition?

This thought process is nearly identical to the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, which, in its essence, is the idea of continual improvement. This approach has been applied to many company’s ways of doing business in order to maintain a competitive advantage.

But in order to maintain a competitive advantage, you need to do something unique that will enable you stand out from your competition.

Because they are getting better, too. And they have intelligent people that work for them as well.

And all of us as a collective whole can only refine the same processes that we all use so much.

We need unique. Not just for the sake of being unique, but because doing things in a unique way will separate you from your competition.

And separating yourself from your competition is the name of the game.

What are you doing that enables you to separate yourself from your competition?

For more information on how to separate yourself from your competition, send us an email, and we’ll send it to you for free!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Using Your Whole Body

I love it when I read stories like this one.

A doctor who wants to solve problems instead of treating them!

Note: While we agree with the good doctor on working with the whole body, we don't buy into the idea that people need to be "fixed" (that would imply that we are somehow "broken"). We do believe everyone can learn to function at a much higher level.

It’s not that he wants to go out of business, I’m sure. He just doesn’t want to keep treating the same folks over and over for the same stuff.

In his viewpoint, the body needs to be in balance.

It’s what we call being integrated.

And you can learn how to be more integrated!

You see, the more integrated you are, the more you are able to utilize your whole self effectively when taking action.

And the more integrated you are in the use of your “self”, the more productive you’ll be.

Let’s expound on what being more integrated means.

When someone performs any given action, all of their body is involved whether they realize it or not.

Any individual muscle fiber either helps with the action or hinders it. The muscle fiber may help by contracting when appropriate or relaxing when appropriate.

Likewise a muscle fiber that contracts or relaxes at the wrong time hinders the action.

The key is to learn how to take action with all of your resources dedicated towards that action – you don’t want to be “fighting” yourself.

Because “fighting” yourself actually creates wear and tear on you joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, and muscles.

Here’s a quick example:

When you are hammering in a nail, does it really help to stick your tongue out and bite on it?

You might argue that it improves your concentration but it actually hinders you and makes the action more difficult to perform.

Why is that?

As you bite on your tongue you contract muscles in your tongue, face, neck and probably shoulder. If all of these areas are locked up, then your arm has to do more in order to supply the force and accuracy needed to drive the nail in.

If you do not bite your tongue, your neck and facial muscles can stay relaxed and your shoulder muscles are available to contribute to the task of driving in the nail.

Quite a simplistic example, but you get the point.

The more integrated you are, the more you learn how to equally distribute your efforts throughout your entire self.

Which enables you to be more effective.

And the more effective you are, the better you’ll perform.

And it’s all about performance.

What do you do that inhibits optimal performance?

Send us an email and let us know what you do to perform better.


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sit Up Straight!

I always chuckle internally when I see ergonomic posters detailing proper posture.

But I temper those thoughts because I also realize that those posters are placed there with the best of intentions. Employers don’t want their employees to get hurt, for pete’s sakes! (I’ve always wondered, who is Pete anyway?)

The thing is, we can’t do anything with it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Everyone needs to know how best to arrange their workstation in terms of chair and desk set up, as well as placing what they are routinely working with in close proximity to them.

However, we simply can’t make use of well-intentioned information that tells us to sit up straight, stand up straight, or "use your entire body to turn while lifting heavy luggage…"

We need to feel what whole body participation feels like.

This is a completely subjective experience – the way in which we feel ourselves taking action – and not one that can be relayed through objective ergonomic posters or diagrams.

You see, we are built to move. And in order to move efficiently, our nervous systems’ need to be able to experience as many different variations as possible.

These variations allow us to make better choices when we move. We are able to draw from a larger pool of experiences in order to best execute an action - whatever that action is.

In terms of brain science, it can be explained this way: Experience modifies the connections between neurons so that they become more efficient at processing information.

In order to work and move in more effective ways, you must develop new neural pathways and break out of the cycle of habitual movement patterns.

So, the more experiences we have (the more variations in movement we feel), the more we will be able to move and work more efficiently and effectively.

Which translates into more effective action.

And regardless of how effective you are presently, there’s always room for improvement.

What are you doing to increase your effectiveness?

For an article that provides tips on increasing your effectiveness, send us an email and we’ll send it to you for free!


Chad Estes
Movement Specialist

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