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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