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

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