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Diaphragms are the only skeletal muscle you need to live.... treat them well

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Every diaphragm on my table gets assess and worked on. They all get treated a little differently, but every diaphragm needs a little reorganization to prevent unnecessary tension on some very important structures:

  • the abdominal aorta - the artery the feeds EVERYTHING below your ribcage with blood. If it's pinned, your blood pressure goes up, just like a kinked garden hose.

  • the inferior vena cava - the vein that brings ALL of that blood back to the heart and lungs for gas exchange and detoxification. If it's squished, you get light headed and swell below the ribcage.

  • the esophagus - that brings food from your mouth to your stomach. If it's kinked, you can get a hiatal hernia, heartburn or have a hard time digesting food, especially protein.

  • the thoracic duct of your lymphatic system - helps return all the extra fluid in your body back to your heart. If it's blocked, the fluid stays stagnant like a pond and can breed bacteria, not to mention it's affects on the cardiovascular system.

  • the vagus nerve - your primary parasympathetic (rest and digest) nerve that's responsible for relaxation, stress reduction, digestion, sleep, pleasure, etc. If it's tethered, ain't nothin' working like it supposed to. It's like the the chill out power's out. 

If any of these structures are compressed by diaphragm tension, you've got issues with your cardiovascular system, immune system, nervous system, digestive system and the result is muscle tension in your low back, neck and shoulders, just to name a few things.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to diaphragm dynamics... essential organs sit directly on top and right below this muscley trampoline as well, but I'll save that for another day.

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Stop saying iliopsoas

There is iliacus and there is psoas. There is no iliopsoas. 

Let's talk about what they have in common to start with:

  • both attach to the lesser trochanter of the femur
  • they both flex and externally rotate the hip joint, anteriorly tilt the pelvis and help adduct an abducted hip

There's SO MUCH MORE they don't have in common...

They're innervated differently. Iliacus is innervated by the femoral nerve (L2-4) and the psoas is innervated by the anterior rami of lumbar nerves (L1-3), which is a big deal if there's a pathology or injury.

The whole lumbar plexus is embedded in the posterior aspect of the psoas. This leaves a lot of room for dysfunction if a hypertonic psoas is compressing nerves. It can also be an issue if you're going continually eccentrically load (stretch) the psoas without assessing any underlying issues .

Your psoas massages practically all the organs in your abdomen when it contracts. The iliacus gets the lower intestines, which ain't shabby, but the psoas gets your kidneys, liver, spleen, stomach, pancreas, gallbladder AND your intestines (high and low). Plus all the other glorious stuff in your insides like your lymphatic and blood vessels.

The psoas crosses seven(ish) joints and iliacus crosses one. They both cross the hip joint, but the psoas crosses T12/L1, L1/L2/ L2/L3, L3/L4, and L4/L5. This means there are many more opportunities for movement and lengthening of the psoas. 

The psoas has more actions because it crosses more joints. The iliacus and psoas share the same four actions previously mentioned. The psoas also:

  • laterally flexes the lumbar spine
  • contralaterally rotates the lumber spine
  • flexes the lower lumbar spine
  • extends the upper lumbar spine
  • stabilizes the spine

The psoas has multiple important intimate relationships. It's connected to the intervertebral discs, the diaphragm, the lumbar plexus and shares fascia with the abdominal aorta, the inferior vena cava, the lymphatic system, the quadratus lumborum, the kidneys and the adrenal glands. Don't go jamming hard objects in abdomen with the intention of releasing any muscles. Use a soft object, like the Coregeous ball and find a skilled manual therapist.

Psoas is commonly inhibited, while iliacus is commonly facilitated. Meaning iliacus is doing all the work and psoas is getting all the credit through it's fame. It also means you may not want to excessively stretch the psoas to inhibit it more. 

As you can see, these two important hip flexor muscles are quite different, meaning they require different types of attention based on what is going on in the body. Always look at relationships in the body because absolutely nothing stands alone. The psoas and iliacus must be able to lengthen, contract and relax, just like every other skeletal muscle, to function well. Getting a thorough assessment and treatment by a manual therapist is a must if you are suspecting dysfunction (low back pain, excessive stress, hip pain, limited range of motion, breathing dysfunction, digestive problems) in either of the muscles.

Enjoy your iliaci and your psoai ! Much love,

Casey

 

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On cellulite

A woman asked what I did for work, so I said I was a massage therapist, but I work in a different way than most. Following that, I explained the types of modalities I use for treatment and assessment and mentioned myofascial release. Her eyes lit up when I said the word fascia and I knew what was coming next. Sure as shit, "have you heard of the fascia blaster?" and my blood pressure and heart rate creeped up. After a deep breath I said I'd heard of it, then she proceeded to tell me that her sister had used it every two days with great results and she was going to get one. My heart started to ache.

Here is the how the medieval torture device, I mean fascia blaster works:

Fascia Blaster
  • roll the ever loving fuck out of your superficial fascia to the point of damage (internal bleeding and inflammation)
  • let the swelling of the tissue fill out the dimples of your skin so it isn't puckered
  • repeat when the tissue heals and your body has reabsorbed the interstitial fluid


You know when you sprain your ankle or break a bone and everything around it swells? That's tissue damage and the inflammation is your body trying to heal itself.

So let me ask you this:

  1. Do you think that's a considerate thing to do to your body every other day?
  2. Do you think your immune, nervous, lymphatic and cardiovascular system appreciate the extra work they have to do?
  3. Could that possibly lead to unnecessary stress on your body because you're *repeatedly* abusing it?

No? I don't think so either.

My friend Gil Hedley went on a rant, er, I mean speech about cellulite... have a watch:

Here's some thoughts:

  • every body has cellulite (babies, skinny people, fat people, fit people, strong people, old people, young people)
  • the only nude people we see are our partners (that are human and have cellulite) and airbrushed models (which are so fucking far from a realistic representation of the human body)
  • I've seen an awful lot of naked people in my life and even the most conventionally attractive ones have "imperfect skin" - cellulite, stretch marks, acne, ingrown hairs, scars
  • superficial fascia is wet and juicy and therefore conductive - which means more sensation (unless you cause damage and make scar tissue) 

Love. Your. Body.

Love. Your. Fascia.

 

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De-clutter Your Mind by Journalling

Okay, okay, so you've heard this whole "you should journal" thing before, but I've got an awesome, convenient, secret place to do it and a couple of tips to help you start and succeed.

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I journal for a few reasons:

  • it keeps me sane
  • it prevents me from putting too much energy (usually the negative bitchy kind) out into the world
  • it guides me to the root of whatever is running through my mind
  • it motivates me
  • it preps my mind for meditation

One can journal a multitude of different ways:

  • the old fashioned way with a pen and paper either in a journal, notebook or piece of paper
  • using an app or a word processor
  • using a website dedicated to journalling

I use Morning Pages and absolutely love it. It's free, easy to use and gives you a fabulous little box of your favourite words at the end of each session! Hemingway mode even prevents backspaces so you have to release your hold on perfectionism!! When you're done it vanished into thin air and no one ever has to see it, including yourself ever again.

Some tips:

  • just write. It doesn't matter what you write, just write what your thinking, feeling, worried about, excited about, perturbed by, what you had for lunch, how cute your dog looks when his nose it suck up against the patio door. It doesn't matter and don't judge yourself, just write your stream of consciousness.
  • have a pen and paper handy to jot notes as you go about daily tasks/reminders. Write them quick and continue on.
  • do it everyday, sometimes twice even if it's for three minutes
  • you don't even have to write sentences. Sometimes my journals look like a long slew of cuss words :D
  • keep track of how often you're journaling using a habit tracker - something in your planner or on your wall that tells you how many days in a row you've journaled. 
  • try drawing as well. This isn't usually my cup of tea, but it's incredibly therapeutic for some. 
  • Meditate for five to ten minutes after to integrate the clarity you've discovered. If that's too tall of an order, just stick with the journaling.... baby steps!

Give it a whirl. Do it for  at least 10 days and let me know how it goes. It gets pretty addictive!

Much love, Casey

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You need a cold shower everyday!

My hot water tank blew a gas valve on Saturday night. Lucky for me, I've been having daily contrast (hot/cold) showers for the last few months, which means I could tolerate an icy cold Canadian November well water shower the last three days.

You'll shower in the cold when you have to (or maybe you won't,) but why on earth would I voluntarily douse myself in chilly water? Here are a few solid reasons why you should flip the switch to cold:

1. Promotes Fat Loss

Your body has two types of fat: brown and white. White fat stores excess calories when we consume more than we need and it hangs out around our waists, hips and thighs. Brown fat is derived from muscle and it burns calories to generate heat. In simple terms, we want more brown fat because it actually helps us burn more calories and hanging out in the cold can help stimulate brown fat. 

2. Help to Repair Muscle

Post-training cold water immersion has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of delayed on set muscle soreness for better muscle recovery.

3. Improves Digestion

A cold shower causes the blood vessels in your periphery (arms and legs) to constrict and redirects the blood to your internal organs, which makes them more effective.

4. Relieves Depression

Cold hydro therapy has been linked to:

  • lower cortisol levels: stress hormone
  • instant release of endorphines: feel good chemicals
  • instant release of norepinepherine: a neurotransmitter related to improved mood and energy levels; it also works in conjunction with dopamine, the happy neurotransmitter
  • higher testosterone levels: get up and go hormone

5. Creates Discipline

This one is pretty obvious. I'm a firm believer that will power is a muscle that we must train in order to be able to use it when things get tough. Enduring a few minutes under frigid water is a simple and fierce way to develop your discipline, while gaining numerous other benefits. 

6. Improves Skin and Hair

A dose of cold water helps the hair retain it's natural oils, keeping it luxurious and healthy. It can also help keep your follicles flat, which could potentially help against hair loss too.

7. Boosts your Immune System

When you hang out in a cold shower long enough, the rest and digest part of the nervous system, turns on, which also supports healing. Plus, studies show cold water immersion can increase the amount of two types of protective white blood cells (monocytes and lymphocytes) in your circulatory system to help ward off foreign invaders.

And an added bonus is that it helps you sleep! Check out this video of Paul Chek talking about the importance of sleep and cold showers

 
 

Maybe you're convinced that having a cold shower is a good idea. Here's how I transitioned into them:

  • start with a warm/hot shower 
  • flip on the cold after a few minutes to a level you can tolerate
  • make it colder when you adjust to it. Don't push it though. You don't want to turn yourself off of cold showers before you start to feel the benefits. You need to warm up to the idea.
  • stay in the cold for at least 2-3 minutes
  • make sure it hits your chest, neck and face for the best results
  • flip back to warm if you wish, then back to cold, but end with cold. This is called a contrast shower and is a nice way to introduce it.
  • permit your body to feel the sensations of "cold" and "warm" without labeling them "bad" and "good." Let it be a meditative process.

You should feel invigorated, perhaps a little pissed off, but also invigorated! I can't encourage you enough to start slow if you intend to make this part of your daily routine. You'll be a better human because of it! Much love,

Casey

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How do you poo?

Are you a "shit and get off the pot" kinda person or a "see you in half an hour" kind of person? Perhaps you're both depending on the day.  

I'm sorry to have to break the bad news to all the bathroom readers/thinkers/texters, but:

a) if it is ACTUALLY taking you over 10 minutes to drop a deuce, you've got problems

b) if it doesn't and you're taking some "you" time, you're causing problems

Here's the deal:

Your intestines push the poop out in a smooth (involuntary) muscle contraction wave called peristalsis. Your butt muscles aren't doing a damn thing. Perhaps you think your abdominal muscles can help with the act of bearing down, but that actually doesn't actually get poop out either. However, what that bearing down with the relaxation of your pelvic floor muscles is doing is stretching the hell out of your pelvic floor by increasing the pressure in your abdomen, which is a BIG problem. Why do you ask?

Bearing down to poop is an issue for two main reasons:

  1. It can cause hemorrhoids, which are bulging blood vessels in your rectum that are itchy, painful and frequently bleed.
  2. Spending 30 minutes stretching a group of muscles is going to weaken them and cause a host of problems down the road. 

Okay, okay, so I think I've made my point about why you shouldn't plunk your ass on the can for half an hour a day (possibly even two or three times). "But seriously lady, it actually takes me 30 minutes to go number 2." Here are some things we need to look at:

1. Are you visiting when nature calls?

Remember, pooping is an involuntary process. When your feces hits your rectum (your poop shoot,) stretch receptors send a signal to the brain that says "it's go time." If you don't go, reverse peristalsis happens and your poop goes back into your colon. That feeling is familiar... you really have to go for a bit, then it eases off. It doesn't seem like that big of a deal though and it'll just travel back down soon enough right? Well, the main goal of your colon is to absorb water - it's the poop dehydrator. You know when you you have runs and it's liquid? Well, it's because it's speeding through the colon. So once your turd gets hits a red light at your rectum, it crawls back up into your belly and the colon absorbs even more water from the feces. Then bam, you've got rock solid rocket that's condensing even more - think fresh homemade Play Doh one the first trip and three year old Plasticine in the kindergarten bucket on the next. What happens if you hold it in again? It's even dryer, harder and more compact. When that dried out rock solid rocket makes it's way back to your rectum and you decide it's time to go, it's so much harder to pass. Ya'll know what I'm talkin' 'bout. It can also easily lead to hemorrhoids or anal tears. Seems rather horrifying, but the point is: listen to your body. 

2. How's your fluid and fiber intake?

Our bodies are anywhere from 55-70% water (depends on a few factors.) When we take in fluid, it needs to be distributed to blood, our brain and spinal cord, our muscles, our organs, our connective tissue, our mucous membranes... I could seriously go on for days about the fluidity of our bodies, but you get my drift. The body works in a bit of a hierarchy and the heart and the brain trump the digestive system for who gets water first. We need to drink enough water so that all the systems are adequately hydrated.

That was a bit of a detour to say that when we drink enough water our stools are softer and they're easier to pass and fiber keeps everything fluffy for lack of a better word so when it's time to escape, it's a bit squeezable at the end.

3. How do you sit on the throne?

Here is a fabulous video that shows why you should squat at the pot. I really can't describe it any better than this guy...

 
 

Okay so you're going to give that all a go, excellent. It may take some adjusting to get your guts into prime working order so here are a few tips to set you on the path to fecal freedom:

  • Get enough sleep and find ways to decrease your stress. The opposite of "fight or flight" is "rest and digest" for a reason. We may not be getting chased by tigers, but our bodies respond to stress is the same way. Meditation, massage, yoga, spending time in nature, taking a relaxing bath are just a few ways you can turn off your on switch and shift into rest and digest mode.
  • Move - a lot. Walking, running, yoga, trampoline bouncing, dancing, cartwheels, weight lifting and all kinds of other things actually shift your guts around and promotes movement of food through your digestive system.
  • Get a visceral massage. A trained manual therapist (massage therapists and osteopaths) will work wonders shifting things around in your abdomen to make sure things are moving along smoothly. 
  • Give yourself a belly massage. Here's a short video on how to get things moving with a Coregeous® ball. I teach this regularly in Yoga Tune Up® classes and workshops. I can't tell you how many times I've had students tell me they had the best poops of their lives after rolling their bellies.
 
 

If you have any questions, desire a belly massage or want to learn more about self-massage, feel free to get in touch! To order yourself a Coregeous® ball, click here. I wish you all comfortable, frequent and satisfying poops. Much love,

Casey

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Anatomese

Anatomese: Why this univeral language is essential for yoga teachers, personal trainers and movement teachers

Greetings friends,

My social media is blessed with an abundance of different movement teachers and manual therapists, filling my news feed full of brilliant discussions sparked by physiotherapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, occupational therapists, yoga teachers, CrossFit coaches, personal trainers, osteopaths, and many more brilliant, well educated individuals. The conversations are clear and concise even though we all have different practices because we share a universal lingo: anatomical language. This is taught in all academic programs, but not necessarily in basic entry-level programs like personal training certifications and yoga teacher trainings. 

 
 

I will hereby refer to anyone that teaches people how to move, be it with group fitness, yoga, personal training as movement teachers.

 

Below are just a few reasons why learning a new language can improve your teaching game.

Cueing

In a class or private session, using specific terms, like flex the hips or externally rotate the shoulder, in conjunction with unique language like hinge at the hips and spin the arm outwards will teach your clients how their bodies move - at the joints. With this knowledge, your clients are able to make the best choices for how they move their bodes. As Perry Nickleston of Stop Chasing Pain says, "there aren't any bad movements, only good, better and best."

Discussing concepts with other professionals

For each amazing discussions I've read involving anatomical language, there's one in which people are trying to understand what the other is saying. It resembles this: someone says words like "tuck your tail bone" instead of "posterior pelvic tilt" and "round the back" instead of "flex the spine," leaving everyone to try to figure out in a flurry of confusion what is happening with a student's body. All of this is okay and we all start somewhere, but it could be better. Using anatomese to engage in clear, concise conversations with our colleagues and friends permits more accuracy and understanding, which will, in turn, benefit our students.

Understanding what you see in front of you

Coming back to the cueing convo, knowing the specific directions of movement available at a joint and understanding how to combine them for optimal stability and power, your students have less risk of injury and make better progress. When you develop the words to describe what you see in front of you, your brain can make better sense of it. 

Gaining an understanding of what muscles, joints and connective tissue are doing

Piggy-backing on the point above, when you know how joints move, you can figure out which muscles move that joint, how the connective tissue is stretching and how the bones are articulating in relation to one another. When you know or are able to think through, what's happening, or not happening, you can troubleshoot and have more tools to fix the problem in front of you. The best movement teachers envision the moving skeleton and use their knowledge of anatomy to deconstruct the movement and then put it back together to make that movement better.

These are all complex, multifaceted notions and the only way to begin to understand them is if you learn the language and apply the concepts to benefit your students. We brushed over these concepts in my yoga teacher training but I still didn't remember, let alone understand them. Six weeks after I finished my yoga teacher training, I took the Yoga Tune Up® Level 1 and got far more anatomy knowledge than I bargained for. Level 1 was like a fire hose of brain bombs and body concepts and I was completely overwhelmed. As I continued with my YTU Integration process, I was able to sort through the ideas and theories that I got in Level 1 and gained a much clearer picture of how the body moves and why it sometimes doesn't move well. If you're interested in learning anatomese and how top apply it to any movement practice check out my Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Trainings and the Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Trainings happening around the world. 

Thank you so much for take the time to explore my musings today, much love,

Casey

 

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