MOVEMENT AS GRACE

This week I came across an amazing quote,

Although we are intelligent, sensitive beings, we often think of ourselves as objects that need to be fixed.”

It comes from an article  in Pilates Style by well-known Pilates teacher, Wendy LeBlanc-Arbuckle, who has been an inspiration to me for many years.  The article is on the esoteric side, dealing with an “insider” controversy in Pilates.  But you don’t have to understand that controversy to resonate with some of her quotes.  Here are a few more:

“What ‘conversation’ are you having with your body? Are you ‘partnering with’ or ‘fighting’ gravity? Are you treating yourself as a biointelligent organism who knows how to self-regulate, adapt and self-heal, or a biomechanical machine that needs to be repaired and serviced?”

“we need to remove the mask of the ‘ideal’ body to reveal our ‘real’ body.”

“How can movement be nourishing and enlivening, rather than ‘I should do it this way’ (body schema) or ‘how I should look’ (body image)? This calls for real body awareness, for discovering our true self.”

“What can begin to inform our movement awareness is knowing that we are constantly in a state of flux throughout life, ‘shaping ourselves,’ physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. From this potent place, we have an opportunity to embody ‘core’ as a coordinated relationship with gravity, ourselves, one another and our environment. We develop a way of being in life that is grounded, curious and empathetic—way beyond movement as a ‘thing to do.’ “

There is so much packed in to each of these quotes that I will just let you, dear reader, interpret as you will.  But one thing I would especially like to highlight is the reference to the “state of flux throughout life”.  A recurring theme throughout this blog is that all of life, including we humans, are constantly changing.  Despite the frequency with which I hear the phrase “I hate change”, it cannot be avoided.  It’s happening all the time – like it or not!

Furthermore, everything is always moving forward in time.  We can’t go back.  We might have some misguided thoughts that somehow things were better at some mythical time in the past.  But memory is faulty.  And even if that were true, it doesn’t matter.  What is real is the here and now.  And that includes our bodies.  Even if we don’t notice changes, they are happening within us and all around us.  So we can “‘partner with gravity’ (release tension) or ‘fight gravity’ (create tension)”.  Substitute the word “change” for “gravity” and you can see that there is a broader meaning here.

It seems to me that there is enough tension in the world and in our everyday lives without adding to that by fighting with our bodies.  No matter what your current status, your body is a miraculous manifestation.  You can choose to focus on your limitations, or you can recognize all of the things you are capable of.  If you are reading this, that’s just one of them!  The ability to move and breathe in any capacity is worth celebrating.  And also worth maintaining.  It is now well-known in the medical community that movement is an essential component to good health.  Move what you can move while you can move it.  It’s never too late to start and once you start you can always improve.  Things will change over time, but if you stay in “conversation” with your body, you will learn to adapt.  Here is one final quote:

“[W]hen we learn to listen to and be guided by our body wisdom, in relationship with gravity and spatial orientation, body schema begins to support our body image. We learn to embody our true selves. . . . we discover the inherent wisdom and intelligence within every cell of our body . . . we connect with the natural healing energy of the earth, and realign with our primal nature and relationship with the natural world”.

Move with that in mind and you just might be able to make peace with who you are and what you can do.

Attorney General Jackley Sues Major Prescription Drug Manufacturers For Deceptive Marketing And Sale Of Prescription Opioids

 

PIERRE, S.D. –  Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that his office has filed a civil lawsuit in South Dakota State Circuit Court against prescription drug manufactures  Purdue, Endo and Janssen for deceptive marketing and sale of prescription opioids.

“Pharmaceutical companies that knowingly and deceptively harm consumers must be held accountable,” said Jackley. “Misleading and deceptive marketing about the risks and benefits of opioids has fueled an explosion of addiction. We cannot ignore the devastating consequences of their actions as they are directly affecting South Dakota families and communities.”

The lawsuit alleges that the drug companies violated South Dakota’s Deceptive Trade laws, Medicaid Fraud statutes and created a public nuisance by disseminating false and misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids. The allegations of false marketing included medical journal advertising, sales representative statements, and the use of front groups to deliver information which downplayed the risks and inflated the benefits of certain opioids for the treatment of chronic pain. This behavior magnified the prescription of opioids and fueled opioid abuse in South Dakota. The falsity of each Defendant’s misrepresentation has been confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

False claims 

Among their marketing claims, a number of the manufacturer’s branded ads deceptively portrayed the benefits for chronic pain. In addition, these manufacturers promoted the use of opioids from chronic pain through “detailers”- sales representatives who visited individual doctors and medical staff in their offices and small-group speaker programs. These presentations conveyed misleading information, omitted material information, and failed to correct manufacturer prior misrepresentations about the benefits of opioids.

In addition, the manufacturers knowingly marketed these products with a misrepresentation of the risks and benefits of opioids.  The marketing scheme was to convince doctors and patients in South Dakota that opioids can and should be used to treat chronic pain and with that, convince them that long-term opioid use is both safe and helpful. The manufacturer’s claims were not supported by scientific evidence.

Effect on South Dakota

In 2017, there were a total of 595,934 opioid prescriptions that included 39.3 million doses of opioids. In 2017, South Dakota’s Department of Social Services reported spending $20.2 million on payments to providers for substance abuse and other related treatment and these numbers continue to increase.

The manufacturer’s success in extending the market of opioid to new patients and chronic pain conditions has created an abundance of drugs available for non-medical and criminal use and fueled a new wave of addiction and injury.

Relief

Attorney General Jackley’s lawsuit seeks civil penalties and damages for reimbursement and treatment and to cease the manufacturer’s unlawful promotion of opioids and correct their misrepresentations.

Finding Your Place In Space

Finding Your Place In Space – Image: Stephanie Meshke

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga

Recently I heard a story about a meditation teacher addressing a class.  He asked his students to demonstrate how they feel space. Immediately every student raised their hands into the air.  The teacher laughed.  He said, “You don’t need to put your hands in the air.  You are already feeling space.”  Think about it.  Space is all around us.  And not just outside our bodies, but inside our bodies also.

Your body’s ability to sense its position in space is part of what we call “proprioception”.   The term also refers to recognizing the relative position of each limb in relationship to other parts of the body as well as the environment.  Proprioception is important in all movements of the body since it enables us to know where our limbs are in space without having to look.  When I teach chair exercise classes and ask participants to move their feet, everyone looks down.  This always makes me smile.  For most of us, our feet will move whether or not we are watching them.  But somehow we feel the need to help them along by looking.  I often ask my yoga students to close their eyes when standing in Mountain Pose and bring their feet to a parallel position.  Then I’ll ask them to open their eyes and see how they did. Surprisingly most do pretty well!  This demonstrates the ability to sense the position of one’s feet in space and each foot in relation to the other.

Of course, this is not true for everyone.  People with certain neurological conditions may have difficulty with proprioception.  It is also one of those senses that tends to diminish with age.  Several years ago I read a book called “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte-Taylor, a brain researcher who had a stroke.  While she was actually experiencing the stroke she was somehow able to marshal her knowledge of how the brain works and recognize what was happening to her.  The book describes her experience both during the stroke and in recovery.  As the stroke was happening, one of the indicators for her was that she became unable to distinguish where her body ended and other objects began. Every time I trip over something I think of this.  Even though I see the object and should be able to get around it, somehow I lose my ability to recognize where my body ends and the other object begins.  Thus we collide.  As my husband would say, “No – you’re just clumsy”. Point taken.  But I still prefer the other explanation.

Any of you who have ever had nerve damage to a limb will know that one of the goals of physical therapy is to restore functional mobility.  In an article discussing proprioception in physical therapy, author Brett Sears, P.T., describes how different nerve endings in your limbs relay information to your brain about the relative position of your limbs and the direction and speed of movement.  This process enables us to move in space without actually watching the movement.  Think of yourself walking.  Generally, you can move your arms and legs in space without looking at them and also usually manage to keep them from bumping into each other.  When this communication between brain and limb is disturbed, it needs to be retrained if possible.  Most of us understand the need for practicing balance, but proprioception is equally important.  The two senses work together to help us move efficiently.

So how can we work on improving proprioception?  One way is to create balance challenges.  Try standing on one foot.  You may notice that your standing foot starts to wobble.  If you pay attention you may recognize that the part of your foot that is wobbling changes minutely from moment to moment. This is your body adjusting to subtle shifts in your center of gravity.  For example, perhaps you are also moving your arms or maybe without even realizing it your body is tilting forward or back.  As these changes in positioning occur, your proprioception abilities are called upon to help you stabilize.  You will probably not be surprised to learn that both yoga and Pilates help to train your senses to respond to the constant changes occurring as you move through space in normal everyday activities.  These and other mind-body disciplines help practitioners to develop awareness of their bodies in space and the space in their bodies.

Moving through space requires more than just internal control.  We need to be aware of gravity and other forces that impact movement like momentum, uneven surfaces, and elevation changes as well as obstacles in our path.  Pilates in particular focuses on strengthening from your core or center.  Exercises help you to stabilize the center and move from there.  The concept of “oppositional lengthening” is emphasized so that movements from the center are balanced in all directions.  This does require attention and practice.  But as you learn your own body’s individual idiosyncrasies you begin to train your body to become better at making those subtle adjustments enabling you to move more easily through space.

Learning to move from our center can help in other ways as well.  We all know what it’s like to feel “off-center”.  This is usually a sign that we are stressed and losing balance in our lives in general.  Thoughts become scattered and unfocused.  Even routine activities can seem overwhelming.  Our mental muscles and nerves begin to lose their ability to adapt to changing experiences, internal and external.  This can easily translate into physical discomfort as well.  Fortunately, mind-body practices like yoga and Pilates can also help with these feelings. Breathing practices can help bring us back to our center, reminding us of what is really important in our lives.  Coming back to our centers and retraining our brains to adapt to shifting energies both internal and external can help us restore balance and ease as we move through space and through life.

Focus on De-Stressing

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga
March 6, 2017

Everyone seems to be stressed out these days.  Of course, there are many valid reasons for this.  Each of us experiences potential sources of stress every day.  Perhaps it’s the weather or traffic that’s making us tense.  Or maybe it’s a health concern, either one’s own or that of someone close to us.  We might feel overloaded at work or be faced with looming deadlines that seem impossible to meet.  There might be people in our lives that are difficult to deal with.  Loving your job, or those difficult people, doesn’t make you immune to the stress they might cause you. Sometimes just facing the reality that there are situations or changes occurring that are beyond our control is enough to make life stressful.  And if all of that is not enough, there is the climate, the planet, politics, war, intolerance, fear, etc.  Yikes! It’s a wonder that we all aren’t curled up and babbling in a fetal position.

Some stress is beneficial.  In discussing stress management, the Mayo Clinic reminds us that the “brain comes hard-wired with an alarm system for your protection. When your brain perceives a threat, it signals your body to release a burst of hormones to fuel your capacity for a response.”  Once the threat is gone, though, we’re supposed to return to a “normal relaxed state”.  However, our 24/7 lives don’t always permit this. We can be our own worst enemies, not allowing ourselves downtime when we most need it.  Sometimes we don’t even realize how much stress has gripped us.  It becomes increasingly difficult to know when or even how to dial it down.  When stress becomes chronic it can have serious negative effects on one’s health.  According to a recent Harvard Health newsletter chronic stress “contributes to everything from high blood pressure and heart disease to anxiety, digestive disorders, and slow wound healing.”

The good new is that “managing stress helps control many chronic conditions or reduce your risk for developing them.”  And here’s even more good news:  exercise in general, and mind-body practices like yoga and Pilates in particular, are among the top recommendations for reducing stress.  Among the reasons for this is that both of these disciplines encourage coordinating breath with movement.  Breathing techniques have long been known to encourage a relaxation response which can actually produce “changes in genes that influence health”. This can encourage reductions in blood pressure, blood sugar levels, digestion problems and even inflammation which has been shown to be associated with numerous health conditions.

Yoga and Pilates also encourage tuning into your body to learn how it behaves.  We spend so much time listening to the endless noise in our heads that we can forget that we even have a body.  Worse yet, our bodies can themselves become a source of frustration when they don’t look or feel the way we would like them to.  This also creates stress.  Discovering how your body works as it moves is actually fascinating if you let yourself look at it that way.  You will also begin to recognize when you are holding tension in your muscles.  The first step toward relaxing both mind and body is recognizing tension.  Many of us don’t even realize how tense we are until we start to feel what it’s like to let that tension go.  Holding tension in the body makes stressful situations that much more difficult to deal with.  Learning to release tension takes practice.  Regularly practicing mind-body disciplines like yoga and Pilates is a good place to start.

There are many ways to manage stress. No single intervention can be the total answer for everyone.  Each of us needs to find what works for them.  And different situations may require different responses. All of this takes practice.  But instead of finding this discouraging, it might help to see it as an interesting challenge.  The benefit of any practice is that it allows you to keep trying.  If one attempt doesn’t seem to work you can try again or try something else.  Remember the goal:  better mental and physical health.  Keeping that in mind can make even the most difficult practice worthwhile.

Burn the Negatives; Make Room for the Positives

 

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Burn the Negatives; Make Room for the Positives. Photo: Herb Ryan: http://www.custerfreepress.com

By Peg Ryan
Mile High Pilates and Yoga
January 22, 2017

CUSTER, SD – Winter can feel overwhelming at times.  For example, weather can interfere with the best laid plans.  Maybe you made a New Year’s resolution to walk more.  You start off really well and suddenly the temperatures dive, the sidewalks shine with ice and the trails in the woods are clogged with snow. Even winter sports enthusiasts can be disappointed when there is just enough snow and ice to be a hazard, but not enough to support the fun stuff.  If you decide to go elsewhere to ski or swim, you can find yourself stymied by airline delays or cancellations. Then there is the busyness that comes in January after the long stretch of holiday breaks that characterize November and December.  So much to catch up on – so little time!  Despite solstice the days are still short.  Time seems compressed and suddenly everyone seems to want a piece of yours.  There just never seems to be enough to go around.

Combine all this with Seasonal Affected Disorder and (dare I say it . . .) post-election anxiety and we have the ingredients for a deep dive into depression.  Take heart, though.  Just when you think hope is pointless and the light at the end of the tunnel appears dim or even non-existent, along comes the Burning Beetle Blues Festival in Custer SD.  What a great example of turning negatives into positives.

For the past couple of decades, the forests in western states from Canada to the southwest U.S. have been ravaged by an onslaught of voracious bark beetles.  The plague has had an enormous impact on the Black Hills in general, and Custer in particular.  About 5 years ago, some Custer residents decided to turn the hand-wringing and lamentation into action.  Thus began the Bark Beetle Blues festival.  The first year of the event saw residents drowning their sorrows in music and art.  Sculptures and picture frames were created with the “blue wood” of the dead trees remaining after the beetles had their fill.  The talented musicians of the Black Hills wrote songs and performed them for a delighted audience.  School children danced and sang.  The festival became a much needed and appreciated antidote for cabin fever in the middle of January when most South Dakotans are house-bound and already longing for Spring.  The following year launched what has become a tradition of burning a huge effigy of a beetle.  Since then the festival has grown to include a variety show and fireworks display. Last year a crew from National Geographic turned up to film the event.  (Unfortunately, I could not find an on-line link to the article, but you can probably find a paper copy in a local library.)   Some years have featured bitter cold January weather, but that has not stopped a huge crowd from turning out for these events.

Witnessing this year’s event made me think of the ritual of the fire puja.  Fire is one of the five basic elements including earth, water, air and ether (empty space) that provide the energies of our known universe.  Using the ritual of fire helps us to let go of things that are no longer useful to make room for new ideas and intentions.  Of course we always want to honor the power of fire and treat it appropriately, but with safety taken into consideration, we can all create our own fire ritual.  If you’re feeling stuck, it can be very satisfying to think about the obstacles in your path, write them on paper and cast them in the fire.  Taking some time to recognize the factors in your way can be the first step to finding ways around them.

Many of us can find examples in our own lives where unexpected positives have emerged from even the most dire or sorrowful situations. This is certainly true for me.  Many of the plans I made in my life have not panned out, but other things have happened that I never could have imagined.  This has become a good reminder when I become disappointed over something not going my way.  And – yes – I need to remind myself.  It is a daily practice to remember to take each day as it comes and accept things as they are, proceeding from there instead of wishing things were different and letting negativity cloud my day.

In recent weeks I’ve seen friends of mine turn their fear into activism.  They have been joined by others who share their concerns.  Perhaps they’ve been surprised to learn that so many others felt the same way they did.  It is a confidence-builder to find out you’re not alone.  Taking that first dangerous step into the unknown can feel so solitary and isolating.  But once that leap is made, the results can be surprising.  In the fire ritual, mourning can be a necessary process leading up to the decision to let go.  But at some point it is necessary to let the mourning pass and rejoin the world.  It’s not always easy and it can be a rocky process, but all it really takes is putting one foot in front of the other and being open to the opportunities around you.  That, too, is an opportunity for practice.

So, to borrow from Shakespeare, if now is the winter of your discontent, try moving out of your own way.  Throw those obstacles into the fire and take a chance on something new.  Renew your resolve to do whatever you decided to accomplish in 2017.  And remember – if your New Year’s resolutions are already getting lost in the undertow or if weather has gotten in the way of your movement plans, there is no better time than now to find a new activity.  An exercise class is a great way to start.  Movement will lift your mood and boost your energy.  Also just like my activist friends, you may be surprised to find friendly like-minded souls who will happily help you along on your journey without judgment of any kind.  We are all looking forward to having you to join us.  Our welcome mat is always out!

Bust Stress – Boost Energy

MILehighBIKER
Photo:Pixabay/SkitterPhoto

So you think you’re too tired to exercise?  You may want to think again.  It turns out that exercise is one of the best energy boosters you can find.  Here’s some even better news: it doesn’t take much to experience benefits.  A study conducted at the University of Georgia and reported in an article in the New York Times found that 20 minutes of low-intensity exercise done three times per week for 6 weeks decreased participants’ feelings of fatigue by a whopping 65%.  Another group in the study engaged in a more intense level of exercise and, although their energy levels also increased, the reduction in fatigue was much less.  This further shows that it is not necessary to run a marathon or even a 5K to benefit from exercise.

Another article in WebMD on boosting energy and fighting fatigue draws similar conclusions.  This article makes the distinction between energy that creates tension (“Type A achievement-oriented energy”) and the kind of “calm energy” that clears your mind without physical tension.  According to Robert E. Thayer, PhD, a psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, this type of energy is longer lasting and has a more positive effect on your body.  It will probably come as no surprise that this article cites yoga and Pilates as examples of exercise that can boost “calm energy”.  Yogis believe that the breath moves subtle energies through the body.  There are similar ideas in many ancient medical techniques. Certain breathing practices combined with yoga postures can change or balance your energy levels.  Both yoga and Pilates emphasize the combination of movement, breathing and focus. After practicing you might notice that you feel calmer and less agitated but still alert and attentive.  This is one more positive benefit of adopting these disciplines when you decide to bring more movement into your life.

Certain types of intense exercise can sometimes deplete energy, at least temporarily.  It is important to remember that what is moderate for some is intense for others.  This is a further reminder that when you’re first starting out, take it slow.  In my experience, people who have not exercised for a while have a tendency to overdo.  Remember that the point of exercising is to help you feel better.  If you overdo to the point of feeling bad you won’t want to do it again.  The best exercise is the one that you do. The lesson of these and other articles is that any movement is better than none.

Both articles stress the need for consistency.  The more you do the more you will benefit.  As your body adjusts, your conditioning improves and you become more accustomed to the movement, you will begin to notice the difference in the way you feel.  Dr. Thayer says, “Even if you think you’re too tired to do anything, get up and walk around the room, and in a couple of minutes you’re going to feel some energy that wasn’t there before. And that may lead you to want to move even more.”  As always, the hard part it getting started.  Don’t overthink it. Just get up and do it.  If you change your mind and sit back down, try again in a few minutes.  Any time is a good time to start.