Sunday, July 26, 2009


As a personal trainer, I spend a lot of time and energy with my clients on the importance of accepting yourself as imperfect. I’m adamant about always applying yourself 100% to what you’re doing and always trying your best. But these things must go hand in hand with the ability to love yourself just the way you are, first. Having the ‘imperfect’ mindset is like having wings or like having your shackles removed. You will find yourself fearless and courageous and able to undertake any task bravely as soon as you can own the fact that you’ve got flaws and that’s OK.

It is stated beautifully in a song called “Anthem” by Leonard Cohen:

“Ring the bells that still can ring.

Forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack, a crack in everything.

That’s how the light gets in.”

If you can’t do a particular exercise or if you find a movement challenging, just do what you can do and eventually you’ll improve and soon you may even master that movement. Or if you fall off of your diet or skip a few days of exercise, don’t despair that all is lost because you’re not doing your program perfectly, just get right back on your program and start again from wherever you are.

Often, we procrastinate because of our perfectionism. We either worry that we’re not going to do it perfectly, or we get caught in the trap of thinking that we don’t have time to do it, so we do nothing. Eventually, we’re buried in whatever it is we’re procrastinating from doing. If, in stead of worrying about doing it imperfectly, we embraced imperfection and just started doing it, we’d at least be getting something done. For example, when my apartment is a big mess, I can easily look at it and say, “Wow, I don’t know how I’m ever going to get this perfectly clean.” And a sense of overwhelm from not knowing where to start can finally become frustration to such a level that I walk away and don’t clean anything. But another choice I could make is to set a timer for 15 minutes and just start doing something without worrying that I might not finish or that it might not be completely clean when I’m done. I tell myself that at least it will be “15 minutes cleaner.” And what usually ends up happening is that I get a whole lot more done in that fifteen minutes than I ever could have imagined. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly a lot cleaner.

Perfectionism piggy-backed with procrastination puts us in a coma. We can’t make a decision, we can’t act at all. It’s just easier to do nothing. But if you really examine what’s going on, you’ll realize that with the time and energy that it takes to talk yourself out of doing something, you could have easily gotten started doing it. The next time you hear yourself saying “I don’t have time to...” Then stop! Set your timer for fifteen minutes and start doing it. You don’t have to finish it, just get fifteen minutes worth of work done on it and then leave it, imperfect and unfinished. Do that same thing again the next time it comes up and eventually, following this technique, you will have done that very thing you ‘didn’t have time for.’

Another thing that perfectionism can do is stop us from really appreciating the efforts of ourselves or others. I was raised by a man who would respond like a typical perfectionist. If my sister brought home a report card, happy about getting a couple of A’s, his first response would be “only two A’s?”

As an actor, it can show up in performance or in audition monologues. If, as a performing artist, we are concerned with being ‘perfect’ that is when we get self-critical, sweaty and shut down. To be honest, no one wants to see a perfect performance. As Mr Cohen says, the cracks are how the light gets in. Those imperfect moments are what make a performance come to life. As an audience, I’d rather be assured that I was watching a real, live person than a finely tuned machine.

Besides stopping us, and making us nervous, perfectionism can also lead to body image disorders, eating disorders, depression and apathy. The thing to remember is that no one is perfect. You’re not the only one that has imperfections, and no one is expecting you to be perfect, so don’t put those expectations on yourself and you’ll be much happier and more productive than ever. The next time you go to perform any activity, whether its an art form, an exercise, cleaning your apartment, or whatever it is, be prepared to be imperfect. Embrace those tiny imperfections that make you and whatever you’re doing unique. It comes across as very confident to be able to calmly expose your imperfections to others.

Ring those bells!

Sunday, July 19, 2009


I recently sent out an email asking everyone if they had any questions about their hips as I was embarking on a deep study thereof.

Here are some of the questions and answers published for anyone who is interested.


Q: Hi - I have had severe muscle spasms in my neck, shoulder back diagnosed as arthritis in my neck and narrowing of C6 vertebra

all related to aging - (inevitable)

I would like to strengthen my body - CORE - and these areas as well

As you know i am not very flexible and always have been this way.

What would be the best direction for me to go - Yoga? Pilates? Stretching? Strength Training (that's what started my problem)

A: Well, I have to mention that I know many people older than you who don’t have this problem and in truth, many people will never develop it. Your body responds to what you do with it. It's not that you reach a certain age and suddenly you have arthritis in your neck. You most likely have a simple physical habit or pattern that developed over time into this condition. For example, I was once told by a yoga teacher that I have a habit of extending my neck in forward bends and that if I didn’t correct that habit I would likely end up with arthritis in my neck.

To answer your question: You actually practically answered your own question. Based on your description, I would think flexibility should be your main concern. I would advise stretching and some yoga. You should also look into classes in the Alexander Technique. And if you’re not aware of how you can massage yourself, you should be working with a massage therapist who can help release those spasms.

You need to be careful, because while yoga is a great way to develop strength in your core, some yoga poses would be good for you while others definitely wouldn’t be. For example, I’d stay away from the Bridge, the Plough and the Shoulder Stand or any poses putting your body weight on your neck. But I’d think some gentle backbends like Cobra would be a nice place for you to start. And I’d also think Twist would be good for you. You should work with someone who can help you develop a short home practice.

I’d stay away from Pilates because it typically requires a lot of neck strength and stability. And unless I knew exactly what your neck situation was, I’d want to err on the side of caution. As far as strength training, I think strength training is essential for good health, but that doesn’t have to mean lifting weights. Most people can get good strength benefits using their own body weight. But I’d want you to get some specific coaching because you should be able to do it without causing pain or discomfort in your neck.


Q: I do butterfly's and pigeon pose for my hips, but are there any more moves/stretches that I can perform on a daily basis in the morning to isolate the hips, that can improve my stiffness and open up my range of motion especially for the long walks in central park that I have been doing lately that span 6-7 miles are a time

A: First and most importantly, you will get the most out of your stretching if you do it when your body is warm. Since you said “in the morning” my first concern is that you aren’t sufficiently warm to effect the tissues much no matter what stretches you do. (Unless you are doing those stretches AFTER your long walks. Then you should be OK.)

The next thing I need to say is that you need to stretch correctly if you’re interested in improving your flexibility and opening up your range of motion. Do stretches that you can hold for a long time and relax into while you take deep breaths and consciously tell your body to relax. Then you need to wait and wait, breathe some more and wait and then feel your body start to give up and stretch. You may be surprised at how far you can eventually stretch using this technique. Just let your breath do it. You should hold these stretches, and breathe in this manner for 2 minutes eventually working up to holding them for up to 5 minutes. The most important thing is to be relaxed and to breathe deeply.

The butterfly stretch is a good one for your outer hips. Increase the fun by leaning forward or resting your arms on your knees. Don’t bounce your legs, it will excite the joint. Just press your feet together, scoot your butt as close to your feet as you can, fold your body over, place your hands on the floor in front of you, hang your head down and take 100 deep breaths; in through your nose and out through your mouth.

The pigeon is a complex pose and not many people can get into it deeply enough to relax in it. In the front leg, it’s most focused on those outer hip muscles again and sort of redundant with the butterfly. In the back leg you are getting a good psoas and quadriceps stretch.

But you can get a great psoas and quad stretch by doing a lunge stretch instead. You will probably find that since you can relax more, you will get deeper into this stretch and therefore get better results than in pigeon. In fact, you may find that after doing the lunge for a month, your pigeon gets much easier.


Q: my hips "pop" all the time. ok maybe not "all the time" but VERY often, more than any other joint on my body. is that something i should be worried about?

A: No. Unless it hurts, don’t worry. It is usually caused by one of two things. One, someone who at one time was very flexible and now aren’t as flexible as before may find that certain hip movements cause the pop. And two, if there is an imbalance of strength or flexibility in the hip joint, it could cause the joint to be pulled out of its prescribed path during certain movements.

The “pop” you hear and/or feel is either a tendon or ligament rolling over a bone, or a bone jutting up against another bone. By the way, when you hear your bones “crack” that is usually a release of gas from in between joints. Some people seem to be gassier than others and therefore have very noisy joints. It’s nothing to worry about.

I would avoid doing any activity that has a repetitive action in which you pop every time. For example, if you popped with every rotation of a bike pedal, I would advise you to stay off the bike for fear of the constant rubbing of tissue together developing into tendonitis.

You can correct muscle imbalances with a well rounded yoga practice. In the course of undertaking the variety of positions, you will notice some movements are easy and some are very difficult. Those are imbalances coming to light. You need to work on those ones you don’t like. Those poses are difficult for you because of your imbalance.


Q: Last week, on the day I was returning home from vaca, something happened to me that never happened before. I merely bent over to look at something on the ground & when I stood up - wham! I guess it was a muscle spasm in my left hip/lower back area. It was debilitating, limited range of motion, etc. Most importantly to me, I have not been able to go back to the gym!

I have had 4 chiro Rxs since then - w/electric stim & hot packs in between. It is better but there is residual pain. I am able to walk better, a bit faster but boy, has this cramped my active style! I believe it is a result of my fascia problems returning about a month ago, on BALL of left foot this time (last time it was the heel). I have been wearing foot brace in Nia classes but decided to wait til after vaca to see my podiatrist - but I guess my body had other ideas. I believe compensating for the tenderness in left foot,caused my alignment to be off, which made my whole left side vulnerable, causing the hip spasm during an inocuous activity.

A: You are exactly right when you say that your foot problems are the main culprit.

Have you been doing your foot exercises and stretches?

Do you have a set of therapy balls that you can use to constantly treat yourself? If you don’t you should get some immediately. Can you interlace your fingers between your toes? You should do that every day. I do it as part of my daily morning routine in the shower as I’m washing my feet.

In addition to taking care of yourself, you can practice some prevention. You need to take a hard look at what you might be doing to cause this irritation in your foot. Common places to look are in what kinds of shoes you wear or how you use your feet when walking or doing your activities. See if you catch yourself walking with clenched feet. Tension in your toes? Also, do you spend much time barefoot? Your feet are muscular and have lots of bones and joints and they need to move to be healthy.

Wearing a foot brace during Nia class is also very likely to cause the type of imbalance that would result in a spasm. I assume the brace held your foot and prevented it from doing what its supposed to do, which is to change shape, absorb the shock from the ground and distribute it comfortably up to your body through your legs and hips. If the foot doesn’t have it’s movement, there is nothing protecting your hips and lower back from the hardness of the floor. All of that shock goes into the joints unfiltered. You could also have developed knee problems or shoulder or neck problems, but maybe for whatever reason your hip/back was the weakest link.


Q: Jason, There are two "sacs" at one's side, just where the leg and hip join. My Rheumatologist pressed these, during a visit to check for arthritis, and low and behold, they felt tender. I asked him what that meant, and in the tradition of western medicine, he answered, "I don't know." Can you imagine, he didn't even know why he was checking them! He did say it was not about a problem in the hip socket. I'm hoping your physical therapist has a better answer than that.

Could you share this person's name and number? I would like to consult with them on this and another problem I'm having, pain in the pads of my thumbs which turns out not to be arthritis.

A: What you describe sounds like bursitis. Bursas are sacs that are meant to cushion tendons that would, without the bursa, rub against the bone and become irritated. But if there is excess tension, usually the result of muscular imbalances or lack of flexibility, the pressure can become so great on the bursa that it responds by swelling up and taking up more room that was originally allotted for it. All of that pressure is painful.

Your doctor was right. It’s not in the hip socket, but it is still part of the hip joint, which is more than just a socket. In the photo you can see the acetabulum on the far hip which is covered by the labrum in the near hip. That is the hip ball and socket joint. The bursa is way over on the other side of the femur bone (the blue thing on the far left in the picture). Many muscles and tendons run over this bursa and a tightness in any one of them could cause the pain.

Sometimes cortisone will be a good, quick temporary solution, but I stress that it is temporary and I caution you that it is caustic. It causes damage, and could lead to worse conditions if abused. Many people with hip bursitis eventually find relief through weight loss, stretching programs and/or physical therapy.

I will happily give you the information for a therapist who I cannot recommend any higher. His name is Shmuel and his website is He is very intuitive and has a way of knowing exactly what your problem is just by holding your hands and looking into your eyes.

If you do contact him, tell him I referred you. He tends to be very busy but he gives priority to referrals from current clients. Let me know what your experience is with him, I’d love to hear all about it.


So, thanks to everyone who sent in questions. I had a good time researching and pondering them all. If anyone has any other questions that I can answer, please don’t hesitate to ask. Most of the techniques I described above are things that I teach in classes or that I can teach in personal training sessions. Please contact me if you're interested in private coaching or classes.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

TOO LITTLE IS BETTER THAN TOO MUCH A painful reminder of the importance of moderation

One of my first lessons in fitness school was the story of Milo and the Bull. Milo was given a calf by his father. He went out every day and picked up the calf and carried it to his father to show him how much he’d grown. As the bull grew heavier each day, so did Milo’s strength. Eventually, Milo was known in town for being the only man who could easily lift a full-grown bull. This fable is an illustration of the lesson that you must start small and add weights gradually. This is the safest, quickest and most effective way to increase your strength. The thing is, I know this. But I forgot that basic lesson for one fateful day.

My story begins in late January of 2009. Just in case you don’t know this about me, I’ve always kept myself in good shape and placed a very high priority on my health and wellness. For the past few years, I had been focused on developing an intense fitness system that uses little to no equipment. It was not a body-building program, but it made me lean, muscular and athletic looking.

Then, I got cast in a play as a TV superhero. I was scheduled to perform this play in May, so I had the idea that I could use the next four months to bulk up and be impressively muscular for the play. I joined a gym and started weightlifting. This is my area of expertise. I know how it’s supposed to be done. Despite that, I don’t know what came over me. I guess I let my impatience get the better of my training and knowledge. I’ve done body-building before and when it’s done right it can be very safe and effective. In fact, in four months, I could have done great things if I didn’t rush myself. But on my second workout, I had a lot of energy and I just kept lifting and lifting, adding more weight and more weight and focusing really heavily on my chest. Like an amateur. I know I wouldn’t have let any of my clients do anything as crazy as that, but I guess I was in character as the superhero on some level. Anyway, as I’ve said, I should’ve known better.

Unsurprisingly, I did some damage. Now this part is interesting to me. While I was lifting, in the gym, there was no ‘moment of truth.’ No POP or painful twinge. In fact, it all seemed great. I got a nice pump and headed home to enjoy it. It wasn’t until a few days later that I noticed that the soreness in my right shoulder girdle was profound and showed no signs of easing. Typically, DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) only lasts for two days at the most. But three days later, I still had something going on. I figured it was just a knot and I needed to massage it out. I got on my therapy balls and rolled around, but I found that no amount of massage or stretching could offer me any relief. I was pressing my back into the corner of walls, and massaging and stretching as much as I could. Finally, I had to admit that this was something more serious. I knew I had to do ice and aspirin for a while until the area calmed down. Of course my weight training stopped completely.

Either the original injury was quite widespread or it caused a lot of secondary pain patterns to develop, but it was fascinating to notice the many different specific sensations I went through. I would squirm and wiggle all evenings just in an effort to find a comfortable position. To no avail. I couldn’t stand, sit or lie down. The first wave of pain seemed to be localized in my right rhomboids, which was aching for a few days. This was an unrelenting ache of immense proportions; excruciating and exquisite. Then there was a period when I would swear my levator scapulae was the culprit. It was tender and achy up the side of my neck and it was very uncomfortable to elevate my scapula or shrug my shoulders. There was also specific tenderness at the superior medial angle of the scapula. There was a time when I could distinctly feel my teres major was inflamed and the outside of my armpit near the distal axillary border was tender to the touch and it was very painful to rotate my shoulder internally and externally. There was also often a very sharp pinpoint pain on the anterior aspect of my humerus. But then my pectoralis minor went through a wildly spasming phase and I could feel specific tenderness along three attachments on my anterior ribcage. Basically, I spent a lot of time wanting to stick my finger deep inside my armpit or underneath my pec major to massage or stretch something deep inside the structure of my shoulder. There was a visible divot in the surface of my right pectoral. Like a sink-hole in my chest.

I was getting depressed. On one hand, I was professionally embarrassed that I did something this stupid. But not only was I very disappointed in myself for letting myself down as a trainer, but I was also quite aware that I was in store for months and months of recovery. I knew that I would not be any bigger for the show, but that I would in fact be smaller than I was now due to muscle atrophy from abstaining from exercise. I was also concerned that I might not be able to lift the other actor, who under normal circumstances, I could easily lift and carry, like the script calls for.

Two months went by before I had relief from the pain. Until then, I was in constant pain except for when I was icing, on aspirin or while I was teaching my Nia classes or for the few hours afterwards. I performed in a play (Alley of Masks), taught yoga, Yoga Tune Up and Nia classes, led a weekend retreat and went on with my life. Right through the pain.

By late March, I was feeling like I’d recovered enough to start seeking rehabilitation treatments. I found a wonderful physical therapist named Shmuel (who I’d highly recommend to anyone who needs some expert physical therapy) and I also saw a Rolfer and a Swedish Massage therapist in addition to my own well-informed self care.

Before the injury, my personal workouts included between100 and 200 pushups among other things. I had been working on

my one-armed pushups and one-legged squats and gotten up to three one-arm pushups on each side. Of course now, I couldn’t do a single pushups using both arms. My chest had completely shut down. I could barely even hold a plank position, and certainly not for any length of time. Learning from my mistakes, though, I remembered Milo and I worked on getting plank first. And then I did ONE pushup; careful to perform it correctly and not too quickly.

Eventually I was thrilled to be able to do one perfect pushup. I was so fired up by that, that it was hard to stop at one, but I told myself to take baby steps. I did ONE pushup and then took the next day off. On day three I did TWO pushups. I was actually quite pleased to be able to do two pushups, when I hadn’t even been able to raise my arms without pain for the past two months. Our ability to heal is astounding.

I worked this way, adding a little bit at a time. I actually went back into the gym in April. Using the exercise science I know and the patience I know, I went about it the correct way this time. My bench presses and my pull-ups were very limited, but I told myself to work with what I have. I was able to get some of my muscle back in time to go to Dublin for the play.

Since I went to Dublin in mid May, I had been off the weights and I’m resting again. I feel like I was the slightest bit premature in getting back to the gym, but I did it for the show. I wasn’t totally pain free and I noticed that I was compensating and using my deltoids instead of my chest in my bench press. I also had a crooked support structure for my torso. I could detect that my obliques were not firing evenly and causing my torso to torque when I lifted anything heavy. So I got off the weights completely once I started the show.

In June, now five months after the injury, I came out of the resting period and went into phase one of active recovery; reclaiming my body. I focused on eating tons of raw vegetables and doing tons of yoga and rehabilitative exercises. I wanted to get lean and flexible while teaching my chest how to work again.

I’m writing this in early July. It’s been six months and I’m happy to report that my chest is back in the game. I’m up to three sets of pushups now. Yesterday I did twenty perfect pushups, then another set of seventeen and then a third set of twelve. For a while I was unable to flex the muscle at all; it was completely dead. The rate of atrophy was astonishing. I have lost a lot of size in my right chest and arm, but was overdeveloped in the right deltoids (thanks to my premature stint in the gym in April.) To be fair, I should say that people have told me that they didn’t notice it until I pointed it out to them, so I may be exaggerating but I’ve always been fanatical about symmetry and proportion in body building. So for now, I’m focused on getting my right side to catch up with the left and plan to go back to the gym around mid July 15.

So, what have we learned:

Always practice patience and conscious awareness when you exercise.You’re better off doing a little bit less than doing too much. If you do too little, the worst that will happen is that you are a little bit less sore the next day, but do too much and you could find yourself in pain for months, out of the game entirely and suffering from a deranged body from compensating for injuries.

This black and white shot is the best photo I can find of a straight forward picture of my chest. It was taken in 2006, but it shows the symmetry I have

always had. This is JAG Fit.

The next picture was taken on my birthday, June 15, 2009. Obviously I am much smaller all over from not having used weights for four months, but if you look carefully, you will notice the right side is much smaller. Check out the chest, arms and shoulders. I have some work to do.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Jason on the Boards

Medicine Show presents the World Premiere of:



by William Saroyan

with new works written especially for these performances by Kitty Chen, John Gruen, Lella Heins, Brian Murphy and Frederick Turner.


Saroyan's series of plays was written in the early 1960's but have never been produced on stage. They are a free-wheeling, comically skeptical look at American society. They embody a time between The Twist and Sex, Drugs and Rock 'n' Roll. Saroyan's plays question the belief system imposed on the 'common man.' They see us all stumbling toward some kind of truth.

Jason enjoys his fifth production with Medicine Show and says "you can always count on Medicine Show to confound its audience in good and bad ways, both intentionally and unintentionally. We unapologetically show you exactly what we think. This is realexperimental theater fresh from the 60's. If you've never seen a Medicine Show production, you really should at some point in your life.

OPENS: June 11, Thursday, 8:30PM

RUNS: Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 8PM

CLOSES: June 28, Sunday

549 W 52nd St., 3rd floor
(between 10th and 11th Aves.)


This is an Equity Approved Showcase. Tickets are $18. Seniors are $14. TDF Vouchers are accepted. Also available on SMARTIX

"We'll turn no one away altho they cannot pay"


Hunter Gilmore and Jason Alan Griffin in Break

Jason recently returned from Dublin, Ireland where he performed Break, by J. Stephen Brantley, and The Adventures Kathleen Warnock, in the ABSOLUT DUBLIN GAY THEATRE FESTIVAL. Jason and Hunter Gilmore reprised their roles of Nigel and Scooter for the fifth production of Break and joined Jamie Heinlein for The Adventures Of....Heinlien Gilmore and Griffin in The Adventures Of...

Break tells the story of a displaced Englishman living in New York who discovers a recovering junkie in his bedroom. They discover that they have more in common than they could have imagined. The Adventures Of... is about a girl who grew up watching two superheroes on TV and learns a lot about herself by the things she imagined they were doing during the commercials.CLICK HERE TO READ OUR REVIEWS.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


The pectineus is a flat rectangular muscle of the adductor group. It is the smallest, most anterior and most proximal of the five adductors (muscles that act on closing your legs). It originates on the front of the pelvic girdle and inserts on the upper portion of the inner thighbone; the femur. It is monoarticular, meaning it only crosses and acts upon one joint: the hip. The main function of the pectineus is to adduct the thighs. It also flexes and internally rotates the thigh at the hip.

When this muscle is tight it limits full range of motion in yoga poses like baddhakonasana (bound angle pose). You can see by the way my knees are so far off the ground that my pectineus muscles are extremely tight.

Pectinues is innervated by the femoral nerve and the obturator nerve. It is associated with the second chakra.

You cannot see the pectineus in most people, but you can feel it if you know where to go. While someone's leg is slightly flexed and externally rotated at the hip, and you place your hand on the front, aspect of the thigh, high up towards the pelvis, you may feel the adductor tendon. Slide off the tendon laterally and you should be in the belly of the pectineus. Be careful when searching for this muscle. It is very near the genitals and the femoral nerve. Both places that could make someone jump if you accidently pressed into them.

Serratus Anterior

The Serratus Anterior forms the lateral aspect of the upper torso musculature. It originates on the ribcage, attached to all but the lowest of the full ribs (numbers 1-9), and inserts at the medial anterior edge of the scapula. The tendon attachments on each rib, give the muscle an appearance similar to the edge of a serrated knife, which is where the name SERRATUS comes from. The “fingers” of the serratus anterior interlace with the “fingers” of the external oblique muscles and share fascial attachments on the ribs. Only a portion of the muscle can be seen. The pectoralis major lays over the upper portion of the SA, but the inferior four or five heads can be visible on lean people.

Shown here, it looks like a row of bumps on the torso wall, just below the armpit.

The actions of the serratus anterior are to pull the scapula away from the midline and to pull it closer into the ribs, hugging the body. It also functions to stabilize the scapula during contractions of the pectoralis major. A weakness or failure to engage the serratus anterior will allow the scapula’s inner border to “wing out” which is when the interior border of the flat bone lifts away from the rib cage and visibly pokes up off the back causing the flesh to tent.
The antagonist muscles are the rhomboid and trapezius, which pull the scapulae back towards the midline. In fact, the rhomboids share the fascial attachment to the scapula and pull in a kind of tug-of-war with the Serratus Anterior.

If this muscle goes into spasm it can cause a feeling similar to having a heart attack or lung cancer. The best way to stretch the SA is to contract your rhomboids while abducting and flexing your gleno-humeral joint.