Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Skin Cancer Treatment

I recently found some skin cancer on my neck and face.
Read my previous posts to catch up:
First the one called Skin Cancer, and then read Skin Cancer Update
Some of the patches discovered were actinic keratosis, which is pre-cancerous.  In many cases, the ‘cure’ for skin cancer is to remove it, along with a margin of healthy tissue around it. Because we caught this so early, I had the option of a topical chemotherapy which kills rapidly dividing cells. 
I chose to do the chemo rather than have chunks taken out of my face every time we suspected a spot.
So I got some Imiquimod and began applying it to three suspicious areas on my face:
First, there was the spot on my temple, near the bottom of my sideburn.  This was where I had what looked like an age spot removed and sent to the lab.  It came back as actinic keratosis.  Surprisingly, I’ve been applying Imiquimod to it twice a day and have yet to see any reaction.  Maybe when they removed it to send it into the lab, they removed it all?
The second spot is the tip of my nose.  For years, I’d had a recurring patch of flakey dry skin that would peel off but always grow back.  I thought for sure this was skin cancer, so I’ve been applying imiquimod twice weekly for over two weeks now and have had absolutely no reaction.
The third spot was sort of  a surprise.  An afterthought, if you will.  When I was in the doctors office and we were planning our approach, I pointed out that there was a spot near my eyebrow that was a new, light brown patch.  So she quickly said i should try that spot too.
After One Week
As it turns out, this is where all the action is.  Here is what that spot looked like after one week of applications.  It turned from a barely noticeable light tan spot to a red, irritated patch. Notice on my cheekbone, there is a place where I nicked myself shaving.  Both ‘wounds’ look pretty similar.  Nothing that would make anyone look twice, but it is something.  Something is reacting. 
And then, after another week the rash was getting worse. In fact, by Friday, it was just about starting to ooze.  It was a moist wound.  The protocol is that I don’t apply the imiquimod on the weekends, so that gave the wound a chance to heal up again.
After Second Week
Now, I’m in the middle of the third and final week.  I just have today and tomorrow and then I’m done.  
My next step is to wait a week with no applications and then revisit the doctor.
I have to confess... I did something that Dr Mariwalla cautioned me against.  But since I was getting absolutely no response in those two areas, today, I decided not to apply imiqumod on them any more and to use these last two days to apply it to that new mole that showed up on my collar-line.  I actually don’t expect anything to come of it because it looks so much like a mole.  But I was curious.
The doctor told me that if I started applying too much of the imiquimod, that I could experience an unpleasant flu-like side effect.  But I feel that since I'm not putting on any more of the stuff, (I'm just doing it in a different spot) that I should be OK.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wash Your Hands

Did you know that you are at more risk of catching a cold by shaking someone’s hand than you are by kissing?  And, did you know that washing your hands is even more effective than drugs in preventing contraction of the influenza virus?

Obviously it’s important to wash your hands, but there is a right way and a wrong way to perform this important healthy task.

First of all, use plain soap and water.  Avoid using anti-bacterial soaps; they contain a poison called triclosan that doesn’t rinse off.  This poison not only kills ALL of the bacteria on your hands (even the healthy ones) but it also has been shown to cause cell damage in humans.

Also, the use of such strong anti-bacterials help to strengthen the bacteria, which will adopt to the poisons and develop into a ‘superbug’ that is resistant to them.

A recent study showed that people who use anti-bacterial soaps “developed a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients.”

Another thing to keep in mind is that your skin is the primary protection against invading bacteria.  NOT the soap. Over-washing and using overly strong cleansers on  your skin can actually increase your susceptibility to germs by removing precious protective oils or even creating tiny cracks by drying out your skin. Remember that germs ON your skin rarely cause a problem.  It is when the germs find their way INTO your body (either in your mouth, nose or eyes, or through a crack in your skin) that they cause illness.

Avoid anti-biotics, too....

Using antibiotics clear your system of ALL bacteria.  As I’ve said before, most bacteria in your stomach is good and necessary for your health.  Taking antibiotics for a cold is similar to burning down a forest because someone littered. And what’s more, they have NO EFFECT ON VIRUSES.  Viruses are what cause colds, not bacteria.

Similar to using anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers, taking antibiotics can lead to the development of resistant bugs. If you use antibiotics you are increasing your susceptibility to developing infections that are resistant to that particular antibiotic. You can then become a carrier of this ‘superbug’ and pass it along to others.

I recently read that ‘anti-biotic-resistant infections’ are now claiming more lives annually than AIDS.

Dealing with the Common Cold

Do you ever catch colds?  Have you noticed that some people seem to catch a lot of colds and other people don’t seem to get sick much at all?

I’m one of those people who almost never get sick, and yet I live with someone who gets sick maybe three times each year.  We live in a tiny apartment and it is a pretty safe bet that we are exposed to the same germs.  So why don’t I get sick?

The common cold is a virus.  We are exposed to viruses all the time, but our immune system fights them off so they don’t get comfortable inside our bodies and start wreaking havoc.

One of the reasons I don’t get as many colds is that I do many things that gird my immune system.  So even though I may have been exposed to the same cold virus, I wasn’t taken down.

I can’t list all of the factors here, but I will say that some of the biggest factors within our control that help boost and strengthen immune system function are:

1. Getting enough sleep (highly underrated and very powerful)

2. Avoiding excessive sugar and grains  (too much sugar suppresses immune function)

3. Getting sufficient Vitamin D

4. Keeping levels of emotional stress low

5. Exercising regularly (five times weekly)

6. Washing your hands (see this blog post for a caution)

But every once in a while, a virus is going to sneak past the goalie and score.  So then what?

The average cold lasts about a week to two weeks. But there are plenty of things you can do to shorten your time in the infirmary.

Recognize that feeling that a cold is ‘coming on.’ There is a subtle tingling sensation called a histamine response that may tickle your nasal sinuses or your throat, or sometimes it will effect your skin from head to toe.  It is often accompanied with a distinct dip in your energy level.  This is an important signal that something is invading your body and it’s time to act.  Act immediately.

Go to bed!  You can really cut short your sick-time by sacrificing one whole day and spending it in bed. As soon as the first hint of a cold is making itself known, take a day off.  You will cut your recovery time in half.

As soon as you recognize this feeling, drink a lot of water.  Drink so much water that you have to pee constantly and there is no color to it.  Also, eat raw garlic, cayenne, fresh yogurt and other fermented probiotics like kim-chee, kefir and kombucha.

Other foods to be favoring include: coconut oil and flesh, omega-3 oils (as found in krill oil and chia seeds), certain spices (turmeric, cinnamon, oregano, cloves), and mushrooms. Choose organic foods whenever possible.

Don’t take medicine if you can avoid it. You want your body to produce antibodies to the virus.  This is the only way to beat it. What we recognize as cold symptoms, (although they are uncomfortable) are a very necessary part of the process. To suppress these symptoms is to prolong our down time.  In fact, some studies have shown that people who take aspirin and/or Tylenol actually suppress the immune system and remain sicker longer.

Try this trick to make your cold (especially upper respiratory infections) go away faster:
Put 3 -5 drops of hydrogen peroxide into one ear. Let it ‘bubble’ for five to ten minutes and then rinse it out and do the other ear. Simple, cheap and effective.

Having said all of that, I also want to advise you to visit your doctor should any of the following symptoms arise:
  • fever above 102 degrees
  • ear pain
  • pain around your eyes accompanied by a green nasal discharge
  • shortness of breath or persistent uncontrollable cough
  • coughing up green or yellow crud
But, in general, if do catch a cold, you are better off without medical attention. Stick to the simple advice I gave you above and notice how will get fewer colds. And when you do get them you will get well soon!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Get Produced this Winter

This year, Manhattan Repertory Theatre celebrates its fifth year at our wonderful little space on 42nd St. Believe it or not, since August 2005, they have produced just about 500 plays in their tiny little space.  They are now inviting production submissions for their Winterfest 2011 play festival which is scheduled for this January and will run through the last week in March.
The mission of Manhattan Rep is to help playwrights, actors and directors share and explore their craft in a safe, supported, and clean (as in not dusty) theatre environment. Artistic director, Ken Wolf says, “I guess since we have produced so much theatre and we are still surviving even in this economy, at some level we are fulfilling our mission, but honestly, we would like to do more.”
So this Winter, they are offering more opportunity for artists to present their work in their space with more performances and more accepted plays than ever.
We have all worked in the "theatre festival context" all over town and it can be quite a challenge at times with not enough tech time, no place to store props and costumes (loading in and loading out for every performance) and shows starting so late it is embarrassing. For 5 years, Manhattan Rep has been doing their best to make the ‘festival’ experience easier and cheaper and for all to present their work.
Winterfest allows two tech/dress rehearsals of at least 2 hours each on different days.  They allow creative teams to store ALL their props and costumes for the length of their run.  They are incredibly meticulous about everything running on time and, best of all, charge no performance fees.  The only requirement is a $300 refundable security deposit to secure your space with a 10 audience member per performance minimum. They also have an abundance of set pieces to use, a kick-ass 6-speaker surround-sound system, and an 8-dimmer lighting board. And the location is hard to beat: 42nd St and 8th Ave - Times Square, the center of the theatrical world!
So as Manhattan Rep moves into their 6th year celebrating creativity in Times Square, Ken Wolf would like to personally invite you to submit your play production for Winterfest 2011. “If you have been sitting on the fence about putting your work up, or developing someone else's new play, get off the fence and come and have some theatrical fun here at Manhattan Rep.”, says Wolf. “We really do our best to make it easy and inexpensive to get your show on its feet.”
Info for submissions:
Manhattan Repertory Theatre is seeking productions of original plays 40 minutes to 150 minutes in length for WINTERFEST 2011 play festival, January 12 - March 26, 2011
Creative Team leaders should email their play production submission which includes: 
the complete play, 
the synopsis of the play, 
the running time, 
set and lighting requirements,
the play's production history (if it has been produced before), 
and a production Team leader CONTACT E-MAIL ADDRESS, to: 
by Tuesday November 23, 2010
Please put "WINTERFEST PRODUCTION SUBMISSION" in the subject heading. 
There is no submission fee.
Applicants will be notified by November 28, 2010 by e-mail as to their acceptance. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What is the difference between Coca-Cola and Vitamin Water?

The answer may surprise you: Not much. 

In a class-action lawsuit from 2009, The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a California-based, consumer-protection advocacy group, sued the Coca-Cola company for intentionally misleading the public by marketing Vitamin Water as a healthy beverage.
In the lawsuit, the names of the different flavors of water were under attack.  They have names like “defense,” “rescue,” “multi-v” and “endurance.”  This is like saying that jelly beans promote health because they contain no cholesterol. 
Coca-Cola has tried to get the case dismissed, but in July of 2010, that motion was tossed out and the case will proceed.  In the dismissal, US District Court Judge John Gleeson said that the claims on the labels could possibly be in violation of FDA policy by implying that the drink gets most of its nutritional content through fortification. And the confusion is heightened by statements on the label such as “vitamin enhanced water beverage” and “vitamins + water = what’s in your hand.”
The reality is that a bottle of vitamin water contains a staggering 33 grams of sugar. That’s over SIX teaspoons. As a comparison, Coke has TEN teaspoons per can (39 grams). To make matters worse, the sugars contained in Vitamin Water are largely crystalline fructose which has been proven to metabolize into triglycerides, which increases your risk of heart disease. This type of sugar also does NOT stimulate your body to release insulin. The end result is that you will not feel satisfied and may actually be likely to eat more than had you not had the Vitamin Water. 
Every year, the food industry outspends even the pharmaceutical industry in manipulating the truth and misinforming the public in order to increase their own profit.  This is a direct threat to your health and well-being and you should not fall for it.
There is another product that is slated to be launched by the Pepsi Co. This is called Pepsi Raw, and instead of ingredients such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, phosphoric acid, caffeine and artificial colors, it will contain things like apple extract, caramel coloring, coffee leaf extract, tantaric acid from grapes, etc. The implication again is that this is a ‘healthy’ beverage. 
But the truth is that sugary flavored carbonated beverage are just simply not healthy for you. It is a proven fact that sugar increases insulin levels, which can lead to:
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • diabetes
  • weight gain
  • premature aging
  • and many more negative side effects

Now I know what many of you are thinking:  “Well, if sugar is so bad for you, I’ll just choose the ‘diet’ variety.  It must be better for me because there’s no sugar.”
Sorry.  That’s just what the food companies would like you to believe.  However, not only does artificial sweetener invoke the same insulin response (or non-response) that I mentioned above, and therefore contribute just as much as sugar does to heart disease and increase triglycerides, but they also contain toxic chemicals.  Some of these chemicals have been proven to increase risk of or to be a direct cause of cancer.  And other chemicals have not been studied for long enough or with enough scrutiny to come to any conclusion.  But you should be aware that, to date, there has been no artificial sweetener introduced into the market that hasn’t been eventually banned for it’s carcinogenic properties. Aspartame, although currently still in use, will likely one day be found to be as dangerous as saccharine and eventually removed from the shelves to be replaced with the next one. 
How long will we allow ourselves to be fooled?
Of all the beverages I’ve mentioned in this article, I’d say that the Pepsi Raw was the best choice. Skip the Coke, skip the Diet Coke and don’t be fooled by Vitamin Water. 
But it will probably come to no surprise to you that the beverage that I recommend... The one that is the most healthy of all beverages.... In fact, one that I insist that my clients consume regularly and that they can’t be healthy WITHOUT this beverage....
Yes, of course I’m talking about good old, plain water. 
I do feel compelled to mention that the recent phenomenon of bottled water is another nice beverage company trick to get our money.  There is no evidence that any bottled water is more healthy or safer than your typical municipal tap water.  But it certainly is a LOT more expensive.  Not to mention all of those plastic bottles and the energy required to manufacture, fill, ship, and recycle (assuming they don’t just end up in a landfill). I recommend using a reverse osmosis filter (like Brita) to turn your tap water into nice, clean drinking water. If you must have flavoring, squeeze some fresh citrus into your glass.
If you are addicted to the pornographically high levels of sweetness found in a soda, diet or otherwise, then you would do well to find a way to kick yourself of this health-stealing addiction.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You Can Change Your Body

As a body specialist, I often hear people say things like, “I’m not flexible,” “My shoulders don’t do that,” “My left leg has always been weaker than my right,” “My mother’s toes were the same way, it’s just genetic.”  And this is alarming to me.
This is an indication that most people believe that they are stuck with their bodies just how they are.  When nothing could be further from the truth.  Our bodies are changing constantly.  Cells are dying off and being replaced continually.  Some tissues regenerate faster than others, but within the span of seven years, every single cell in your body has been replaced at least once.
The truth is that our bodies react and respond to what we do with them. And with some guidance and diligence, we can reshape and reform our bodies.  It is true that our tissues have memory; this is how we maintain our basic shape.  But we are also highly adaptable.  
As a child, I was fortunate enough one day to see a re-run of the syndicated “Jack LaLanne Show.”  I was so impressed by this man and the things that he was teaching.  “You can change your body!”  was one of the most impressive things I had heard in my young life. “You can control your health and your vitality by how you love and care for your body each day.”
He recommended stretching and exercising, drinking water, eating healthy and praying to help create a well-balanced, healthy mind and body.  And he was the first I had heard imply that our bodies and our minds are intimately connected and that it wasn’t possible to have one be healthy if the other was sick or neglected. I have been following this advice ever since and have, in fact, made my living spreading this knowledge. 
But I still wince when I hear people acting as if they don’t know or don’t believe that they are temporal and impermanent. 
I have been studying Body Tuning, a form of physical therapy, from its creator, Shmuel Tatz.  And many of the patients that come to him are battling with bodies that are not in the shape they want them to be in.  Maybe their thumbs are crooked, or their pelvis is tilted, or maybe their shoulders don’t move fully.  When people come to see Shmuel, they often ask, “Can you help me?  Can this be fixed?” I empathize with Dr Tatz because I’m sure he has heard this question hundreds of thousands of times in the forty years he’s been helping people.  At this point in his life, he seems to find the question so ridiculous that he seldom answers it with a straight answer, but often has some comical response. Unfortunately, since people believe in their permanence, they don’t get the humor and end up believing that they can’t be helped. 
I’m here to tell you that you CAN change your body.  And in fact, the shape that your body is in right now was your doing.  You have created your body.  What you have eaten, the way you move, the activities that you participate in, the way you sleep... all of these things are shaping your body continually.  If you change what you do, your body will change.
Now this is not to say that you can misuse, abuse or neglect your body for ten years and then come into one Body Tuning session and be suddenly changed.
Your body, and especially a connective tissue in your body called fascia has an extremely strong memory and will be attempting to maintain whatever shape you have created.  Even if you know in your mind that your posture should change, for example, you will have to deal with a very strong physical memory of your bad posture that is in your tissues.  This memory is there to serve you so that you don’t have to walk around always remembering how to stand. This memory makes no judgement about whether your posture is ‘correct’ or not, but it remembers what you do most and considers it ‘normal’ and therefore remembers it.  So, if you are endeavoring to change the way you stand, it will take some intentional participation on your part.  You need to spend some time retraining yourself how to move, or to stand or to drink more water or eat more vegetables, or whatever.
This new habit will initially feel ‘wrong’ or ‘weird’ because of the strength of our tissue memory.  But I have found that about three weeks of constant attention can retrain the tissues to start to feel a sense of familiarity in the new habit.
Then, the shape of your body will change.
I used to be one of those guys who couldn’t reach his toes.  About fifteen years ago, I made a commitment that I was going to one day reach my toes.  So I stretched and stretched.  I stretched a lot and then I stretched some more, and I never gave up.  It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but soon I was able to feel my toes with my fingertips.  I kept reaching and gradually improving and today, I can easily bend over and place my palms flat on the floor without bending my knees. 
I change my body a lot.  I love knowing that I have that ability.  And I’ve helped many people change themselves, too.  But first, they have to come to terms with the reality that they are the driving force behind the shape of their body. 
So the answer is: “Yes.  Dr. Tatz can help you.”  But he can’t do it alone.  You must participate.  He will give you exercises or alert you to awarenesses that you must have for the other 23 hours of the day.  Or for the other six days of the week that he’s not with you.  Come to a Body Tuner for help, but do your own work.  It is your body.  Yes, it can change.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heal, Strengthen, Inspire and Relax with Sound and Music

Your body is a sound resonator. Each one of your 75 trillion cells vibrates in response to sounds that you hear. Music, voices, birds’ chirping, jackhammers, thunder, car alarms, etc.  Everything that you hear has an effect on you.
In his book, “The Mozart Effect” Don Campbell tells the story of how he used humming to help break down a blood clot in his brain. He also recounts many stories of how people have consciously used sound to assist their body in self-healing.
I have felt profound effects from sound.  I have been brought to tears by hearing the drone of Tibetan Meditation Bowls, and have felt my entire being tighten up and get stressed at the sound of a mysterious, seemingly innocuous squealing in a car of the New York City subway.  When I put my iPod on shuffle, it is interesting to hear the different types of music come up and to notice how it can instantly change my mood. 
“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast,
To soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.”
-William Congreve
As a Nia teacher, one of the things that I know is very important about the practice is the music. I make a conscious effort to choose music that has a positive effect on my nervous system. At different points in the class, I may want a different effect, so I may choose some music that encourages introspection and then may play something that stimulates and excites. I may then move into a piece of music that triggers playfulness and I always tend to finish the class with music that is very relaxing.  But there is no denying that the music is the backdrop for how we feel during class.
A behavior that I have observed in myself with interest, is that whenever I am in a class as a student, I hum to myself the whole time. I’m so involved with the music that I privately ‘sing along.’ At first I just thought it was a personal quirk of mine, but the more I learn about the healing effects of sounds and toning, the more I realize that it is an instinctive self-healing technique that I allow myself to use. 
I recommend humming to anyone who is interested in healing their bodies.  Hum with delight and with the intention of celebrating your healing. In “The Mozart Effect”
Don Campbell recommends using humming or toning as a self healing practice. He advises us to explore different pitches, volumes and vowel sounds and to trust our instincts regarding which tone is going to be the most appropriate for our healing. 
Have you ever wondered why monks and yogis chant?  The sounds are very intentional and are considered sacred. I, myself, have experienced quite profound, otherworldly meditations when using the “OHM” sound.  When I teach mediation, I advice the student not to hear the sound of “OHM” but to feel it. And not only to feel the physical vibrations of the sound, but to feel the metaphysical effects.  The mood shifts, the mind shifts, the entire being is effected by sound.
I have been apprenticing with Shmuel Tatz and learning the art of Body Tuning. Something that is a constant in his office is that there is always classical music playing. Shmuel loves his classical music, so I figured the music was playing mainly for his entertainment. But the more I study the effects of sound, the more I trust that, whether or not this was a conscious decision of his, or if he’s just following his very strong intuitive sense, he plays this music for its healing effects. 
“Chopin is good for you”  -Shmuel Tatz, Body Tuner
When I first started to practice Body Tuning on my clients at home, I didn’t play any music at all. I soon found that to be exhausting. The silence was oppressive. So then I decided to play music that I like. I chose a radio station that played alternative pop music.  But my clients responded strongly. “Where’s the classical music?” one of them asked. So now whenever I do Body Tuning, I play classical music and I find that I have more energy, my clients are more at ease, and I can literally feel their bodies responding to the work more readily. 
“One day, man will have to combat noise as he once combatted cholera and the plague.”  -Robert Koch (discoverer of the cholera bacillus)
Living in New York City, I am aware that I am constantly barraged by sound.  Especially when I go to another city for any length of time, when I return to NYC, the sound assault is palpable and I can feel myself getting tense. I feel that this constant pollution of noise is effecting our health and well-being as a society. New Yorkers and people who live in high-noise environments, would be well-advised to seek out peaceful sound sanctuaries. For example, Bose noise-canceling headphones worn for a twenty minute session of pure relaxation can really give your body the opportunity to reset and your nervous system to down-regulate. 
More and more dentists and surgeons are starting to play classical music in their offices because their patients respond better. Music can change your brain waves and make your body a more hospitable environment for health and healing. It can also have an opposite effect. 
I live with someone who has very eclectic musical tastes and sometimes he plays “music” that seems to consist of random noises and piercing feedback.  If this goes on for very long, I can actually start to feel myself becoming ill and I either have to leave the room or ask him to play something else. 
Try this series of exercises and feel the incredible power of sound for yourself:

Tone Massage:  Sit comfortably and hum for five minutes. Not a melody but any comfortable pitch. Relax your jaw and feel the vibrations of the tone. With your palms, feel your cheeks and notice the vibrations. Afterwards, notice how much this has changed you physically, mentally and emotionally. 
Ahhhh!: Yawn noisily.  Allow yourself to release a big Ahhh! sound. Sighing also works.  Repeat this over and over again for about a minute and then notice what changes have occurred. 
Eeeee:  This is the most stimulating of our vowel sounds. If you’re feeling sleepy or groggy, spend three to five minutes emitting a steady, rich, high Eeee sound and you will most likely notice yourself becoming more alert and your brain stimulated. 
Oh  or Om: This is considered the ‘universal sound’ and the richest of our vowel sounds. Notice that when you tone with an OH sound, you can feel vibrations all through your head and chest.  Five minutes of this sound can measurable increase the temperature of your skin, reduce muscle tension, decrease breath and heart rates and reduce the frequency of brain waves to a more calm, sedated state. 
Pitching: Start at the lowest end of your voice and glide up to the highest pitch comfortable. Rise slowly. Try it with different vowel sounds and allow your voice to resonate throughout your body. Keep your mouth, jaw, tongue and throat relaxed.  Experiment with massaging different parts of your body with this sound. You may be amazed at what you can accomplish with sounds. 
Have you noticed that when you stub your toe, or hit your thumb with a hammer, that you have the impulse to shout?  You also have an impulse to rub the injured body part.  Both of these impulses are healthy, natural healing methods.  By toning and rubbing you are stimulating your bodies own self-healing. So let yourself groan and enjoy your self healing.
One final thing I’d like to address about sound is this strange custom we have called ‘applause.’  It is strangely barbaric to create this loud sound by slamming our hands together over and over again. Imagine being a musician who has just spent twenty minutes performing a solo piece.  The room is aglow with the vibrations of your solo. But once you’ve finished, all remnants of your performance are obliterated by this cacophony. Don Campbell, author of “The Mozart Effect” says he only applauds when he didn’t appreciate the performance, as a way of clearing the air. In the Far East, applause is used to dispel illusions and to purify the atmosphere before meditation. 
I’m not suggesting that you should refuse to applaud, but I’m hoping to open up our collective awareness of the very strong effects of sound. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sensation: The Language of Your Body

There is a need for a basic, fundamental shift in our thinking as a society surrounding the issue of having a well-functioning body.  Our bodies are physical.  The language of our bodies is called SENSATION.  The body doesn’t care about talk.  It doesn’t care about terms like “frozen shoulder,” “tendinitis,” “TMJ syndrome” or “fallen arches.”  Our bodies care about sensations like ‘heat,’ ‘pain,’ ‘tension,’ ‘electrical charge’ and ‘stiffness’ and about mobility and stability.  It demands balance and without it, will ask for it using it’s language.  Usually this request for balance is sensed as PAIN.
Many people will come to see a doctor with a physical complaint.  As an example, lets say the complaint is that they have pain in their shoulder when they make large arm circles. Many medical doctors will ‘diagnose’ this problem based on talking.  In other words, the client will describe the issue, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor will then come to some conclusion. For example you may hear “you have bursitis.”  The next step is often a prescription of medications or cortisone injections or maybe even surgery.
There are many things wrong with this scenario.  First and foremost is the issue of the fact that we are talking about a physical problem, not an intellectual problem. Did the doctor even touch you? Did the doctor who prescribed this procedure (be it medication or surgery) have any physical contact with your body?  How can someone even begin to understand a physical problem without using physical touch? If you went to a mechanic and were complaining of a strange noise coming from under the hood when you drove, how much would you trust this mechanic if he started recommending treatments without even starting the engine? 
Secondly, the treatment being suggested is not addressing the problem, it is addressing the symptom.  If there is pain during movement, this indicates an issue of a physical nature.  In most cases, it will be an abnormality in the mobility of the musculo-skeletal system.   This can be caused by improper body mechanics which can lead to muscle imbalances and/or overuse of certain tissues. Injections and medications only address the symptom, but do nothing about the cause or the root of the problem. 
And thirdly, the suggestion of surgery is often taken very lightly, when it is really a risky lottery. Sometimes the problem may be temporarily abated through surgery, but if the cause of the issue is not addressed through proper education of proper care and use of the body, it will typically come back within a matter of months. And in some cases, the client will get no relief at all from the surgery, but still have spent many months recovering and spent lots of time and money. In most cases, surgery causes a great deal of collateral damage by cutting through healthy tissues, which simply trades one problem for another.  It may be removing whatever offending tissue is hindering the movement, but it does nothing for the long term. In Shmuel Tatz’ Body Tuning office we see and help many people who are struggling to regain ease and functionality after a surgery.
A fourth issue here is the complacency we tend to feel once something is labeled.  Rather than dealing with this problem in terms of sensation (mobility, heat, pain, etc.) we explain and name things (this is ‘frozen shoulder’). This naming can trigger a sense of resignation to the inevitable.  I’ve heard many people say “I have frozen shoulder.” or “I have flat feet.”  They are, in effect, saying that they are helpless against their pain and discomfort because they are afflicted with this horrible sounding condition. Once we accept this ‘diagnosis’ we are at the mercy of the doctors. 
So what is the answer?  The answer is to use the proper ‘language.’  And to only see professionals who are using the proper language. What I mean is... let’s say you are complaining of a mental problem, then you should expect a lot of talk.  Talking is the ‘language’ of your mind.  Thoughts and ideas are expressed through talk. But if you came in with a complaint about your body, you should expect to be using the language of sensation.  You should also expect to be touched.  The professional should be palpating and mobilizing your body and listening for sensations. 
You will know that you are dealing with the appropriate health-care provider, when they ask you about what you are sensing right now.  As contrary as it may seem to what most people are used to, there is not a lot of value to your ‘story.’  It does a competent physical therapist very little good to hear about how your knee always aches when it snows or that you have a headache whenever you eat garlic. The truth is that your body will be giving a much clearer and more precise picture of what’s going on.  But it must be touched and moved.  This is how we listen to our bodies. 
I find that when someone comes to me with a simple and clear pain complaint, it is much easier to help them than it is to help someone who comes to me with a neat little term like ‘epicondylitis.’  The latter is a great way for doctors and surgeons to sell you on surgeries or even more complicated and impressive-sounding things like ‘non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.’ 
So the bottom line is, if you have discomfort in your body, you should insist on being touched.  And if your health-care practitioner dares to ‘diagnose’ your issue without speaking the language of sensation, you should quickly find someone else to help you.
One final point I want to make is that in order for you to enjoy recovery from physical pain, you almost always need to make a change in how you are using your body.  You should be receiving advice on how to move differently, how to hold your spine, how to walk more efficiently, how to lift things, etc.  If you’re not getting this kind of prescription, then you will probably not only continue to experience this pain/discomfort, but you can count on it getting worse until you do start implementing a change in your body mechanics. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

JAG Fitness 2010 Tour, Wrap Up in Seattle

Wow, I’ve been away from home for a long time.
As of this writing, I’ve been in Seattle for a week and have been away from New York for a month. I arrived in Seattle last Monday and have been staying at a friend’s house.  Our first night, I pulled my Yoga Tune Up therapy balls out of my bag and began massaging my feet and legs and showing him how to use them.  He’s a waiter and he really appreciated how much relief they were giving his feet and legs and forearms and hands. I don’t think he’s going to let me take them home.  
Being back in Seattle, similar to being in Santa Barbara again, has been an odd trip down memory lane and also a reminder that things are constantly changing and that you can never go back home.  It won’t be there.  It’s the same city, but everything is different.  Some of my favorite restaurants are gone and many new places are awaiting my new discovery. 
I’m sharing my Bond Girls routine and it seems to be going over really well.  Everyone is having a great time.  It’s so much fun to play in this espioniage-themed class. I’ve been subbing classes in Seattle, Redmond and Woodinville. In Woodinville, we actually had class in a barn. That was a first for me and it was very exciting. 
The week culminated in my teaching the learning of the Bond Girls routine.  I gave all the participants a copy of my 8BCs and a CD of the music. We went, song by song, through the routine, focusing on the music first, and then the movements and then the ‘magic’ of putting those two together.  And we ended the playshop by going through the whole routine one more time.  
I had a great time diving into the routine this way, and I’m so excited that now, these teachers are going to be sharing the Bond Girls routine in their classes. 

I hope to be able to share this experience with other teachers in the future.  My goal is to teach this routine to enough people that Bond Girls will become one of the Nia standards. 
I plan to return to New York tomorrow for just a few days. It’s been such a long time away. I’ve had such a great time on the road this month.  I’ve enjoyed meeting all the new people and being in so many different cities.  But I’m looking forward to being back in familiar surroundings with my old friends and clients. 

I'll be in New York for only a few days, however.  The final stop on my tour will be in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. I'll be at a wonderful yoga retreat center called Kripalu, where I'll be assisting Jill Miller in leading a weekend of Yoga Tune Up®
I’m already planning my next tour and arranging cities and aligning dates for JAG Fit Tour, April 2011. Stay tuned for more!