Sage advice: muscles

My knowledge of muscles is taken from many places.  From a section on anatomy and muscles in my yoga teacher training, to info on muscles liberally dispensed by yoga teachers and multiple body work therapists to reading on my own, I’ve been learning about muscles for 30+ years.

The key factor I would emphasize is that most of us are woefully ignorant about our muscles and the central role they play in our health, well-being and ability to get around.  Western medicine largely ignores muscles, so many problems go undetected because they don’t even look for damage when you’ve fallen or been in an accident.

It’s worth learning about your muscles and seeking assistance outside of allopathic medicine in order to maintain muscle health and to restore it to balance after injury.

Emotions and muscles

Since this is everyone’s least favorite aspect, let’s get it out of the way 🙂  At times of trauma and/or drama we tighten our muscles and often the emotions evoked by these events wind up locked in knots in the muscle.

When you start opening the muscles, whether through practicing yoga, getting body work or treatments like acupuncture, those emotions and the memories associated with them are going to surface.

I think it’s one of the biggest reasons body work may plateau; resistance to remembering and/or releasing leads the person unconsciously to tighten.  In yoga people prevent these openings by getting out of a pose as soon as the muscle starts to relax enough to let those memories and feelings rise up.

Getting clear of old issues almost always needs to include some work on muscles in order to open the flow and restore essence.

Strength and Flexibility

America has somehow come to the conclusion that healthy muscles need only to be strong.  It’s a persistent misconception even though multitudes of people who work only on strength have wound up suffering pain from the impact of having muscles that are rigid but incapable of flexing.

Natural movement through the world requires muscles to have both the strength to make certain movements and hold certain parts of the body upright and the flexibility to allow you to balance, and to adjust to the motions life throws at you and, even more important, to allow vital force energy to flow throughout your body.

The nadis, or energy channels, through which prana (chi, qi, vital energy…) moves go through the muscles.  Rigid muscles restrict that flow.  Western thinking and medicine understands very little about energy, but energy and its ability to circulate is crucial mentally, physically and spiritually to good health.

After 32 years of yoga I’m prejudiced, of course, but I think it’s one of the best ways to get your muscles into the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.  A good yoga practice works on balance on many levels and one of the important features of a good practice is performing poses for both strength and stretch.

The Pain Place and the Source of Pain May Not Be the Same

The first serious massage therapist for me used a combo of sports medicine and the trigger point therapy theories of Dr. Janet Travell, particularly as shaped by Bonnie Prudden in Myotherapy.  Because muscles are interconnected, a holding pattern in one area will spread –given enough time, tightness can spread throughout your body — and may create a tight spot that hurts somewhere else.

If you work only where the pain is, you will not get rid of the problem.  Practitioners who know how to follow patterns* can figure out where the source of the problem really is.  When that piece releases, others will be easy to open.

Margaret, that first practitioner, often worked on my neck, couldn’t get anything to budge, moved down to a giant ball of knotted muscles at the top of my achilles tendon, worked there and then went back to my neck, where the muscles would now respond.

In Body Patterning, practitioners learn to see patterns in muscles and will often release several other areas before working on the place where you’ve indicated pain.  They’re releasing pieces that are holding that one and the spot you may think is central will not let go while the other patterns hold.

Another aspect of this is that your brain will numb out much of the pain if you have tight, sore muscles all over (or in many places).  Then it will zero in on one or two specific parts where you will experience the pain.  They’re not necessarily the places of origin for your problem.  Sometimes the pain is just referring from the pattern that’s the real issue.

Find a good practitioner –making sure you check on the training and experience — and trust him or her to work wherever you most need it regardless of whether that turns out to be the place where you feel pain.

When I do Flowing Body work on myself or with students, I generally do triggers of release for at least three areas and work with consciousness not only of before and after, but what has been affected by what.  For instance, during a recent knee problem, I did the triggers for ankles, knees and hips and noticed the ankle release did the most for the sore knee and the hip release was also more effective than the knee releases.

Another I’ve noted frequently, as have many students, is that releasing the ankles will often release something in the neck and/or jaw.  Almost every release will cause people to lower their shoulders even if no work has been done on shoulders.  Pay attention as you practice yoga or other exercises as to which movements bring relief where.

Muscles and Bones

Many muscles are connected to bones which means muscles pulled out of alignment can pull bones out of alignment too.  In the early years of trying to work my way out of fibromyalgia –harking back to Margaret again — the massage therapist prescribed chiropractic appointments to help.

Once the muscles have pulled bones out of whack, it often takes work on the bones as well to get the muscles to release.  If you’re not keen on the invasiveness of traditional chiropractic work, try Network Chiropractic. which doesn’t use the bone crunching technique and instead is gentle touch.

Therapy and Self Care

Over time I learned that body workers can help a lot but if I don’t do anything to help in between appointments, progress is exceedingly slow.  There are a variety of things you can do to help

I’d already been doing yoga when I began getting massages, etc. so that has always been a natural piece for me.  But it was when I lived in the San Francisco Bay area that I became conscious of helping along more.

I’d moved out to Marin but still wanted to go to the same massage therapist and also liked going to Kabuki Hot Springs, a Japanese bath place with wonderful sauna, hot tub, steam, etc.  To save trips over the bridge I started booking the massages on one of the ladies’ days at Kabuki and going in to soak, sauna, etc. first.  The therapist quickly noted my muscles were much easier to work on from the deep heat work right before the appointment.

Then, years later when I started doing a trade for Body Patterning, I only had an appointment every other week and I knew I needed to do something to maintain from one visit to the next.  Yoga had always helped but not enough.  And the commute to Kabuki Hot Springs had become a couple thousand miles 🙂

I’d done Robert Masters’ Psycho-physical Method to tapes for years but found it unwieldy for regular practice.  I began doing some of this work in between appointments and gradually re-worked it into sets of my own which dropped some pieces and joined various disparate parts in his classes into sets that worked well together and then combined it with yoga

Practice in between helped and I began a practice of doing 30-60 minutes of this work shortly before massage appointments, with a long soak in a hot bath right before leaving.  Suddenly I was being told that I had released more since the last appointment.

Normally practitioners get a number of things to open and then a combination of repetitive motions performed in life and the pulling force of patterns still holding in your body take the progress backwards a few steps (say 4 steps forward, 2-3 steps back).  Then at the next appointment the practitioner spends 15-30 of the first minutes of your appointment getting you back to where you were at the end of the last appointment.

So doing your part through practices that maintain progress and making sure you’ve done all you could before an appointment, you can move much faster through the body work to healthy muscles.  Very little time needs to be spent on getting you back to where you were and most of the appointment is about progressing further.

Problems Arise Slowly

It’s amazing how little it can take to start a problem with muscles and then it may take years before you feel the pain.  Yup.  Years.

I know I try the patience of some of my students with my emphasis on form in doing yoga and they don’t really believe me when I tell them doing it wrong can cause injuries.  If they’re not being wheeled out on a gurney at the end of class, to them there was no injury.

But do a pose wrong — or watch TV daily with your head turned or tilted or sit with your hips uneven, etc. — and keep doing it wrong and one or more muscles can be pulled a little out of place and/or strained enough to create a small knot.

At the time and perhaps for some time to come you probably won’t feel any pain at all.  But you’ve started a pattern. And if it goes untreated, the muscle will lock into the slightly-off-position and the first couple of knots will pull more of the muscle into knots.  Once that muscle is far enough out of whack it will start pulling all the muscles around it and causing them to tighten.

You might have started off pulling a muscle in your right hip out of place and a few years later it’s expanded until you’re having pain in your left shoulder and since you haven’t even done yoga for two years, you have no idea that doing it wrong started your problem.

The same is also true of having an injury and failing to get help.  You may stay off an ankle for a few days or go on bed rest for a spell and feel okay enough when you move again. But there’s a very good chance the trauma and the automatic tightening of muscles around it has set a little pattern.  Left untreated the pattern will remain and keep reaching out to affect more muscles.

The best way to protect your muscles from injury is to stay aware in the now.  Learn to do any exercise properly — and if your teacher can’t carefully explain the details of how to do something correctly, FIND A DIFFERENT TEACHER!!!  Also take care about positions you engage in routinely — how you sit, how you hold your head.

If you do an assessment and realize you’ve been twisting your neck when you sleep or sitting with one hip higher than the other, etc., seek help on identifying any patterns that have arisen and releasing them before they’ve turned into 20 patterns.

Bottom line, your muscles are important and you are the best steward in maintaining health.  Do what you can to keep them healthy and any time you have an accident or injury or feel a strain from repetitive motion seek help from alternative practitioners who actually understand muscles.


*i.e. cranio-sacral or body patterning

Revisit tips for the holidays: people skills

For some years I posted some tips for coping with the holidays every year and then I drifted away from it. Thought I’d re-issue one with some links to others:

dont beat drum quote

Every year at this time I post about a teaching from Kahuna teacher Serge King that has had an enormous impact on my life.  Serge likes to keep it short and simple, so the basic principle is:  “People are who they are and they do what they do.

I believe that if everyone in the world learned this one and lived by it, peace would soon follow.  As with many of his seemingly simple teachings, if you started exploring this one you’ll find it has tremendous depth.

The greatest source of disappointment, frustration, and anger toward others arises from having your own agenda/expectations about who you want them to be and how you want them to act/what you want them to do..The deep reality is that people are who they are and they are going to do what they do based on who they are.  You can wish or will others to be somebody else as much you want.  You may even occasionally manipulate someone into doing something that’s not what they want.  But in the long run no one can be anyone other than who they are.

Your best defense, if you want to avoid being disappointed or upset by others, is to know them well enough to know who they are.  Know what they do.  Expect them to be who they are and do what they do.  You’ll never be surprised by anyone’s behavior if you really know them.

And then realize who they are and what they do isn’t about you.  Pretty much ever; even when someone attacks you, the attack has everything to do with who they are and nothing to do with you.  So Don Miguel Ruiz’s advice, “Don’t take anything personally”, fits very well with this teaching.  People are busy being who they are and doing what they do and none of it has anything to do with you.  So don’t take it personally.

Is Aunt Murgatroyd going to tell unfunny jokes at the annual gathering, as always?  Of course she is.  It’s who she is and what she does.  Is your cousin Snagglepuss going to bore everyone AGAIN with stories of his really dull job?  You bet.  Who he is, what he does.  Is your overly protective dad going to criticize you like he always does?  If his way of showing care is to fret and pick apart anything that doesn’t fit his view, then yup.  Gonna do it.  If he’s an unhappy guy who criticizes to express his dissatisfaction with the world, that’s who he is…  gotta figure he’s gonna do it.

If you walk in with a chip on your shoulder because you know the irritating behavior(s) are going to arise but you’re secretly hoping it will be different, you’re going to get what you’re expecting:  unhappiness and dejection.  A lot of times we enter these situations knowing what they’ll do and expecting to be angry because of it.  And you’ll pretty much get what you’re expecting — ongoing cycles of them being who they are and you being angry.

If you expect anyone to do anything other than what s/he does, you’re doomed to disappointment.  When you can walk in knowing they’ll all be there being themselves and doing what they do, you’ll get what you knew you would.  Know that nothing they do is about hurting, irritating, upsetting or disappointing you.  They’re just being themselves.

When you can step aside from the behavior, know that it’s about them and not you, and stay centered, you can defuse most of the emotional turmoil that can make the holidays stressful.

The question we’ll explore in the next post is:  can you love them anyway?

Love Them Anyway

Communication

Recognizing Love When It is Offered

Unconditional Compassion

Ever since the election, it’s seemed to me that the liberal left (and I’m a member) has been patting themselves on the back and feeling self-righteous because they’re the people of compassion and caring.  And the other side are evildoers and deserving of hatred.  It bothers me, because my understanding of true compassion is that it’s unconditional.

I’m a work in progress when it comes to living with compassion; not claiming to be operating from the ideal place.  But I’ve contemplated it, done practices to develop it within and read a lot of the thoughts and wisdom of people who have mastered it better than I and I think I understand the basic idea that true compassion doesn’t discriminate, doesn’t see an “other”.

Hanging around calling people idiots or stupid or worse demonstrates that you are just as hateful as they are  It sure doesn’t argue for your great sense of compassion.

When I look at some of the hatefulness and dip into my heart and sense of compassion, I see people who are totally frightened.  I don’t know why or have the answers that will end their fears, but I know that understanding the fear and figuring out how to address it is more likely to shift their terrified and hateful responses to the world than calling them stupid.

To me the biggest failure of democrats and the left has been the absence of using their hearts to explore how to address the fears of those who become self-protective and lash out at those they wrongfully blame for their troubles.

But while political types are working on their idea of change, I keep clearing every issue I find within myself.  I keep meditating and chanting and working to raise my vibration.  Because in the end the one significant contribution each of us can make to the collective energy that is All of Us as One is to raise our own energy.

Every time I shout at the television or shake my fist at one of the candidates, it means I still have anger to clear.  It means I still have more chanting to do.

Every time we lift ourselves another notch in vibration, we lift the world a little bit.  If a million of us raise our energy, we change the world.  Be the peace.  Live with compassion that knows no other nor any conditions, but is given freely to all.

Being Peace: Where’s Your Focus

Louise Hay Affirmation

People keep telling me how bad the world is, how depressing, violent, etc.  And I keep trying to tell everyone it really is NOT.  For some time now I’ve been actively seeking positive news (see previous post) and, in doing so, have discovered the world is full of amazing and wonderful people accomplishing amazing and wonderful things every day!  It really comes down to a choice we all make about where we put our focus.  And why.

Governments and mainstream media have their own reasons for focusing on negative stories.  The fear they create justifies big budgets for police and military, the media keep people stirred up and it sells more of their product(s).  Because society has accepted these views and continues to support those who foment them, the negativity just continues.

I’ve embedded this video several times now because I feel it’s such an important message (and it’s only 10 minutes). She’s exploring the impact of having all attention on negative news and suppressing the multitudes of stories of people working for peace, helping the environment, making scientific breakthroughs, etc.  The negativity keeps people divided, which only helps those in power to keep their power and to keep the rest of us dis-empowered, poor, struggling…

Even among people I know who are deeply spiritual and well aware of the power of positivity, there are those who are caught in a cycle of doom and gloom about the current state of the world.  One thing I’ve learned in many years of seeking is this:  when people are stuck on an issue like that, whether personal or political or affecting all humanity, somewhere in them is an issue fueling their negative focus.

I’m putting several positive stories a day on Facebook, so many of the folks who are staying negative have an opportunity each day to look in a different direction.  But they don’t.  Why choose to focus on bad news and refuse to notice the good?

So I’m thinking these days about questions like:

  • what are you getting from holding onto this fear/anger?
  • what do you believe about life or the world that holds you in this place and when did that belief begin?
  • what can be done to heal the negative thinking patterns and/or shift them into positive ones?

As you know, I’ve been using ho’oponopono to explore issues for a long time.  When the bad news starts to “get” me, I begin asking questions like the above and I start working with the prayer:

  • For every way in which I hold negative patterns, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.
  • For every unresolved issue in me fueling anger and fear, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.
  • For every part of me which sees an “other” who is separate and unlikeable/unloveable, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.
  • For my failures at living in compassion and love and being peace, I’m sorry, please forgive me, thank you, I love you.

Another way to help change negative thinking is to use affirmations.  I like to create a few which I keep repeating every time I catch my thoughts on certain tracks (this changes over time, so it means creating new ones…) and I also play a lot of recordings of affirmations in the background.

I’ve created a long tape of affirmation recordings from Dick Sutphen which is on Spotify, Steve Nobel has lots of affirmations recordings on YouTube and it’s easy to create a list.  Hay House has offered some nice affirmations recordings from Louise Hay for free.  There are millions more options.

Sometimes the deep issues creating negativity require help from a therapist or pursuing a process like Fisher Hoffman or Choices or the Diamond Heart work of H. Almaas.  While clearing issues isn’t exactly fun work, the relief and freedom that flow from releasing old stuff is so immense, so lightening, so transformational, it winds up feeling great!

Every time one of us clears old negative thinking and offers positive energy into the web, the world inches closer to peace, a healthy environment, and compassion.  The more you heal, the easier it is to stay drawn to the positive and good.  It’s time to empower the peacemakers, the inventors of answers, the compassion holders instead of the corrupt and hateful.

I know most of my regular readers already get this.  But I bet most of you know people who are caught up in the angst of these times, so please pass along the notion that looking at the positive or the negative is a CHOICE.

A few posts from the past about positive thinking (and check out the Journey to Peace tab above):

Dipping into Peace and Love

A another blogger — also a friend — asked me recently to post something about being peace.  I’ve been re-reading old posts and giving it some thought ever since, without quite landing on what I’d like to write.

In the meantime I felt drawn to yet another Steve Nobel meditation and I think it will make a nice opener to what I’m thinking may be a series of posts reflecting on peace.

This one, “The Sun Goddess Amaterasu Transmission. Embracing A Higher Flow of Pure Grace” is almost entirely about filling with grace and love and light from the Divine Feminine and I found it amazing.  If enough of us start resonating with this level of grace and love most or all of the time the world will shift…

Outage blessing: a shift

A couple of weeks ago a big storm took out electricity for a couple of day (previous post) and then our phone/tv/internet service went down for a week.  When the electricity came back but the other stuff was still out I pulled out some DVDs to have something to watch.

I’d been drawn for a while to re-watch some “positive” stuff, like Louise Hay’s “You Can Heal Your Life” or “What the Bleep”.  But you know, have to remember how to get in DVD mode and find the stuff to watch, so it kept getting put off…  But with DVD the only possibility, the draw became compelling.  So I started with the Louise Hay.  As I watched for what was probably the sixth or eigth time since i bought it, I suddenly felt like a switch flipped.

Having been aware of her mirror work for years, I finally actually went through all the exercises in one of her more recent books about it a couple of years ago.  I enjoyed it and felt like it did some good, though years of work on similar things meant it didn’t feel like a big change happened.  But I’ve long been aware of a gap for me between my intellectual understanding about positive thinking and my ability to hold on to positive thoughts.

Many people I’ve known over the years have seemed to just flip a switch upon encountering Ms. Hay or Eckhart Tolle or whichever “you create your reality” guru they found.  It’s always amazed me that someone could turn it around so fast.  Sometimes I realized they became very good at saying only positive things but it didn’t necessarily mean they’d really cleared the negative thoughts or explored their origins…

On my journey I realized in increments over many years that lots of old personal and ancestral issues created endlessly looping negative tapes in my thought patterns and that I didn’t know how to turn them off.  It’s taken years of release work, self-examination and creating positive thought loops to progress slowly into a more positive mindset.

But suddenly as Louise and friends discussed loving yourself and mirror work, something in me went, “yes, of course, I love myself.”  I’ve been smiling and looking in the mirror to repeat variations of loving myself affirmations daily ever since and spontaneously looping positive thoughts through my mind at intervals each day.

I’ve waited a while to write about this, wondering how well it would stick.  Must admit the constancy of it has faded a bit over the course of a couple of weeks (probably time to watch the video again?), but by and large I’m still finding myself running affirmations through my mind and smiling into the mirror daily.

It feels like a big shift.  One that was fed by all the work on shifting, sorting, examining and changing that went before, but a shift nonetheless.  Quite a blessing to receive from an outage!

The week+ with no Internet or t.v. has also changed my viewing and on line habits a bit, as I actually watch instead of half watching more things, take more time away from computer and t.v. to read, cook, weed, etc.  I have to say, frustrating as it was, the blessings were greater than the inconvenience.

J2P: Clear ancestral fear, clear current fear?

As my regular readers know, I’m big on clearing issues and have been quite fascinated about ancestral fears and beliefs and how they pass down.  So a chunk of the time I’ve been spending on Steve Nobel’s many meditations has been spent on various ones focused on clearing ancestral lines of fear and negativity.

Such guided meditations are always intriguing to me as I rarely can point to a tangible provable outcome in the world and say it resulted from meditating.  But doing these many clearings has certainly had my energy shifting and buzzing and left me feeling often unbalanced and…  odd.

Yesterday I decided to dust off an old meditation I was taught 30+ years ago by the transpersonal psychologist who introduced me to all this “spiritual stuff”.  In this one you follow a specific path to reach a council of guides and then ask questions.

One of the areas they spent time on was all this energy shifting.  They told me I’ve been shifting so much so fast it’s all having trouble catching up and that the huge amounts of ancestral clearing are also creating big shifts for thousands of cousins, many of whom are quite distant on the family tree.  Again one of those things you take on faith … or not.  Up to you.

I believe we can have an impact.  The meditation left me thinking about what I know about my tree and the current climate of fear among a portion of the populace who are allowing the fear to dictate their support of some pretty scary stuff.

On my mother’s side, a huge portion of the direct line ancestors were Scots-Irish, which has led me to study up some on the migration experience of this group.  It turns out many of these Presbyterians, who moved into mountain areas of the south and then fanned across the south and beyond, wound up becoming Baptists or other fundamentalist denominations because of the dearth of Presbyterian ministers in those remote places.

While my direct family stayed Presbyterian and became more urban, I’m pretty sure, based on the history, a lot of those cousins in other branches of the family became the folks who vote for Republicans, join the KKK and like the current so-called President.

In a big wave of realization I felt the clearing I’ve been doing reaching down through the ancestral lines and then flowing back to heal people I don’t even know but am related to in the present.

My long research into genealogy has led me to realize we’re all related to millions of people we don’t know, with surnames we’ve never heard.  When you start clearing and healing ancestral issues, you impact a wider range of people than you know.

For instance my 10x great-grandfather, William Brewster, has millions of descendants currently.  He and his wife are just one couple among 4,095 sets of 10x great-grandparents, each of whom probably has millions of current descendants.

In the notion of one big web of energy, these family ties show how deeply we really are connected.  So imagine working on clearing your ancestral lineages of fear and negative beliefs and then that your clearing is energetically impacting millions of others.  Imagine a whole bunch of us doing this clearing can help to heal fear for millions upon millions of people.

There are lots of ways to work on ancestral issues, so if you’re not drawn to these meditations there are plenty of ways you can work on healing.  Most shamanic traditions, for instance, include practices for healing ancestors.  Long distance Reiki can be used through time as well as space, so you can send healing to your ancestors.  Several years ago I wrote a post with a list of suggestions and a description of a ceremony I led.

Steve Nobel’s Transmissions often contain a thread of healing for ancestors and I’ve done too many to be able to point you to every one containing such a thread, but these three specifically address ancestral and karmic healing and I’ve found them very powerful:

Imagine the possibility a whole bunch of us could help to heal the fear…