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Self-Care for Aid Workers

International aid and development workers work in some of the most challenging contexts globally. They often work long hours in high stress environments far from family and with limited access to health and wellness services.  Working in post-conflict, crisis and development contexts for the last 11 years, I’ve had to develop a self-care regimen to stay grounded and be able to work and live from a place of physical, mental and emotional intelligence.

Visiting my hometown in Northern California, often required 24 hours or longer traveling on planes to make it home for a visit. Being cramped on planes I was always keen to research and discover new self-care practices that were mobile, and that I could do anywhere.

Self-care anywhere

Because their work entails working closely with communities affected by conflict and disaster, aid workers can often experience vicarious trauma, sometimes called secondary trauma which comes from listening to the stories of other affected by trauma, as well as burnout and empathy fatigue.  Many also work in contexts where they also experience primary shock trauma, such as those working in Haiti during the Earthquake, Aceh, Indonesia during the Tsunami, or in countless of conflict environments where aid workers are directly targeted. Read the rest of this blog post »

Injury to Innovation Part II: Innovation

By: | Wednesday, April 12th, 2017 | Comments 2

Last week I discussed how I began the process of coming back from a foot injury. This week, I’ll share some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Here we go…

  1. Necessity is the mother of innovation. Every great idea fills a void. I knew I had to start getting creative with how I moved when getting on the floor wasn’t an option.
  2. The power of observation! As teachers, we’re good at cueing and doing, but our observation always needs to be sharpened. I also found pure joy in being a class I couldn’t take but able to be the observer and learn so much by watching.
  3. Your body is the greatest teacher; everyone else is just guiding you to the gate. I found it so necessary to move and figure out the things that were working for my body and not working. The Roll Model Therapy Balls were also an important component of the letting my PT where I had issues that affected my initial injury. A problem in my big toe found relief and release in my low back. Injury means more exploration, not less. Move in ways that are not painful and in ways that are consistent with things that you are doing with your PT.
  4. Empathy helps you as a teacher to understand students of all levels and injury. Different points of view give more scope and ability to help populations that may have been invisible before. Injury recovery is very small steps. Being able to do simple things like get up and down off the floor should be treated like the important milestones they are.
  5. Step outside of your movement box. I’ve found progression in so many places like yoga, TRX, Pilates, strength training, walking/hiking, corrective exercise, and probably other modalities that I haven’t even tried yet. Not only does it help inform my teaching, it again helps to speak to different populations and add new perspective to current movement.
  6. Touch! Rolling my foot wasn’t really an option as it was so inflamed. I had to being with (you guessed it) touch. Less is sometimes more. Then, I began to slowly progress into rolling my feet while sitting.
  7. This is an opportunity to learn more about your anatomy. Get a book! Go online! It was really interesting to look up the muscles (and their friends) where I was in pain and see where they originate and insert into in my skeletal map. But it was also interesting to move and feel the relationships between the injured area and the rest of my body. Sometimes, it’s not about where you’re injured but somewhere else that wasn’t fully functional. My big toe eventually was able to point but that wasn’t the end of the story. I’ve had some relapses but through #5 above, I’ve come to figure that spinal movement is my one of my blind spots. Even a year out, I’m still finding ways to improve my foot.
  8. Seek outside help that includes mental health services. Sometimes, injuries are perfect time to clean not just your movement “house” but mental “clutter” that prevents your best movement and awareness thereof.

Although I wish you all to remain healthy and mobile, I hope that these tips are useful to anyone who ends up recovering from injury.

Injury to Innovation Part I: Injury

By: | Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 | Comments 2

The nurse undid the velcro straps and put the knee high walker boot on. Minimal to no driving, sit as much as possible, and more tests to make sure there isn’t nerve damage. My first steps were slow and difficult. “Wow, that’s gotta hurt,” says a stranger in the hall.

 As I had driven to my appointment, I unbooted and put on my regular shoe. No movement and no driving. It felt like my world had caved in on itself.

Two weeks went by and there still wasn’t any improvement. No anti-inflammatory nor boot was helping my situation. I came out to my car and collapsed onto my steering wheel. I am movement educator who can’t really move and didn’t have the answers to what was going on. I was in the pain cave and couldn’t find my way out.

 Test after test showed nothing. Finally, I was in PT after a month of barely walking. I was diagnosed with tarsal tunnel syndrome. My big toe could not point which made walking and driving difficult. And the process began. Read the rest of this blog post »

April – May Upcoming Events

Have you considered becoming a Yoga Tune Up® Teacher? If so, April and May are jammed packed with Level 1 Certification Trainings Worldwide! Check out our upcoming events below or further detials. We hope to see you there!

Level 1 Teacher Certification Training

The Roll Model® Method – The Science of Rolling

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My Three Favorite Lessons from Jill Miller

Re-posted with permission from Ariel Kiley. Original post: https://arielkiley.me/2017/03/25/my-3-favorite-lessons-from-jill-miller/

Back when I was just starting out as a yoga teacher, I was faced with what you might call a “quality problem.” My classes were getting really popular. The problem was that although it was great they were getting popular, they were filled with a vast array of students. All ages, body shapes, and injury/disease statuses were showing up for class.

Students were eager to practice with me, but at the same time telling me about herniated disks, neuroma in the feet, osteoarthritis… and I had no idea how to help them modify their practice. Let alone how to offer specific techniques that could help heal their conditions. In many ways, I was teaching in the dark.

Around that time my friend Clio took me to one of Jill Miller’s Core Integration workshops.

I admit, it was way over my head. She was having us roll on little “therapy balls” that felt like river rocks under my (surprisingly tight) back muscles. She talked about the core as this whole integrated system – the coreso she called it. Her reasons for getting fit weren’t superficial. She said we’re trying to get “pretty on the inside.” Huh?

I left that workshop confused, but curious. I knew I needed more education in biomechanics and anatomy. I knew I needed to learn from someone energetic and passionate. I liked the idea of learning from a younger woman instead of the older gentlemen who were leading many of the yoga therapy programs.

So a few weeks later, in September 2010, I found myself in the Yoga Tune Up® Teacher Training.

YTU Level 1 Teacher Training.

Adventures in Assisting Jill

Although I learned a lot in the YTU Teacher Training, the main thing I learned is that I didn’t know jack. But my evaluation at the end of the grueling week showed promise. After much studying, I got 100% on my written test and Jill and the assistants (Sarah Court and Tiffany Chambers-Goldberg) said if I just get my anatomy down, I’d soar.

They gave me props for the talents I had. And they gave me hope for what I didn’t have yet.

Jill made it clear that she welcomed having assistants join her at YTU workshops and trainings around the country. Nowadays, approximately a million people want to assist Jill when she leads trainings. But back then the operation was a little bit leaner, and she was always grateful for extra hands, eyes, body parts to demo with, and brains of course.

Just after I completed the training I got my arse to Ojai for the Ojai Yoga Crib festival and assisted Jill teaching a “Retrofit Your Down Dog” workshop in a carpeted chapel.

That was just the beginning. For the next couple years after that I followed her wherever I could, and wound up in some of the most hilarious and illuminating situations.

Teacher Trainer, Anatomy Nerd, Pro Poster Illustrator!

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Simple solution to Strengthen Shoulder External Rotators: Improve Your Form

In part one of this post, I described some ways to use the Yoga Tune Up Ⓡ Therapy Balls on part of the shoulder joint . In part two, I will describe a movement sequence that is easily accessible and can be carried out as part of any movement practice.

Injuries tend to happen at the end range of motion of a joint. This would suggest that it is important to build strength at these points through mindful and considered movement. Turn off the autopilot and regain control of the ship! The following Yoga Tune Up® poses focus on building functional strength and, though focusing on one body area, are actually whole body movements. All are performed standing be aware of your posture. Take time to observe your standing posture and your breath before you begin. Place a yoga block between the upper thighs to activate the adductors. Ensure that you pelvis is neutral as is your head. Watch out for head forward position.

1. Matador circles – this dynamic pose is excellent for building strength in the infraspinatus, teres minor, supraspinatus, and deltoids (medial mainly but also the posterior). Use a belt if beginning, and graduate to a blanket or a yoga mat. Shoulder blades are depressed in this one and work to ensure that the trapezius and levator scapulae do not take over the show. The body will want to revert to routine and allow these dominant muscles intervene and bypass the rotator cuff group.

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Simple Solution to Strengthen Shoulder External Rotators

The effects of poor posture and modern living gets a lot of air time these days. Central to this often is mention of rounded, internally rotated shoulders and the effect that this has on everything from breathing to Olympic lifting performances. I recently completed the Yoga Tune Up® Hips Immersion with Trina Altman. One of the take-aways from the immersion was that strengthening of the external (or lateral) rotators of the shoulder joints has now become a regular feature in my own training and in the classes I teach.

The shoulder, which is in fact made up of four joints, is a complex joint. This blog will focus on external rotation of the glenohumeral joint. This includes not only the muscles, bones and ligaments but all of the myofascia and nervous system tissue that is interconnected to the rest of the body. When the body moves, it moves as a whole – our nervous system didn’t name each muscle, tendon, nerve and ligament. Every movement is a whole body movement. Therefore, building awareness and strength in one area has an effect on the entire body. I am not going to wander too far down the rabbit hole that is the movement of the body but it’s safe to say that there is much more to learn.

The prime muscle groups that externally rotate the glenohumeral joint are the posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, and teres minor. The antangonists to this direction of movement include the anterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, teres major, subscapularis (the only one of the rotator cuff group that internally rotates the shoulder joint) and the pectoralis major. It is clear that the size and number of internal rotators exceeds the external rotators. Couple that with the fact that the external rotators of the glenohumeral joint are out of direct line of vision as they are located on the posterior aspect of the body and you can see how there may be some amnesia about these important workers. According to Davis’ Law1, soft tissue responds to stress by laying down more tissue and becoming shortened and more adhesions between the various layers. In simple terms that can result in shortening of the internal rotators and weakening over time of the external rotators. This leads to a dysfunctional shoulder, a grumpy nervous system and  frustration in  treating pain in a specific area without dealing with the cause. Read the rest of this blog post »

NeuroKinetic Therapy: A Powerful Tool in Your Therapeutic Arsenal

As a movement educator, I am always eager to learn about new modalities that will help me help my students and clients live better in their body. When I heard that the NeuroKinetic Therapy training would be offered in Dubai, where I live, I jumped at the opportunity to further my studies and gain a clearer understanding of assessing dysfunctional movement patterns and how to address them.

This practical, hands on training, runs over the course of two-days and is a fantastic complement to the work we do as Yoga Tune Up® teachers. In a nutshell, NKT relies on muscle testing – more accurately it is the function of the muscle that is being tested – to identify the root cause of a faulty movement pattern and correct it by reprogramming the motor control center located in the cerebellum.

Dubai-based NKT teacher trainer Keith Littlewood sums it up best, “NKT allows you understand which tissues are causing problems in specific patterns of movement. Instead of just going in and releasing tissue because it is problematic. NKT has evolved to ask questions of the body so that you apply a treatment to a specific tissue and pattern and not just generally, which is what many modalities often do.”

Over the two days, Keith demonstrated a variety of muscle tests, including the core, neck and upper and lower extremities. The aim of the tests is to find where a compensation exists – which muscle is facilitated and which is inhibited. Once the connection is made (and it’s not always easy to find it and sometimes requires serious investigative work and patience), the facilitated muscle is released and the inhibited muscle activated. The practitioner can then retest the relationship to see if the weak muscle now tests strong after treatment. If the change sticks – for example after asking the client to move around or challenging him with an exercise – then homework is given that includes a release and corrective exercise to be repeated several times daily to re-enforce the new movement pattern. Read the rest of this blog post »

March – April Events

March and April are jammed packed with  Yoga Tune Up® and Roll Model® Method Trainings within the US and Canada… Even one in Dubai. That’s what we like to call the “Luck of the Irish”!

Level 1 Teacher Certification Training

The Roll Model® Method – The Science of Rolling

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The Ins, Outs, and In Betweens of Your Digestive Tract: Relax and Digest

Last week, I discussed the digestive organs and the anatomy of the abdomen. This week, I’ll outline some techniques to help your organs do their job more efficiently.

The success of our digestive system depends on food being able to pass through the tubes unrestricted. Chronic abdominal tension reduces our ability to digest, assimilate, and metabolize our food. Even though the digestive processes of our stomach and intestines are out of our conscious control, we can deliberately relax the abdomen to help free up the flow.

Try the following moves to help your food move!

1. Induce the relaxation response before and after eating.

Before eating, sit and breathe deeply to prime your body for digestion. Deep breathing will down regulate the nervous system before, during, and after eating. And it’s easier to feel satisfaction before getting too full. Many of us eat on the run, but for one meal day, chill for at least 20 minutes after to rest and digest.

2. Eat without distractions.

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