Deep brain function and daily life

What strategies do you take to get out of your own way? How can you finish that project that has been nagging you for months or years? What can you do to stay calm when faced with old triggers? Why can't you put into action ideas that are in your head?

Most people go to the mind to deal with themselves (meditation, mindfulness training) and some bring more body to the task with mind-body practices (yoga, tai chi, dance, somatic psychotherapies).

The Connectivity Project is an integration of several modalities I have worked with over the years. It's designed to get to your mind through the roots of your brain. Working on the deepest levels of brain coordination is an act of integrating the fastest functions in your brain. Balance, coordination, sound, and light processing are done at speeds beyond your cognitive control. When these systems are improved simultaneously, a synergistic improvement happens within yourself that may be hard to describe. But you feel it. It’s palpable and profound because it fine tunes the foundation you have grown used to. (content continues below video)

Big neurological shifts are experiences that are exhilarating and affect your whole being. Learning to walk on two feet, learning to ride a bike, feeling in the zone of the perfect tennis or golf swing, syncing up perfectly with your dance partner and the music. These are multi-system coordinative events that happen underneath the thinking mind. It feels like flow, it feels like action emerges out of you. It feels like you can get out of your own way.

The surprising health features in your bones

Of the many reasons to lower inflammation through dietary changes, the health of your bones might be a surprising one.

It has been noted that pro-inflammatory cytokines are intricately involved in bone loss. While decreased estrogen induces bone loss in menopausal women, pro-inflammatory cytokines mediate this process. What does that mean? Inflammation might be a necessary component for estrogen-deficiency bone loss. So lowering your inflammation can help not just your gut, but your bones.

In fact, restorative rest between workouts is good for your bones for this reason.

You should keep your bones healthy not only to avoid osteoporosis, but also to help with blood sugar regulation, testosterone production, and memory and mood! Our bones create a protein hormone called osteocalcin, which effects all those things.

More surprising still, bones create other hormones. So remember your bone health for overall well-being!

Biological sleep tips

Getting enough sleep has been quantified as feeling like winning a quarter of a million dollars! But how do you get there? Most articles on sleep tips tend to focus on creating bedtime routines or changing the environment in your bedroom. I like to focus on finding solutions by understanding how the body functions. So here are three basics of your body's sleeping function and what you can do to impact sleep most directly.

Circadian rhythm
Your circadian rhythm is your body's clock, linked to the daily rhythms in your biology, from sleep, to digestive enzyme production, to cell regeneration, and hormone production. Master control of this rhythm is found in the hypothalamus, but every cell in your body apparently its own clock. Exercise outside in the morning to signal your circadian rhythm in a natural way.

Body temperature
The body normally goes to sleep when its temperature lowers. Taking a warm bath helps sleep because the body cools itself after the bath. If you tend to feel hot when you sleep, a better option might be sleeping on a cool pad like this one.

Deep breathing
There are many aspects to breathing well, and each can produce a variety of effects. In yoga, many people know the ujayii breath and use it incorrectly outside of asana practice. Ujayii can be used as a way to focus attention on the breath and get feedback from the sound produced by this technique. It is also a heating breath, so not an appropriate breath for sleep. A more appropriate breathing technique is one that lengthens the exhale, like this one.

Sweet dreams!


 

Creative living, coherent body

What is your artform?

The acquisition of a technique that frees the soul is the gift of an artform. You learn how to interact with the medium with enough ease to let you get drawn into the meditation of your process. For the visual artist that medium may be paint or charcoal to bring out the emotion of color or negative space; for the poet that medium is words that create a visceral experience of rhythm and pauses. Ultimately, your medium is merely the material through which you can richly communicate that which is deeply felt. But that skill takes time to cultivate.

Likewise, your own body is your artform. In developing a coherent body, you develop the ultimate sounding board of your mind. With me, you will learn to skillfully employ techniques that anchor the whole of your being into coordination, greater ease. It takes time and attention to the experience within yourself, but being embodied in the moment is allowing opportunities for satisfying insights. This is the purpose and mission of Coherent Body - to develop the art of knowing yourself through the portal of your body.

 

Art meets Science in the personal

Knowing your embodied experience, both in the felt sense and in the understood sense, is to be an active participant in the creative process of life.

Physicist David Peat talks about new physics, the physics of process and becoming, the emergent nature of reality.

In memorium: What Desikachar taught me

A teacher who had a profound influence on me passed away Aug. 9, 2016. In late September 2001, I was in Colorado for a Yoga Therapy conference. It was early in my yoga training and I had only recently left my corporate job to pursue a career that touched my heart. The world was still in shock from the fall of the Twin Towers and I was uncertain about my upcoming trip to India in October. The keynote speaker was a man of grand stature, Desikachar, the son of the father of yoga as we know it in the Western world. After workshops with the bloated egos of certain American yoga teachers who fancied themselves gurus, or otherwise hawked their trade-marked system, I was disappointed with the educational possibilities in yoga as healing in the US. That is the backdrop against which I attended the keynote lecture, anticipating a man who was larger than life. (this entry continues below the video)

Desikachar walked on stage, not in robes or beads, not throwing around namastes, but dressed in street clothes, and I was moved by the normalcy of his presence. He was an ordinary man, not a guru nor a salesman, and his humanity was to me was more yogic than his lineage or the fanfare around him. He spoke in a light-hearted, casual manner, explaining his deliberate adaptation of his demeanor to meet our American culture. He spoke of the uncertainty and fear that was heavy in the air and the progressive nature of how healing happens. I knew at that moment that I would visit his center when I went to India, but I was still unsure if I would make such a trip in a world turned upside-down by commercial airplanes used as weapons. I approached Desikachar after his talk and asked if I could study at his center during my trip. I also expressed my concern about traveling there given recent events. He referred back to his talk, about the step-by-step nature of healing. Every step is a fresh start from which you are free to take a new direction. He remarked that I had taken a step to come to the conference. And the choice to go to India was only another step. Yes, I was welcome to come to his center, but the step was mine to make. And, of course, it was merely a step. I took that step and spent most of my 5-month trip at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram.

Although I took a formal training at Desikachar’s center, it was my time spent outside of formal training - at the evening lectures, observing and interacting with their therapists, the regular chanting at the center, the osmosis of being present with the person in front of me, that embedded the teachings more deeply. Intention in personal interaction and clarity in first-person presence was the foundation of their message. Deep appreciation for the dimensions of a person was essential to understanding them. Clarity in your own mind was an essential resource to cultivate and draw upon. As an Asian, a teacher remarked to me that my culture was closer to Indian than American. A Japanese student even remarked that the Tamil (the language spoken in that part of India) had the same grammatical structure as Japanese. I was born in Korea but grew up in the Midwest. I always felt American, even when I was mocked every time I entered a new school for looking otherwise, but my time in India revealed how deeply cultural origins live. My parents modeled Asian behavior and thinking. I absorbed certain aspects of that in ways I hadn’t realized.

At the KYM, they taught a mature approach to yoga therapy, practiced by adults dedicated to learning the philosophy and psychology of yoga. In their embodiment and in their practice, Desikachar and his senior teachers communicated that healing happens in the relationship. I learned this in India before I learned the neurological reality of how that occurs. In essence, yoga therapy is a meditation on the person in front of you, bringing any tool necessary that you possess to help that individual in their goals. It is a process rooted in the biology of social creatures, anchored in the humanity of our intentions, dependent on the clarity of self. It is a process that I continue to follow and I am indebted to Desikachar for his embodiment of it. Without the gloss of branded ownership, he shared his humanity with me.

 

Organic and under-nourished: gut rehab, genetic influences, and supplements

What if your diet is clean, yet you are not quite as healthy as you know you can be? Why are you feeling exhausted when you get 9 hours of sleep? When I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition, I wanted to know what I could do in my daily life to get back to health, but there were few good leads.

It's only been in the last few years that the scientific community is taking leaky gut seriously and recognizing the contribution of gut dysfunction  to a growing prevalence of autoimmune disease.

As someone who eats organic, grass-fed, reads labels, and generally eats very little processed foods, basic information about good nutrition is not that useful to me. Yes, I know the deficiencies in the Standard American Diet. Yes, I already avoid having my meals at fast food restaurants.

Once you get past the basics, there is so much contradictory advice on healthy ways to eat and I am not fond of extreme dietary approaches. For those of you past the basics, I am going to share what I learned about gut health, the immune system, and nutrition for your benefit.  If you have gut issues of any kind (sharp pains, bloating, cramps, food that feels like it sits too long in your stomach after a meal, constipation, diarrhea), or if you have any chronic condition and you want to understand how nutrition can contribute to your healing, here are my cliff notes to help you get over the first big waves of information. Hopefully it may point you down a path that is specifically appropriate for your issue.

Methylation, endocrine negative and positive feedback systems, galactans, methionine cycle, histamine intolerance, innate and adaptive immune responses, sympathomedullary pathway, cytokines, homocysteine. These are just a few of the terms you might come across when trying to understand immunity, hormone function, and digestion. They are also issues you might encounter if you are looking at gut health. I've summarized four points to help sort through the mass of info out there and get you started on healing through nutrition:

1. Genetic profile matters

They say that personalized diets are not far off. But in the meantime, we clearly know that there is no one perfect diet across the board. In fact, a "healthy" diet may contain all the inflammatory foods that you should avoid, or it may eliminate exactly what you need.

You can expect that if you have an autoimmune condition, you probably have some level of defect in methylation. I took the 23andme test to determine to what degree I had genetic mutations (technically a polymorphism). If you decide to get your DNA profile, these results must be interpreted through geneticgenie.org. Because of this ploymorphism, the B-complex supplement I was taking was toxic for me. I cannot convert the hydrochloride form of B6 in the supplement. If you have a specific genetic profile that diminishes methylation, you also cannot convert folic acid, a synthetic form of B9. Dr. Kresser is a reasonable voice when it comes to this body of info.

The most significant thing to know about methylation is its role in turning on and off genetic encoding. If you are genetically disposed to deficiencies in certain essential biochemical processes, you need to be more diligent about addressing your specific needs. 

Genetic tests may also reinforce and justify use of supplements. I am very reluctant to take supplements without good reason. In my case, vitamin D and a methylated form of B12 is indicated based on my genetic profile. It's still not verified by the scientific community as this is emerging science, but functional medical doctors use it clinically with success. It was part of my path to remission. If nothing else, it justified specific supplement intake.

2. Nourishment vs. detox

Healing the gut presumes some type of chronic dysfunction. It is a slowly depleting process. A depleted system needs nourishment, not cleansing. I live in Los Angeles, and the prevalence of cleanses and detox approaches is rampant and often unbalanced. Detox and cleansing is appropriate if you have been binging or otherwise had an acute overload. It is a process of stripping out. If, however, if you already have a pretty clean diet, an aggressive detox can deplete a system that doesn't require it.

Nourishment typically means more fats, protein, and minerals. Grass-fed sources of saturated fats, animal protein, and bone broth are good ways to restore a distressed digestive system. This nourishment should always be balanced out with extra vegetables. Across all forms of eating styles, increasing vegetable intake, particularly green vegetables, is non-controversial. Bieler's Broth is a particularly good way to meet extra vegetable needs for a depleted system.

3. Change food first to heal the gut

Nutritional consultant Margaret Wright was the first to cue me into specific genetic limitations that may contribute to biochemical dysfunction, basing that on my lab results. This started me down the path of eliminating foods that I previously would not eliminate. Functional medicine Dr. Amy Meyers, through her book, videos, and writing, helped me realize that eliminating gluten was not enough when you have an autoimmune condition.

I strongly encourage you to make the effort to change how you nourish yourself to support any medical approach you are taking. If you are constantly under-nourished, you may respond poorly to any medication, radiation, or surgery.

Whole30 is a good place to learn about an elimination diet.  The Perfect Diet is another source worth examining.  In most elimination diets you are removing grains, dairy, legumes. Another layer of elimination may include nuts/seeds, nightshades, eggs, fermented foods. That second layer of elimination was necessary for me in the first phase, but I have eventually brought that layer back in.

4. Supplements are not harmless

By starting with food first, I was able to gradually add specific supplements and watch their effect. How effective are supplements if you are burdening your system by the foods you eat?

As I said earlier, taking a vitamin B complex merely because I had Graves was not good for me, but I was running out of non-medical options. Do not supplement based on the diagnosis. Understand your specific genetics and state of health, as well as the nature of synthetic supplements. If you are quite unwell, supplement under the guidance of a functional medical doctor. Graves can be a serious condition so I am under the care of a thyroid specialist from the medical side. I got into remission through food only, but I can refer to her should my condition need medical assistance.

I believe you need to be motivated to avoid medications. I introduce supplements slowly to discover what recommended supplements work for me. Many multi-vitamins may contain forms you cannot convert, contain elements that you need less of, not more, or otherwise be inappropriate for your state of health. I use my subjective experience of energy level and endurance, plus labs to determine what is working for me. You can order your own labs through Direct Labs or Health Check USA. Bloodwork can be expensive and confusing, and you should be organized to track them, so it is best to have an initial test under the guidance of a medical professional as a starting point.

I hope these points have been helpful to move you on a path towards greater health.

3 steps to heal your gut naturally

Our gut microbiome ‘"has enormous implications for the sense of self,’’ Tom Insel, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said. ‘‘We are, at least from the standpoint of DNA, more microbial than human." Increasingly, we are recognizing how much we are an expression of our gut health. Here are three steps to consider if you are serious about healing your gut naturally.

Step 1. Rid yourself of infection

Take 2 supplements: Tri-Guard Plus, a natural microbe/parasite/fungus healing blend and L-Drain, an herbal stimulation for your lymphatic system.

Unlike the circulatory system, the lymphatic system does not have its own pump, so make sure to give it extra support to move things alone. Along with the herbal supplement, mechanical encouragement is essential for the lymphatic system: lymphatic massage, dry brushing, large movement with legs and arms to squeeze lymph nodes through movement, and shaking your body or making bouncy, quaking movements and smooth, internal "groovy" movements.

Step 2. Support your gut function with a temporary change in diet and a daily dose of bone broth.

There are many variations of this anti-inflammatory diet, but most eliminate grains, dairy, and legumes to allow your gut to heal. Add daily bone broth to your diet. 

However, if you have a medical condition like autoimmunity, you are better off following more specific guidelines from Dr. Amy Myers or acupuncturist Chris Kresser.

Step 3. After at least 2 weeks on the temporary diet, add a daily dose of a Bieler's broth, a balancing cleansing broth.

Dr. Henry Bieler was a medical doctor and a proponent of healing with foods. I often recommend his green healing broth as a supplement or 1-4 day cleanse.

The Tomatis Method® and finding your center

The Tomatis Method® is a sound therapy program developed by French ENT Dr. Alfred Tomatis. The implications of his discoveries are far-reaching because the auditory system is vital in both communication and body organization.

In my practice, I have found this program to be particularly useful when underlying balance and coordination issues may contribute to feelings of instability, lack of support, or fear of harnessing one's power. If you are in the LA area, contact me to determine if this method might help you.

3 Things: Shoulder pain relief

Try these three exercises to relieve your shoulder pain. Go slowly, do not push yourself into pain, and you will know if they are right for you. These three exercises encourage the shoulder blade to glide over the ribcage for easy range of motion.

#1 Thoracic spine stretch: This exercise enables you to connect spinal opening with shoulder blade glide. A stiff upper spine is often implicated in shoulder dysfunction.

 

#2 Dolphin: We are often moving our arms around in the shoulder joint. In this exercise, by moving your body weight through your shoulder girdle, you are stimulating the shoulder joint in a novel way.

# 3 Water bowls: This is an exercise I devised to coordinate movement of the forearm with opening of the ribcage and movement in the head in a way that trains the shoulder blade to find its range of motion. There are a lot of elements to it, so watch a couple of times before trying and imagine yourself doing it before you actually try it. Your arm should never be moving on its own as your head stays fixed. The point of this exercise is to free the head and neck movement while forcing the forearm to find it's movement pattern. The balance pods in my hands are merely there to challenge me at the wrist and forearm. Whatever you put into your hands should likewise be something you can balance on the palms of your open hands without grabbing it.




Body as an information process

There is a constant information exchange happening in your being. From your nervous system, to your digestive system, to your hormonal system, to your immune system, your felt sense of "self" is rooted in biochemical, electromagnetic, thermal, and pressure dynamics.

To understand this is to take a new approach to working with your body. Instead of a mechanistic view of your body as something to maintain in a contrived or artificial way, you can use your body to evolve your understanding of yourself and your potential. The body (and your uniquely personal experience of it) is the portal into a deeper self-knowing. To reference it is to complete a feedback loop of the dynamic, present moment.

What the hell does that mean?! Let me give you an application of that broader perspective in a very mundane example. Hip pain is often treated by strengthening and stretching muscles around the joint. But frankly, the body doesn't understand anatomical names of specific muscles or planes of movement. Technical words can certainly help us understand what we are experiencing by giving us more concrete and neutral language. But your body's understanding of its own hip is this: it is a major point of information convergence.

At a deep level, your body understands when it is aligned in a way that can direct the force of the weight it needs to support itself into the ground. If it cannot support the weight well, it might grip to stabilize itself. How does a body know if the hip joint can support well? There is feedback from the joint itself called proprioception and an overall sense of stability in the vestibular system. Some people will experience improved hip stability as a hip that moves smoothly, is painless, or feels open.

When you look at hip pain from that perspective, there are many implications to how you can resolve dysfunction. Is the midfoot moving well? Do the bones in the lower leg articulate well? Does weight transfer through the sacrum occur in the gait? This is a very different approach, and I welcome you to contact me to gain a different perspective on your particular issue.