Alignment is More than Just Good Posture

Remember when you were growing up and your mom (or your annoying aunt) would always correct you about your posture? “Stand up straight.” “Don’t slouch.” “Shoulders back.” Well, it was right… sort of. Body alignment is important. It affects many aspects of your health. But proper body alignment is more than just good posture.

Proper body alignment can help with body mechanics. That means it helps your body moves in a way that’s smart, efficient and with less risk of injury. In other words, body alignment will keep your body moving, sitting, standing, working, exercising, and being active for a long time. Proper alignment is very important, not only for your back, but for your overall health as well.

Proper body alignment helps the major systems in your body work better: digestive system, respiratory system, nervous system, immune system and more. In other words, everything runs better when the body is aligned.

Body alignment is important when exercising. Body alignment prevents injuries and balances how your muscle groups work. Also, when you are in alignment, you use less energy for any movement and put less stress on the joints. When movements are done from poor alignment position, there is greater wear and tear on joints and  greater is the risk of injury.

How to help body alignment.

Work on posture. Train yourself to recognize Neutral Spine Position—it’s when the pelvis, rib cage and skull are aligned on top of each other.  Instead of thinking of “standing up straight with your shoulders back” imagine being suspended from a string from the top of your head and all the other parts of the spine are suspended from the same string. When in neutral spine position, all 3 curves of the spine (cervical, thoracic and lumbar) are aligned and in natural balance. When you’re in this position, every movement activates from the core muscles.

You can find neutral spine position by practicing a basic relaxation exercise from the floor. You will eventually be able to recognize it while standing, sitting, reclining or moving.

Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts additional stress on the joints and muscles.

Avoid certain body positions and movements. Having a slumped forward head posture, twisting from the spine to a point of strain, reaching for anything too far out from the body, bending from the waist to lift things or reach for things.

Exercise regularly with a program that promotes and builds core stabilization.

  • Squats, planks, push-ups, lunges can help strengthen your core. These should be done slowly and with attention to proper alignment. You may want to work with an exercise coach if you are not familiar with proper alignment and are new to an exercise program. Be sure to get approval from your doctor before starting any new exercise or stretching program.
  • Practice yoga which helps stretch the muscles, but also strengthens the core (and all major muscle groups). Most yoga classes are available for a wide range of fitness levels. Choose one that is appropriate for you.
  • Consider taking up Tai Chi, which emphasizes breathing and slow, balanced movements.
  • Try a class in Pilates, which also helps with body alignment and core strengthening. It was developed by Joseph Pilates, who overcame a sickly childhood and later did physical training with WWI soldiers who were recovering from injury.

Remember, all of these exercises can help with body alignment and strengthening your core. But not all exercises are good for everyone. People who have had spinal fusion or a slipped disk should be especially careful with any exercises and confer with their doctor.

This article originally appeared on

4 Strategies for Staying Calm in Stressful Moments

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom.” –Dr. Viktor Frankl

In the famous quote above, Frankl, a physician and holocaust survivor, presents a radical idea about personal growth and fulfillment. He seems to say that, if we could simply pause for long enough to access our uniquely human ability to evaluate the wisest response, we can break free from suffering and tap our higher potential.

Frankl not only survived time in three different Nazi death camps, he also helped his fellow prisoners. As he describes in the international bestseller, Man’s Search for Meaning, Frankl also noticed that, among his fellow prisoners, those with a sense of greater meaning or purpose (such as the desire to live to share their story and prevent another genocide) were most likely to survive. After his release, Frankl took the lessons from his experience and created an entirely new school of psychology based on finding meaning in life, which is still in use today.

The Chinese character for crisis contains the sub-characters danger and opportunity. Within every crisis, there is the possibility of falling into the danger, or the potential to find or create an opportunity. Frankl exemplified this possibility: He transformed his greatest crisis—something far more trying than what most of us can imagine—into an opportunity to serve and his life’s legacy.

What if we could all learn to pause for long enough to get into the gap between stimulus and response and choose a response that makes the highest possible use of a situation?

Getting in the gap may sound like a fantastic idea, but it can seem exceedingly difficult to do in trying times. In moments of stress the region of our brain that triggers the fight or flight response, the amygdala, shuts down the pre-frontal cortex, the brain region responsible for clear thinking and rational decision-making. When we’re hot headed or afraid, we literally can’t think straight.

Have you ever said something you regretted when upset? Or acted in a hot flash of rage? Or, maybe you’ve gotten up to give a public speech, and suddenly your mind goes blank? That’s the fight or flight response in action. What if, like Frankl, we learned to slow down time for at least long enough to gain access to this gap between stimulus and response?

Here are three very simple techniques we can apply to put on the brakes and increase the space between stimulus and response:

  1. STOP is an acronym designed to help us get in the gap.  It stands for:
  • Literally pause before saying or doing anything.
  • Take one to three deep breaths, and really feel the sensations of each breath. (Deep breathing, especially with a slow exhale, helps send signals of relaxation to your brain).
  • Observe the entire situation, both internal and external. Take stock of the sensations in your body, your emotional state, the circumstances/dynamic of this situation/interaction.
  • Proceed in a way that supports you and your highest intentions for this situation. If you’re unclear about the best next step, it can help to return to your intention for your relationship with this person, or simply who you want to be. Then, from this place of highest intentions, choose your next move.

Making the simple choice to STOP can create a literal gap between stimulus and response and enable us to calm down enough to make choices that align with our highest intentions.

2. RAIN is another acronym that can help us deal with difficult emotions.

  • Recognize the emotion you’re feeling
  • Accept the emotion or emotions, without judgment. Often we make things worse by beating ourselves up when we feel angry, sad, or jealous. This only creates additional suffering. In Buddhism, this is often referred to as the second arrow—we’ve already been shot with a difficult emotion; why make the situation worse?
  • While we can’t necessarily change the emotion we’re feeling in this moment, we can prevent unnecessary pain by not berating ourselves for how we feel. We can avoid launching the second, third, or thousandth arrow. Accepting our emotions as they are is the first step in this process.
  • Emotions can feel extremely solid. However, in reality, they’re quite dynamic, frequently shifting in intensity, location in our body, etc. As you move to the “I” in RAIN, please take a moment to investigate how the emotion feels in your body. What physical sensations do you notice? What’s the story you’re telling yourself? Is the emotion static and heavy, or is it fiery and dynamic. Is it monolithic—do you feel only anger—or are there shades of disappointment, embarrassment, or resentment? According to the work of Daniel Siegel, M.D., clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founder and co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Institute, just naming an emotion can help to tame it by engaging the brain’s logical, linear left hemisphere.
  • Non-identification. One of the best things we can do is to recognize we are not our emotions. The fact I feel anger in this moment does not make me an angry or bad person. Non-identification can be helped by changing our language. In English, we talk about emotions using phrase “I am …” such as, “I am angry,” or “I am scared.” However, in many romance languages, people say “tengo miedo” or “I have fear” rather than “I am scared.” This helps the person speaking separate his identity from the emotion he is feeling. Although we may not speak French or Spanish, we can change the terms we use, shifting from “I am angry” to “I feel anger arising.” This simple shift can help us get unhooked/disentangled from gnarly emotions.

3. Hold your difficult emotions like a crying baby. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh often encourages his students to hold anger and other difficult emotions like they would a crying baby. When a baby cries, we don’t generally get angry with it or make it wrong for feeling upset. Rather, we hold the infant tenderly in our arms, do our best to soothe its distress, and ask, “What do you need?” Unfortunately, when we’re upset, we often make ourselves wrong for feeling a certain way. Instead, Thay (as he’s known by his students) encourages us to hold our emotions with tenderness and care and ask the simple question:  What do you need? As we soothe this fiery emotion and care for its underlying need, we often find ourselves freed from the emotion’s grasp.

4. Get in touch with your sole(s). This final strategy is the simplest: Any time you feel overwhelmed by a “negative” emotion, merely take a few moments to feel the sensations of the soles of your feet as they press into the floor below you. This can help ground you in the present moment (by definition, physical generally happen in the present moment.) A research study looking at kids with autism and emotional difficulties found that this simple technique helped them regular emotions.


The Muscle You've Never Heard of But Need to Know

When it comes to a tight core, most people picture six-pack abs. But a truly toned core is much more than what you see on the surface. Deep within your loins, the psoas (pronounced SO-az) muscle group partners with other muscles to stabilize and girdle the lower spine, promoting proper body alignment.

"It's our most important skeletal muscle," says Jo Ann Staugaard-Jones, an advanced Pilates and Hatha yoga instructor and author of The Vital Psoas Muscle: Connecting Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Well-Being. "The psoas is the only muscle connecting the spine to the legs, so it serves as the sole link between the upper and lower extremities." Even though you've never seen it, it creates movement and flow throughout the body, constantly contracting and releasing.

Just like other muscles, the psoas can grow stronger or weaker, depending on your lifestyle. Sitting all day is a killer, as one might expect. In today's sedentary society, Staugaard-Jones says the average person spends five to 11 hours a day sitting, hastening muscle atrophy. Between computer use, driving, flying, reading, watching TV, and sitting at a table to eat or write, we are constantly placing our bodies in a relaxed hip flexion position, with the full weight of the torso hovering on top and the lower extremities inactive. Such a position can inhibit circulation, muscle conditioning, and nerve response, leading to lower back pain, sciatica, and poor posture.

Related: An Expert Guide to Learning Crow Pose

"If you sit for a good portion of the day," Staugaard-Jones warns, "chances are your psoas is tight." Pain isn't always a symptom, but it can be. "If a patient complains of chronic, dull, bilateral pain in their lower back and groin, that's a big clue that their psoas needs relaxing and stretching." They may also feel discomfort in their hip sockets, glutes, or sacroiliac joints in the back of the pelvis.

Another, more surprising, cause of psoas pain may be emotional trauma. The psoas is known as "the fight or flight muscle" because when the body or mind become stressed, the psoas tightens and contracts in a primal response designed to protect us from harm. Thousands of years ago, an approaching brontosaurus would cause our psoas to instinctively shrink and contract, reducing us to as small a target as possible. Today, the trigger could be a divorce, job loss, losing a friend or family member, or just the general stress of life.

Related: 4 Strategies for Staying Calm in Stressful Moments

In some situations, strengthening moves like lunges, windmills, and Boat Pose can help, but often a painful psoas first needs stretching and rest, not exercise. The following three moves will help relax and stabilize the psoas, promote proper posture, ease pain and help break the fight or flight cycle.

Constructive rest position, or CRP, is an incredibly effective, and relatively easy, way of releasing a tight psoas; you essentially lie down and let gravity do the work. (If you like Corpse Pose, you'll love CRP.) Mental imagery intensifies the process. Begin by lying face-up on a yoga mat on the floor or another firm, flat surface. Knees should be bent and resting against each other; feet are flat on the floor, hip-width apart (or slightly wider if that's more comfortable). Arms can be relaxed alongside you in classic Savasana pose. Then, have someone read the following prompts to you (or visit Staugaard-Jones' website, where she narrates the CRP):

Close your eyes and imagine a current of energy traveling down your spine, looping up between your legs, traveling up the front of the body and back down the spine again. Inhale as the energy flows downward; exhale as it moves up. Feel your head melting into the ground. Imagine your knees are draped over a hanger suspended from above, thighs hanging on one side, lower legs on the other. Next, picture a small waterfall trickling down your thigh, first from the knees into the hip sockets, and then down the skins to the ankles. Feel as if your eye, hips, and feet are relaxing in calm pools of water.

Slowly repeat this imagery for 10 minutes. By the end, your femurs will relax in their corresponding hip sockets, free from the hip flexors' grip, and your spine will follow its natural curves. Both improvements are excellent for releasing the psoas. Roll to one side and bring yourself to a sitting position (rather than sitting straight up, which will compromise your new alignment.)

Half Bridge Pose stretches out the hips and low back. Begin in the same position as with CRP, feet hip-width apart. Position both arms along the sides of your body, palms down, fingers reaching toward heels. Press your arms and feet into the floor, exhale and lift your pelvis, pushing it towards the ceiling. Keep your thighs parallel to one another and your pelvis in line with your knees. (If this position hurts your neck or upper back, place a folded towel underneath.) If your hips are high enough, you may be able to clasp your hands underneath and bring the shoulder blades closer together. Hold for 30 seconds to one minute, then slowly release as you exhale.

Hint: If this pose feels too challenging, place a yoga block beneath the base of your spine for added support and stress relief.

Related: A Bridge Sequence for Opening the Shoulders

Warrior I and II poses strengthen, stretch, and stabilize the psoas; like all standing poses, they teach correct alignment and improve circulation and joint mobility. Watch this video tutorial to learn the foundations of Warrior postures. To practice, begin standing up, facing forward. Take a large step back (three to four feet) with your right leg, keeping hips facing forward. Your right foot will be turned out slightly. Pressing the outer edge of your right foot into the ground, bend the front (left) knee directly over the left ankle. Your weight should be evenly distributed between both legs. Hands can rest on your hips, or you can raise your arms overhead. (Individuals with untreated high blood pressure should not raise their arms in this pose.). Breathe in and out for 30 seconds to a minute. Return to standing and repeat on the other side.

Transition to Warrior II: While in Warrior I (bent left leg in front and right leg in back), keep your gaze forward while your body turns to the right. Your right arm will reach straight behind you, parallel to the floor, palm down; left arm extends straight ahead. Your back toes may naturally move out a bit to help open the hips. Breathe in and out for 30 seconds to a minute. Return to standing and repeat on the other side.

Hint: Concentrate on breathing; holding your breath will create tension and limit the stretch.

Learn more about the body's complex anatomy, and tools that can be used to realign imbalances on


This article originally appeared on Huffington Post & was written by Leslie Goldman.

Kinesiology Reveals Precisely Where the Problem is & Exactly What it Needs to be Healed

The word 'Kinesiology' comes from the Greek word kinesis, which means 'movement'. In the medical sciences this is the name given to the study of muscles and the movement of the body (biomechanics or traditional kinesiology). Kinesiology research and development can be traced back thousands of years to Aristotle (384-322 BC); Leonardo da Vinci (1429-1519) famous for his studies of human structure and function; Luigi Galvani who in 1780 discovered that muscular contraction was caused by electrical impulses produced by nerves.....

Muscle testing combined with Kinesiology techniques enables the practitioner to find out which systems are out of balance i.e. mental, chemical, structural or energetic – which could be one, several or them all. For someone to be truly healthy all four systems need to be functioning well and in harmony with each other. In my opinion Kinesiology is the only treatment which addresses all four areas and as such is truly holistic.

Kinesiology obtains positive results when other modalities including orthodox medicine have failed. The longer someone has had a problem the more likely it is that all the systems will need to be treated. More importantly is to find the underlying cause and to identify the factors which may be contributing to such imbalances.

Once you have all this information, then corrections can be applied to all four areas. Restoring this balance can have profound effects on people's lives.

Correction Techniques

Methods of strengthening a weak muscle may include firm massage to the tendons at its origin and insertion. If this method strengthens the weak muscle it may also benefit the muscles' related organ and health problems. For example, the pectoralis major clavicular muscle (PMC) is related to the stomach meridian and the stomach.

If the PMC tests weak, it may indicate digestive problems or emotional upsets.

Bilateral weakness may indicate a spinal fixation at T5 or T6.

In the 1930s American osteopath Frank Chapman discovered reflex points, now known as neurolymphatic reflex points (NLs), found on the front of the body in the intercostal spaces between the ribs and where they join the sternum and on the back where they meet the vertebra. Other NLs have since been discovered. When massaged they stimulate the elimination of excess lymph and may strengthen weak muscles. This is a very common correction used in treatments as most people have a sluggish lymphatic system due to lack of exercise.

Chiropractor and clinician Terence Bennett researched and mapped out vascular reflexes now known as neurovascular reflex points (NVs). These points are located mostly on the head and many are bilateral. They are treated by gently pressing them and tugging in different directions until a pulse can be felt, under the fingers. Once this pulse is felt, the points are pressed for about 20 seconds or until the pulsation stops. These points stimulate the vascular circulation to a specific organ and its related muscle. For example, NVs for the PMC are located bilaterally on the forehead halfway between the eyebrows and the hairline. Holding these points stimulates the circulation of the blood to the stomach and strengthens a weak PMC and can be extremely effective when used to treat emotional distress.

Kinesiologists are trained to test approximately 50 different muscles. Any one of these muscles which tests 'strong in the clear' (without stimulus) can be used as an indicator muscle to test for other things. Known as therapy localization, this is done by testing the indicator muscle at the same time as the client touches the site of an injury, for example. If the indicator muscle now tests weak it indicates a lesion, and further muscle tests will be undertaken to ascertain what corrections are needed.

Other correction techniques include holding or massaging acupuncture points, repeated muscle activation (RMA), reactivity, stretch weakness, testing for nutritional support or substances which weaken or strengthen the body. ICAK-approved techniques are only those that they have clinically researched and work for anyone who uses them.

Thanks to muscle testing and AK, a treatment is totally client led and will differ for each individual. People may have the same symptoms but the underlying cause may be different and therefore the treatment needed will be different. For example, ten clients could complain of headaches but there could be ten different reasons why.

Usually at the end of a treatment a client will be given advice of some kind which may include nutritional requirements, dietary changes, exercise or simple techniques to reduce stress.

The Benefits

The greatest application of Kinesiology is in dealing with everyday complaints for which no permanent cure has been found. The assessment techniques are good at identifying the causes of problems and can be very useful in pinpointing the sources of general unwellness and fatigue that have no obvious medical causes. As Goodheart said, "The body never lies". Kinesiology lets the body reveal precisely where the problem is and exactly what it needs in order to be healed, enabling problems to be corrected at source often permanently. Kinesiology is also ideal for preventative healthcare.

In more serious conditions, Kinesiology enables people to function as well as possible under the circumstances and to be supported towards better health. Sometimes different types of treatment may be needed at different times. For example, initially there may be structural problems to be dealt with, and once these have been treated emotional problems may surface. Emotional problems and stress can be treated very quickly without any need for in-depth psychoanalysis.

Specifically Kinesiology can help people with many common conditions including: allergies, chronic fatigue, asthma, eczema, candida, IBS, migraine headaches, insomnia, anxiety, phobias, low mood, weight problems, fluid retention, digestion problems, muscular and skeletal pain, arthritic pain, hyperactivity, breast congestion and much more. Because Kinesiology does not focus on specific symptoms, the list of health problems which it can help or alleviate is endless. By improving posture and coordination people have more stamina and less pain.

How Long Does it Last?

The number of treatments required varies depending on the condition being treated. Some problems are short term and can be sorted fairly quickly, some are chronic and may take much longer.

So, for example, if someone has had a health problem for years it may take longer to relieve than something that has developed fairly recently. Treatment lasts until whatever the stress on the body was that caused the imbalance recurs. Kinesiology assessment will try to discover what the stressors are and re-educate the body to stay in balance.

Is it Safe?

When practiced by people who are properly trained, Kinesiology cannot harm anyone. The techniques used for correction are simple and gentle. They work by enhancing the clients' energy, following the dictates of the clients' own body as to what is energy enhancing and what isn't. It is suitable for adults and children (including babies). People who are very sick or disabled in some way can be treated by using a surrogate.

Are There Any After-effects?

Treatments are powerful and deep-reaching and can bring about major energy changes which may make one feel tired or sleepy or other slight symptoms such as a headache or cold. Withdrawal from foods or substances causing intolerance or toxicity may cause unpleasant symptoms as the body detoxes. Fortunately they don't last too long, and can be seen as a good sign that healing is taking place. Healing effects can continue for days, weeks and even months after treatment.

Kinesiology Can Enhance Other Therapies

Kinesiology is the link, the lynch pin, which brings together all the different modalities which are currently taught in a fragmented way and often in competition with each other.

Combining therapies with Kinesiology can significantly enhance their efficacy and speed of recovery. Structural therapies such as physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, massage, reflexology can be enhanced by being able to treat, for example, emotional problems and stress which can cause tension in skeletal muscles which in turn can cause subluxations and postural imbalances.

Recurring structural problems may be caused by food intolerances or nutritional deficiencies. There is also the added advantage that using Kinesiology with its gentle muscle tests and corrections will also reduce the 'wear and tear' on the practitioner.

Mental or emotional therapies such as counselling, hypnotherapy, NLP, psychology may be enhanced by being able to test for food or chemical sensitivities which have been linked to hyperactivity and schizophrenia and other mental disturbances (Mackarness 1990) and headaches or migraine. Emotional traumas that could take years to treat in some instances can be resolved in minutes (Callaghan 2001).

Depression may be treated by addressing pain, structural problems or nutritional imbalances.

Healing in therapies such as nutrition, homeopathy or herbalism can be speeded up and enhanced by being able to muscle test to find the most appropriate remedy(ies). Problems with poor absorption or toxicity can be easily identified and treated. When symptoms have subsided, tests can be done later to evaluate whether a remedy is still relevant.

Dentists use Kinesiology in their practice to reduce stress or phobias in clients, and to correct TMJ subluxations which can cause back pain, sciatica and digestive problems. Nutrition can be recommended to eliminate anaesthetics from the body after surgery.

Acupuncturists have found that when they use Kinesiology in their treatments they are able to find the underlying imbalance much faster and a successful outcome is more likely. Bach Flower Remedies and Aromatherapy essential oils can be quickly identified using muscle tests. Chronic chakra imbalances may be rectified by correcting spinal fixations.

Educationalists and parents can do much to help children and adults with learning difficulties using Brain Gym exercises and by recommending testing for nutritional deficiencies and food sensitivities.

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Written by Pam Bracken