Neck and shoulders and ground force

Classes start back this Friday and you might be surprised to find our first homework assignment will be focussed on balance! It's very common to be tensing the neck and shoulders even when we just stand and chat to a friend. So one of our focusses this term will be catching ourselves in the act and changing that pattern. 

The forces created by lower body tension contribute to so much of our upper body strength and movement limitation.

So I'll be showing you a little sequence that has become part of my regular routine. It's both a warm up and stability strengthening practice that helps me monitor how one side of my body tends to work harder than the other. Over time I've found that I can then hone in on that and through new patterning help the left side get stronger. I can also catch myself tensing my neck and shoulders - and if it that's happening when I'm standing on one leg for just a brief moment.....imagine what happens when I'm out walking or carrying groceries.

......and of course, we'll do lot's of focussed shoulder loving exercises too.

And just in case it might have dropped off during the holidays, get onto that handstretch. A lot of the lovely exercises I've got planned for us will be so much more enjoyable for you if you hands are a bit more mobile. I've been really enjoying creating some Movewell Flows so we can be a bit more dynamic in our practice. It also makes it easier to remember sequences and you can monitor your progress from Week 1 to Week 8.  Looking forward to sharing them with you, but in the meantime.....hand stretch, hand stretch and also calf stretch (if you've forgotten how get onto your Teachable Channel where there is even a neck and shoulder section).

A bunch of new videos for you (including a special Travellers selection and Bart pays a visit)!

Ok so Ian's video and Bart's appearances are definitely the highlights of the channel so far! Ian has promised to do another one for you and Bart turns up twice in the latest batch so that should inspire you to do some homework. One of the best ways to improve and maintain your movement health is to work the basics into your daily life and a lot of the videos focus on ways you can do that. I'm wearing my street clothes in the one below and the new Traveller selection can all be done easily out in the world. You don't have to say "I'm going to do my exercises now" to get the benefit of them.....just make those little shifts in the way that you move a regular part of the things you do all day. For proof positive of how your attitude to movement can change your life read this fascinating article.

I've put one of the new videos on Youtube but to view the rest you need to be a weekly class or private client. I know that some of you can't get to our classes so please do let me know if you are interested in the subscription service I'm creating.

Enjoy your holidays and I'll look forward to seeing you in Term 3 and beyond! X




Most Effective Core Workout Ever.........Ramp It!

Small chins run in my family and around the time I morphed into a self-conscious teenager I noticed the beginnings of a double chin. I can remember working out that if l lifted my chin a little, I could mask it. Before too long this habit was joined by many years of desk work... where forward head (and it's associated chin lifting) becomes the norm all too easily.

Turns out that this was the cause of the chronic headaches I suffered for 15 years. When I started working with Restorative Exercise they gradually decreased and are now a very rare occurrence, which I can nearly always link to stress. Stress movement patterns very much encourage the forward head lifted chin, pelvic tucked position so that is not surprising. The good news is I can generally turn them off now with our exercises - some of my favourites are head ramp and calf stretch - catsuit too if you are very mindful of your boundaries.

Why does this happen? Well there are a number of reasons but the combination of the forward head and the chin lift creates an excess of pressure at the base of the skull. It also creates an overuse pattern of neck muscles and an underuse of other key muscles including your core. This can trigger that 'foggy brain' feeling, fatigue through poor circulation and headaches. It can also cause neck and jaw pain and contribute to back pain too.

In class the last few weeks we've added the idea of not lifting the ribs when we head ramp. If you do lift the ribs you put pressure on the spine and turn down the core, if you do keep the ribs down you lengthen the spine and, as I like to say in class......Wam.....there it is, reflexive core!

I'm working on a new video for our channel for this one, but in the meantime this is a great one from Petra that is only a minute long and applies to the car specifically (but everywhere else too really)!

And let's finish the term with some true stories (last week's were so popular. keep them coming! Let's inspire each other....):

  • in Nic's class Ron gave us all a penny drop moment when he observed how much more natural it is to walk with feet straight ahead when you keep them pelvis distance apart. It's actually harder to duck foot it. Another great reason to stay in your tracks!
  • A major lightbulb moment for one of our 'Movewell out in the world' champions who was doing a bit of external rotation of the thighs in the shower (as you do). She noticed that without anything being sucked in her tummy muscles naturally firmed. Another example of reflexive core in action!
  • Another on the ball champion had two success stories to share: Rhomboid pushups at the kitchen bench waiting for the kettle to boil (or any other thing you are waiting for too). No gear required! and.....
  • Waiting for your turn in a game of croquet practice your stance with some external thigh rotation - by the time you've played a whole game that's a lot of exercise that really starts to make a difference to how you move when you aren't thinking about it. Brilliant!

And one of my favourite moments in class this week was when Loretta pointed out that keeping our feet in our tracks doing top of the foot stretch completely changed how the movement feels. I had my own lightbulb moment - you were spot on Loret. One of the reasons we deviate from pelvis distance apart is it just feels 'normal' and so it's easier. Our tissues have adapted to narrow feet, but we know that is causing some major wear and tear so we want to correct that habit......when we do, we notice that the exercise is more challenging. You've uncovered the true tensions and can now create change. (But I like to remind you to go gently. Regular, mindful and boundary respecting practice is far more useful than sporadic and too intense efforts). Be like our champions and make it a part of your daily life.

For those of you disappointed about the long break between classes I've got a special offer for you - get together with 2 friends and I'll run private classes for you in Newtown. $30 each for a small class tailored to your crew. So long as you don't mind a Barthound sitting on the couch. Private sessions are also available. See you soon X

Keeping Your Legs in Their Tracks

One of our key alignment points is standing with our feet pelvis distance apart (and that's pelvis distance with the feet straight ahead, not duck feet!). That means the centre of your ankles line up with the bony bits that stick out at the front of your hips (your ASIS).  This is really important for our joint health. A lot of the excessive wear and tear we experience in our ankles, knees and hips is created by the habit of moving and standing with the feet quite narrow (some folk go too wide but by a long shot most of the people I've worked with tend to go too narrow).

What I notice with most people though (and as usual I noticed it first in myself!) is that we are great in our practice but when we start walking we go straight back to narrow. Infact I think you really need to watch yourself to recognise just how easy this is to do. We know we can't change everything overnight but with the holidays fast approaching I'm thinking one thing we could think about more is pelvis distance apart. What's that you say Mel?

"Stand and walk with your feet pelvis distance apart!" Just that, you don't have to try and remember everything, just that one thing. I promise you it's not as easy as you might think."

True Story Time
A client recently had the great experience of her foot pain disappearing completely just by reverting to true pelvis distance when she walked. It happened while we both watched. It was truly remarkable and we had at least one witness who was not as biassed as me! The Hub has that wonderful mirror so it's a great place to watch yourself walking up and down the room. I can promise you that it will feel strange (the lady in question said she felt like she had made a mess in her pants) - but putting up with that weird feeling for a while seems much more sensible than putting up with the pain and it's resulting damage. If you think about it, we've been moving a certain way for a really long time so it's not going to feel normal for quite a while either. Establishing strong and supple supporting muscles is going to really help and lots and lots of patient repetition will too. Notice that nowhere did I use the word 'force'. Force won't get the job done, just be curious and patient and try it out.

It's About The Core Too
At this stage of the term you can probably imagine how this might impact upon your core too. If the ground floor of your building is too narrow for the floor's balancing up on top it's going to be wobbly up there - and we are likely to be pelvic tucking and / or rib thrusting to compensate.

You could think of it as 'resetting your feet in their tracks' - like a train track. And you could catch yourself multiple times a day when standing or moving. Is your train really on it's rails?

Video Time - Find What We Did In Class This Week on Teachable!
If you liked our warm up this morning it's the same practice I designed for my most illusive client. He let me film it but insisted on a quiet video with no bla bla. It takes care of all four quadrants of your hips from one basic position and is done in 10 minutes. He has found it's kept his back and hips well maintained for about the last 18 months now. You could substitute a belt, a pillow or two and a book for the block , strap and 1/2 dome that he uses.  For our wonderful clients, it's in your Teachable video channel, under the Block and Half Dome Series, it's called: A Quiet Practice: the link is:

We also did some standing strengthening of the hips which you can find in the Let's Go For a Walk section, it's called: Get Ready For Stairs and Hills.

And a section with more of a core and shoulder focus was included from the Block and 1/2 Dome  Series. You have 6 of these to play with but this week the one we did comes closest to Core Work and a Twist.

And A Bonus Petra Gem
This year we've devoted some time to how we get up and down off the floor, and I've been so happy to see so many of you embrace this task. You've clearly found it's getting easier and that you are getting stronger (which is great because then you feel more confident and more like getting up and down off the floor more less chair sitting, so yay for your back and for your hips!) The lovely Petra Fisher has made a great video about getting up and down via the lunge which I think that many of you will enjoy.


    Term 3
    Dates for Term 3 are now online. If you are planning on coming along please do let us know at your earliest convenience. This is traditionally our quietest term with many folk heading to warmer parts of the country for the winter months so if you've been hankering after a different time slot now is the time to let me know as some spots have opened up. When we get an idea of how many folk are staying to play with us we can confirm what classes will be running.

    Want a strong core? Set your shoulders free!

    There is a very close relationship between your neck, your shoulders and your hands - they are intimately connected and their condition has a big impact on your core function. Last week we proved that connection and it was so exciting (ok maybe that was mainly me) that I made you a video - see below (it's also on your video channel under Movewell Bites). It's a great incentive to do lots of hand stretching regularly .


    This week we'll add another layer to our shoulder focus because the state of your core is so literally bound to your shoulders that you can't work on one without working on the other. The more you are able to access external rotation of your shoulders, the more you are going to be able to stop relying on your neck muscles and start utilising your lat (large back) and core muscles. Your lat's (lattisimus dorsi muscles) are the ones we are talking to when we attempt the 'superstar' armpits. Yes your armpits are potentially superstars because when we get fussy about how we do our exercises we stablise the shoulders and take an excess load off the spine (including your neck).

    We'll also be head ramping our hearts out because if you want to get rid of neck and shoulder tension once and for all (not to mention headaches and brain fog) you definitely want to stop living with your head out in front of your shoulders.  Now lets get to it! Stretch your hands and set your core free to work optimally well (again no need to worry about no time, the above video is only 6 minutes long!)

    (Another Easy Homework Idea: Notice how often your elbow pitts are in internal or external rotation, and wherever possible - see if you can gently externally rotate them and notice the difference. It may feel weird, but if we do it often enough it becomes the new normal).

    Motivation comes in many forms....even an app!

    One of the ways I think about what we do is working towards a deeper understanding of "how your body works and how to help it work better." There is a potential freedom that comes with that understanding and even a sense of empowerment. But of course it does take a committment to some changes in the way we think about movement and change is generally challenging.

    It's always good to be patient and observant and celebrate the little victories (you mention things to me often - like less headaches, easier to put your shoes on, a tool kit to draw on when something niggles) but it can also be helpful to have an easy reference kit with short practices to help you refresh what you learn in class. Which is where our Teachable video channel comes in.

    And a recent discovery (thanks Heidi!) means you can even access your mini classes when you are out on the road. If you have an IPhone or IPad and you go into your App Store, you'll find that there is a free Teachable app where you can access our videos. If you've had any problems logging in, just tell the computer you forgot your password and it will let you reset it and you should be good to go. (I know it can be frustrating learning to use these things, but spare a thought for your teacher who has also had to learn to use a film camera, microphone, become an editor and so on. It's a great system though and I promise that you really will get used to it and before too long it will be a breeze.)

    Over time we can evolve it together and create the home practice program that best supports you. You can tell me what might help you there.... but some ideas are to add short courses for beginners, advanced courses for particular issues and so on. 

    In the meantime the focus will be what we are covering in classes and snippets related to lifestyle. One great idea is to try one of the pre walk warms ups before your daily outing and see how that goes. I generally find it does make a big difference to how well I move which is a key way to motivate myself to do it regularly. The one below is only 6 minutes long which means any "I don't have time" ideas just fly out the window ;-)) correct?

    And as you might have noticed I do like to maintain at least a bit of a sense of humour about it all so when one of my regular clients offered to let me film his personal stretch sequence I jumped at the opportunity. Even though he insisted on pixellating his face and having absolutely no dialogue. You'll only hear a bell when it is time to change position. At this point you may have guessed who this character is. If you are curious to have a look it is called A Quiet Practice - Long Release, Yin Style and you'll find it in the Block/1/2 Dome Series section. His particular motivation is peace and quiet so if you love that approach let me know and I'll do some more like that. 

    One last motivational idea - here's some practical ways to improve how you move every day from the always inspiring Petra Fisher.

    (This blog is long enough so I'll write a little more about shoulders and your core next week, but we will prove in class that hands and core impact each other in the first 5 minutes so make sure you don't miss it)

    Your foot bone is connected to your 6 Pack

    All of our classes are whole body classes but this term we're enjoying relating everything back to the core. Already one thing is particularly clear ....... that the relative position of your pelvis to your rib cage has a huge impact on your capacity to engage your core muscles reflexively (that just means naturally, without perceived effort,  simply because of how you are moving). 

    So I think we are ready to go a 'step' further.....if your ribs need to be nicely stacked in relation to your pelvis for your core to work optimally well....then what happens when your tense feet and calves are changing the rotation of your legs (and therefore impacting your ankles, knees and hips)? For example, if your thighs are tugged in and down by tense foot muscles, wouldn't that impact on the stability of your pelvis?

    Did you answer yes?

    I know that you did, well done! So yes this week we will work on foot and leg mobility and see how it effects our pelvis and therefore rib cage stability.....and we'll do some other stuff where you can feel those abs turn on, which is always exciting too.

    I'm really excited about our new video channel and plan to add a fair bit to it by the end of the term. I've already had some great feedback so let me know how you are going. It's free to all class participants (group and privates) and once I've built up a good body of work we'll start a subscription program for those times you can't get to class. You can ask for things to be added and Nic will be filming some clips for you too. 

    Now I know it's a blow but I'm going to have to cut the bla bla short here, because Bart wants to go for his walk. He will be starring in a few of our videos because he loves getting in front of the camera, but also, just like some of you perhaps....he wants me to pipe down and get moving!

    Here's a taste of what's on offer. I designed this one for my daughter Lucy, and it may not suprise you to learn that a bunch of you did it before her! She does love it though, hope you do too.



    It all starts with the breath

    A lot of times we think about our core work as being specific to the belly region.  Consider this possibility though, what if your core was about everything that impacts on how well your abdominal muscles can function....that means we need to factor in your back and your sides, your pelvic floor, diaphragm, glutes and hamstrings, quads, psoas and let's not forget those deep hip rotators. What's that you say ? It sounds like it's all core work! I think you might be on to something.  A 1,000 sit ups won't do you any favours when your system is out of whack. Some part or parts of you are going to compensate and your body will let you know that it's not happy. Instead, let's take care of the whole body and sense a deeper, subtler core activation that helps us to do all of the things that we love.

    This week we'll put a spotlight on the breath. Accessing your rib cage to breathe engages your deep core and respiratory muscles while taking a load off your neck and shoulders. We'll be working on that in class this week and maybe you could spend some time on it at home too. Perhaps in your new favourite Psoas Release using the block and the 1/2 dome. I've just filmed 5 videos using that one, and the new channel will be up and running next week so stay tuned! In the meantime, I love this description of rib cage breathing (she calls it jellyfish breathing) by Alison Crouch. As Alison says:

    "The jellyfish breath is one way to engage your deep core and respiratory muscles and mobilize the bony structure that is your rib cage along with all the amazing muscles that surround it. "

    And here is a lovely video by Petra Fisher of rib cage breathing using an elastic band, but you know what else works really well?  An old pair of stockings! 




    Remember being told "Shoulders Back, Belly In"? (how has that worked out for us really?)

    One of the most limiting factors to achieving a healthy core is the commonly held cultural belief around what looks "normal and attractive". So many tell me they were always told to "pull your shoulders back and belly in" but has that really worked? Why do we have nagging aches and pains, digestive and respiratory issues, joint problems and more? Why do we have what we suspect is a weak core?

    In fact the old "shoulders back, belly in" only disguises accumulated tensions in the body.....not correct. The tensions are still there, and we've even added them by bracing ourselves in this way. We all want to be stronger - but first we have to release the tension that prevents that from happening. 

    The Psoas Release is For Your Core

    Tension in your core limits your movements and puts pressure where pressure shouldn't be. The Psoas Release is an ideal way to relieve it. We start every class that way but there are so many ways to do it. My favourite only takes a 1/2 dome and a block and I'll show it to you this week. The video below shows you a lot more too.

    The Psoas muscles (one each side) run diagonally from the bottom of your ribs, attaching to your spine in many places and also your leg bones. When they are tight they pull your rib cage forward, creating a lot of compression in your lower back (and pelvic floor). Do this exercise in letting go often so that your Psoas muscles aren't messing up your movement. Here's some guidelines:

    • Be gentle in your approach. Allow a soft belly.  If you feel a little emotional that's ok, breathe easily, be compassionate towards yourself and come out whenever you need to. Letting go of physical tension can create a release of emotion too. Mind and body are really driving the same car, so be a loving mechanic! 
    • There's no perfect spot for your supports, as you'll see in Alison's video below - just make sure that your head and shoulders are supported and that you feel secure. Your lower ribs should be free to relax towards the ground. Try lining your bolster up (or other support) with the bottom or your armpits, that's about where your shoulder blades end.
    • This isn't a 'stretch' so you may feel no sensation, but do it in a way that encourages relaxation and you'll definitely notice easier movement. Music that soothes you is a great accompaniment.

    This is a foundation exercise to do as often as you can. It's great to do before you go for a walk (makes it easier to access your hips), it's great for relieving stress and lower back pain too. Check out the video below where Alison Crouch shows you a bunch of different possible variations. Give yourself plenty of time to work with your chosen shape, utilise your easy breathing and see if you can give yourself the chance to rest for at least 5 minutes.

    Ideas for home practice:

    • Feet Pelvis distance as often as you can think of it - notice just how often your feet narrow or widen, if you can see yourself walking towards a mirror you might be very surprised at how your ankles almost touch. See if you can take them towards pelvis distance even when you walk.
    • Psoas Release every day  (makes the above much easier)
    • Hand Stretch every day (getting ready for more upper body work next week)
    • Did you enjoy the chair series today? Lots of people do, which is why I filmed a version of it:

    Real World Applications

    I don't know if you've noticed but every week this term I've started you off with the same exercises. Sure, each week I've mixed it up a little bit - perhaps legs are up the wall one week and the next they are on the floor, but each week for 5 to 10 minutes we explored:

    • Psoas Release (sometimes legs extended on floor, sometimes at the wall, sometimes supported butterfly)
    • Pelvic Rocking (do you know the difference now between tucked, untucked and neutral?)
    • Hip releases (Butterfly or Happy Baby and No. 4 or cross leg variations)
    • Angel Arms and Reverse Palm Shoulder Release

    I had a lot of feedback to suggest that this helped you to remember the patterns of the movements, and that you could feel your body opening up a  bit more each time. I even noticed people coming early and doing it on their own (yaaay!) So that would be a great home practice for you for a daily unwind, but of course there are so many other ways to go. There is the day to day you've done a great job of incorporating all term - and I've seen you get so much stronger, with things like:

    • standing well into single leg balance and pelvic list (don't forget your kickstand option)
    • double calf stretch, with or without 1/2 dome, making sure your pelvis is untucked (we've done freestanding hands on thighs, used chairs, the wall and even our imaginary desks and benches)
    • chair squats (easy to incorporate)
    • keeping your head gently ramped as you go about your business, what about that external rotation of the arm and monitoring how you are lifting things? Remember in Week 7 we found we could use our arm muscles, our core and our glutes and hamstrings much more effectively just by changing the way we lifted the bolster.

    You also have (just to keep life interesting):

    •  Movement Multivitamin handout (you could pick 3 exercises a day)
    •  Healthy Pelvis handout (pick 3)
    • My Youtube Channel and Blog posts have many different ideas for home practice
    • And then there are Katy's huge array of wonderful resources. DVD's, video downloads, talking books, podcasts, books (all with exercise programs of their own) and a fantastic blog archive too. Click here to read more about your options there (many of them free).

    When in doubt remember keeping it very simple can be of huge benefit when done regularly.  It's better to do a gentle calf release often than hammer it out once a week.  Much better. On that note, here's Petra Fisher showing you how to do a really good one:

    I really enjoy Petra's approach as she is all about how we bring these functional movement tips into our daily lives. She has some fantastic home practice options for you so check our her website for more inspiration.  I'll see many of you for our final classes on Friday and the following Tuesday. Please note that I am available in Geelong for private sessions over the school holidays (you can share a session with a friend).

    And here is a sneak peak for next term's reflexive core series. You probably guessed the ribs and pelvis were going to come into it.....a lot.....but here is Katy Bowman giving just a brilliant and succinct demo of what we are aiming to do with our best possible stance. Remember we are not trying to change it all over night, but do lots of calf stretches and it might just happen a bit sooner for you ;-) Click anywhere on this paragraph to go to the link where the video should start playing automatically. It is a runners magazine, but this demo works for all of us!

    It All Starts with your feet....

    Last week we looked at learning to relax our overworked quadriceps and wake up those lateral hip muscles instead. This week we use our lateral hip muscles to externally rotate our thighs....and that's a whole lot more feasible when your feet are flexible and strong!

    Your feet are an important feedback tool, relaying information to the nervous system about how the body needs to respond to the world it's moving through. And yet from a young age they are generally restricted by shoes that don't let them utilise their full potential. We tend to look for aesthetics over function and don't even notice that most shoes have an elevated heel (including runners, children's and mens footwear). Then there is the tendency to seek out flat and level surfaces upon which to walk and the end result can be foot problems that resonate throughout the body.

    In Katy Bowman's recent podcast she answers a listener's question about shoes. It's well worth a listen but some things really stood out to me  (a big one was that it took her years to transition to more minimal shoes):

    " have to remember the ecology of it all. It’s not just what you put on your feet, it’s how you move in them...What you’re walking upon...I was simultaneously doing lots of corrective exercises. So everything that I recommend in my books about transitioning to minimal shoes, I was also doing. So that’s a lot more than just putting something on my feet."

    The question had been about what to wear on an extensive hiking trip so Katy added:

    "Even though you’ve been wearing minimal shoes, you do need to choose wisely (if) you’re adding weight, adding distance, and adding new terrain that your feet are not used to.... if you’ve worn minimal shoes...for years, but the longest walk that you’ve ever taken in them is 5 miles then you might want to plan a couple of 10 mile or 15 mile walks in them because you might find ... that you’re not adapted to them as much as you think that you are. Remember that frequency is maybe the most important variable.  And that goes for terrain exposure, distance, or duration..."

    You could use that same logic for city living. You can choose a shoe with a bit more cushioning for a day pounding the pavement and use your less cushioned shoes or even bare feet at other more appropriate times. Whatever you decide to do shoe wise, don't rush it. Katy has written a number of books on feet and shoes and offers plenty of free advice on her blog too. For those of you who have a copy of Dynamic Aging it has a really good index. Here are some links for more details on what we've covered over the past few weeks:

    • Go to page 71 for Relaxed Kneecaps (last weeks post) 
    • Page 76 -78 for external rotation of your thighs (or Neutral Knee-Pits as it's also known)
    • For more on shoes look under Footwear on Page 249 and you will find so much to explore including real life relatable stories

    If you loved Petra's video last week try this one. Catsuit is a gem for everything from foot pain to headaches.



    Living Life With The Breaks On.......

    I was giving some extra advice after class this week and my client wisely said to me something along the lines of "the answer always seems to take me back to the basics". That is so true, for all of us. This term we are focussed on understanding what's really going on with our pelvis and a lot of us have had a few 'lightbulbs' go off already. Maybe we thought we were in neutral but really there was quite a little tuck going on in there a lot of the time.

    This client's issue had been with activating the lateral hip in a pelvic list and the first thing we checked on was her capacity to release her knee caps. We discovered her quadriceps muscles were quite resistant to releasing. I love this video by Petra Fisher, an inspiring Restorative Exercise Specialist and Movement Coach.

    If we are living with our quadriceps activated most of the time we are really putting the brakes on our potential to move well. It's having a big impact on the pelvis and that's just for starters. I've written a number of blogs on the knee cap release over the years, so you can go back and look them up or, even better,  refer to any of Katy Bowman's books. Even if you've read them once, keep picking them up and going back to pieces. You'll be amazed how it makes more and more sense when you've spent time thinking about how you move out in the world.

    Sit Better, Sit Less, Sit Differently!

    So this term is all about the pelvis, and your ability to move it freely, through all it's ranges - without compensation.

    The mobility of the pelvis reflects the health of the feet, knees, hips, core, spine and neck and shoulders. As I always say "don't take my word for it, try the different exercises yourself and feel the difference.

    As always, be patient - don't overdo things and celebrate the small successes (which are really reflections of the change in how you think about movement) along the way.

    Fun fact: Did you know that even the most active people in our culture (the bikers, runners, body builders, swimmers, yogis and hikers for eg) only spend about 4% of their time moving. You can see Katy Bowman's video about it here (don't worry it's short and fun but mainly a bit of an eye opener).

    This week we'll focus on sitting and the pelvis and three things we'll consider are:

    1. Sitting Less - gradually increasing your movement opportunities day by day. It's not about standing up all day, it's about moving more of you, in more ways, more often.

    2. Sitting Better - Don't push back into the chair. Try coming about 1/2 way, mind how you place your feet and knees and roll your pelvis forward. You can watch a video of my daughter demonstrating optimal sitting here. You might like to try Lucy's version of sitting on a 1/2 dome and then try flipping it over. What do you prefer? You can easily used a rolled up towel if you don't have a half dome.

    3. Sitting Differently: for starters try the floor. You'll use more muscles getting up and down and you can use as many props as you need to when you are down there.

    thinkoutside thechair.jpg

    Last term I made a Chair Challenge video and handout for you. I've just finished a handout for the Every Day Movement that was it's follow up. You can grab one in class or go ahead and print one off yourself now. Or you can save a tree and refer to the video and handout online!


    Keys to Success: Your comprehensive resource, It's free, and It's already here!

    I worked with some lovely private clients today and their comments really brought into focus some keys about this program. A big one is that you will never not benefit from the basic foundation program - you know the one. I've attached it here in case you've lost yours.

    Movewell Strong Foundations.jpg

    One client was brand new, and one had been coming for a year. In both cases they both stood and moved so much more freely and comfortably after a simple Psoas Release and a few rounds of calf stretch. Our feet turn out because our lower legs are so tight, and our feet turning out when we walk is at the root of so many issues. I couldn't begin to list them. Name one and I'm pretty sure I could point to the link.

    Every time I work with someone it just takes a few rounds of calf stretch for them to be able to stand with their feet straighter ahead. Seriously, it's that simple.

    Why is that so cool? Well that means you have access to your lateral hips, which means you can start to rebuild the chain of muscle response that supports the pelvis and spine, potentially makeing every step a core strengthening, body regenerating one. But that won't happen overnight, and it still all starts with releasing the tension in your calves!

    I know it's not sexy and exciting but the results sure as heck are.  Remember though that every time you sit in a chair you might be dulling down the effects of all your hard work. Go down a few blog posts and you'll see it's not that I'm anti chair. I just think we rely on them far too heavily, and the way we are using them compounds our painful and frustrating problems.

    Make The Most of All That Free Stuff

    This term I created 4 new videos for you. Create stability, balance and movement freedom by taking advantage of those. They are exercises we've done all term and I've kept them simple and to the point. We need to strengthen our hamstrings and glutes, we need to release tension in some key areas. It's all there. I even created a handout for you.


    You'll see the Youtube videos are split up into sections. There is one group dedicated to the Psoas. Another group is for Movement Flows, where we've linked a bunch of the exercises together. There is one group just on the new things. They are all generally between 5 and 10 minutes long. There is even a beautiful relaxation video there for you from Nicole Kees.

    There's a Gazillion Ways To Move On The Blog

    There are endless ways to approach moving more each day and if you scroll through the many  blogs (I haven't counted ;-) you'll find a range of possibilities. some terms I suggested daily homework every week (I've often tried different ways to inspire folk). See if some of those ideas might slot into your life. We all have different ways of learning. Some of us like to read, others to watch then do, others to do while listening. I like to 90% do and 10% study the doing of it. Great grammar there Mel! I also like to review and assess and notice what makes me feel so much better (current joy is external rotation of the upper arms = shoulder freedom) because there is no bigger incentive to move than that.

    Are You Ready To Take It To the Next Level? Then Look To The Master (Katy B)

    I've also written an article about where to go to next when you are ready for more depth. Many of these options are free. Click anywhere here to go straight there. And if you have her books and or DVD's pick them up again. They truly reward multiple readings, viewings.

    Katy tells her student teachers there is only one difference between them and her master teachers, and that is that they have done 100's of hours of her classes. If you have purchased her classes, DVD's, books etc - go back to them often. Every single time I pick up something new. It takes time to absorb new movement patterns. - we've all had those lightbulb moments. Even though we've heard it said dozens of times before, one day we are ready. That happens to me on a regular basis with Katy B and other great teachers I've worked with too. There is not one exercise that will fix everything. It's a combination of creating movement opportunities in your life, recognising the habits that you could consciously change and programming in some restorative exercises regularly. The layering of learning takes care of itself when we keep coming back to the movements!

    Check out Katy's Advent Core Challenge from last year. You could start it today and be ready for Christmas....Yay!

    And if you haven't already, go set up some 1/2 dome stations wherever you stand regularly waiting for something to fill (my water filter) or where you brush your teeth, or where you prepare dinner. Doesn't have to be a dome, but make it hard to miss. You'll have to remind yourself the first 20 times, but suddenly you are doing it without thinking about it. Trust me, the 1st calf release of the day is always the best. But then again some people say I'm weird ;-)

    Bla Bla Out! XX


    Taking care of shoulders takes a load off your heart too

    We are on a shoulder roll at the moment. Literally (using balls to roll out tensions) and also just generally with lots of extra focus there. This term we ramped it up a notch and are really digging deep into understanding that how we use our arms can completely change what's going on for our neck and shoulders (and core and back and ......)


    One thing that might not jump out at you immediately is that restoring shoulder mobility can improve the mobility of your heart and lungs. To learn more about heart health and movement I highly recommend listening to Katy Bowman's podcast number 42. If you don't like the introductory banter in the intro just skip the first 5 minutes. If you like what you hear and want to know more then take a look at the page I put together for you here. And if you happen to have one of my library copies on your bedside table acting as a handy drink coaster ;-)) I'd love to get it back soon so I can pass it on. Thanks! About 12 books have gone the way of odd socks!

    As we explore common poses like Down Face Dog we are realising that it's not just about assuming the shape, it's what muscles are we using to get us there.

    We're realising that a neck release is a whole other creature when we take it from a position where our head is aligned with the rest of our body - not out in the forward head position which might be happening far more often than we think. That on it's own can be a big contributor to a range of issues from back pain to headaches to a weakened core.

    We can see we need to do our exercises in a different shape than that of our habit - or we are just reinforcing the habit (which is fine too, if that's working for you - but generally people come to see me because they are frustrated by some aspect/s of their body).

    This week we'll ramp the ribs as well as the head and take our shoulder adventure on to another level - which I find is as much about stretching how we think about movement as actually stretching. I'm even going to show you how to incorporate your exercises into drinking your cuppa or lifting your groceries.

    Don't forget you've got 4 new videos to be getting on with. They are all between 5 and 10 minutes long and provide practical ways for you to mobilise upper and lower body during your day. You can find them all in the 'What's New' playlist.

    I'm off on a Bluegrass music adventure. I leave you in wonderful hands with Nic. See you next week. X Mel


    Roll 'em Roll 'em Roll 'em

    Last week we used our spikey balls to release shoulder tension at the wall (targeting upper back and chest) - and there were some fantastic displays of creative movement that led to great releases (and quite a few 'aha' moments). So balls aren't just for feet or for Christmas either - use them often for best results. Here are some other exercises you might like to try. Remember to go gently. Everyone is different in the tensions that they hold and even that changes from day to day.

    Speaking of shoulders, did you know that your shoulder movement is hugely tied up with what's going on with your shoulder blades? That's why we love our rhomboid pushups and why they feature in all sorts of ways, even standing up. There are actually a lot of muscles involved in moving the shoulders;

    • the muscles that connect the trunk to the shoulder blades (scapula)
    • the muscles connecting the shoulder blades to the upper arm  (the humerus)
    • the muscles connecting the trunk to the upper arm

    Did you notice that the shoulder blades came up twice? 17 muscles attach just to them! Even so it can be tricky to isolate the shoulder blades. They tend to be particularly stuck and the ribs want to lead the way. Our shoulders tend to be a bit starved of love with limited reasons to lift our arms up above our heads during the day, and a tendency to push our ribs out in front to cope with the accumulated tensions. To make daily shoulder love a bit more practical we've done this combo in class - a standing plank with rhomboid pushups and and active thoracic release. Follow it or precede it with the upper body release. Try a few sets and see how things change. Go gently (form comes first) and often for best results.


    There's nothing wrong with chairs or resting........

    I thought you might enjoy this piece, from one of Katy Bowman's Instagram Posts

    "There's nothing wrong with chairs or resting. My issue is with their uniformity of shape (and also their ubiquity and preemptive placement). I don't think there's much I can do about an entire cultures furniture-shape, but what I can do is suggest you don't have to use a chair in a single way. That "sitting" is a relationship between your choice and the habitat around you. Here are some movement OPTIONS when it comes to a single habitat feature. Remember that sitting differently is moving differently."

    She's In New Zealand, might she pop over to see us?

    You might already know that Katy Bowman is in New Zealand for the next 2 months. Her recent newsletter invited us to let her know where we live (just your country, not your street address) as she is working hard to connect the movement tribe (or movement movement as it is sometimes known!) I think if enough Australian's responded we might just be able to convince her to pop on over and teach a workshop or two. Katy said amongst other things:

    "I’m having an excellent time speaking in New Zealand—introducing many to the idea that movement is much more nuanced than simply the difference between sedentary or active whole-body states, and even more nuanced than balancing our cardio, strength, and flexibility.” I love helping people understand that movement is more similar to nutrition than we realise, when we consider the vast diversity of movements that are necessary to meet our physiological needs."

    So if you'd like to meet Katy B (author of many wonderful books including Dynamic Aging which so many of you have enjoyed), and you are not already on her mailing list please  follow this link and register your email address. You'll also receive updates on what other things she's up to. There are some workshops available in New Zealand and a retreat.

    And finally here is a chest release wall release based on the exercises we've done in classes over the last few weeks. Approach it gently and regularly for best results. I'll add a strengthening component to it for you next week, along with some tips about giving up our rib thrusting habit.

    Finding some inspiration


    One of the toughest things for all of us is doing the exercises outside of class time. We can read about it, we can watch film clips, we can even buy all the books and put them on the bedside table and hope the information leaps into our brains overnight (or over a series of months if the dust that accumulates on mine is any indicator). But nothing on earth is going to beat the actual movement. Actually there is one thing that beats it, that's doing an exercise or two and realising how much freer you feel.

    Taking the time to sense and feel the changes, no matter how subtle at first, allows you to recognise the power you have to change how you move.

    Don't Just Take My Word For It

    I am a big believer in trying something, doing one or two of our restorative exercises and then trying it again. Generally you'll get a bit of a 'kaboom' moment - even if it's just in passing, that starts to lay down some foundations for the thought that there might just be a better way. From that seed of thought inspiration (and therefore motivation) grows.


    We are looking to make the whole machine work more effectively and enjoy the process - so we want to start to pay attention to some of the details. Say you were doing a squat and something hurt, you wouldn't just power through. You'd stop, reassess - make the appropriate adjustments and go from there. It's incredibly helpful to let go of that surge to be in a rush to find change. You don't need big sensations to be doing great work (and that's a whole other juicy topic for another day).

    It's Not Just For Christmas

    And until such time as we can get all the movements we need in our daily lives we are going to benefit hugely from doing our exercises often. So I've filmed you this little routine which follows on nicely from your Chair Challenge. This is the sort of thing that I do throughout the day and with my Movement Coaching clients too.

    Move more and move well my friends. Don't forget to we are moving together in Geelong next Wednesday 25 October, 9.30am - it's free! RSVP here

    Taking it to the streets!

    Just how am I supposed to walk?

    So you've read all about the mechanics of walking or you've come to a few classes and you can see where you could make some adjustments, but what happens when you hit the road Jack?

     Less talk more action, and yes that's coming from the bla bla queen!

    Less talk more action, and yes that's coming from the bla bla queen!

    Don't try and force change - your tissues need time to catch up with your growing knowledge

    Reading all about it is fantastic, but doing it is so much better. Maybe 90% moving and 10% reading and thinking about it would be a good ratio to aim for. You almost need to forget about changing how you walk and just enjoy it for it's own sake. Really. You can drive yourself crazy trying to remember all the little details. At most focus on one thing you can change at a time.

    What I Do

    I don't think of the walking I do every day as exercise. It's just moving in as many ways as I can. Not because it's something I have to do to make-up for last nights ice-cream (the way I used to think) but because it makes me feel good - and I can see how I'm progressing and changing, and I can get heaps of things done too.

    The Restorative Exercises Work. Don't take my word for it 'test and retest' when you are walking

    So rather than try and think about the 15 things I'm attempting to correct in my gait habits now, this is how the cogs turn in my head on a typical days outing:

    • Where's the vitamin texture? - the bark, the pebbles, the hills, the uneven ground.
    • Can I balance on this?
    • if we do a lunge here and a squat there, what's it like to walk up the hill now? Does it feel different (the answer is always yes by the way)
    • Let's do the 'anywhere upper body mobiliser' (coming soon in a video, but only if you do your chair challenge) - whats it like to arm swing now?
    • What about some step ups on that park bench. How does my walking feel after that? "oooh, I can feel my butt now!"
    • Let's do some single leg squats holding onto that fence
    • Is that a tree branch we could swing from?
    • Is that a tree we could climb?
    • Let's swing back past the shops and get the milk and things for dinner (that means back up the big hill - yaaaay!)

    (so I've moved everything, so has the dog and I've done the shopping)

    That's a really different experience to trying to remember all the little details we cover in classes with every single step, and it's fun.

    The reality is the tensions we've developed over our lifetimes are going out on our walk with us, and just applying all our knowledge won't smooth them out. That's where the 90% doing comes into it's own.

    Don't Tell Me Show Me

    Ok we will! Join me and Sharon and Sue and Bart on Wednesday 25 October - this walk will leave from Newtown in Geelong. RSVP to Mel in class or send me an email - I'll then send you the details. 9.30am - 10.30am for movement, followed by optional coffee afterwards. OK lady, sounds good, but not if you expect me to climb a tree or hang upside down. That's ok, all moves are optional - laughing is encouraged, and on the last walk the gang came up with some new moves using goal posts that even I hadn't thought of. How much does it cost? $0.00! But I do live near Pakington Street and will not be held responsible for any shopping you do on your way home.

    How's Your Chair Challenge Going?

    Have you done it yet today? Don't forget to move it, every move counts. See you at the park!

    Now Read This (we are doing a lot of calf stretch this week, so refresh your memory with this post by clicking here)

    If you'd like to receive our Blogposts directly to your inbox click here and let me know and I"ll add you to the list. No spam, that's a promise!