- Monday: Brentwood, clinical practice
- Tuesday and Thursday: Studio City, classes and sessions at private company
- Friday: Brentwood, clinical practice
- Saturday: Agoura Hills, clinical practice
Nothing Is Something
It all comes from the spine. . . ~ Sir John Gielgud, Actor
Functional disorganization of the body comes as a result
of exposure to the continuous force of gravity. ~ Dr. Ida Rolf
As they become more erect, humans move
toward their evolutionary potential... ~ Dr. Ida Rolf
In case you've never heard of him, Alexander was a Shakespearean actor who lived about a hundred years ago. One day on stage, he lost his voice, and didn't regain it until he changed his head position. Imagine a Shakespearean actor with no voice! He noticed that when his head was protracted, chin jutting forward, it cut off his vocal chords and he couldn't speak; when he retracted his chin, drawing his ears toward his shoulders, his voice came back and he could speak and get back on the stage. He developed this way of leading with the head first, creating what's known as The Alexander Technique, which is still popular among actors and musicians.
The McKenzie Technique. Then, along came Mckenzie, an Australian physical therapist who accidentally kept one of his disc patients too long on a mechanical therapy table—and learned that that was actually a good thing. From what could have been a terrible mistake came a new way to treat patients with excruciating disc herniations, launching Mckenzie's name into the orthopedic vernacular forevermore.
Instead of using flexion exercises (knee to chest) which round the spine, forcing the disc material closer to the spinal cord, Mckenzie suggests using extension, in the shape of back bends, to move the disc herniations away from the spinal cord. This was revolutionary and changed the way we think about posture. His “head retraction” exercises are commonly used in treatment for all kinds of neck issues, asking people to retract their heads in front of computer monitors, instead of allowing them to creep forward, changing the ways that some of us work.
There is now another refinement to the way we think about posture, head positions, and the spine. The most recent prominent research comes from an acupuncturist named Esther Gokhale, who studied indigenous cultures from all over the world. She wanted to know why it was nearly impossible to hear about these cultures complaining of back pain. People who carry heavy baskets on their heads while also carrying babies on their backs did not have low back pain and could work well into old age without the crippling complaints we expect of the elderly. She wondered what they were doing differently from those of us in the West, who suffer from back pain more than almost any other condition.
Gokhale found that it is all in the shape and length of the spine; what keeps these active cultures from having back pain while carrying so much weight is that they create a long spine in the shape of a “J” as they work, hinging from the hips as they bend and lifting up as they stand and walk. Instead of the classic “S curve” of the spine, which creates deep sways, compression, and instability, giving in to gravity, she suggests that what keeps those indigenous people healthy and without back pain is the idea of a long, straight spine with a slight curve where the lower back meets the hips. This includes the head, which is retracted and not cut off from the rest of the spine. (It is best to hinge from the hips when bending, keeping a long spine, without rolling up and down as we have done in classes for years.)
Moreover, the importance of engaging this corset throughout the day works those muscles consistently, without needing to do exercises that shorten and weaken the spine and discs. As indigenous cultures engage in heavy work, they are also pressing upward, engaging their inner corset and strengthening their core muscles. They are not interested in the outer muscles that create the “washboard”" look that so many covet. They have instinctively learned how to use their bodies in ways that keep them strong as they work. According to Gokhale, the discs in the spines of the people in these cultures look the same in people in their sixties and beyond as they do in people in their twenties! There is no wear and degeneration in their discs, despite carrying heavy loads for long miles. This is an impossibility in Western cultures and certainly not like the wear and tear of arthritis that I see in people as young as their thirties and forties.
It is gravity that is the tool, it is gravity that is the therapist...
~ Dr. Ida Rolf
If you are uncomfortable looking at someone, but not sure why, take a closer look a their posture; ask yourself if that person looks at ease or whether they look like they somehow don't belong in their very precious body. Does it make you uneasy looking at them? You may be surprised at how often you notice the dis-ease in others, how their head doesn't seem to sit right on the top of their neck, or simply looks like it doesn't belong to the rest of their body altogether. This is very common, and is called a “head–body split”: where someone's head is completely disconnected from the body it is supposed to be living with. This could be seen in a person who is “in their head” a lot, more mentally active, more sedentary. How many of us live like this now!
My curiosity and passion for the body and how it works has allowed me to keep asking questions and observing who among us lives in the healthiest, most balanced ways. I talk to people often about the body's plasticity, how it shapes to the way we move. For instance, if you move consistently with a protracted head, chin jutting forward, shoulders rounded, your body will absolutely form to that shape. The connective tissues that wrap all our tissues, from muscles to nerves to bones, is the clay that shapes us, eventually hardening to a sculpted shape of how we move.
Yet, we all have unique bodies, with different issues, structures, genetics. While some of us are mesomorphs, building muscle easily, some are ectomorphs, with long, thin muscles. It is important to understand which structure is yours; if you do, you will avoid the frustration of trying to force yourself into doing something that will never work well in your body type. Instead, working in the ways your body was meant to, you will be successful, knowing how to best use what you were born with.
We want to get a man out of the place where gravity is his enemy.
We want to get him into the place where gravity reinforces him and is a friend, a nourishing force. - Dr. Ida Rolf
“All the plastic surgery money can buy will mean
nothing in a body that doesn't move well.”
We are all aging, from the moment we are squeezed out of our mother's uterus, but I am interested in what makes some people “age well” while others appear aged, elderly, far earlier than they should. By aging well, I mean being energetic, strong in body and mind, inside and out, without the use of cosmetic enhancements. Baby Boomers, mostly, are refusing to get old, but I'm not talking about plastic surgery here, or Botox or facial fillers to puff up and smooth out deep facial creases. All the plastic surgery money can buy will mean nothing in a body that doesn't move well.
I'm interested in those people who are living “naturally,” gracefully as they age, and healthy in the process. Along with good nutrition and regular exercise, maintaining good posture is an important part of aging well. Look at someone with a protruding head and rounded upper back, someone who looks at the ground when they walk and shuffles their feet, and you'll know what I mean; no plastic surgery can disguise this person's age. You can be chronologically young and look like you are thirty years older, just by how you carry your body.
One of the things that I became aware of long ago in my practice was the fact that our bodies do best with consistency. Being proactive about your health, assuming preventative care, maintaining habits that will keep you balanced to stave off aches, pains, and illnesses, taking responsibility for your body, all of this bodes well for a healthy, fitter, and longer life. Since most of us are not taught the basics of good posture and proper biomechanics, we don't notice our bodies until they start to hurt. Over time, if not used correctly, the body will hurt; whether it is a rotator cuff issue from poor use of the shoulders and arms, or pain in the knees from years of pounding on concrete, or low back pain from sitting improperly for hours at a time—our bodies talk to us eventually, unless we are mindful of how we use them.
Proper biomechanics takes time to learn, and with consistent practice, paying attention to your body throughout the day, learning to breathe, your body will establish a new way of being—of comfort and ease—that will just feel right. You will get injured less frequently, you will hurt less, and your health will improve. When your mother implored you to stand up straight and pull your shoulders back, she had the right idea. So, do it for her or, better yet, do it for yourself. With a little bit of knowledge and persistence, you will feel nothing—and that's a good thing!
I became a chiropractor in my forties, after practicing for years doing Structural Integration Bodywork, the work of Ida Rolf and Joseph Heller. My first yoga teacher, when I was in my twenties, was a student of B.K.S. Iyengar, and his style of teaching was very much as a healer, focusing on structural balance to maintain health. I delved deeply into both these modalities, knowing that when people use their bodies well, they stay healthy—at any age. Add good nutrition to this way of living—another passion of mine—and you understand the experience of how I work. I truly believe in this work—yoga, nutrition, Structural Bodywork—and although it is tedious at times, and time intensive, it gets results if people are committed to learning. This is not quick fix chiropractic, but rather an intense, thorough experience...
Come in for a summer session, and of course, referrals are welcomed and appreciated!