HERE in California, we have become accustomed to sharing space with rattlesnakes. Although I have a snake phobia, I'm told that rattlers are timid creatures, giving plenty of warning when intercepted and only striking when the warning is ignored. You can tell the age of the snake by the length of it's rattle and how black it's skin is. The longer the rattle, the older the snake - the oldest are the "Grandfathers". This was the type of snake that we encountered, coiled and ready to strike...
Develop the Squatting Habit
LATELY, I have been urging my patients and friends to squat whenever possible. Although Western cultures rarely make use of squatting, it is a natural human stance practiced by most of the world's humans as a part of daily life...Why not us? This position: 1) Supports a healthy spine, 2) Feels good and 3) Strengthens and lengthens the legs and core muscles. Again, Why aren't we squatting more?
In cultures outside of the West, squatting postures to rest, chat with friends, deliver babies and empty bowels (think "squatty potty") are as common as eating. Even though indigenous cultures are used to doing hard physical work, back pain complaints are rare.
When we squat, our spines and calves lengthen, moving with, rather than against the forces of gravity. Sitting in a chair shortens the deepest spinal muscles, compressing the lower back. As many have experienced, eventually those loads cause damage in the discs and joints of the spine.
Stop moving - Start Aging
STANDING DESKS are the latest in office fixtures. They come in all shapes and sizes, from simple and cheap to expensively engineered. While they are an improvement to slouching in chairs all day, they are still not the answer to achieving a pain free body. What is?
The literature is now filled with articles on "NEAT", which stands for "non-exercise activity thermogenesis". Coined by James Levine, M.D., from John Hopkins, it stands for all the activity we do during the day that is not exercise. The research tells us that it is your NEAT score that is the important one. Another words, you might as well, forget that hour at the gym, if you sit at your desk for ten hours after you finish your workout.
Dr. Joan Vernikos, retired NASA scientist who studied astronauts returning from space tells us that aging begins at age twenty - the age when most of us begin sitting and stop playing. In addition, since we humans lose 1% of our bone and muscle density every year, intermittent repetitive play slows this process down and keeps the body tuned. (Newsletter on this subject and Dr. Vernikos' work soon.) Read more about her research at: www.joanvernikos.com
Whether standing or sitting, the important idea is that we move often, changing positions frequently. Dr. Vernikos and other leaders like John Ratey, M.D. from Harvard, and biomechanist Katy Bowman suggest that what we do in the gym is not as important as the amount of continuous movement we do throughout the day! Creating an "active work space" where we set our phones to alert us to move every twenty minutes, changing positions from sitting to standing, walking and squatting, is the best model to avoid pain and stay young.
OUR bowels move by the unconscious actions of internal smooth muscles inside the gut. These muscles contract when food pushes through the colon, aided by the forces of gravity. (Gravity is involved in almost everything we do, except sitting!) If we are sitting or slouching at the toilet, the whole process slows down and just like bad plumbing, interferes with natural bowel movement (peristalsis). Traveling outside the West, most toilets require squatting. Not only does this position keep your thighs strong, the constipation epidemic in the West could be alleviated if we all squatted at the toilet. To check out a simple device to use in your bathroom, look at this hilarious link:www.squattypotty.com
Squatting on a Rattler
I’ve been squatting now as often as possible - in the garden, on the walks that my dog Audrey and I take every day - enjoying the feeling of my spine releasing. Squatting is like giving your spine a little mini break. My one recommendation is that you look before you squat, especially if you are in unfamiliar surroundings.
I discovered this one morning on a hike when Audrey was resting in the shade of a beautiful oak tree and I squatted nearby to rest with her. While she drank water, there was a sudden, loud and unfamiliar sound. I stood and looked around me as the pitch became louder and more alarming. I gazed around me at the hillsides thinking there might be an emergency happening near us, but there was nothing I could see, until I looked down at my feet. There, coiled and angry, was the biggest, blackest rattler I had ever seen - definitely a grandfather - warning me to remove myself from where he was. I had squatted on the rattler! I didn’t waste time grabbing Audrey by the collar and running, vowing that from that day forward I would always look around me before squatting.
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