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teaching practitioner manipulates the body to help release muscular tension.

Stay Flexible Keeping spinal movements fluid and supple is also essential for keeping the discs of the spine healthy. Tai chi and the related qigong emphasize this kind of mobility. “Many Tai chi students find that they can move some

of their vertebrae, but others seem to be stuck, with several vertebrae moving as one,” reports Sound Beach, New York- based Tai chi Master Bob Klein. He explains, “In Tai chi, you become a master of moving the spine so that it almost seems devoid of bones, flowing and turning with ease, in exact co- ordination with the rest of the body.” Both Tai chi and qigong are gaining popularity among those who are looking to maximize a cardio-style workout, while minimizing impact on their bones and joints. Yoga is a longtime favorite approach to maintaining both stability and flexibility through strong muscles and align- ment. Ana Forrest used her hatha yoga practice to recover from an accident that seriously injured all the regions of her spine, and Forrest Yoga was born out of her retraining. “People spend 90 percent of their waking hours in positions that compress the spine—in how they sit, how they stand, even how they do backbends in yoga class,” she observes. “Part of a good yoga practice is to create length in the spine, create a feeling of spaciousness in the body.” While Erickson considers herself a fan of all the exer- cise modalities listed here, she always emphasizes personal responsibility when it comes to back health. “Never do an exercise that causes you pain,” she offers as a rule of thumb. For long-term back health, she explains that chiropractic care is great for improving alignment and other back-related is- sues, yet is no substitute for daily exercise and self-care.

Michael Curran has credentials in psychology, ayurvedic medicine, and Restorative Exercise™. He is the director of Health and Wellness Media (

Contacts: Karen Erickson at; Ana Forrest at; Bob Klein at MovementsOfMagic. com; Lolita San Miguel at; and Annette Cantor-Groenfeldt at 505-670-0474.



ou exercise, eat right and get plenty of sleep—yet you wake up feeling as stiff as an ironing board. What now? Your muscles, or soft tissue, may be tight and short-

ened, a condition that causes inflexibility and inflammation that can lead to pain. To ease back stiffness, soft tissue can be “pressed,” in the same way you press your clothes when they are wrinkled. Here are some ways to “iron out” your muscles and relieve stiffness. Nutrients: Carbohydrate deficiency can cause muscle

weakness, neck pain and headaches. Protein deficiency can cause muscle cramps, low tolerance for exercise and chronic spinal conditions, as well as gas, bloating and constipation. Many people think they are eating enough healthy food, when in fact their bodies simply can’t digest what’s going into their stomachs. See a digestive health specialist who uses enzyme supplements to improve digestion. Water: Drinking lots of water—half your body weight in

ounces daily—will flush toxins and oxygenate the blood, which aids in healing and maximizes hormonal and bodily functions. Coffee, tea and soda don’t count! Ice or heat: If you have sharp pain, do not use heat.

Always apply ice, and do so within 72 hours of an injury. Ice reduces inflammation, but heat makes pain worse. If you have dull aches and stiffness, however, use moist heat for 20 minutes. Always use a towel with both ice and heat to prevent burning. Press: Massage therapy by knowledgeable and experi-

enced licensed massage therapists can target and treat the areas of pain. Lengthening and stretching soft tissue releases tension and causes the pituitary gland to secrete endorphins, the body’s natural tranquilizers. Regular massage calms nerves, improves circulation and flexibility, and enhances emotional well-being. You may want to try several massage therapists to find a good match. Prevention is the best health insurance you can buy. In-

vest in yourself with these few simple steps, and you’ll iron out stiffness to feel strong, flexible and healthy.

Sandy Saldano, a licensed massage therapist for 22 years, is the owner of Therapeutic Kneads, Ltd., 1779 Green Bay Road, Highland Park 60035. Call 847-266-0131 or visit WeKneadYou. com. See ad on page 8.

natural awakenings

October 2010


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