Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Thoughts on Nutrion Provide Parallels to How we Use Our Bodies. Nutrition? Will The Posture Police be fined for going off-topic?

Posture Police:  Hello blog readers!  I'd like to share a book that I just finished reading with all of you.  It's a nutrition book and . . .

Posture Police Police:  Let's not get off topic here.  Please abide by the blog code and stick to the topic of posture!

Posture Police:  Well, I maintained excellent posture as I was reading it. 

Posture Police Police:  Does the content of the book relate at all to the theme of this blog or are you using this blog as a soapbox for book that you happen to like?

Posture Police:  It's thematically relevant.  Trust me.

Posture Police Police:  You are risky a hefty fine by going off topic you know.  Does eating vegetables reduce back pain? 

Posture Police:  I don't know about that.  Will you get down off of my shoulder and please let me get to the point?  Thank you!  Sorry for the distraction!  Hi!  Yes, The China Study is a book on nutrition, more specifically on in-depth nutritional research on the effects of a mostly plant-based diet.  It is called the China Study because one of the major studies discussed was a large-scale study in rural China.  You may be wondering why am I bringing this up on a blog about The Alexander Technique that is focused on how we use our bodies and redefining posture.  Are you about to be convinced of the value of adopting a plant-based diet, you ask?  No.  If you want to be convinced of the benefits of that, then read The China Study

The book points out as flaws in research as well as flaws in how people typically think about nutrition.  I think that these are the same sorts of problems that come up in regards to how we view and care for ourselves in regards to injury and pain.  Campbell (the author) points out that nutrition is often studied one nutrient at a time as opposed to studying the effects of whole foods on our health.  In some cases, the nutrient may differ from one food to another (for example animal protein vs. plant protein).  Also, each food contains many combination of nutrients, all of which interact in your body in such subtle and complex ways that studying individual nutrients doesn't tell the whole story.  Studying each reaction to a particular mix of nutrients in anyone's body at a given time based on the combination of foods they've eaten may be impossible to research completely since there are so many potential combinations and outcomes.  The China Study and other studies of it's kind look in a very practical way how diet patterns affect health.  In this case, the bigger picture seems to give more useful information than the fine details.

In the same way, we tend to divide ourselves up into details and look at knee pain as the result of a knee problem, lower back pain as the result of a lower back problem, wrist pain as the result of a wrist problem, breathing trouble as a result of a breathing problem.  These types of issues often arise from wear and tear on the body based on a general coordination problem, a problem with how a person is using their body in every activity that they do.  Using your body in ways that create compression or excess tension results in strain.  People are often told that they have poor posture, but they may not realize that their poor posture is really a problem in their total coordination pattern that results in lower back pain, knee pain, shallow breathing, or any of a variety of strain-related issues.  Focusing only on specific areas of the body often masks a more general postural coordination issue, just like focusing on only specific nutrients in food masks more general trends in diet, such as the types of foods we choose to eat.

Think about the following:  If you thrust your neck forward and pull your head back (this may feel like sticking your chin out), you are pressing your head back and down into your spine.  If you look in a mirror or watch someone else do it, you'll see what I mean.  Now let your head drop down as if you've fallen asleep on a bus.  Your head is heavy, isn't it?  So, if you are pulling your head back and down into your spine, you are pressing the weight of your head (about 10 pounds) down through your back and legs.  This posture creates compression and distortion all the way down to your feet.  So, releasing your neck up instead of tensing it and pulling your head back will relieve a lot of pressure on your back and even as far down as your knees and ankles.  Most people pull their heads back and down into their spines without even knowing it and take this posture with them into any activity they engage in.  When humans were hunter-gatherers, we probably did this when we suspected there was a predator around the corner.  It's a startle-response and most people are stuck in it unknowingly, creating pressure in their backs and legs, yet trying to address the back and leg troubles by exercising or having surgery on those areas.  Why not address the source of the problem and stop tensing your neck?  The Alexander Technique helps people to address strain issues at the source and really solve the root of the problem.  Like Campbell's findings on nutrition in The China Study, looking at the big picture and at how everything works together will give a person more useful information that addressing fine details out of context.

Want to read more?  Check out the abstract and short video about the 2008 large-scale back pain study that was published in the British Medical Journal.  Chronic back pain sufferers who spent 21 days out of the month in pain reduced their days in pain to three after a series of 24 Alexander Technique lessons.  That's an 85% reduction in pain.  Pretty phenomenal, but not surprising.  When strain-related pain is address within the context of how a person uses their body as a whole, during their daily activities the unconscious habits that are causing the pain become evident and the person is empowered with the tools to change them.  Check out the study . . .http://www.bmj.com/content/337/bmj.a884.full

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