The finger pointing to the moon …

… is not the moon.

An exercise program is not movement.

A book, or a blog, about body awareness is not body awareness.

Only you, the one sitting there now, can experience what is.

‘good’ pain vs ‘stop that’ pain

Jeremy asks, “How do we tell the difference between the pain of injury, and the pain of correcting an injury in the context of exercise and rehabilitation?”

A fine question, good sir.

In my experience, there are a few key concepts to help guide us.

1. Change usually carries some kind of discomfort with it. Not always, but often … you know this already, as it’s what you point towards when you talk about ‘pain of correcting an injury.’

2. Correcting an injury is often a series of well-planned micro-injuries. An example of this is unfreezing a ‘frozen shoulder,’ or rehabilitating an broken-then-casted ankle, or even just working out. We’re often micro-tearing the soft tissue (muscles and connective tissue), re-aligning it, and bringing in just enough inflammation that our body ‘sees’ this area again and brings nutrition, and even better neurological pathways.

Too much of this micro-injuring and we’ve re-injured ourselves. Think of running stairs for an hour off the couch … too much too soon (for most of us, anyway). It takes forever to recover, much more time than it would’ve taken to, say, split that workout up into two sessions over a few days.

3. Pain, even a pleasurable sensation of stretching, does not necessarily equal rehab. As in, you could spend plenty of time stretching out the ligaments in your otherwise-healthy and normal-ROM ankle, and it would have that rehab-stretch kind of pain feel, but would certainly do you no good. You would increase mobility in an area that doesn’t need it, which would actually increase risk of injury like a sprain.

In other words, whatever exercises you’re doing should be intelligent ones, corrections that make sense and not just shots in the dark.

4. In general, any sudden or sharp pain means ‘stop doing that.’

5. You’re the best one to understand your own body in a subjective way.

Put all those together and I think you’ve got this: Correcting an injury should should be part of a well-thought-out process, and happen within the limits of what your body can effectively deal with. Just enough so there’s an increasing range of motion or fiber re-alignment or whatever … not so much that your body’s inflammatory response brings you back two steps. If you’re not recovered from whatever kind of workout in a few days, it was probably too much.

That’s my take … keep me posted!

And, to anyone else reading this, I’d love your two cents.


The Koan

I recently read an article on JD Salinger that opened up with a koan—the koan if you’re into these sort of things—”What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

It was a good reminder, that question. I began to think of my own path of awakening health as a sort of koan, too.

A quick referesher: koans are questions in the Zen tradition, maddening for the mind to try to answer, and meant as a tool to access deeper pathways of heart and gut-level wisdom. In short, you’re not going to get to an answer by thinking about it harder and longer, or by just saying someone else’s “right” answer.

But it’s not merely a whimsical or rhetorical pondering. The answer matters; it has a weight and a consequence.

Sound familiar?

“What should I be eating?” “How often should I exercise?” “Is jogging good for me or bad for me?”

“What do I do to be healthy?”

There are plenty of answers out there, but as one Zen master explained it, “a fat lot of good it does you if you don’t know it for yourself.”

Beyond the stacks of diet books (both fad and traditional), the exercise programs, the supplement regimes, the constant warnings that both too little and too much lead to premature death … there’s a little voice asking, “Yeah, but what do you feel?”

Living with true health and awareness in the 21st century, or any century for that matter … what finer, more mind-maddening, heart-and-gut-journey-inspiring koan could we imagine?

Off to the desert …

Hello Friends ~

I’m taking off for the next eleven days (!) on a climbing trip in Joshua Tree, CA—one of my most favorite places of all time!

So, will post when I return, and hope to record another tune I’ve been working on in December. ‘Til then …

Stay well, love well, LB

Exercise every day, stand up straight, think happy thoughts …

I don’t buy it.

The more I do this work, the more I’m a little taken aback by how much we tend to have “gotta do this better” imbedded into our always-running mental scripts.

Of course exercising every day and good posture and all that stuff is great, but how long can we hold onto that image of changing our posture through pure will? Maybe someone has an amazing story that she has, but I sure haven’t heard it. What I do hear, and see, is that we can pay attention to these things for maybe five minutes, then old habits—what in many ways are totally natural compensations for the body given its conditioning—take over.

So … what do we do? In my experience, the act of bringing awareness to what actually is going on in the body is a great place to start. It’s less “gotta stand up straight” and more “wow … I can feel how this slouching forward, rolling my shoulders in and all that, really inhibits my breathing …”

If we’re really looking to change the sources of dis-ease, that could be a good place to start.

Static and Dynamic Stretching

Check out the attachment for a pretty simple one-sheet pros-and-cons list of static (holding) and dynamic (moving) stretching.

Dynamic and Static Stretch

This from a good friend and an excellent physical therapist who helped me figure out some knee pain I was having when training for my first marathon a few months ago. Part of his recommendation was a dynamic stretching warmup routine, which I immediately questioned, as I’d always heard warm up first, then slow, static stretching for five or ten or however many minutes.

So he sent me this, along with his routine, all of which ended up treating me really well.

More questions on this? Shoot me a line, of course, and I’d also be happy to pass on my friend’s work information if you’re looking for an awesome PT.

“Being ill as one of the great pleasures of life …”

Here’s a funny one:

“I reckon being ill as one of the great pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work till one is better.”  —Samuel Butler, The Way of All Flesh, 1903

I feel that, too (though usually in less antiquated English), and thought this was a nice quote for a season now when literally everyone I know is sick, or just got over something.

What an opportunity to take care of ourselves, drink tea, do whatever healing rituals we do (NyQuill and the complete Lord of the Rings trilogy?) in the spirit of stopping, taking stock, and resting.

In short, and whenever possible, enjoy! I will, too …


Hi Y’all ~

Thought this would be of particular interest to most of you: a recent article in the NY Times about cortisone: the anti-inflammatory shot that’s a “standard, much-requested treatment for tennis elbow and other tendon problems.”
A major new review article has concluded that while cortisone definitely provides immediate pain relief, a year later “people who received cortisoneshots had a much lower rate of full recovery than those who did nothing or who underwent physical therapy. They also had a 63 percent higher risk of relapse than people who adopted the time-honored wait-and-see approach.”

This would be great to pass onto anyone you know with tennis or golfers’ elbow (technically: medial or lateral epicondylitis), as the study found a notable negative correlation between cortisone use and actual recovery with these conditions in particular.

To our health …