The Myth of Working on the Pain

Melt Method utilizes principles that are not always relatable, for now anyway. Mainstream fitness and therapeutic techniques teach us that we must go to directly to the area that is causing us weakness or a problem. If you want to strengthen your low back then go directly to that low back by leaning over a bench and lift your torso until those muscles are exhausted. If your neck hurts then go directly to the neck and dig into the muscles. 

Here is one of the principles of Melt Method: 

The Melt Method focuses on the principle that pain or discomfort in the low back or in the shoulder girdle is caused by the connective tissues of the torso body mass (not the organs in the torso) being dehydrated. This means the spinal joints can not ideally align and the shoulder girdle can not align over the pelvic girdle.

Hydrating connective tissues lets the joints align in the torso mass, it relieves the compression in low back and neck. Now low back pain or shoulder pain can go away. Do you see the difference?

Here is another way of describing it. If your neck has compression in the joints it will cause pain. Melt Method perspective is that there is dehydration and misalignment in tissues of torso mass or head/skull mass and causes the compression. Melt Method techniques of hydrating the masses of the head/skull and torso will let joints align which reduces compression in the neck. 

If you’ve had regular bodywork by a chiropractor or massage therapist for example, then this concept won’t be completely foreign to you. You have probably noticed that a practitioner can find a really tight and tender area and work on it in the upper back and then your neck feels better. Occasionally working on the feet and ankles can reduce pain in the neck as well for another example. The area that hurts or is weak isn’t always the area that is causing the problem.

Like exercise and therapeutic modalities one treatment isn’t enough. Our bodies are continually under stress, all kinds of stress. 

Sitting at your desk all day = stress

Bodyweight exercise for and hour = stress

These daily stresses dehydrate the body’s tissues. The heavy masses of the body must be regularly hydrated and aligned to consistently reduce and eventually eliminate pain and discomfort for the long term.

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How to get Strong Abs with neck pain.

One of the common reasons people have trouble with Pilates is neck pain. Specifically neck pain when lifting the head and shoulders off the floor. Has this happened to you? Do you know why it happens? You may know that your abdominal muscles are not strong enough but do you know what you have trained your neck muscles to work too much? Bad habits over the long term, sit ups for example, teach your neck muscles to fire up every time you lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Your neck muscles “think” they are supposed to do this. You made your neck do this thousands and thousands of times.

My previous post of 3 most common mistakes in Pilates describes how to work on changing the neck muscle firing problem. This post is about progressing through Pilates exercise to strengthen your abdominals and not cause neck pain. This will get you strong enough to do the series of five, the famous 5 ab intense Pilates exercises performed back to back without rest. Hundreds, Single leg stretch, Criss cross, Double leg stretch,  & the Roll up.

There are at least 6 steps to building strength for the Series of 5.

1- Practice lifting head and shoulders off floor while hands are holding the head, neck muscles must stay relaxed, this will take time. Knees bent, feet flat on floor.

2- Once you can do #1 for 10 seconds you can start adding exercise movement while hands are holding head.

Start with #1 position then lift one knee to 90 degree angle. Put knee down, lift other knee up and down. Start with 2 reps then work up to 10 reps. Your goal is to have no neck strain after 1 set of 10 reps.

3- Once you can do #2 above, try it without holding the head. Again, start with 2 reps and rest. Work up to 10 reps without holding head.

4- Now do the second exercise listed above in the series of 5. Single leg stretch – but holding head in hands. The legs alternate with each other, one knee towards chest the other stretched straight in front of you. Work up to 10 reps.

5- Time to try placing hands on bent leg in chest, then switch legs, hands hold other leg, continue switching. Do 2 reps first then rest head down on floor. Work up to 10 reps again.

6- Once you can do 10 repetitions of the Pilates Single Leg Stretch exercise without holding head (and No neck pain!) then add the next exercise right afterward, the Criss Cross, but holding the head during the new exercise. Try to keep neck relaxed while hands are holding the head.

You will continue to add one exercise from the series of 5 in this way until you can do all 5 exercises in a row without resting AND without having neck strain.

You’ll need to practice at least 3x a week to progress. I recommend adding Hundreds last when neck strain is an issue. This exercise does come first in the series because it warms up the body by increasing circulation, but this exercise will take longer to progress in, Hundreds is also about muscle endurance.

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Mars in Aries June 27, 2020 – Jan 6, 2021

Watch your head!  Off with their heads! Don’t lose your head! You can have a head start. Heads Up! Off the top of my head. Over my head. Head and shoulders above the rest.

There are many idioms with the word head in them. Astrologically speaking, Aries does come first in the zodiac. Makes sense the Aries rules over the head and brain of the body. Some types of astrology associates the first house of an astrological chart with Aries too. Aries is ruled by the planet Mars. Every sign is paired with a planet. The nature of the planet helps to describe the nature of the sign(s) it’s paired with. Mars is hot and dry.

Every planet has its most strength or power when it is in the sign it rules. Mars likes and performs well when in the sign of Aries. Mars does well creating courage and conflict.

This post is about Mars’ current sign position. Mars left Pisces, where it was for 6 weeks, and is now in Aries for, wait for it…

6 months.

Yep, this an extra long stay for Mars in one its own signs. Mars will be going retrograde (9/9 to 11/13) which really slows it down. And Mars and Aries don’t like slowing down, ever.

Mars represents how we physically move through life, our battles our courage, our competitive spirit and our body’s energy. All things we can work within modify if needed. It’s easier when Mars in Aries. Both like to be quick, spontaneous and impulsive. 

Since Aries rules the head and brain, snap decisions get made, a quick temper can be ignited or you just might bonk your head on something because you’re in such a hurry.

With Mars traveling through Aries right now is a perfect time to try a new exercise or workout routine. What would especially be beneficial right now is brain work. Your body and/or brain could use a new workout. Brain exercises can be done on their own or you can add them to some of your regular exercises. I have one exercise video posted on my Instagram that incorporates brainwork into a well know exercise. @Cosmik_fitness

Any exercise that requires more coordination (like Pilates) benefits the brain tremendously. In these next 6 months I want you to add more coordination challenging exercises to your routine. Take an exercise you know and change up how you do it. And add a completely new exercise that might make you feel awkward and uncoordinated at first and then you get better and better at.

The retrograde period when Mars appears to be going backward is Sept 9th to Nov 13th. This is the period of time where you want to revaluate the changes you made. What ever exercise you changed or new exercise added you can now review if it’s providing the benefit you thought it would. You’ll want to change it during this 2 month period and find the exercise that keeps you on your toes, so to speak.

The last note about Mars in Aries is to watch for inflammation in head and brain area. This includes fevers, headache, unusual neck pain/stiffness nausea, dizziness, irregular breathing, vision changes and memory loss. Include foods in your diet that are known for reducing inflammation.

Here is an article about foods that help prevent inflammation in the brain.

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Self Care and This Month’s Eclipse

The significance of eclipses goes back thousands of years. They predicted the rise and fall of kings and conquerors. An eclipse is when one of the luminaries, the Sun or Moon, has its light blocked by the other luminary. Since the Sun and Moon have the most effect on Earth’s atmosphere (Sun creates our seasons and Moon moves the tides) losing their light for the smallest amount of time disrupts the Earth’s energetic field and atmosphere. 

From an astrological point of view, eclipses create dramatic events, globally and sometimes personally. A royal may be born, a war might start or a world leader could die or be overthrown. What is the theme for this month’s eclipse? We are looking at the eclipse through the lens of fitness and wellness. Eclipses can trigger an event in the next 6 months on a personal scale. On a global scale you’ll notice groups of people and national or global systems as a focal point. The effects are strongest for 2 weeks surrounding the time of the eclipse.

The eclipse on June 21, 2020 is in Cancer 0 degrees. This is a sign of sensitivity, nourishment, and family. Cancer rules these areas of the body: stomach, upper digestion, breasts, uterus, gall bladder, salivary glands to name most of them. Now more so than other times is important to pay attention to what food you are putting your mouth. Use the sensitivity of the crab to sense how your digestion is working, how are you feeding yourself for good health? Now is not the time to stuff your feelings down with food. This time period will also have an emphasis on family and family can drive you crazy! Instead of letting the crazy family get to you try to use that energy for a family workout. Get everyone sweating and burning up energy. Everyone will feel better afterward.

Alternatively, you could get a weekly workout on the schedule with your sister or brother or exchange recipes with mom for healthy meals. Be sensitive to how a family member might be having trouble fitting exercise, physical activity or healthy eating into their schedule. 

Your personal birth chart can lead you to your individualized themes for the next 6 months. Find Cancer sign in your chart (which house does it occupy?) and that is the area of your life you’ll need to focus on. If Cancer lands on your 5th house you’ll want to address eating around social activities. If it’s in your 4th the eating issues are when you are at home. You’ll need to look up what each of house (there are 12) means.

You’ll feel compelled to look at this area because of the eclipse and how it affects your daily life from the events happening around you. Now take a note if you have any planets, Ascendant or Midheaven in your chart at the 0 or 1 degrees Capricorn, Libra, or Aries. If you do, then this eclipse will create more events in your life, more than for someone who has no planets or points at those specific degrees.

With planets and points at 0 and 1 degrees it’s more important for you to revisit meal plans, digestive issues and family support systems. The planet Mercury is also in Cancer now and is currently going backward. This adds to the theme of reevaluating, reviewing & redoing. 

Knowing this information and planning ahead of time makes it possible for you to work with the eclipse energy instead of letting it happen to you.

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Put Down the Device, a Friendly Reminder

The age of constant daily use of tech devices has been with us for years now. Do you find yourself looking something up on your tablet and then bring over your phone to check something else, then before you realize it you have them both infant of you as you sit at your desk with your desktop computer on? There are obvious detrimental results of this constant device handling: eye strain, carpal tunnel syndrome and neck strain to name a few. But did you realize you hold your breath very time you pick up your device?

Tech apnea, coined by breathingroom. com, you’re doing it with out realizing it. Why would this happen? Holding the breath is usually the result of stress or a threat. Anticipating results or news in social media manifests as stress, could also manifest as a feeling of threat. This stress or threat results in tension in your breathing mechanics. These mechanics include muscles between your ribs, the diaphragm and in neck/chest area and all the fascia covering those areas. 

We breathe thousands and thousands of times a day, everyday. Repeated habits have long term affects. Picking up devices all day long is a repeated habit, holding your breath while picking up devices all day long is a repeated habit. Do you see where I’m going with this?  These repeated habits are stressful habits, the long term affects are bad breathing mechanics. Bad breathing mechanics lead to vulnerabilities to respiratory diseases, not what you want in the year 2020.

Health Tip– Stop and notice your breath through the day like Aimee Hartley did, recounted in this article. This is what happen when you hold your breath. 

Each person takes about 19,000 breaths every day, something that vital to your existence deserves some undivided attention, more than your devices do.

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Your Workout by Sign Element

What’s your sign? The most commonly asked astrological question. Also, the most superficial question. But has anyone asked you what’s your sign’s element?

Do you even know what element your sign belongs to? My Mars  is in the sign of Sagittarius, a Fire sign. There are two other Fire signs, can you name them?

This post will be focused on all the signs that show up in your chart. I will not be talking about just your Sun or Mars sign here.

There are four elements in astrology: Fire, Air, Water & Earth. Three signs per element. 

Fire = Aries, Leo, Sagittarius

Air = Gemin, Libra, Aquarius

Water = Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces

Earth = Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn

Now you know each sign’s element. The elements describe the type of energy the sign uses to accomplish tasks or make decisions.

Do you notice some people are quick & action oriented, jumping ahead without any thought? While other people are slow, methodical and analytical, making logical decisions before acting on anything? These are extreme opposites of course, but each element has its certain way of doing things.

So, we want to go a little deeper than what element your Mars sign is. We want to look at all the planets and important points in your chart and which sign they each are in. You have about 7 visible celestial bodies (Sun to Saturn), 3 non-visible celestial bodies (Uranus, Neptune & Pluto) and 2 sensitive points (Rising sign & Midheaven) to look at. 

Here’s an example: Your sun sign might be in Taurus (Earth) and your Mars in Scorpio (Water), but you have all remaining planets & points in Air signs. This would mean you are predominately the element Air. Chances are you will relate to Air qualities much more than Earth & Water.

Now, here is how each element’s energy is described.

Fire – This energy is ignited quickly, its heat intense, burning off things not needed or wanted anymore, it transforms whatever it touches. The Fire workout will feel inspired & creative, like a sprint.

Air – This energy will feel adaptable with many variables. This energy needs change and variety to connect with other energies. The Air workout feels like a triathlon, especially in a relay situation to achieve the sense of different events connecting to one goal.

Water – This energy feels like nourishment, a sensitive and deliberate approach that wants activities to include the soul’s purpose. The water workout is like yoga class or spiritual yoga retreat.

Earth – This energy is grounding, it builds practicality and predictability. It is slow to build into a stable routine. The Earth workout is like a marathon and its regimented/structured training leading up to it. 

So you probably feel connected to one of these workouts more than the others because it represents the element dominance in your chart. Does this mean you should only do this type of workout? NO, definitely not. You can do any of type of element workouts described above.

You may really enjoy that Fire workout, but your chart does have other elements in it. Indulge the Air, Water, & Earth elements a little bit and you’ll feel closer to being a whole person.

In fact, what you can also do is use one element as a type of remedy for your dominant one. If Air is your dominant element and you have only been doing circuit type workouts, you can remedy that by adding a weekly yoga class. The remedy of yoga will make you feel more centered. 

A common mistake people (including some of my clients) make is picking one type of exercise or activity and then only doing that several times a week. While regular weekly exercise is good, it should not be at the expense variety of movement, no one type of exercise can give your body everything it needs.

Stop being a slave to your habits in exercise, they will eventually stop challenging you anyway. You will most likely acquire sport/activity specific injuries. Our bodies and souls were not created to be so narrow minded. We must at least try to incorporate other types of exercise and activities into our routines. The cross training recommendation so common now is the exactly for these reasons.

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Sitting causes Stress

What the heck!? We are safer at home right now, but our increased daily posture of sitting is still making our bodies stressed out. 

Besides the stress of no job, very little social life and not enough money even the most active of us is still sitting more than usual. All the sitting around is great for catching up on your favorite TV shows and finding new fave shows, but it’s definitely not great for the body’s backside. And I’m not just talking about everyone’s enemy, cellulite. 

Sitting at your computer, sitting in front of the TV, sitting at the dining room table, sitting for your virtual happy hour. And now you have an over stretched low back and neck, compressed hamstrings, and a forward head, congratulations. Thank you highly developed civilization.

 This is why it feels like your hip flexors are tight, this is why you feel stiff when you get up out of your chair, couch, car and toilet seat. This is why you push yourself too hard in your workout to try to make up for it. This is why you get injured. The cycle of stress to injury, needs to be broken. Break the cycle!

Your fascia is the key. The word comes from latin, it means ”band”. Fascia is defined as “a thin sheath of fibrous tissue enclosing a muscle or other organ”. 

If fascia gets over stretched and compressed it becomes dehydrated, areas of it become obstacles to fluid flow, it is unable to support your muscles, nerves & organs. Fascia covers your entire body and envelops your muscles (and ligaments & tendons), it requires a state of fluidity to do its job optimally. 

Over stretched and compressed fascia means your muscles can’t hold the torso and pelvis in alignment, they have to adapt to a stressful alignment causing the tightness and stiffness you feel after sitting for long periods. Our bodies are really good at adapting to our detriment.

This is why I practice and teach Melt Method, it was specifically created to help your fascia, to rehydrate it. Small, regular doses of Melt Method treatments bring your fascia and therefore your muscles, torso & pelvis back into alignment. Melt Method brings a fluid state back to your fascia making it quick to respond and quick to hold you in ideal alignment.

There are many Melt Method sequences created to address specific issues & activities, including excessive sitting(!) to alleviate daily stress.

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What is the Shape of Your Spine? Pilates Test #1

My Pilates test is here to help you understand why and how awareness of your body and its traits is important. I want you to have awareness of mobility in all your joints and all your muscles. I also want you to have control over all your movements in exercise and in daily life. 

You might know how stiff you are first thing in the morning, but do you know if all your joints are equally stiff in the morning? Are all of your muscles, connective tissue and fascia equally stiff and tight? Is it really your back that is stiff or is it your thigh muscles that are tight causing stiffness in the back? Is it really your low back that is stiff or is it the upper back that is so rounded forward that it causes low back pain?

All of these questions can be answered once you have awareness of your own body as a result of my Pilates test.

The picture for Pilates test #1 is of the main categories that spinal alignments fall into. Each person’s spine is either ideal, kyphotic, lordotic or sway back generally. (Sway back not pictured)

Ideal= Right amount of spinal curve in the right places front to back

Kyphotic= Exaggerated curve in upper back

Lordotic= Exaggerated curve in low back

Sway back= Pelvis is pushed forward, in front of ribcage. Hyperextended knees usually accompany this misalignment.

There are many times that the above positions are mixed with each other. These misalignments are separate from scoliosis. Scoliosis can be be found with any of the above alignments.

How is this important?

If you have a lordotic lumber spine (low back) then certain muscles in front of pelvis and thighs are shortened too much and certain muscles in back of pelvis and thighs are lengthened too much. The musculature is out of balance, Pilates exercise addresses these specific imbalances. 

Why is this important?

Some pain issues you might have are probably the result of not doing anything about these imbalances over the years. Even if you’ve been exercising regularly. Exercise by itself doesn’t guarantee good postural alignment.

Melt Method is used in tandem with exercise routines to keep bringing back hydration to your tissues which makes it possible  for your spine to come back to ideal alignment.

Even though you might not be able to bring the spine back to alignment in a few weeks or a few months it is imperative that you know where you are starting from and then diligently work on improving it. You will automatically increase body awareness, body mobility and have more control over your body.

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Your Feet and Exercise

Mars is changing signs this week, from Aquarius to Pisces. It’s time to think about the feet for the next 6 weeks. Specifically your feet relative to your exercise routine. The planet Mars will be in Pisces May 14 to June 27th. Mars is our go to planet when considering our fitness level and fave activities. From couch potato to pro athlete Mars will describe your How & What intensity level you operate from and When energy & intensity rises and falls. 

The planet Mars transits through the signs showing us where inflammation can pop up or the body area accidents could affect. It does this by the sign it is in for about 6 weeks. Every physical body area needs and gets some attention at some point.

Pisces rules the feet and toes. It also has domain over your immune system (ahem, fight that virus off) and the lymphatic system. In other words, how are the fluids in your body moving?

The energy for the next 6 weeks is a slow, meandering, go with the flow energy, very different than last 6 weeks of Aquarian energy.

The tendencies of Pisces are to slack off and visit dream world, to sacrifice or surrender too easily and to escape. All of these tendencies can be turned into constructive opportunities. Especially with our enforced restrictions of safer at home you can fall too easily into ignoring your own personal boundaries.

This is what you can do. Pick one day a week to let go, to slack off, binge watch your favorite tv show or have an extra cookie. Learn how to do self lymphatic massage or regular massage from an online tutorial. Stick to your supplement regimen to keep your immune system fortified, regularly use you dream world to envision your ultimate exercise workout or how you can add to it creatively. Eat foods that are good for building your blood. Set a daily limit to any indulgences.

Here are some specific dates that will help guide your energy levels as Mars moves through Pisces. 

May 17-This day does not have a Mars aspect, but Sun trines Jupiter.Energy levels will be up and positive attitudes will be contagious.         

May 24- Around this day it would be great to try a new, exciting exercise at home.

June 2nd – 6th- These are challenging days, you may find it especially hard to stick to personal limits.

June 13- This is themes challenging day, Mars conjunct Neptune. Use this as a meandering day, take care of yourself by not finishing anything, no deadlines here regarding your health or fitness.

June 15th – 27th- The remainder of this time has more movement, more energy to exercise, to be good to yourself in a healthy way.

Now for some Pilates exercises for your feet! The feet get a lot of focus in Pilates. We have an entire series called footwork on the reformer, you probably already know this. If you have a reformer at home this series is a must during this 6 week period. Here are exercises to do on your own if you don’t have a reformer. You’ll need a stretch band and/or wall you can put your feet up on.

1-Stretch band work- Lie on back one foot in band wrapped around ball of foot – flex, point, repeat. Try to sequence the joints of the foot. Ankle flexed, point with ball of foot first then add the toes, reverse this now. Bring toes back first, then ball of foot.

2-On wall- Legs bent, lie on back, feet rest on wall curl toes & foot knuckles to crawl up the wall (like an inchworm)

3-Cat position on all fours, keep neutral spine bend/tuck toes & push heels back, lift knees off floor about 2 inches, hold position 5-10 seconds. Make it harder by walking forward & backward in this position (knees stay off floor). Lift opposite hand foot to travel forward or backward.

4- Plank, use this to improve toe and ankle flexibility. Use what you gained in #3 above to flex ankles more in your plank. Make it harder by walking forward & backward in your plank as in #3.

Chances are you never thought so much about your feet before, especially when you are working your abs so much too! Remember, Pilates exercises are full body exercises. Every body part needs to be a part of the movement. This 6 week period gives you a chance to pay extra attention to your feet. Go to my Instagram cosmik_fitness to the videos of the exercises. 

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Part 2 Pilates home workout, Most Common Mistakes

Part 1 blog post covered the first 2 common mistakes in Pilates form and technique. Now I write about the 3rd most common mistake, hand & wrist placement when in position on all fours (on hands & knees or hands & toes).

Fix common mistake #3

Do your wrists hurt after being on your hands and knees?

Wrist exercises: on hands and knees (or against a wall if needed) lean body weight in all directions forward, backward, left, right, and circling. Then do this with hands turned at different angles. Fingers turned in, turned out, try as many angles as you can. Please try to keep elbows straight. Video on Instagram cosmik_fitness

There are a couple reasons for wrist pain. First, you probably don’t do exercise on the floor on your hands on a regular basis. This is easily fixed by gradually spending more time in this position in plank, side plank and cat. 

The second reason is lack of flexibility at the wrist joint, I see this usually in older adults. As we age our joints and tissues tend to become less flexible or mobile. Passive stretching your wrists can help some. Leaning on your hands and wrists is the most effective way to increase range and mobility. You just need to do it gradually. 

So how do you fix common mistakes? Practice. 

Pick one of the above common mistakes and make it a project. Every time you do your Pilates workout consciously make your body attempt to improve it. You might think that’s enough, not yet!  Try to incorporate it into 2 or 3 other Pilates exercises to improve your project. That means spend 5 minutes on an exercise that forces you to work on the common mistake you selected.

I guarantee that this method done gradually and moderately will improve common mistakes you might make and turn it into proper Pilates technique. 

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