in.gredients

General Wellness: The Body’s Inputs and Outputs (Guest Post)

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Matt Arnold:

Matt is a massage therapist devoted to supporting the sustainability community through bodywork, volunteering, and spreading the word (see: Bright Side Body Therapy. In his practice he works with people who want to make changes in the world, using massage to help them make changes in themselves first.

Introduction

Brian Nunnery, in.gredients team: I had the chance to talk with Bright Side Body Therapy‘s Matt Arnold this week after getting a postural assessment. The in.gredients team’s benefitted greatly from Matt’s services during our busy race to opening day! I talked with Matt about general wellness in life – something we all inevitably think about each week as we choose what to eat, how to manage our schedules, and why that weird achy feeling’s happening again. Matt offered great perspective, emphasizing the relationship between bodily inputs and outputs and how to optimize them for better performance. Here’s an excerpt from our conversation I think you’ll find useful!

Matt on General Wellness

Brian: “What’s your approach to general wellness?”

Matt: “One big part of my outlook on health is that our bodies are incredibly robust. People often get into this cycle of thinking pain and dysfunction are normal, and the best they can do is suffer through it until the breaking point, at which they take pills or undergo surgery, but the fact is that a human body is almost never actually broken, it’s almost certainly doing the best it can with the input it’s given. I try to offer people the choice to cultivate awareness of the input they’re choosing – i.e. diet, posture, attitude, and habits – and once someone gains that awareness, they naturally accept responsibility for their own health and start making better choices. Since I’m a licensed massage therapist (LMT), if a client gets a massage and feels relief, that’s great, but if they get a massage and become inspired to do what they can to feel better all of the time, that’s a real success to me.”

Brian: “What are some of the key inputs you’re thinking of? Am I right to guess diet, sleep, and exercise?”

Matt: “You’re absolutely right on those three. The big ones I look at – because they are most pertinent to bodywork – are postural, movement, emotional, and dietary habits. Every cell in the body has chemoreceptors as well as less-thoroughly-researched “mechanoreceptors,” which are protein fibers that stretch from the nucleus all the way though the cell membrane to link to the extracellular matrix, which on a macroscopic scale become our bones and muscles. So each spec of life within us responds to the mechanical and chemical circumstance we create. Well-balanced and coordinated posture and movement allow each cell in the body its due space, putting neither too much tension nor pressure on it, so it can do its job rather than switch to the task of replicating or self-destructing to meet structural stresses. A well-balanced diet and healthy emotional ‘range of motion’ give our cells a balanced chemical input that keeps them functioning. These two sides of the wellness coin are functionally linked and interdependent.”

Brian: “So, what would you recommend doing daily as a practical application of this perspective?”

Matt: “Everyone’s at a different place in terms of being ready to take on their own wellness, the minimum I will suggest to people is to spend five minutes each day sitting still, breathing slowly, and paying attention to how they feel. Everyone can find five quiet minutes a day, even if it’s in a parking lot.”

Daily Wellness Check

Matt: “For those that are really ready to take control of their well-being, here’s an exercise to retrain your muscle memory to counteract the collapsing tendency that is so common in our society:

‘Wall Angels’

  1. Find an empty space on a flat wall the width of your arm span.
  2. Stand facing away from the wall, with your heels about one foot’s length away from the wall.
  3. Lean back and rest your back, hips, and head against the wall, then bend your knees slightly.
  4. IMPORTANT: Push your low back flat against the wall, you should feel your spine contact the wall all the way from the top of the buttocks to the bottom of the shoulder blades. If this is a challenge, just work on this step until you can do it.
  5. Relax your neck. With your arms down by your sides, place your elbows and the backs of you wrists against the wall, and slowly raise your arms up, brushing the wall as in a snow angel. When you feel your spine pull away from the wall, stop and correct it, then continue bringing your arms up. When you can’t flatten your spine against the wall any more, you’ve found your stopping point. Bring your arms back down, brushing the wall on the descent.
  6. Repeat step 5 a total of 10 times.
  7. Do this once a day for a month and see if your posture improves.

“You could do more than one set a day if desired, but don’t do more than ten in a set.
If you have a physical practice of any kind (sports, workout, yoga, dance, etc.), do a set of wall angels before you begin and feel the increased ease enjoyed by an upright spine.

“Depending on your beginning posture, you may feel a sense of difficulty, shame, hopelessness, or anger, etc while performing wall angels. This is a normal part of the process; your nervous system is quite comfortable with the habits it currently uses and will use many defences against being re-trained. When you step away from the wall after a set of 10 wall angels, you will feel a heightened awareness of your spine’s position. Building that awareness is the purpose of the exercise, and after each successive set, that awareness will last longer until you have formed a new postural habit.”

Endnotes

Brian: “If you have a question for Matt, feel free to ask him on his Facebook page, or shoot him an email.

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