It's the simple things. Plus, three ways to help low back pain, ankles sprains, and knee pain

Here we are in the middle of December, and before the year winds down, I wanted to share a story about how even in the midst of complicated logistics and travels, it’s the simple things that can be the most transformative.

As you may know, my husband and I are on a four month traveling sabbatical. We started the trip in Peru and are now in Colombia. The lands and people we have encountered along the way have been magical.
 
Here’s the thing, if you’re like me, it’s sometimes a little too easy to make things complicated and to psych yourself out.
 
For example, excited as I was to start this journey, I was also incredibly scared. And not for common reasons like “what if I get robbed” or “what if I get bit by mosquitoes so badly that no one recognizes me???”

In fact, I truly was afraid that my body would literally fall apart.
 
Cue the appropriate reaction: "What? Why would you think such a thing! You're 35, and healthy!"

Well, I thought that my chronic pain would rear its ugly head without my regular visits to bodyworkers, herbal medicine, and typical workouts.
 
To be vulnerably honest, deep within, I was convinced that there’s something inherently wrong with my body. All these years of getting stronger and smarter about my body through studying and practicing Pilates, Yoga, Strength and Conditioning, Applied Neurology and Sound Healing…a good part of it has been to confront this fear.
 
Of course, at the outset of the trip, it seemed my worst fears were coming true. Chronic pain was definitely talking its talk to me.
 
And then…mountains happened.
 
For the first time in about a decade, my man and I started using our legs as primary locomotion for weeks on end. We walked through new cities and towns, hiked over a 15.5k foot Andean pass, through the jungle to fetch fresh water, and up and down extensively terraced ruins. (Man, the Inca sure knew how to do stairs!)
 
As easy as it is to make things complicated, it turned out that the cure for my pain was simple: I needed to walk with the consistency and intensity that humans were designed for. I needed to get out of my head and let my body do it's thing.
 
This has been a huge lesson in simplicity for me.
 
Now, here’s my two part holiday gift to you—to support simplicity and simple strength in your life.
 
Here’s the first part! (and perhaps the most powerful)

It’s a question for yourself, that only you can answer:
 
“How can I simplify?”
 
Most of us have a little voice inside that is a big fan of simplicity, and is dying to speak its truth. When you find even the littlest ways to simplify your life or your thoughts, your body and mind may just thank you. And that peace of mind can only bring more genuine joy and cheer to the world at this time.
 
Here’s the second part!

Three moves to increase your walking pleasure (and bust a move on cranky hips and low backs). These moves are both a little restful and a little intense, all taken from the Pilates canon.

  1. Leg in strap series

  2. Side lying leg series

  3. Bridge series 

Remember, in the name of simplicity: you don’t have to do all the moves all at once, or even run through all the videos together. Pick what appeals to you and allow for a tangible stretch or burn to accumulate. Allow your body to do its thing.
 
PS: these moves are also great for ankle sprains, and fussy knees. Please forward them to anyone in your life who has issues at those joints.
 
Con amor, simplemente ~
Alissa

Harness. The. Light. Your brain will thank you.

Happy summer! I hope you are doing lots of playing in the sun and enjoying some of the longest days of the year.

Here's a practice that may look goofy, but actually lights up and activates your midbrain in one magical minute. (I explain why you should care about your midbrain, below.)

Looks kinda funny (a.k.a. awesome and unusual), but not too complex, right?

This is a new version of "sunning," which until now you may have thought of as laying around like the mammal that you are, enjoying the feel of warm sunlight covering your body. While exposing your skin to the sun helps boost your Vitamin D production and gives you a summer glow, exposing your closed eyes to dappled light can give your midbrain an immediate wake-up call.

Why might you care about that? 

Well, light stimulation and pupil dilation activate your midbrain through a couple of cranial nerves that connect your eyes directly to this part of your brain. While not everyone needs midbrain activation, if yours does need it you may notice that sunning makes automatic movements (like walking) more carefree, sharpens your reflexes, and makes your groovy dance moves more fluid. (To know whether it's doing all that for you, you'll have to assess--a.k.a. "do"--a simple movement before and after sunning. Try squatting, single leg balancing, or a single stiff arm raise.)

If you want to get from point A to B with greater ease, style, and integration as only you can...give it a try, and then get to your workout/hike/dance off. You may even find that sunning helps reduce pain.

You may not have thought it possible to influence all that with one quick minute of sunshine, but that's what this blog is all about: simple feel-good surprises about complex stuff.  

It's Here! A Fall-tastic Anniversary

Welcome! Hot damn, it's a new website look and a brand new blog. Thank you all for your patience while I rebuilt this baby.

This time of year is always particularly special to me. As we leave summer and enter into the coziness of fall, it's a season that smells, feels, and sounds comforting. The school-kid in me associates it with going back to school to see my friends and learn new things, with a steady, predictable pace, with family birthdays (including my own) and holidays. 

It's also my anniversary of setting out on the path to teach movement, starting with Pilates. This fall marks SEVEN years of making and remaking myself into a professional, a teacher, a somatic and anatomical explorer, and above all, a mover and healer. It's not always been easy, but it has been a journey full of the most kind, spirited, and holistically intelligent and insightful human beings that I have ever encountered.

I am deeply grateful to all my students, teachers, and colleagues. Thank you for your constant support, gumption, laughter, and thoughtfulness.

Inspired by this back-to-school/business anniversary vibe that fall gives me, here are seven of my favorite resources that I've discovered over the last seven years, including one badass dissection video series (viewer discretion advised). Enjoy!!

1. "Sensing, Feeling, and Action: The Experiential Anatomy of Body-Mind Centering" by Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen

2. "Awakening Shakti: The Transformative Power of the Goddesses of Yoga" by Sally Kempton

3. "Therapeutic Neuroscience Education: Teaching Patients About Pain" by Adriaan Louw, Emilio Puentedura

4. "The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature" by Daniel J. Levitin

5. "Advances in Functional Training" by Michael Boyle

6. "Wild Feminine: Finding Power, Spirit & Joy in the Female Body" by Tami Lynn Kent

7. "The Integral Anatomy Series" by Gil Hedly