A Stretchsit cushion helps fill the unhealthy
C shape found in many airplane seats, or
even better, facilitates gently
stretching the spine.
The summer is upon us and many of us will be traveling in buses, boats, cars, and planes. I have spent a lot of time on planes and have observed people in discomfort all around me. The shape of airplane seats varies from airline to airline, but all of them have a curvature that forces the spine into an uncomfortable C-shape. In this season of airline travel, I’d like to share some simple tips to protect the spine and reduce muscle tension during an airplane flight.
1) Fill the C
The concave shape of airline seats puts pressure on the spinal discs and is the starting point for muscle tension. Fill the lower part of your seat with pillows, blankets, sweaters, or ideally a Stretchsit® Cushion to create a flat plane along which you can lengthen your spine. Read more
Stretching is a common prescription to help with back pain. At https://www.healthoutcome.org, the world’s first crowdsourcing platform to rate medical interventions, stretching is the 6th most commonly used intervention, after physical therapy, NSAIDs, heat, rest, and cortisone injections. On a scale from 0-5, stretching (rated 2.6) is the 5th most highly rated intervention after Postural Modification (3.8), Yoga (3.1), Supplements (2.9), Weight Loss (2.8), and Meditation (2.7).
My students sometimes lead me to particularly juicy nuggets that enrich my understanding of posture-related practices in other cultures. Sometimes they simply send me a link to an article; sometimes it is an introduction to a special person. Recently, my private Gokhale Method Foundations Course student Alpana informed me that her friend had a visitor I might be interested in meeting. She was right.
Two days later, my daughter Monisha and I showed up at Nirmala’s host’s home in Saratoga. I was immediately struck by the woman’s presence, regal carriage, slender and strong frame, and sparky energy, especially for a 60-year-old. Nirmala does traditional Indian baby and post-natal massage on newly delivered babies and their mothers in Surat, India. She speaks no English. Thanks to Alpana’s fluent Marathi and my broken Hindi, I was able to communicate very effectively with her.
Mother and son in a tribal Orissan village demonstrating excellent walking form. Notice that their heels remain on the floor well into their stride.
Do you have tight psoas muscles? Do you suspect the cause is too much time spent sitting in your daily life? There’s a complementary activity that helps counterbalance the time we spend sitting: walking — or, more specifically, glidewalking. Glidewalking helps balance our sitting in numerous ways — walking is dynamic versus sitting which is static. Yang balances Yin, viewed in the framework of traditional Chinese medicine. One underappreciated way in which walking can balance sitting pertains to the psoas muscle.
Using the word “eccentric” might sound like I’m about to write about muscles behaving in weird ways that are different from usual muscle behavior!
But what I’m referring to, eccentric muscle contraction, is often pronounced ee-sen-trik, not ek-sen-trik.
How muscles contract
Eccentric muscle contraction is the reverse of the concentric contraction that we typically associate with muscle training. For example, the dumbbell curl that makespops up the bicep prominent as you lift the weight towards your shoulder is a concentric contraction. The muscle contracts and shortens. But lowering the dumbbell back down again, which requires the muscle to lengthen, also takes Read more