Thoracic Mobility: The Cage vs The Spring

I have been working with a client to increase the movement around the thoracic spine - generally from base of the neck to the bottom of the ribs. A comment about her hurt in life and the efforts and care she dotes on others got me thinking about the heart. And it got me thinking about the amazing network of bones around the heart. We call it a ribCAGE which denotes maybe this idea of a static and rigid framework around the most vital organs.

However, when we breathe fully (deep into the diaphragm) we have the sense of movement in the ribs. Most people though tend to breathe into the sternum and upper traps, which leads to a more rounded thoracic area (called kyphosis) and lends a sense of stiffness to this notion of the ribs as a cage. When we rotate, our pelvis moves in opposing directions and when they work together, the two are our prime movers in our overall movement. Even the joints where the ribs meet the spine are more moveable and house receptors for communication with the brain.

So here’s the thing: our ribCAGE is actually is more like a spring. It’s resilient, able to bend and move and return back to it’s form. And the same is true for the emotions that we feel under the spring. We experience heartache and we recover — we bounce back. Or we don’t and our posture perhaps shows it and our the cage does truly become more hard and rigid. Also a good reminder that we should give love as well as receive. It is interesting to note that in a heart attack, our ribs will move 2” to give first responders an opportunity to resuscitate us. But the movement has its limitations.

While not large we have mobility in the thoracic spine — rotation, lateral and some extension and flexion. I find that the ability to backbend improves as you improve rotation and axial extension (that sense of lengthening the spine). We have this resilient network of bone and cartilage that protects our heart from the outside world all while having the ability to be expansive and more mobile than we might think. And maybe on an emotional level, we can remember that there are lots of ways to open ourselves up to love, but the first is to start within.

Fall Seasonal Symmetry Course, November 17

It’s like a girlfriend’s night in. Wear your comfy clothes, circle up and drink tea. Let’s nourish our souls with the talk of self-care and how to balance our mind, body and spirit in the seasonal times of transition.

Each attendee will receive a survival gift kit to help them at home. Sign up today for the course. Live out of state? Join the newsletter at megankearneymovement.com and order the kit directly to your home!

Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine + the Earth Element

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient practice that supports health and wellness, and believes in harmony between the opposing complementary forces of yin and yang. TCM also believes that the human body is a microcosm of the expansive universe around us. The five elements that appear in nature (fire, earth, wood, metal and water) also appear within us and represent all manners of life and explain the function of the body and how it changes during dis-ease. In TCM, disease is a result of a imbalance between yin and yang, and fluctuation of energy within the five elements. This vital energy that flows through the body is known as qi (CHI) and performs multiple functions in the body and helps maintain health. 

Each season corresponds with an element, just as we have different seasons in our own lives. The transitional time between summer and fall is known as late summer or the earth element. It is comprised of two meridians — stomach (yang) and spleen (yin). 

The earth meridians govern the muscle as it relates to our sense of strength and stamina. The stomach meridian travels from just below the eye through the front of our body, down through our quads and across the top of our feet to the second toe. It is tied to the action of seeing our goal in front of us and using those leg muscles to move us forward towards it, grab it, and draw it into our being. At times of imbalance, we can become "stuck in the mud” and not possess the inability to move forward in life.

10 Keys to Balance in Late Summer

The earth element is the archetypal mother figure. In balance, she is nurturing, supportive and balanced. Out of balance, she is overburden, heavy with worry and unable to create boundaries for her own self-care.

Here are 10 keys to balancing this seasonal influx and creating ease in the body.

  1. Replace worry.
    Allot yourself a limited amount of time to focus on a specific problem. Then move forward with ways to overcome and action items to correct your course. Keep yourself focused on the present and gentle guide yourself away from thoughts about the future.

  2. Exercise empathy and compassion
    Start with active listening. Bring to the conversation acceptance, trust, a beginner’s mind, patience, the ability to let go, detachment from a goal or fixing, and non-judgement.

  3. Seek out activities that bring contentment
    Look to participate in activities that make you feel content. Being with friends, laughing, walking the park or painting a picture.

  4. Altruism and service
    Participate in something for a higher purpose. Champion a cause within your community that helps the greater good.

  5. Practice gratitude
    Try daily or morning gratitude practices or even just a simple one-sentence thank you to those things for which you are grateful. Join me on social media and try “FIVE THINGS FRIDAY” to establish a practice and grow the habit.

  6. Practice self-care
    Every day, take time to care for yourself the way you would a loved one. Give yourself extra time in the morning to linger in the shower, or maybe draw a bath at night and light a candle. Make a list of things that feel like self-care and do those for yourself on the regular.

  7. Enroll
    Join or establish a connection with others you enjoy. Join a book club, become a member of a church, or find a support group. Affiliation helps us feel like we are a part of the fabric of life.

  8. Maintain good nutrition
    We will be talking more about food in the late summer, but be sure not to skip meals as it is hard on the spleen. Make eating a ceremony, taking time to make and savor your food.

  9. Take care of your digestive system
    Allow yourself time for digestion, eat a full spectrum of foods that allow the body to take in nutrients, and be mindful of medications that might eradicate the healthy bio genome in your belly.

  10. Commitment and security
    When we commit to a goal or to our life, we establish a firm foundation that helps us to feel stable and secure. Set some intentions, recommit to your family, friends and self, and create a strong stable roots.

Heading for An Emotional or Physical Landslide?

Signs your earth element is out of balance. These are just a few symptoms of earth element deficiency +/or stagnation:

  • lack of motivation + fatigue 

  • excessive worrying + overthinking

  • foggy thinking + trouble concentrating

  • lessening or lack of an appetite

  • changes in bowel movements

  • flabby muscle tone

  • easily bruising + slow wound healing

  • sense of anxiety

  • sense of heaviness in the body

  • difficulty losing weight

  • gas and bloating

Five Poses to Stimulate the Earth Lines

Five Poses to Stimulate the Earth Lines

Here are some great poses to help you continue your 21-days of balancing of the Earth element. 1) Malasana or squat pose. Use a blanket under your heels for assistance. 2) Deep lunge or dragon. Blanket under the back knee for support. 3) Lunge variation. The twist helps the lines that move up into the abdominals while holding the back leg gets stimulation along the quadriceps. Hold at the toes to tap into the lines in the shins and top of the foot. 4) Bhekhasana or frog pose. Modify based on what your knee allows. Press your pubic bone towards the mat to intensive and take out any low back compression.

Worry Dolls, Anxiety + Earth Element

Worry Dolls, Anxiety + Earth Element

I remember holding the tiny little dolls between my fingers and handing my worries over to them. No more than an inch tall, they were a piece of wire wrapped in thread and stored in a yellow painted bamboo box. I don’t remember why my grandmother had gifted them to me after a trip to the caribbean but I remember using them frequently as a child. I’d pull them out before bed and use them so that I could sleep.

Nut Milk Mania

Growing up in the country and surrounded by farms, I drank milk every day. I drank it every morning for breakfast and every night, full fat, for dinner. Once I got older, I questioned my drinking another animal’s milk and started to learn about all the effects of diary on my system. But I can say that it did not make me want to quit cold turkey— especially with the store alternatives (soy, rice, almond, to name a few) as none of them could compare to the richness of a class of cow’s milk and left me with a bad taste.

What’s for Brrrrrr-eakfast? Warm Ginger Cardamom Compote

I created this recipe early one morning when the crisp fall air had me ready for something warm in my belly. I didn’t want oatmeal — though I could have added this to the top and it would have been delicious. I’ve been doing my full three servings of fruit first thing in the morning (30 minutes after my lemon water) and I really enjoy having a warm version. When it’s cooler out, I will sometimes add a chia pudding (again you could make a warm version) and use this as a topping. Enjoy!

Salad Spin: My Favorite Four

The weather hasn’t quite turned cold in Georgia and so fall is really still summer weather.  I’m able to still enjoy cold, raw foods before I head into soup season. I rounded up my favorite go-to’s so you could enjoy them too. Now, I try to encourage you to eat seasonally, and some of these fruits are out of season depending on your location. So get adventurous and try your own combinations!

Clean Thai Peanut Slaw

Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

For the slaw:

  • 4 cups shredded cabbage
  • 1 cup carrots shredded
  • 1 cup kale shredded
  • 1/2 cup sliced red bell pepper
  • 6 finely chopped green onions
  • 1/2 cup rough chopped fresh cilantro

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons organic tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 1/4 cup raw apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons raw honey (local if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons creamy organic peanut butter (or almond butter)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 inch chopped fresh ginger

Prep slaw accordingly OR use an organic bag of slaw and add missing ingredients. Put all of the sauce ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Toss together and serve.

Avocado and Mango Salad with Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing

Avocado and Mango Salad with Citrus Poppy Seed Dressing

Recipe via http://www.mountainmamacooks.com

Yield: 2 large salads

Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon minced shallots
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise (or Vegenaise author recommends)
  • 1 tablespoon local honey
  • 3/4 cup avocado oil or other light flavored oil
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salad:

  • mixed greens
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 1 mango, sliced
  • 3-4 tablespoons toasted, unsweetened coconut

Instructions

  1. To make dressing, whisk the minced shallots, lime, orange and lemon juices with the mustard, mayonnaise and honey. Slowly whisk in the oil until the dressing is creamy. Stir in the poppy seeds and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Divided desired amount of greens between two bowls. Divide the sliced mango and avocado between the two salads. Sprinkle with toasted coconut and drizzle with desired amount of dressing.

Notes: There will be enough dressing for more than two salads. Use desired amount of dressing and save rest for another use.