To complement “Osteoarthritis: Massage Provides Relief & Ease of Movement” in the May 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: The human body is designed for motion, but many Americans spend the majority of their day sitting. Exchanging a sedentary lifestyle for a more active one, even one small step at a time, can improve your health, mood, creativity and overall quality of life.
From the cosmic whirling of galaxies to the microscopic circulation of electrons, our world is in constant flux. Even if you hold your breath and appear to be motionless, your heart continues to beat, your cells are endlessly dying and being reborn in infinite chemical exchanges, and every second you’re alive you move closer to death. As you experience fluctuations of blood, breath, thoughts and infinite bodily alterations, you continually readapt to your shifting internal and external worlds.
In Perfect Health, Deepak Chopra, M.D., F.A.C.P., illuminates the science behind the body’s endless reincarnations, stating that 98 percent of our atoms are replaced annually. The stomach lining recreates itself every five days; the skin is refashioned every five weeks. Even though the body appears static, it is constantly changing and recreating itself. Our bodies are designed to move, let go and recreate.
Made for motion
Humans are not hardwired to be sedentary, but societal and technological changes have exponentially limited our movements. As technology becomes more compact and readily available, our culture is developing digital-device pains such as computer hunch, a curvature of the upper spine known clinically as thoracic kyphosis; and mouse shoulder, thoracic outlet syndrome—which causes chronic pain, tingling or weakness in the affected arm or hand.
Get up and move
Depending on which study you reference, many Americans sit between seven and 15 hours a day. Sitting so much has some serious consequences, particularly when some of us sit more hours a day than we sleep.
James Levine, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University Obesity Solutions Initiative, is credited with coining the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking,” after the release of his 2014 book Get Up! Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It. Levine’s book examines the scientific link between lack of activity, obesity and illness. Due in large part to the rampant increase in sitting, obesity is on the rise, life spans are shortening, and postures are being degraded in ways that cause people more pain every day.
As mentioned earlier, all our cells our constantly breaking down and rebuilding. Not only does the body change, but pain is malleable, too. Pain is a signal for change. One way out of pain is to change or move differently, outside your regular pattern. Sometimes all it takes is one shift, one move, to change your mind and change your body.
Interrupt the pattern of sitting: Get up and move. Because the massage therapy profession demands you get up and move, you are already almost 50 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than people who sit most of the day; sitting less and moving more also decreases your chances of developing cancer, diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders, according to research published in Exercise and Sports Sciences Reviews, “Too Much Sitting: The Population-Health Science of Sedentary Behavior” (2010).
Moving is good for the mind, as it enhances cognitive function. In the book Learning Through Movement and Music: Exercise Your Smarts, Debbie Mitchell and Jean Blaydes explain how our brains light up as movement encourages new brain cell growth (neurogenesis); increases brain-derived neurotropic factor, what we call fertilizer for the brain; strengthens secondary dendritic branching, thus enhancing memory retrieval; and improves mood by balancing endorphins, dopamine, cortisol and serotonin neurotransmitters.
Cultivate beginner’s mind
Consciously interrupting your normal routine and habits can liberate your energy. Life can feel more vital and even appear more crisp when we consciously choose to experience something brand-new. And every moment is brand-new.
In Zen, this point of view is called beginner’s mind: looking at the world with childlike amazement. Put lotion on your hands as you begin your session, acting as though you’ve never done this before, because you haven’t. You have never given this session before at this time, or in this way.
Break your patterns
Pattern interruptions unhinge unconscious or habitual choices and align you with the present moment; you can use them as a daily practice of shifting away from what you don’t want to feel, into feeling more of what you do want to feel. Make a new choice: pattern interrupt. Just like the body’s trillions of cells, you can shed habits that promote pain and create new habits that steer you into ease and flow.
We invite you to change one thing you do today. Change where you begin your massage session. Change the route you take home. Change where you eat dinner. Change how long you sit. Change how you sit. Consciously interrupt your everyday habits, and notice yourself becoming more creative, present and even happier—every day of your life.
Heath and Nicole Reed own National Bodywork Seminars (nationalbodyworkseminars.com), and many of their courses are approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, including Movement Therapies: Yoga, Qi Gong & Meditation. The Reeds team-teach seminars and host retreats featuring ancient healing techniques easily integrated into any bodywork session. They wrote the article “Osteoarthritis: Massage Provides Relief & Ease of Movement” in the May 2015 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.