Friday, October 13, 2023
Ken and I would love to share an insightful conversation we recently had with our good friend Virginia Dawson, a Level 3 Essentrics teacher and founder of Sustainable Wellness Now.
Virginia’s clients lengthen and strengthen their muscles, release tension, and promote joint mobility and stability, leaving them feeling rebalanced, restored, and refreshed. What does this have to do with real estate? Everything! I can’t count how many clients have had to move out of their beloved homes over the years because they could no longer climb stairs or bend on their knees to garden. When our bodies aren’t healthy, we can’t get the most out of our homes. And when we’re in pain or struggling with a health crisis, we can’t make wise financial decisions. Building WEALTH is about so much more than money!
We wanted to learn from Virginia the foundation for healthy movement. So many of us go through our day in pain, and we assume it’s simply aging, and we have to accept it. Virginia sheds a lot of light on what may be happening in our bodies – and what we can do to make the most of our well-being and, therefore, our homes!
Yetta: Virginia, let’s get straight to it. What is the foundation required for us to do what we want physically? These might be things we haven’t been doing or stopped doing and want to do again. What foundation must we consider to get to the root of healthy movement? Ken admits he doesn’t even know the answer!
Ken: No. I don’t know.
Virginia: Ken, I bet you do know it. I actually believe everybody knows what the answer is. And that is our feet. Our foundation is our feet, right? It’s at the bottom of our bodies. The basis of our feet is the three points of each foot that put pressure on the ground. This is our real foundation physically: the padding under the big toe, the padding under the baby toe, and the heel. All three points of our foundation, of the soles of our feet, must be on the ground for full balance and control. We can relate this to homes. And that foundation is… What’s the foundation of a home?
Ken: Your footings.
Virginia: The footings. Ahhh!
Yetta: (Laughs) And you didn’t know that? Or you didn’t make that connection?
Virginia: I didn’t make that connection at all.
Yetta: It’s actually the footings.
Virginia: Yes, quite incredible. And so if we’re not on those three points of our feet, we’re either inverting or everting. If you think about a stool with three legs, if you sit on that stool with three legs, you’re solid.
Yetta: Yeah. Well, as long as you don’t do like my grandchildren do and whip around with my stools. They get the stool on its side with one leg in the air. But that is what you’re saying! When all three points are on the ground, we become stable.
Virginia: That is that point.The three points, actually.
Yetta: And as soon as one of them gets lifted, we’re not stable?
Virginia: Correct. And so that begins at the feet, that foundation. And so, how do you know if you’re standing on the three points?
Ken: I’m not sure. I assume if we aren’t falling over?
Virginia: Actually, we can walk on two points or even one point without noticing it. But after a while, we’ll feel pain in our knees, hips, shoulders, or spine. This is a sign you’re likely not standing on the three points of your feet. Think of it like the footings of the home. If they’re off at all, if there’s a crack, and they’re not repaired, what happens to the home, eventually?
Yetta: Well, if a footing has shifted, we are in trouble! The windows are going to crack. The brick is going to crack. When we go to a home to help our client decide whether this is the one, we’re constantly looking at the corners and where there’s brick to see if there is any cracking. Because it’s not a concern about the brick; it’s a concern about what’s happening way below the ground, in the foot of the house.
Virginia: A simple way to know is by looking at your shoes. It could be worn more at the heel or on the side. Or by the big toe. One side may be worn more than the other. I just took out my slippers because it is getting cooler. I check every now and then with my shoes to see where I am with my foundation. Even though I know, sometimes my body forgets. And then I have to make the conscious effort again to focus on walking on all three points. And it can feel uncomfortable and unnatural for a few weeks because I’m retraining my body.
Ken: Wow, so not walking on all three points prevents people from doing things?
Virginia: Yeah, absolutely. I think we all know people; I sure know people, especially seniors who have a fall. And that fall can be the beginning of the end for them. When this happens, people stop moving. And so they’re sitting, and now they’re going to atrophy. And now I’m going to be even more off-balance. It’s a vicious cycle.
Ken: Is this the same thing that happens when Yetta falls up the stairs? Not down the stairs; I actually mean up. It’s like she’s walking up the stairs and then suddenly falls flat on her face.
Yetta: Yeah. There was a time where I used to fall up the stairs more than I’d like to admit.
Ken: Actually, you fell down them too.
Yetta: I know, I did that too.
Ken: Most of the time, that was like you skidded on your nylons or something. But I believe it’s because you needed to have your three points on the stairs.
Yetta: Well, that was the one thought, and Virginia had a slightly different thought.
Ken: Oh, yeah?
Virginia: Yes, so…
Ken: Do tell.
Virginia: Yeah, well, Yetta has that brain is going. And sometimes, for some people, our brain can be going much faster than what our body is able to carry. And so our brain is up there, and our feet are still down at the bottom of the stairs, trying to catch up and unable to.
Yetta: Right. So slow it down, I think, is what you’re saying.
Virginia: What’s above our feet? The rest of our body, or our posture. If you work at a computer, are you hunched over all day? If you think about it, what happens?
Ken: Your shoulders are all crunched forward.
Virginia: Imagine how it’s squishing all your organs. As soon as I pull and open up my chest, I feel such a difference, like my organs can breathe. My spine is not being taxed, my hips, my shoulders. It’s all connected. We have to ask ourselves, though, do we even know what proper posture is? If you try to sit in proper posture right now, have you stuck your chest out? Did you pull up your shoulders? Did you push your head back? How do we know if our posture is correct?
Yetta: I have no idea! I assume I should feel better, except that when I go straight, I feel more uncomfortable.
Virginia: It can be uncomfortable initially, for sure, and that’s why it’s so hard to know. When our posture is correct, our body becomes aligned, and we’re fully balanced. So the muscles are all working together without so much strain. That’s the way our bodies function best.
If we go back to the foundation, we know it’s three points touching the floor with our feet. Moving up, we need to contract our glutes, or butt muscles. Those are our independence muscles.
Ken: What do you mean by that?
Yetta: I know this one. You say they’re independent muscles because they give us the independence to do the things we want to do. Right?
Yetta: It’s a great question for people to ask: “What do I want to do that I love doing?” or “What have I never done but I want to do?” Like, is it jumping on a trampoline? That was a big thrill for me on the weekend. When they came for their last visit, I told the grandkids that I would jump on the trampoline with them. I don’t think I’ve done that before. And it was a big deal. But there was a time when I couldn’t have done that.
Virginia: Yes, absolutely. So I have a client whose dream is to get back into a kayak. Actually, his dream is to get out of the kayak.
Yetta: Ah! He can get in okay.
Virginia: But he can’t get out. And so he wants to go kayaking with his wife because that brings them joy. Maybe it’s getting in and out of a car, right?
Yetta: Like a low car?
Virginia: Like a low car.
Ken: It takes a lot of effort to get out of my car gracefully!
Yetta: Yeah! He even falls to the ground and then crawls across to a bench and gets up! But that’s not really what you want to be doing.
Virginia: Oh, no. A lot of my clients, their goals is to be able to get on the floor. Now, why would you want to do that?
Ken: To play with grandchildren.
Virginia: Yes! And also to bend over and pick something up that they’ve dropped. Their keys or whatever it is. And so your posture, your glutes specifically, are going to help you. You have to contract them, though, and likely you need to practice it because that skill is actually something you can lose. I’ve had clients say, “Am I squeezing them? Like, I actually can’t feel if I’m squeezing my butt!” So, it might require taking time to train your butt muscles.
Next up, we’re moving upward, and we reach the lower abdominals. Typically, when we contract our glutes, our lower abdominals will engage. Then, you have to think about pulling up through the spine, and when you do that, your hips naturally come forward. I’m constantly telling my clients, “Pull up. Pull up.” And you feel that difference. It’s like lifting a rumpled pearl necklace. The necklace unbends pearl by pearl, like pulling your back up vertebra by vertebra.
Yetta: And then you lift your shoulders?
Virginia: That’s what most people think, but that’s a common misconception. You want to think of it like pulling your shoulder blades back and opening your chest.
Yetta: Do you mean pulling your two shoulder blades together?
Virginia: Not necessarily. It’s more back and down, like tucking them into a pocket. Another huge part of what we do in my classes is visualization. So think about pulling up like that pearl necklace coming up, right?
Yetta: Without the shoulders coming up?
Virginia: Without the shoulders coming up. If we do, it stretches our spine out of place. And then where’s my head? Is it sitting on my spine correctly? Or is it forward? And a lot of people get that dowager’s hump at the back of their neck, which causes a lot of pain and fatigue because we’re on our computers.
Yetta: Right, or we hunch right over on our cell phones.
Ken: I am looking down and forward too often, so my muscles get used to doing that. I actually find sitting in my car helps. If I’m driving, I can tell whether my head is too far forward, if it’s not close or touching the headrest. Because otherwise, when your head is forward, it’s a lot of weight. People get strained, and then that can affect the shoulders, and they get headaches and that kind of thing.
Ken: It’s similar to a house, come to think of it. I remember, we looked at a house once, and the beams of the basement were crooked. They were on an angle. And the inspector said the beams lost all their structural integrity. Once they’re no longer perfectly vertical, they have no strength because they slowly just get pushed down. And I assume it’s probably similar at the bottom if you aren’t vertical. If you’re angled forward, back, or sideways, everything must be thrown off.
Virginia: And a beautiful thing about our bodies is we can retrain it. And the other beautiful thing is that when we’ve hurt ourselves and are off balance, our other body parts step in to help. This is good for a while. And a lot of people actually feel okay or don’t notice for a time. Or the pain slowly develops. That’s when we think, “I’m getting old. This is just what happens.” Yes, we’re aging, and there are things that we can do to get back into shape because our miracle body can retrain itself. I mean, we’ve all seen people who were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s running marathons. Or, you know, doing gymnastics or lifting weights. Many of us can relearn to do those things if we don’t assume we have to be that way and take the time to work at it.
Yetta: We have taken some of your classes, and at the beginning, when we started doing it, I found it painful. Because I wasn’t holding my posture right, so even though it’s simple, it’s not necessarily easy to get back on track.
Virginia: Yes. And feeling sore isn’t a requirement. If you think back to Yetta’s fast brain going fast, right? Many of us are used to large, fast movements because we are just fast people. We actually need to slow down the movements. When we move fast, we use those big muscles, and they begin to take over. What happens then is that all of those supporting muscles, there are layers of muscles, the supporting muscles now can’t do their job. So they’re not going to work. When muscles don’t work, they begin to atrophy. That’s actually going to create pain as well. That was the biggest challenge I had as an instructor: to slow it down. Just go to that first point of discomfort; don’t push on until you feel pain. We don’t want pain. That’s our body telling us we went too far.
The miracle of our body is that it’s telling us what to do through pain. And when we’re busy, we try to ignore it. We assume, “Oh, this is just normal. I’m aging. This is what’s supposed to happen.” That limits us from finding out what’s really going on.
Yetta: Or sometimes I’ll say, “Well, it’s because I did such and such. And I shouldn’t have done such and such.” But is that actually really true? Should I be able to do the thing I did without the pain? So often I excuse the pain when I haven’t actually gone beyond what should be my limit. But I’ve done something I’m not doing day to day, and so I get sore.
Virginia: Right. So there’s a lot in there. So if there’s a snowfall and I haven’t shoveled in 10 months, and I shovel in my incorrect posture, not on the three points that my feet and not using the correct muscles so it’s not balanced, I’m going to be in pain. And if I have a balanced body know which muscles to use, I’m likely not going to be in pain. I might be stiff…
Yetta: Right, there’ll be a little discomfort.
Virginia: Absolutely. Because there are muscles I haven’t used in years, months, or even days. Again, rebalancing can take place. It can happen in an hour, 30 minutes, and sometimes even in 5 minutes.
Ken: We hear a lot about people getting knee and hip replacements. Is some of that because we’re out of alignment? If we’re off balance, can we wear things out prematurely?
Virginia: I am not a doctor…
Virginia: And as a fitness professional, yes. I would say yes, we’re not. We need to learn to keep ourselves in balance.
Yetta: Right. So, how do we know whether or not we’re balancing properly? Because it’s not just something obvious like tripping up the stairs.
Virginia: Correct, so in class, I’ll assess my clients. I’ll start by asking them to stand on two feet. We go over how that feels. Then, I’ll have them move their feet in different ways. And then go on to one foot. First one, then the other. And typically, there’s one side that’s a little more wobbly than the other. Then, the big test is to stand on one foot and close your eyes. And then switch. Can you do that for 10 seconds?
Yetta: I don’t know!
Virginia: So I had a client this week. I had assessed him about two months ago, and we did a reassessment with him standing on one foot at a time with his eyes closed. At first, he couldn’t even hold his balance for one second. This week, he did it for seven seconds. This was after eight weeks of training together.
Yetta: So why does having your eyes closed matter?
Virginia: That’s the brain-body connection.
Ken: So when your eyes are open, your brain helps balance you. And when your eyes are closed, it’s up to your body to try to figure it out. And if you have trouble, it means your normal position isn’t balanced.
Yetta: And it’s always a journey, right? It is always a journey moving toward the thing you want to do. And it’s not that hard, is it Virginia?
Virginia: It is not. It’s simple; it’s not easy. We all know what to do. It’s taking time from our schedules to practice.
Yetta: Take the time, and decide, and then do. Thanks, Virginia!
If you are interested in learning more about Virginia’s work, reach out at email@example.com. If you’d like to know more about our mind-body connection and how we can make decisions to move us toward a 5 STAR life, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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