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Is your stress preventing you from moving well?

Headaches, stiff necks, achy low backs and whiny knees that cry out loud after a hike are common in my office.

People come to see me after months and years of not being able to return to their favorite activities – training hard at the gym, running or competitive golfing. For some reason, exercise hurts, and the activities they can do seem to be less and less.

When new clients fill out their assessment forms, there are specific questions about their perceived levels of stress and quality of sleep.

How your mind and body experience stress will often determine your ability to move forward with your movement program. Stiffness, tension patterns, holding your breath when you move, often have to do more with how you deal with the challenges of past and present life circumstances and events, than whether you did your stretches in the morning.

Trying to learn new movements and integrate an exercise program on top of stress levels that are not being addressed often leads to frustration and giving up on the very programs that will help you return to full function.

In the past two years, I have been training with the Somatic Experiencing Institute and learning how to integrate strategies for nervous system regulation, which help reduce stress levels and promote resiliency and self-awareness. This has become key in how I develop individual programs for my clients.

Next Friday, I am teaching a small group workshop which will introduce the mains skills and tools you need to start with your own program of stress reduction and nervous system balancing. It’s a playful and fun format, with many practical aspects.

I only have a few spots left, so RSVP today!



“Ships are safe in the harbor…

…but that’s not what ships are built for.”

I woke up to this quote posted by my mentor and friend Katy on the Aligned and Well Facebook page.

Timely, since I was just coming back from a barefoot walk-run and had spent the last minutes of my return home thinking about a new client from this morning. She had expressed how the new positions and ranges of motion we were exploring through some of the standing correctives in her workout felt very challenging and unnatural.

“I just don’t get it. It feels so different than what I am used to!”

I get it. But when was the last time you changed or reached a novel outcome by doing what you’ve always done? Wasn’t that the definition of insanity – doing what you’ve always done, yet expecting a different result.

Your relationship with your body is shaped by a variety of factors, but one of the forces that has a powerful pull is what you believe time with your body should look like. Your preconceived notion of what a corrective program or exercise should resemble has you prepared for an experience when you walk through my door. You’ve seen videos, attended classes, received personal instruction, sometimes from tens of specialists before you set foot on my floor.

You expect to “work”, “stand up straight”, “strengthen” and “stretch”. There is a comfort to knowing what we will do together and a certain degree of wanting to feel challenged but only within what you expect the challenge to feel like – whether it’s burning muscles, feeling pleasantly tired or learning a new exercise.

When I present you with a challenge outside the zone of what you thought “it” would feel or look like, it feels so novel and unnatural, that you may find yourself rebelling against the sensation, the movement, the position, or even my presence as a teacher. Irritation, discomfort, frustration, regret, doubt and even profound anger can be found living under the tissues exposed by new positions and movements.

As a teacher, I am always honored to meet those sensations and emotions of discomfort at your doorstep and support you as they come through and open new possibilities. When working with pain and dysfunction, we often find that our safe harbor is not safe at all, and we need to steer the ship out into open waters, even if they feel choppy at first.

In my own body, I am often a witness of novelty, experienced as weirdness and discomfort, as I venture to recover forgotten ways to move and be with myself. That only assures me that I am leaving the harbor, and isn’t that what we are made for?


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Are bunions genetic? A video from our favorite doc!

Roland and I are working on our new book. In this new half a bible sized health book, there are several chapters on feet, transitioning to healthier shoes and helping your body deal with the effects of modern sedentary life.

Over and over, we address the fact that bunions are not genetic.

A bunion – also known as hallux valgus. This deformity appears as we lose the strength in our foot and the whole limb collapses onto the inside of the ball of the foot with every step you take. Think of it this way, instead of moving back behind you in one straight clean line, the leg rolls in and the mechanical forces of gait slam that poor bone into the ground, where the body eventually ends up building extra tissue to protect the foot and the abnormal joint. Often, a bunion begins with shoes that sport a toe box that’s too tight, a front that is lifted too high or a positive heel, then later continue to be formed and deformed by the forces of gait.

Women often come to me, complaining of bunions. When I ask them about their shoes, they tell me it’s not their shoes, but genetic. “My mom and grandma had bunions, too.”

One lady went so far to say she is from Croatia and all Croatians have calluses and bunions.

Sure, you might have a genetic predisposition to have bunions, but it’s not like going bald, getting grey, or having blue eyes. You have a bunion because your shoes are forcing your feet into a position that creates a bunion, making you walk in a way that creates a bunion and exercise in a way that creates a bunion. If you had the chance to move without the restriction of shoes, experience nature and an appropriate amount of movement, you’d probably never have a bunion. Perhaps your choice of shoes or your gym routine is genetic, too?

With a risk to piss some people off and give others hope, here is a video from our favorite food doc:

Set your feet free – join my newsletter  to get regular updates on workshops coming up!

Ready to read something new AND set your feet free? My teacher and mentor Katy Bowman just released a new book on transitioning to minimal footwear and letting your feet function like Mother Nature intended!


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Are you on your feet all day and what can you do about it?

Saturday was foot day.

At 7 a.m. we joined our lovely friend and Restorative Exercise ™ colleague for a foot health class – she was presenting to a group of nurses during a yearly conference. The room was filled with lovely dedicated women, who spend their days lifting patients, helping them do self-care, distributing medications, or running around sleek hospital hallways.

As I looked down at the flat feet, the bunions, the hammertoes, the tired knees, the chronically tight low backs and asymmetrical shoulders, I couldn’t help but admire these women’s dedication and heart for others and also wonder how can we best help them be well, so they can assist others in their healing while staying in the best shape they can.

photo 1-88

In about an hour Samantha presented some basic foot and lower body care exercises: a calf stretch, a top of the foot stretch, a double hamstring and calf stretch and some basic rules on standing, foot position and weight distribution. Just an hour of us walking around the crowd, adjusting bodies, helping with alignment and awareness of positioning opened a whole new world to the nurses. They couldn’t believe how simple yet powerful these small stretches were.

Just today, I received an email from one of them that read:

” Thank you so much for your valuable help with the “Ouch” movement presentation. It was wonderful. So, by the end of the day, my back was better. Today, I did all that you taught and my hammies are much looser ,pain much better. 🙂 I actually can cough without a muscle spasm.  Fairly miraculous!!! Right now, I am trying my best to keep my upper back and neck in alignment. You all are angels.”

RES family

The angels mentioned above

If you too have a standing job where you need to wear shoes, you may find that your feet, hips, and back have been trying to communicate to you, through fatigue, pain, discomfort, swelling, pulling and restricting, that maybe you need to move in that area a bit more. When you have a physical job that leaves you drained at the end of the day, you may want to crash on the couch just to feel your brain drain. For some people, it may take daily jogging or pushing themselves at the gym, just to clear their heads. Unfortunately, neither very hard physical exercise, not complete inactivity can restore health through blood flow and muscle relaxation to the areas that need your tender love and attention.

Enter a few exercises that you can do throughout your day to improve your overall physical condition, starting from the feet, ankles and lower legs. Your body can only be as good as your base, and once the shoe falls off your foot you can really start to feel how much room for improvement there is.

Do these throughout your day, not as one big bout of effort and let me know how you feel!

toe handshake

toe handshake

As you can see from the picture, you can even do this one as a passenger in a car – it also makes the person behind the wheel jealous 🙂 Any time – during a break, take your shoe off, and place one foot over the opposite side knee. Use your opposite hand (left foot – right hand and vise versa) to interlace the fingers between the toes and to create a gentle stretch between the toes – this allows the muscles that get squished by shoes and bearing your weight forward all day long to get a chance to stretch and breathe, and ultimately, to give your brain a better idea of your position in space and what muscles need to work to move you forward or keep you in place efficiently without causing dysfunction, and unnatural wear and tear. Hold for 30-60 seconds and do on both feet anytime you can.

calf stretch

calf stretch

To perform a calf stretch, fold up a towel in a roll and place on the ground. Place the right foot at the left end of the towel and walk your other foot forward until you feel a stretch in your right calf. Keep the foot straight and make sure that your upper body is not twisting. Hold for 60 seconds several times throughout the day. I’ve seen this stretch miraculously relieve low back pain, neck stiffness, and restore balance with walking. Frequency is key, so do it as often as you can.

top of the foot stretch

top of the foot stretch

This one, very much like the calf stretch, opens the neglected joints at the front of the ankle – because of footwear and lack of natural movement, we often end up with stiffness that affects our gait, squatting and freedom with running or jumping. It’s really easy to set up for it and you need no props. Just place your feet straight at hip width. Take one leg behind you and curl the toes under so that the front of the ankle opens. Keep the heel behind the ankle – often with stiffness and lack of muscle yield you will see the heel try to roll away or toward the center of the body. Hold for 30 seconds, repeat throughout the day. Find it too hard? Sit in a chair and try it that way – your body weight will be less on the stretching ankle, making it possible to do.

hamstring and calf stretch

hamstring and calf stretch

Place your feet at hip width on the two ends of the rolled up towel. That means that the outside of your foot will be parallel. Straighten your knees. Start to slowly bend forward at the hips, making sure your low back stays neutral. Only go as far as you can move your tailbone up without flexing your low back. Stay in this position for about a minute, making sure you can breathe and keep the legs straight. Allow the hamstrings and the calves to relax. For a version of this exercise using a chair you can read my chair blog post, here.

In addition to practicing these simple movements, you can also start to think of the surfaces you walk on – at work, just like these nurses, most of us meet just flat and sleek ground – we are not only casted by the shoes, but we are also prisoners of the flat surfaces that don’t let the 33 joints in our feet move, “breathe” and work like nature intended. When you are planning your relaxation time, build in some trails, beach time, or just walking on grass or gravel with shoes that are flexible enough to allow the bones and joints of the foot to move. Isn’t it crazy that in our off time we are in a flat gym, on a flat treadmill, or elliptical trainer, never allowing the feet to get a full range of stimulation.

Have questions about how to take better care of your feet and align your whole body – shoot me an email at and I would love to get back to you and help you with books, resources and advice! Until then, move well and see you around – hopefully on some grass, rock and gravel!


p.s. Wondering why our whole day was a foot day? After we left the presentation we walked the famers market, two grocery stores, taught a 5 hour cooking class, all on our feet and then did tons of organizing and clean up when we got home. Today, I’ve been stretching and rolling my feet since I woke up and I already feel much better – but oh my – being on your feet all day is definitely a feet (get it?) of strength 🙂

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2015 is here, try these three new practices…

I hope you had a lovely time during the Holidays!

I am entering this new year with gratitude toward everything in 2014, but also with hope and faith for a 2015 where I can see what was planted in 2014 take deeper roots and grow to be visible and strong!

There are new habits and activities my family started in 2014 and below is an invitation for you to join us on this journey – whether as friends and clients in real life or as in-a-land-far-away online followers.


Whether literally, as in choosing a steeper more challenging route for your weekend walk, like we did this Saturday, or figuratively, as in choosing a career move or change in creative direction – go for the steep. Yes, your legs may burn on the way up, there may be sharp learning curves, but the view is fantastic.

In 2014 I completed my beginning year of Somatic Experiencing ® training. It by far exceeds anything steep that I have had to learn and experience. My insights, new skills and abilities are already shining bright in my own life and the life of my clients. I am enjoying the path, and the view from the top. Is there an even steeper route ahead? You bet.

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We often live life in the high places of desks, chairs, couches. But getting down to the floor, to play with a toddler, pick up a toy, do some natural movements like squatting or crawling, or garden, can reawaken all of our joints. We have an infinite number of possibilities to move, maneuver, duck, roll, crouch, clamber, climb. Sadly, only a small portion of our day is dedicated to any sort of natural human movement. I give you 1 point to touch the ground with one knee and 2 for two knees every day this year, at least once a day. Are you in?



You don’t have to be talented. Doodling and making crooked clay cups still counts. Touching cookie dough as you make it into pretty shapes counts. Use your hands to create something – like Picasso said: “Painting is one way of keeping a journal” (or something to that effect). Being creative with no criticism and agenda helps the body relax, the mind to clear and the spirit to get invigorated. So much of the chronic tension and pain I deal with in my daily work stem from creative blocks and frustrations, or the inability to integrate turbulent life experiences through the mind and body. Being creative will free your body for movement and new experiences, so we can all move into a healthier 2015.

10519007_905199729490073_6302072463060268063_oAre you in?

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Walking advent calendar with Katy Bowman


                                   Will you walk for a prize?

My teacher, mentor, friend and super inspiration, Katy, is brilliant. If you are my student you probably hear me say Katy is brilliant at least twice each workout. Or you ask me: “What does Katy think?” at least twice each workout. Because, well, she is able to make the ordinary, extraordinary.

Take Christmas and walking – two things that normally have nothing in common, until Katy comes in the picture. Enter the walking advent calendar, where for a month, Katy posts a new walking habit to work on every day!

On day 6, she posted about head position while walking. Check it out over here! Do you HEAD out on a walk, or is your head aligned over your shoulders when you walk?

Tomorrow, December 9, I am partnering with Katy to bring you Advent Calendar inspiration and prizes.

I will be giving away 6 webinars and a Skype session on my Facebook page, after you enter a fun contest and do something about day 9 of the walking advent calendar.

Please head over to the page and like it, so you can take part tomorrow, and don’t forger to check it out early morning!

move well:


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Stress relief workshop coming up


This is my favorite time of year – a time to look back, learn from the past year, take what we like with us, and leave what no longer serves us behind. It’s also my favorite time to spend extra hours learning from my body, connecting with my senses and relieving the accumulated stress.

For some of my clients the holidays bring up a lot of triggers – shopping, traveling, family, errands, expectations can all pile up to create experiences that make us dread the business of the season. It’s easy to reconnect with the body and experience the blessings of the season if we have the right skill and frame of mind.

So, on December 19, we will meet for a 2 hour stress relief workshop. The workshop will cover basic self regulation techniques, which will help you feel more relaxed, present, open to communicate and experience joy.

We will do it in nature, as nature is such a powerful teacher and is always there to support us in our explorations.

The workshop will be fun, educational and very practical.

Please call me at 949 429 9800 or email me at to reserve a spot.

Cost: $45 if paid before December 12, $60 at the event

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy the blessings of the day!