Aaron Alexander is an accomplished manual therapist and movement coach with over 13 years of professional experience. He is the founder of the Align Movement, an integrated approach to functional movement and self-care that has helped thousands of people out of pain and into health. He also hosts the top-rated Align Podcast featuring the biggest names in movement and wellness.
What I discuss with Aaron in this episode:
Why we shouldn't so easily dismiss our own instincts when technology disagrees with how we feel.
The dangers of doing Kegel (or really any) exercises in the wrong position and how we can ensure we're properly poised to reap their rewards.
The numerous benefits of human contact once it's unwrapped from the societal hangups that equate it with sex.
Common complaints of people in search of body work and potentially physiological origins of anxiety.
The biological consequences of carrying feelings of guilt, hate, and anger.
And much more!
On this episode of the show, Align Podcast host Aaron Alexander and I talk about everything from the mingling worlds of technology, health, and wellness to movement—particularly why so many people are having knee and lower back problems (including me)—to digestive health to touching and why so many of us are starving for oxytocin.
There's a Nap for That
Kicking off our conversation, Aaron wins the hearts of naturists worldwide when he says fewer clothes correlate to greater health and that he personally tends to feel better when he spends more time (and with more skin) exposed to the sun. Meanwhile, I'm told by certain members of my audience that I need to assemble a less revealing wardrobe if I want to be taken more seriously. So it goes.
While Aaron admits that hormone levels and other labile biomarkers associated with "better" might not be quantifiable without further technical scrutiny, there are drawbacks to relying too much on technology for feedback about what our instincts are already trying to tell us.
"I think having those time slices and having some sort of structure and awareness and being able to check back at what you're doing through periods of change is important," says Aaron. "I think it's also really important to be able to just introspect and look in and be flexing that muscle—and really looking into how do you actually feel as opposed to always looking at your ring on your finger or your necklace or whatever to determine if you feel okay."
We look to apps to tell us how we'll we've slept when maybe we should be looking toward naps if we're feeling drowsier than usual. An app could be spitting out virtual miles of incorrect data if it's in need of an update or some other unknown variable enters the picture. The worst thing a nap is liable to do is make you miss a few hours of questionable daytime television.
Where the Sun Don't (Usually) Shine
Naturists will be further encouraged by Tao of Sexology author Dr. Stephen Thomas Chang's advice to regularly expose the perineum to the sun, but Aaron has some practical advice for those of us who want to maintain this more delicate part of the anatomy without the risk of scorching.
"You can be strengthening and balancing that space—that pelvic floor—just with the way that we're sitting," says Aaron. "Oftentimes we end up being folded over in hunched over positions that end up putting our pelvic floors in a state of compensation, and those muscles are crucially important. It's the foundation of our visceral system—the foundation of our organs."
Being able to contract and engage these muscles keeps our organs functioning properly, allows us to use the restroom on our own timetable, and gives us greater control over sexual function. Enlightened men and women may already be familiar with the benefits of Kegel exercises in strengthening the pelvic floor, but Aaron stresses the importance of proper posture when engaging in them.
"Kegel exercises can actually be deleterious for you if you're in a compromised position," Aaron says.
For instance, if you're on your morning commute and hunched over the steering wheel of your car, or sitting at your computer reading these podcast show notes, doing Kegel exercises can actually strengthen this dysfunctional position. Aaron recommends yoga postures—like sukhasana (easy) or padmasana (full lotus)—as great ways to ensure we're properly aligned before engaging in these exercises.
"Just sitting down, people can pull their butt cheeks back and get yourself on the front edge of your sit bones—the ischial tuberosities—and then from there you'll feel your lower back and your whole spine starts to be able to stack on top of your pelvis," Aaron says. "From that position, now you're safe to do any kind of Kegel."
Similarly, deep squats help increase range of motion and pressure regulation.
The Stigma Behind Human Contact
The health benefits of regular human contact are numerous, but often swept under the rug by societal hangups tying such contact to sex. Being hugged and supported or using massage to work the pain out of trouble areas shouldn't automatically signify lascivious intent.
"When people end up having pain in a certain part of their body, they literally create disassociation around that part," says Aaron. "So they have trouble being able to visualize that place. They won't be able to draw a picture of the place in their body that they have pain because they create a separation. So that disassociation—that's a lot like what we do with emotional trauma…'That was super painful; I don't think I have the tools to address that. Let's just chop it out.' But you didn't chop it out. It's still there. You're just carrying it as baggage. And it slowly accrues—accumulates...until at some point, you pop."
Listen to this full episode to learn more about how Aaron feels about solar-powered testosterone generation, the permanent damage Aaron suffered by bodybuilding to cope with trauma as a teenager, becoming aware of patterns we've each exhibited, what it's like to bond in a desert sweat lodge, the importance of challenging our own narratives, the most common complaints of people seeking body work, the potentially physiological origins of anxiety a lot of us experience, hot yoga versus meditation, the baggage we carry when we can't forgive, how labels only serve to separate and disconnect us, religion as spiritual scaffolding, the silent epidemic of modern lower back pain, ways we can overcome gluteal amnesia and other dysfunctional positions we acquire over time, and lots more.
Resources from this episode:
Align Podcast 161: Max Lugavere II: Genius Foods, Power Language, Nutritional Psychiatry (My appearance on Aaron's podcast)
How do you say labile?
The Tao of Sexology: The Book of Infinite Wisdom by Stephen Thomas Chang
Kegel Exercises: Benefits, Goals, and Cautions, Healthline
How to Do the Yoga Full Lotus Posture (Padmasana) Correctly by Doug Swenson and David Swenson, Power Yoga for Dummies
Massage: Get in Touch with Its Many Benefits, Mayo Clinic
After Sweat Lodge Deaths, Fewer Tourists with Spiritual Needs by Marc Lacey, The New Yorker
Plantar Fasciitis Symptoms and Causes, Mayo Clinic
The Brain-Gut Connection, Johns Hopkins Medicine
Why Do People Even Like Hot Yoga? by Amy Marturana, Self
One Love by Bob Marley
When to Worry about Low Back Pain—and When Not To! What's Bark and What's Bite? by Paul Ingraham, PainScience.com
Ancient Ruins of Tiwanacu and PumaPunku, World Mysteries Blog
Get Stronger By Greasing the Groove by Brett McKay, The Art of Manliness
What is Gluteal Amnesia? by Cathe Friedrich
Your Body Language May Shape Who You Are by Amy Cuddy, TED Talk
5 Blue Zones Where People Live the Longest, Healthiest Lives by Jamie Ducharme, Time
Physics of Poo: Why It Takes You and an Elephant the Same Amount of Time by David Hu and Patricia Yang, The Conversation
Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life by Max Lugavere and Paul Grewal M.D.
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