5 Movements For Big Change with Aaron Alexander
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Hi, everyone. Today, I speak with Aaron Alexander, who has just released a new book. Actually, it’s number one in its category in Amazon right now, so it gives you an idea of how impactful the book is. The name of the book is The Align Method. As I’ll share with you and we’ll discuss in the podcast, Aaron really embodies healthy living from a multitude of perspectives, but mainly centered around how to move your body in a way to keep it healthy, and also how that connects with having a healthy psyche.
That may sound a little bit vague, and perhaps even airy-fairy. But I would highly encourage you to listen to the episode because one thing Aaron does a great job of is providing simple things that you can do, framed in a quite attractive manner that can improve hip mobility, shoulder mobility, and just keep your body more fluid, and also how that ties in with having a more fluid, flexible, present, and happy psyche.
So, a great conversation with Aaron, who is a guy who is very much walking the walk of the principles he embodies in his new book. If you’ve been enjoying the show, please take a moment, head over to iTunes, leave us a quick review. That really does help the podcast reach, and hopefully, positively influence more people. So, for a quick moment, if you could do that, if you haven’t done so already, I would really appreciate it.
And now, on to the conversation with Aaron Alexander.
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DrMR: Hey, everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Dr. Ruscio Radio. This is Dr. Ruscio. I am here with my good friend, Aaron Alexander, who has just released a new book, The Align Method. I want to start off by just vouching for Aaron. We spent some time together, and I’ve got to give it to you, Aaron, you do have a unique, and unique in a good way, air about you. You really do seem to be calm, happy, centered, relaxed.
I want to lead with that to help people answer the question, “Well, who is this person?” perhaps they’ve never heard of. “Should I listen to them?” I think, yes, because clearly you have figured out some of the keys to happiness and “centered-ness” in your life. It’s pretty evident. And your book, I would expect, would be a great narrative on how one can cultivate more of that in their life.
Aaron Alexander: Yup.
DrMR: So, yeah. Welcome to the show.
AA: I feel the exact same way about you, man. That’s something I’ve said to many people is, and we were just talking about this before, something with you that I’ve said to multiple people is you maintain your “dudeness.” I don’t know if you love me calling you a dude on the podcast, but I’m like —
DrMR: That’s fine.
AA: — “He’s like a bro, like a dude. He’s my guy first, and he also is this brilliant doctor, and helps people around the world, and wears a lab coat, and all that stuff.” But the foundation of you is, you’re just who you are. You’re exactly who you are. And I think that’s something —
DrMR: Thank you.
AA: — that is very tiring, to maintain this facade or mask of who I think I’m supposed to be. The sooner that you can get to the point of just self-acceptance and like, “This is what it is,” from there, you can get rid of a lot of the friction that you would’ve had in your life. So, I appreciate you too, man.
Self-acceptance and Fun in the Workplace
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- You are more joyful when you are letting the parts of you shine through that are the most “you” (even the silly parts)
- More engaging conversations happen in more engaging environments like walking outside for meetings, maybe even with shoes off
- Try 25 minutes of concentrated work, and then have a five-minute break
- Create a playful work environment, give people autonomy and creative freedom
DrMR: Well, thank you. And I think that’s a great thing for us maybe to dig into, because that is something that I’m assuming you really speak to in your book, something that I would estimate some people have a better ability to do than others. And I have definitely noticed as I’ve gotten older, there’s facets of your personality that you’d like to let out, but for probably predominantly societal reasons, we bridle that. Right? I want to be a little fun, and goofy, and playful, engage with someone, but that’s outside of the normal bounds of social context, so I don’t do it.
So, I bridle that part of me that could really bring brightness and joy into someone else’s life, because I don’t think it fits within the normal social context. And the more I’ve been able to put myself out there and run the risk of me doing some kind of action that was outside of the box and someone rejecting it . . . You have to be willing, I guess, to run the risk of them looking at you and being like, “Huh? What? Weirdo.” But, usually, I found that people also, as you determined, want more play in their life. And if you extend them an opportunity to engage in that play, most people gladly accept it.
AA: Yeah, yeah. I mean, essentially, what you’re describing is, how do we maintain some degree of a flow state, which is a popular term that gets thrown around a lot in the last five years or something. And so much of our lives is so stuck in this overdrive, get stuff done, please others, I’ll be liked if, I’ll be loved if, I’ll be accepted if. And all of that literally separates you from yourself and separates you from the moment.
Any time that you’ve ever actually been in a place of flow with other people, maybe you’re dancing, maybe you’re doing stand-up comedy, maybe you’re doing a podcast, or anything, you’re not observing yourself do that thing. You’re just completely —
DrMR: In the moment.
AA: Yeah, yeah. You are absorbed by the experience. And so, I think that it’s very valuable for people to have some component of, you could call it play, in your daily existence where you just have almost, it might start off as a practice of not taking yourself so dang seriously. So, team me is like, I do a lot of different corporate wellness things for different companies, Nike and Adidas, and all these companies where it’s like, these people that are at the top of their game.
And then you go in, and it’s like, “Oh my god. These people just really . . .” Once you get underneath that first layer, you get like the thin end of the wedge in, and crack a smile in the room, and get people doing something kind of goofy, you get people massaging each other’s shoulders, or jumping up and down, or whatever, I was like, “Oh my god. We’re all a bunch of kids.” Like, underneath all these suits and ties, and ones and zeros, we’re still just a bunch of kids.
So, I think the sooner that you could start to access that in your daily life, I think the sooner you relieve a lot of unnecessary friction that you thought was a necessary part of life, but, in fact . . . I mean, I think that people, when they’re on their deathbed, and sometimes I’ll weird out and watch YouTube videos about people’s final days, and regrets, and things like that. And that’s a big thing, is being afraid to say that thing because you were concerned about what people would think, or being afraid to pursue your goals because, again, you were concerned about other people’s thoughts.
So, making that be a daily practice, I think. And I think play is such a great avenue to start that. And you can even see the impact that social play has on the function of the nervous system.
So, making that a daily practice, I think. Play is such a great avenue to start that. And you can even see the impact that social play has on the function of the nervous system. If you’re in more of a place of like a sympathetic state, or even going to the point of like, immobilized state, which is the latter end of fight, flight, or freeze, having that social engagement and that social connection and play is the fastest way to shoot you back up to a place of equipoise on that autonomic ladder.
DrMR: That’s a great point.
AA: So, it’s a really big deal. More often than not, we’re waiting for some panacea pill, or panacea person in a lab coat, or whatever it may be. And not to disparage any of that stuff. I think they’re tools. But we have lots of other tools as well, and we have access to them literally right now. Like, people listening to this, wherever you are, you are just in an aquarium of all these various tools that you could be accessing. And they’re just floating around. You’ve just got to reach out and grab them.
DrMR: And I think the parallel to kids, you literally took that idea right out of my mind because when I play with my niece and my nephew, that’s when I feel most in that state. And I would argue that the better you’re able to toggle over into that state, the more you can connect with kids. And that’s been one of the great things about hanging out with kids, is that you see the world through that playful state.
I think I’ve shared in the past on the podcast, perhaps, that a walk around the block with my niece and nephew can become an adventure. And you could argue that it also, for adults, ties to, “How do I perform better, or feel better from doing this?” you already talked on the parasympathetic shift that directly feeds into one feeling better.
But then, also, the creativity that you have to utilize to get into that play state where maybe you present a character to the convoy, “We’re outside now, and there could be a wolf in the woods,” and you pretend to hear it, and you run. So, you kind of create this fictional world around you by using your imagination, which that imagination and creativity can feed into complex problem-solving in a professional setting. So, even if we want to tie this back to, “Well, here’s my bottom line. What can I get out of it?” play, ironically, can actually help you be a much more effective professional.
AA: Yup. And it also changes the way that you express your genes. There’s the Human Genome Project. The belief was that it was going to be, “Okay, cool. There’s like over 100,000-odd proteins that get synthesized in the body, so we’re going to have a gene for each one of those. And then we’ll have another gene to conduct the function of those. We’re going to have all these genes.” It’s like, “Oh, crap. There’s only like 24,000, 25,000.” There’s a very small fraction of what we thought we were anticipating.
And the reality of that is, that’s because your genes aren’t just these static things, that you get dished these genes and, “Okay, here you are.” It’s dependent upon the way that you play yourself. And so, as you go through the world, you’re making the choice to maybe, “Okay, I’m going to do this meeting,” that we’re going to go up into the fifth floor of some building and get a coffee, and sit underneath artificial lights in an air-conditioned room, and sit in that same position that I was put in ever since I was put into a stroller, and then a car seat, and then high school, and then college, and then office life. It’s like, holy crap.
Instead, what we could do is, without completely abolishing the modern mold, I mean, there’s nothing wrong with anything, but you can work within that more intelligently to be able to access your expression of your genes.
Something you could do is, “Let’s go for a walk outside. And maybe we’ll even get crazy and we’ll go to a park. Maybe we’ll even take our shoes off. It’s really sunny. I haven’t exposed my skin to the sun for a while. This is going to be wild, but I think I’ll take my shirt off. I’m going to open up my solar panels and actually really start to synthesize some of this vitamin D —”
DrMR: And for some people, that’s almost shunned. I mean, there are —
AA: Oh, yeah.
DrMR: —some times where I’ll be with friends, and you take your shirt off. And, yeah, where you are making a difference. I wouldn’t do this in Union Square in San Francisco or something. But it is funny how much conditioning would be antithetical to that. So, yeah, you’re dead on.
AA: Yeah, yeah. So, you have all these opportunities all the time. And the other thing is, in relation to taking the walk, you getting up off of your butt after doing work, any kind of concentrated work, that’s helpful with consolidating those new memories and all those thoughts that you’ve been working over. Giving yourself maybe a Pomodoro technique is a nice way to go. So, have 25 minutes of concentrated work, and then have a five-minute break. Because your brain was tapping out anyway.
DrMR: There’s an imbalance, I would say.
AA: Yeah, yeah. And there are lots of balances too. It’s the whole spectrum. But our belief, in large part, is that more is more.
From a work perspective, I think having a playful workplace, and giving people autonomy, and giving people creative freedom, really making people feel like they’re somebody, they have a role in this place, I think all that psychology of getting a team to work effectively is really valuable.
And a big part of that is in adding some simple little variables into the system like, “Okay. Let’s do walking meetings. Let’s open the windows all the way up so we get that full spectrum of light coming in. And now, we’re getting the phytoncides and all the chemicals coming off of the plants. We’re breathing them in. It’s an immune boost.”
And you see that patients in hospitals that have access to a window will end up having less necessity for pain medications, and then they end up being released from hospitals sooner. It was some type of, I don’t remember, they’ve done it with multiple things, some types of surgery. It was gallbladder or something like that. You could look it up. But you see that —
DrMR: Is that in your book?
AA: That is in the book, yeah. That’s one of the things in the book. But there’s been lots of different data points around that. But, yeah, I mean, we come from nature. A lot of the biggest ideas, like fireworks, were the original — that’s the root of dynamite. So, in China, people blowing off fireworks and just playing, having a good time like, “Wow! Look at all the lights and colors! This is crazy!” It’s like, “You know, we could conquer the world with this stuff.”
So, if you allow people that expansiveness to allow their minds to wander a little bit, then all of a sudden, you stumble into really meaningful ideas. And then the big thing where The Align Method book comes in is, realizing that your physical movement is an expression of your mind.
So, there’s a study that we cited in there of people doing more fluid movements with their hands when they were writing on a board, that people do linear movements drawing boxes, squares, triangles, stuff like that, versus doing more fluid, exploratory movements.
And what they found was, when someone just goes through exploratory, fluid movements, they do better on creativity tests. So, you turn on that creative part of yourself by moving yourself in a more exploratory way. And then when people are sitting still in more of like a cubicle type style, they will actually do better with more convergent thinking. So, divergent is outside of the box. Convergent is inside of the box. So, when you just sit in place, there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just, that’s putting you more into a place of like, “I’ll do better on a Scantron test in that situation.” Whereas if I —
DrMR: The old Scantron.
AA: Yeah. But if I’m an entrepreneur, or I’m trying to come up with some creative, novel idea that doesn’t even exist, it would be wise for me to maybe take a dance class.
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User’s Manual on Physical Inhabitants
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- When your body is not aligned, it clamps down all of those metaphoric pipes, your nervous system, your lymphatic system, and your cardiovascular system
- When you move through life with your spine stacked, you see benefit in so many other areas
DrMR: Right. So, your book, to try to describe it briefly to people, I’ll toss out one idea, but please feel free to refine this. It seems like a big part of the philosophy is how to move your body to be healthier, but also how that translates to, I guess moving your spirit or keeping your spirit fluid to also be happier and healthier. Can you use that as a springboard to tell us about the book?
AA: Yeah. So, what the book is, is it’s a user’s manual on physical inhabitance. So, the way that you exist in your body, you’re always doing fitness. Like, your body doesn’t say “Oh, okay, cool. Mike’s in the gym now. Okay, Mike’s in a yoga class now. Oh, now, Mike’s in the office, so I’m not going to pay attention to my physical structure while I’m here.” Your body’s just like, “Cool. I’m always under construction.” So, you have the fibroblasts, and fibroclasts, and osteoclasts, and all the clasts and blasts that are continually building your system and tearing down the old parts.
So, for the most part, we weren’t offered any education on how to drive our physical bodies in daily life. So, what the book offers to people is how could we make it so that literally your whole entire day while you’re in the office, while you’re traveling, while you’re at your home, all of those are filled with these opportunities in order to cultivate your wellness, and cultivate your gene expression, and cultivate the structure of your body.
And then where that gets into perhaps the spirit word type place would be the way that you stand. And your body reflects the way that you feel. So, when you walk into a room, if you walk and your shoulders are stable, and back, and got a long, neutral spine, and your head’s on top of your shoulders, and your body just looks stacked, and strong, and confident, and flexible, and all that stuff, people are like, “Whoa. Wow, he’s got this light around him or her.”
And it’s like, “Yeah, you’re right.” When you align all those pipes inside of your system, all of a sudden, that circulation can flow, and your body begins to heal. And you don’t have all these little micro frictions at every joint, and every complex throughout your system that’s just this bottleneck. It’s opened up. So, it’s the difference between walking beside a dammed-up river and an open, flowing river.
When your body is stuck, and you got the forward head posture, and the crunched, rotated shoulders, and the shoulder impingement, and the hyperkyphotic spine, and the valgus knees, and the blah, blah, blah, that collapse throughout the system, what that does is it clamps down all of those metaphoric pipes, your nervous system, your lymphatic system, and your cardiovascular system. All those systems, they need to flow for you to be a healthy, robust organism.
And this gets into osteopathic medicine, or that perspective. If we put the body in its balanced position, it begins to heal itself. That’s Ida Rolf. She said, “Put the joint where it belongs, and then call for movement.” So, just put that joint where it ought to be in a balanced, neutral, centered, whatever word you want it to be, the centered place, and then just live from that position. And the body will start to reorient because it’s seeking balance.
But for the most part, the modern world, the mold that we exist in continually collapses that body. And that’s sitting in chairs all day — there’s nothing wrong with chairs.
It’s the way that we sit in a chair: a sedentary lifestyle, lack of movement, all that stuff, a screen-staring epidemic. So, your eyeballs, literally, you’re doing eye yoga all day long. Except the only position that we do is staring up at our cell phones.
So, that’s one range of motion that you’re doing with your eyes. You’re contracting those ciliary muscles. You’re bending that lens in order to refract that light. When you’re looking at something closer, it’s literally a contraction of your eye muscles. You send that contraction of your eye muscles through the rest of the system, what that says is, “Okay, cool. Mike is focusing. Mike is under some degree of stress. Not bad stress, per se, yet, but some degree of stress. Let’s get shit done.”
DrMR: And picture an animal hunting. They’re going to get that really focused look on their face.
DrMR: And their whole body is going to reflect that posture.
AA: Exactly. And that’s a beautiful thing for a few moments. It’s beautiful. There’s nothing wrong. Sympathetic, parasympathetic, it’s all great. The only issue comes when you’re only stuck in either. If you were only stuck in parasympathetic and you never had a fight-flight, like chase down the antelope or whatever moment, that’d be a boring life. So, every time you take a breath in, you’re activating more of that sympathetic side. As you breathe out, you’re activating more of that other side of the nervous system. So, it’s just this pendulum back and forth.
The issue comes when you don’t have any purgative, releasing components to your day-to-day life, and so you don’t have that long exhalation. You don’t have that panoramic vision where you’re just looking out into the distance just, “Wow,” taking it all in. It’s like, “What are you doing?” “Nothing. Just taking it in.” In our culture, it’s like, “What are you doing?” Like, “Oh, crap. What am I doing? Okay, um, this is what I’m doing.”
DrMR: Yeah. “I can’t relax. I can’t slow down.”
AA: Right. Yeah. You almost feel guilty if your schedule isn’t packed from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. You’re like, “Oh, man. I’m a loser. I have time on my hands. That means people don’t love me.” Whatever your story is. That’s more my story, I think. Like, I’m inadequate or something if I’m not packed to the gills. And just stepping back from that is valuable.
DrMR: And this is what’s nice about what you speak to in the book. It’s really tying this all together into a philosophy, not only of just the movement, but how that movement affects you physiologically and psychologically, and really giving people, I guess to term it simply, here’s a set of ideals, or here’s just a great lifestyle to look at in contrast to the way you’re living to inspire you to make these little changes that can make a big difference.
And one in particular that you inspired me with was sitting on the floor. And it sounds so simple. And I think you call it floor culture on your Instagram. And that was very helpful for me, because now when I do some of my email sessions, I’ll oscillate between lying on the ground, and that kind of puts me in a really extended lumbar and thoracic position, which feels good.
And then I’ll do that 90/90. It’s actually a stretch that people purposefully do. I’ll sit 90/90 one way, and 90/90 the other way, Indian style. And it just really has helped to open up my hip mobility. And it was just a simple . . . Yeah, I never even thought about it as fully from that framework of, let’s just spend some time every day on the floor. And it was just a simple thing.
AA: Yeah. I mean, we think that we need to reinvent how to be human. We don’t. We’ve done this for a really long time. And one of those things is like that autotuning mechanism like you’re tuning your guitar. You just put it on the top, and you fling the thing. You’re like, “Oh, yeah. Right. Go back to this. Okay. Tighten a little, loosen a little bit.” Like, when you go down to the ground like that, you’re naturally tuning your hips. You’re naturally tuning your knees, your ankles. It’s more effective for circulation.
So, when you are digesting food, you don’t really want a bunch of blood all pooled up in your lower compartments of your body. Ideally, we can bring that blood back to the belly, back to the viscera, to be able to assimilate all that nutrition that we’re putting down in there.
So, if your legs are just dangling, hanging underneath you, and you have these heavy blood bags underneath the table all day long, that’s going to be less effective for breaking down in your body.
So, they’re just like, “Oh, I need more supplements.” It’s like, “Well, have you thought about bringing blood back to where it needs to be in your body?” It’s like, “Oh, man. I need more turmeric. I need to get more,” whatever. “Make it three. My joints are jacked up. I’m inflamed!” It’s like, “Well, have you looked at the positioning of your joints for 90% of the day?”
And then you go and do a SoulCycle exercise, or CrossFit, or whatever it may be, and your joints are misaligned going into that while somebody works out for 45 minutes a day, four days a week. There’re so many people looking at that. I’m like, “We’ve sorted that out. What I care about is what we’re doing for the other 16 hours of the day.” If we could start to observe that and just bring a little bit more awareness into our lives, it gets more into that consciousness stuff.
There’s some research we put in the book as well of people just paying attention to the experience of washing their dishes. So, you’re standing in front of your sink, and your one group of people, they’re noticing the bubbles, and the light coming in through the window, and the warmth in their hands, and the weight in their feet. It’s not a big deal. What they find with those people is they end up reporting dramatically less stress in that moment. And they also find that they end up doing better with creativity tests.
You only have so much bandwidth that you could be expending in a moment. So, if you’re spending your time doing that chronesthesia, future time travel, or thinking about what I should have done, which, the “-’ve” subjunctive form of language doesn’t even exist in some other cultures. Vietnamese is one in particular. So, we’re in this cultural bind, this word bind, in a way. “Oh, what would I have been?” and I’m like, “Where are you right now?”
If you bring your awareness into where you are right now, then you’re going to be aligning those bricks in such a way that if you have that masterful craftsmanship of — each brick that you’re laying being this moment right now — then the next brick that you lay, the next brick, the next brick, you have this really stacked up, robust wall that you’ve created.
But every moment that you’re laying those bricks and your mind’s drifting back to the way that you should’ve laid that brick six days ago, you’re messing up your present brick. So, when you are in that moment of washing your dishes, it’s like, “Wow. This is a beautiful opportunity to start tapping into those genes, to go and start tapping into that autonomic nervous system and start bringing yourself into a more distressed, more creative place.”
And then the last thing I’ll say in relation to all this stuff is, there was more research that we put in the book of people actually, with the chronesthesia thing, which is a fancy word for doing time travel inside your mind, when people were thinking into the future, projecting their self into the future, what they would find was their bodies would tilt forward ever so slightly. When they would dread the past, or just go backward, their bodies would kind of fall a little bit.
So, as we’re thinking our ways through the day, we’re literally programming our structural bodies. And as we’re going through and starting to pay attention to the way that we inhabit our bodies, it’s two ends of the same rope, we’re going through and starting to tune our thoughts.
So, if you bring yourself . . . That’s why you’re doing so many dang Tadasana mountain poses in yoga, standing — who cares about standing? And I’m just like, “Well if you stand right, you think right. And if you think right, you breathe right. And if you breathe right, you move right.”
DrMR: It’s all connected. Yeah.
AA: It’s all connected. Yeah.
DrMR: And that’s what I love about your philosophy is, again, coming back to the example from a moment ago, just changing how I thought about how I’m sitting is seemingly such a simple thing. But that was definitely very helpful for me. And I know you talk a lot about trying to take time each day to observe a sunset, which seems like, “Eh, a sunset. Whatever. I’ll do it next time I’m on vacation.”
AA: Yeah. Right.
DrMR: But every time I take a little time to watch a sunset, I always go, “I need to do this more. There’s almost never a time when I do that.” So, yeah, there’s a lot of great little things in there that have been quite helpful for me, just simple, little things. And like you said, not necessarily reinventing the wheel, because we’ve been living as humans for a while, but just giving people a really good narrative to, I guess, describe a way or a number of improvements that somebody could make to get that extra bit of flow in their day-to-day life.
And, yeah, I’m really excited about the book being out there because I know you’ve been working on it for a while. And I think it’s going to be a nice companion to people who are trying to really enhance their lifestyle. Do you have any other things from the book you want to touch on really quickly as we move towards a close?
5 Movement Principles
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- Posture and Personality – physical movement affects the way that you think and feel, and even access memories
- For better hip mobility – spend some time on the ground each day
- This reduces fall risk
- Cultures that spend time on the ground routinely have very low instances of osteoarthritis in the knees, minimal to no instance of osteoarthritis in the hips, and pelvic floor dysfunction is diminished
- For better shoulder mobility – Spend 90 seconds hanging each day
- Can be 15 seconds broken into six times, or however you want to do it
- If your shoulders are back in a strong, stable position, that affects the way people perceive you and how you perceive yourself
- Smile with your eyes
AA: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, it’s broken down into five movement principles. And there’s much more to it than that. Essentially, what goes into it is, the first part is called “Posture and Personality,” and gets into what we’re talking about now, of how your physical movement affects the way that you think and feel, and even access memories. Which, we didn’t talk about here, but it’s in there. And then it gets into these five movement principles, which are all really simple.
And it’s everything that you need to be a happy, whole, robust human organism. It’s pretty darn close to free, if not inexpensive, and it’s pretty dang simple.
DrMR: That’s great.
AA: If you’re going through all these convoluted labyrinths to figure this — like, dude, you’re just spinning your wheels. Most of the things, they’re there. And so, one of the things in there that would be really valuable is, we already mentioned the value of spending some time on the ground each day, which is no big deal.
Cultures that spend time on the ground, such as Northern Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, they’re specific places that have been examined with that, and I’ve spent time in all those places as well, which is fun, so I got to notice what people are doing there, and they have very low instance of osteoarthritis in the knees, minimal to no instance of osteoarthritis in the hips, pelvic floor dysfunction is diminished.
Fall risk, like elderly needing to go into assisted living, losing their physical autonomy because they’ve fallen and they can’t get up, that’s a Western chair thing. If you spend your life going up and down on the ground to eat, to the toilet, to sleep, there’s not one day that it just goes away, that’s a part of who you are.
And so, if we could start to integrate those things into something that’s like, “That’s just who I am, and this is not a big deal. Yeah, I can squat while I’m waiting in line for something.” Like, that’s not a big deal.
Another thing, if you want to get into like evolutionary stuff, which would be contentious, where we came from, who knows? But perhaps our ancestors were these arboreal creatures. I think it was like six to 13 million years ago, was the idea of when we were pushed from the trees into the Savanna because of drought, or, who knows. Who knows?
But nonetheless, our shoulders, I was commenting on your clavicles, the distance of those clavicles, your shoulder from your neck, allows you to brachiate, a fancy word for hang, more effectively than monkeys, for example. So, the “monkey bar” is a misnomer. It should be an ape bar or human bar. So, the ability for you to reach up to your right hand and grab your left ear, that’s something that monkeys can’t do. That’s something that humans, we have this capacity to —
AA: — reach up into trees, reach up into the monkey bars, or the mountains, or what have you, and be able to pull ourselves up through that position. So, that position is a part of your ancestry. Or it’s a part of your present. It doesn’t matter.
And so, when you go through that range of motion, just simply hanging, what I would challenge people to do is, this week, hang for a total of 90 seconds each day. So, that could be 15 seconds broken into six times, or however you want to do it. Get a pull-up bar, throw it in between a doorway that you walk through with regularity. And every time you go through there, do a little swing. For bonus points, you could smile while you do it.
DrMR: Beautiful. And so easy.
AA: Yeah. Literally, just you smiling, especially smiling with your eyes, it’s called the Duchenne smile, so it’s smizing, when you smile with the eyes, that’s an indication that you’re actually truly smiling, as opposed to like a creepy, diabolical, I secretly want to, whatever, smile.
So, you’ve got to do that Duchenne smile. Smile with your eyes. Open up those facial muscles and give yourself a little cheap, easy, simple, free hang.
And I have a whole chapter in my book that essentially breaks down this whole book called Shoulder Pain by a guy called Dr. John Kirsch. He’s an orthopedic surgeon. They found that patients that were coming in for surgery for shoulder impingement and pain if you just gave them this basic hanging protocol with a few basic exercises, which I break down in The Align Method book, it reduced their pain to zero. And he said it was 99% of patients, which I find to be very high. But that was what was written in the book. I’m like, “Holy crap.”
But I’ll just say, a very high percentage of the cases who came in with shoulder impingement and pain just starting to do that thing that your ancestors have been doing forever, of getting those arms up overhead, literally starts to restructure the shape of the shoulder girdle. And then what that ends up translating into, to harp back to the spiritual consciousness stuff that you referenced in the beginning if your shoulders are back in a strong, stable position, that affects the way people perceive you.
It also affects the way you perceive yourself. So, now, every time you look in the window or the mirror, you’re like, “Wow.” Your shoulders are back, “I look confident. If I look confident, I feel confident. And now, I move in the world with this air of confidence. And now, all of a sudden, my life starts happening for me, as opposed to me moving through the world with this defensive posture, and I wonder why I push people away.”
It’s like, well, maybe you push people away because your body language, which is 55% of our communication, so says a UCLA professor back from the ‘60s. The 55-38-7 principle is a rule that he came up with and that 55% of our communication comes from body language, 38 is the tone of our voice, and then seven is the actual words that we’re saying. So, if there’s incongruence between the words that I speak and the way that I speak it, you are going to trust the way that I speak it 93% of the time. I would say it’s much higher than that if we’re actually talking.
DrMR: Interesting. Yeah.
AA: So, if you’re a businessperson, or you want to have a girlfriend, or a boyfriend, or whatever —
DrMR: Or a clinician who’s trying to persuade a patient of a given recommendation.
AA: Absolutely. You’re a shaman, man. As a clinician, you are a shaman. You are doing magical medicine. So, when someone comes in if you’re confident and strong, and your tone feels like it’s this smooth, powerful —
AA: — healthy, you’re like, “Okay. Whatever you say, doctor,” versus if you’re in another place where the doctor’s shoulders are rolled forward, and maybe they smell like cigarettes or something, or they smell like McDonald’s or whatever, and maybe their voice is kind of crackly, or maybe it’s high, or maybe they’re talking really fast like they’re nervous, it’s like, you immediately don’t trust that person.
AA: And so, the implications of starting to pay attention to your physical experience, it goes into every square centimeter of your life. There’s no part of your life that it will not spill into. And so, the sooner that we could start to pay attention to this physical experience, I think the sooner that we can start to gain control of the rest of the systems.
DrMR: No, no, no. You’re fine.
AA: All that matters is that you, like, you have this house, and there are all these doors, and you just need to walk into any door. You could walk into the church door, or the spiritual door, wearing beads and burning incense door, or the deadlifting, powerlifting, sprinting door, or the community and relationship, or the business, whatever it is. I think we just need to get interested. You get interested, and you just walk, open up a door and go in, what you will find is they all connect.
And so, I am presenting people this very obvious physical doorway to enter themselves. And what you will find, if you do open that door and walk down the hall, and explore and really be curious about it, you’ll notice that will spill into your relationships, and notice that will spill into your business. You’ll notice that will spill into your own sense of identity.
How the Gut and Staying Present Help
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- In the same way that body alignment trickles down into many other benefits, so does keeping the gut “aligned” or healthy, many systems in the body benefit from a healthy gut
- Staying present with the people you spend time with can foster better relationships
- Put devices away when you spend time with people
DrMR: And it makes complete sense when we consider it through the framing of, if we can rectify an imbalance that’s a fundamental of healthy existence, we have the chance to see multiple avenues of dividends be paid by that. And gut health is one example. We’ve harped, obviously, on the podcast about how gut health can impact your joints, your energy, your mental clarity, your skin, obviously your gut symptoms.
And here, we have another fundamental pillar that would be, I guess, your physical existence and how you take care of your structure. And if we nail that, that could have a multitude of positive effects, from respiration to confidence, to how you think. And there’s a saying I’ve shared on the podcast before, which is, the closer you come to the truth, the more commonalities you find.
And I think that’s kind of what you were describing. There’re all these branches, but they emanate from this common core, and the core is going to be a set of principles that are embodied in what needs to be done to make sure someone functions as healthy as possible.
And gut health is one of those branches that sums down to the core, and physical health and movement is another. And you speak to it so eloquently, Aaron.
Hopefully, for the audience, it’s obvious that you truly live this. And we were talking about this before we started the recording. This isn’t a facade you put on. This is you. You live this, and that’s why it’s so obvious, and why I opened the interview with, you are such a shining example of the fruits of that philosophy, because you can see how happy, and healthy, and confident, and centered you are.
So, I’ve got to commend you. You’ve done a really great job living this. And now, through the experience, I think you have an even deeper ability to help impart that wisdom on others and make it easier for them to get started.
AA: I appreciate that, man. But I would add that I, by no means, am pedestalized in some glorious —
DrMR: Well, we’re all a work in progress.
AA: — unicorn, happy, whatever. I have all sorts of self-doubts, and inadequacies, and confusion of what’s the point of any of this stuff in the first place. Like, I reflect on that every day. But I think the important thing is that there are certain anchor points that we can cultivate. An anchor is a neuro-linguistic programming term or is a metaphoric term, NLP. But if you can anchor yourself in certain, maybe a movement thing, maybe paying attention to the way that you wash your dishes, maybe taking a walk each day after lunch, before lunch, or what have you. Any of those things, really cherish those moments, I think is very valuable.
Like, one of my things that you’ve noticed on social media is, I’m a big fan of watching the sunset. So, I typically just don’t schedule anything around that time. So, as winter comes, or summer comes, around that window, it’s very rare that I’m going to have a meeting unless it’s at the beach watching the sunset. I live at the beach.
That’s something that every day we could come back and have that anchor point to pull us back to, it’s kind of a triggering word, but presence. That’s really what it all comes back to.
The more present you can be in this human experience, from there, everything starts to open up. If you’re in a relationship with somebody and you don’t have a depth of practice with being present, and you’re distracted, that’s the worst thing to be around. It’s the most degrading thing, to be around somebody that’s like, “I’m giving you my time. It’s the most valuable thing that I have, and you’re on your fucking cell phone?” Like, no, no, no. Either let’s be here or let’s not.
And so, the way that you be here is through maintaining those anchors, because you will get pulled away. I love doing these podcasts because it’s one of the most centering things I can do. Sometimes, I can get pulled away from this and that distraction, and then I come in and have a conversation with you, and I’m like, “Here we are.” There’s no looking at my cell phone during this time.
And so, having those moments for an hour, for five minutes, for any amount, it could be a breath, you have your anchor. I come back and I just inhale and exhales. “Okay. Where were we? What’s next?” If you have that with regularity, you have a robust practice of presence, and that will spill into every other part. I think that’s the biggest gift that you can give to somebody, is truly being present with somebody. And if you’re around somebody that’s never been around another person, it’s like, “Wow. You’re, like, really with me. You really care.” It could be almost startling.”
DrMR: It’s a very nice feeling. And I’m sure people here are thinking about different people in their lives who are on either end of that spectrum, and how great it feels when someone is present with you, and how, I guess, disrespectful it feels when someone’s not. Even though it’s probably not intentional, it definitely, I guess on the receiving end, feels that way.
AA: Well, it’s their practice. Their practice is, “Oh, I get on my phone every five minutes.”
DrMR: Yup. A learned habit.
AA: It’s just a learned habit, man. And so, you have those neuronal pathways, it’s like a ski mountain. So, as you go down that mountain, at first, there’s a nice, fresh, powder layer of snow. And then people start going down, and then moguls develop, and then it’s like, “Well, I don’t have any option other than just going down through these moguls.” And so, I think it can be some heavy lifting to start to smooth out those moguls and get a fresh layer of snow.
And I think that you can do a big dump. And that could be maybe going to the Hoffman Institute or doing some 10-day Vipassana, or going to Peru doing Ayahuasca, or whatever your thing is. Or, it could be, “Okay. Maybe I’m just going to let it snow a bit every day, and I’m going to pay attention to where I’m skiing,” and that will start to build up. However you get there, it doesn’t matter. Just freaking get there.
DrMR: Sure. And, again, another reason why I think the book is going to be a helpful resource for people because you help people see this lifestyle of these simple things. Like, the hanging. I actually have a pull-up bar in my closet. And I’m going to just pop it up, and I’m going to start doing that every day because that’s just another simple thing. I can hang a few times a day, in addition to sitting a few times a day, and just those little things.
As soon as you said that, it fully connected for me where I actually, ironically, feel like my hip mobility now is better than my shoulder mobility. Well, what have I been doing? I’ve been sitting on the floor, but I haven’t been hanging. And you’re totally dead on with that evolutionary bit. The brachiation is arguably part of our history, and so we need to move in that motion, just like we evolved doing things on the floor before we had the luxury of tables, and chairs, and everything else. And so, just like our gut health, we need exposure to bacteria for it to function properly, even dirt and germs, we need the exposure to sitting on the floor and hanging.
So, yeah, I’m excited to see what kind of positive impact the book, now that it’s out, imparts on the world. Tell us again the title, and then where people can grab it, and anything else you want to mention, your website, your podcast.
AA: Yeah, thanks. So, the book is called The Align Method. And it’s been a #1 Best Seller on Amazon since it’s come out, which is exciting.
AA: It’s fluctuated through different categories, but that’s been a cool thing. So, people have been enjoying it so far. And the podcast, everything is called Align Podcast. If you’re looking for me, Align Podcast would be the place on Instagram, or the podcast itself. And I’m excited to explore with you. I want to go deeper into this conversation of how posture and our microbiome are associated, and how personality, and thoughts, and feelings, and all that stuff. So, we’ll save that for that conversation. But, yeah, Align Podcast is the place. And I look forward to having that conversation with you over there. But the book is called The Align Method. Align Podcast is where everything is at.
Dr. Michael Ruscio: Okay. And you also have a follow-up to the book that’s more of a, I don’t know if I want to term it a hands-on program. But tell us about that.
Dr. Aaron Alexander: Yeah. So, we created a digital addendum, essentially, to the book. So, for people that want to have a video instructional on the practices that we break down in the book, we created The Align Method online program. And so, for folks that grab that through the link that you include in the show notes, we’ll offer a 15% discount for people that jump on there. There’s also a seven-day free trial, so there’s no strings attached.
DrMR: Awesome. Awesome.
DrAA: And then if they are into that, there’s the Align Band, and then there’s other things that come with it. You can click the link, and you could see all the stuff on there. But people have been really loving that for . . . I think it’s a really powerful combination to have the physical book, and then also be going through, we break it down into a six-week program. The results that we’re getting from people with that is pretty unbelievable.
DrAA: So, yeah, I’m happy to offer that to you guys as well.
DrMR: Cool. And I love the seven-day free trial. It’s really nice to give people a chance to have a look and make sure it resonates with them. And mitigates risk, so that’s great.
DrAA: Yup. Cool, man. Thanks so much. I appreciate you mentioning that.
DrMR: Of course.
DrMR: Sweet. I’m looking forward to it also, because from what I’ve seen, you have this cool ritual. I believe it’s a cold plunge, pre-podcast, and then you do some of the podcasting in a sauna. Is that kind of the rhythm?
AA: Yeah, that is correct. Yeah. We might move the podcast to a . . . So, that’s at my home in Santa Monica. We might move it to a studio space where I’ll have to bring a cold plunge and a sauna over there, which would be a different thing. But, yeah, presently, we do some breath stuff, and then we do a cold plunge, and then we record in the sauna, which is very fun.
DrMR: That’s awesome. Yeah, I’m looking forward to coming on the show probably at the end of March.
AA: Cool. Fun, man.
DrMR: Well, Aaron, thank you. Thanks for being a friend. Thanks for inspiring me to make all these changes in my life, and for all the great work you’re doing in the world, and for just sharing some of that with us today.
AA: Likewise, man. Thank you so much.
DrMR: You got it.
AA: Appreciate it.