Strategies for Physical Mobility & Emotional Flexibility

Connecting the musculoskeletal with the psychospiritual with Aaron Alexander.

Today on the podcast, Aaron Alexander and I go deep into the connections between physical mobility and emotional flexibility. Aaron’s approach to health combines the musculoskeletal with the psychospiritual, and he shares a number of insights into how everything is connected within our bodies and minds. This episode is also packed with simple strategies for improving mobility, function, and overall health.

In This Episode

Intro … 00:00:45
Hip Mobility and Range of Motion … 00:04:06
Movement and the Abdomen … 00:13:31
Benefits of Shoulder Hanging … 00:21:30
Belly Breathing vs. Rib Expansion … 00:24:28
The Question of Balance … 00:32:37
The Psycho-Spiritual Connection … 00:45:11
The Growth Mindset … 00:52:50
Dealing with Past Trauma … 00:55:57
The Mature vs. Immature … 00:59:51
The Align Method … 01:02:03
A Life Well Lived … 01:07:17
Non-Exercise Activity … 01:19:01
The Role of Body Language … 01:23:47
Episode Wrap-Up … 01:35:29

Strategies for Physical Mobility & Emotional Flexibility - Podcast302b AaronAlexander

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Hey everyone. Today I have on the podcast again, Aaron Alexander from Align. And one of the things I really appreciate about Aaron is how he integrates simple practices into your daily living that can help with mobility, pain, and function. One pearl of which I was re-reminded of the importance of, and actually spurred me while on the podcast to quickly go into Amazon and buy a pull-up bar, was this one clinician Aaron cites, a shoulder surgeon who found a near reduction of the need for any of his patients to get surgery by simply having them hang from a pull-up bar on most days. So that is something that I kind of forgot about, but I was thinking about how important breathing is and how hanging may help decompress the rib cage, and also how it helps move the shoulder through this range of motion it’s supposed to go through. Thinking about our evolutionary history in that we evolve from break brachiating hominids, it makes a lot of sense.

So that’s one simple, cheap thing that may really help prolong the life and longevity of your shoulder girdle. So we got into that, obviously, a number of things for hip mobility, and we got deep into some things that both he and I have personally struggled with and some of our personal reflections and ruminations. There are one or two profanities in this episode, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to find all of them on the back end and bleep them out. In case they slip through, I will apologize. Also, this was a new audio setup. We were actually able to podcast from the floor with headsets. But in case my audio is a little off, that would be why. Again, hoping that in post we’ll be able to have all that sorted out, but nonetheless, a few great pearls here in this conversation with Aaron Alexander.

➕ Full Podcast Transcript

Intro:

Welcome to Dr. Ruscio radio, providing practical and science-based solutions to feeling your best. To stay up to date on the latest topics as well as all of our prior episodes, make sure to subscribe in your podcast player. For weekly updates visit DrRuscio.com. The following discussion is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease. Please do not apply any of this information without first speaking with your doctor. Now let’s head to the show.

DrMichaelRuscio:

Hey everyone. Today I have on the podcast again, Aaron Alexander from Align. And one of the things I really appreciate about Aaron is how he integrates simple practices into your daily living that can help with mobility, pain, and function. One pearl of which I was re-reminded of the importance of, and actually spurred me while on the podcast to quickly go into Amazon and buy a pull-up bar, was this one clinician Aaron cites, a shoulder surgeon who found a near reduction of the need for any of his patients to get surgery by simply having them hang from a pull-up bar on most days. So that is something that I kind of forgot about, but I was thinking about how important breathing is and how hanging may help decompress the rib cage, and also how it helps move the shoulder through this range of motion it’s supposed to go through. Thinking about our evolutionary history in that we evolve from break brachiating hominids, it makes a lot of sense.

DrMR:

So that’s one simple, cheap thing that may really help prolong the life and longevity of your shoulder girdle. So we got into that, obviously, a number of things for hip mobility, and we got deep into some things that both he and I have personally struggled with and some of our personal reflections and ruminations. There are one or two profanities in this episode, I’m hoping that we’ll be able to find all of them on the back end and bleep them out. In case they slip through, I will apologize. Also, this was a new audio setup. We were actually able to podcast from the floor with headsets. But in case my audio is a little off, that would be why. Again, hoping that in post we’ll be able to have all that sorted out, but nonetheless, a few great pearls here in this conversation with Aaron Alexander.

AaronAlexander:

We’ve got water, fluids in fluids out, well-hydrated, hips being mobilized, subtle mild fascia release manifesting from pressing our hips up against the ground here. It’s all happening.

DrMR:

That handsome voice is the voice of Aaron Alexander. We are sitting on my floor podcasting, and we’re going to talk today about who knows what, but probably I’m assuming mobility, but also how to find happiness within yourself. We were talking about this earlier, and I think it’d be a useful exercise for you to share some of your tips on being happy with yourself, said really plainly. You seem to do this really well, and I think for people who are struggling with their health, worried about their diet, or worried about their gut health, they can sometimes be really critical of themselves, comparing themselves to others. So I’ll drop that as maybe something we come to in a moment, but let’s start with why we’re on the floor, because this is some low-hanging fruit. So low, it’s on the ground.

AA:

Yeah, I love puns. Big fan.

Hip Mobility and Range of Motion

DrMR:

So, I’ve talked about on the podcast in the past, how sitting on the floor, namely emailing from the floor, helped with my hip mobility, at least perceptively I felt like it helped with my hip mobility. You’re a big advocate of this. You may have even invented this, wink wink.

AA:

Yeah, I don’t think people ever got down below 90 degrees before I manifested this reality.

DrMR:

So tell us a little bit about why we are sitting on the floor right now.

AA:

I mean it’s more comfortable, once you get used to it, as a big thing. Chairs are great, there’s nothing wrong with a chair. The issue comes when it becomes a chronic pattern, and it’s just that repetition over and over again. If you look at any young child, or maybe a primate or any healthy animal in nature, you’ll see them go through varied ranges of emotions throughout the day. Also not even just the varied range of emotions, like up, down, hip hinges, squatting, dorsiflexion, plantarflexion, full knee flexion extension, all that. That’s kind of a no brainer. Think expansion and contraction of your lungs or your heart. What would happen if you’re only getting a partial expansion of the lungs? Which is a thing if you have some type of impingement or adhesions around the ribs or you’re not getting that full expression of the thorax, the diaphragm, that’s going to affect the vital capacity of your ability to breathe, your respiration.

AA:

Obviously that’s going to spill into the way that you function in the world. It’s going to spill into the way that you think, the way that you feel, that way that you express yourself. It will show up in relationship, maybe you’re irritable and it’s like, “Oh, well, what’s your breathing pattern?”

DrMR:

How dare you insinuate that.

AA:

So it’s all wrapped up, man. Before we were talking about these various different leaves of the tree that we call the IBS or it’s the acne or it’s the irritability or it’s the sleep thing or it’s this. But I think the trunk of being a healthy organism, it’s just all this abundance of low-hanging fruit that comes back to really basic patterns, that for the most part, a lot of Western cultures have outsourced out to technology. So you could say the technology of a chair is like it’s easier, because now you don’t have to expend your own calories in order to get all the way down into full deep squat, or gather some water from the side of a river, or wash your clothes down on the ground, or just hang out, chill, play with a doll, play with the kid, you just stay up there.

DrMR:

We used to live on the ground. We’re hunter-gatherers. If you watch hunter-gatherer societies from what I’ve seen.

AA:

Everyone’s squats great. You won’t find a non-squatter.

DrMR:

People are doing a lot of stuff on the ground, and now we’re not. So then you outsource to a chair, it makes it easier, and having your computer on the table makes it even easier.

AA:

Yeah, it’s the Momofuku thing we were talking about before doing things the long, hard, stupid way. So that the efficiency of, “Oh wow. Before I had to squat all the way down to sit and eat some Pad Thai in the street or whatever in Thailand. Now I can squat down just above 90 degrees.” If I’m sitting on a good chair, which would be above 90 degrees so you can tilt the pelvis ever so slightly forwards here in the front of those sit bones, Ischial tuberosities. They stabilize the low back and the sacrum, which we can talk about why that matters. So now we outsource the other, call it 35 degrees of range of motion, to the tech of the chair. And eventually what happens within that range of motion is you lose it, it atrophies.

AA:

And the number one leading cause of the elderly needing assisted living, I believe globally, but in the United States at least, is fall risk. They fall and they can’t get up. And that’s not just a human thing. You don’t just all of a sudden turn 50 and getting up off of the ground becomes really challenging. At one point the environmental conditions, the mold that we form ourselves to was such that the range of motion became irrelevant, and then it becomes a chasm. It starts off as just a little jump. It’s like, “Oh, it’s no big deal. I can just step right over that. No big deal.” Every day we have distance with that. It becomes a little further, a little further, a little further. Then we can’t jump the chasm and we’ve painted ourselves into a corner. We painted ourselves into our body, essentially. We can’t get out, or we’re stuck and we’re prisoners.

AA:

And so by having those functional ranges of motion, which functional is another big loaded word, people are like, “I do functional training.” What does that mean? But a functional range of motion would just be simply taking your joints through their full expression, their full articulation for range of motion, to be able to feed them at a cellular level. And as you’re doing that, you’re bringing new synovial fluid and you’re bringing new tissue hydration, and you’re getting those tissues to be able to slide and glide and do what any healthy tissue would do. When you’re not going through these full range of ranges of motion, essentially you start to develop these little micro dams of sorts.

AA:

And so hydration begets hydration and dehydration begets dehydration. Think of a dry sponge. If a sponge is supple, you pour some water on it and it just grabs it up. As a sponge starts to get drier and drier, it’s been under your cabinet for X amount of weeks or whatever, and you live in some dry place, you put water on it just doesn’t collect it. And so a similar thing is happening to us at a tissue level. So when you’re taking those tissues through their full functional range of motion with regularity, just like your body naturally would have done since the beginning of forever, then they’re always in that supple sponge mode. Supple sponge tissues would be represented in cultures like Northern Africa, Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, places that just naturally are going through those ranges of motion. They have very low incidences of osteoarthritis of the hips, very low incidents of that in the knees. So if you bring the fluids, you keep the carriers moving throughout the day, you keep the channels moving just like any river, we’re just this ecosystem of ecosystems. And in the ecosystem, there’s a bunch of water flowing. You stop the water at any point, then it starts to dry up and you start to have problems.

DrMR:

Now do those areas have a fairly high amount of other diseases that we see in the West, but not as much musculoskeletal? Is there a delineation there that may track with squat toilets or how they eat? Can you outline that anymore to help us understand?

AA:

I think there’s so many variables. You’ve talked ad nauseum about the blue zones, and it’s really hard to say specifically what’s going on and compare one group of people across the world. But I think there’s a lot of things that are naturally happening. One, movement is valuable. Two, probably those people are exposing themselves to greater amounts of sunlight and nature. They’re probably doing things a little bit more like the long, hard, stupid way. So they might be just naturally walking a little bit further each day, they’re getting their 10,000 steps in each day. They’re probably more dependent on community. They’re probably a little bit less autonomous in the way that they live. They probably have a grandma living at their house. They have that connection, and this gets into a little bit more of meta reality, but I think that connection really instills this deep conscious or subconscious sensation of feeling safe. A safe organism, a safe mind, a safe body. Now we’re in a respiratory conversation. Okay, back to Western mechanics. So you have that exhalation. It’s like, what is that? That’s the relief sigh, like, “Oh, we made it.”

DrMR:

It’s a core part of our being, safety and community.

AA:

Yeah, so if you’re in a place where you constantly have that subtle Robert Sapolsky, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, you always have that subtle artificial lion that’s hunting us, then it changes our mind. It changes our respiratory patterns. It changes our neurochemistry, the way we produce our hormones and the whole system. So I think there’s a confluence of so many different variables there, but ultimately I think it comes back to the root of the tree or the trunk of the tree. That’s very affordable, very available supplements and practices that we gather from nature.

Movement and the Abdomen

DrMR:

How do things relevant or similar to this pertain to abdominal distension? Is this something that you see people struggling with? Have you found any correlation between just maintaining a better degree of movement and someone’s abdominal wall? I know a lot of our people are concerned about distension, and I suspect a facet of that is deconditioning and/or certain restrictions of tissues like the diaphragm.

AA:

A really simplistic metaphor that I used in my book, The Align Method, plug, was thinking of your torso like a like a plastic Coke bottle. I’m sure none of your guys have Coke bottles in their fridge. And if they do, it’s fine, no shame, no judgment here. As long as you throw a little rum in it or whatever for the weekends. But within that, if you bend the Coke bottle, you put a little kink in it, and then you press down through the plastic cap at the top, it’ll cave at the position of that kink. If take that kink out of the Coke bottle and you press down, you stabilize and stack that cylinder, all of a sudden the bottle can bear a significant amount of weight.

AA:

And so there’s a similar type Coke bottle experience that’s happening in a lot of Western culture, where we have this tendency towards a hyperlordosis. Lordosis being the curve of your lower back, or the lordotic curve. What that will translate to is think of that as like the Brazilian booty. You’ve got your belly sticking out, your butt popping out. There’s a lot of maybe social influences with that. Maybe you like to feel like you’ve got a big butt. There could be some shoulder impingement issues with that as well. So you’re borrowing range of motion out of the low back that you don’t have in your shoulder. So when you go up into shoulder flexion, and arms are going up over the head like that, you’d like to be able to get your hands over your head, because you’re a human. Humans are better brachiators, or hangers, than monkeys.

AA:

When you think of monkey bars, they should be called ape bars or human bars. The shape and length of our clavicle, the shape of our hands, all of the ratios are set up so that humans were built to hang. So whether your belief system is in evolution or creation or whatever, it doesn’t matter. These shoulders hang very well. So if you take that overhead range of motion out, it seems like it’s going against the code. At some point it mattered. You got it, it’s there for you. Some divine being, or evolution, gave you that ability.

DrMR:

This is another thing that you helped increase my awareness of. I made this a practice for a little while and now I’m actually kicking myself because my pull-up bar I used to hang from didn’t make it here to Austin with me. And therefore my habit of hanging once per day didn’t either, but now I’m being reminded of that. So thank you. Doesn’t sound like a crazy statement to make, but when I would hang every day, my shoulders and my upper torso mobility felt better.

AA:

Yeah, no brainer. That’s the thing, all this stuff is so ridiculously simple. I think we can mire ourselves in these complex equations of the perfect health situation. “Oh, I got this $15,000 do-dig and I’m a biohacker man, but I deal with all the same as anybody else.” When was the last time you just went outside for a walk, took your shirt off, and exposed your eyes to sun without sunglasses? When was the last time you had your arms up overhead and just bared a little bit of weight through your shoulder girdle? And why that matters isn’t just that we have whatever the coding is to be able to do that.

AA:

There’s a whole book called Shoulder Pain? from an orthopedic surgeon. I borrowed a lot of his protocol and information for the shoulder hanging chapter in my book, along with lots of other different influences as well. But within that, he would take patients through this really simple hanging protocol that was essentially broken down to a total of something like 90 seconds of hanging each day. And that could be broken down to 15 second intervals, or 10 second intervals or 30, however you want to do it. It’s just throwing up a pull-up bar in between your doorway someplace, ideally that you walk through with regularity because you become the shape of your environment. So if it’s in your visual field, you’ll do it. You also identify with that. When you walk into your room, if you see a yoga mat or you see a comfy rug or you see a pull-up bar, you see pictures of you and your family, you’re like “I’m like a family person.” You see a picture of The Thinker and you’re like, “Oh, I’m like a deep, contemplative intellectual.”

AA:

So your environment is always forming who you think you are. So going in and having that, you’re like, “Oh yeah, I’m like a fitness person. I take care of my health. I care about myself. I care about my shoulders.” So that’s a whole other element, how your environment forms you. But having that pull-up bar in there and spending that time, it will literally start to change the structure of your shoulder girdle. Modern people are more formed into this medial rotation of the humerus, protraction and hyperkyphosis, the thoracic spine. So you’re in that folded position, and when you go into that folded position, now you go into that upper crossed syndrome or forward head posture. And now all of a sudden, you start painting yourself into that corner. You start to become trapped inside your own body. Then it spills into the way that you breathe. So all of this stuff is inseparable. It’s not a bicep thing, a shoulder thing, a breathing thing, or a sleep thing. You affect one thread in the fabric, it pulls through the rest of the system.

DrMR:

Another way we can say this is, there are some root dominoes and if you fix this one thing it’s going to fix four other things.

AA:

Totally. It’s like, what are those dominoes? It’s triage. Where do we start? And it’s going to vary for each person. Sorry, I interrupted.

DrMR:

No, I mean, I like to interplay.

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Benefits of Shoulder Hanging

DrMR:

So let’s talk a little bit more about how the shoulder hanging could help with breathing. We’ve done a few podcasts on how important breathing is. There are some fixes here that are harder than others, like we talked about with Dr. Ted Belfor. If you had braces, your tongue may not have enough room in your mouth. That’s okay. There’s not an easy lifestyle solution for that necessarily, but something like the Homeoblock could help expand your mouth. With the hanging from a pull-up bar, you can buy one of those for $20 or $30 on Amazon. Let’s talk a bit more about how that may help.

AA:

The Shoulder Pain. What the orthopedic surgeon found was that 99% of the patients that were coming in for some degree of shoulder impingement, syndrome, pain, or whatever it may have been didn’t need surgery after they started spending time hanging each day. How many other metaphoric hangs are there out there for people? So that’s really interesting. I don’t like shoulder pain, I don’t like shoulder impingement. I want to look cool on Instagram, be able to do like a snatch or, just be able to raise my hand in class and not hurt my back. Like that’s cool. But then your shoulder doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor does your gut, nor does your brain, nor does your pelvic floor, nor does any other part of you. Your diaphragm, your lungs, your heart.

AA:

So now we’ve created some space in the shoulder, that’s really cool. In that, we weren’t very site specific. With the shoulder, we’re engaging the hands, we’re engaging the shoulder. We’re opening up that space in the shoulder, but we’re also very clearly opening up space in and around the ribs. We’re starting to create this tractioning through the viscera as a whole, opening up through the hips and everything.

AA:

Now you have all of this intercostal space, the space in between the ribs there. So your ribs, they should be operating like the handle of a bucket. So when you’re breathing, they’re going to rotate a little bit up and rotate a little bit down. Rotate a little bit up, and rotate a little bit down. Everybody’s got a visualization of a bucket. If you take an inspiration or an expiration, inhale exhale, and one of those handles, any one of those ribs is kind of like rusty, your breathing is impacted. You’re not breathing to your full potential. It’s a huge deal.

Belly Breathing vs. Rib Expansion

DrMR:

We should probably clarify for people, we talk so much about belly breathing and diaphragmatic breathing, which is partially true, but you need to have rib expansion. So I should just underscore that. It’s probably obvious.

AA:

A lot of “belly breathers” are not really engaging their diaphragm and they’re still very limited. They’re just distending; they’re pushing their belly out and in. That’s not effective breathing.

DrMR:

It should be the belly, but then also the ribs and the chest.

AA:

And the low back, and the lateral side of the ribs, like breathe into your armpits man. You want the whole system to expand and contract. In a good breath, you’re going to have a subtle medial and external rotation of the arms, of the hips. As you’re laying down and you’re breathing, people can do that, just lay down, just sitting down you can feel it. Breathe in, my arms kind of expand out. Open, open, open. As I breathe out, there’s a subtle medial rotation. Through my spine, I breathe in, and I feel a little extension. My spine literally gets longer. I traction my vertebra. That’s how you feed yourself, and feed yourself at a cellular level.

DrMR:

As a personal offering here, when Mike Nelson did his last workup on me, Mike Nelson not only is really good with exercise physiology, but he’s also a really talented therapist, as are you Aaron. I haven’t had the pleasure of having you work on me yet, wink, wink, but one of the things Mike said was I need to get more breath into my ribs. That hit me like a ton of bricks, because I was so adamant about belly breathing, belly breathing, belly breathing. And I asked him, “What about belly breathing?” He said, “Well, you’re over-belly breathing.” So just as a reference point for our audience that checks out with my own personal experience.

AA:

Yeah, and also bringing that breath. A lot of this stuff can start to feel kind of nebulous. And it’s like, “Okay, cool. This is a great idea, but how do I actually do that?” Your visualization is so powerful. Where your attention goes, your energy flows. It’s like something you hear in a lot of yoga classes or places of that sort. So just you bringing your awareness into creating a little visual depiction of what your breath should look like. So as you’re sitting right now, you might be driving in a car, you might be taking a walk, just notice your breath. It’s a really beautiful way. You go to Muslim cultures and they have a prayer five times a day. You go to Philadelphia or New York or whatever, it’s like stopping just to have a moment to pay attention to your breath or pay attention to something bigger than yourself. I was like I don’t have time for that. I could feel in myself a certain reticence or hesitance to even suggest just paying attention to breathing into the space behind my heart or the side of my ribs. It’s like, “Oh, people are going to think I’m some tinfoil hat, new age hippie.” It’s like, no, that’s legit medicine.

DrMR:

Well, we’ve talked again extensively about how important breathing is on the podcast, and how many other dominoes fall once the breathing domino isn’t where it should be. So yeah, that makes complete sense. To be honest with you, I’m going to be much, much more motivated and committed about my hanging practice, if you will, because I didn’t put together the respiratory benefit.

AA:

All that’s again, tied into the fact that you start pulling on the spool of yarn, and it just keeps rolling out the other side. And you’re like, “Oh man, I can control my breathing stuff. And all of a sudden I’m less stressed and I become less irritable with my partner.” So all of a sudden my relationship starts getting a little bit better. I start to literally see them differently, because that’s all tied into my visual muscles, my visual system. It gets into Dr. Huberman’s work. He was gracious enough to help me with the psych chapter in my book. I’m just immensely grateful for all of the amazing experts who gathered around to support me in writing something that was well beyond my own scope.

AA:

But there’s just so many variables in having a healthy, physical, mind body. You can’t pull on any one without the rest starting to come into suit. But so within just that breathing conversation, how do you breathe when you’re stressed? It might be more up in your clavicles, up into your shoulders. You might notice, your scalenes and your sternocleidomastoid and all these muscles start to clench and bear down. And now you’re breathing more with your neck muscles.

DrMR:

That guy with a vein in his neck.

AA:

Yeah, exactly. So now your neck muscles are going, “Oh God, okay. We’re pulling these lungs.” As opposed that slow, deep, where your diaphragm’s really pulling down and creating that vacuum to open up that spaciousness in and around the rib cage. It’s more like triage. You go into just getting air in as fast as you can. Get that blood out of your viscera, get it into your periphery, get out of the room. And so if you can start to hack in too, that’s a beautiful thing. Stress is so cool; there’s no better nootropic than a little bit of stress to start to engage you with what’s going on in the moment. The issue comes when you get stuck in chronic stress. Stress for a day, stress for a minute, stress for whatever, we can manage that and buffer that really well.

AA:

And it’s actually really helpful medicine. It’s important to get us from Point A to Point B. But the issue comes when, what happens when perhaps I’m structuring my body into a form that informs my endocrinology, my endocrine system and the way that I produce myself physiologically to say, “Oh, you’re stressed.” Every time you’re in this position where your shoulders jack up, you clench your fist, you clench your jaw, and you’re breathing up into your neck and you’re not getting that full breath that sends the signal to your autonomic nervous system that you can’t even fully exhale. When you’re exhaling, you’re activating more of that parasympathetic side of the nervous system. When you’re inhaling, what do you do when you’re scared? You take that breath in, you’re activating more of that sympathetic, get up, fight, flight go. And this is a fun test people can take with themselves. What’s easier for you? Can you get a full exhalation, all the way out, or does breathing in feel really easy? If you can breathe in really well, like all the way in, and then breathing out feels awkward, there’s a good chance that you might be running a little bit more on that stress side. It’s a fun thing to do.

AA:

Then all of that trickles into the way that you produce yourself, and the way that you form your world. So if you’re a more stressed person, you might be a person that chronically is addicted to that state. It becomes like a home sensation. How has that happened to you?

The Question of Balance

DrMR:

That’s happened to me. I like the stimulation that you get from Wim Hof breathing, cold exposure; it’s addicting for me. I’ve recently learned that I’ve got to be a little bit better about finding the balance. Maybe this is sharing too much, but I feel like this is in the spirit of this podcast, which is getting to that deeper layer, because I look at a lot of the actions that we take as symptoms of deeper operating system imbalances that need to be corrected. So for me, I think I’ve may have been trying too hard to row the ship to save the world, because it may sound kind of cheesy, but I really have my reason for being alive and my vocation fairly well-melded together. And so it makes it easy to always go to that place of work harder, row the ship out of the turbulent seas and get this thing turned around.

DrMR:

When so much of your identity is wrapped up in that journey, it’s easy to always want to go back to that space. And exercise became very much like that for me, where I ended up listening to Hans Zimmer a lot of the time, like the Dark Knight or the Superman scores. It’s also a noble thing to commit yourself to, so it’s even easier to get swept deeper into that. Then you pile on top of that jumping in 40 degree water, holding your breath for a while and just coming out and having all that stimulation, and the Wim Hof breathing. So I learned that that stimulation can be addicting, but too much of it, back to the point of balance, then you start to crumble. So it’s finding that balance point of in between.

AA:

That’s what we talked about before, the whole middle way. Buddhism, like all the old books are saying the same stuff. Your stress is great. Your will to go and your will to do and all that. It’s like, it’s great. I love it. And the other side of that coin is your rest, your listening, your intuition and that’s great. They’re in tandem and that’s when you become a superpower.

DrMR:

And that my air, but that’s what I had to learn. I got really far with that and there were a lot of insights and gains, but then my performance started to lull.

AA:

You only go so far.

DrMR:

Yeah. But it was a few months of, “Man, the runs aren’t as fast as they used to be.” This is where a lot of the alternative medicine BS starts rearing its head. Some people are saying, “Well, you should do an adrenal test.” And I appreciate where those things are coming from, but I was really missing the mark where I was just hammering sympathetic just all the time. After noticing performance just wasn’t where it should be, I zoomed out and I said, “Oh, this is over-training. This is overstimulation.” I needed to try to put more of that same vigor into watching a sunset.

AA:

Totally.

DrMR:

And so I’m rejiggering, and I guess for our audience, if you’ve overextended in whatever capacity, this is a good opportunity, because I have a feeling there’s a fair number of people who aren’t doing enough for themselves or for relaxation to take that time. So one of the things I’m trying to do more is a couple of times per week watch the sunset. And actually, I believe you had a habit of doing this for a while, or it’s just something that you do.

AA:

Yeah. It’s like a major tradition. I’m spacing the name of the author, but he’s got a bit about how the world’s more beautiful than it needs to be. If you go to Hawaii or someplace where there’s some ocean, there’s like mist coming off of a wave and there’s a rainbow in the mist. It’s like, that’s stupid. Like that’s unnecessary. We didn’t need to be that beautiful.

AA:

Looking at it from a human narcissistic perspective, what is that for, for us? What gears does that wind? There’s something naturally drawing, magnetizing, about pretty things. You know, a girl, exactly. Within that, it’s like, “Why is the sunset so darn pretty?” Pretty is subjective, but ultimately most people find it pretty. Well, maybe there’s some type of that healing mechanism in that. Maybe it’s that you’re attracted to the infrared light.

DrMR:

I feel different. When I watch a sunset, it just winds me down.

AA:

Well, going back into the more musculoskeletal, physiological, nuts and bolts, Western talk, your eyes are a continuation of your central nervous system. So when you go into that panoramic, take it all in, spacing out after you orgasm. After you orgasm, you’re not like lasered in like a shark. You just take the whole room in. You’re both all doe eyed or whatever, , whatever science-y stuff you want to say.

DrMR:

Even like a lion that’s focusing, or if you’re focusing on work. You’re just really kind of focused in.

AA:

It’s beautiful; it’s great. But that’s just one side of the coin. So you flex that side of the coin all out, and then you come back on the other side and you go to the post-orgasmic, doughy-eyed, sunset receiving mode. Now we’re healing and restoring. Rest, digest, activate, go get, fight flight, rest digest, activate. Respiration, inhalation, exhalation, light, dark, in, young. It’s all the same.

AA:

We go up, then we go down. We go up, and then we go down. With heart rate variability, having the variability in that. When we get too linear and structured, that’s when all of a sudden our squiggly, spirally biology, is like fitting a circle into a square. So in that moment where you’re taking in the sunset and you’re just having a moment to just be, there’s an endless amount of research of all of the amazing things that are happening to you at a certain level with that. Calming the nervous system, setting the circadian rhythm, and setting yourself up for a good night’s rest. Shinrin-yoku and the whole nature bathing stuff, and being around plants, and the fight inside is creating a little immune response, it’s building your system.

AA:

So you can get more into the Western mind and get into the very analytical, breaking down all the variables of exactly what’s happening here. But then I think there’s also another level that’s really valuable, just letting go all of that.

DrMR:

Which I think we need even more of, because this is something I’ve been catching myself doing lately. I’ll hit this point in the day where I don’t want to keep working, but I still have some work to do. I’m sure people can relate to that. I’ll find myself on Instagram, just vacuous scrolling through. I’m like, “What am I even doing here?”

AA:

We’re all doing it together. We’re all in it together, man. Algorithms are going to be running the world soon. Already is.

DrMR:

I’ve been trying to catch myself because the more I myself doing this, the more I’m just too overloaded. And also sleep, I’ll find my sleep gets a little more scary if I’m overloaded. So for our audience, whatever it’s worth, try to find your little monitoring dashboard indicators that go off when you’re a little bit skewed and imbalanced, and take the time to do something other than trying to do something.

AA:

I think in those situations, our self-parenting mechanisms start to disengage when we’re unresourced. In the sense of, we didn’t get enough sleep then all of a sudden you start reaching out for easy energy. Oh, cool, give me that Jolly Rancher or whatever. I think it’s a similar thing with social media, that little hit that you get from the notifications and such. I think when you’re feeling scarce, you’re not really feeling fulfilled. Full, which I think comes from a bioelectric perspective and just the way that we’re feeding ourselves with nutrition, sleep, nature, and all that stuff. I think if you’re really feeling full in that way, there’s less of a yearning to reach out, and to have that little stimulation from the notification. But I think it’s like cheap energy.

DrMR:

Yeah. It’s definitely in my mind reflective of something being out of balance.

AA:

You want something else? You’re eating the menu instead of getting the meal.

DrMR:

Well, I really think that what would remedy that is if I just went outside and went for a walk, because I think I just need to not be focused. And what Instagram is, it’s really unfocused. You’re just mindlessly scrolling through your feed, you’re like, “Oh, look at a guy riding a big wave.”

AA:

And then you train yourself to be unfocused. Exactly. You’re habituating yourself. So that’s what meditation is. Meditation doesn’t need to be sitting on a cushion and all those things. Meditation could be working on a project, being focused on the project, and not allowing your attention to divert. It could be breathing meditation and be like the standard. You’re sitting, and you’re just paying attention to your breath.

AA:

Anapanasati is the fancy spiritual term for it. It’s just going in and out, inhalation, exhalation, inhalation, exhalation. And that can seem incredibly tedious and incredibly like, “Okay, I’m not a meditation guy,” but if you game-ify it, and you make it a little bit more like Western masculine, is your mind really that weak and that scattered that you’re not able to step up to the challenge? You can sit in a cold plunge for six minutes, you’re down to do that. Are you able to step up to the plate of your own internal whirling thoughts and just play the game of paying attention to your breath for 10 seconds? Are you able to do that? I’m talking to myself, I’m as scattered as anybody.

DrMR:

It’s a really great way of framing it rather than making it into a negative. I can’t meditate, I can’t focus. Well, you can, you just have to confront the fact that those distractions are something to be, I don’t want to say wrestled with here. I think that’s a wrong perspective, but to be examined.

AA:

Whenever I’m thinking of that, I’ll usually just say relationship, just developing a healthy relationship, Ultimately everything is about how’s your relationship with it? It’s nothing to cut or drop or fight or whatever. It’s just like, what’s your relationship with it? There’s alcohol in your house. Great, what’s your relationship to it? Or cookies or whatever. Just because you cut it out, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s gone. So looking at it instead of like a pushing away, I think it’s more like, “Okay, how do I relate to it in a healthier way?”

The Psycho-Spiritual Connection

DrMR:

And speaking of relating, this is the other thing I wanted to pick your brain on. You seem to have a good knack for fun, flow, and not getting too wrapped up in things from my perspective. It’s an embodiment of what you do in the world. With the Align method it isn’t just musculoskeletal, it seems to be psycho-spiritual also. What, if any, thoughts do you have for people who might be a bit hard on themselves in terms of how they eat or how healthy they are or whatever?

AA:

Thanks for that reflection. I think ultimately those are the things I’m really interested in. I think that I have the story. Kind of an aside to what you’re saying there, because I think that’s an interesting thing too. We have the way that we show up, the front facing, like what’s on the sign. I think that it’s important to give people a tangible handle to grab onto. The tangible handle that I’ve leaned on is like, “Oh, your back hurts. Your shoulder is impinged.” Those musculoskeletal things, your knee, whatever. Okay, knee hurts, plantar fasciitis, low back pain, this is it. Start here, we can help.

AA:

Maybe we’ll start with some resistance bands exercises. We’ll teach you some myofascial release techniques. We’ll teach you some activation techniques, or we’ll just teach you about the structure of this vehicle that you’re in. But then behind that I think comes into more of the other parts that you’re referring to. And within that, I think the thing that comes to mind is what we were talking about before. If you see a therapist, or you see a doctor, that necessitates a patient. I think there’s this dualistic role of, “Okay, am I a patient or am I a doctor?” Sometimes we can step outside of that, and not be approaching ourselves from a place of being broken, but approach ourselves from, “Okay, I am whole, and let’s try this.” I’m already whole, and I’m going to try this exclusion diet. I’m already whole, and I’m going to try this relationship with this person.

DrMR:

I love that perspective.

AA:

As opposed to always habitually patterning the way that we perceive ourselves or the way that we think. And so if from the drop you come from the place of, “I am fractured, now let’s unfracture,” you just got a bunch of fracture. So now you might be fractured until you’re 70, and then you have that heart attack, and you just barely survive it. And then you have the realization of, “Oh my God. Wow. Life is a gift. I feel whole.”

DrMR:

It’s such an important point that you make because I think we should all look at our lives as a continual journey and experiment. I was saying this to Anthony Gustin the other night in a conversation, which is, always wanting better for someone, but always understanding that they’re okay how and where they are. But always wanting better for them. I think that’s a good way to frame this. I think it’s excellent the way you outline that, which is, there’s nothing wrong with you per se. I mean, there are degrees. I don’t want to be overly sweeping in the recommendations, but I think if we’re going to break this down to maybe a spiritual aspect of how you think about this, no one’s perfect. If we accept the premise that no one is perfect, then that means everyone is always trying to improve or everyone always has something to work on or to optimize. And so then, what’s the difference if you’ve got really bad IBS or just a little bit of bloating? We’re all on that same road. And that can help you see that you’re not necessarily broken.

AA:

It’s also coming into relationship with the signals that are maybe not what you prefer, but the signals are on your team. They’re trying to tell you something. So you can come again into a place of acceptance of myself. Okay, cool. I am whole and I’m in process, great. I am whole isn’t I am done. I am whole is I’m just getting started, man.

DrMR:

There’s always something in my mind to work on. I’m way healthier than I was, and I’m really grateful for that, but there’s always something cropping up. Right now I have this thing where I feel like my left hamstring isn’t quite engaging. So I’m noticing it a little bit when I walk, like, “There’s that little thing,” and sometimes when I run. So I don’t think there’s ever going to be a point in time where there’s no little buzzer that’s going off on your indicator dashboard.

AA:

You’ll probably turn into like a rainbow.

DrMR:

If you don’t see me for a while, yeah what happened?

AA:

Mike did the work. He’s out of here. He’s gone.

DrMR:

Depending on how I would frame that, it could be, “Oh man, what is it now, this whole thing?” It could be a really negative experience rather than something that is just part of this continual process of improving and getting better. And I understand that when you have food reactive brain fog and half the stuff you eat makes you feel like an idiot for an hour like it used to for me, it’s easier for me to sweep under the rug this little bit of hamstring issue than it is that food reactive brain fog. But that’s not the point. The point is, even if you’re at that point where I was, it’s knowing that you’re fine, and you’re going to be fine, and you’re going to be better, and this is just a journey. It’s not like, “I am now sick, I have this, or I have that, and I’m trying to get on sick on that.” This is rather, “I’m a person trying to move and love myself and support myself into a better position.”

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The Growth Mindset

AA:

I feel like the thing that’s coming to mind is trauma. That is the difference in developing a growth mindset. Carol Dweck’s book, which I highly recommend, is just being able to approach something that would be deemed to be like a challenge or a problem. Words and ideas are subjective, and every one of your experiences is subjective based off of what’s your filter on it when you think about that. Is that knee pain or that bloating or that whatever, is this an obstacle that you feel like, “Okay, let me stick my teeth into this thing.” Or is this a, “Why me? I am the perennial victim.” When you put yourself into that victimhood, not that I’m victim shaming or anything of that sort, but if you can come to that place of just gaining relationship to the victimhood instead of dropping it. Maybe drop it, I don’t know.

AA:

But coming to a place of like, “Okay, this is a barrier here. I’m gonna go into it and I’m going to sort it out. I’m going to see it as a mountain.” Just like if I was in an Alpinist, a mountaineer. That looks complicated. It looks super dangerous, like pitch 13, oh my God. But we’re going to get to the top of it. And from that perspective, they come back, and they get their resources, and they talk to the guides, and they get all of their gear. That’s a growth mindset. Eventually they arrived at the top of the mountain, and then they get to the top. Mountain climbing is like this great pointless waste of time. You get to the top, you take a picture and you’re like, “Cool, let’s climb another mountain.” That’s a growth mindset. The reason that we’re here is because we enjoy the challenge. I think in Podcastlandia, it’s easy to get on your pedestal and your high horse of speaking as though this isn’t stuff that you’re actively dealing with.

DrMR:

Well let’s talk about if you want to share something about how you’ve grappled with that yourself.

AA:

I deal with crap all the time. My cell phone, I compare myself to other people with regularity, self-worth issues. Again, these are all stories that I can entertain to the degree that hopefully they serve me. So can I come into a relationship with those stories that they light a fire under me, and act as a fuel to get me from Point A to Point B? Or are they stories that engulf me into like flames and dominate my life? They take me to some place that the deeper, higher self me doesn’t really even want to arrive at in the first place.

Dealing with Past Trauma

DrMR:

You said something a second ago, which was, if someone feels like, “Oh, why me,” a little bit victimized, perhaps sit with that and ask yourself, “Well, why do I feel that way, and why can’t I feel a different way about this?” Maybe there’s something there that the individual needs to learn. In terms of, if you find yourself labeling yourself as a victim, maybe think about why you feel that way. And maybe there’s something there for someone to learn.

AA:

Do you have any of that in yourself? Why me-ness?

DrMR:

No, I don’t, but what I have noticed is when that when I have a thought that I don’t like, I try to think about why I’m thinking or feeling that way. Normally what I’ve found is if there’s a judgment, or there’s a negative feeling, here’s one specific example. This may sound a little bit ironic, but I’m less judgmental of other healthcare providers now than I used to be. I’m probably more openly critical, but I think I’m pointing more to the problems rather than feeling this personal frustration. So I feel less personal frustration now in healthcare providers who I think are not doing things as well as they could. And so I asked myself, “Why did I feel that way? Why did I used to get angry?”

DrMR:

It was because I didn’t feel like I was being heard enough. And now that I feel like the platform and the other things I’m involved in are having more of an impact, I feel heard. And now that I feel like I’m able to get those thoughts out there and help people, that solved that problem. But it took me a little while to unpack, “Well, why do I get so angry when I see other people doing things in a way that may be suboptimal and/or antithetical to a patient’s wellbeing?”

AA:

Does that relate to anything from a younger you, like childhood?

DrMR:

Good question. I don’t know that I’ve really thought about that. I think as a child, my parents were pretty great and they listened. I mean, I did have a big brother who knocked the crap out of me a lot, but I don’t know if I was ever frustrated that my brother wasn’t listening to me. It was more like if we were playing soccer to first to three, and I won, why did the game all of a sudden become first to six, and then first to nine, and then first to twelve?

AA:

When was the first inciting incident that you could think back to that you felt unheard?

DrMR:

So here’s where it comes from. I was having this conversation with Dr. Joe from the office. He said, “Where does the drive come from?” And I told him, “I can’t let bad ideas win.” And I think from a young age, I would see when a system or a process would be suboptimal. Even when I worked at this insurance company as a mail delivery courier, when I was maybe 15, maybe, I remember thinking, “This system could be way better.” It would frustrate me, but I wasn’t in a position to say anything at that point in time. So I just remember when I was younger, seeing at least in my mind, how things could have been done better. And now that I’m an adult in the world who can actually exert influence, I want to make sure that good ideas have their fair share. So I know I didn’t directly answer your question, but I think that’s where that comes from.

The Mature vs. Immature

AA:

Have you heard of the book King, Warrior, Magician, Lover? It goes into the union archetypes.

DrMR:

No, but I really like the title.

AA:

Oh, you’d love it. It’s such a good title as well, but within that he talks about how we have these different archetypes. The King, the Warrior, the Magician, the Lover; we all have those within ourselves. And there’s more; there’s the boy or girl, the young, immature version of each of those. And then there’s the stepping into the mature version. And within that, I think it sounds to me like one could have the immature version of, “I need to be heard,” spewing information, noise, or just stirring up the pot just to be seen. A lot of people could probably relate to that. It’s just like, “Oh, I’ve got to put a post out today.” It’s like, “Why do you have to put a post out today?” So they’ve just got to be seen. But maybe that could be coming from a mature place, like “Well, I work with these people and they teach me about the algorithms, and I want to be effective, and ultimately I have a higher message that I feel deeply is going to have this net positive impact on humanity.”

DrMR:

Purpose-based rather than ego-based, you could say.

AA:

Fuse that into every word that I speak and breath that I take and way that I walk. Your purpose is within every action that you have in the world. So that would be the more mature expression of that. And then, there’s the immature expression of that, of “Well, why do you want to be seen?” “I just want to be seen because I don’t feel seen.”

DrMR:

Right, I like those tiers of mature and immature manifestations of them. It was King, Warrior, Magician, Lover? I want to get the book. I’ve got a lot of stuff in my Amazon cart. I’ve got to only interview you on choice occasions, because it’s too expensive.

The Align Method

DrMR:

Tell us a bit more about your book. We had you on when the book released, but it’s been out now how long?

AA:

Just a year.

DrMR:

A year, but it’s been long enough to know if it really sucks. This is what I was honestly scared about with my book. I felt like it was a child that I was like releasing the school for the first day. But people like it, it has an impact.

AA:

It’s helpful to have validation of people appreciating your stuff. I think sometimes we can be too hard on ourselves of finding self-love and self-worth and all that stuff just with yourself. I think there’s a lot of paths up to the same point on the mountain. With me personally, having people validate my work, my place in the world, my position in the tribe, my role, and being like, “Wow, you’ve really changed my life.” I followed the things in the book. You write the book and you do the things, and from my own personal experience, I’m working with clients and certain people are like, “Oh, this stuff is really important. This stuff works. I know this works.” But then you see thousands of people saying, “Man, I’m doing your thing. I’m following the Align method.” The Align method is more like a philosophy. It’s more like a handbook or a guidebook, but nonetheless, we’re following the principles in there. All of a sudden, my sleep is better and my back pain is gone. I’ve had back pain for 15 years. I followed this basic low-hanging fruit stuff in here that’s like completely free. It’s been sitting in front of me forever.

DrMR:

The floor?

AA:

So the way I describe it in the beginning is to think of it like you’re a golfer and you’ve got your club face on the ball. If it’s off just a centimeter when it makes contact with that ball, that’s a difference of whether it’s driving straight or shanked or whatever direction it goes. It’s a similar thing throughout the day; we have all of these micro-opportunities throughout the day to subtly adjust the position of our club face. And if we do, we might not necessarily notice this dramatic life change in 60 seconds, but give it a week, give it a month, give it a year, give it 30 years. The position of each person’s human golf ball is going to be dramatically different. Sometimes you run into those people that have this zest for life, and they seem almost anti-fragile in a way, to use another person’s language. Nassim Taleb was the anti-fragile author. You give that persons stress, whatever it is, it’s like a cold winter, a long trip, or a famine, and they seem to get stronger in it. What is the deal with that?

AA:

The constitution of the way that they live their life is such that they can make resources out of nothing, in a way. And I think that we all have the ability to be much stronger than we think. But if we’re not given the fundamentals on how to drive the machine, then we’re dependent on something outside of ourselves. But ultimately I think we have a lot more power than we think. It’s so crazy to me that we are never really offered education on how to drive our bodies. Growing up, if you want to drive a car, it’s this huge deal. You go to driver’s education, you get a permit, you pass a test, and you drive with your parents. It’s a huge process.

AA:

We’ve never gotten any meaningful education on how to effectively drive the human body. So basic mechanics of how to get more leverage out of my hips to be able to pick stuff up without blowing a disc. Why is that not baseline education? How do I not adjust my environment so that I’m not so stressed throughout the day? How do I improve my sleep by adjusting small, subtle factors in my environment? There’s countless different little micro lessons that I think it would be very valuable for us to have gotten in grade school. We just kind of passed them over. That was kind of the main jam. But the thing that was really valuable for me in my own validation process was getting to see the feedback from people being like, “Oh, wow, this stuff really worked for me.”

DrMR:

It’s a great feeling, isn’t it? It’s an amazing feeling. And to know that you’re able to do that without having to spend your own effort and time with them. I mean, as much as you’d like to, right? But you’re one person, so for you to help a thousand people, how long would that take? But with the book, you could help a thousand people theoretically in a month if you reached enough people.

A Life Well Lived

AA:

Sometimes I question what’s the goal of a life well-lived. What is a life well-lived? What is that to you?

DrMR:

Well, that’s a big question there.

AA:

I think we think it’s like, “Okay, if I help more people, then that was a life well-lived.” Or if I’m remembered, maybe for some people that might be something. If I had kids.

DrMR:

When you pose that question to me, the first thing that shot into my mind was just finding enjoyment in as much of the day as I can. Even today, I sent my buddy a text and I was laughing out loud at the text. I mean, maybe I’m self-aggrandizing laughing at my own joke, but it was just the point of just having so much fun, even being alone working, and then a quick interruption for a text and making a pun and laughing out loud about it. Or we’ll grab dinner after this, and for me, I love being out and seeing people and telling jokes and having that zest. That for me is what shot into my head. Just someone who is vital, energetic, and happy. And then it kind of doesn’t matter what you do, you’re having fun. So I guess I received that question in my personal sense. Not so much from a vocational, but from a personal sense, that would be a major facet of what a successful life would look like. It’s just having fun most of the time.

AA:

Have you ever heard of the original affluent society? The idea of hunter-gatherers having the same thing we were talking about? We have all this efficiency, but then we’re busier than ever. All of this is very contentious, but going back into more of an ancestral timeframe, ultimately they would end up having more time on their hands for all of those things, to dance around a fire, to play, to have quality time with their kids and their spouse, and sex and all of those different parts.

DrMR:

In Civilized to Death, Christopher Ryan cites that in the anthropology literature, evidently hunter-gatherers worked on average four hours per day.

AA:

Yeah. So that’s the original affluent society, it’s the same research. And the contention within that is it’s not including everything. So that’s including like getting food, setting up shelter, but there’s a lot of other factors throughout the day that they’d be working on. But it was still significantly less than the person that’s grinding out 70-hour weeks in New York.

DrMR:

And maybe they were more communal.

AA:

And that’s the thing, it’s getting into the idea of what is work? And so that’s the big difference. The amount of time, who cares about the amount of time?

DrMR:

Me and you walking down to the river and filling up a bucket? That doesn’t seem too bad of a prospect to me.

AA:

I mean, that was work. Or me saying, “Oh, there’s a storm coming. I need to set up shelter in such a way.” Or, “Oh, we’re going to go hunting. So we’re going to gather up the tribe, gather up the strong men, get together. We’re going to sharpen our tools and we’re going to go and track, and we’re going to go through this.”

DrMR:

Sounds fun, actually.

AA:

Of course. You see people and the way that they are moving around the world, there’s a term called Lévy flight patterning, which is the way that birds and various different animals in nature will move. It’s more of this sporadic roundabout, they’re going in all these different directions. Much like the mushy gooey spiralness that is your biology, it’s all over the place. But then the way that were formed in to like post-Roman architecture, everything’s pillars and right angles and lines and streets and red light. You go to a town with roundabouts, that’s a lot more biologically congruent.

AA:

So that informs the way that you think. If you look at an animal in nature, or you go to maybe a college campus, or maybe a music festival, they’ll operate more like a bird. It’s Lévy flight patterning. And so in this hunter-gatherer romanticized tribal environment, that’s going to be a part of their daily existence. They’re going to be going through this full adaptation experience. We go left, and we go right. I step up the rock, and I come down, and I’m looking out into the distance and focusing in, and then I’m looking out into the distance again and I’m focusing in, and then my senses are listening. Have you ever hunted?

DrMR:

Negative?

AA:

Okay. I’ve only been on one bow hunt in my life. I went to Hawaii like a year ago. Within that, it’s such a magical experience because your senses become so much more tuned in. They get amplified. And so when you’re out there, one, you’re measuring distances all the time. Because if you’re bow hunting, you’re going to have different ticks on the bow. So if something’s 20 yards away, I use this one. If it’s 30 yards, 40 yards, 50 yards, I need to know how to sight in the animal whenever I do see said animal. So I’m always measuring depth and I’m always listening to any cracks or pops or sticks breaking behind me. So you literally start to see behind you in a way. You notice the breeze, “Oh, the breeze is coming from my back, so it’s pushing my scent that way. Okay. So if there are animals that way, they’re going to smell me.”

AA:

It turns on this whole neuroplastic electrical storm inside of your mind, wherever that exists. Maybe it’s your brain, maybe it’s that gut feeling you experienced, maybe your mind’s in the bottom of your feet. You have all these sensory receptors in the bottom of your feet, feeding information back into the rest of your body for your orientation in space. Yeah. ,So where is your mind? Well, your mind is probably kind of a lot of places. So when you’re out in those scenarios, it turns you on in a different way. I think for a lot of people, it brings you into presence And I think ultimately a more present person is probably a more content person. A more present person is probably all of the words, more, blissful, joyful, and maybe they feel all the emotions, but they feel them wholly as opposed to having this ongoing gray, neutral, numb. Gray, neutral, numb, that’s like the mental, emotional state that I think is the hardest to be in. It’s the most like, “I just don’t care.” But when you’re in that scenario where the senses come on, you care. You engage.

DrMR:

And it’s funny because the type of work, bow hunting as a hunter-gatherer in this case, just seems so much more conducive to being healthy. I mean, it’s kind of an obvious statement, but we know that smell and sight and just time in nature has been shown to improve health. Forest bathing, like we were talking about. So picture you’re forest bathing now for two days while you’re “working,” as compared to being in an office under fluorescent lights looking at a screen for six hours in a row. So, big difference. What does a happy life look like to you?

AA:

Not that.

DrMR:

Not the fluorescent lights? For sure?

AA:

I hate fluorescent lights, man. They’re challenging.

AA:

So in those environments, the reason that it matters is our eyes are continuous with the state of our nervous system. The way that we produce ourselves, our vision’s always informing that.

DrMR:

So the eyes are important is what you’re saying.

AA:

They’re a big deal. When we’re in that fluorescent light box reality, it’s locking our nervous system, our autonomic state into more of a focused go mode. And so you’re all inhalation and not enough exhalation. And so if we’re in that for a little bit, it’s totally great and fine. But if you’re in that for a month, a year, ongoing process, it becomes really problematic. For me, the confinement of that is not worth it. But within that, there’s ways that you can start to change that scenario. So if you’re a person that is like, “Okay, well, this is great, but I have kids, and this is the work that I’ve developed and I need to pay the bills. And, ideally maybe I’ve got a five-year plan or a two-year plan to transition myself in a more expansive environment. But for now, this is where I’m at.”

AA:

So for that person, okay, cool. That’s all right. We could bring some more plant life into that space. Now there’s research from NASA where they tested various different plants and their ability to produce oxygen, to be able to filter air, to actually bring them to space and help the astronauts be able to breathe. You can look up the list, like “NASA, plants, the best plans for oxygenation and filtration.” And you just look up a list of that. Bring some of those into your environment. Another thing, get yourself near a window. Maybe ideally open the window, so you’re getting that full spectrum of light, because if you’re blocking a certain percentage of UVBs or UVAs out of light, then you’re only getting fractured light.

DrMR:

Change your light bulbs too, if you can’t get the full spectrum.

AA:

Change the light bulbs, that would be the next thing. And then from there, would it be possible for you to change your work environment? One, I could raise my chair up, so I’m sitting in a more mechanically effective way. So now all of a sudden I’m taking that pressure off of my discs, and I’m starting to realign my central nervous system, that central channel. So if all day long I’m in this compressed, hunched over position, or hyperlordotic, whatever the thing is, then if I ever want to show up and be powerful, my body is shutting down my ability to potentiate that power output because it doesn’t trust me, because that central column, my axial skeleton is a little kinked.

Non-Exercise Activity

AA:

My body’s like, “Cool, I know you’re a big strong man or a woman, but I don’t trust you to express that power right now until you put yourself into a more mechanically advantageous position.” And so while you’re sitting on that chair, if you have to be on the chair, that would be a thing to think about. So raise your hips up above the height of your knees, as opposed to always leaning back. Spend some time on the ground if you can. That would be maybe a wild thing for some people, but if it’s possible, get yourself a big floor cushion, a comfy rug or something of the sort. A yoga mat, a low coffee table, put your laptop up on there. Take walks with regularity. I’ll shut up in a second because I realize I’m rambling on, but there’s a thing called non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It’s a term that you’ve probably heard before. Are you familiar with that term, NEAT?

DrMR:

I think when Eric Trexler was on the podcast, I asked him the question of, “Is there such a thing as age-associated weight gain that tracks with slowing of metabolism?” He said, “No, but what people end up doing is, they have much less non-exercise activity.”

AA:

Yeah, that’s it. I mean, that’s what the Align method is. It’s teaching people how to integrate more non-exercise activity into who they are, and changing their relationship to what fitness is. Like with fitness, I don’t care about your Tae Bo class, your CrossFit class, or whatever. I think it’s great that you’re doing that. But what I really care about is, one, what’s the meaning that you tie to that? But two, how do you start to integrate the principles that you gather from yoga, dance, weightlifting, whatever you deem to be in the fitness bucket? How does that bucket spill into the way that you hang out with your kids, the way that you walk down the street, the way that you go to work, and the way that you travel. If you can start to integrate those same principles that are consistent throughout every modality of movement, if you can start to integrate those principles into a greater percentage of your life, now we’ve begun. Until we’re at that point, I think we haven’t even started.

DrMR:

That’s a great point because you can’t live most of your day in an unhealthy way, let’s just say for this comment, musculoskeletally speaking, and then go to the gym for an hour and expect to undo everything.

AA:

Yeah, you’re not warmed up. Your warmup isn’t the five minutes that you do some pelvic thrusts and some hamstring stretches before your workout. The moment you got up, you’re warming up. Your last week, month, year, decade, that was your warmup. And that’s the difference between a person that blows out their back or has that freak accident because they picked up the pillow in the wrong way. It has nothing to do with the weight that you picked up. It has nothing to do with the marble table that you are moving, it has nothing to do with that. If you add a little to a little eventually you’ll have more than you can handle. So add a little mechanical efficiency and a little sensory awareness to a little bit more, and with time you have a pretty robust organism that you’re driving around the world in. But if you’re stepping out of that attention and awareness, paying attention to the details, then it’s going to be easy for a lot of disadvantageous positions to start to aggregate into some form of blowout.

DrMR:

Yeah, and what we don’t want is people who just can’t do the simple things that bring so much joy.

AA:

You want to play with your kids. Pick up your puppy. That’s the stuff we care about. We don’t care about winning a CrossFit competition. Maybe you’re one of the one in a million people that do. But even for that person that’s a false summit. What you’re going to care about in the long term is to be able to walk and see that sunset and not be in ongoing pain. To be able to be like, “Oh my grandson’s running. I’m chasing my grandson.”

DrMR:

And we’re laughing and it’s a whole experience. It’s an amazing thing.

AA:

And this gets a little bit more into the meta weeds, but to be empathetic enough to be able to feel the state of your grandson and maybe business relationships. We’re reading each other’s body language all the time.

The Role of Body Language

DrMR:

And I think they overlap, not to cut off your thought, but I think being able to move allows you to better connect with people. Like you’re saying you read the body language, being able to get down on the floor with my niece and squat, and then jump up like a monkey because she did it and I can do it, and then rolling like a somersault. Those things just allow you to connect much, much more, especially with kids.

AA:

Yeah, that’s like the old 55-38-7 principle. Have you ever heard of that before? It’s that 55% of our communication comes via body language, which would include seeing if someone’s blushing, or the dilation of their pupils, or gesticulation with their hands or facial gestures and such. Then 38% would be the tone of the voice. So if we’re communicating, the tone of my voice is kind of lower-ish, deeper, slower. It’s like, “Okay, this person seems like whether they know what they’re talking about or not, they’re at least confident.” And then there’s the 7% of the actual words that are coming out of our face. And this is if there’s incongruence between that. So this would obviously be different if you’re talking on the phone or something, but even the phone, you can hear body language. You can hear when someone’s smiling.

DrMR:

I make hand gestures when I’m on phone calls. It’s probably my Italian upbringing.

AA:

Well, it’s also turning your neurological circuits. You don’t communicate with your brain. It’s with your body, and it’s always feeding back. So it’s all chicken or the egg thing. It’s like the left arm is engaging the right hemisphere, and the right arm’s… It’s all connected.

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AA:

So we can go into these myopic breakdowns of what’s happening. Your body doesn’t know any of that. Your body has no idea what a bicep brachialis is, or even what a gallbladder is. Your body is this one continuous system. And then we go out, we have these ideas and we have textbooks and we have these two dimensional models and we have these perceptions and stories of what we are. But the body’s like, “Cool dude, whatever gets us to digest well and sleep fine and gets you laid, like do that.” Or, “Hey, whatever story you want to run, have at it. I’ll be here as one united system and you just, whatever works.”

DrMR:

And it is funny because a lot of the textbook knowledge does lead you back to making those simple interventions that are just good for the body as a whole.

AA:

Of course!

DrMR:

I mean, there’s a time and a place for the research, but like we were talking about on your podcast, there’s that interplay between the two. We can learn the tidbits, but they have to come back to this larger model, and not just break us down into those. As an example, you don’t get all the benefits from supplementing vitamin D as you do with sun exposure. The organism, the body, needs the stimulus of the sun.

AA:

So you mentioned the entourage effect of getting the totality, the orchestra that is the apple, or is the steak, or is whatever you’re eating, as opposed to just isolating it out. So that’s something that your body’s been able to understand and assimilate for a long time. You could say the same thing with the supplement form of fitness. So when you’re sitting on a machine and you’re breaking down like, “Cool, I’ve got a diagram. Let’s see, rectus femoris. We’re going to go over to vastus lateralis now. Your body’s like, “Cool dude, whatever. Don’t know about any of that stuff. I just know you’re sitting in this very obscure position, extending your knee back and forth. All right, cool, we’ll get good at that.” How does that help you do anything in your life?

AA:

And sometimes the body is so disassembled and disintegrated. You could think of certain muscular patterns or imbalances almost like dogs. So if you have a pack or family of dogs, and they all go to eat, the alpha dogs, the bigger dogs, they’ll probably get more food. And then the dogs that actually need nutrition, they might not ever really get fed. You have to like give them a separate bowl. So in that instance, maybe your hamstrings, or your glutes, or your rhomboids, or lower traps, or whatever it may be, infraspinatus, you need to have some specific training in order to feed up those dogs to get them back into reintegration with the pack. And it’s those situations that bodybuilding-esque style isolated movements actually do have value.

AA:

But for the most part, the goal for the person who is seeking vitality, seeking balance, seeking energy, seeking strength, flexibility, confidence, all of the things that probably most people are probably seeking, ultimately it’s going to come from being able to integrate the parts and being able to show up and play. Does your body play? That structured, broken down, A to B, site-specific movement patterning doesn’t really play that well. If you want to throw a Frisbee… Have you ever seen the races between the yoked-out bodybuilder guy and any other form of athlete? The yoked-out bodybuilder guy, once they start going too fast, their part starts spinning out. It’s like a wreck. How many muscles do you have? 454 or 654?

DrMR:

I’m not sure off the top of my head. You’re the muscle guy, you should know this.

AA:

I know, I should know this. I don’t remember what that is. I might be way off with 454. We’ve got to look it up, we’ll Google it. We’ve got a lot of muscles, muscle bellies that have been individuated in cadaver lab by some guy that’s like, “Cool, this is a muscle belly. This is how it innervates, and this is it.” We give it a name, we create a story behind it. To take that idea of the way that the dead body sits in a cadaver lab, and those various different muscle bellies, and say, “Okay, now we’re going to overlay that in the way that you train these individual systems,” is too complicated. If you don’t go back to that integrated body, if you really think you can balance all of those 400 odd plates, its just too complex.

DrMR:

And hence, a surgeon being able to fix shoulder pain by hanging.

AA:

What if we just integrate the parts and create some decompression, allow the fluids to move and come back more into a place that, the body originated from. Well, if you hang out with your kid, what are they going to do? They’re going to reach up, they’re going to play, they’re going to hang. Put a jungle gym in front of a kid and see what happens. Put a jungle gym in front of an adult, that’s been habituated and patterned to be stuck or imprisoned in their body, which again, that’s a subjective word. Maybe you like whatever position that you’re in. I’m being a little bit too dramatic with the language. But I think there’s a useful analogy. People have had that scenario. I’ve had that scenario, and I don’t like it when there’s a kid playing or a dog or something like that, and all of a sudden, I feel like I don’t know how to, I feel uncomfortable. I’m like, “You’re too jubilant. You’re too dynamic and playful. I know I’ve had that, but I don’t really know how to meet you there.” So I feel kind of uncomfortable.

DrMR:

I don’t like that feeling either. I like to be able to play. I don’t like feeling limited by my body.

AA:

So that kid, they haven’t painted themselves into corner. This is again where I’m saying we’ve almost like imprisoned ourselves in certain patterns. We’re excessively dogmatic and a specific pattern becomes like a rut. So they don’t have a lot of ruts. And so that’s the thing, how do we move our body in such a way that we’re so adaptable that we’re rutless? We’re just potential?

DrMR:

Coming back to the Align book, this is what you lay out a program essentially for.

AA:

In more of like a philosophical, nuts and bolts, here’s what you’ve got to know way. We do have very specific, do this for this amount of time, which is also valuable. The publishers kind of force you to do that, and it’s important. As the artist creator, it’s sometimes not the easiest thing to have specific prescriptions, like, “This is exactly what you need to do.” I know that you know this, because when you’re with a different patient or client, you’re like, “Well, the answer is always, it depends.”

DrMR:

It can be too confining, sure.

AA:

And so within that, we’re going to create something that’s general, yet specific enough. General enough to be able to fit the masses, not break anyone, be helpful for almost everyone and give people the prescriptions for that to get things going. What I really care about is that you have the fundamentals to be able to create your own program.

Episode Wrap-Up

DrMR:

And that really is the most important thing. I think it’s harder for some people to accept that, because I think people like having nice, neat little protocols to follow. And rightfully so, I guess in people’s defense here, they can get you started. And it’s also probably easier to wrap your head around a protocol of six things, or do six things rather than imbibing this whole philosophy, and learning enough to actually make your own plan.

AA:

Follow your intuition. I’m great, thanks.

DrMR:

So there’s a balance. I guess there’s that theme of having a balance between these more reduced specifics and broader, more ethereal, listen to your intuition things

AA:

Both are valuable. The ethereal, open, messiness of all of that, it’s great. And saying, “Cool, here’s the bullet points. Here’s the agend. Be here at 3:30, do this many reps, this many sets, this amount of time.” Oh yeah, that’s also super valuable. It just depends for some people, they might be all out in the clouds, and the medicine for them, the supplement for them that would balance them back into that middle point would be, “Oh, you need some structure, man.” To use other language, you need masculinity, if you wanted to go into relationship dynamics. If you’re a person that’s all structure, all just thick rigidity, I’d be like, “Oh, you need a puppy. You need to just throw some paint on the wall, man. You need a girlfriend. You need some vibrance. You need a little bit of that femininity.” That masculine/feminine relationship, that’s the way that we move, it’s the way that we think, it’s the way that we breathe. You can apply those similar principles into everything in our lives. I just apply it into movement because that’s my handle for people to pull on.

More Information

DrMR:

Well, anything else you want to touch on? I think we got through a pretty good list.

AA:

Buy Bitcoin. No I’m just joking, I don’t care.

DrMR:

That’ll be the next podcast.

AA:

I sold Bitcoin like a dummy. I’m waiting for it to drop back down. I just love hearing people talk about it.

DrMR:

That’s our next podcast with Aaron guys. It’ll be tax strategies and cryptocurrencies.

AA:

It’s probably going to drop again. I’ll jump back in when it drops.

DrMR:

Well, let me know when you do. And the Instagram, the website, wherever people can track you down?

AA:

All my stuff is Align Podcast. We just recorded what I thought was a really insightful, important conversation with you that I’m really excited to release. I’ll probably release it very soon. When are you gonna release this?

DrMR:

Probably with within four to six weeks.

AA:

Oh, it’s not going to be for a bit. So your conversation will already be out. But if you want to jump over and check out Align Podcast, I think the Bruce Lipton episode was a great one. We’ve got Joe Dispenza coming up, which I’m excited about. And then The Align Method book, but most people probably just going to go to Instagram, @alignpodcast. And then from there, we’ve got online programs and all the things that people could use. This conversation was broadly outside of just the mechanics, but I try to really give people the baselines and the fundamentals to be able to effectively operate their bodies confidently in a sovereign way, and not be dependent on always reaching out to a therapist or spending all this money on stuff they don’t really need.

AA:

Because the fundamentals really are simple. It’s consistent in any practice. If you understand the basic fundamentals of how to effectively operate your body in daily life, it makes you a better dancer, it makes you a better weightlifter, it makes you a better yoga-er, and it makes you a better human being. And that’s what we break down in The Align Method.

DrMR:

Well, I love it. And like I said earlier, you clearly embody your philosophy, which I appreciate. And thank you again for sending me one of your bands, because I’ve used a few bands and I’ve had two break on me, ironically.

AA:

Oh really? That won’t happen with the Align band. It’s a money back guarantee.

DrMR:

Well, thank you, sir. I appreciate it.

AA:

Absolutely. Thanks for making time.

Outro:

Thank you for listening to Dr. Ruscio radio today. Check us out on iTunes and leave a review. Visit Dr. Ruscio.com to ask a question for an upcoming podcast, post comments for today’s show, and sign up to receive weekly updates.

 


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