I recently had another appearance on “The Rachael Ray Show.” I have to say, she is amazing. I don’t know how she does it. Each day she tapes three shows, manages all of the personalities on her show with a smile, and her energy is simply unwavering.
This time, Rachael and I chatted about the mishaps leading into summer that make us look and feel old. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but aging is happening to us all and knowing some simple, inexpensive ways to keep your body looking and feeling good is an asset we should all have—especially women.
Why is it that men seem to look more distinguished as they age and we just get wrinkles and cellulite? What most of us don’t realize is, under our skin, there is an amazing, renewable resource that we can help or hurt from our daily lifestyle choices. What’s great about this system is it’s accessible, adaptable, and we can help it sustain its role as the stability architecture of our structure, skin, and overall well being.
So what is this system and what was I trying to convey during her show between our banter? As a founding member of the Fascial Research Society, I’ve been privileged to collaborate with some of the most cutting edge research teams around the world who are trying to gain a better understanding of the connective tissue system, its role in stability, and the properties we can enhance through self-care.
On her show, I talked about 3 things that make us look and feel old: poor posture, cellulite, and sagging skin. The 3 moves we discussed are all part of key MELT Sequences found in the MELT Method book and DVD. All 3 of these moves can be a stand-alone move to use daily but doing the entire sequence is where the real magic can be had.
The MELT Move: Back of Thigh Shearing for Reducing the Appearance of Cellulite
We now know connective tissue and the cellular components of this system are reactive to a number of factors—two key components are tension and compression. What we understand about fascia is that if you pull or compress the fibrous elements of this tissue continuum for long periods of time, it can alter the elastic properties of this system which allow it to move yet return to its ideal shape quickly. (For example, things that do this include postures such as sitting with your upper back slumped forward). This is a significant contributor to low back pain as well as cellulite on the backs of your thighs.
What most people don’t realize is that fat loves to live in the tiny compartments called microvacuoles (bubbles) of our connective tissue. Once they are there, it damages the collagen as water should be in those spaces. If fat lives there, collagen collapses and intertwines the fibers with the fat—and fat cells can not only get bigger, they can multiply. This is the onset of cellulite.
However, the very things— tension and compression that cause damage to the tissue can restore its integrity—if you know how.
Applying the light touch twisting motion to the backs of your thighs, which I call Shearing in MELT, stimulates this fluid system and helps to improve the sliding surfaces fascia should possess. When fascia becomes dehydrated the fibrous elements become too stiff which causes a change in the density of the system. In our preliminary research, we found that all participants improved the elastic quality of their low back fascia, reduced stiffness and improved the tone of their tissue with this move.
Think if shearing like whisking egg whites or scrubbing shampoo into your hair. The process of shearing causes the multi-microvacuolar spaces (bubbles) to expand and uptake water and other fluid components that can be lost when we cause excessive compression on local regions of our body—like we do when we sit on our butt for long periods of time.
Start at the top of your thighs and twist the flesh like a figure 8 in one local spot on each thigh for approximately 30 seconds. Next, wait and rest on that spot and take a few focused breaths. Then move the roller down to the middle of your thighs and repeat the process of twisting and then waiting before finding one more spot. I love doing this move at the end of my day to erase the negative effects of sitting so I don’t see those lumpy bumps on the backs of my thighs.
If you want the full effect, check out the Lower Body Compression Sequence on the MELT Method Book Companion DVD, or the enhanced E-book.
Next up, sagging skin. I have always had that just like my mom. However it looks worse when your head carriage goes forward. The more you let your head drop into that slumped position like it does when you sit, the more tension you cause on the tissue at the base of your skull and the muscles that draw the base of your skull towards the front of the collarbones.
The MELT Move: Base of Skull Shear
This move is part of the Neck Release Sequence (also on the DVD and in the book). By applying the Shearing technique on the base of the skull in 3-4 different spots, you decrease the stiffness of the tissue that gets locked short and causes that turkey neck which certainly gives age to any face. To see how fast you can make a change, start with a Reconnect Move by lying on your back and gently evaluating your ability to turn your head from left to right. Then try the move and reassess to see if you improve your range of motion or reduce pain.
I also demonstrated the neck decompress move which is a simple head nod. The key to both moves is sustaining slow, consistent pressure in one local area. It decreases the tensional pull on the neck so it also helps alleviate neck pain!
The last thing we talked about was actually a really important missing link to keeping our posture upright and our energy vibrant—decreasing stress on our diaphragm. When we sit for long periods of time (and as Rachael’s guest clearly demonstrated that big boobs also play a factor in weight down our frontside), this causes stress on our mid back and inhibits the natural motion of the diaphragm. If the diaphragm is inhibited to move, it can sap our energy, cause a decrease in the tone of our abdomen, and curve our back into a relatively permanent state of flexion which makes us look slumped, short, and old.
The MELT Move: Rib Length
Get out of that flexed position and restoring motion in the rib region of the body is essential to our upright posture. The key to doing this move right is differentiating the rib motion from the neck or low back. Remember what I said on the show, the low back doesn’t arch during the move. Focus on keeping your pelvis in a slight tuck to elongate the low back and allow your head to rest in your hands so you don’t hyperextend your neck as you extend your ribs back or from side to side. When you do this move, don’t be surprised to find stiffness, restricted breathing capabilities, tight shoulders, and it may be impossible to only move your ribs into the pose.
Once you are in the extended position, take a gentle focused inhalation and then force exhalation with a firm Shhhh sound. This forced exhalation drives the diaphragm back to its original position faster causing the deep core reflexes to go into action. Once you restore those reflexes, the spinal alignment can significantly improve.
If you want to evaluate the changes and insure you have done it correctly, before you begin, lie on your back and sense the shape and size of your low back curve. Just put a finger in your belly button as a reference point and notice how high your low back curve goes. If it feels arched above the belly button, see if after you try these moves if your low back curve feels more balanced. This would leave you feeling like you have a low back curve instead of a mid-back curve if that’s what you start with.
This is part of the Upper Body Compression Sequence. To sustain the changes and really enhance your posture and diaphragmatic function, try the entire sequence from the MELT DVD and book.
Remember, what we don’t know about our connective tissue is what’s causing damage to it. The more you know, the more you can do to actively partake in looking and feeling young for your lifetime. Now get to it!