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  1. I wrote to Kit not long ago asking for advice for a problem and it was suggested that I post here. For over two years now, I have been dealing with headaches / neck / jaw pain. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where I am feeling it, as the jaw, front of the neck and suboccipital muscles all feel afflicted. Muscles in the shoulder and middle/ upper back will tighten as well, on one side. The pain will be experienced almost always upon waking, though it will usually alleviate somewhat once I get up and move around a little bit. I cannot lie around in bed at all once I wake up. At seemingly random points throughout the day, the pain will return. It will also wake me up in the night. The randomness of the pain returning is the most maddening part, as I do not feel as though I am stressed sometimes, yet the pain will still come. Perhaps my awareness is so limited, that I simply cannot let myself relax. I have been made aware of the idea that most are aware of the concept of relaxation, but cannot actually invoke the experience. Perhaps I fall into this basket. Kit recommended that I try the hip flexor and neck stretches, and in particular the latest ones from the YouTube channel. I did so (my hip flexors are incredibly tight, especially on one side, from skateboarding - I assume) Kit also recommended that I try cultivate a daily relaxation practice. In response, I began to do the lying relaxation scripts. There is absolutely no doubt that these are effective - both in inducing a state of deep relaxation in the moment (which I honestly believe I had NEVER been able to do before) and in increasing bodily awareness throughout the next day. In the following three days, I experienced complete, sustained relief from the pain, for literally the first time in years. This was incredible - I was ecstatic. Life was beautiful once again. On the third day, I began to stress about one thing or another - the pain returned. I am now feeling as though I am “chasing the dragon” in trying to recreate the relief. I am trying to do the same stretching exercises, though I feel as though I may be stretching far too frequently and not giving the muscles enough time to recover. When the pain comes, however, it is hard to restrain myself from the utopia that stretching provided in the recent past. The pain is also now returning whilst I am trying to do the lying relaxations. I don’t know whether this is because I am missing a muscle group that needs to be stretched, or whether my muscles have been overworked, or whether I am simply stressed and unable to relax. I have just tried one of the seated mediation audios which was better and relatively pain free - I will continue with these. It’s worth noting here that I am currently about 2 weeks out from my final law exams. Undoubtedly stress levels are higher than usual and this must be playing a significant role in this affliction. However I have been experiencing this pain at relatively consistent levels throughout the past 2 years, whether on holidays or during the uni semester. I have only sought to properly resolve the pain and enhance my relaxation in the last few weeks, whereas in the past I was merely putting up with it. I do not know whether it is the stress that is causing the pain, or whether it is the pain that is causing the stress. When the pain occurs, I side with the latter. I find it hard to be relaxed when in pain, and as mentioned, it is severely disrupting my sleep, which only contributes to the stress experienced the next day. I’m sorry for the length of this post and the lack of cohesion. I realise I am probably rambling and I have no specific question. Any thoughts would be deeply appreciated.
  2. Kit suggested that I started a new thread on tinnitus, extracing postings from my earlier thread on Body Awareness. So here it is. Most of what is here will have been removed from the earlier thread to avoid duplication, but some will remain to keep continuity. Jim: Here’s my essay on the differences between what I call the natural approach, and the biological approach, using tinnitus as an example. Its needs to be long, but we all know we need to get away from the sound-bite culture, so I am sure you will bear with me – and even read to the end. Kit: “Let me illustrate my thesis by mentioning that I have severe tinnitus (to the extent of being functionally deaf in my L ear) but this is not any kind of problem for me (I have been a meditator for 30-odd years, and awareness and relaxation a special focus). In other words, my mind de-emphasises what could otherwise be maddening. The same techniques can be useful in all similar problems.” Jim: First, some background. It is now clear that the great majority of cases of tinnitus are due to denervation hypersensitivity – i.e., when deprived of its normal input, the central nervous system generates its own activity instead. Therefore although Kit has suggested the tinnitus made him deaf in the left ear, I suggest the causation was probably the other way round. There was probably some earlier hearing loss (maybe so little that it was not noticed), and the tinnitus developed as a result. The hearing loss then progressed further, so appeared to be the result, not the cause, of the tinnitus. The second point I want to make about tinnitus is that many people find it very ANNOYING. It is like those sounds that may not matter to us at first (neighbours’ music, dripping taps, etc) but after a bit they get on our wick, and can become overwhelming. Part of this response is our feeling that the sound SHOULD NOT HAPPEN – but we are helpless in doing anything about it. And it does not need to be very loud for this to happen. In the “natural” approach, this annoyance reaction, which drives the very negative effects of tinnitus, is uncoupled, by meditation or other techniques. The sound remains present, but has become neutral in its effects. This is clearly the method that Kit has used. The advantages of this method are that it needs no equipment or specialist medical input, and the methods developed can be applied to a wide range of situations. Very valuable indeed! Until recently, this was the only approach available. Indeed, when I first developed my own tinnitus a decade or two ago, and went to a friend who was an ENT surgeon for an assessment, and his response was “Just put up with it. I can put up with mine and it doesn’t trouble me.” So it was clearly OK for him. The trouble is, this does not work for many people. It did not work for me, much as I would have liked it to. And when people are told to fix something themselves, when they have come for help and clearly cannot fix themselves, then this can lead to despair, increased stress, and a worsening of their symptoms in a vicious spiral downwards. Tinnitus is sometimes described as so stressful that it leads people to suicide, though the statistics show this only happens in those who are also facing a lot of other stressors at the same time. Luckily I knew therapy was available, and went straight round the corner to the next clinic and got it. This is called Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. For anyone reading this, who has tinnitus, this is what you should be putting into Google to find a practitioner. The logic, backed by data from animal experiments, is that every time we let tinnitus annoy us, the neural connections between the auditory pathways and the parts of the brain that signal annoyance get strengthened. Every time we have tinnitus and it does not annoy us, the connections get weakened. The basis of tinnitus retraining therapy is (among other things) to play a sound through headphones that sounds rather like the tinnitus, but not quite, at roughly comparable loudness, so we can hear both at once. The sound through the headphones does not annoy us, because we can control it if we want, and by directing our attention to that sound rather than the tinnitus, the neural pathways connecting the tinnitus to the annoyance parts of the brain get weakened. The result is that though we can often still hear the tinnitus once the headphones are removed, it does not annoy us any more. And because the neural pathways are getting weakened, the tinnitus might disappear completely – or, as commonly happens, come back briefly (and not annoyingly) only when our attention is drawn to it (by someone talking about tinnitus, for instance). My guess is that Kit used meditation and other techniques to achieve the same uncoupling. Many people however need help to achieve this. The next stage of my own tinnitus journey happened a year or so ago, when my hearing loss (probably as a result of ageing) progressed further, and under this extra challenge, the tinnitus returned. But I was already using the tinnitus retraining techniques on my own as a routine. How could I deal with this new challenge? Here I turned to my scientific training (and I was also inspired I should add by an article in the Weekend Australian that you might have seen, about an American called Moskowitz who conquered his own chronic pain through visualisations - this is also described in “The Brains Way of Healing” by Norman Doidge). It is known that if an area of the brain is deprived of its normal input, neural connections from adjacent areas will invade and initiate their own activity (actually, the connections are probably there all along, but their activity is normally suppressed). In hearing, this means that if a part of the brain that normally responds to signals at say 8 kHz is no longer getting an input, neurones responding to say 6 kHz, will end up activating the area (much of the pioneering work on this was done at Monash). So with the guidance of my audiogram, which showed a steeply rising hearing loss at 8 kHz, I made up a stimulus with its energy concentrated just below this frequency, using the free sound editing program Audacity. I took some music (rather repetitive guitar music) speeded it up so it sounded like a twittering (so it would be meaningless but have temporal fluctuations that would keep the system stimulated), shifted it in frequency and then filtered it, so all the energy was all in the 6 – 8 kHz band, and put it as a loop on my ipod and listened at a level just above detection threshold. I put it on to fall asleep at night, and lo and behold, the tinnitus went very quickly. So this showed how an increased understanding of the physiology could make a cure when other methods had failed. There are a few interesting points I can make now. One is that when I first heard my new auditory stimulus, I felt “YES”! Somehow I felt very welcoming towards it. It was though the sound was an old friend, that I had been wanting to hear all along, and had been missing. I suggest that at long last neurones that had been deprived of stimulation were getting some, and this produced a welcoming emotional response. Similar reactions have been noted by others when their aberrant neural inputs have been corrected. Second point – why can tinnitus be so very annoying? This may seem no-brainer, but once the question is posed, you realise, why is it so different from the other sounds that we hear all the time that do not annoy us? The reason comes down to the neurophysiology. The auditory system, like all other sensory systems, has different components. We have the specific system, which I can liken to a motorway. It is fast and efficient and its job is to get the signals analysed precisely and quickly so that they can be acted on cognitively with minimal delay. But the motorway pathways are surrounded by other pathways, more like country lanes. They are slower, meander, and connect with lots of other pathways (and to other sensory modalities as well). They also preferentially connect to the emotional systems, including attention and arousal which also means annoyance. For reasons peculiar to their cell biology, these pathways seem particularly sensitive to the loss of normal input, and so become particularly hyperactive when deprived. So any stimulus that does get in, will drive the “annoyance” response particularly strongly. This is why tinnitus can be so annoying. Finally, do these findings suggest a drug treatment, so we can just pop a pill and forget about it? (no more hard work!) While animal studies have suggested drugs that might be useful, none in practice have turned out to be particularly effective, or without too many drawbacks. But it is quite likely that one day these studies will show an effective drug treatment. So in summary how do I compare the “natural” and “biological” approaches? The natural approach is simple, low tech, and can potentially be applied to many different situations. However it takes time and discipline and not many people it seems can achieve it. The biological approach needs input from professionals, and costs money, but is usually very effective, even for people for whom the natural approach has failed completely. And one can use it to derive variants (as I did) to deal with situations of varying difficulty. But both approaches have the same underlying logic (almost, anyway - my second approach was doing something different). One could say that the biological approach uses targeted baby steps, devised as a result of understanding the biology, to achieve the same result as the purely natural approach, and that the desired outcome is more easily achievable by a wider range of people. Finally – and here I am going into deep water and may regret it. But why can some people make the natural approach work and others not? Clearly, practice and discipline come into it. But as well as that, there may be some underlying biological variables that we do not know about. My ENT surgeon implied that there was not an issue – dealing with tinnitus came naturally to him. He is (or was then) a nice, calm, social, well adjusted person who could stand a lot of stress – just what is needed in a surgeon who has to perform very delicate and sometimes life-threatening operations for hours on end (life-threatening when they do intracranial surgery). Very different from a scientist like me who has chosen another path, because it suited my own very different basic temperament. Is this a factor? I don’t know. However we do tend to make moral judgements about peoples’ responses to these situations, when in fact it may be driven by basic differences in biology (types of neurotransmitter enzymes inherited for instance). As for a lit review on tinnitus, which Kit mentioned, a little book called "An Introduction to the Phyisology of Hearing" by one James O. Pickles has a few pages on it, though it is not at an introductory level (my little joke - when I was starting to study science, all the most advanced books seemed to be called "An Introduction to..." - implying now you're getting onto the REAL stuff). Jim. Kit: I would love to read your book; I just tried to order it from Amazon, but an error message was returned "we cannot ship to your nominated address". WTF? Jim: First, some background. It is now clear that the great majority of cases of tinnitus are due to denervation hypersensitivity – i.e., when deprived of its normal input, the central nervous system generates its own activity instead. Therefore although Kit has suggested the tinnitus made him deaf in the left ear, I suggest the causation was probably the other way round. There was probably some earlier hearing loss (maybe so little that it was not noticed), and the tinnitus developed as a result. The hearing loss then progressed further, so appeared to be the result, not the cause, of the tinnitus. Kit: This very likely is true and I was going to make exactly the same point about plantar fasciitis: removing what I consider to be the necessary stimulation from one's feet by insulating them from the environment (shoes) is the cause: the brain/neural system needs this information, and 'looks harder' for it by turning up the volume on the signal from the plantar fascia. Hypersensitivity of the plantar fascia is the result. I wonder how much of EDS might be explained by similar mechanisms, and whether the Mast cell activation syndrome difference is the result of this, rather than the cause? Yes please to starting a tinnitus thread, and cut and paste from the threads above. Re. my L ear: I think that both processes proceeded; in the sense that the loudness of the tinnitus increased as well as the deafness increased. One of the reasons I have not had my hearing tested for so many years is that I think the hearing aid technology that does allow one to hear better does not change the tinnitus. The retraining therapy you mention is of interest to me; perhaps we can talk about this some time. (End of extract) Jim.
  3. Though doing a body scan while stretching would seem intrinsic to any stretch technique, a search of this site with the word "scan" produces no results, and I dont remember it being explicitly mentioned anywhere. But maybe it appears in other guises. During a stretch, I've been doing a scan of the areas affected - and other areas as well. So for instance in a held single leg standing hamstring stretch, I first feel what is happening in the toes, then the balls of the feet, the arch of the foot, the instep, the ankle, the Achilles tendon, the calf muscles, the back, sides, and front of the knee, the different thigh muscles (in so far as I can distinguish them), the buttocks, the hip, the waist, the back, the shoulders, the arms, the neck, the head, the other leg. In other words, though I concentrate in more detail on the areas most closely involved in the stretch, I scan the rest of the body as well. This enables me to form a total picture of how the whole body is involved in the stretch. Then I can try relaxing areas that seem tight or that are being worked unnecessarily, and focus my attention on the areas that are being stretched, or that I intend to work on. This may seem slow and tedious, but after the first time I do it, I find I form a mental picture that means I can slip into it very quickly on later attempts. It would seem that doing something like this could help, and indeed be essential, in body awareness and body work. I’ve only tried it a little myself so far, but hope to tell my students about it soon, in case anyone finds it useful. I wonder has anyone tried it (whether in this form, or another one) and what has been your experience? Thanks, Jim.
  4. I initially came across Kit and Stretch Therapy in my quest to understand flexibility. Through much trial and error, then finally getting actual flexibility results myself that made sense, I think I found out what flexibility truly is. At least a far greater understanding of the mechanisms involved. Kit seemed to be one of the few people that aligned with my thought process. I browsed the forums and watched a few of his videos for further information. I found we didn’t completely agree on the topic but that is to be expected. The similarities and differences pushed me to reach out to him directly through e-mail. He requested me to post our e-mail exchange in the forums and if I wanted to continue the conversation, to do so here. I don’t know the best location for this post or the best way to post the following exchange. I decided to copy and paste the e-mails in their entirety so the full context is preserved. Each post will be a different e-mail. There are a total of 13.
  5. Hi, guys! I had some thoughts keeping my mind busy the whole afternoon: Does anybody here ride? I do it lately. I remember the first several times when I couldn't understand the instruction of the coach - "keep the torso relaxed but the knees tightly to the horse". At that moment I couldn't realize how could this happen? It's like from the waist above to act as you're drunk and on the contrary - down from the waist to work hard. For beginners as myself we still don't hold the rein - the coach leads us, because as I mentioned, it is very important to get used of holding yourself on the horse only by your legs. If you hold firmly the saddle with hands, the erectors start working and you start bumping. What you need to do is just to relax all the muscles from the upper body part. The feeling is so beautiful! The feeling is as you are a centaur who gallops and in the same time enjoys the view. It got too poetically, sorry for that The conclusion for me is: Put in work only the muscles which are needed for the situation and enjoy the ride (metaphorically).
  6. Hi everyone, new member here. I've been redirected to this forum from the Facebook page of ST, I already knew this community and the reason why I didn't come here in the first place is because my issue has more to do with meditation than stretching. Or at least that was what I initially thought: I've read the “start here” section and know I think this could be the right place to ask for help. This may be a long post and I'm not a native English speaker, so please be patient and forgive grammar/syntax errors. Near the end of 2012 my path of self-improvement made me discover contemplative practices and by the start of 2013 I had established a daily sitting meditation practice. Being an anxious person, I immediately noticed a great improvement of life-quality and I felt such relieved that I thought I had found the Sacred Graal. I kept the habit and gradually lengthened the duration of mi sits to 30 minutes, in the meantime I was reading a lot about the topic, as well as asking question on Reddit when I happened to face challenges. I did not have a teacher, at the time, but I felt I was progressing because my mind was becoming clearer every day and my body relaxation was improving too. 1.5 years ago there was a big turning point: a Reddit user, a complete stranger, became to me something close to a teacher; his suggestions were really on spot and the practice began to truly transform me. I was practicing two times a day, every day, for 30 minutes each: one session of Vipassanā and one session of Samatha. What do I mean when I say “transformation”? Well, you have to know that since the beginning of my Path I've had troubles with posture. I sat in a chair, with my butt slightly elevated by a folded blanket and, although that was the only situation I could meditate in, I never felt really balanced and occasionally my spine would even collapse; those issues could make my practice really uncomfortable, but then again, I saw discomfort as a tool. All of that changed during one sit: I was practicing Samatha, putting all of my attention on the breath passing under the nostrils, and for some reason I was putting quite a lot of effort in the task. Suddenly the bell rang to announce the end of the practice and then something happened: I let go of all the tensions in my body and the activity of watching the breath became truly effortless for the first time. In all of the following sits I brought the same quality of mind, as a result my concentration deepened as well as my relaxation. My posture suddenly wasn't a problem anymore, my whole body was perceived as something far away: when I was watching the breath, there was only the breath. Vipassanā practice also improved a lot because of my laser-like focus combined with muscle relaxation, I was able to dismantle every sensation into tiny vibrations; it was amazing. For the first time I was deeply enjoying every session, to the point I started to sneak in micro-meditations from time to time; 10 minutes of Samatha were able to rest my body-mind a lot more than 1h of sleep. Those qualities weren't present only during formal sits: my daily life improved on so many levels. I was calmer, happier, more compassionate, my mind was clearer and negative events had less hold on me. One day I reached my peak: during a 10 minutes Samatha session I felt pure joy rushing to my chest at every inhalation, while my head was becoming lighter; I'm now prone to believe I was near the state some folks call “jhana”. The most amazing thing was the aftermath, though: I was happy, I felt my body light like 20+ years of emotional baggage were suddenly lifted from my shoulders, my voice was deeper and I could see beauty everywhere. Those sensations lasted for six hours or so, until I went to bed. I replicated the same experience during the following session, but unfortunately things then got a lot worse. I don't really know the cause, although I suspect it has to do with stress linked to some unfortunate events, the fact is is started feeling tension all over my face while meditating. Usually observing with equanimity is enough to soften every kind of tension, but that time didn't work. Those pressures made almost impossible for me to effectively focus on my breath, so I started to worried and wishing them to go away…of course the only result was they got worse. I lost my laser-like concentration, I lost my relaxation, I lost a lot of fruits of my practice. I still meditate everyday at the best of my abilities, but I feel stuck in a vicious circle. That hindrance appeared a little more than a year ago and I've been tried to figure out what happened ever since. I immediately understood the problem was somewhere in my body, so I signed for a yoga course (best decision ever) and I discovered the main issues was in my neck-jaw: I have a lot of tensions there; oddly enough, I've always somatized stress in my stomach, but for some reason the pattern has changed now. My researches made me aware of my postural problems and now I'm trying to fix them, hoping that will help with my practice. I've anterior pelvic tilt, and my head is leaning forward, I also have tight pectorals and tight scalenes (despite the weak neck flexors). Kit videos on YouTube and Vimeo have been really useful to address the tension in my body and I'm extremely thankful for them, I now stretch daily my hip flexors and my neck-jaw with great relief. That partly helps to improve my meditation sessions, but I still have way too much troubles, although not as many as one year ago. I've also started meditating on the floor (burmese style), but with erratic results despite stretching my muscle as Kit explained in a dedicated video on Vimeo. I think I'll try a kneeling position with a meditation bench. I've also come to terms with my ego by admitting I cannot consider myself more than an “amateur(ish) meditator”, so I got back to the basis: now I just do one session a day of Samatha, trying to apply the technique instructions at my best. Despite what may seem (or at least seems to me) a complete failure, I think I've learned something. During the time when my practice was smooth I used to think focus provided relaxation, but now I'm realizing it's not quite like that: relaxation is the basis to allow the development of a steady focus, that increased concentration will bring further relaxation into the body and this will allow the focus to become even stronger; moreover a tense body is linked to a busy mind, although I'm not sure what comes first. In short: I need to relax my body and I need meditation tips. I don't have someone to ask this questions anymore, so I'm "begging" help here. I've written a lot, so it's better to end here, but I can provide further information if needed. Thanks for your time.
  7. Can anyone steer me in the direction of a relaxation recording Kit has done focused on improving sleep? One of favourite parts of the ITS workshop was the relaxation session at the end of each day. I know with those sessions Kit made a point that you should try NOT to fall asleep (I may have fallen asleep at least once!). So, with that in mind, hoping there might be a recording that is geared more towards the sleep end than the relaxation end of the spectrum. If not, perhaps Kit might be able to record one! Thanks -Kyler
  8. Here's a clip Cherie filmed a while back. It's of her great take on the 'rolled towel' neck relaxation exercise. Cher goes into a lot of detail about the whole process: from rolling the towel properly (she is the master of all things folding!); positioning and micro-movements.
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