Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Osteopath Says...

I've been flat-out busy with work. Feel like I'm just surfacing after a few weeks for a gulp of air before diving back down to my cave of stuff-to-do again.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to upload these pictures of my spine before the Auckland trip, and since then, work's just exploded with the upcoming end-of-year planning our clients have. Also, we've had a few guests since - K's mum came to visit again, and one of my best friends from Singapore has just left with her very cute daughter & husband (the daughter's cute. Not the husband. heh).

Anyways, thought I should probably blog this now before it gets stuck in my pile that never gets done.

I remember feeling especially freaked out for a couple of days after the Osteopath looked at my X-rays and broke down the issues I've got in my spine. This is basically what he put on the form for the Radiologist to photograph:

I'd only ever been for a chest X-ray, and it's an easy in-and-out of the room process "CLICK!" and off you go, on your way.

With what was on his list of X-rays required, you can imagine it involved quite a bit of setting up. It was still a pretty quick process, but I had to stand in profile, then face the machine, then inhale and hold my breath, then stand in profile again, open my mouth and hold it there, shake my head from side-to-side and relax my neck, holding it in its regular position...

Just the process of taking the X-rays itself made me feel weirded out (Wow, so many? Wonder what's the problem?) By the way, I was concerned about "the amount of radiation" I was exposed to, but apparently ONE flight from London to Sydney is probably the radiation equivalent of 50 X-rays, so that kind of shut me and my hypochondria up.

First off - let me just remind WHY I went to Osteopath in the first place... it was an extension of my Chiropractor visits to South Africa, to sort out my chronic shoulder knots. It's been about 5 - 7 years now that I've had them. Thought they were "ashtanga shoulders" that you hear of from Ashtanga yoga practitioners, so I stopped Ashtanga for about a year and practiced other forms of yoga. But the knots never went away.

Then when I was practising Power Yoga in Cape Town, I was convinced it was those handstands I was practising daily that made them worse. I had a brilliant Chiropractor there who helped sort out my ergonomics and made me more aware of external factors such as desk posture, computer position & eye level, she gave me little stretching exercises to do, made me more aware of how I was holding myself up throughout the day. Over a year and a half we made good progress through a process of dry-needling and ergonomics.

I was deathly afraid when I went on my month-long intensive Yoga teacher training that my shoulders would buckle with the physicality involved in the training. You know what? They didn't! My shoulders were perfectly fine! So, then I was convinced I hold stress in my shoulders. Must be work-related.

This whole process I've gone through with my shoulders has been a constant trial & error, almost like my yoga practice... some days are better than others, you discover a little bit more about yourself with each passing day, and well, you just roll with the punches I suppose.

I was doing really well after moving here in February - not needing to see anyone till August, when those knots started flaring up and coming back in full force again. Enter my friendly neighbourhood Osteopath.

Basically, long and short of it: he suspected the chronic knot that's worse in the left shoulder could be due to some kind of scoliosis in the spine. That is, a rotation in the spinal curve. He suspected this rotation came from my hips or pelvis, which looked visually misaligned. Also, one leg is about 1cm shorter than the other, and because of the rotation here, it makes the upper body overcompensate in the other direction, putting stress on one side of the shoulders more than the other.

WOW. How does that nursery rhyme go again? ..."the hip bone's connected to the... knee bone... the knee bone's connected to the..."

His suspicions were confirmed, and the X-rays also unearthed more funny goings-on...

Firstly, I have an extra lumbar disc. Yes, everyone has up to the L5, but I've also got an L6. I've got 2 extra little ribs poking out on the sides - I can make my own perfect Adam! You can count the profile of my lumbar. This in itself doesn't actually give me any problems, I'm just freaky cool (it happens to about 4 - 5% of the population?)

The other thing you can see from the above profile shot, is that my spine moves up pretty straight when the spine is supposed to be a curved "S" shape. So the straight thoracic (upper back) is probably a result of years of ballet when growing up. The tailbone also sticks out more than it should.

There's a slight scoliosis towards the bottom - you can see it more clearly here:

And the reason why the spine's rotated is because of my rotated pelvis. You can see how the tailbone's flicked out to the right a bit because of this.

Who knows why my posture does this - it could be from my torn right knee ligament 16 years ago - causing my body to put more pressure on the other side, thus screwing up my alignment.

The other freaky cool thing the X-rays unearthed: my neck is curved in the opposite direction it's supposed to go. No wonder this also compounds my neck/ shoulder issues.

I fished up an Xray of what the curvature should actually look like from the internet, and this is it (it's not me!)

(Photo credit here)

See how the neck is supposed to curve back, with your head resting on top, weighting it in the other direction? My neck looks like it's making a "C", with the big weight of my head on the end of it - if nothing's done about this in years to come, it could lead to a hunchback of Notre Dame situation. (OK, Osteopath didn't say this, it's my hypochondriac interpretation. All I can say is: Thank goodness for yoga or how off would this be looking like now?)

If you look at the front shot of my neck, you can see how this has caused my 2 top ribs (I thought these were my "top shoulders") to be compacted. This also leads to the chronic shoulder knot situation.

Funny enough, I was most freaked out about the L6 situation the whole day after seeing it. Even though this hasn't been what's been giving me problems. The Osteo said to me "you're still the same person you were 15min ago, before you saw the X-ray!" ...yeah, I was just being silly I suppose.

So, now begins the internal transformation, working on the musculoskeletal level. The Osteo's using a range of techniques from dry-needling to cranio-sacrial manipulation to trying to get me to connect everything I know of body awareness from yoga and applying that to visualizing my pelvis as I walk, and "connecting" with that now. In a sense, I guess he's bringing my spatial awareness to the misalignment there... I've just grown so used to feeling that this misalignment is the "correct" way to align that I've got to retrain the way I hold myself on an internal level.

Pretty far out stuff huh. But it makes so much rational, logical sense. I'm loving how this is all coming together. It's a long, slow process, and who knows if it'll come right since no one has "perfect posture". But it's taken my body a long time to get to this point of off-alignment, it's gonna take it a long time to figure out the right alignment again.

The Osteo says thank goodness for yoga in my case, as I could've been even more misaligned without it up til now. Also, the added body awareness I've got from yoga also makes it less abstract in trying to understand what's going on internally. All I can say is... it's definitely made me more aware of how I carry myself - from the way I walk to the way my head is positioned when sitting/ walking/ reading. Funny thing is, it feels like another aspect of yoga, off the mat.

Of course, with me, I've just got to be careful of pulling out that microscope, examining everything I do til THAT becomes yet another neurosis. ;p

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Organic Rebellion Continues...

I really love my food. You can probably tell if you've been following me on this blog. And since I've been getting more interested in where my food comes from, I've also started getting really into Michael Pollan. I've been reading his book "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

It's a fascinating and pretty lengthy look into the source of your food (what's *really* in that Chicken McNugget)... taking you from the Iowa cornfields to food science labs, from feedlots and fast-food restaurants to organic farms and hunting grounds.

I like how there's a growing awareness with consumption - people are waking up and caring about where their food comes from, what they're actually putting into their bodies, and the impact it has on the environment.

So when I came across this Grocery Store Wars video, I had to laugh out loud. Organic Pop Culture rocks! (Chew-broccolli's my favourite. "RRrrrrr!")

PS. I know I've yet to update on my Osteopath visit, that's next on my To-Do list, but I've been flat-out busy at work. Will be flying to Auckland tomorrow on a shoot, so will try and see what I can post before I leave.x

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Vegan Chocolate Exists

Oh yes, it does.

OK - all you pedants are gonna say "but... chocolate is vegan!" Sure it is, but most of the time those chocolate bars you buy from the store are almost always made with milk, or "milk solids" (what the heck is a milk "solid"?) ...and er, after reading up about what really constitutes "milk", it's just some form of white liquid (after pasteurizing, homogenizing... what's really left of the supposed "good stuff"?)

Oh, did I also mention that a certain percentage of pus is allowed in milk? PUS IN YOUR MILK?! SIC. Google it. It's from the poor cows who get mastitis - a mammary gland infection from constant milk-pumping. And it all leaks into your yummy glass of milk. (Healthy levels of somatic cell count in a healthy cow is 200,000 cells per ml, Australia allows up to 400,000 cells per ml. That's double the pus count. GROSS!)

Hang on, how did I digress so far into yet another gross post? I apologize.

But before I move on, that's just from a what-are-you-eating point-of-view, I'd mentioned the ethical treatment of the dairy cows (and other animals) in a previous post before so I won't get into that now.

So you see here folks, considering all of the above and how I love chocolate, I was trying to find something that didn't contain milk in it.

Enter Cocolo chocolate. Mmmmmmmmm...

I found them through Twitter, and their marketing people have confirmed that only their dark chocolate versions are vegan (although it's made on the same production line that makes their other milk chocolate varieties, hence there's a disclaimer on the pack that says "may contain traces of milk").

Other than being vegan-friendly, they're also Fair Trade, giving all the farmers along the way a fair deal. Why is this a big deal, you ask? Did you know that there's a strong link between chocolate and slavery?

Seriously, in this day & age, 43% of the chocolate consumed in this world is sourced from cocoa fields in the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In these fields, something like 12,000 children work as slaves (these are just the ones trafficked, kidnapped and forced to work... in total, you're talking about some 600,000 children working these fields).

So how come Nike gets all the bad press about child labour, and there's not enough on Nestle? (child SLAVERY is worse!)

Fair Trade basically gives the poor, disadvantaged farmers a fair deal, and also helps educate them in good/ fair business practices.

So apart from all this good karmic energy, here's more of the good stuff of what's actually in their 70% dark chocolate. Did I mention they use evaporated cane juice instead of sugar? While both sweeteners are made from sugar cane, evaporated cane juice does not undergo the same degree of processing that refined sugar does. So, unlike refined sugar, it retains more of the nutrients found in sugar cane.

With all of this good stuff in there, you'd expect this to be an absolute premium chocolate, only available in specialty health stores. Well, it is available in the usual-suspects-health-stores, but it's ALSO available in Coles supermarkets.

Yeah, good stuff for the masses too! At not a bad price - $4.50 a bar, slightly higher than your average slave-labour-Nestle, but I'd pay 50 cents more knowing my purchase goes towards the greater good.

The taste verdict? Absolutely velvety-smooth dark chocolate. Pure awesomeness. I always end up buying 2 bars at a time for "just in case", if that tells you anything (oh, and I won't share my bars with Kelly either).

Cocolo website in Australia here. And you can also follow them on Twitter @cocolochocolate

This was supposed to be a short-ish post, how did I get here (again)?! Call me long-winded, but I've got lots more to report on my yoga practice (handstands to dropover to backbend and stand up!) and the Xray report at the Osteopath (man, it's big news, and I'm still coming to terms with being a bit of a spinal freak. Still processing this)... so watch this space for those updates in the next week or so!
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