Sue's blog

Vitamin D - Is Sun Exposure Worth It?

I know I have written about this topic before but the summer months are fast approaching and my sun worshiping friends (you know who you are) are already turning different hues of brown and bronze and it’s only Memorial Day weekend. There are many days of tanning left in the season.

In another blog I will write about DNA, sunscreen, and aging but for now, let me tell you what I know about Vitamin D and the sun. First, did you know that “Vitamin D” isn’t even a vitamin? Turns out it’s actually a hormone our skin naturally produces when we expose it to sunlight. Yes we can buy it in a vitamin pill form, but in our body... it's a hormone. If our body is unable to naturally produce this hormone for reasons such as stress and aging it’s as bad as having a thyroid issue (not having enough thyroid hormones) or not having enough insulin.

Vitamin D is now more understood and recent science shows that this natural hormone helps with the dying and development of all cells. So that means if you don’t have enough of it, you are more prone to have dying, damaged cells mutate and linger turning into cancer cells and tumors potentially. D lets the cells depart, die... whatever you want to call it. Without vitamin D it’s sort of like the cells won’t just die. And if cells won’t die, over time less and less are produced. Welcome to the aging process…It’s pretty well known that D helps with calcium absorption and bone integrity as well which also helps us slow down the effects of father time. Mind you, I am simplifying the concept so anyone can get the idea of vitamin D's importance to our longevity.

However… most doctor’s today will say it’s better to take a supplement like vitamin D3 if you are tested (with a 25 Hydroxy vitamin D test by your doctor) to have low levels of vitamin D in your blood rather than sit in the sun on a summer day. The issue with this is the fact that “vitamin D” is a HORMONE, which means the dosage is pretty important if you are getting it from supplementation. You wouldn’t want to take just any amount of thyroid medication so you shouldn't do it with D either. Under a doctor’s supervision a proper dosage can be created and used efficiently. With Vitamin D, don’t self-medicate – with medication or with the sun. This is one of those times where a doctor’s intervention is a smart choice and sitting in the sun all day is just a bad idea in this day and age. I am sure we are all well aware of the ozone layer and environmental issues that are new things we are dealing with and will continue to deal with over our lifetime.

And with the sun, although it helps us naturally produce this essential hormone, it’s rays age us more than stress by a landslide on the surface of our skin. Getting too much sun damages your DNA. Again, a topic for another blog. And the bigger bummer is when you wear sunscreen it inhibits vitamin D production caused by the sun’s rays so you can't even use that as the excuse as to why you are in the sun all day to begin with. So again, you can supplement with D3 pills so your body produces the hormone more efficiently and you can always do self-tanners as the alternative to tanning in the sun.

Sadly for me the alternative of trying self-tanners never seems to work out. Instead of looking smooth and bronzed, my legs get super spotty like liver spots (I feel like I have a disease when I look at my lower legs) and it grosses me out! I took the risk and tried using a bronzer/self-tanner again this year and now have orange spots all over my legs yet again. I don't even know why I try. Vanity is a bitch. It looks horrible and at some point I will have to have my skin either bleached or laser treated I am sure. Any other suggestions for my own skin issues are gladly welcome! In the meantime, use sunscreen because it keeps you looking young and be mindful of your sun exposure - and remember, when you drink you are more at risk to have a sunburn! Happy summer everyone! Drink some water!

These are just some of my favorite things

There are some items and products that I wish I had stock in! Some things I buy I hear myself saying, "Why didn't I think of that?!" It's summer, the warm weather is out and so are those flimsy flip flops! Here in NYC the sidewalks to NOT turn into soft sand yet many people feel it's appropriate to pop on a pair of $1.99 flip flops from Walmart and bust a move around town. I know, your sneakers are hot and you want to show off your pedi but seriously it's one of the reasons I make a KILLING in the summer months with clients who develop hamstring strains, foot pain, and low back issues.

As I feel I can call myself the Longevity Queen, I thought I would start telling you all about my favorite products that are a must buy this summer season. I could put a top 10 list together, but let's just pick the top 3 for this morning's blog post:


1. FIT FLOPS®! I really have to say, I love these! They are super durable, soft, thick, and stable... not to mention all the pretty color options and styles! HOWEVER... I have had mine for only a few months and I can already feel them breaking down a little bit so once the season is over, toss them out! I know many people will say, "But Sue! They cost like $60!" Yes, I know they are more expensive than a basic pair of flip flops but really, for the quality of them, it's worth the $$$ later when you don't have back and foot pain by September and have to spend hundreds of dollars coming to see someone like me! This whole claim of the Fit Flop® making your legs work harder and leaning out your legs by walking in them I must admit is just silly. Why would you want your legs to work harder when you walk? Wouldn't you want your legs to work more efficiently? It's an odd claim and I don't agree with it in the slightest so bag the idea that these flops will subsitute for a run around Central Park or a decent leg workout and just think of them as a way to keep your feet in tip-top shape all summer long. They will certainly last you all summer!

NOTE: these flops don't last forever! Just for the summer then toss them out and buy a new pair. Also, make sure you clean the flop after you wear them a bunch of times as the rubbery plastic they are made out of are, as with all flip flops very succeptable to bacterial growth and such that could lead do skin issues like dry heels to warts!

yoga toes2. Yoga Toes®! Now these are my super favorite item. I have bought them about a dozen times, given them to clients many times as a part of their self-treatment regimen. This is a no-brainer. Just put them on your feet, keep your legs elevated a couple inches above your hips (lie down I mean) for about 10 minutes and then take them off!

NOTE: Don't wear them for long periods of time. 10 minutes is plenty. You can do it a couple times a day but after 10 minutes take them off. You are pulling on the fascia between the toes which can certainly help issues like neuromas, toe and foot pain and such but too much pulling can irritate the tissue and dehydrate it so it offer less support later. Too much of a good thing is possible! So just 10 minutes and your feet will feel great!

pedi couture3. The Pedi-Couture™ flip flops! I love these too... but NOT for walking around the city in! Great for use like a slipper or when you are at the spa or poolside this summer. Keeps your toes separated which is great to keep some extra blood flow going to your toes as you chill at the beach! They are totally unsupportive for walking around in though. I can't wait until Fit Flops and Pedi-Couture get together and make a Fit Flop with toe spacers!!! I'd make them if I had the time and $$ for sure!

It's super hot out today in NYC and if it's hot where you are, of course my first question today is... "Did you drink water yet?!" Have a little extra mid-day in between meals rather than with meals and keep your body healthy, active, pain-free and feeling great all day!

Babies and Developmental Phases

It's always such a learning experience being able to work on a baby. In my private practice I see both healthy and not so healthy babies. Sometimes it's a simple issue, acid reflux or tortocolis and sometimes it's a seizure baby or a baby with anomolies that they will work with over their lifetime.

I found a fantastic guy who does work with parents and babies in his practice, Roots and Wings Studio. Dan Rindler combines Feldenkrais Method® with music from around the world.   Parents learn to support their baby's development through touch, movement and music.  Classes are offered for pre-crawlers, crawlers and beginning walkers.  Dan also teaches a popular 4 week "Tummy-Time Solutions™" workshop which has helped countless babies  become comfortable from head to toe in tummy-time!  Classes are held at Symphony Space, Broadway @ 95th Street in NYC! 

Tummy-Time Solutions is also coming to the Prenatal Yoga Center of Manhattan and Birth Day Presence in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Upcoming Classes at Symphony Space:
                  Tuesday May 25th & Thursday May 27th Trial classes for pre-crawlers thru early walkers
                  Tuesday June 1st, 2pm Tummy Time Solutions workshop begins (no trial available for this 4 part workshop)
                  Thursday May 27th,  11am Tummy Time Solutions workshop begins (no trial available for this 4 part workshop)

Trial Class Link
Tummy Time Link

A review from a mom who is a current member of his class:  "I just wanted to report to you on the huge improvement my son has made on his tummy time.  Since yesterday's class, he is able to stay on his tummy for much much longer -- even for 10 min without screaming.  He has also started to look around and reach for toys instead of resting his head on his arms all the time.  I had tried a lot of things to entertain him while he is on his tummy, but nothing worked.  I'm just amazed how things have changed for him after your class. Thanks for the great instruction.  I'm looking forward to the upcoming classes."

About Dan's Method and his use of Feldenkrais:  Babies often take to the Feldenkrais Method more readily than traditional therapies, because it "speaks their language."   It builds on their strengths and is largely pleasurable rather than a constant challenge and reminder of what they can not do.  The Feldenkrais Method differs from most other approaches in that it doesn't deal directly with stretching or strengthening.   Instead, it aims to help babies expand their options for movement by building body awareness (proprioception) and creating the conditions for them to learn coordinated, easy movement.   Rather than looking for babies to simply "make milestones", the Feldenkrais Method looks at the quality of movement and how one transitions from one position to the next.  It is effective for a wide range of issues from well-baby visits, to babies who are late to crawl or walk, as well as those with neurological disorders or other conditions.  Its also popular for adults - many parents begin by bringing their children and begin to try it themselves to solve issues of chronic pain, stress, or to improve performance in athletics or the performing arts. 


So for all my new mom's out there, check him out! Until we can MELT babies, this is the way to go for good development in  a day and age where natural movement is often curbed by products of a modern age...

Personality Disorder

I just got off the phone with my mom. (Notice the title of this blog). After I got off the phone with her my mind went to this idea of "personality disorder". It, like many terms have become so generic it's kind of like the word Yoga when it comes to fitness.

I got this quote from Wikipedia: the American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines it as "an enduring pattern of inner experience and behavior that deviates markedly from the expectations of the culture of the individual who exhibits it"

Holy cow. Maybe I have a personality disorder! I call it creative license, personal belief, worldy belief but hey, why not personality disorder. I mean, I do actually like to read research papers on fasica and the nervous system. I love reading abstracts because it makes a different part of my brain think. It's like knitting. Once you are in the zone, it's almost like meditation.

As many of my readers know, I am about to take a very big step in trying to get the ART AND SCIENCE of SELF-CARE™ out to the world with MELT® in that I have submitted a book proposal out to the world of publishing. In being a creator of a method, I am also a business owner. So again, it's like having a split personality. Although both parts of me are perpetually learning and exploring how to do both better... make better strategies, make better anaologies, in business you have to actually do outrageous things like learn to make invoices, read excel spread sheets, and operate a website store which is soooooo not what I want to be doing with so much of my time! I'd rather be looking at research papers, doing dissections and learning from Gil Hedley and other mentors, and writing about the magical world of fractile chaos within the human body, and spending more time with my MELT community!

So again, I ask you. Do I have a personality disorder? Don't we all??? Time for a good night's sleep and think about that til tomorrow!

Delayed Onset Fascia Soreness?

If you have ever lifted weights, done a bunch of lunges, ran an extra couple miles, or did even a killer yoga class you may have experience what is knows as "delayed onset muscle soreness" 24-48 hours after your workout. A recent research article has some intriguing new ideas as to why we get that soreness. Although we think we feel our sore muscles, what's really causing that fatigue seems to be stemming from fascial breakdown.

The article, "Increased pain from muscle fascia following eccentric exercise: animal and human findings" will potentially stir up some controversy. But before you get crazy over the idea that connective tissue may make you sore after working out, let me say this, "muscle fascia" or "myofascia" is defining the particular tissue that surrounds and is within the muscles. They are one and the same, muscle and it's fascia are truly inseperable. I've done enough dissections to know that particular layer is so inherently linked to itself, it's unlikely if you read the article you will have a hard time arguing what the researchers found.

Just to show you how slow science is, this article was submitted in Nov 2006, was accepted two years later and last year it was finally published. What mechanism and structures play a role in eccentric, exercise-induced muscle soreness a day or two after your workout are not yet clarified. Essentially what the researchers did was inject with a hypertonic saline solution at the fascial level and at the deep muscle levels. The pain intensity was sited far greater in the area of fascia than anywhere else. Although other tests have been done in the past where researchers looked directly at muscle ONLY and shown that there is an adaptable change in the muscle fiber after exercise, you would think that at some point someone would think the stuff surrounding the muscle was relevant. The responsiveness of fascia tissue to hypertonic saline solutions remains relatively unexplored although most therapists and humans who exercise will tell you, fascial tissue is known to be highly sensitive.

Try this, grab what you would think is your trapezius muscle just behind one collarbone, where your shoulder meets your neck. Give that a squeeze. Is it tender? Fascia. I know you would think that is the muscle but again, after doing a lot of disections, that's quite a bunch of connective tissue. For some, it's ALL connective tissue. When I show people how to MELT, even though we use soft rollers for many it is terribly tender and sensitive. It's a wake-up call. If connective tissue is tender, to me, it means it's dehydrated. Dehydrated connective tissue makes the muscles it supports less responsive, less accurate when they contract and ultimately that makes our movements less fluid and seamless. Not great when you are looking to perform at your maximum, lose weight, or just sit at a desk without constantly grabbing your neck due to ache.

So for all of my curious minds, take a look at the article. If your eyes gloss over in the first couple of paragraphs, maybe scroll to the conclusion to get some new ideas. Always, your replies and comments are welcome!

Have a happy day and drink some water all on its own today a couple times! It will make you feel better!

Jane Fonda's NY Times Interview

Did you see Jane's article last month in the NY Times Magazine? If you didn't, click this link: JANE THE QUEEN OF FITNESS.

If you haven't I hope you will. As many people know, I am a fan of Jane. When I was 13-14 years old (that was around 1984) I was significantly influenced by her Feel the Burn record. I became a fitness instructor when I was 16 at the local YMCA in Albany, NY where I grew up.

In her article there were a few parts that make my ears perk up and my gut just knows the two of us are destined to cross paths. In the interview here are some Q&A's that make me feel this way. This interview was for their special "Wellness Issue" (I should have been in that one myself I tell you.... Jane said she liked the word wellness but also replied, "... I'm fit and healthy. Do I hurt all over? You betcha. I have a new hip; I have a new knee. I had the knee done in June and I had my hip done three years ago The interviewer wrote, "You sound like a wreck!" and her reply was that she had osteoarthritis and that's what happens when you are 72 with osteoarthritis!

Ah, my lovely Jane. You are so fantastic but here's where I just have to put my foot down and say that is not what has to happen. Even with her hips replaced and her diagnosis with OA (osteoarthrits), MELTing would make you feel WAY better than you apparently do today. People with titanium joints do exercise but you can certainly wear out a new hip by engaging in too much physical exercise, I work on people just like that all the time. You can blame the pain on OA but the chronic inflammation that OA causes is what's ultimately causing you to feel pain. Believe me, MELTing is your solution. I have clients that say MELTing has given them back their life, added quality years to their life... simply, made their life better!

So once again, I give a SHOUT OUT to the QUEEN of Fitness, Ms. Fonda and kindly request that we get Jane on the Map! Anyone that has a connection to Jane must tell her to download this map. Get ready to MELT my Queen! Time to get Jane out of pain!

Hartford, Connecticut gets MELTed

What a successful two day adventure I have had coming up to Hartford, CT! I spent two short days in this quaint town about 3 hours away from NYC. A simple train ride to get to one of the most fantastic yoga studios I have ever been in. Justine Fuller, owner and creator of Fuller Yoga, Pilates and Massage invited me up to do a couple of MELT classes at her space. YvesHer business partner Yves (pic left) was also very gracious to spend time with me to figure out how to come back up there ASAP! Sue and Justine Fuller

Let me just say, it was a totaly success. The room was filled for 3 sessions, one evening class on Tuesday and two morning classes today. People of all ages courageously ventured into Fuller Yoga having no idea of what MELT really was except that it was going to make them feel better and that it was a proactive approach to feeling better and eliminating chronic pain caused by everday living. People walked out smiling from ear-to-ear. I was thrilled to see people that I had not seen for years like Tom Palomba who took one of my very first trainings in MELT. It was really a wonderful energetic group of curious people. Each session we focused on different aspects of the body and did different MELT Maps in two of the sessions and one MELT Hand and Foot Treatment. 

Sue and Jill MillerNot only did I get to teach 3 sessions but was also a guest speaker for Jill Miller's Yoga Tune Up® "Core Immersion" program held at West Hartford Yoga Center. Jill had close to 30 participants in this 5-day training! I came in to talk about the Neurofascial System (nervous system and connective tissue system) - aka "The Autopilot". I tried to help explain just how important these systems are to movement education and embodying Jill's techniques or any other type of yogic practice. They had great questions (I expect more to come my way) and graciously listened to my 2-hour rant on what I love to talk about the most. I can only imagine it made them all think more deeply about the work Jill was immersing them in!

I got to stop by the NBC and FOX News stations for two quick interviews about MELT and why we were brining it to CT. How fun is that?! Both segments, although just a couple of minutes each gave me another opportunity to tell people that pain and the negative effects of living we associate with aging can be avoided or detered with MELTing. It compliments anything you do like yoga and Pilates but also helps people who can't or don't do anything pro-active for their long-term wellness.

I look forward to a July return to Hartford for another round of MELTing sessions! More to come in the near future. I hope to do an instructor training up there as well so I say, "HEY HARTFORD! GET READY TO MELT!!!" We are on our way!

I want to express my honor to present MELT at Fuller Yoga and a gracious THANK YOU to all of you who attended one of the events I presented. It was an absolute pleasure to travel up north to your lovely town! See you all soon!


The MELT Instructor Training

Spring is here and it is popping with energy for me. I just returned from teaching a MELT Instructor Training, Part I to a group of women that really "Got IT"! Each participant was totally unique as it is with any group of people. But in this particular training... not only was it all women, each came with a totally different skill-set, a different background, and their ages ranged from 35-65. FANTASTIC!

From a yoga instructor and movement specialist/personal trainer to college athletic teacher, special education teacher, a teacher who teach school teachers... some of these women would say they are on their "second or third life"!

Learning how to MELT yourself... and for yourself is one thing. But learning how to MELT so you can not only help yourself but teach others how to help themselves, well, that's an entirely other journey. The training is intense. It's thoughtful, progressive, and for many life changing. It's the type of training where I hear the sound, "Ah-haaaaa" a lot. Participants suddenly start to expose their own faulty patterns and gain a better understanding of how to care for their body's "natural" ability to stay stabile, mobile, and pain-free for a lifetime. In other words, we really explore the idea of "how to stay well", (healthy, feeling great... however you want to define it) as we age.

The first weekend is always somewhat brutal, especially day two when we dive into the world of the NeuroCore System and how it operates, how to connect to it, and how to make it function more efficiently. It's intense. It really cracks the egg open if you know what I mean.

The weekend always flies by. Four days comes and goes quickly. A lot was learned for sure. But the real learning comes over the next four weeks until Part II begins! I had to put a shout-out to this wonderful group of women! They will all have their profiles up on the meltmethod site soon!

Now I am headed off to Hartford, Connecticut to present as a guest speaker at Jill Millers "Yoga Tune-up Core Immersion" and then teach three MELT Intro Classes at Fuller Movement, Pilates and Massage! Keeping it moving! I hope to be in Toronto, CA, Montreal, FL, and NC later this year! More coming soon!

Back Spasm

My friend and colleague Hallee Altman was at her Pilates studio The Center Studio and over heard two women talking about one of them having a "back spasm". Perturbed by the generic words she called me and asked me if I would please blog about exactly what is a back spasm and how come it happens to people in the first place.

Okay, so a "spasm" is termed that when the contraction of a muscle is "sudden". It usually happens when someone twists their torso and flexes at the same time. However, I have to admit, there is rarely anything "sudden" about it. Most people who have repeated back spasms have inflammation in the tissues that are supposed to support, protect, and stabilize the lumbar (lower back) bones and the pelvis. This tissues is termed "Thoracolumbar Fascia". This massive connective tissue matrix, along with a fantastic network of muscles called "the core" (Multifidus, Transversus Abdominis, and the many muscles that comprise the pelvic floor are supposed to work in a co-coordinated way to create control and intra-abdominal pressure. Simply put, the connective tissue and deep muscles of the torso when in good condition control the stabillity and position of the spine and pelvis.

Lots of things can cause this system to become faulty, one of which is sitting, regardless if you sit slouched or upright. The position of sitting for long periods of time dehydrate the lumbar fascia and this can cause the co-coordinated potential of the muscles that surround the belly to become inhibited or poor in timing. Once this occurs, the hamstrings tend to get locked short, the hip flexors get stressed and over worked, the pelvis gets unstable and one day, your low back becomes so compromised, your body attempts to stop you from damaging the discs in your spine and stop you dead in your tracks!

The problem with this situation is that if the issues are really what I am describing above, if left untreated, you can herniate a disc, compress or irritate the nerve roots, and even cause some pretty permanent damage.

So what should you do if you have a back spasm? Well, you should consult with your doctor or a specialist if it persists. If it were my back, (which it would never be because I MELT so much) I would pop Advil like candy to reduce the inflammation and get off my feet. The act of walking is the worst thing for a back spasm, sadly. And then I would MELT... a lot... especially the 3-D Breath Breakdown.

In any event, that's my two cents on back spasms. Get MELTed and stop the pain!


The Toxin Dioxin

water bottleOn a recent episode of the Ellen Show, Sheryl Crow said that she felt her breast cancer was caused by the chemical reactions caused by leaving her water bottles in her car.  There have been many articles on this very topic over the years and Dioxin found in plastic water bottles has been identified as the most common cause of the high levels of dioxin in breast cancer tissue.

Sheryl Crow's oncologist told her: women should not drink bottled water that has been left in a car.  The heat reacts with the chemicals in the plastic of the bottle which releases dioxin into the water. Dioxin is a toxin increasingly found in breast cancer tissue.

As someone who is always searching for truths over myths I have to say, for as much information as I found saying Dioxin has been linked to breast cancer, I found just as many sites and articles saying dioxins aren't even found in plastics. For me, producing something as simple as a rubber ball was challenging as I was concerned about Phthalates that are sometimes added to plastics and rubber materials to make them less brittle being in a product people would rub on their body. It took me over a year to find a reputable company to certify that the balls had no toxins that were found to be hazzardous to humans.

I know we are all concerned, or should be concerned about toxins found in our food or materials we handle on a daily basis. Whether or not freezing plastics or heating them in microwaves or keeping them in your hot car for days will cause you cancer, let's all be proactive about these ideas. Although there are some researchers who have found that dioxins aren't even found in plastic materials that they used in their studies doesn't necessarily convince me that dioxin isn't found in ANY plastics.

My personal suggestions: don't reuse plastic bottles forever. Even if it's not because of the potential that plastic breaks down over time do it because bacteria can grow in your bottles and over time that can build up in your body and make you all kinds of sick. I wouldn't put your take-out containers in the microwave but then again, I rarely put anything in a microwave... except water. So although Sheryl is convinced that her breast cancer was caused by the water bottles left in her car, I would imagine there are many other things she comes in contact with that do have dioxin.

Dioxins are mainly by products of industrial processes but can also result from natural processes, such as volcanic eruptions and forest fires.  In terms of dioxin release into the environment, waste incinerators (solid waste and hospital waste) are often the worst culprits, due to incomplete burning.

Although formation of dioxins is local, environmental distribution is global. Dioxins are found throughout the world in practically all media. The highest levels of these compounds are found in some soils, sediments and food, especially dairy products, meat, fish and shellfish. Very low levels are found in plants, water and air.

Dioxin along with a lot of other chemicals in the "dirty dozen" are found all over the place. Can we avoid these toxins? Maybe not entirely but being mindful of simple things can aid us in decreasing how we come in contact with many of these toxic materials!

Until we have a way to filter out organic toxins from the world, all I can say is, be smart, stay healthy, eat clean food and continue to inquire about these ideas!

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