Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Surviving Your Desk!

10 Tips for Desk Workers

1. Be free! The more you wiggle, stretch, and move in your seat, generally the better off you are.
2. Get up! Take breaks every hour or less.  By break I mean, stand up and walk around.
3. Sit Well! Slide your butt to the back of the chair and try to get on your “sit bones” – aka ischial tuberosity – in order not to slouch.
4. Hydrate! Drink plenty of water.
5. Be happy! Make yourself smile every once in awhile – even if it’s at the computer screen.
6. Ground! Put your feet flat on the ground every once in awhile, if not most of the time.
7. Look away! Look away from the computer – either out the window, or to a far off wall, to exercise your eyes.
8. Stretch! Stretch your arms up to the sky, look up to the ceiling, backbend, and breathe.
9. Learn! Take advantage of the ergo assessment person!
10. Avoid the creep! Try to keep your face and head from creeping towards your monitor relative to your shoulders.  (Get a cubicle mate to check you).

Monday, June 13, 2011

Your Personal Health Plan

You probably have a plan for retirement – why not for that thing you live with every day for the rest of your life (your body)? In general I find that people have a general idea of how they hope to maintain health, but it is far less explicit than say, a well developed retirement plan. My intent with this article is to outline common ways people approach health. See where you fit and how you can begin to improve.

Strategy Zero: Defensive Care

This is the path of least resistance. This is basically a “fix it when it’s broke” mentality. Our medical system supports this way of thinking, and unfortunately we pay a premium for broken bodies in both time and finances. This strategy falls short on several fronts such as when:

1. your doctor says “it ain’t broke” when you know it is… then you’re up a creek.
2. after looking over expensive diagnostic test results your doctor admits it’s broke, but we don’t know how to fix it
3. your doctor says we can fix it but here’s the list of complications and awful side effects my “fix” will create.

Unfortunately, this puts you at the mercy of doctors and the medical system, albeit good, it’s a limited strategy that can yield poor results, and operates with a high risk/side effect margin.
I think when you factor in quality of life to your decision making process, you have to do more. You must change from the typical defensive healthcare model into an offensive or strategic position with your health. The good news is I believe we have an innate ability to know when something is amiss and get care before it’s too far developed, as well as utilize common healthy practices, and preventive measures to maintain health for the long run.

Strategy One: Fight the Losing Battle

When an MD can’t fix it then go to preventive care and/or make a change in diet/exercise/etc.. While this is a decent strategy, and one many people use, this strategy is just an add-on to “strategy zero”. It fails to address chronic problems prior to their entrenchment. Type 2 Diabetes, carpal tunnel, and obesity are all examples of problems that take years to develop. The conundrum of “you don’t know what will kill you till it’s a too late” is the threat here and unfortunately this strategy can lead to mediocre results.
Though a few “home runs” are always the exception to this rule the danger here is that fundamentally a long-term issue is not be properly addressed. Short-term solutions are just that. Living well works best in a proactive format. Asking too much out of a regimen renders suboptimal results, and the tides of the health battle may turn for a day, a week, several months, then strategy zero takes over again and you’re back to where you started. That said, it’s never too late to quit smoking!

Strategy Two: The Adherent

Exercise, eat right, get 8 hours of sleep. This is the mantra of “healthy living” for our culture. If you have an excellent primary care doctor she will remind you to do these things when you visit her office. Additional common recommendations are: maintain a healthy BMI (weight to height ratio), maintain positive social interactions/ friendships, quit smoking, and don’t abuse alcohol or other drugs. This is all standard preventive care and in general I think it should be followed. If you work for a company that has “wellness” programs in place these are generally the types of behaviors it will assess and suggest.
I applaud you if you’re on this track right now. Keep it up, but remember the middle road as well. Fitness and diet are just as crucial as relaxation and good social interaction. The trap for the Type-A is to turn this approach into a do or die strategy, which can turn into another job on top of the already high-powered career you have. Remember the middle road.

Strategy Three: Proactive Ignorance

This preventive strategy guides you to seek to build awareness and change/expand your internal health indicator. This may be the heart of preventive care in that the devotee asserts, “I don’t know what I don’t know so I need help finding it”. A strategy that seeks out and catches the beginning stages of illness in its path and redirects the body towards health is the optimal lifestyle choice. During massage and Rolfing sessions, people are amazed to realize the amount of tension they carry in their body. When someone begins meditation he may be startled at the amount of constant internal chatter inside his head. When someone begins exercising she may be enlightened by the newfound amount of energy she has after a workout – when previously she had just felt too drained to workout. The body is a miracle, and we must approach it with humility and an openness to new, healthy, lifestyle changes, health practices, etc.

To some degree every person reading this probably feels justified in his/her own health choice. I hope this article has caused you to begin to think differently about your own approach towards health on a daily basis, and CityRolfer looks forward to being a part of the preventive care plan for your own body.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tripod: An Approach to your Body's Health

The past two years I’ve been developing a greater appreciation for what it takes to have a healthy approach to care of your body and keep it pain free. This includes three essential ingredients: alignment, flexibility, and stability.

Robots are always perfectly aligned. The nature of a machine is that it must maintain perfect integrity in order to work well. The human body is similar in this regard. Though we have much more availability built into our design than a man-made robot we have a fundamental need to maintain the body’s design within certain tolerances. Most people inherently understand “bad posture” leads to pain or at least creates a poorly projected self image. There are millions of cell interactions, and hundreds of muscular actions every moment in our body – within such a fine tuned instrument it is amazing the amount of leeway we do have in what is considered good alignment or good posture. Ida Rolf called the center line – or line of gravity – the best indicator of good posture. If we can drop a plumb line from the top of the head through the body, would we be balanced along it or would certain parts be more forward or back, twisted to one side or the other? Healing arts such as chiropractic, Alexander technique, physical therapy, and Rolfing seek to educate and promote proper alignment recognizing that though we’re not robots, we do have an optimal position/posture to work from.

When a violent storm comes, the tree can snap but the grass will bend with the wind and thus survive unscathed. This is the quintessential picture of flexibility that there is intelligence to moving well, and not being so stuck in a pattern that it leads to destruction. Humans have a range of flexibility that has been mapped out by disciplines such as yoga and dance. Simple stretching keeps our tissues pliable, rubbery, and soft. Picture another mammal – the mighty Leapord. He has incredible power to pounce, and wrestle his kill. But also when the show is over, he has a certain a fluidity, a flexibility as he relaxes decadently in the tree or bush. The languid lounging powerful cat is a model for this kind of optimal interplay. When we are inflexible our body can actually create injury – not bending with a task can lead to undue wear and tear. Disciplines such as stretching, yoga, dance, massage, and Rolfing all deal with ways to open the tissues and enhance the lengthening and elasticity of the tissue thus counteracting a process of toughening that desk work, and aging seem to promote.

The flip side of the flexibility coin is stability. No system can be functional without stability. Even the smallest components of life – atoms – are created out of a stability of charges and energy. Similarly, our entire galaxy and cosmos are held together by forces that maintain a pattern, allowing for movement but also creating order. Our bodies are the same way. Intelligent stability in the body means that the proper muscle fibers and nerves fire and move in the correct pattern. Tightening your shoulders or clenching your jaw may seem (unconsciously) like a good way to “get it together” but this kind of stability can actually be counter-productive. The kind of stability I’m talking about is layered. Models used by disciplines such as physical therapy, Pilates, dance (Daly & bar method) recognize that the orchestration of movement starts at certain muscles/fibers and proceeds to others. This timing and proper “core stability” leads to a beautiful movement in concert. A good personal trainer, Pilates instructor, or physical therapist understands this and can guide you to create a stability and firing of muscles that will work for you in a productive way. It will promote the stability in action and the consciousness of movement that can keep you from “breaking something” in the midst of a performance.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Three Things Men Do Wrong

By Greg Brynelson, 8/17/10

To follow up the post, “Three Things Women Do Wrong” here is one for the men. Please know this is a bit tongue and cheek - and really these are simply suggestions as to how to modify common habits to make your body a bit happier. Plus, I know guys do a lot more than 3 things wrong.

1. Sit on your wallet:

When you sit on a wallet it places a good inch to half inch rise on that hip. Always sticking your on a wallet in the same back pocket can drive the pelvis into an asymmetrical pattern. Doing this day in and day out can create an imbalance in the low back that becomes chronic.

My suggestion: When you go to sit down, switch the wallet to the front pocket or place it in a bag.

2. Get intimidated by wellness classes (i.e. Pilates, yoga, dance):
Many men in the Bay Area are “enlightened”, but by in large I get the sentiment from men that things like yoga, pilates, and dance are for women. In fact women still dominate purchases in this industry and are the majority gender in any classroom of this type.

My suggestion: There are a lot of ways to change your thinking about this, but it helps to think of attending these classes as ways to balance out the other ways you use your body. For instance if you work a lot at the computer, or do physically demanding work, or even exercise, think of dance, yoga, or pilates as a counter-balance to that part of your life.
If you’re a woman, please invite a man friend to your class, he might consider it coming from you. For the straight men – just think of all the toned and flexible women you stand to meet at such classes.

3. Slouch!
I know we all do this, but if I had to guess men do this more than women. We’ve come a long way with the ergonomic support and analysis in the workplace – so there is beginning to be an awareness here. But even the best ergonomic chair won’t help if you’re not sitting in it properly. Many men don’t even know what proper sitting is (maybe if we attended more pliates or yoga classes)!

My suggestion: Before you settle into your chair, slide your butt back as far as it goes. Leaving a large gap of space between your butt and the back of the chair is the main culprit of the slouch. By sliding back along the chair, your low back is supported and this good base of support will naturally raise your shoulders and head to the sky. Mentally check in throughout the day to see if you’ve slid forward, and then slide on back if you have.

Thanks for reading! Be well.

For more interesting articles, or to schedule a session with me personally visit my website:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Three Things Women do Wrong

By Greg Brynelson Certified Rolfer®, RN

#1. Carry a heavy purse on one shoulder.

It’s big, it’s heavy, it has all your stuff for the day in it, and it’s throwing off your shoulders. As a Rolfer I constantly see women with one shoulder hiked up and frozen in this position. In fact many women can no longer even carry a purse on the opposite shoulder their body is so organized around holding up the purse carrying one..

The alternative: Get an across the body strap or wear a backpack.

#2. Wear high heels daily.

I know that couple extra inches under your heels make your legs look longer, your butt stick out and your chest too, but daily wearing of heels throws off your center of gravity and messes with the foot/calf structure. It doesn’t allow for full articulation of the foot on the ground, jams the toes to a point, and shortens calf muscles. Not to mention, your lumbar spine is thrown into a sway and your body organizes backwards – as if you’re walking downhill all day.

The alternative: Shorter heels, wider heels, or just simple supportive shoes that have no lift.

#3. Talk on a phone for work.

If you answer the phone for a living and don’t wear a headset you’re not alone. I see a lot of women with jammed up necks and shoulders from trying to hold onto the phone throughout the day. Not only does this make multitasking harder, it creates a pattern of usage that over time leads to neck and shoulder imbalance.

The alternative: wear a headset or go speakerphone.

These are all observations from my Rolfing practice of over 7 years in San Francisco’s Financial District. I work with many people to assess their posture patterns and release the deep holdings carried within the body.

If you would like a free consultation, or to find out more about Rolfing visit my website today:

Coming soon: “3 Things Men do Wrong”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unconscious Postural Influences

by Greg Brynelson (5/4/2010)

"Do you watch peoples posture all the time?" When people grasp what I do for a living this is often a question I get.

When I first began training for Rolfing (R), I'll admit I was a chronic posture observer. What I've found true over time is that often there are distinct, visible, unconscious cues between related people. In fact it is so dramatic - if you're looking for it you can find them yourself. You need no special training. Airport layovers are my favorite time to do this but a busy sidewalk in downtown S.F. or the mall are also good places to begin your study of the way people move and stand. Watch how people who are together (family/ friends/ colleagues) are similar or different in the way they move and express.

You may see a a husband and wife with the same carriage in shoulders and pelvis, the same tucked under buttocks, or the same chin-forward position. Or sometimes where one spouse moves well, the other moves poorly. Does this make one dominant - or make the other a passive controller? I wonder. I often wonder if mates shape each-others postural habits, or whether we just pick mates that move like we do. I imagine it's a bit of both - we learn to speak and adopt each others body language.

A very distinct impression of this unconscious posture - I've noticed - is in relations of child to parent. In the most dramatic cases where a parent has a limp or severe scoliosis, I've seen that the child takes on this habit (limp, or shoulder distortion). While the child is perfectly healthy, he mimics parent's abnormality.

In my travels (to India, Thailand, Australia) I have also noticed that different cultures and even genders within the cultures move differently. In India men move quite uprightly, have fairly narrow personal space bubbles, and are quite flexible in the hips but always seem to be holding onto back of the scapulae. American's men often move forward by pushing their shoulders and stiff hips into the space directly in front of them (not thinking about the entire 360 degrees that the body occupies) and have wider "personal space bubbles" around them. These are just examples and broad generalizations, but they are distinct and noticeable from culture to culture.

Because of this unconscious connection of movement from one individual to the next, I believe Rolfing (R) can be a positive experience for the entire human family; when one person begins to have more freedom in his or her body, it can allow other members to also feel that freedom, and unconsciously adopt that new movement pattern. In the case of parent to child this seems especially valuable. In fact Rolfing can be evolutionary in this way (Ida Rolf would be proud I'm saying this right now). Obtaining fluidity, balance, and awareness in our own body we end up shaping not only our selves, but our family, friends, and broader culture at the same time.

So I next time you look in the mirror think about your own parents, how do you look like them?
Take a few minutes to look at the people around you how are you similar in the way you move, how are you different? It's fun, and can be enlightening - or even slightly disturbing (whatever your mindset). Does my dog really walk like me too?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Detoxing "Detox" Diets

Being a registered nurse, and Rolfing(R) practitioner I am an advocate for healthy weight maintenance and healthy habits in general. However, I am always skeptical of practitioners promoting "detox" as a quick way to get healthy. It seems "detox" is a catch-all phrase for making a sudden healthy shift in eating, or doing a low calorie fast (like the popularized lemon juice/maple syrup one). However, it has very little basis in the Western medical approach.

Detox is really a misnomer. We all posses kidneys, intestines, and a liver. When these organs function properly, our body rids itself of waste. The idea that adipose tissue (fat) holds onto all these creepy, garbage-like chemicals offends my critical thinking abilities. Nothing I've read in my studies of medicine has convinced me I should jump on board the "detox" wagon - largely promoted in the yogic and naturopathic community. Until someone can inform me otherwise, I'm calling detox diets a magical way of describing the real positive benefits felt when one fasts for a time or changes dietary habits to ones that fit into the traditional food pyramid (no new news there). Can you measure the toxins leaving the system? Have heavy metals really eaten away inside you for years? Is your body in dire need of alkalizing agents? Is your colon REALLY packed with layers upon layers of caked-on feces?

Bah! Why don't we just fess up and call it eating healthy and getting exercise?

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Bonsai Grower

As a tree grows it bends, twists, branches, spreads, bows, and lifts through a complex interplay with the environment. The tree is affected by sunlight, wind, and available nutrients. Thus, the current form of the tree expresses a life with a rich and sorted history, not just the current best position for the tree. This is what happens in the human body.

The muscles, fascia, ligaments, and bones adapt to the environment throughout life. Hence, the current form is resultant of years of parenting, sports, work, emotion, injury, fatigue, eating habits, high heels, etc. and all of these factors influence the current form and shape of the physique. Unlike a tree, humans also consciously conform our bodies to fit certain socio/cultural cues - like holding our heads high, pulling our shoulders back, or tucking our guts.

Just like a Bonsai grower lovingly prunes and and artistically bends his trees into beautiful forms, a Rolfer(R) examines your physical history and body-story and over a series of sessions works to shape you by releasing the old stuck tissues, to shape the hisstory of pain, disarray, and crookedness, in order to help create a new, more vibrant form.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yes, I'm coining a new disease:

The overloading of oneself with information to the detriment of emotional and/or physical well being.

I say this with some conviction due to recent experiences managing my own life in the information age and working for many years with clients in the Financial District. I started asking, "How do I, and others, get wrapped up in information, communication, and entertainment to such a large degree?" For many it is essentially a full-time job, or simply synonymous with living in this age. Now don't get worried, I'm not in need of counseling yet but I've noticed that this behavior can be a slippery slope and many of us are participating in this behavior to a shocking degree with less productivity, increasing physical ailment, and disconnection from Nature as a result. At it's worst it can become an addiction - i.e. to the news, interntet, e-mail.

I think it's enough that most people are required to spend 8 hours/day working on a computer; to go home and fix oneself to yet another screen - be it a home computer, fancy cell phone
(Blackberry, iPhone), or TV serves to cause deep unrest in the body and mind. Besides the poor posture and deleterious micro-movements of mousing, typing, and Black-Berrying that this information managing creates in the physical body, it also removes us from the present reality of our surroundings, and can end up consuming more of our precious time (and yes our time here is finite).

I do recognize that these devices for communication and entertainment are simply a fact of modern life, but the way we choose to utilize them can contribute or detract greatly to our well-being. We need to make these devices work for us, not the other way around. It is a thin boundary to utilizing a technological device and being wrapped up in it.

Here are some suggestions, I invite you to adopt any that resonate with you:

1. Focus on improving the quality of communication and be an advocate of this in the workplace. Get it settled in one conversation instead of ten emails or text messages.

2. Be present and commit to do just one thing while you are doing it rather than switching between multiple tasks at the same time.

3. Set up regular time to simply be in your body (i.e. exercise, walking, regular stretch breaks from the computer, getting Rolfing ;-)).

4. Fast. Take the devices and shut them all off for a period of time (i.e. all of Saturday, or even just a few hours) and do something rewarding by yourself, with another, or in Nature.

5. Choose and filter entertainment. Media (music/TV/movies/net surfing/texting) can give us a fix, just like a drug and we have to choose carefully which drugs we consume with our eyes and ears. Media can create a mental reality that is fantastic but has absolutely no relation to our lives.

All the best!

Thursday, January 22, 2009