Workshops / Retreats






Register Now for Valentine’s Acro   






MARCH 30, 2014 10:00AM - 12:30PM (+30 min Q/A to 1pm)



When the body is properly aligned, and the spine properly and efficiently stacked in a posture, gravity works on the spine and pulls on the body to the smallest possible degree and, in any given posture, the properly aligned body feels like it is floating. The result is that even the most strenuous posture or position in yoga, gymnastics, dance, martial arts or other bodywork appears, and feels, effortless. Meanwhile, when the body is fighting against itself and various muscle groups are pulling against each other, the body faces not only the pull of gravity in a given posture, but also the pull of the body’s own opposing muscles against each other, making the body seem heavier in the posture and making the posture exponentially harder to maintain. The body shaking in a strenuous posture — e.g. non-graceful movement — is often the result of the over firing of opposing muscle groups “fighting” with each other in a given posture.

The ability to find appropriate muscular opposition to support efficient and “zero gravity” body alignment while the body is under physical stress—such as during arm balances or inversions—allows a sensation of peace and inner strength in the mind which is invigorating in itself, apart from the reversal of gravitational pull on the body and blood flow that may also be a beneficial by-product of inverting the body or performing other strenuous postures. The application to dance, aerial arts and other performance arts is endless. Graceful movement can only be attained with efficient and highly coordinated and differentiated use of the body’s muscles. Once learned, this coordination allows the body to move efficiently, and with as little effort as physics will allow, through a wider range of motion in all joints and, in turn, into more beautiful and more advanced and amazing body positions, postures and lines—rising, for some, to the level of “graceful contortion” (if the oxymoron may be tolerated). 

For clients who are ready, complete with strong mind/muscle connection and the ability to differentiate between and flex or release very small and specific muscles or muscle groups, and for those who may have an already advanced practice, EKS methodologies to be explored in this workshop are a very profound tool for expedient and efficient deepening of the client’s existing yoga, Pilates, meditation or other bodywork practice.  Clients will find that they advance exponentially faster in their own practice utilizing the core concepts from the EKS methodologies in conjunction with their existing practice—be that an advanced handstand practice, flow based vinyasa practice complete with arm balances and deep twisting postures, a well integrated yin practice with deep opening and releasing, a meditative practice, an advanced athletic application or balance based sport (i.e. surfing) or the like.  


Teach practitioners various movements and coordination exercises to practice to create and/or restore mobility, flexibility and strength to various body parts.

To increase mobility in the shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle.

To accomplish separate and isolated movement of the shoulder blades around the rib cage as necessary to cause the thoracic spine to bend into an upper back bend without crunching the lumbar vertebrae. 

To accomplish separate and isolated movement of the rib cage and pelvis.   

To educate practitioners regarding appropriate alignment in various postures and to give practitioners tools to identify and release over-active muscles which are preventing practitioners from reaching their full mobility and potential range of motion. 

To help practitioners understand a concept-based approach to finding efficient alignment in a broad spectrum of postures and movements. 

To help practitioners to isolate and differentiate between various deep internal core and other muscles as necessary to begin to have coordinated and efficient alignment and wider range of motion. 

To teach practitioners injury prevention by helping to increase their body awareness and efficiency and ease of movement. 

To teach practitioners how to increase strength without sacrificing flexibility and vice versa.   

To teach practitioners to appreciate the phrase:  “Feel, don’t do.”  Instead of trying to create shapes with the body or hit a position or get into a posture at all cost, the practitioner’s objective should be to feel and notice which muscles are engaged and which are disengaged, and, in this manner, allow the body to find its way into deeper and deeper postures.    


Alignment Defined

Alignment, in general, can be defined as the body's muscles counter-pulling against each other around a center-point to retain the body's balance against the pull of gravity.1  If a body is to balance upright against the pull of gravity, for every pull to the right of a centerline there must be a counter-pull back to the left of the centerline, and for every pull up there must be a counter-pull down; for every pull in the front of the body there must be a counter-pull in the back of the body.   This is the reason that misalignments often occur in diagonals:  cutting the body into quadrants, if muscles in the top right side of the body are overly contracted (i.e. right shoulder is higher toward practitioner’s ear than the left shoulder), it would be common to have tighter and overly contracted muscles in the lower left quadrant of the torso (i.e. left hip) to counter this pull upward and to the right with a downward and left pull keeping the body as a whole pulled equally to opposite sides of a three dimensional centerline.  Similarly, if the front of the right hip is overly tight, the back of the left hip may be and / or perhaps the left knee (both of which are (diagonally to the back of the body and to the left from the front of the right hip and therefore well situated to counter-pull and balance the body around a centerline). These are both alignments which will keep the body from toppling over, but neither is an efficient or proper alignment—instead, both of these misalignments create various pressure points in the body that will eventually be painful if the misalignments are not corrected.

   Coordinated and efficient alignment occurs when the fewest number of a body's opposing muscles pull against each other to the smallest possible degree necessary to balance the body in space and against the pull of gravity in a given posture. This coordination of muscular effort is learned. It is truly a matter of coordination to learn to isolate muscle groups -- the specific coordination which must be learned is the ability to differentiate in the mind the synaptic message or mental signal that causes one muscle group to engage from the mental signal that causes other nearby opposing muscle groups to engage. The practitioner's goal is to simultaneously engage certain target muscles, while disengaging other muscles that would counter-pull against the target muscles, making the target muscles' job more difficult and reducing the range of motion and ease of movement the target muscles could otherwise create and enjoy. 

Immobility as a Result of Lack of Coordination of Opposing Muscles

At the greatest extreme, when muscles cannot be coordinated to work together instead of against each other, immobility results: body parts get "stuck" when opposing muscle groups continually fire pulling the subject body part in opposite directions. When the muscles pull with equal and opposite force, the result is that the body part being pulled in opposite directions is immobilized and stiff.  In worst case scenarios, people who are "stuck" in one or more body parts due to over-active firing of opposing muscle groups, are chronically out of alignment and eventually experience pain and usually chronic pain due to the concentration of all impacts faced by the body (including the mere pull of gravity) in the immobilized area, and due to related phenomenon such as constriction of circulation, hardening of connective tissues, chronic fatigue in the over-worked muscles, etc.  It is much preferred that, rather than being stuck in certain muscles that the body may favor for one reason or another (usually having to do with a misalignment in the body either causing, or caused by, the body playing favorites with a muscle or muscle group letting another muscle or muscle group atrophy), the mind should, instead, distribute the body’s weight and the impact of gravity felt by the body across a larger network of muscles, allowing each engaged muscle to do far less work.(Imagine dispersing weight over a larger surface area to reduce the pressure on each particular area, as one may do by laying down on thin cracking ice thereby dispersing one's body weight over a larger surface area of the ice so as not to fall through). 

Alignment in Motion

It is important to appreciate that efficient or proper alignment is not necessarily exactly the same in every posture. Because alignment is essentially muscles counter-pulling on the skeletal structure of the body against each other and against gravity to maintain the body's balance in space, the alignment cannot be the same in every posture so long as the different postures considered include shapes the body is creating that are different and have different spatial orientations. When the body makes different shapes, the parts of the body are in different places in relation to each other as well as to the ground. Since the relationship of the parts of the body to each other changes from posture to posture, and the orientation of the body to the ground differ, so must the counter-pull or opposition by muscles in the body against both each other and the pull of gravity. Each time you change the relationship of the parts of the body to each other, you change the way the body's muscles must counter-pull around a center-point to retain balance against the pull of gravity. Likewise, each time you change the orientation of the body to the ground (upright, prone, inverted in a headstand or handstand, for example), you change the way the muscles of the body must pull against both each other and against the pull of gravity to support and balance the body. Here we are essentially arguing against the common misconception that there is only one "squared off" and proper / safe alignment for the body and that such alignment is the same in every posture. That is simply not the case. You cannot always have your shoulders "level" (which I would take to mean the tops of the shoulders are the same height and the lower tips of the shoulder blades are placed in symmetry to each other on the back of the ribs) or your hips "square" in every posture. Where the body is in differing spatial orientations, with different body parts closer or further than in other postures and with gravity acting upon the body differently than in other postures, the body simply cannot maintain exactly the same counter-pulls--the balance around a center point is constant, but the manner of balancing and the muscles engaged and/or disengaged to maintain that balance must necessarily change from posture to posture. 

Chronic Misalignment Breeds Injury

Chronic misalignment, or the body systematically favoring certain muscles, either due to a pre-existing misalignment (i.e. scoliosis) or thereby creating a misalignment, is generally the reason that the body develops pressure points (e.g. places that take more impact of physical activities than others) and, ultimately, injury. The body (or, more accurately, the mind) often begins to favor certain muscles for a variety of reasons.   The body favoring certain muscles, which is at the root of most, if not all, non-structural misalignment,2 can be caused by a variety of different factors. For example, this can be caused by atrophy of certain muscles over time from non-use or from a trauma and related immobilization (i.e. muscles in a broken arm atrophy while it heals and the arm is immobilized); the favoring can be caused by a pre-existing misalignment that was present from birth or very early on (i.e. scoliosis), in which case the favoring just exacerbates the misalignment; the favoring may simply be caused by repetition of a certain movement (i.e. a factory line worker, baseball pitcher or other professional athlete or performer, a mechanic or perhaps even as simple as standing at a counter to cook dinner while pushing hips forward and collapsing into the lower back, causing hips and low back to tighten and abs to atrophy.) Very often the body’s favoring of certain muscles is caused by pain or stress or a combination of both. There are many reasons for the favoring to begin, but once it has, the favoured muscles become hyperactive and hyper attentive, flexing and contracting at the smallest stimuli or simply remaining constantly contracted, eventually to the point of “locking up” so to speak.

Once these muscles are favoured, they fire whether they are needed for an activity or not, which causes the pressure or impact the body may be facing at any given time to be collected in the same areas or pressure points in the body repeatedly--namely the area or areas with the favoured and constantly "at-attention" muscles. These favoured muscles then often become overdeveloped and the opposing muscles, which the body is often pulled out of due to the over contraction of the favoured muscles, often atrophy. Remember that muscles cannot push, but instead always pull or contract, bringing their two points of attachment to the skeletal structure toward each other (i.e. the biceps contract to bend the arm bringing the forearm closer to the shoulder, but it would be the triceps which would straighten the arm pulling the forearm away from the shoulder.) As such, if one muscle or muscle group is constantly contracted, the opposing muscle will either fire back and the body becomes stiff and stuck--concentrating impact in the stiff or stuck region--or the opposing muscle remains soft and then atrophies--concentrating impact in the contracted muscles and the other muscles required to make up for the atrophied muscles. Neither is good: the favoring of the subject muscles almost invariably results in a misalignment and, over time, chronic pain or an "unexplained" injury such as a herniated disc or the like from the body being pulled out of alignment for a prolonged period of time. (These type of overuse or alignment based injuries often happen in a person’s late 30s or early 40s or perhaps earlier if the person is very active and constantly training a repetitious movement like baseball pitching, a golf swing or tennis.) 

Consider the examples of stress and pain. Both very commonly cause the muscles in the neck to flex bringing the shoulders to the ears (i.e. the trapezius which run from the base of the skull down the neck and out to the back of the shoulders flex crunching the neck and bringing shoulders to ears). When these muscles are favoured by the body, the body begins to take undue impact and pressure in the neck whenever the body is faced with impact of any form. This is because these muscles are constantly contracted and at attention, so if the body needs to support itself in the plank or push up position, the shoulders are pulled into the ears so that the neck can “help” even though these muscles are not helping and are far less suited than the other muscles in the core to support the body in this position (i.e. abs, pectorals, lats, etc.). Likewise, when the mind is stressed, and the body responds by flexing certain muscles, the muscles in the neck are the first line of response as they are already engaged and the shoulders will gather in the ears and remain there during the stressful period, unless the person’s body awareness is developed from yoga or a meditation or some other similar practice, and s/he notices the engagement in the muscles in the neck and releases them. Without this body awareness, any pressure of any kind the body faces, whether physical or mental, will more than likely result in an increase in the already somewhat contracted muscles in the neck, thereby focusing pressure there rather than in other muscle groups which may be more appropriate for the subject task. 


Alignment is quite simply the key to lifelong pain free movement as well as the efficient, expedient and safe advancement of all bodywork techniques.  

Live Well, Be Well, Practice Often!!!


 1 To understand this definition, one must start with the basic understanding of how a muscle functions and what it can and cannot do.  Namely, muscles can only pull on the body, they cannot push.  Put another way, muscles can only contract or release, which is really just a cessation of the contraction; muscles create force by contracting and bringing their points of attachment to the skeletal structure toward each other (such as when the biceps in the front of the upper arm contract, bringing the forearm to the shoulder). Muscles simply cannot somehow grow longer to push their two points of attachment apart. Think of a rubber band pulled taught, it can contract and shrink and exert force that way, but it cannot grow longer and exert force pushing two things away from each other. It could only be stretched longer by an external force. In the body, the muscles are like this rubber band -- a given muscle is able to pull a specific body part in only one direction by contracting, and if that body part is to go in the opposite direction, a muscle attached to the other side of that specific body part would have to contract. These muscles attached to the opposite side of that body part such that they can pull that body part in opposite directions are called opposing muscles.

2 Scoliosis would be an example of what I would call a structural misalignment, since the spine is actually curved (often laterally) to whatever degree in a manner other than that dictated by the body’s three natural curves (concave curves in the cervical and lumbar vertebrae and a convex curve in the thoracic vertebrae).  

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