Monthly Archives: April 2012
Because every day should be “Earth day”.
Happy Sunday! I found this article and had to share it. This explains more about the science of barefoot “earthing” or “grounding”.
Article by Dr. Joseph Mercola
Dr. James Oschman is an expert in the field of energy medicine, with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biophysics and a PhD in Biology from the University of Pittsburgh.
As an author of a number of books, he is widely recognized as an authority in the biophysics of energy medicine. In this interview he discusses the practice of “earthing,” or grounding.
Every modern school of alternative medicine talks about “energy,” although they may use a variety of words to describe it. But what is this fundamental “energy” you keep hearing about?
As Dr. Oschman went about to investigate, he found there is very good science that can help demystify this nebulous term. He wrote a number of articles for a journal published by Churchill Livingstone on the subject, and after some encouragement from the publisher, those articles eventually resulted in two books: Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basisi, and Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performanceii.
Dr. Oschman was also introduced to earthing, or grounding, and his research in this area has turned up some very interesting and compelling information about how the energy from the Earth can help you live a healthier life. He has recently written the Foreword for a new book by Clinton Ober, Dr. Stephen T. Sinatra and M. Zucker, entitled Earthing: the most important health discovery ever?iii published in 2010 (Basic Health Publications, Inc., Laguna Beach, CA.).
If you’re like most people, you probably wear shoes with rubber or plastic soles for the better part of each day. Read on to learn why shoes might be one of the banes of modern existence.
The Emergence of “Earthing”
The concept of earthing, also known as grounding, was initially developed by Clint Ober. Stated in the simplest terms possible, earthing is simply walking barefoot; grounding your body to the Earth. Oschman was introduced to Ober via Jeff Spencer, the chiropractor for Lance Armstrong’s cycling team and an expert in treating professional athletes.
“When Clint described the earthing phenomenon to Jeff, Jeff immediately called me and had me fly out to California to meet Clint and talk about what kind of research could be done to find out what is going on,” Oschman explains.
“People have known for a long time that walking barefoot feels good. There are places in the world like Germany and Austria and Switzerland with communities where there is a tradition of getting up in the morning and going barefoot.”
My own introduction to the concept of earthing was also through Jeff Spencer, some five or six years ago. I found it very intriguing, although I initially approached it with some skepticism. As you will soon see, it’s a simple concept—to some it may appear too simple.
Fortunately, Dr. Oschman is now able to provide the scientific groundwork for understanding what actually occurs. In fact, his team has now published about a dozen papers on this topic.
What Happens to You When You Walk Barefoot?
Your skin in general is a very good conductor. You can connect any part of your skin to the Earth, but if you compare various parts there is one that is especially potent, and that’s right in the middle of the ball of your foot; a point known to acupuncturists as Kidney 1 (K1). It’s a well-known point that conductively connects to all of the acupuncture meridians and essentially connects to every nook and cranny of your body. Interestingly, grounding—or rather the lack thereof—has a lot to do with the rise of modern diseases.
How is this?
Well, Dr. Oschman’s research into grounding has led him to better understand inflammation. I’ve discussed before, chronic inflammation is a primary cause of virtually all disease, from diabetes to cancer. And by looking at what happens during grounding, the answer to why chronic inflammation is so prevalent, and what is needed to prevent it, is becoming better understood.
When you’re grounded there’s a transfer of free electrons from the Earth into your body. And these free electrons are probably the most potent antioxidants known to man.
These antioxidants are responsible for the clinical observations from grounding experiments, such as:
- Beneficial changes in heart rate
- Decreased skin resistance
- Decreased levels of inflammation
To better understand the science behind what happens during grounding and how it impacts the inflammatory response, Dr. Oschman begins by explaining what happens when you experience an injury.
“Even the slightest bump, if you bump the door, your immune system immediately responds by sending white blood cells (neutrophils) to the place of injury…
The neutrophils secrete a Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)… called free radicals, in what’s referred to as an oxidative burst… These are like Pac-Man. They are very important molecules that tear things apart. If bacteria have gotten through your skin, these free radicals will destroy the bacteria very quickly. If you have damaged cells, the free radicals will break them apart so that there is a space for healthy cells to move in and repair the tissues.
That’s known as the inflammatory response.
What we have discovered that is truly profound is this: we now understand why you get the inflammatory response, which has five characteristics: pain, redness, heat, loss of range of motion, and swelling. All of those are the five hallmarks of inflammation and it turns out that that doesn’t have to happen.
Inflammation, which in medicine is considered an important part of the healing process, is really an artifact caused by lack of electrons in your tissues. What happens is, the neutrophils deliver the Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) to the site of injury, but in so doing, some of those free radicals can leak into the surrounding tissue and damage healthy tissue. That’s what creates the inflammatory response”.
Interestingly, grounding research has now discovered that if you place your feet on the ground after an injury (or on a grounded sheet, or place grounding patches on the balls of your feet), electrons will migrate into your body and spread through your tissues. Any free radicals that leak into the healthy tissue will immediately be electrically neutralized. This occurs because the electrons are negative, while the free radicals are positive, so they cancel each other out.
“So really what is happening with grounding or earthing is that you’re protecting your body from — I call it, collateral damage,” Dr. Oschman says. “Damage that was not intended to take place but does take place because we have disconnected ourselves from the Earth by putting rubber and plastic on the bottoms of our shoes.”
Earthing as an Anti-Aging Strategy
One of dominant theories on aging is the free radical theory, which is that aging occurs because of accumulative damage to your body caused by free radicals. You get free radicals when you have an injury or chronic inflammation, from breathing, and from the food you eat, among other things. While you don’t want to completely eliminate ALL free radicals, you do want to maintain a healthy balance of antioxidant electrons in your body to ensure the damage from free radicals doesn’t’ get out of hand.
Earthing can help accomplish this delicate balance. There are three kinds of sub-models of the aging process caused by free radicals.
- DNA damage and mutation due to free radical damage
- The mitochondrial theory. Mitochondria in every cell in your body carry out oxidative metabolism and a byproduct is free radicals. Eventually the mitochondria wear out or self-destruct due to excess free radicals
- The protein cross linking theory, which explains why you get wrinkles in your skin. The proteins stick to each other, reducing the efficiency of enzymes
“It looks to me, from my study of biophysics and cell biology, like the body is designed with a semi-conductive fabric that connects everything in the body, including inside of every cell,” Dr. Oschman says.
“I refer to this system as the living matrix. Those electrons that enter the bottom of your foot can move anywhere in your body. Any place where a free radical forms, there are electrons nearby that can neutralize that free radical and prevent any of those processes: mitochondrial damage, cross linking of proteins, and mutation or genetic damage.
So the whole fabric is basically an antioxidant defense system that is in every part of our body.
We have this material called ground substance which is part of the connective tissue. It goes everywhere in the body. It’s a gel material and it stores electrons. So that if you go barefoot, you will take in electrons and your body will store them, and they will be available at any point where you might have an injury, or any point where a free radical might form…”
How Grounding Affects Your Blood
Another very important discovery, and one of the most recent, is that grounding thins your blood, making it less viscous. This discovery can have a profound impact on cardiovascular disease, which is now the number one killer in the world. Virtually every aspect of cardiovascular disease has been correlated with elevated blood viscosity. Dr. Sinatra has been coaching Dr. Oschman’s team in how to measure blood viscosity using a method called zeta potential. It measures the potential on your red blood cells by determining how fast they migrate in an electrical field.
It turns out that when you ground to the earth, your zeta potential quickly rises, which means your red blood cells have more charge on their surface, which forces them apart from each other. This action causes your blood to thin and flow easier. It also causes your blood pressure to drop.
Another obvious implication of this is that by repelling each other, your red blood cells are less inclined to stick together and form a clot. Blood clots don’t have to be very big to form like a pulmonary embolus that would kill you instantly, so this is a significant benefit. Additionally, if your zeta potential is high, which grounding can facilitate, you not only decrease your heart disease risk but also your risk of multi-infarct dementias, where you start losing brain tissue due to micro-clotting in your brain.
The Best Surfaces for Grounding
Clearly, the simplest way to ground is to walk barefoot outside when safe to do so. But what about urban or city dwellers who are surrounded by asphalt and concrete? Can you ground on those? And what about natural surfaces—which ones are the most effective? There are indeed significant differences between various surfaces.
The ideal location for walking barefoot is the beach, close to or in the water, as sea water is a great conductor. Your body also contains mostly water, so it creates a good connection.
A close second would be a grassy area, especially if it’s covered with dew, which is what you’d find if you walk early in the morning. According to Dr. Oschman, concrete is a good conductor as long as it hasn’t been sealed. Painted concrete does not allow electrons to pass through very well. Materials like asphalt, wood, and typical insulators like plastic or the soles of your shoes, will not allow electrons to pass through and are not suitable for barefoot grounding.
Why Living in a High-Rise Could be Detrimental to Your Health
Additionally, there’s a major difference between standing outside in your bare feet and standing outside in shoes. And, how high up you are, off the surface of the Earth, without being grounded also matters. Why is this?
Dr. Oschman explains:
“The Earth’s surface is electrically charged and can push electrons up in your body. So from the top of your head to the Earth, there is a potential, which you don’t feel because it doesn’t cause any any particular current to flow, even though it can be a couple of hundred volts. If it did, it would give you a shock.
What happens is when the weather changes is that the potential can go up enormously. It can go from a hundred volts per meter to 10,000 volts per meter. That’s pre lightning. We’re talking about the potential that causes lightning to come to the earth. That voltage is well known and well understood…
This is the potential between the surface of the earth and the ionosphere, hundreds of miles up, which is very electrically active; charged by the solar wind, the charged particles that come from the sun. Those charged particles eventually reach the Earth by lightning and electrify the entire surface of the Earth so that anywhere you touch the Earth, there are electrons. They come originally from the sun, to the ionosphere, to the earth.
There is no lightning happening right here right now but somewhere there is lightning, a constant current flow from the ionosphere to the earth. Those are the electrons that your body needs for your immune system to function properly.”
What this means is that the higher up you are, separated from the surface of the Earth, the higher this potential would be, and the worse the implications for your health if you’re not grounded. For example, if you live on the 20th floor of a high-rise and you’re not grounded (using grounding technology, of course), the consequences to your health will be more significant than if you lived on the first floor. Likewise, when you wear rubber- or plastic-soled shoes, you are effectively shielding yourself from this beneficial influx of electrons from the Earth. For optimal immune function, you want these electrons to enter your body, so make sure you take your shoes off now and then!
Easy Ways to Incorporate Grounding Into Your Daily Life
Exercising barefoot outdoors is one of the most wonderful, inexpensive and powerful ways of incorporating earthing into your daily life and will also help speed up tissue repair and ease muscle pain due to strenuous exercise.
- A Special Interview with Dr. James Oschman. Video transcript.
- i Energy Medicine: The Scientific Basis, Amazon.com, June 15, 2000: James L. Oschman.
- ii Energy Medicine in Therapeutics and Human Performance, Amazon.com, March 8, 2003: James L. Oschman.
- iii Earthing: The Most Important Health Discovery Ever?, Amazon.com, April 9, 2010: Clinton Ober, et al.
*** This is the link to the original article: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/29/james-oschman-on-earthing.aspx?e_cid=20120429_SNL_Art_1
This woman has such a beautiful practice.
♥ / ☼
After a full day of work, I’m back to school for Family Night from 6-7pm. Usually I’d be going to a yoga class, but Family Night runs smack in the middle of my evening classes.
So I’ve sneaked in some chair/desk yoga and a few sun salutations randomly throughout my day. I even held pigeon pose for a few minutes and channeled today’s frustrating moments into a nice hip opening exercise.
“Mrs. Christiansen, what’s the difference between PCP and meth?”
“Why can’t I eat hot cheetos in class? I’m hungry.” (See red grease stains all over my books)
And of course there’s always my lovely potty-mouthed student calling others “dirty twats” and telling them that he “hopes they get run over by a bus”.
Never a dull moment.
I’m choosing to take this all with the bliss and detachment of a sloth.
So begins my teacher training. I felt like a giddy school girl with my bag packed, new highlighters, pens, notebooks and yogic texts. I’ve always enjoyed school/learning, and this is the pinnacle of what education represents for me.
Not only am I physically engaged in a practice that has been life changing for me, but I’m mentally stimulated, surrounded by like-minded individuals who wish to share their joy with others. Our teachers, Angie and Noell are both amazing yoginis that I have so much to learn from. I immediately felt at ease with my “spirit siblings” that I will be spending my weekends with for the next six months.
One thing Noell mentioned during training that I think about constantly is the fact that all teachers learn from their students, and all students teach their teachers. I am familiar with this concept as “teach/learn” & “learn/teach“, each with the primary role emphasized and the secondary role in support.
I actually discussed this with my Middle Schoolers a few weeks ago when one of my students freaked out and was cursing when we couldn’t read The Hunger Games for two straight periods. I totally understood his frustration (I was actually kind of excited that he was so engaged in the book) but cussing up a storm because things aren’t going his way is not an appropriate coping method and I thought this was a teachable moment. I explained to my class that these two identities (teach/learn & learn/teach) were inextricably linked, and that as their teacher, I have to constantly be aware of what my students are teaching me through their actions and reactions. I also mentioned to them that there is only one of me and 21 of them (I teach Special Education and this number is ridiculously high) and I have to do the best for the most amount of people. Often, this means that I won’t make everyone happy, but again, these mistakes inform my instruction and ultimately make me a stronger teacher.
Just bringing this concept to their attention made a huge difference in their awareness of the class as a whole. Often we don’t take the time to discuss things because we get so wrapped up in how we think things should be or how we think people should act. We must lead by example and be transparent in our actions and motivations. Admitting mistakes and even celebrating our struggles is an amazing tool for growth.
This carries over into my identity as a yoga teacher/learner. Currently, I am predominately in learning mode, but I am also developing my personal style and voice. I have to be true to myself, which is something I learned very early on teaching Middle Schoolers (they sniff out insecurities like no other!) and it will continue to be relevant as I begin teaching yoga.
Overall, I am exhausted but rejuvenated at the same time. I am so excited for the coming adventures 🙂
love & light,
Yo. It’s Aimee.
I’m not even a teacher, but I still feel like I totally just went on Spring Break of my own. In our time apart, a lot has happened. Most notably, my boyfriend and I got a puppy (yay!) and I did my first headstand (triple yay!). Which, I knoooow, might seem strange for someone who practices asana as regularly as I practice. (btw, “asana” is Sanskrit for “posture” and corresponds to the physical yoga poses we practice) (I’m making that distinction now to plant a seed of inquiry in your heads… “Why didn’t she just say yoga? Is she being pretentious or informative? I NEED TO KNOW OR ELSE I WON’T KNOW IF I CAN TRUST HER TEACHING!!!”) (I’ll fill in the blanks soon, I promise) And, to be fair, it wasn’t a headstand so much as a supported headstand, but still. Big stuff.
I realize perhaps some of you may also be thinking that Salamba Sirsasana is one of the more supported inversions, and that a lot of beginner yogis find it MORE comfortable than others to pursue on the outset of their inversion practice. So. It would stand to reason if I can stand on my hands in a handstand or gracefully glide into a forearm stand without any trouble, why can’t I rest on the crown of my head with a wall behind me??
The answer is I dunno (full disclosure: the answer with me is often “I dunno”). There’s a bunch of reasons why I’ve been reticent, I think. For one thing, I have a history of back problems that goes back (ZING) to an injury that happened in high school. A grave, grave circumstance which explains a lot about my confidence in my physical capabilities.
… Oh, you wanna know details? Uh… well… here’s the thing… I was totally doing something super athletic and badass, guys, I swear…
Well, I definitely was NOT rehearsing choreography for a community youth theater production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat… And CERTAINLY NOT attempting a CARTWHEEL into my DANCE PARTNER’s arms…
Okay, so yeah. I royally effed up my back doing a stupid cartwheel. And I can’t even consider it a dance injury, because anyone who’s met me will agree I’m nooooo dancer. I’m not even kind of graceful… to imagine me potebure-ing my way across a room with mirrors is actually hysterical to me and my loved ones. My gawkwardness transcends art. So, all through high school and college, I was really scared to do anything that would compromise my neck or back, which was a bummer because I really am athletic at my core. I just sort of resigned myself to be that weird drama girl who sometimes couldn’t turn to the right or left without moving her ENTIRE TORSO in the desired direction. No. Big. Deal.
But guys. Yoga changed this for me. And not in the I-woke-up-one-day-and-finally-had-the-courage-to-follow-my-dreams kind of way (if that even exists). It was more of a I-finally-accepted-that-I-couldn’t-do-a-headstand-before-but-maybe-tomorrow-I-will-be-able-to-and-if-not-tomorrow-maybe-the-next-day sort of sitch. Like, I just sort of accepted that I might not be able to do something. And that was weird. Especially for a perfectionist like moi.
And you know what? The minute I took all the pressure off the pose and just accepted that it was just as possible as impossible and as impossible as possible and as GAAAAAHHHH MY BRAIN HURTS…
Sitting on my knees, I calmly interlaced my palms about 8 inches away from the wall and came into a downward facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana for you Sanskrit buffs). I then gently dropped my forearms shoulder-width distance apart from one another (creating a two-sided triangle of sorts with my arms). Next, I very very veeeerrry gently set my head on my mat, cradling the back of my head in the space created by my interlaced fingers, realizing the caution I was exhibiting is not unlike the caution one might exhibit when cradling an eight week old puppy’s head in his/her palms, which made me smile as I thought of trying to flip my 8-week old puppy at home on his head… and the subsequent biting and barking I’d incur (but he’d look SO CUTE!).
And then I fucking sat there for a bit.
“Well, what the fuck now, oh brave one?” – Me, to Me. c. 2012
And then, just like it was my fucking JOB, I made that headstand my little bitch. I methodically, with purpose, bent my knees slightly, started walking my feet in toward my face, keeping my forearms firmly rooted in the mat. I stepped my feet closer and closer to my face as I inhaled and exhaled. On a very specific inhale of my choosing, I proceeded to hop my right leg up, ever-so-lightly into the air. First hop: no dice. Second hop: BOOM. The force from my right leg lifting up had enough oomph to allow my left leg to follow suit and, before I knew it, my legs were up against the wall and I was upside down as fuck.
PANIC set in as I realized I hadn’t ever gotten this far… where do I go next?? But being the good little yogi student/teacher I am, I knew the fundamentals of proper alignment for inversions are as follows:
Keep your shoulders above your wrists and elbow creases, and your hips above your shoulders. Your navel should feel like the central point through which a long line of energy travels from your ankles down to your head, thus creating a center of gravity, or a folcrum (heyyy, physics!) at your navel.
So I adjusted my weight, being very very verrrry careful not to put any unwanted pressure on my neck and spine… starting first with my forearms, making sure they were parallel with each other and directly below my shoulders. Then, feeling whether my hips were directly above my shoulders (they were!), I eventually extended my legs up long, so that my ankles were directly above my hips. I spread my collarbone wide and opened my shoulders by rolling them back and down, opening my heart space. Lastly, I pointed my toes to feel pretty and long and dancer-like (making sure to revel in it for a few breaths) (GAWKWARD). I then carefully came out of the pose setting one leg down on my mat at a time, light as a feather.
Boom. No spinal injury, no neck pain. If anything, I relieved a little pressure.
Do I suggest you do this at home? Perhaps after a couple of glasses of pinot greege while Real Housewives of Who Gives a Shit plays in the background? Absolutely not. You should try this asana in the comfort and safety of a yoga class with a licensed teacher present to guide you through it.
But I do want to encourage you to not let go of possibility. I want to encourage you to believe in possibility, especially of the non-immediate sort. It all goes back to that Faith crap I was droning on and on about it my last post… con fidence = with faith. Being okay with not getting something the first couple of times, or first couple hundred times. Having the confidence that it will happen eventually, whether “it” is a headstand or a handstand or a dream career or weight loss goal or personality alteration or emotional expression or a developed ability to turn the channel away from My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding instead of watching two full hours in a row of it. With commercials. Whatever “it” is:
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you imagined. As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler.” –Henry David Thoreau
Let go of attachments and explore possibility; life will become easier, I promise. That’s exactly what being upside-down is all about~ making the seemingly impossible possible. Incidentally, so is life.
It’s been a challenging week. By that I mean that there’s been a lot of stress, anger, solar flare, and general lethargy. And I don’t think that it’s just me.
I know I’m having a hard time when everything feels like an ordeal. I spent a good hour talking myself out of going to yoga (I’m soooooo tired) and then feeling guilty about not going to yoga. So I just went to class, even though a large part of me wanted to wallow in my frustration.
I’m not a huge advocate of forcing things, especially if they should to fun and relaxing. But there are times when you just need to stop feeling sorry for yourself and do something.
Tonight, class kicked my ass. In a totally awesome way that I desperately needed. Getting out of my monkey mind for 90 minutes gave me a renewed, vibrant take on life.
In yoga, the poses that are the most difficult for us are the ones we need to do the most. There is nothing like breaking through your blocks and having things finally fall into place after a lengthy struggle. Half moon used to aggravate me, but now it’s one on my favorites! Most arm balances still elude me, but I’m happy knowing that they will come to me eventually. There is always more to learn in yoga. That’s why it’s called a “practice”.
I hear over and over that we store a lot of our emotional baggage and stress in our hips. My favorite pose to ease this is pigeon pose (above is a modified version). For a step-by-step breakdown: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/863
I’m kind of masochistic for pigeon pose, in that I love the dull, achy feeling that I get in my hips… it hurts so good. As I feel my hips open, I try to picture the discomfort as all the unwanted things I am carrying around with me, leaving my body.