Tag Archives: anatomy

BIOL 349 Physiology Research Project at WWU

9 Sep


In my Human Physiology course at Western Washington University, we were asked to conduct a research study on a topic of our choice.   My Physiology Lab partners and I studied the impact of Pranayama and Viparita Karani on mean arterial pressure (MAP is a measure of blood pressure) in college-age women.  Above you can see our poster and below a figure from our paper.


Figure 3. Average percent change in mean arterial pressure (MAP) for the treatment and control groups during three time intervals: Posture/Breathing shows the difference between Stages 1 and 2, Recovery is between Stages 2 and 3, and Overall shows the difference between Stages 1 and 3. Error bars show standard error (Tierney et al 2015).

While we did not find a statistically signifiant difference in MAP resulting form the posture; however, we did find that a simple, 5-minute Pranayama practice reduces MAP.  I invite you to have a look at our paper and also take five minutes to practice breathing to the recording I prepared for the study.

Here is a link to the paper.

Here is a link to the breathing recording.

On a side note, our group’s project won Best Poster in our class.
Great work, ladies!



Just Breathe.

24 Mar

Ginger Garner, a Physical Therapist and Yoga Instructor, writes in The Amazing Diaphragm about the research on breath control and how breathing quality can be an indicator of other health concerns.  A great read!

Here is an excerpt:

As little as a few minutes of deep breathing can begin to change your stress response and improve your health.

Ginger Garner

Also, enjoy a sweet, related article by Rolf Sovik called Drawing the Diaphragm.

Breath awareness is a practice you can do at home, any time.  Notice your breath.  See if you can, without too much effort, lengthen and slow the duration of your in-breath.  You may choose to count.  As you exhale, can you allow the out-breath to last a few beats longer?  Continuing in this way for just 2-4 minutes can result in big impacts on your health and happiness!

Words of Wisdom from BKS Iyengar

24 Dec

Please enjoy this interview with BKS Iyengar by Nick Rosen for the film, Enlighten Up!


Mr. Iyengar is known as the father of modern posture practice, making asana accessible to anyone, with extensive use of props and therapeutic applications.

What People Really Look Like

18 Sep

Dale Favier

This short, sweet piece by a Portland-area massage therapist Dale Favier is well worth passing along.  Do yourself a favor and read it (along with other, lovely, subsequent posts by the same man).

Here is a taste:

I’ve been a massage therapist for many years, now. I know what people look like.
People have been undressing for me for a long time. I know what you look like: a glance at you, and I can picture pretty well what you’d look like on my table.
Let’s start here with what nobody looks like: nobody looks like the people in magazines or movies. Not even models. Nobody. Lean people have a kind of rawboned, unfinished look about them that is very appealing. But they don’t have plump round breasts and plump round asses. You have plump round breasts and a plump round ass, you have a plump round belly and plump round thighs as well. That’s how it works. (And that’s very appealing too.)
Woman have cellulite. All of them. It’s dimply and cute. It’s not a defect. It’s not a health problem. It’s the natural consequence of not consisting of photoshopped pixels, and not having emerged from an airbrush …
Go on, read the rest!
NeckThis beautiful perspective makes me so grateful … for yoga, for the teachings, for my teachers, for my body, for my students, and for my amazing massage therapist/body worker, Suzie Cornell (pictured at left, giving me a Structural Medicine treatment).
You might do yourself another favor and schedule an appointment with her.
She helps me glow!

“I like my body because it’s magic”

17 Jul

This post on Interrupt is so precious and wonderful.


Click here to read all of it.

What did you like about your body when you were 8?

Yoga Anywhere!

13 Jun

Please enjoy some photos of Jessie and friends practicing Yoga asana in some of the most beautiful places in the world!





Crescent Lunge Mt. Baker




Yoga Play












Hanging Yogs in Washington



Horseback Yoga

Click here for more Horseback and Hayloft Yoga photos!

Hayloft Yoga


















Community Acupuncture

4 Jun

I was first introduced to acupuncture in an unlikely way: I watched  Heather Frazer, DVM, perform a demo treatment  on Tux, an equine I have practiced horseback yoga with, at the Horse Harmonics festival this past February.


Her demonstration was fascinating–and convincing.  Heather had an extensive power point presentation detailing the history and science of this thousands-of-years-old treatment, which was deeply informative, but once she began showing us the specific points during her assessment on Tux, his reactions were what sold me.  I think it was the best way to experience acupuncture for the first time: horses react genuinely, they don’t have a motive to feel anything at all, and Tux was undoubtedly affected by his treatment.  She showed us his reflexes when she gently touched different points (without needles), and explained that his twitch reaction helps her to know she’s on a sensitive point, or one that could use some attention.  Tux was ancy at the start of the treatment, and once she put needles into some points related to calming, he gradually eased and lowered his head and relaxed.  I would know because I was holding him throughout the demo!


If you are an equine owner and have a horse who you think may benefit from acupuncture (it is my personal opinion that all horses would benefit from acupuncture!), I can recommend with confidence Heather Fraser, DPM.

Heather’s presentation and Tux’s reaction was what convinced me to try acupuncture out for myself.

And I feel so fortunate to have met Hadea Tift, owner & bodyworker at Skagit Community Acupuncture in Burlington, WA.  I want to share her and all the incredible work she does with my community.  I actually learned about Hadea and SCA through one of the patients at the PT Office, who got substantial relief for a shoulder/neck problem after her first visit.

Hadea runs a “Community Acupuncture” treatment clinic, which allows her to offer acupuncture appointments on a $15-35 sliding scale.  Here’s her explanation from her website:

Skagit Community Acupuncture provides a radical and yet sensible solution to feeling better on a budget. We do this by treating multiple people per hour, being succinct and thoughtful about what we do. This allows us to charge just $15 for a treatment. That is pretty incredible when most places have to charge closer to $80 to cover their overhead.  This means that you can afford to come often enough to GET BETTER while not breaking the bank. It also means that we can make a modest living doing what we love.  (read more here)

So back up a minute.  You might be wondering just why one would try acupuncture in the first place.  I tried it because Tux’s calm response and  his obvious improvement in joint pain were measurable after just the first treatment.  I figured it might help with my mild to moderate anxiety, hip pain, IBS, and hypothyroidism.  I’d met Hadea at the CoOp’s Wellness Fair and I liked her frank, honest and healing personality.  At such an affordable rate, I thought I’d give it a try.  But check this out …

Acupuncture is known to help the following:

  • Back pain
  • Headaches
  • Joint pain from arthritis
  • Muscle strains
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Body stiffness
  • Digestion
  • Acid Reflux
  • Sour stomach
  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
  • Long term conditions like crohns, IBS, and the side effects of food allergies
  • Immune function
  • Energy (less fatigue, more vitality & stamina)
  • Insomnia
  • Snoring
  • Nightmares
  • Night sweats
  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • ADHD
  • Allergies
  • Horomone imgalances
  • Adrenal Fatigue
  • Thyroid problems

My first visit began with a complete intake questionnaire.  Hadea sat down with me, took my pulse, and asked a number of questions.  I outlined my three top priorities in getting treated (IBS, hip pain and anxiety/low thyroid), and she set a treatment plan (1-2x/week for 10 weeks).  I decided I would commit to the full 10 weeks before I determined if it was helpful.  I explained that I probably would only be able to make it one time per week because of my busy schedule, which made me consider a source of my heightened anxiety and low thyroid, then strengthened my resolve that I do, in fact, need one hour each week to myself.

pocaWell, I was going to wait until the full ten weeks was over, but I am so impressed with how these 30-45 minute acupuncture sessions are impacting my life, I decided to write about it tonight.  My hip pain was 100% gone after the first treatment.  This may have correlated with my first Structural Medicine treatment with Suzy, but I think most likely they both helped!  My IBS has improved (I am not on my restrictive diet any longer), my anxiety has changed: I have become more aware and use my breathing techniques to control moments I find myself anxious, and I have noticed my thyroid levels are more stable.

The sessions are simple and peaceful: I step into the front office, put my payment in an envelope, walk through the doors into the quiet room full of recliners, pick my spot (usually the massage table because I like to lay flat), and lay down.  I roll up my pant legs and sleeves, close my eyes, and listen to the gentle, relaxing sounds of her water fountain.  Hadea enters the room and checks in with how I am feeling, then she unwraps a new pack of needles and places them delicately into position on my arms and legs (virtually painless, Hadea uses the most gentle method possible for needles).  She asks how long I want to rest for (45 minutes, please!) if I want a blanket (I do!) and a hot pack for my neck (yes, please!), makes sure I am comfortable, and leaves.  Then I either meditate, daydream, or fall asleep for the duration of my treatment.  She comes back in when 45 minutes has passed, takes out my needles (painless), and I slowly get up and make my way out the door.

My last appointment on Friday totally transformed my day.  I feel like it was really a breakthrough session for me.  I wasn’t going to go: the traffic, I was feeling overwhelmed and too busy, blah blah blah, but I did anyway.  I walked in up-tight, stressed and tired, and I walked out like I was floating on clouds.  The calming effects lasted all weekend, and into this week (which, in turn, improve my IBS and thyroid problems!).  I look forward to every Friday when I get to have a treatment with Hadea!

If you are struggling with pain or anxiety, do yourself a favor and try this ancient healing modality!  If you’d prefer to meet Hadea before you decide to schedule an appointment, just come out to the Hayloft on Tuesday nights–she’s there almost every week.


Structural Medicine

23 May

I have had great fortune in being asked to ‘model’ for a local body worker’s Structural Medicine training.  This means I get treatments monthly for one year, and she takes measurements, photos, notes, etc., to study the structural and subtle changes that happen in my body over the course of my treatments.

My experience with the first treatment truly blew me away … SO much that I want to share this rather personal journey with my community, and also encourage each of you to schedule an appointment with Suzy Cornell!  She is amazing!

Suzy Cornell
Skagit Valley Structural Medicine

My first appointment happened last weekend.  I drove into Concrete on a iconic drizzly PNW morning and was greeted by a long driveway lined with old growth cedar and big leaf maple, ferns, and even medicinal mushrooms growing on old stumps.  This scenic and magical setting on the bank of Finney Creek really set a soothing stage for my first visit.

Suzy herself is a fantastic woman–energetic and compassionate, she is easy to talk to and immediately made me feel comfortable.  In her home, with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook Finney Creek, we sat at a table and went over some intake information & my medical history, and spoke about physical areas of concern.

In my body, I believe in part due to falling off horses numerous times in my youth and in part due to over-stretching the ligaments that support my sacroiliac joint in yoga, I have occasional sometimes acute hip and low back pain.  I have treated this pain with physical therapy, Reiki, and yoga, and I’ve found most recently that my yoga practice at Yoga Northwest under the guidance of very anatomically-aware and alignment-specific teachers has helped most with the pain.  However, in the past year, I feel like I’ve come to a bit of a wall and don’t feel like I am progressing.  My personal home yoga practice feels at best uninspired, bland.  I avoid many poses (specifically twists) that tend to inflame my hip problem.  I was ready for a new perspective.

I came to the right place at the right time.

Structural Medicine is a combination and integration of various forms of bodywork, developed by Donna Bagellis, a Physical Therapist here in Washington.  It’s a sort of tango between Hallerwork, Rolfing, PT, pilates, and yoga.  After an extensive series of tests on my range of motion (even down to my ribcage expansion in my breathing) and strength, I lay on a massage table and Suzy began doing some deep work on my fascia.  She mostly focused on the area of my torso: from my hips up to my collarbones and into my armpits.  She coached me to breathe deeply as she worked.  After awhile I switched and lay on my belly while she worked my back.

Below, I felt so inspired after my first treatment that I did an exercise that my writing professor and first yoga teacher, Michael McColly, introduced to me in a Creative Body class: Draw an outline of your body and then write words/draw pictures of sensations and messages from the body within and around that outline.


Body work is powerful because of the subtleties that are physically entrapped in the physical body.  As muscles and fascia releases, so do emotions, sub-consciousness, things that were stuck or suppressed within the subtle and physical body.

“It’s all about inspiration,” Suzy said to me.  She had me take a deep in-breath, and let the out-breath come naturally.  I realized that it was hard for me to inhale and spread my middle ribs.  At first this shocked me.  As a yoga teacher, one would think I would have exceptional lung capacity.  I was shocked to find that I did have a deep, full low belly breath, but my middle and upper ribs were constricted.  Very constricted.

For so long I have been lengthening and deepening my exhale, and consciously keeping my inhale shorter because this longer-exhale helps to ease  and lessen anxiety (something I have struggled with).  However, I’d been so deeply focused on the exhale that my inhalations have become stifled.

Exhales, on an energetic level, correlate with giving, release, offering.    I can see this tendency in myself: teaching more, giving more time away to others, working more, trying harder, doing more …

Inhale invites creativity, helps us take in pleasures, brings in energy, nourishes the body: intake, receive, take in, accept, indulge, welcome, invite, inspire:  and this is where I need to focus.  I’m real good at exhaling.  My in-breath needs some work.

As in everything, there must be balance.  Even to the breath.  In the past, my pendulum had swung too far toward the inhale.  Now it is too far toward the exhale.  With this mindfulness practice, I hope to still the pendulum in the middle of a balanced breath.

Throughout the session, I felt like I was being freed!  With this work, I will become balanced, whole: able to let go yet maintain boundaries.  Fully myself.  Giving, gifting, offering, and receiving, accepting, taking in: the dance of balance.

There is such beauty in balance!

I love working with the subtle body by way of the physical body.  It is in bodywork that we can truly realize that there is no separation between body, mind and spirit.  Like in yoga, what manifests in the physical body is an expression of the subtle body, the emotional body the spiritual body.

On a physical level, at the end of the treatment, Suzy took the same measurements as the start and we noticed these differences:

  • My left hip (previously lower) became level with my right hip
  • My left hip was less anteriorly rotated, more balanced with my right
  • My right shoulder range of motion was greater by twenty or so drgrees
  • I could breathe more fully into my mid-chest, around the area of my xyphoid process (base of sternum)
  • My IT bands weren’t nearly as tight (amazing to me, since she hadn’t touched my legs at all, instead focusing on releasing fascia in my torso)

My shoulders and neck felt completely different than they had pre-treatment.  My walking felt more free, my chest more open.  It struck me to realize how stuck we can feel without even knowing it.

A lot of this Structural Medicine work deals with Fascia, the connective tissue which holds the organs, tissues, and structures of the body in place.  I have much still to learn about fascia, and will continue to update my blog as I gain more resources to share.


I continue to receive insights as the days pass … the day after my bodywork session, I went on a run.  I felt like I had a new body!  I felt free and moved more easily.  My joints felt more open, my legs felt springy.


In my yoga class at Yoga Northwest, again I felt like I was in a completely new body.  Like a beginner to yoga, I felt sensations for the first time.  I stretched differently, felt openness in new places, breathed differently, went deeper in some poses and not so deep in others.

I feel more creative, like new ideas flow easily, like my future plans are unfolding more clearly.  Clarity, yes!

It is all so very inspiring.

I truly believe, after just one treatment, that this type of bodywork is one of the the best things we can do for our yoga practice.  It opens places we can’t quite open on our own.  It gives us feedback to have hands-on contact.  It slows us down.  It helps us recognize that we are a part of a greater community. it teaches us how to receive.

I can not wait until my next treatment.  I’ll write about it in the next installment of “Bodywork.”  In the meantime, give Suzy a call and get yourself out there!  It will be worth your while.

Suzy Cornell
Ultimate Physiques
rosesque at hotmail dot com


Fascia: A Great Reason to do Yoga!

3 May

Dr. Frank Lipman: Why Yoga Works from MindBodyGreen on Vimeo.


Gil Hedley, PHD and founder of Integral Anatomy’s famous “Fuzz Speech.”

And below, another fascinating video about Fascia.