The Health Series: #13 – Part II: Alignment for Every Body or Alignment & Lifestyle Choices for Your Health

With great pleasure, I welcome back Carol Robbins, RES-CPT for Part II on the Health Series. If you missed it, Part I is HERE.

Carol teaches movement in person in Toronto’s Beaches area and by Skype worldwide. She holds monthly workshops on various topics and twice yearly a 2-day Move Your DNA workshop under the umbrella of Nutritious Movement™.  She is a teacher trainer for Nutritious Movement™ at certification weeks and mentors the certifying students by Skype. She writes a blog on her website and articles for various publications.

Alignment for Every Body or Alignment & Lifestyle Choices for Your Health

A lot of people use the term “alignment” interchangeably with “posture” so let’s start by defining alignment. I use alignment as a tool to measure one body part in relation to another body part. If you want an accurate assessment, you need to start the measurement from somewhere, determining how much movement (or how little) is available from that point. I use a grid, defined by bony landmarks on the body that are similar on every body, but unique in terms of your proportions. For example, everyone has a pelvis and everyone’s pelvis has two bones that sticks out the front called the ASIS. But everyone’s ASIS are going to be slightly different in width as determined by their dimensions. If you stand with your feet under your ASIS, you will be standing your hip width, which might not be the same as mine.

When you measure body parts (or joint range), you need to set a default zero – a joint or body position that is neither flexed or extended or rotated as examples. We start at the ground and work our way up, and eventually we uncover the areas that are unable to stack in gravity without using force (muscle use).

It’s an informative technique and a self-empowering one.

But it is not to say that you are to be “in alignment” all the time. That is like saying “what is the best one joint position (posture) to be in?” The best joint position is all of them. The best way to walk is all the ways. And the best and easiest way to get that kind of variance is to live in an environment that requires it.

We use the grid tool to identify under-moved areas, and then we use corrective exercises to assess those movements, eventually introducing lifestyle concepts that require more movement across all joints.

One of those lifestyle concepts is shoe choice. You and your family are going to wear shoes every day; what you put on your feet has a profound and lasting effect (especially in the case of young children), potentially causing foot pathologies, and toe deformities as well as adaptations in the foot/ankle/lower leg complex such as a chronically shortened calf group due to a heel lift. It doesn’t have to be a 2” heel to cause these issues – even a child’s first shoe often has a ¼” heel, which is significant in their small and growing frame.

Our culture does not make it easy to make these choices, zero drop wide toe box shoes are hard to find (but not impossible!) and we are surrounded by flat and level surfaces which if absent would otherwise require more movement; stairs, sidewalks, paved paths. We are encouraged to sit in chairs from a very early age for many hours a day. We have become isolated without the community that would support and assist a new mother, an older member. From our beds to our counter heights, everything is contrived to be convenient but not movement variant.

The corrective exercises can, in a small way, replace some of the lost movement, but eventually, especially as you start to reap the benefits of abundant movement, you will want to adopt some of the lifestyle choices as they fit into your life.

Restorative Exercise is primarily a gait focused movement paradigm, walking being one of the biological requirements for optimal human function, so many of the exercises are gait specific.

I teach private sessions in person and by Skype, offer small group classes, 2-hour and 2-day workshops and community movement opportunities in Toronto’s beaches neighbourhood.

Carol Robbins, RES-CPT

You can learn more at:









The Health Series – #10 Creative Journal Expressive Arts

The Health Series – #10 Creative Journal Expressive Arts
August 17, 2017

It gives me great pleasure to introduce Jan McGinn, Early Childhood Educator, Haven Intern, and Creative Journal Expressive Arts Practitioner and Instructor.

Where does Creative Journal Expressive Arts originate from?

Creative Journal Expressive Arts (CJEA) sessions are based on techniques developed by Lucia Capacchione, PH.D, A.T.R., R.E.A.T. – a world- renowned art therapist, best-selling author of 15
books and trainer in Expressive Arts Therapy and Visioning.

Dr. Capacchione’s methods spark creativity in all areas of life. She originated:

o The Creative Journal Method of self-therapy, blending writing and drawing
o Healing through writing and drawing with the non-dominant hand
o The Visioning process of life design through collage and journaling
o Inner Child/Inner Family healing through the expressive arts

After successful careers in both art and education, she discovered the healing power of art and journaling with her non-dominant hand while struggling with a mysterious life-threatening illness. Her full recovery without medication led to a new career as an art therapist. Her methods are used worldwide. For more information about Lucia or CJEA workshops and training  you can visit her website at:

A little background on my journey with Creative Journal Expressive Arts:

I found out about CJEA through a workshop at The Haven a centre for transformative learning on Gabriola Island. The workshop is called “Befriending your Inner Critic” given by a fellow CJEA
Instructor Marlin Farrell. Little did I know that this would take me on a yearlong study with Dr. Capacchione to Texas. I have found out a lot more about myself through this training and I continue to discover more insights that I don’t know how I would have found out otherwise.
The most important discovery was acceptance of myself. This I learned through the power of my non-dominant hand, and journaling with my Inner Child.

  • Creative Journaling uses both your dominant and non-dominant hands during CJEA exercises.
  • By using your non-dominant hand in an expressive art experience you can access the right side of your brain, this is where your creativity lives, as well as your intuition, inner wisdom, and your inner child.Creative Journaling offers you a way of expressing emotions and a way of connecting with your spiritual selves, or higher self.
  • Your left side of the brain is: rational, logical, linear, goal orientated and time based.Don’t get me wrong we need both sides of the brain in order to function. We are just tapping into our unconscious to reveal to us more things about ourselves that we may not be paying attention to.
  • Children primarily experience their world through the functioning of the right brain. When we start school however, we learn to rely more on our left-brain.
  • Since our right brain is not verbal we must interact verbally with the world through the functioning of the left-brain. You might say our conscious thoughts come through the left-verbal brain while the right brain holds the key to our unconscious world.
  • By tapping into the wisdom of both the right and left side of the brain we can access our emotions, body wisdom, inner healer, inner child, personality traits, the list goes on.

    In a Creative Journal Expressive Arts Experience all you need is a quiet space with a blank journal or piece of paper, and some crayons, felts or paints. No previous art experience is necessary!Be prepared – scribbling, particularly with your non-dominant hand, is a requirement for this experience!

    You can go ahead and try this if you like; asking a question that you are puzzling over right now. Answer this question with your non-dominant hand. I prefer doing this with my eyes closed which really helps me to get out of my left-brain and into my heart. Try not to edit your response just draw what you are feeling and if there are any words write those down to with your non-dominant hand. This takes practice and like anything becomes more comfortable over time.

    Notice if there is a part of you that says, “Oh, you can’t do that”. That could be your inner critic or judge trying to shut you down before you even get started. You can send them out to get coffee at Starbucks in the next country while you do this exercise!

    This experience could include: an expression of feelings to the sound of music or a guided meditation to help you get “into” your body, and out of your “head” this is often followed with a creative arts experience using a variety of art materials and then journaling.

    CJEA methods can help you with: life transitions, making decisions, dealing with grief, depression and loss, Illness and recovery. The list goes on. Reconnecting with your passion in life and your direction is what this method has helped me with on a daily basis.

    For any questions on Creative Journal Expressive Arts, please feel free to contact me.

    Discover The Child Within Individual or Group Sessions Available
    Contact: Jan McGinn Certified Creative Journal Expressive Arts Facilitator
    1-(250) 919-7377

    Jan McGinn
    August, 2017

The Health Series: #4 Feldenkrais and You.

I’m pleased to introduce this month’s guest: Gwen Spinks.

Gwen is a Feldenkrais Practitioner and Dance instructor. Gwen completed the four-year Feldenkrais Method™ training in 2012. Gwen is here to talk about Feldenkrais & You. Learn more about Gwen on her website: or Instagram: gwenspinksart

Feldenkrais Method of Movement is based on the work of Israeli physicist, engineer and martial arts master Moshe Feldenkrais (1904/1984), and is now taught around the world.

The Feldenkrais Method™ is grounded in anatomy, physiology and physics. It is also informed by the latest research into movement and human development. Bringing these disciplines together provides us with a model for learning new movements and can be applied to learning any new skill we are learning. Ordinarily, we learn just enough to get by.

In the Feldenkrais Method™, we learn from our own unique ways of moving. As we become aware of how we do all that we do: act, sense, think, and feel, we gain a great range of ease and skill. We empower ourselves by asking and answering a simple question: Is there a better way to do this? and it is a physical way through to the emotional body.

I believe that all our physical pain has an emotional component. When we are willing and able to look at our pain/illnesses/injuries as something that has manifested from our emotional traumas, then we are willing and able to release both the physical and emotional pain.

As a dance teacher (Ballroom, Latin, West Coast Swing, etc.) for almost thirty years, I have seen many people quit dancing or not start at all, because of their fear. Mostly, it comes down to control, trust, or intimacy. Facing their fear on the dance floor is a huge challenge – how they move reflects how they feel in their body. It also reflects how they hold their traumas (which is where the fear starts).

The Feldenkrais Method of Movement has been the key for me to help people unlock the connection between their physical and emotional pain bodies. This helps them to literally move through and release old habits of how they hold and move physically, emotionally, and mentally. The result for most people is greater mobility not just on the dance floor, but in their life, and that mobility/flexibility/ease of movement comes pain free. It can be a scary journey, however, the benefits are amazing.

Gwen Spinks, January 2017

The Health Series: #3 Pedicures and Foot Health

I’m pleased to introduce this month’s guest, Valerie Rich who started her aesthetician career in 2004. Valerie is currently living in Nanaimo, BC.

Welcome, Valerie!

Pedicures and Foot Health

I’m often surprised how many of my clients that come in for a pedicure say to me, “I hate my feet” or “My feet are so ugly.” Obviously, they haven’t seen as many feet as I have. As anaesthetician, I notice feet and hands and all too often I see more women care for their fingernails, or spend more money on acrylic/gel nails, than they do their feet. It’s very easy to neglect our feet and most of us don’t give our feet much thought, that is, until they hurt. Take into account that most of your waking hours are spent on your feet, and the average person walks between six and eight thousand steps per day. Is that not enough reason to pamper those feet with a soothing pedicure? Not only do regular pedicures (every six to eight weeks) feel good, they’re also important for your health in many ways.

So what are the benefits of regular pedicures? Soaking and exfoliating of skin removes dead skin cells and allows the skin to breathe. Peppermint masks and a foot massage promotes good blood circulation and moisturizes the feet. A paraffin treatment is especially nice for excessively dry feet during the winter months. Also, your aesthetician will be able to spot minor issues or problems that may occur such as fungal infections.

Salons are popping up so quickly and the dilemma is ‘how do I choose a good salon?’ Ensure you are booking into an accredited salon or your aesthetician has their credentials on display.

Some things to avoid are:

  • Jet Baths I’m sure your feet will feel wonderful in them but these jet baths are very time consuming to fully disinfect and sterilize properly between clients therefore harbouring a warm, moist breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Razors Most places ban these now but they were commonplace for the removal of calluses. Using a razor, especially on thick calluses, did the job much faster and quicker but also leaves you vulnerable to cuts and infections. Also, if too much of the callus is removed it might be difficult to stand or walk on your feet.
  • Shaving I know you’ll feel like an ape not shaving before you head out to a pedicure, but doing so is more beneficial to you. If you nick yourself while shaving and then place your feet, say in one of these dreaded jet baths, you are leaving yourself open to a bacterial infection.
  • Dirty Environment If you walk into the salon and it is not clean and appealing, walk out.

What’s keeping you from booking a pedicure? If you’re concerned about the implements and whether they’re sterilized correctly, purchase your own to take with you whenever you have a pedicure. You want to purchase a good quality set such as stainless steel or surgical steel. At least you’ll have peace of mind knowing that these have only been used on one person: you.

There’s nothing wrong with skipping out on the polish. In fact, it’s better for your nails to give them a breather during the winter months (except when heading south for a vacation). My clients that skip the polish during the winter months always get a longer foot massage!

Valerie Rich, Aesthetician

December 2016

The Health Series: #1 Breath for Life

I’m pleased to introduce this month’s guest Linda Nicholls.

Linda Nicholls DipC, MTC, PhD is a group facilitator who integrates her diverse experiences in programs for those interested in personal transformation and strengthening relational skills. She leads a wide range of programs at The Haven and internationally.

Linda is here to talk about Breath for Life, the first in this series, and one of the most basic and misunderstood occupations of life.

You can learn more about Linda on her website.

Welcome, Linda!

Breath for Life

You are living your life between inhaling your first breath and exhaling your final breath.

You can live for weeks with no food, days with no water yet only around four minutes with no breath before your brain becomes altered. Experiment with holding your breath while watching a timer and notice how few seconds pass before urgency or even panic sets in!

Depending upon your activity level you are probably taking anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 breaths per day, every day of your life, approximately 6,000,000 to over 9,000,000 breaths per year. The quality of your breathing has a profound influence on your entire being, physically, emotionally, mentally, psychically, sexually, spiritually.

Flames naturally burn brighter and more intensely when fueled with oxygen.   The flow of life force energy within you (Sanskrit prana, meaning “vital principle” or in Chinese chi, in Polynesian mana, in Amerindian orenda) is also expanded, enriched and balanced when you learn to consciously breathe deeply and correctly.

I deliberately say learn to breathe correctly because most of us have long forgotten even by the time we enter our teens. When you were very young, even pre-verbal, you were quite likely beginning to unconsciously restrict your natural, healthy breathing capacity in order to control your emotions, your movements and your behavior. Were you told to stop crying, stop laughing or stop wiggling? Maybe you recall sucking in your breath, your lip quivering as you tried to stop crying, or holding your breath until you burst out in laughter? Or maybe you have experienced the other end of the continuum when your breathing becomes shallow and rapid with anxiety and panic – out of control like a runaway team of horses with no driver.

Your breathing is remarkably the only function of your autonomic nervous system that is consciously controllable – providing you with the option to remain unconscious or to awaken and choose to take charge of the team.

What are some of the benefits to learn conscious deep breathing? There are so many, I remain baffled as to why it is often overlooked and underrated!

My proposal is that learning to be in charge of breathing optimally is as important as it is to be responsible for your own quality of life. It is as important as it is to value and honour the earth and the environment that nourishes and sustains your very existence. The substance and matter of your physical body is earth to your unique soul. Breath is the chord that ties your soul to your body, enlivening your personal earth, the unifying force that weaves together your vibrant body and your multidimensional inner being. In many Indo European languages the word for spirit and breath is the same, signifying that breath is the movement of spirit in matter. The Latin roots of the English word “respiration” reflect this ancient knowledge.

Breathing is free, easy, natural, within conscious control. You can do it anywhere, any time without any special equipment!

Breathing optimally provides a natural, beneficial massage to your vital organs increasing their tone and regulating their function. Optimal breathing also enriches the health of your organs, including your brain and your musculoskeletal system by delivering abundant oxygen and nutrients.

There is an intimate connection between proper breathing, sensuality, and sexuality. The effects can be immediate. When consciously breathing it is possible to experience waves of sensual pleasure after just a few breaths, whether alone or with someone else. Breathing techniques are core to tantric and erotic art practices.

When you are restricting your breath, you are restricting your body’s detoxification systems: liver cells, kidney cells, secreting cells in your gut wall, gallbladder, bladder, lymphatics, sweat glands, skin vessels, the cell walls of virtually every body cell. Poor breathing reduces cellular activity and increases toxic buildup. Proper breathing can be a direct, effective method for easily cleansing toxins from your body.

Practicing and developing conscious deep breathing (such as in some forms of meditation) calms your primitive, reactive “snake brain” at the same time as strengthening the Chief Executive Officer of your neo-cortex so that you remain present and grounded in stressful circumstances.

Skillfully facilitated breath work can be powerfully transformational for you if you are experiencing psychosomatic illness or burdened with the impact of unresolved emotional history.

Some people use disciplined conscious deep breathing methods to experience extraordinary states of consciousness.

David Suzuki talks of a thought experiment by Harvard astronomer Harlow Shapely about the inert gas, argon, that is about 1 per cent of the air we breathe. Today, as we breathe in and out, we are breathing in thousands of the same argon atoms that were breathed by Ghandi, Joan of Arc, ancient lovers and poets.

Suzuki refers to air as the matrix that joins all life together. With each breath in we absorb atoms of our forebears, and with each breath out we send our contribution to our future generations.

Breathing binds us with the past and the future through our shared spirit.

To consciously breathe deeply is to say “yes” to life. Many of us are using only a fraction of our breathing potential. Shallow breathing often indicates anxiety and fear and conversely shallow breathing feeds anxiety and fear. Deep robust breathing done properly connects us within our deeper selves, grounding us in our body and in reality, supporting more ease and less fear. The full expansion and contraction of our lungs is symbolic of our flexibility to expand and contract our life in healthy ways.

What I have shared here is a brief overview of a vast and vital topic. My 30+ years of guiding people of all ages and backgrounds through their personal growth, as well as my personal experience, has profoundly influenced my passion and enthusiasm for the amazing gift of breath.

A multitude of breathing methods that have been used throughout the ages lie waiting for your discovery.

“There is one way of breathing that is shameful and constricted. Then there’s another way; a breath of love that takes you all the way to infinity.”- Rumi

Linda Nicholls, DipC, MTC, PhD

October 2016

A new project: The Health Series

I’m excited to share a new project with you! The Health Series.

Once a month, for the next twelve months, I’ll feature a short essay from an alternate healthcare or business professional.

Topics will include:

  • Breath for Life
  • Pedicures and Foot Health
  • Feldenkrais Method™ of Movement
  • Acupuncture
  • Pilates and More
  • Reflexology and Pregnancy
  • Creative Journaling for Health and Happiness
  • Nutrition
  • Native Health Remedies
  • Business Health and Essentials
  • Yoga and Meditation Retreats
  • Reflexology and the Five Elements

It is my hope these essays on alternate modalities will encourage you to read more about them, seek a practitioner near you, or to try one of their suggestions.

Stay tuned!