Do · Feel · Think

Think Carefully before Considering Orthodontics

In one of the world’s most famous assassination cases, John F Kennedy, the US President was shot in his head on 22 November 1963 while he was riding in a presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Next to him, was his wife, Jacqueline, who had to witness the horror. Many of you would have heard about this famous piece of history. But not many of you would have known that President Kennedy’s death may have been avoidable, had he not been wearing a back brace, which he needed because of his poor back condition. Multiple shots came at the car, and those who were around ducked instinctively during the first few shots, except President Kennedy, who could not bend his back because of the brace, allowing him to sustain the fatal shot to the back of his head.

This story left such a big impact on me. Because the back brace, what was supposed to give him support and mobility, restricted his natural movement and at a time of his greatest need, failed to support him, and instead left him a sitting duck in the face of danger. I could not shake this story away from my mind. And it reminded me of something I went through myself.

In my journey towards seeking health, I started going for something called Rolfing, which is a type of bodywork, also known as Structural Integration, which helps your body find balance and work better with gravity. Through the palpation of my therapist, he could feel where the tightness in my body lay. Each person has a unique muscular or fascial pattern, owing the the strains and habits developed in the course of life. For example, someone who has a broken rib, may start walking in a lopsided way and overtime, the scar tissue and the muscular habit of walking in that lopsided way may remain, even if the ribs have fully healed, thus the person’s posture forever hints of the trauma that was once sustained. This can also be seen emotionally. Someone who is in perpetual distress from work or life, and always in a hunched and tense position with shoulder lifted up and head stretched forward, will over time, have this pattern reinforced and it becomes part of the person’s way of being and it shows in the person’s body and structure. As each of us experiences life differently, obtain different physical traumas, reinforce different emotional patterns, and allow ourselves to heal to different extents, every body is different and unique. These, a bodyworker, can easily feel, see and know, from just observing and sensing a person. The bodyworker, hence, has a way of knowing you from your body, even though you may not say very much.

So for me, my Rolfer, Hee Tan, noticed that muscles in my jaw and mouth and one side of my head were very tight. And he asked, if I ever wore braces. I was shocked that he even asked. And I told him that I did for a year when I was 12. And he said that many of his clients who wore braces, have similar tensions in the skull. Though this was a passing remark, I could not help but keep thinking about it. Because around the same time, I started becoming interested in craniofacial disorders and learned of issues that arise from poor function of the jaw muscles and tongue. And in my community, many have pointed out that orthodontics or the wearing of braces or clear aligners, while having straightened their teeth, had also at the same time caused their their faces to age prematurely and become elongated, led to a forward head posture and scoliosis (when some bones cannot move freely, other bones will shift to compensate for the loss of movement). The less lucky ones also develop the Temporal Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMD), which is also known as the suicide disease, because of how painful it is.

So what is the possible link between braces, the face, and jaw joint issues? It lies in the movement and breathing of the skull. Your skull looks like just one big thick bone, but it in fact consists of 22 bones that are connected by special joints called sutures (Figure 1). The flexibility of the skull is what allowed a baby’s head to go through the mother’s birth canal at birth. Some of these sutures fuse as you age, but not all and fully, because your skull performs a function of circulating the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and the spinal cord. To circulate the fluid, the skull bones perform a pumping motion, allowable by the sutures, which are spaces that are “chock-full of arteries, veins, nerves, nerve receptors, elastic and collagen fibres” and are “designed to move”. This breathing takes place all the time, rhythmically, just like the pulsing of your heart or the breathing movement of your chest, but it is less perceptible because you need to be quite still and meditative to be able to observe it in yourself (Figure 2).

Figure 1. The skull is made up of 22 bones, including the maxilla and mandible which holds our teeth.
Figure 2. This video clip shows the pumping of the cerebrospinal fluid to circulate it around our brain and and spinal cord.

The two palatine bones of the maxilla where all the upper teeth are located on are part of this skull breathing system. So what happens when you wear a brace, whatever type it is, is that it restricts the normal movement of the skull, leading to restrictions, scar tissues and poor patterns developing from the unnatural binding of the bones. Perhaps a poor example would be the traditional foot binding ritual of the Chinese. So the bones want to grow and develop in a certain way, but having a bind or a brace, restricts that natural development, resulting in distorted development. Because it cannot move in the way it wants to move, strain patterns develop, and tensions accumulate.

Quite like the case of the brace on the President’s spine that restricted his natural instinct and created a forced posture, so orthodontics does the same. The goal of orthodontics is to straighten teeth but at the expense of natural function and development. Did you know that after braces are removed, for life, the person has to wear something called the retainers to keep the teeth in the new position, or else, the teeth will once again, move back into their crooked positions? This means that the bones naturally want to move and find a position of equilibrium, and wearing braces only restricts and hinders this, they do not genuinely help your jaws and teeth find the most comfortable and healthy position to be in. As you can imagine, over time, strain patterns can develop from restricting this natural movement.

Is there a better way to correct problems with teeth and bite, other than orthodontics? This is an area I have been spending my time studying and hopefully, in time, I can share more with you. Meanwhile, I want to caution people who are thinking of wearing braces merely for an aesthetic effect, that there may be consequences that you may not even link to the wearing of braces in the first place. So think twice. Putting a brace on what is meant to move freely is generally not a good idea.

But if you really do need braces, choose a dentist who takes the craniosacral system into account into his or her methods. Find a dentist who integrates an understanding of whole-body mechanics and craniosacral therapy into his practice, one who first makes sure you do not have any imbalances in your jaw or who can first address it with a splint, before beginning treatment, such that the teeth and jaws are shaped towards your body’s ideal (Langly-Smith, 2020). “Is your bite quite right?” is a book I highly recommend to understand this area of study better. You need to remember that you are not just treating an isolated part of your body when you are correcting your teeth, but your whole body is connected, and pulling your jaws inwards and shifting the head off balance, will have systemic effects.

The only dentists I know who take a systemic approach to correcting teeth alignment issues now is Dr. Granville Langly-Smith, who has already unfortunately passed on, and Dr Jinhaeng Lee, who combine the palpatory skills of a cranio-osteopath and craniosacral therapist with the craftmanship of making splints and braces to return your bite and body into a more ideal position and function, hence enhancing your health and potentially correcting other issues that originated with issues related to the temporal-mandibular joints and bite.

Bibliography

Langly-Smith, G. (2020). Is your bite quite right? Inspiring stories of people regaining their smile and their health. UK: Langly-Smith Lecturing and Learning Ltd.

Pait, T. G., & Dowdy, J. T. (2017). John F. Kennedy’s back: chronic pain, failed surgeries, and the story of its effects on his life and death, Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine SPI, 27(3), 247-255. Retrieved Oct 16, 2021, from https://thejns.org/spine/view/journals/j-neurosurg-spine/27/3/article-p247.xml

Do · Eat

Tending to the garden of the scalp microbiome: What “no shampoo” taught me

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash
I took a good whiff of my hairbrush and there was a distinctive smell, so familiar, yet I could not quite put my finger on it.

This is after a week of not using shampoo. Being isolated in a hotel on a quarantine order, I thought it would be a good chance to give the “no-poo” or “no-shampoo” experiment a try.

“Cheese!” or more specially “blue cheese”.

I figured out. The smell was unique and slightly pungent but not entirely distasteful, somewhat the effect durian has on some people. Some people like it, but some people don’t. But it’s definitely not a smell one associates freshly shampooed hair with.

Besides the smell on my brush, I also noticed that a week without shampooing caused my hair to have more volume, and allowed it stayed in place when I style it with my hands, unlike the frizzy hair I usually have. To my surprise, my hair now felt and looked better.

It made me very curious, what exactly was happening to my hair, that it smelt like the by products of bacteria that ferment cheese.

I googled and found out that the scalp, like the gut, mouth and skin, has its own unique microbiome or colonies of microbes that grow in harmony with one another and with the host substrate. Different from other body sites, the scalp microbiome is characterized by low bacterial diversity and dominated by Cutibacterium acnes, Staphylococcus epidermidis and Malassezia spp. (Saxena et al., 2021).

The scalp is a unique environment, different from the exposed skin. Because of the many strands of hairs on it, it is a humid environment and protected from UV light, and conducive for the growth of unique strains of microbes. It was like your scalp is a garden where you tend strains of bacteria and some fungus, that have developed a symbiotic (or a mutually beneficial) relationship with you.

I googled and found out that some strains of bacteria, make use of the sebum or oil in the scalp, that we naturally produce to moisturize our hair, to make vitamins that are good for hair growth – like biotin, a vitamin that is good for hair growth and scalp health, something our body does not naturally produce but can be bought as supplements from your local drug store.

It intrigued me. You mean the reason why a good diet helps us to have good and strong hair was partly due to good nutrition causing us to produce high quality sebum to feed these bacteria strains, who in turn produce beneficial by products that maintain healthy scalp and hair?

And then, reading more, it appears that dandruff, a condition where flaky skin falls off the scalp, happens when there is more fungal than bacterial growth. So when you don’t take such good care of the garden of your scalp and allow “weeds” or invasive fungus to overwhelm the good bacteria on your scalp, you get hair conditions like dandruff (Saxena et al., 2018) or alopecia (balding) (Barquero-Orias et al., 2021)?

This must be why using the right shampoo, not over washing the hair, and not putting the hair into harsh situations like using chemical and mechanical treatments on them, is good for the hair. We want to maintain an environment that is conducive for good bacteria growth. And that means we want to keep some of these sebum on our hair, and let the scalp and hair be an environment that is conducive to bacterial growth.

And this must possibly be why putting some things like coconut oil on our hair (Saxena et al., 2021), or following other hair care secrets of our grandmothers, is good for the hair, because we are giving additional nutrients to our microbiome, and keeping the microbes happy, means they keep our scalp healthy as well.

This knowledge transformed how I saw my hair. I used to see it as a hassle, which kind of explained my joy when I once shaved it off two years ago. It was then to me one more thing to worry about. But now, I see my scalp and hair in a new light. It is now a mobile or portable garden where I tend to microbes. And when I eat well and treat my hair right, the microbes are kept in good balance and reward me with hair of good texture and which is easy to manage.

I am no longer tending to my hair alone for my own vanity’s sake, but I have microbe partners whose survival and growth are dependent on the decisions I make about my hair and in turn, my health and beauty dependent on them.

References

Barquero-Orias D, Muñoz Moreno-Arrones O, Vañó-Galván S. Alopecia y microbioma: ¿futura diana terapéutica? Actas Dermosifiliogr. 2021;112:495–502. (https://actasdermo.org/en-alopecia-microbiome-a-future-therapeutic-articulo-S1578219021001487)

Saxena R, Mittal P, Clavaud C, Dhakan DB, Hegde P, Veeranagaiah MM, Saha S, Souverain L, Roy N, Breton L, Misra N and Sharma VK (2018) Comparison of Healthy and Dandruff Scalp Microbiome Reveals the Role of Commensals in Scalp Health. Front. Cell. Infect. Microbiol. 8:346. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2018.00346 (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fcimb.2018.00346/full)

Saxena, R., Mittal, P., Clavaud, C. et al. Longitudinal study of the scalp microbiome suggests coconut oil to enrich healthy scalp commensals. Sci Rep 11, 7220 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-86454-1 (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-86454-1)

Do · Freedive · freediving

The Value of a Coach

Not many people realise that the issues they struggle with can actually get better through finding the right coaches.

Coaching costs money, so some people may hesitate to give it a try.

But one would not need continuous coaching.

The time you need a coach most is when you have a goal but you’re stuck – at a certain depth or with a certain issue – that’s the time when a coach can help you over your hurdle.

A student once asked me whether coaching is easy for me because I only go to shallow depths when I coach beginners, after all I am a 50m diver. I told him not at all. Coaching takes as much out of me as my own dives for myself, in fact way more.

When I dive for myself, I close my eyes and only care about myself, blocking out everything around me. But when I am coaching, I am fully engaging all of my senses to observe someone, to think for that person, to strategize ways to help the person overcome his or her issues and at the same time I am creating an atmosphere that the person needs to feel comfortable to make changes to his or her dive. I am plotting which is the most important feedback I must give to make the maximum improvement to the person’s next dive. I cannot be superfluous with my feedback as a student can only absorb and apply so much. Sometimes, I intentionally hide certain information so that my student won’t know what I am trying to do so that my student can achieve what I am intending him or her to do.

On top of these, I am watching out for dangers – strong currents, exhausted students, any hard objects at the bottom that my students may potentially knock their heads into. Or a discouraged student who may no longer be in the curious or playful mood that is often so needed for learning something new.

To me, doing all these, are carbon dioxide producing. They are more effortful than me closing my eyes and doing my own thing, only caring for myself and my safety.

When I tried to explain this to the student, he understood and gave me a beautiful analogy. He told me it was like a tour guide taking a group of tourists out compared to the tour guide being a tourist himself. Exactly! As a coach or instructor, one is looking out for many things, relying upon his or her years of experience, years of studying and thinking, to create an experience that is rewarding and enjoyable for another person. There is a certain responsibility upon that coach. This is different from when you are a student and you trust that the coach will take care of most things for you, including your safety and progress.

This is perhaps what you pay your coach for. To carry that responsibility for you for that dive session, someone to partner with you to help you do the thinking, diagnose your problems, provide solutions to them, and give you guidance to learn new things.


I had many coaches and instructors over the course of my freediving journey. I learned different things from each one. Each one helped me with different issues. Over time, I also learned to self-coach myself. I learned to use each dive to collect information to analyze between dives so that I can use the subsequent dive to diagnose issues or solve problems. I am grateful for my coaches who dedicated their dive sessions towards my progress, safety and enjoyment.


As a new coach, I am learning and the multi-tasking involved is still effortful and not yet second nature as it appears to be for seasoned coaches. But my wish is that with more practice and experience, I will develop greater calm, confidence and capability to guide others towards their personal goals.


To all students who had chosen me as their coach at Apnea 42, thank you for giving me that chance and honour to have been your guide. 🙂

And thank you Mark for trusting and entrusting me with your students.

Photo by Yael Eisner, taken at Freedive Utila of Mattie and me.
Do · Freedive · freediving

Is freediving dangerous? Three reasons why freediving is more than a safe sports

A recent report of death from snorkeling in Singapore caused many people to be hyper-alert and concerned about people they see freediving out in the open waters off Lazarus island. I wrote this post to emphasize how safe a sport freediving is, as freedivers are trained to avoid accidents and incidents threatening to their lives. I would even encourage people who like the ocean to sign up for an introductory freediving course to pick up some basic water skills and develop their water confidence.

Freedivers are identifiable by their big red or yellow buoys in the ocean. If you recognize us out in the waters, don’t be afraid to say “hello”! 🙂

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Photo of a freediving buoy and freedivers in the ocean by Yael Eisner.

Here are three reasons why freediving is more than a safe sports:

  1. All basic level freediving courses teach safety skills
    To earn your first level freediving certification, you must first be able to safety and rescue your buddy. The number one rule in freediving is that “you never dive alone.” In every dive, you will have a buddy who meets you as you ascend during your dive. Your instructor will teach you what you need to do to ensure your buddy’s safety and what to do in a case of emergency when your buddy is low on oxygen or has blacked out. A freediver who cannot demonstrably show that he or she can securely safety and rescue his or her buddy will not pass the course. This means that any beginner freediver already has more knowledge about how to help a person in need in the water than a person who has not taken a freediving course.

  2. You will learn knowledge about human physiology and how to understand and listen to your body
    What happens during a breath-hold? What happens to your body when you have a build-up of carbon dioxide or a drop in oxygen levels? You will learn the various stages one undergoes during a breath-hold and what happens physiologically in one’s body. You will learn to read these signals in your own body and learn how to respond to them. You will learn what signs indicate a desire for breath and that there are different stages of “air hunger” that you will go through and at which point you should end your dive. You will also learn how to observe your buddy for signs of distress and how to help him or her.

  3. You will learn water skills and how to protect yourself in open waters
    As part of the course, we also impart knowledge about water safety in open waters. Such knowledge includes developing a mindset of healthy fear and respect of the ocean, making oneself visible to boats in the sea, choosing a freediving spot that is safe, away from boat traffic, strong currents, and venomous sea creatures. When we dive on a buoy, the buoy is attached to a long rope that is hung down from it by a heavy weight and we are attached to this rope using a lanyard. This guide line ensures that the freediver does not get lost but always know his or her position in relation to the buoy, which is the starting and end point of each dive.

See the lanyard attached to the freediver. It is a safety feature that allows the diver not to get lost during the descent and ascent. Photo by Kohei Ueno.

We freedivers understand that there are risks to freediving. We more than overcompensate in our education and preparation before and during our dives to avoid these risks. In fact, any freediver who has gone through an introductory freediving course has more water safety skills and knowledge about the risks and danger of breath-hold and the ocean than those who have not taken any freediving course.

Freedivers are not daredevils. Like others who enjoy water sports like scuba diving, open water swimming, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, wake surfing, etc., we understand the risks involved in our activities. And we take precautions to ensure our safety. We have a solid education structure and a safety system to ensure that everyone who wants to experience the joy of holding their breaths underwater can do it safely without endangering their lives.

Perhaps you can join us one day for a freediving course if you would also like to experience this joy of holding your breath and learn some of these necessary water and safety skills!

Do · Eat

Cooking to a Better You

I recently discovered the joy of cooking my own meals. And I have found it a wholesome activity, not just for the body, but also for the mind and soul. Here are some reasons why:

1. You know and determine exactly what goes into your food

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Once I purchased soya bean milk from a stall and watched to my horror that the lady took out from the refrigerator a packet of pre-packaged soya bean milk and charged me $2 for this cup of milk. I was disappointed as I was hoping for freshly prepared milk, which is not too hard to find in Singapore.

After I learned to make my own food, I feel disinclined to make purchases of pre-packaged food. It is convenient but what exactly are we eating? Some people alleged that processed almond milk contains as little as 2% of almonds! Now that I can make my own, I know it is simply made of almonds and water. And I can taste the difference!

You know businesses are out there to make profits, they don’t think so hard about your health (even if they may claim they do), but when do you make it yourself, you can! Additionally, it is cheaper to make your own almond milk though you do need a blender and a little effort.

2. You develop sensitivity on what your body needs

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Because you are directly in control of feeding yourself, you may start noticing patterns and asking questions. And you can even conduct experiments. What kinds of food make you full and satisfied and what kinds make you feel persistently hungry? I would think this depends a lot on our body nature and type. I have a friend who loves eating raw salad. However, for me, I prefer cooked vegetables. I just feel better after eating them.

Is including a certain food item causing you discomfort? Does excluding it make you feel better? You can control and adjust this in your kitchen. To give an example, I started breaking out in pimples when I used a lot of oil in my cooking. It may or may not be the reason why, but I experimented with fixing the issue by using less oil to see if it made a difference.

I also started to notice what I crave for and make analysis about what I am lacking based on what kind of food I use in my cooking. For example, though I may have been on a vegan diet, I realised that sometimes my body craves for meat and fish.

3. It encourages mindfulness

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I used to not want to cook because I was so inefficient at it. I did not chop things well. But when I started cooking for myself, I realised it did not matter how long I took to chop up some vegetables or how nice they looked. I enjoy chopping my vegetables mindfully. It consumed me and somehow gave me joy. Because I was slow, it was about giving myself more time to cook something, so sometimes I give myself a few hours. Time flies when I cook because I am so involved in the whole process. I realised it was a way I put love and thought into doing something.

Cooking is something that requires your full attention (unless you become good at it). There is an element of danger to the things we do in the kitchen. Because you are holding a knife to chop something, a moment of inattention may lead to an accident. Because you are using fire or heat over a stove and being preoccupied and forgetting this may lead to you destroying your pot and nutrients and flavor of your food. The best kind of cooking often comes from giving it sufficient thought and attention so you can add just the right about of spice, cook something to just the right about of tenderness etc.

4. It is fun!

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What if I told you that you can recreate anything you have ever tasted in a restaurant? Would you believe me? It is actually not too far from the truth. It depends on whether you have the right ingredients and equipment. Some dishes are easier to recreate than others, but for all you can put your unique spin to it! When I asked friends who enjoy cooking, why they do, many of them give me this reason. It is because they like to be able to cook the types of food that they like to eat.

Traveling has made this more real to me than ever before. In Singapore, you can easily find cuisines from all over the world. But when I went to different countries that were not so international, I found that the food available in one place, I could not find in another. And the only way to taste those foods again was to try to recreate them.

It is the ability to “play” with different ingredients and equipment in the kitchen that made it really fun for me. Cooking is a time I experiment, improvise, and creatively put together something nutritious and tasty. It is also really nice if I can make something that someone else likes to eat. 🙂 And more importantly, I know for sure that I made it as healthy as I can from choosing the freshest ingredients, to washing them the cleanest, and then putting it together in a balanced way.

Of course, we make mistakes and many times I cook up something so horrible, I don’t want to eat it, but there’s always another meal to try again. And you are allowed to make mistakes! 🙂 We beginner cooks all start out this way!

Do · Feel · Think

Writing as Therapy

Writing is therapy to me. Writing helps me process my emotions and thoughts. When I feel overwhelmed, distressed or can make little sense of what I am going through, writing has been a way of clarifying my emotions and thoughts.

It helps me get in touch with what I really am feeling and thinking. And so often in the act of writing, I have these “bingo” moments where I suddenly understand why I feel the way I do or understand what is important to me.

I think most of us may have experienced the relief of sharing our burdens with a trusted friend, someone who listened to us without judgment and with compassion, and who reassures us that what we are thinking and feeling are valid and normal.

Or we may recall the joy of owning a diary or journal, a secret space for us to be truly ourselves, a secret joy some of us had when we were little.

Sometimes it’s about expressing ourselves honestly, which some people do on social media. Merely the act of saying out loud exactly what we think or feel and posting it, makes us feel better. This act of externalizing what is within us validates our emotions.

So I often write when I am in emotional turmoil – when I need help to make sense of how I feel. I write mainly for myself. I write by typing out whatever comes to my mind with brutal honesty. It is cathartic. And I often feel better after doing it. Often times, it makes me cry. No one need ever read it, it is just for me.

It is like having a pen pal who loves you, but that pen pal is yourself.

I write to process difficult experiences and decisions. Writing is a way for me into my heart and soul. When I write something that resonates with me, I know I have to pay attention to it.

But to get there, sometimes I have to begin by writing things exactly as they are so I will first relate to my diary what has happened and describe how I feel for example. So I put down the most obvious things first to allow space and room for the more hidden but true things to emerge.

Another way to use writing as therapy is to write to someone whom you cannot speak honestly to for whatever reasons. It is that email you never send out. It is written to that person who causes you pain and distress. Or perhaps to that person who is already dead or who has long moved on before you have.

Writing to him or her will help you process how you feel about that relationship. It will help you say things you really really mean inside your heart but perhaps because of circumstances, cannot say to the person.

This kind of writing can be extremely healing if you’re writing to someone who means a lot to you, but perhaps has also hurt you deeply.

If you’re going through a hard time and need a little bit of help processing your thoughts and emotions, why not give writing about it a try?

How it can work is that the next time you don’t feel so good inside, add to your armor of coping, writing out you feel about it. You can even stop whatever you are doing (which I often do) to quickly privately blog about it, and feel immediate relief. So you can continue on with your day without that amorphous burden weighing on you. You leave your burden in prose to be processed at another time when you’re more ready for it.

By being a means to carry our thoughts and emotions and to clarify them, the computer, typewriter, or pen and paper can help our limited tormented minds do what they cannot do on their own.

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Do · Feel

A Perspective on Chiropractic

2018 has been a special year for me for many reasons and one of them is that I developed a greater awareness and appreciation of the human body, and I do credit my experience with chiropractic and chiropractors for this change.

I learned about the curves of my spine and the asymmetry of my structure, the parts that require my acceptance and the other parts that I can improve upon to make myself less prone to injuries and more confident.

Chiropractor examining her patient's back

Because of my intrigued with chiropractic, I met with many chiropractors and each one had taught me something new and touched me with their kindness. I fell so in love with this practice and its potential as a mind-soul-body therapy that I even considered a career switch to pursue it.

So, what is chiropractic and what is its draw? It is a form of neuro-musculo-skeletal therapy that involves, but is not limited to, manual adjustments of the spine. This adjustment is often done by hand and that’s how “chiropractic” got its name – it is a “healing done by hand”.

Chiropractor adjusting the mid back of his patient

It is not only the spine that is adjusted, chiropractors also work on joints of the extremities. And chiropractors do not only do manual adjustments, some focus more on exercise and movement.

Chiropractor teaching his patient how to use an exercise band to strengthen his shoulders

In Singapore, chiropractic is not as accepted as physiotherapy in mainstream medicine, though there are many chiropractic clinics around. This is possibly because chiropractic has some spiritual and mystical foundations to it and may not always be solely evidence-based or scientific (Singh & Ernst, 2008).

After a year of exploration of chiropractic, I learned that there are a range of chiropractic options, each with a different system of approach, supported by a different school of thought. But same to all is that each chiropractor will work with your body and with you, through correcting certain misalignment or strengthen certain weak muscles, to relieve you of pain or prevent pain.

If you have issues with the form and function of your body and are considering chiropractic care, these are some questions you can consider to help in your decision making:

1. What is your end goal for chiropractic?

Most likely, you have some pain that you want resolved. For some others, you may be seeking to prevent injury or to optimise function. For myself, I had a chronic shoulder injury that I had hoped to treat. Unintendedly, my curiosity rewarded me with a better posture as well. One of my chiropractors worked with me on my posture and now I can stand a lot taller and with more confidence than before. This stubborn slouch that my mother tried to correct since I was a child has finally given way. But the more common issues I noticed among patients seem to come from neck and back pain from traumatic accidents, overused due to poor posture sitting too long at a desk, and also spinal conditions like scoliosis.

2. How much time and money to commit?

Treatment is often expensive because some issues that we have, take time to resolve. Also chiropractors go through five-years of training and continue to upgrade their skills and knowledge after that, highly deserving of their titles as doctors. But do know that there are different takes on how many sessions a chiropractic needs to help you attain your goal/s. So you don’t always have to get a huge package. There are  chiropractors who don’t believe in selling you one big package. Also, how long you spend with the chiropractic for each session can range from 5 minutes to 45 minutes. These all boil down to the school of thought and approach (and business strategy!) of the chiropractor. You may need to do some research before selecting your chiropractor if you want to ensure a good match to your needs and constraints.

3. Consider the clinical judgment of the chiropractor.

Like finding a suitable specialist, you may want to consider a few opinions and options before you choose to commit to one of them. Based on their training and experience, you may get variations of diagnosis and plans of treatment. Your body is like a book and different doctors will interpret your story differently and suggest a different treatment plan. I think our job is to find a doctor whose story and treatment we agree with. However, I guess, most of the time, we stick to someone we feel comfortable with. Part of treatment, I have learned, is also the trust and relationship you develop with your doctor/healer.

4. Consider the school of thought of the chiropractor.

Some of us will quickly reject chiropractic as non-scientific but there are more evidence-based chiropractors who study scientific research and who don’t believe in subluxation (the belief that a misalignment of a vertebrae leads to interference of the nerves exiting that vertebrae and hence affecting all organs supplied by those nerves). So you don’t necessary have to reject chiropractic if you’re more the scientific sort of person. If you’re open to exploring, you’ll be surprise by what you’ll find.

Oh yes, I realised I did not talk about the chiropractic experience so I will share a video that shows the traditional “cracking” that goes on in a clinic.

Some people are afraid of this cracking and popping, but I actually find it rather therapeutic and even addictive.

Regardless of your view on chiropractic, and especially if you have a chiropractor, I hope that we never develop an over-reliance on chiropractors or any other healers. As while our healers can guide us in our journey of restoration, ultimately it’s our own body that will heal itself and we are in charge of that process. 🙂

Reference

Sing, S. & Ernst, E. (2008) Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine. New York & London: W. W. Norton & Company

Do · Feel · Freedive · Think

Relaxation and Freediving

What is the draw of freediving? I’ve shared how it gave me greater bodily awareness and taught me about staying in the present. Today, I want to share how it teaches me relaxation. Earlier on in my freediving journey, one of my instructors, Oli Christen, told me, “Each dive is an extension of your relaxation.” So what happens before a dive is that we are to be fully relaxed at the surface at the buoy as we do our “breathe up” or mental and physical preparation, and then what happens subsequently – our entry into the water, making our way down and then back up again, and recovery – are an extension of that same relaxation we experience at the surface of the water.

This sentence that each dive is an extension of my relaxation has been so impactful to me that I have since repeated it before each dive, together with what Oli also told me then, “Never sacrifice relaxation for speed” or for that matter anything at all that I may want to achieve underwater, including buddying and rescuing which I just learnt from my other coach, Patrick Swart. As without this relaxation, we can hardly perform any energy demanding task. In this way, relaxation has been so important for me in my freediving journey. It is probably one of the things I like best about this activity, that it teaches me how to relax and gives me that space to do so. For that one minute or so that I am holding my breath, I am to be as relax as I can possibly be. And it is this relaxation that I wish to extend to all of my life.

I wonder for how many of us life is a constant state of tension that is only interrupted periodically by moments of relaxation? Freediving teaches me that perhaps life is better lived the other way round – where relaxation is the default state to be only periodically interrupted by moments of tension where I need an alert state to problem solve. During freediving, I realized I need my relax mode to be able to perform certain tasks, such as equalizing my ears. When I am tense, I don’t have the mental calm to direct my body to override certain poor habits or to perform certain intricate movements like the gentle pinching of the nose and lifting of the tongue or streamlining of my body. Because my mind is occupied with other concerns.

Isn’t this similar to life? When you are in a state of panic or you sense danger, it is difficult to make reasonable and well-thought out decisions that takes into consideration other things that are also important to you. Anxiety wants you to make a decision that can immediately alleviate your misery, but the outcome of this decision may not be that which you truly want. You may make a flight or fight decision that will quickly resolve the tension within you, but does nothing else, doesn’t help you achieve your goals or isn’t aligned with your values and who you are. Freediving teaches me to do the opposite, to calmly attempt what I want to do, and when I meet with situations that test me along the way, to calmly assess each challenge and obstacle objectively to resolve them, and if not to remember this information to help me with my next dive.

And this is how freediving teaches me about life, challenging me to rethink the way I am living my life. And suggesting to me the possibility of living a completely different kind of life, one that stems from being at ease, having fun, taking it easy, being calm and relaxed; rather than being too on the ball, flighty, anxious, and too ready to take excessive actions.

Maybe life can be lived with much more calm and enjoyment. 🙂

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Do · Feel

The Process of Wound Healing

I’ve had many minor wounds before (especially since we got our dog, not forgetting we once had a cat, and I’ve often told I’m clumsy by nature) but never one that required someone else to help me clean regularly because it was too big and I was too afraid of looking at it. So that big wound was that abrasion wound/road rash I got from skidding on sandy gravelly ground on the 1st of January 2018.

Watching the wound heal and babying it had made my January quite special. I learned many things about wound healing, terms such as epithelization, biofilm and sludge. And I learned how to make myself feel good in spite of the pain and inconvenience (showering was surprisingly the thing I dreaded most of the whole process). I also learned about scar care.

And I just thought of writing this piece and sharing the process, even though I’m not really in a writing mood now, because this information is found scattered all over the web, and it took me a month of dedication to the process of wound healing to get such a big picture view. So this is a mixture of what I learned by myself and what I learned from others.

  1. Though the wounds are concentrated on one leg, don’t neglect the other, because while the injured leg is healing, the other one is bearing the brunt of the weight-bearing. So I massage both legs at night, just to thank them for the hard work they are putting in because of my carelessness, also apologizing for the damaged I had caused.
  2. Regularly stretch the wound to prevent the scar tissue from thickening and causing loss of motion or tightness of motion. I have wounds on my feet and at the knee. After a week of not moving my knee properly, I realized I couldn’t flexed it anymore, all the way to the back. Because the scar was healing at the position of the lengthened leg and not flexed leg. So once the wound was healing well, I started to perform motions like squatting that ensure flexibility of the joint. I also had to stretch out the soft tissues in my left foot because it had limited range of motion compared to my right foot. So I started doing feet stretching exercises.
  3. Related to the previous point, though the visible damage was only skin deep, there were other damage to the soft tissues that are deeper underneath. I could see bruises on my inner thigh. Even today, though the surface wounds are all covered in scar, I still have a brown bruise on my inner thigh. So also care and massage hidden wounds!
  4. Give it time to heal and meanwhile apply the medication meant for open wounds (thanks Otterman for Brave Soldier Ointment), and keep the wound sealed and waterproofed.
  5. When the scar tissue has formed… Know that to you, you are healed, but to your body, the healing process is just beginning  and there is much to go before the body considers it healed. And months thereafter the scar tissue is still changing. This is why all the scar management treatments say this is the best time to start working on reducing scarring, right after the open wounds close.
  6. Massage, I have mentioned it many times, and yes, this information is often given to those who have scars from surgery, but not to people who have minor trauma injuries. So yes, massage is a way to reduce scaring and also help with the soft tissue mobilization, what I mentioned earlier, the loss of function of the tissues underlying the damaged skin.
  7. I’ve applied a few types of scarring gels but so far what has worked best for me is silicone, both the sheet and gel. I am also applying other types of balm that I use for massaging the scars. Silicone is good for those who get raised scars. I find it calms my scars. After a night of being protected under the silicone layer, in the morning the scar seems to give out a sigh of relief. Silicon reduces collagen formation – collagen the bane of scarring.
  8. Sunblock. Something that almost everyone says is that the newly formed “skin”, actually scar, it’s not as good as skin, is very sensitive to UV damage, so always keep it covered and protected, or sunblocked.
  9. And it’s true, this new skin is really quite fragile, especially those of the deeper wounds and it’s easy to rehurt them from being careless, so maybe if you want, you can continue protecting them with plaster, even after they have closed up.

This post doesn’t go into the science or the details of the products that I used because I just wanted to record it here to give a big picture view and I haven’t been in a writing mode (no excuse for a writer but…) so here you have things straight out of my mind and fingers, without a lot of processing work that I usually do in typing a post.

P.S. I forgot to add, eat nutritiously. Supply your body all the they to fight infections and reform damaged tissues! Very importantly especially at the beginning when there’s a lot of damage control to do.

 

Do

Learning the freestyle and remembering Terry Laughlin

Some people tell me that they enjoy swimming and find it so relaxing. I used to think, “How can it be?” How can flailing arms and legs, struggling to stay afloat in water and find air to breathe be relaxing?

Yet, I decided to pick up the freestyle, as part of the package of learning to freedive, I want to learn how to swim too. Being comfortable in water, being a part of it, rather than a clumsy and unassimilable object is something I really desired.

In this process of learning how to freestyle, I discovered Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion (TI) Method. At this website, I entered my email here: Free Video Series: 7 Lessons in Freestyle and started receiving a video a day.

The knowledge I received in those free videos were almost life-changing for me, at least in the water.

Terry developed the TI Method, modeling it after the way dolphins swim. This TI Method allows one to swim with ‘fishlike’ efficiency through three essential elements: Balance, Streamline and Whole-Body Propulsion. Thinking about swimming through the lens of marine mammals and physics revolutionize my understanding and experience of swimming. It was no longer just about getting technique right, now it was also about becoming like a fish or dolphin in water.

I summarize these three elements and my own experiences trying them out here, but do sign up for the 7 free lessons if you want to give it a try:

  1. Balance. Terry wrote that “balance gives you physical comfort; the ability to control your body position; and an unprecedented sense of physical relaxation and mental calm.” I agree. Do you know that even without kicking, by just jumping head forward through the water, you can actually balance and glide quite a distance? The first exercise involved doing this non-stop till I reached the end of the pool. I learned that actually it doesn’t take that much effort to move in water. In fact the kind of speed achieved as the water supported me as I glide, was something I wouldn’t be able to achieve on land without the aid of machines.
  2. Streamline. Next, Terry talked about how to reduce drag in the water to minimize your efforts by shaping and aligning your body to more closely resemble a dolphin’s body. This is important as “water is more than 800 times denser than air”, so there is a lot of resistance going against us when we are not streamline in the water. We don’t feel this on land, but it’s obvious in water. Next, “learn to stroke in ways that minimize wavemaking, turbulence, bubbles, and splash as you move through the water.” I’m less good at this but I’m working at having no splash.
  3. Whole-Body Propulsion. Lastly, Terry teaches us skills that help us to “work with the water, rather than against it”. This is also an amazing idea. Did you know that when you turn your body in the water, it generates propulsion? It means that propulsion doesn’t only come from the leg and arm stroke but you can actually use how your body mass enters the water to drive you forward. This helped me to relax my kicking. So Terry writes, “take advantage of available energy and power—from body mass, gravity and buoyancy—before generating muscular forces” and to “swim with your whole body–instead of just arms and legs”. Learning to think of swimming in terms of how the whole body flows in water rather than a series of unintegrated arm and leg strokes, also enhanced my overall experience.

So that’s my little recount of my experiences trying out the lessons and drills I picked up from the TI Method. The cool thing was that after the 7 days, I received an email from Terry and he asked a “quick question”, “What’s your primary swimming goal?” That was on September 22, 2017. Why would he be interested in my goals? I was just some random person, not very important, who left an email on his website. It was because he wanted to send me relevant content. I was very touched by that.

Two days ago, I received an email from Terry’s wife, Alice, and children that Terry had passed away on Friday, October 20th, 2017, of complications related to his cancer. This post is not only to share a wonderful sports that can be picked up (quite easily and enjoyably) when you approach it with an open mind and heart and learn from marine mammals, but it is also in memory of a man who was so passionate about sharing these principles and the joy of swimming to everyone possible, including me.

Thank you Terry!

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total immersion swimming