“Alignment is about body posture and breath,” says Dr. Tim Brown, “And good alignment is created when your muscles and fascia are balanced, when the front to back and inside and outside of your joints carry equal tension.” Dr. Brown has worked with elite professional athletes from across the sports spectrum—the WSL, NBA, NFL, MLB, AVP, etc. He takes a holistic view on health and fitness, and has a sixth sense for healing and well-being maintenance (just ask 11-time world champ Kelly Slater). How do we keep the surf-bounce rushing through our lives, even when we can’t always be in the water? I posed this question to Dr. Brown. His answer, in a word: Alignment.
Why is alignment so important?
When I work with athletes this is always our first step in the process: To increase posture/alignment awareness. Because if this piece of the formula isn’t solid, no matter what training or rehabilitation one does, function can never be 100%. Alignment allows everything in our body to function better—movement, digestion, blood pressure, immune function, breathing, and even our moods are greatly affected by posture! Alignment allows all these sub-systems to connect and communicate with each other with the least amount of resistance. So if the brain is trying to send a message through the nervous system to a muscle, when we’re in alignment that chain, those synapses, can occur with much less effort, and there’s much less chance of you having a breakdown in the quality and flow of how well you move.
How do we improve our alignment?
Everything in health comes down to what you eat, think, and do. But the biggest challenge to improving alignment and posture is not so much what happens in the water but out. Say you average a couple hours of surfing daily. That means you are out of the water 20 plus hours per day. Before I teach any of my athletes how to train, I teach them how to recover. We are a mirror image of our history. Your history of injuries and how you rehabilitated them, how much you surf to train vs. train to surf, how many hours spent sitting in school, cars, job, leisure time. Like I’ve said so many times, we mold to what we do the most, and if we sit more hours than we surf we will end up looking more and more like a sitter not a surfer! So we have a huge challenge keeping our alignment because of sitting. We put our bodies in a position that absolutely shuts off the electricity/circulation/chi that normally flows through the body.
So what are the ways we can enhance and prolong our performance in the water?
Well, no matter what sport you want to improve in the basics remain the same. I’m going to give a pro football player, a female softball player, and a surfer many of the same things to do for the first 60 to 90 days I work with them. First it’s looking at their posture and how well they maintain it when they move. Then I look at how they are breathing: mouth or nose? chest or belly? slow or fast? Then it comes down to mobility, which is different than flexibility. Mobility refers to joint motion and flexibility refers to muscle length. Mobility is so important and is critical to feeling good and improving performance. The most important areas to keep mobile are the ankles, the hips, and the mid-back. If you’re going to work on your flexibility and mobility those are the areas to focus on. These areas tighten up as we age. It’s the lack of mobility that happens when we start getting jobs and families and simply not being as active as we were as kids. So we’ve really got to put in the time in these areas, and sitting is one of the major issues that tightens the hips. So instead of sitting in chairs all the time we should think about trading off to standing desks and sitting on yoga cushions or meditation cushions. The key is sitting and reclining and standing in positions that allow your spine to remain aligned and your hips to remain open.
And obviously getting up from the desk regularly?
Yes. The evidence says every 20 minutes getting up from the desk and doing a minute to two minutes of walking up stairs, doing some push-ups, doing some squats, doing something that’s active that brings blood out of your mid-section and spreads it to the brain and rest of your body. It’s like recharging your battery! Like I said, when you sit you shut off your electricity. Your electricity powers the pump (heart and muscles). When the pump ain’t pumping, your blood stagnates. Then you stagnate—there’s less oxygen getting into the blood, to the body, to the brain. So the whole key is to keep the machine moving. We are built to move; we are not built to sit. And whenever we sit for longer than 20 minutes we are doing irreversible damage that adds up and takes hours and days off of your life. Science can now predict mortality based on how much you sit. And that’s science, not hyperbole.
For more of Dr. Tim Brown, go to IntelliSkin.net