Living AnatoMe in Iceland!

April 9, 2014

I recently had the opportunity to bring the medley of anatomy and movement to a group of intrigued medical students in Iceland.

Iceland is a small country, and sometimes it feels like things are set in the ways that they’ve always been, so when I emailed the (only!) medical school here telling them about Living AnatoMe (LA), I didn’t expect a response. Months went by, and then one day, I received an email from a student who said my email had been making the rounds. I set the wheels in motion, rented a space, mats, did my outline, emailed the first year students with the dates and place and we had a little course ready! It was 6 weeks of 1 hour and 30 minute classes a week; the number of students that signed up and were able to come to my class were around 20 out of 45 first year med students.

I used the resources available to me from the LA  course outline but I also put my own twist on it.  I added so-called functional movements like squats, lunges, pushups and the like, had them explore their own anatomy through guided self massage and touch as well as posture assessments where i taught them about how to look at the body and notice anything out of alignment or even just noticing the way a particular body was held. We drew a scapula together identifying most of its crooks and crannies, mountains and valleys, as well as a full on yoga/Pilates class with music and sweat and of course relaxation in the end.

In the first class I introduced the planes and directions of the body and anatomical position in an alive and dynamic way and noticed straight away that this way of looking at those things was interesting and fun for them. Not only are these concepts new to the students but also the language is new, studying anatomy in English and Latin can be very daunting for people that have English as their first language let alone their second. We also looked at different students doing roll-downs and noted the lordosis and kyphosis (and scoliosis of some) and range of motion of the spine. At some point we did a Pilates side-lying combination for the deep lateral rotators complete with an intense piriformis exercise… I don’t think they’ll ever forget how it feels when the piriformis is firing and hopefully the facts around it like innervation, insertion and origin and piriformis syndrome were imprinted. I plan on fine-tuning and offering the course again next fall, maybe this time the medical school will show interest and allow me to borrow a spine or a pelvis to use for visual aid.

The opportunity to teach a living anatomy class appealed to me as a dancer and, in general, as a student of human anatomy and movement. Having studied dance and, later, Pilates led me to open myself up further to anatomical education, and teaching this class to the medical students helped me see ways to dig deeper into the material and understand how movement and anatomy complement each other in life and in pedagogy. We all are aware that we humans learn by doing and after doing teaching what we did is the best way to solidify knowledge. I learned a lot and recommend teaching LA not only because it helps you grow as a teacher but also because it gives you back so much. Long after having taught the classes I still get flashbacks or lingering thoughts and speculations that start to mold and form into deeper meaningful ways of teaching and looking at the human body. I strongly recommend the LA course to other movement and body instructors and practitioners who want to better understand the fundamentals underlying their craft.

About the author: Gudrun is a Pilates Instructor and engineering student in her native country of Iceland.

living anatome for Better Living & Learning

February 21, 2012

As a first year medical student, I made a promise to try to do yoga at least once a week. Not only did I fail to keep that promise, I think I only did yoga three times that entire year! As I progressed through medical school, I could not help thinking about this ever present question; don’t I deserve to treat my body with the same respect as I would recommend to my patients? Seems like a simple concept, yet surprisingly medical schools around the country do not seem to regard this as important. It’s not necessarily that medical schools lacks the resources or that medical students are unwilling to participate in self-care. Self-care just always seems to end up at the bottom of the to-do list. Continue reading “living anatome for Better Living & Learning”

LA feature: Pilates Style magazine, “Anatomy Lessons”

January 24, 2012

This profile of living anatome in Pilates Style magazine is short, sweet & to the point!

My favorite quote is from Carrie, eloquently stating the LA mantra:  “It’s paradoxical, but there is not much emphasis on self-care in the education of a medical student… But I believe all medical professionals have an obligation to maintain their own health. We can’t communicate with patients effectively about the importance of exercise and eating happens if we can’t practice what we preach!”

Continue reading “LA feature: Pilates Style magazine, “Anatomy Lessons””

Bye-Bye Back Pain!

December 19, 2011

My back’s been bugging me lately. I figure my life is kind of like a doctor’s — I see clients for several hours a day, am constantly on my feet, and have started to feel a tightness in the low back that sometimes aches. Similarly, all my physician friends have been telling me how tight their low backs feel after long shifts at the hospital. This one is for you guys!

Recently, I realized that I have been relieving that compressed-back feeling in the wrong way: I kept arching my low back (think cat-cow from yoga), or twisting side to side in a futile attempt to get the tight, painful feeling to go away.

Then I discovered a little trick for low back decompression that helped immensely:

Stand facing a wall and place your hands on the wall, lower than shoulder height. Walk your feet back a few steps, flex your hips, and lower your back into a flat, “tabletop” position (so that your back is perpendicular to your thighs). If this position is difficult, slightly bend your knees. Think of your ischial tuberosities (sits bones) reaching back toward the wall behind you. Now think of letting those sits bones turn upward towards the ceiling. You will probably feel a lengthening in the hamstrings; you might even feel a stretch of your lumbar spine. Breathe in, and breathe out. As you exhale, think of your femur heads dropping back into the hip socket. Think of space being created between your lumbar verterbrae. Breathe again, and decompress.

Staying in this position, think of your sits bones changing position, from pointing towards the ceiling to reaching toward the floor. In reaching them toward the floor, find a place where your tailbone drops and becomes heavy, forming a tucked position. Breathe deeply and allow your quadratus lumborum to lengthen (remember your QL extends between your iliac crest and your bottom rib).

Now bend your right knee, and let your left sits bone reach long behind you. Then switch, bending your left knee, and letting your right sits bone reach back. Feel the fascia along your back and gluteal muscles release. Breathe deeply and switch back and forth.

Doing this stretch daily should help you feel some relief – enjoy!

About the author

Priti Radhakrishnan is a Pilates teacher at Kinected, in New York city. In addition to her journey as a Pilates teacher, Priti has worked for nearly a decade as an attorney fighting for access to affordable medicines for patients living in poverty in the developing world. She loves to combine therapeutic Pilates with her experience working in clinical and low-income settings: her dream is to ensure that Pilates is available to everyone, regardless of economic status.

Watch your back!

November 21, 2011

“Let’s face it”, I told my sister earlier this year. “At the rate your shoulders have been elevating, they will be past your ears by graduation.”

“Not fair”, she retaliated. “I’ve been working hard. Med school is no cakewalk!”

No one says that the path to becoming a doctor is easy. So those of us who work in the movement world often worry about our friends in the medical arena. As Matt McCulloch, a Master Pilates Trainer in New York City, says: Watching students progress through medical school calls to mind a “reverse evolution,” as their thoracic spines become increasingly rounded and the students subsequently lose a few centimeters in height (and he should know, he met his wife while she was in med school!). Between studying, heavy pockets on white coats, and leaning over hospital beds, White Coat Kyphosis has become today’s norm.

There is a solution: watch your back.

I put this solution to the test earlier this year. I gave my sister 3 simple tasks to do to ensure that her spine remained erect, and that her shoulders stopped rising like lava bubbling out of a volcano. The tasks involved paying attention to 3 parts of the body: Continue reading “Watch your back!”

How Dr. X got his groove back

October 31, 2011

I have a friend. Let’s call him Dr. X. And like many of my other close friends and family members, as he went through medical school and residency, he lost his core.

Before Dr. X became an M.D., homeboy had it goin’ on! He was fit, he played all kinds of sports regularly, went to the gym often, and even let it drop to the ladies that his six-pack was in fiiiine shape. But with the long study hours, the all-consuming focus on medicine, and the insane hours of lectures, rotations, and residency, everything changed. And he started to notice changes around his middle, as his rectus abdominis slackened and (gasp) love handles started to appear. His low back had even started to hurt.

He was determined to get his groove back. He called me up and bemoaned the physical changes, asking for advice. Talking to the ladies was not feeling the same. He still had at least six years left of residency and fellowship – what to do?

Continue reading “How Dr. X got his groove back”