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Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast. The weekly podcast where Dr. G gives you the tools you need to boost your health, and live your healthiest life.

Dr. Gundry: 00:13 Welcome to the Dr. Gundry podcast. Back pain, stiff muscles, achy joints, the list of ailments people experience as they age is a mile long, as you’re probably nodding right now. And while many believe these sorts of symptoms are an inevitable part of getting older, my guest today says that that simply isn’t true.

Dr. Gundry: 00:36 In just a minute, I’m going to be speaking with the healthy movement coach Aaron Alexander, author of the upcoming book Align: Five Easy Steps to Transform Your Posture.

Dr. Gundry: 00:50 As the owner and founder of Align Therapy, Aaron helps people improve their strength, balance, flexibility, and structural alignment to live healthier, happier lives, pain free. One of his specialties is Rolfing, a form of physical manipulation intended to align your body. Now we’re going to explain how that works in just a moment.

Dr. Gundry: 01:12 Today we’ll discuss how some seemingly normal everyday habits can hurt your body, and how Rolfing massage and healthy movement can help. We’ll also talk about what you can do today to start feeling better in your body and avoid big picture problems down the road. Aaron, welcome to the program.

Dr. Gundry: 01:34 Now, I first met Aaron in a very unique way a couple of years ago, and I want to tell you about that right now. It was, by far, the most interesting interview that I have ever given. We’re in my office with our guest, and my guest says, “I would like to interview you with you being suspended above my body.”

Dr. Gundry: 01:56 And he says, “If you don’t mind, I’m going to lay down on the floor. I’m going to put my legs and my hands up, and you’re going to dive onto me, and I’m going to catch you, and we’re going to do this interview talking with you suspended above me.”

Dr. Gundry: 02:09 Am I right?

Aaron Alexander: 02:10 That’s right.

Dr. Gundry: 02:11 That’s right. And I got to tell you, I have never been interviewed suspended above some person’s body, at least to my knowledge, and that’s a way to get interviewed. Let me tell you.

Dr. Gundry: 02:22 So Aaron, welcome to the program.

Aaron Alexander: 02:26 Thanks so much, Dr. Gundry.

Dr. Gundry: 02:27 I’m shocked. I really thought we’d start this segment with me suspended above you, but glad to have you.

Aaron Alexander: 02:33 Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Gundry: 02:34 Now Aaron, you’ve helped countless people prevent and reverse the issues that cause pain and discomfort. Okay. What led you down this path, and did you yourself have a physical issue that you needed to overcome?

Aaron Alexander: 02:48 Yeah, yeah, all sorts of stuff. So I started from a place, like a lot of young people, of just insecurity. And kind of had somewhat of an unstable household in certain ways. The story that I kind of tell along that is that, because I felt instable in my material environment, I kind of packed on my biological environment.

Aaron Alexander: 03:13 And so I just started slamming on slabs of muscle the best that I could through imbalanced bodybuilding practices, and then that led into me just focusing on what you could see in the mirror. So like pecs and bis and triceps and abs and just all this kind of like adding onto the forward flexed position, which is already that of what modernity is doing to us anyway.

Aaron Alexander: 03:34 Ever since you’re in a cradle or in a child’s seat, and then on these chairs, and then on the bus and the plane, it’s all pulling us into this position, which has all sorts of other implications.

Aaron Alexander: 03:44 And within that, from just like a purely structural level, you could say like the muscles at the back and the hips and the glutes and the legs, like the parts that really hold you together and give you true strength. They’re typically the parts that people don’t really directly see. But most of us focus on the parts that we see only, and that’s only impressive for a short term, but long term it’s really unstable.

Dr. Gundry: 04:02 You know, let’s continue on that. So is there such a thing as muscle bound?

Aaron Alexander: 04:11 Muscle bound. There’s muscle imbalanced. So you can grow as large as you want as long as you maintain integrity and functionality of what you’re doing. So if you’re a person… Fitness is based off of what are you fit for? That’s the relevant question as a fitness-

Dr. Gundry: 04:26 That’s a good point.

Aaron Alexander: 04:27 Anything with fitness is like… Well if you wear high heels all the time, and you kind of strut around and put your shoulders back, and you do business meetings, and you stand in elevators. You’re fit for that. Whereas someone like a hunter-gather, if you put them in that situation, they would be unfit for that situation and it would be challenging for them to succeed in that world.

Aaron Alexander: 04:44 So you can train yourself, the big question is just, “What am I training for? What is the outcome that I’m seeking?”

Aaron Alexander: 04:49 Once you figure that out, then it’s like, “Okay, now let’s create the program from there.”

Dr. Gundry: 04:54 So you’re saying you can train for wearing high heels?

Aaron Alexander: 04:58 Yeah. Yeah, you can. High heels… So high heels throughout history have been used by… They were used by Persian soldiers to be able to ride on horseback and be able to sling a bow. And they were used by, what was it? Was it King Henry the 14th? I think was who it was originally. He was originally like the five inch high red heels. That was him, and his main crew, was an indication of their royalty. So if you got taken out of those heels, it was like, “Oh, you obviously got out of the royal society.”

Aaron Alexander: 05:30 So they’ve been used as tools and as indicators throughout history. So if you use them as a temporary tool, for like less than an hour, then I think that they’re fine, there’s value to them. But if you use them-

Dr. Gundry: 05:42 A power tool?

Aaron Alexander: 05:43 It’s a power tool, yeah, that’s exactly what it is. Yeah. In short bursts you can use that power for your benefit. But if you use that, it becomes your whole life. Well then you become kind of consumed by the imbalanced patterns of that. But in short little bursts, I think heels are okay.

Dr. Gundry: 05:59 How about for guys?

Aaron Alexander: 06:03 Yeah, I think they could go fine for guys too. I mean, that’s originally… Heels are actually more of a masculine thing. It’s soldiers, royal cabinet-

Dr. Gundry: 06:10 Well yeah, it was for horseback riders to hook on a stirrup. That was one of the original reasons to wear a heel.

Aaron Alexander: 06:15 Yeah. Yeah, that’s right. It’s amazing how things change.

Aaron Alexander: 06:18 And originally men were more… They would wear more reds and bright colors, and they’d have the ruffles, and it was like… Then it changed more of like utilitarian outfits.

Dr. Gundry: 06:30 They were the original metrosexuals.

Aaron Alexander: 06:32 Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Gundry: 06:33 Got you. All right, so you teach people how to care for their joints, develop good posture, improve their balance, and achieve proper alignment. So what are some of the bad habits that you see in your line of work, and how do they affect people’s bodies?

Aaron Alexander: 06:48 Oh, man. Well, the interesting question is how they affect people’s minds and the way they think and feel about themselves. Depression is the number one leading cause of disability worldwide presently. It was this to be by 2020, but it had already happened.

Aaron Alexander: 07:02 In tandem as that’s happening, people’s structural patterns are veering toward this hunched over kind of morose type archetypal position. Like, if you feel sad, you deflate into this… “Oh, man.”

Aaron Alexander: 07:16 If you feel like you won, this is an integrated pattern throughout Millennia, it’s be like, “Oh, we did it. Success!”

Aaron Alexander: 07:21 You show your vital organs and you express it like, “Cool. I feel safe. I feel strong. I feel confident.”

Aaron Alexander: 07:26 Throughout culture, we’re being put into these positions via chairs, via staring into our phones, via the computer, via tables, all of the things. Even sitting at your toilet, raising the toilet up off of the ground so you don’t have to go actually go through a full range of hip flexion and knee flection. That’s brand new. As you go into that range of motion, you literally elongate the rectum to allow you to defecate correctly.

Aaron Alexander: 07:50 So our environment’s folding us into this position. At the same time, simultaneously, we’re seeing people become a little bit more glum. So I think that the really interesting question, there’s so many different ways to look at it, but I’m really enamored by how your physical positioning affects the way you think and the way that you feel.

Aaron Alexander: 08:09 So you see, just for example, people in this position all day long. So the obvious anatomical indicators of that forward head posture, medial rotation of the shoulders, hyperkyphotic spine, disengaged glutes, valgus knees… It’s collapse. Expansion. Collapse.

Dr. Gundry: 08:27 But isn’t it just so much easier to get into this almost fetal position?

Aaron Alexander: 08:37 It’s only easier because it’s what a person’s accustomed to.

Dr. Gundry: 08:38 Why do people do that?

Aaron Alexander: 08:41 There’s a lot of reasons. There’s nothing wrong with that position. That position is just one of the many colors of your emotional-physical palette. This emotional pattern is an indication that maybe you’re highly concentrated, that could be a thing as well. Or you’re protecting, or you’re sad, or you want to guard and hide.

Aaron Alexander: 08:59 So doing body work, manual therapy, Rolfing, that’s… With working with people sometimes really what we want to do is we want to put them into a more closed position because it makes them feel safe. You could also use heavy blankets, put that heavy weight over top of their body and they feel safer. So now you can start to kind of jet out yourself into some of those deeply held patterns.

Aaron Alexander: 09:20 So that position, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, it just has an effect. So if all you paint is with black and gray, your painting will have a certain expression. So if you can change your postural patterns it’s like, “Cool, let’s throw some red and some purple and some different colors, to change the way that you express.”

Dr. Gundry: 09:39 You know, you bring up a good point there. You see on TV and on the internet, they’re advertising these really heavy blankets that you can sleep with to make you feel protected. And a dog, there’s thunder jackets that you can wrap your dog in to make them feel protected.

Dr. Gundry: 10:00 And I actually did this with one of our rescue dogs that I talked about on one of our other podcasts. Poor dog was just scared to death of thunder, and he’s a very aloof animal. I got him in the bed, and I just wrapped him as hard as I could and he finally calmed down. It was actually kind of the first, I think, human interaction he felt comfortable with.

Dr. Gundry: 10:19 So are you saying that those sorts of things? That’s cool? That’s all right? I mean, should I…

Aaron Alexander: 10:27 Those sorts of things are amazing, powerful tools to have access to. But when that’s the only tool that you have access to, it’s like your only realm of healthcare is through seeing a surgeon.

Aaron Alexander: 10:40 It’s like, “Okay, cool.”

Dr. Gundry: 10:40 What’s wrong with that? Hey!

Aaron Alexander: 10:42 I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, but no, seriously, so if you’re not looking from the other steps before that, then from that perspective, if they’re really myopic with their vision, they don’t have any education outside of that, which isn’t you at all.

Aaron Alexander: 10:56 Then you say, “Oh, I have this neck pain. I have this shoulder pain. Or I have this thing.”

Aaron Alexander: 11:01 It’s like, “Well, my education is only formed around that one specific solution. So now I see that.” So if it’s like, if all you have is a hammer then everything looks like a nail. So if all you have is this one position, which is the cultural mold of society, then it becomes potentially problematic, because…

Aaron Alexander: 11:19 The fact that depression is the number one lead cause of disability in the world is astounding to me. So when you look around the world, just notice people holding their cell phones and staring at the coffee shop and hunching over. Take it back to a hunter-gatherer timeframe. They don’t know what a computer is. They don’t know what a cell phone is. You don’t see that. You don’t know that they’re deeply into their text message or whatever.

Aaron Alexander: 11:41 So you’d be like, “Okay, it’s fine.”

Aaron Alexander: 11:42 You would look at that person and you’d say, “Oh, what’s wrong?”

Aaron Alexander: 11:45 In a physiological level, there’s been various different studies that associates those positions into reducing testosterone levels, increasing stress hormone, cortisol specifically, maybe even shown that being in those hunched over positions helps for you to be able to access more challenging memories. Whereas being in the upright position helps for you to be able to access more beneficial, stimulating, good time memories.

Dr. Gundry: 12:11 So, okay. Why, other than we’re reading or looking at our cell phones all the time, why is that the default position that everybody ends up in?

Dr. Gundry: 12:23 And I know you’re going to tell us why that is, and how we can get out of that default position.

Aaron Alexander: 12:29 Yeah. I mean, it’s the way that your car seat is formed. It’s the way that your couch is formed. It’s the way that your, again, your toilet. Your bed. You’re only getting down to about 90 degrees of hip flection.

Aaron Alexander: 12:42 So a really beautiful, easy, simple, accessible way that people could start to shift that is to just add a small dose, and it will start to expand because it comes kind of addictive because you can feel the effects. But it’s spending more time on the ground throughout the day.

Aaron Alexander: 12:56 So I’m sitting on this chair, essentially as though I’m on the ground. As we’re doing this, this is helpful because it’s beneficial for my circulation. So I’m bringing my legs closer to my heart.

Dr. Gundry: 13:07 True.

Aaron Alexander: 13:07 That’s convenient. Which is beneficial for digestion, for example. IE: most cultures around the world eat from the ground.

Aaron Alexander: 13:14 So why would I want to have my legs so far away from my vital organs so that blood can just start to kind of pool up in my lower compartments. I want to be easier. If I could, I would do this interview with my feet up the wall. So we can just lay down and hang back, and really that would be super medicinal for both of us. It’s a little, from a societal perspective, it’s a little funny. But from a biological perspective, it’s really exactly what your body needs.

Aaron Alexander: 13:41 So spending just a little bit of time on the ground each day. Throw your legs up the wall to kind of bring that circulation back to the heart, and then we can expand on it from there. But that’s just one thing. There’s a lot of things you can do.

Dr. Gundry: 13:52 Okay, so let’s take a quick break.

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Dr. Gundry: 14:17 Welcome back. My guest today is Aaron Alexander, and he’s out to set you straight. Spine-wise, that is.

Dr. Gundry: 14:26 Okay, so we’re talking about kind of simple things we can do, and you ought to put your legs up on a wall, which is actually a classic yoga position that we use in yoga all the time. And I think you’re right. People don’t realize that we should have been built with a heart down in our lower extremities, but we actually have no heart to pump blood back to our heart. And we actually depend on muscular action to make that happen.

Dr. Gundry: 14:59 People often don’t realize that there is no pump, except your muscles, to get blood back through the rest of you. And we do neglect that area. Because you’re right, back when we were all hunter-gatherers, that muscle was working all the time. Or if it wasn’t, we were in a position like this, or… So many of the third worlds I visit, everybody is sitting on their… hunched over or sitting on their feet. And everything’s compacted in a straight line beneath them.

Dr. Gundry: 15:36 Okay, so what can they do? So we got one idea, put your legs up. Or get on the ground.

Aaron Alexander: 15:43 Get on the ground.

Dr. Gundry: 15:44 Yep. What are your thoughts about Pilates and Yoga?

Aaron Alexander: 15:49 I think they’re both great. I think Pilates has a tendency of focusing on integration. And Yoga oftentimes… Integration being like activation and finding neutrality through the spine and find core engagement and engaging with your breath. It’s just like Iyengar said, “Breath is the king of the mind.” It’s the king of the nervous system.

Aaron Alexander: 16:11 If you can engage and be aware of that inhalation-exhalation, you can literally see, in realtime, the status of your autonomic nervous system. And you can start to create power through compression with your breath. So I think Pilates is awesome for that. What it lacks is it lacks dynamic ballistic, “Wow!” Like expressive movement.

Aaron Alexander: 16:31 Yoga is kind of similar, but Yoga is going to be more towards… Oftentimes people end up going too far in the mobility realm in Yoga, and they lack that tension aspect that Pilates does a really good job with. But both of them are just, again, different tools. But I find value in both.

Dr. Gundry: 16:48 Yeah. I do a power Pilates on a Active – Reformer. Aware. And it’s really funny, you mentioned you really muscle bound guys, and we’ll see big time weight lifters come in and start doing power Pilates-

Aaron Alexander: 17:04 That’d be hard.

Dr. Gundry: 17:05 … and yeah. The instructor usually gives us all a wink and say, “Watch this.”

Dr. Gundry: 17:11 And these incredible muscle bound guys are just reduced to a sweating mass of jelly because they can’t move through these actions. And it’s always, it’s-

Aaron Alexander: 17:25 Yeah, it’s coordination of the parts. So if you start… It’s kind of like being very wealthy. When you’re very wealthy you just become more of yourself.

Aaron Alexander: 17:35 When you become very muscular, those imbalances start showing themselves more. So now you have these huge slabs of muscle that you have to integrate back together. It would be almost easier for the person that just takes walks each day to start from that baseline, “Okay, here’s how you integrate your parts.” Because you haven’t expanded yourself out into this mutated form. But again, it’s that mutated sounds like it’s a bad thing.

Aaron Alexander: 17:57 It’s what you want. If your goal is to stand up on a stage, and hold yourself up, and like that’s what your goal is, you’re doing a great job. It’s beautiful. But there is a way to actively integrate your parts as you choose, whatever it is that you want to do with your body, including bodybuilding.

Dr. Gundry: 18:13 Okay.

Aaron Alexander: 18:15 Yup.

Dr. Gundry: 18:15 So can people injure themselves by doing Pilates or Yoga?

Aaron Alexander: 18:22 Yeah.

Dr. Gundry: 18:22 You hear that in the news all the time.

Aaron Alexander: 18:24 Oh, for sure. Yeah.

Aaron Alexander: 18:25 So Yoga the big thing… Within anything, if you follow basic… There’s a few simple baseline fundamentals of movement mechanics that are consistent throughout any practice. And you’ll see them throughout Pilates and Yoga and martial arts and dance and weightlifting, Olympic weight lifting, all of that. As you follow those basic fundamental principles, it’s really challenging to injure yourself in literally any kind of movement practice.

Aaron Alexander: 18:49 What happens is, Yoga’s an easy example where people will kind of let go of some of those fundamentals. Because they want to get their head back or their leg behind their head and they want to be able to lick their knee. And it’s like, “Okay, it’s cool that you can do that, but what’s your goal here?”

Aaron Alexander: 19:05 So when you start to blow out some of those fundamental principles to be able to lick the back of your knee, that’s when injuries start to pop up.

Dr. Gundry: 19:13 Should I be able to lick the back of my knee?

Aaron Alexander: 19:16 If you want to, I think that’s great. But it’s not necessary, no. It won’t help you hunt, gather, work, do anything unless you’re a contortionist.

Dr. Gundry: 19:25 Will it make me a better person?

Aaron Alexander: 19:27 I don’t think it’ll make you better person. Unless it brings you more self-worth. In which case it gives you that temporary validation to get you to the next step in life, then maybe licking your knee is exactly what you need.

Aaron Alexander: 19:38 All these things are based from a psychological perspective. Like what is it that makes you feel the need to lick your knee in the first place? What is it that makes you feel the need to pack on all of this muscle?

Aaron Alexander: 19:49 I think asking those questions specifically just makes fitness a lot more interesting.

Dr. Gundry: 19:55 Well, you mentioned bodybuilding became a way of you, I guess reacting against the tensions in your family life and all that.

Dr. Gundry: 20:03 But growing up back in the fifties and sixties there was this advertisement in all the magazines of this kid being kicked sand in his face at the beach. A skinny, scrawny guy and he was going to become a great bodybuilder and go back to that guy. So that, clearly even back in those days, that was-

Aaron Alexander: 20:24 Oh yeah, it’s all about what your… The word trauma is a word that gets used a lot. And sometimes when I hear trauma, I’m like, “Oh God, trauma again.” I think trauma… It’s all your filter of that experience. What’s your perception of that experience?

Aaron Alexander: 20:38 So if you can retool your perception of getting sand kicked in your face, or your childhood fill-in-the-blank thing, or the girlfriend and boyfriend, or the death, and change… I say, well, since that experience, it caused me to take care of my body. I lost all that fat. I started reading all those books, and I started this business, I became an entrepreneur and I gained all these new relationships.

Aaron Alexander: 20:59 And like now here I am. So that “trauma”, in quotations, was actually an opportunity for me to do like a fast-forward education into getting to the point that I’m at. As opposed to looking as like, “Oh, woe is me.”

Aaron Alexander: 21:12 Like my family life was tough. As long as you hold onto that story of like, “I’m a victim, I have it tough.” I think it spills into the way that you move through the world.

Dr. Gundry: 21:23 Very true. It’s like Tony Robbins always said, “You can’t keep playing old movies.”

Aaron Alexander: 21:30 Yeah. It’s like the definition of depression.

Dr. Gundry: 21:33 Yeah.

Aaron Alexander: 21:33 Yeah. I mean, I left… I wouldn’t say that’s the definition of depression, but I think it’s a big part of it.

Dr. Gundry: 21:38 No, it is a big part.

Aaron Alexander: 21:38 You’re not here. Your mind is all these other places thinking about that. And then anxiety, they say, is like your mind is in the front.

Aaron Alexander: 21:46 And even as you’re doing that actually, there’s a structural effect. Chronesthesia is an unnecessary fancy term for internal time travel. So when you’re doing that chronesthesia, and you’re thinking into the future. Or you’re obsessing over the past. You’ll literally, your postural patterns will start to go forward a few millimeters when you’re in the future. They’ll get drift back a little bit when you’re in the past. So when you’re actually completely here, in the present moment, your body almost like a compass kind of like… comes back into being in a more upright position.

Dr. Gundry: 22:19 Yeah, it reminds me of one of my favorite reggae artists, who’s now dead. Lucky Dube from Africa. In one of his songs he throws in a line that “objects in the rear view mirror appear closer than they really are.” And you know, it’s on your rear view mirror thingy.

Dr. Gundry: 22:38 His point is, which was very well taken, is those things are actually way in the past. But they appear closer and bother you more than they really could. And that was a great line. So just, objects in the rear view mirror appear closer than they really are.

Aaron Alexander: 22:58 And that sabotages your present, because you’re stuck there. And then you keep on to potentially sabotaging this present experience, because your mind’s not with it, and then your world doesn’t come together the way that it could. Because people don’t want to be around a distracted mind. It’s the worst.

Aaron Alexander: 23:15 You know when someone’s looking down at their phone and you’re talking to them, or you just know they’re not there with you. I’m just like, “Get the hell out of here.”

Aaron Alexander: 23:23 And if that’s the way that you lead through the world, things probably won’t work the way that you would prefer them to. And very likely you may fall back on that victim story and just keep spinning your wheels in that. But that’s kind of maybe separate than like a postural conversation.

Aaron Alexander: 23:39 But I don’t think it is.

Dr. Gundry: 23:42 So, are… Let’s pull you back.

Dr. Gundry: 23:45 So are there any bad forms of exercise? Are there really… You got any that you don’t like? Or you say-

Aaron Alexander: 23:53 No, no, I think everything’s good, it’s just following the basic fundamental principles within it.

Aaron Alexander: 23:57 CrossFit’s and easy one to poop on, but the issue with CrossFit is that it’s time and it’s competition with really complex movements. But really complex movements are great for the human organism. It’s just a matter of we need to be focusing on, instead of it being get this time or do this much weight, we need to be focusing on the quality of the movement. So if instead of it being that you did it in this amount of time, it could be like, “Oh, you did it with zero movement faults,” you could call it. “Your positioning was immaculate the whole way through. You get the gold star.” Then I think CrossFit’s like a tremendous movement practice.

Aaron Alexander: 24:35 Yoga. It would be another easy one to poo-poo on, because people focus on hypermobility and just getting their joints in these weird positions. But the truth of Yoga, it means union or connection. Yolk, yuj is the Sanskrit terminology for it. So connection is synonymous with integration. So if you’re focused on integrating your parts through a wide range of movement, your Yoga practice is great. So within anything… Anything that would be easy to crap on, you’re going to the far ends of the spectrum where people start to tear themselves apart.

Aaron Alexander: 25:14 But the center point of any movement practice, I think there’s value. It’s just following the basic fundamentals of movement.

Dr. Gundry: 25:21 All right.

Dr. Gundry: 25:21 People who aren’t familiar with Rolfing might think it sounds a little wacky. So what the heck is Rolfing?

Aaron Alexander: 25:28 Yeah, it’s not the best branded name. So it sounds like rolling on the floor, laughing.

Aaron Alexander: 25:33 Structural Integration is what Ida Rolf, the founder of it originally called it. And a similar-

Dr. Gundry: 25:41 So wait a minute, there was a Joseph Pilates, and now you’re trying to convince me there was an Ida Rolf?

Aaron Alexander: 25:45 There’s an Ida Rolf, yeah.

Dr. Gundry: 25:46 Didn’t consider changing her name?

Aaron Alexander: 25:48 Yeah. Right? So she didn’t like to call it Rolfing. That wasn’t her prerogative.

Aaron Alexander: 25:54 So it was after she was on her way out that people started saying like, “Oh, you got Rolfed.”

Aaron Alexander: 25:58 So it was like if you had a special practice with patients and be like, “Oh, you got Gundried.” Then eventually it’s like [crosstalk 00:26:06]

Dr. Gundry: 26:05 It happened.

Aaron Alexander: 26:06 …Gundry. Yeah, I believe it.

Aaron Alexander: 26:07 So that’s originally what that is. And the main focus of structural integration, which is a better umbrella term for what it is, is you’re integrating your parts through manual hands-on manipulation.

Aaron Alexander: 26:21 So essentially you’re looking to align your feet to your knee, to your hip, through your spine, to the top of your head. Then if you can find that alignment within the field of gravity, then your existence, your inhabitants in your body, it makes you healthier. Because you don’t have these little forest fires that are manifesting in all of your joints because of all the friction.

Aaron Alexander: 26:42 So what we’re looking to do, from that perspective, is looking to align the joints via the connective tissue, so that just the way that you move through the world heals your body.

Dr. Gundry: 26:53 So how is that different than what a chiropractor would do for instance?

Aaron Alexander: 26:56 Chiropractors are focusing on more high velocity adjustments, and they’re focusing for more of a bony perspective.

Aaron Alexander: 27:02 Whereas a structural integration NIST is focusing on fascia or connective tissue, and slow adjustments.

Dr. Gundry: 27:12 People have the impression, and I’ve certainly had a lot of people who have been Rolfed, that it is incredibly painful because you’re breaking down fascia. Is that true or is that a-

Aaron Alexander: 27:29 Old school Rolfing has the tendency of being a little bit more to that, and they were kind of really going for the cathartic hoo-rah. Present day approach, it really depends. It’s like going to one Chinese restaurant and being like, “Oh, I know what all of Chinese food tastes like now.”

Aaron Alexander: 27:45 They’re like, “Well you just had one angry chef that put too much hot sauce in the noodles.”

Aaron Alexander: 27:50 So then what we end up doing is we attach to that kind of “if it bleeds, it leads” kind of thing. It’s just easier for our minds to process that.

Aaron Alexander: 27:59 Really, working effectively with the body is being able to be sensitive enough to feel exactly where there’s resistance in the tissue, which is the form of tissue dehydration, agglomeration, and being able to just essentially almost sit right at that.

Aaron Alexander: 28:16 It’s just like if someone has a door closed. You go and you sit right at the door and you say, “Okay, we’re just going to be right here, and if you choose to open the door, it’s okay.” As opposed to me like slamming against the door to try to get it open.

Aaron Alexander: 28:29 So a good Rolfer, they would be able to just find those closed doors and then bring your attention to them. Then through a slow, subtle, typically like shearing type force, we rehydrate those cells and realign in that tissue. It shouldn’t be an overly painful process, but I’m not completely against experiencing pain in order to experience some type of healing.

Aaron Alexander: 28:52 I think that sometimes life is painful. So if you’re always trying to resist that, sometimes you might actually… It’s like Rumi said, “The cure for the pain is in the pain.”

Aaron Alexander: 29:03 I think that sometimes it’s okay to actually go into your pain in order to actually fully experience it out. [crosstalk 00:29:08]

Dr. Gundry: 29:08 See this is how Rolfing gets a bad name.

Aaron Alexander: 29:11 No, no, no. It’s just… Be accepting of the full scale of the human experience. But the pain should be a pain that is something that you can enjoy. Like if it’s like a hurt so good because you know you’re at the edge of something.

Aaron Alexander: 29:25 Like imagine getting a splinter pulled out of your hand. Right? You can feel it. You see it. You’re like, “Oh God, I need to get that splinter out.” The sensation of someone actually finally touching the splinter that you’ve been feeling for the last 15 years and saying, “Oh that’s it.”

Aaron Alexander: 29:39 You say, “Yes, pull the splinter. Please, please, please pull… Oh.” Like, yeah that was painful. You activated sensory receptors, and you felt sensation, but it was in relief of something you’d been… a greater pain you’d been holding for however long you’ve been holding it.

Aaron Alexander: 29:56 So truly artful, tactful, any person, any talk therapist, any manual therapists, what they’re able to do is they’re able to create an environment or a container for that person’s nervous system, because that’s what you’re working with, in order to feel safe enough to start to unwind old patterns that haven’t been serving them in the best way.

Aaron Alexander: 30:16 But as long as you put them into a place where they feel like they need to protect and guard up, they’ll go back to what they know. So in that situation, if you just inflict pain upon a body that is now protecting and guarding, you’re only going to make things worse, for the most part.

Aaron Alexander: 30:30 So it’s being sensitive enough, this relates to any conversation or anything that you’re doing, business, relationships. If you’re sensitive enough to know, “What’s the tone of voice that this person will respond to? What’s the level of contact? What’s the temperature in the room? What’s the texture of the couch that they’re on?”

Aaron Alexander: 30:47 All of those send signals to your nervous system, whether you feel safe and you want to respond in an open way, or whether you want to protect and guard

Dr. Gundry: 30:54 What’s the difference between Rolfing and massage? And are they complimentary? Are they…

Aaron Alexander: 31:00 Typically if you tell a Rolfer that they’re a massage therapist, like all their sphincters clench up and they’re like, “No!”

Aaron Alexander: 31:07 But realistically if you’d look at it from the outside perspective, you’d probably just assume they’re getting like a slow massage. But one of the differences, key differences from like structural integration to typical massage, massage is such a big word.

Aaron Alexander: 31:19 So that’s the issue with a word like massage. It’s under this umbrella that relates just so many modalities. So it’s really just semantics, but typically people’s ideas of massage would be more of like an effleurage. Kind of like soothing, rubbing, oil, whale sounds in the background, spa.

Aaron Alexander: 31:40 Rolfing is, you’re not using much oil, if any. And it’s just slow, sometimes deep, but not always deep pressure. It’s focusing on muscular septa, which is the space between the muscle bellies. That’s the highest concentration of macana receptors and all the parts that make your muscles change, your connective tissue change. And so that’s kind of what it looks like. It’s slower, oftentimes deepish work, not a lot of oil. And the goal is to integrate all of the parts together, as opposed to just rub everything.

Dr. Gundry: 32:12 Good description. All right, so now we’re talking about all this. People, I’m sure have said or behind your back maybe to your back, that Rolfing is pseudoscience and pseudo scientific.

Aaron Alexander: 32:30 Sure.

Dr. Gundry: 32:30 What do you say?

Aaron Alexander: 32:32 Yeah, for sure. I mean, there’s a lot of pseudoscience in most of the practices I think that ended up actually being really beneficial.

Aaron Alexander: 32:43 The information that we’re getting in textbooks in a western doctor’s office, from my understanding, that information is founded originally like 30 years back before it finally makes it in.

Dr. Gundry: 32:54 It’s actually 20. The practicing doctor is 20 years behind current research.

Aaron Alexander: 32:58 Right.

Dr. Gundry: 32:59 I was in a group a number of years ago called the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. And the research has shown that the practicing physicians, and this is not to belittle any practicing physician, their current treatment practice is 20 years behind current knowledge, in all disciplines.

Aaron Alexander: 33:17 Yeah. So that would probably put that whole 20 year gap into a large container of pseudoscience, because it’s not fully founded, established.

Aaron Alexander: 33:26 So there’s a, I don’t remember who the quote was, it was “Science describes the experience of the body from the outside, and poetry describes it from the inside.” I think that we can become too founded on “It’s only scientific measurable, beaker, double-blind or I don’t trust it.”

Aaron Alexander: 33:44 Then there’s this other end of the spectrum that is just feeling more intuitively and feeling more… They want you to paint as a means to work with your depression. Science, I don’t know, because well try painting, see how it affects you. So I like to kind of dance between both of those worlds. If I hear the word pseudoscience, I’m not like “No.”

Aaron Alexander: 34:04 I’m like, “Tell me more. Let’s see of how the effects are.”

Dr. Gundry: 34:07 That’s a great segue.

Dr. Gundry: 34:09 And do I happen to think that a great deal of depression and anxiety is caused by an altered gut microbiome and a leaky gut. And there’s actually some pretty cool science that backs that up. So I know you’re an ambassador to several nutrition brands.

Dr. Gundry: 34:26 I think we probably both agree that nutrition is a critical part of how we, how our bodies perform. Yes?

Aaron Alexander: 34:37 Yeah, absolutely. Hundred percent. I absolutely agree, and I think it’s interesting from… I think oftentimes with nutrition an underlying root of seeking out really positive nutrition is having a level of self worth to believe that you’re worthy of the highest quality nutrition.

Aaron Alexander: 34:58 I personally sometimes feel like if I’m in a lower place, I’m like, “Ah, screw it.” The cookies and the ice cream and whatever. If I’m in a place where I feel really strong and confident, like, “You know what? I’m worth it. And I have to show up, and I’ve got to do this interview thing, and the best version of myself.” Then all of a sudden I start to feed myself at the highest levels of quality.

Aaron Alexander: 35:20 So I think that’s an interesting topic with it as well. But yeah, I mean the nutrition’s the building blocks of your connective tissue.

Dr. Gundry: 35:25 Yeah. I’ll bring you an example there, from just this week. I think nutrition has so much to do with joint muscle pain and with autoimmune diseases, things I’ve actually written about and presented at national meetings.

Dr. Gundry: 35:41 But just this week I met a woman, for the first time, who had seen my PA six months ago. And she was on five rheumatoid arthritis medications, including two immunosuppressants. And very dynamic woman. Fascinating meeting her. She’s a coach for a major corporations to get along with each other in meetings. So anyhow, she, in six months, is now off of all of her rheumatoid arthritis medications.

Dr. Gundry: 36:16 She’s negative biomarkers for all markers of rheumatoid arthritis. And she actually was motivated because she was helping corporations have a better culture by teaching them how to interact with each other. And she says, “You know, I should be able to teach my body to interact with each other and I should be able to get rid of rheumatoid arthritis.” And my name popped up whenever she’d keep searching. And so she fixed it by changing the food that she ate.

Aaron Alexander: 36:48 Yeah, I think it’s just one of the spokes on the hub. Nutrition, there’s so many different spokes you need to tend to, and inflammation is like the root of your fill-in-the-blank. Any kind of disorder you can look up. There’s like, “Oh, inflammation of the fill-in-the-blank.”

Aaron Alexander: 37:00 So if at that, including depression, so if you are eating foods that are inflammatory to your system, it’s not just that you’re not going to perform well at your sport, it’s going to be performing well in your emotional life and your relationships and your business. Brain fog.

Aaron Alexander: 37:15 So that ends up translating directly into more my world, and your movement practice. Like I find just simply fasting for a short time is one of the most beneficial things that I can do for joint mobility.

Aaron Alexander: 37:27 Because if I eat a late meal with whatever BS, 11:00 pm, I wake up the next day my mobility is crap versus if I eat an early dinner of meaningful food because I have the self worth to do so. The next day, sure enough, my mobility’s dramatically better.

Aaron Alexander: 37:47 Then if you can move into your movement practice with that new found mobility, you’re able to create these new ranges of motions that you never had access to because you’re always too inflamed to do so. So this is one of the spokes that I think it’s like a crucial part.

Dr. Gundry: 38:01 Yeah. In my book, The Longevity Paradox, we really urge people to have preferably a four, at least a three hour window between your last meal of the day and going to bed. It makes such a difference, among other things, in brain cleaning.

Dr. Gundry: 38:18 So because of The Longevity Paradox, I’ve asked all of my guests to give our listeners one thing that they can do today to start having a better, longer life. One thing.

Aaron Alexander: 38:33 I think, if I give 1.5 things-

Dr. Gundry: 38:37 Okay, 1.5, you’re allowed.

Aaron Alexander: 38:38 …because there’s one that I think that is the over arching really meaningful one, but it’s a little bit more pseudo-science, but not protecting yourself and your ability to give and receive love.

Aaron Alexander: 38:47 Like I think that that’s something that we move through the world with this kind of protection and we don’t want to truly be seen. So we kind of show people this like artificial sense of ourselves, because if somebody doesn’t love and appreciate that part, it doesn’t really matter because it was never really you.

Aaron Alexander: 39:00 But at some point, you’ll be at the point where, maybe you’re not in this body anymore and you’ll look back and be like, “Oh my God, what the hell was I scared of?”

Aaron Alexander: 39:07 And as I think the sooner that you can just move through the world completely honest with where you’re at and who you are with all of your relationships, I think the healthier person you’re going to be.

Aaron Alexander: 39:17 Structurally, that’s going to affect you, but something that would be really simple is just hang each day. As another take away, easy go-to thing. There’s a whole book called Shoulder Pain by a guy called Dr. John Kirsch, who’s an orthopedic surgeon, and showed that just through a simple hanging protocol, I have a chapter in my book about this, of just simply reaching up, get like a pull up bar in your doorway, and as you’re walking through that doorway, give yourself a little five to ten, fifteen second hang, and you’re going to decompress your shoulder girdle. Literally changes the shape of your shoulder girdle.

Aaron Alexander: 39:49 We typically have more of this medial rotation, which is impingement, right? So you just go up into that position, decompress that shoulder girdle, start to open up the lungs, reengage that diaphragm, open up your heart, all your whole cardiovascular system, and bring you back in a more confident position.

Aaron Alexander: 40:03 If you’re in this position all the time, it starts to hijack the way that you think, the way that you feel, and the feedback that you send out to the rest of the world. So a simple act of just hanging each day can have dramatic impact in your whole life.

Dr. Gundry: 40:16 Believe it or not, I wrote about this for my thesis at Yale University. We are a hanging great ape, and we are the only… Great apes are brachiators. They hang.

Aaron Alexander: 40:30 Yeah, monkey bar’s a misnomer, human bars or ape bars.

Dr. Gundry: 40:32 Yeah, they are. They’re ape bars. And that’s actually what differentiates us from all other monkeys. Our ability to hang. And you’re right, we should be hanging. I’m glad you brought that up. It’s an important point and I’ve kind of forgotten. Okay, I’m going to go hang.

Dr. Gundry: 40:51 Okay, Aaron, it’s been great to have you on the podcast. So how do our listeners find you? How do they find more information about you and your work?

Aaron Alexander: 41:00 Probably most people just go like Instagram and Align Podcast is the easiest place, but my website’s also Align Podcast.

Aaron Alexander: 41:06 If you just look up Align Podcast, that’ll be the thing. And then-

Dr. Gundry: 41:09 What’s your Instagram?

Aaron Alexander: 41:10 Align Podcast.

Dr. Gundry: 41:11 Really?

Aaron Alexander: 41:11 Everything’s Align Podcast. And then on there, there’s a just really simple five video breakdown of simple fundamentals that I know everybody can benefit from.

Aaron Alexander: 41:21 Hanging is a part of those, spending more time on the floor is a part of those, and there’s a few others. Tat’s just a great starting point for people to start embodying themselves.

Dr. Gundry: 41:29 You have to pay to play?

Aaron Alexander: 41:31 No, no, no. That’s that. I have so much content that is of high quality, at no cost. And then at the very end of that, there is a deeper online program that exists, but there’s… You could spend a good chunk of your life just exploring the free stuff.

Dr. Gundry: 41:48 Great. All right, very good.

Aaron Alexander: 41:50 Yup.

Dr. Gundry: 41:50 So before we end, we always have my favorite part of podcasting. Audience question.

Dr. Gundry: 41:57 Alyssamarie022 on Instagram asks, “Is carob powder allowed on the Plant Paradox Diet? I want to make sure I’m not eating the dangerous lectins.”

Dr. Gundry: 42:09 So those of you who are against chocolate think that carob powder is a probably a pretty good idea. There actually is some evidence that carob has a lectin in it, but my… So I don’t use carob powder.

Dr. Gundry: 42:25 My point would be to you, there is so much benefit from cacao in terms of building nerves, building connections between nerves, in dilating your blood vessels, that I think go for the real chocolate and don’t go for carob. That’s my humble opinion. There actually is no demonstrable health benefit from carob over chocolate, and the studies keep rolling in and if you want to keep your brain great, get chocolate in your life. So I’ll end with that.

Dr. Gundry: 43:09 So if you listeners are enjoying this, I want you to stay tuned and actually go over to my YouTube channel, because Aaron is going to do a posture assessment on me and you’re not going to want to miss that. In fact, I think my wife, Penny is going to tune in, because she’s always correcting my posture. Penny, tune in. Aaron’s going to fix everything. Don’t worry.

Dr. Gundry: 43:33 Thanks for joining me on this episode of the Dr. Gundry podcast. Before you go, I just wanted to remind you that you can find the show on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts.

Dr. Gundry: 43:45 And if you want to watch each episode of the Dr. Gundry Podcast, you can always find me on YouTube at youtube.com/drgundry because I’m Dr. Gundry and I’m always looking out for you.