Nutrition & Exercise for Performers: Interview with Linden Furnell – by Grace Ng Ee Wern

Musical Theatre performers are high level athletes in a field that stretches the body and mind to their limits. They are singers- master controllers of the fine coordination of the respiratory and the phonatory system. They are dancers adept at fine muscular control and beauty of the physical line. They are actors- capable of memorizing whole scripts and bringing them to life on stage in a personal way. They have to sing, act and dance sometime all at the same time in a show that lasts 2-3 hours, 8 shows a week.

 

I had the great fortune to interview Singapore-based Sydneysider Linden Furnell in 2013. A graduate of Singapore’s Lasalle College of the Arts Musical Theatre BA program, Linden is not only a very busy musical theatre performer but also performs regularly on his guitar in various pubs around the Singapore and in Australia. On top of this, he also writes and composes his own music.

 

In addition to performing in musical theatre where he sings, acts and dances, Linden, 25, is also a passionate advocate of the Crossfit method of exercise and of the Paleo diet.

  1. Exercise

Grace : Tell me about Crossfit. What is this form of exercise and how long have you been involved in it?

Linden: Crossfit is described as ‘constantly varied functional movement at high intensity’. Basically means every exercise is based on movements we do in day to day life, there is no bicep pumping, leg curling etc. Exercises strengthening these movements are varied in a changing mix known as a workout-of-the-day (WOD). It is a holistic approach to fitness.

Grace: Do you have any exercises that you like and why?

Linden: I’m partial to the more acrobatic exercises like muscle ups and pull ups, they’re fun and also have a great aesthetic effect on the body. I also very much enjoy the olympic weightlifting work (snatches, cleans etc) because it requires such specific technique – brute strength will get you nowhere without technique.

Grace: How does Crossfit benefit you as a performer?

Linden: I have a lot more respiratory endurance. I’m starting to do WODs with an air restricting gas mask – kind of like high altitude training. Obviously this improves your oxygen efficiency. I also have noticed my balance is substantially stronger, all the small complementary muscles in the shoulders, ankles, core etc are not ignored in Crossfit workouts as they can be in other regimes.

  1. Diet and Nutrition

Grace: What is the Paleo Diet?

Linden: The Paleo Diet was founded by Dr Loren Cordain. It advocates eating the way hunter-gatherer cavemen did- lots of fresh fruit and meat, less refined sugars, processed foods, dairy products and legumes.

Grace: Why the Paleo Diet?

Linden: When I’m training hard, low starch, no sugar or grains provides me with a source of clean, sustainable energy. Rice and other carbohydrates tends to attract blood to the stomach and bog me down during high intensity workouts. Bowel movements are also smooth and easy with the Paleo diet.

I must admit though that I do not follow the paleo diet strictly. First reason is that it’s very difficult and expensive where the staple food is rice. Secondly, food is such an enjoyable part of life in Singapore so I enjoy trying a bit of everything. Having said that though, 80% of the time I avoid all grain based foods and high starch or sugar. I base a large part of my diet on 1/3 lean meat, 1/3 vegetables and the rest a blend of fruit/nuts. I get all my carbs, protein and fats from non-processed foods. Sweet potato is a kind of gold in my diet – great quality carbs and low in starch.

Grace: How is the Paleo diet different from diets that help you lose weight or gain muscle?

Linden: Admittedly without things like pasta, rice and supplements it is more difficult for me to put weight on. In fact I’ve leaned out a lot more, but have not lost muscle tone. If I were interested in body building it would be very difficult as I’m not storing the fat that I might on a gaining diet. Thankfully I’m going for the lean athletic look and function.

Grace: Is there any diet that you maintain before, during and after showtimes?

Linden: Not particularly. I just try to eat cleanly – avoid greasy foods especially. I feel very sluggish after most hawker food, despite how good it tastes. Breakfast is usually bacon and eggs, maybe avocado and tomato on the side. No salt.

Grace: What specific elements of diet and nutrition do you think performers need to be aware of?

Linden: It’s going to be very specific to different people – but the core of it is balance. For me what works is eating clean carbs and lean meat, in small portions at more regular intervals. balance it out with a few nuts every day for fat. Perhaps breaking lunch up and having the other half a couple hours later. Drinking a lot of water is crucial – something I’m not so good at to be honest.

  1. Performances

Grace: What was your most physically challenging show to date and why?

Linden: ‘La Cage Aux Follies’ (2013, W!ld Rice) was very physically demanding. The choreography was high intensity, we wore heels and did multiple split leaps every show which were very tough on the hips and hamstrings.

Grace How did you prepare for it?

Linden: A lot of cardio warmup was crucial to prevent injury. Getting all your joints circulated before you stretch is so important, otherwise your muscles and tendons tend to tighten up incrementally and make it more difficult every day. Specifically I worked on my leg flexibility a lot during rehearsals. As far as dancing some of the numbers while singing, there’s nothing you can really do to improve other than doing it over and over. Eventually your muscle memory takes quite a load off and you find the most efficient way to do it.

Grace: Do you do any physical or vocal cooldowns after a show? What are they and why?

Linden: Naturally a cooldown and stretch is just as important as the warmup. Vocally, I like chromatic descending hums and swells. Working over the register crossovers is important for me as well as loosening the muscles around the neck and jaw where I tend to find tension. Physically, I’ll stretch the muscles that I’ve worked intensely during the show e.g .hamstrings, calves etc.

Grace: Thank you.

Nutrition for Busy People

Presentation by ViviannaWou, Food Advisory Group on 29 June 2014, ‘Be the Change’ Voice Talk.

Organized by Grace Ng and Vocalogy

 

Imagine your health as a tree with various symptoms tied to different branches, for example you may suffer from lack of energy, bloating, gastric and gastric reflux. You might use Panadol or other conventional medicine to treat the symptoms but the problems will actually return. Nutrition will treat the cause, nourish the branches and let the tree grow back and blossom.

 

How do we prevent illness, make changes and achieve optimum health in a short time? Today I’m going to talk to you about nutrition for busy people. There are various topics that I can touch on to inform you about how nutrition is beneficial to one’s overall health. I’m going to mention just a few pointers so that our patients and students know what nutrition is all about.

 

Nutrition and nutrients are interconnected. Certain nutrients help to speed up the process of achieving health. For a balanced nutrients, you need to have a diet that is rich in anti-oxidants. We talk about nutrient-rich foods like the main food groups: proteins, carbohydrates and fats. These are the main food groups that have A to Z nutrients, containing vitamins and minerals. So all these are a balance of nutrients to nourish ourselves.

 

I also stress detoxification to strengthen the immune system. Detox at least once a year. Do a minor mini-detox once a month. You can either do a detox by using supplementation or by using diet or by using a combination of both. For a mini-detox you can use a combination of juicing and vegetables and certain foods that actually lead you into a starvation mode. In starvation mode, you don’t eat for a while, after which you can input certain nutrients that your body needs.

All these are quite necessary. In Singapore, the food that we eat is quite overcooked. The variety and the selection is not very healthy. To make things worse, the body has to cope with environmental pollutants as stressors as well.

 

For patients with gastric reflux, I would ask them to cultivate proper eating habits to ensure that reflux is settled first. Most patients come away feeling bloated if you get them to go for a detox as they don’t have good flora or enzymes in their body. Detox only works for gastric reflux if patients follow a good diet plan preceding the detox so that their digestive system is working smoothly first. Only then, nutrient absorption will be better and detox will be beneficial.

 

The second speaker was talking about exercise and trigger points. Exercise is about using inflammation to heal the body. In exercise you actually raise the inflammation and oxidative stress of the body. These are the markers that represent the technical abuse from eating bad foods, breathing in polluted air, or when the body is under stress. You try to fix the problem of aching when the underlying inflammation has been present and active way before the aching surfaced. By using food and detoxification and by eating the right food, you can actually eliminate these toxins through your lymphatic and digestive systems.

 

My next point is balancing calories. Enjoy food but stay within means. Some people tend to overeat; some people don’t eat. People who don’t eat may think eating less is good. People who overeat may think that eating more provides you with more energy. What’s right and what’s wrong? Meal planning and time management are actually key to healthy eating. Calorie balance depends on the individual. Every individual’s needs are different. Everyone’s energy expenditure and intake is different. Size, height, job, external factors all play a part. People who are sedentary do not require as much energy as people who are more active.

 

We now come to food selection. What food do you choose to eat when you eat at a cafe or eat at a restaurant? Do you take packed lunches to work or school or is fast food better? In nutrition we talk about staying away from unhealthy food. We prefer wholesome foods to processed foods because wholesome foods retain most of their nutrients. Processing causes food to lose nutrients along the way. The less processed the food is, the higher the nutritional value.

Try to avoid food high in refined sugars such as soft drinks, sodas, fried snacks and candy. Food high in refined sugar gives you a temporary energy perk. However, blood sugar levels tend to dip after digestion, causing you to feel sleepy or fatigued.

 

Increase the anti-oxidants in your diet. Don’t cut meat out from your diet. Meat has its own nutrients that are beneficial to the body. Try to decrease foods that are high in salt, sugar and fats.

 

Has anyone watched the TV show ‘Food Detectives’ that was on TV today? They were talking about soy sauce. Soy sauce is one of the condiments that we tend to use excessively in sushi and sashimi. Sashimi is healthy and soy sauce is necessary to enjoy your sashimi. You just have to cut down the quantity of soy sauce. Choose a soy sauce that is low in sodium because soy sauce is nearly 18% salt. According to the show, the level of the salt does not determine the authenticity of the soy sauce. Chemically processed soy sauce may be more salty than naturally-brewed soy sauce as free glutamates such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) are added to increase the the saltiness of the sauce. Naturally-brewed soy sauce is thus a better choice.

 

Now we come to the condiments such as ketchup, chili sauce, seasoning, salad dressing. A lot of people think, ‘oh I’m eating salad, that’s very healthy.’ Then they pour mayonnaise and tartar sauce on it. Reduce the quantity of condiments that you add to your food and be selective as to your choice of condiments.

 

While we need to develop food habits to enable us to have energy that can power us for the whole day, we equally need to manage our energy expenditure. Your energy expenditure is determined by your energy requirements. Earlier on, I was talking about the energy expenditure of people who are very active, for example actors and singers. They require a certain amount of calories to sustain them throughout the whole day. They’re on the run, they’re in and out of rehearsals; they might miss breakfast and forego dinner. This makes it all the more important to select food carefully.

 

If you’re hungry after having missed lunch, you can replace the energy by eating nuts and slices of cut fruits. Bananas are also great. Even drinking water helps. A lot of us have insufficient water intake. Water and hunger are triggered by the same hormones. People think they’re hungry when in fact, they’re thirsty. Keep hydrated, ensure that you have something in your stomach unless you’re doing a detoxification, in which case you’ll want to go on starvation mode.

 

Lastly, I’m going to talk about supplements. We have high need of nutrients because if we’re on the run, if we’re under stressful situations, digestion and absorption is not going to be ideal. I’ve seen many patients with gastric reflux and gastritis. If you don’t have time to eat, you may need to supplement your diet in order to have enough nutrients from food.

 

People who are very tense could be lacking in magnesium. Taking magnesium can help relax your muscles. Magnesium helps if you have problems sleeping or if you have a low attention span. Magnesium is also very good for your diet. The recommended dose is 300mg to 400mg. Nuts, greens or fruits also contain magnesium however people rarely eat enough to constitute the required amount, and deficiency will affect your energy level as the day goes on. Supplementation is useful to keep the level of nutrients up.

 

I hope that you take away a greater understanding of nutrition and its effect on the body. Thank you very much and have a great afternoon.

 

Reference

Episode 7, ‘Food Detectives’ (Mediacorp) http://video.xin.msn.com/watch/video/episode-7/1tq3ifbze

 

Speaker Bio

ViviannaWou

Principal Consultant, Food Advisory Group

Graduated in England, she has worked and lived in the UK and Melbourne, Australia since 1999.

 

Vivianna is a Certified Nutritionist, a Food Development Technologist and a Nutritional Consultant to several major food and healthcare companies in the United Kingdom for 10 years. Now having returned to Singapore two years ago, she is fulfilling her goals and passion for the food and health care services.

 

Her working experience in Singapore involved conducting health seminars with major Food companies e.g. Nestle, Cerebos, to name a few. She recommends as a practitioner Lamberts food supplements (which are one of the leading brands in the UK) to her customers with in-shop consultation, body composition assessment and nutritional programmes to improve very specific aspects of clients’ diets that affect individual health concerns.

 

Prior to working in the private practice with the Tanglin Medical Centre and Mount Alvernia Hospital, Vivianna worked with the Singapore General Hospital in the Food Nutrition and Dietetics Department in charge of food audits, operations and meals planning for patients. Her experience working full-time in a clinical environment involved dealing with common ailments like stroke, high-blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, fatigue syndrome, indigestion and in the field of nutritional supplements industry to treat migraine, acne, eczema, candida/thrush, also food intolerances/allergies and weight loss. Her expertise in treating and counselling major illnesses of Lupus, Parkinson Disease, Alzheimer’s disease, IBS, Autism, Depression, Osteoporosis, Thyroid disease and Gout has gained her with many good referrals and testimonials through the years of practice.

 

She is a member of the following recognised associations:

Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association

Singapore Institute of Food Science & Technology

The Nutrition Society UK (1941)

British Nutrition Foundation

 

Visit the Food Advisory group on the internet at foodadvisory.sg. Like the Food Advisory group on Facebook www.facebook.com/FoodAdvisoryGroup to learn more about nutrition. Contact Food Advisory group at +65 67352253.

Taichi and Integrative Pedagogy: Interview with Master SimPernYiau

Master SimPernYiau is a taichi (太极) master of the Nam WahTaiji Gong/ Wu Tu Nan Taijigong lineage. He is also an experienced actor. He received his education in the performing arts at The Necessary Stage, NUS Theatre Studies Programme and Theatre Training and Research Programme (‘TTRP’).  TTRP was an inter-cultural theatre training school founded by the late great Singapore theatre doyen KuoPao Kun together with T. Sasitharan. He has also taught Taichi to dance students at NAFA and acting students at the Intercultural Theatre Institute (ITI). Visit his taichi studio at Wu Tu Nan Taichigong Singapore

* Master Sim: SPY

** Grace Ng: GN

GN: In your opinion, what are the elements of a holistic theatre training system?

SPY:There are 2 elements- the first is an energy-based system of physical training. The second is training the voice with reference to resonant spaces.

GN: Why do you prefer an energy-based system of physical training like taichi say to one with that focusses a lot of the body?

SPY: A system that emphasizes a great deal of physical work is not sustainable with age. As one’s body ages, the physicality of these systems becomes high maintenance, which is why you probably don’t see many older folk in acting class. A better system for older bodies would be one where the exercises promote the release of energy such as a system based on taichi or yoga. An energy-based system of training allows actors to access more energy even as the physical body ages. It also does not require actors to train tense muscular energy to acquire strength.

GN: How can learning taichi benefit actors?

SPY: Taichi is a conditioning and de-conditioning system. Although taichi movements come in formalized shapes such as those you see in the Taichi 24 short form or Taichi 108 long form, these forms are easily accessible and may be modified for performance training.

Taichi also promotes mindful movement. A fundamental principle of taichi is jiejie guan chuan (节节贯穿) moving the chi (气: life energy) while linking up the segments of the body using the mind. Chi follows the mind. By directing chi flow through the parts of the body, not only do we encourage mindful movement, we also connect with these parts of the body at a deep level.

I also like to use the Organs Relaxation exercise from Yang Shen Gong (养身功:exercises for maintaining health) when teaching actors. The Organs Relaxation exercise brings mental focus to the bladder, large intestine, small intestine, heart, lungs, pancreas, liver and gall bladder, stomach, spleen and kidneys. But not discretely. They affect each other. I tell my students that since emotions reside in the organs, they should observe the physical manifestations of emotions in their bodies and especially in their organs. As an additional benefit, the Organs Relaxation exercise may be used to release negative emotions stored in the organs to return the body to a neutral state.

I also have my students do Chi Dong (气动) exercises. Chi Dong means to move the Chi through the energy meridiens of the body through physical vibrations while being mindful. The body has to be aligned with the mind practisingjiejie guan chuan.

GN: You’ve talked about how you use Taichi in physical conditioning for the actor. How can Taichi training benefit the Voice?

SPY: Sound is a vibration. Good vibrations need good resonating spaces. Taichi exercises open up spaces for the voice to resonate by giving the performer access to parts of the body that they may not have actively engaged in sound making. Taichi exercises can open spaces in the body from the superficial to the cellular level.

The human voice is like a wind instrument. The quality of the reed alone does not dictate the quality of the sound. The quality of the sound depends on the body of the instrument. Similarly the quality of the Body determines the richness of the voice.

For example in a play I did recently (‘Ten Thousand Tigers’ by Ho Tzu Nyen (2014)), I had to speak in a throaty voice for a long time. To ensure that my voice lasted for the run of the play, I tapped resonating spaces my body associated with the sound while I made it. This tapping technique is known as ‘pai da’ (拍打

: slapping and hitting) in Taichi Gong.

Pai da is like hitting a drum. When you hit the drum, the sound resonates through the drum skin and body, which includes the empty spaces. The resonance is felt at many levels- the nervous system, muscular skeletal system and deep muscle levels. All of which we infuse with palpable energy – chi.

Taichi also strengthens the voice because we breath from the Dan T’ien (丹田). The Dan T’ien is an energetic concept. It is an area of energy cultivation and consolidation. The most basic Dan Tian is located a few inches below the belly button. Doing Taichi strengthens the Dan T’ien even when no active work is done. Connecting to the Dan Tian rather than lungs makes speaking more powerful yet more effortless.

GN: Why do you prefer to emphasize resonant spaces in voice training?

SPY: A weaker voice doesn’t equate to lowered lung power. Sound is vibrations in space. The greater the energy used, the stronger the vibrations. However if the vibrations are stuck, you cannot get power and expressivity in the voice even if you use a lot of energy. Therefore as much as we emphasize sound production, we need to equally emphasize the freeing of space within the body to allow the sound to find its maximum potential.

GN: What are your thoughts on the perceived dichotomy between Singing and Speech?

SPY: I think that you really can’t divide up Speech & Singing, Dance and Acting. I think that the concept of placing each one in its own little box is actually very modern and of Western origin in the history of human performance. In the Western tradition, you have singing in Opera. In dance productions, the dancers move but do not sing. In stage plays, there is acting but no singing. Except for musical theatre. This division is reflected in costuming as well. Opera costumes are usually elaborate and heavy, hindering movement. Dance costumes are designed to the show the form of the dancers when they move. I find that singing, dancing, acting etc are more unified in Asian traditional art forms.In Chinese Opera, the complete performer has to sing, speak, act and dance. In Noh, the performers chant-intone, act and move. And these are just some examples.

I think the division is also reflected in the way we teach the Performing Arts. Modern Performing Arts Schools are usually split into faculties of Dance, Music, Theatre etc which emphasizes a compartmentalization of expression and experience.

The split between Classical Singing and the rest of the Performing Arts is also emphasized when you place Classical Singing under the umbrella of a Music degree. Grouping Classical Singing with Music conveniently leaves out the fact that we are dealing with the human instrument in singing. The human instrument is not a musical instrument made out of wood or metal, but flesh and blood and thereby possessing all the potential and limitation of the human body.

Another division, I find in Singing and Speaking is the division between intention-based vocalization and musical-based vocalization. In musical-based vocalization, the voice in the context of music takes precedence over the narrative. Singing in Musical Theatre is different from Singing in Classical Voice and Contemporary Commercial Music in this respect.

Let me talk about the dichotomy between non-singing vocalization i.e. what is commonly known as the ‘acting voice’ and singing for musical theatre. Here you have 2 forms of narrative-driven presentations. However the vocal emphasis for each form is slightly different. In Acting, the content of the vocalization is carried through the intention of the character in the context of the narrative. In Musical Theatre vocalization, the content is carried through the form of the melody, intention and ultimately translates itself into the character’s attitude.

There is a similarity here to interpretations of songs from Contemporary Commercial Music . The lyrics of pop songs rarely sound meaningful or moving when read and not sung. Contemporary Commercial Music songs have musicality as their core expression, focusing on an emotion in the moment. The emotion in the moment in turn translates into the singer’s attitude when singing that song and their physical expression of it which may involve elements of dress.

In speech, the focus is on conveying the word. What does this text mean? What is the intention conveyed? What is the subtext? What are the underlying drives and impulses? Communicating the word is the aim of speech in acting. Musicality in speech is in the background with intention in the foreground. Speech with a beautiful sound, great rhythm, wonderful tone and elements that you need in Singing become sound and fury signifying nothing if the sound doesn’t convey the meaning of the text.

Poetry recitation falls somewhere in the middle. You have on the one hand, the expressiveness of the musical elements in Speech and on the other hand, the narrative or emotional contents of the text. The speaker has to have both musicality and convey the text, now in the medium of Speech.

GN: Where does the communication of emotion come in?

SPY: Emotion shouldn’t be communicated. Emotion is carried. Emotion is aroused. In acting, the voice focuses on the intentions, drives and responses of a character’s journey. Emotion is a resultant, not something you work directly on.

Emotion in singing is at the foreground with the story and the narrative in the background.

GN: Where does this leave Musical Theatre?

SPY: Take the theme of ‘desperately searching’. The actor would portray the ‘searching’. The reason for the search, what he encounters during the searching, the successes and failures while searching, all these provides him (or the audience) the ingredients to experience the desperation. But in the centre is the searching. The Musical Theatre actor/singer would portray/sing the desperation in the act of searching, with the help of the song.

GN: If the current thinking in pedagogy is to artificially divide up indivisible parts of the Performing Arts for the purpose of specialization, what in your opinion would be an ideal integrative pedagogical system?

SPY: I think a good system is one that exposes young performing artists to traditional and modern art forms from various cultures, and in various genres, so that they can make up their own minds as to what works for them.

Even famous theatre practitioners were influenced by inter-cultural exposure. Bertolt Brecht was inspired by Chinese Opera legend Mei Lanfang. He saw that in Chinese Opera, the performer did not have to disappear into the character, unlike much “realist” or “naturalistic” Western acting in his time. He saw how singing, movements, gestures, staging and even costumes were employed to create a larger than life effect. From these he developed his ideas of gestural theatre, “alienation” effects and epic theatre. The aim being to create a theatre emotionally resonant enough to MOVE audiences, but yet distanced enough to cause audiences to REFLECT on the social causes of the characters plights.

 

Grotowski was influenced by the spirituality of the Bauls of Bengal and traditional Indian systems of body-mind training, etc. The Bauls of Bengal pass down ancient songs, orally, from generations to generations. The performance of a song was at once a personal spiritual discovery and reaching into the collective roots of a people. Grotowski felt that modern Westerners, or maybe modern humans, have lost their traditions, not only in a cultural sense, but also in a spiritual and even evolutionary sense. And from these ancient Indians he was inspired in part to use the human voice as a means to reconnect and reinstate a primordial state of being. In a way, he was trying to rediscover what has been lost from mainstream European culture but was still very much evident in some Asian and other non-European cultures.The same can be said of Brecht and many so-called modern Euro-American masters.

GN: If the current thinking in pedagogy is to artificially divide up indivisible parts of the Performing Arts for the purpose of specialization, what in your opinion would be an ideal integrative pedagogical system?

SPY: Speaking for myself, I think a good system is one that exposes young performing artists to traditional and modern art forms from all cultures, and in all genres, so that they can make up their own minds as to what works for them.

My advice would be really to get out there, see more aspects of the arts and performing world, see more non-Western and non-mainstream forms, keep an open-mind, learn as much as you can and have fun along the way

Photo by Vinnie Tan

Your Posture, Your Life – by Terence Chua

Talk by Chua Shengwei Terence at ‘Be the Change’ Voice Talk, 29 June 2014 organized by Vocalogy*.

Transcribed by Grace Ng EeWern

Good afternoon everyone, my name is Terence Chua and I’m a movement specialist. Unlike personal trainers who work on fitness and aesthetic body building, my work tends more towards general movement patterns. I trained with Ido Portal. He’s a movement specialist in the world of fitness. I refer to the book ‘Anatomy Trains’ by Thomas Myers in my work. In the ‘Anatomy Trains’ concept of the body, if we have pain in our shoulder, it doesn’t mean that the problem area is the shoulder or the muscles around the shoulder. The problem area can be somewhere further away from the shoulder.

 

In the ‘Anatomy Trains’ concept of anatomy, the whole body itself doesn’t consist of just muscles. It’s just one single muscle that is being sectioned out into different segments so it’s all linked up.

 

There are many different lines or meridians in the body. The bottom of the foot actually links up to the head and the top of the eyebrow. There is the superficial back line, superficial front line, deep front line, spiral line, lateral line and arm line. In just the arm line itself, you have the superficial front arm line, the superficial back arm line, the deep front arm line, the deep back arm line and spiral line. To clarify, these meridian lines are not the same as those referred to in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

 

Of all these lines, I’m just going to pick one line that’s relevant to opening up the voice. That one line is the deep front line. It starts from the bottom of the foot, coming from the inside of the leg, up to the pubic symphysis and going up into the psoas. From there it goes into the thoraco-lumbar junction, into the diaphragm, by the front of the spine and also from the ribcage going up to the neck. It ends at the tongue. If I pull your tongue, I will get a reaction from the bottom of your foot because these parts of the body are linked together by the deep front line.

 

To arrive at his conclusions about the body, Thomas Myers’ dissected cadavers himself. Instead of cutting the muscles the usual way, he turned the scalpel and sliced off from the tendon.It linked up to another part of muscle. He followed that and found that they all linked up in one continuous sheath all the way to the tongue. ‘Anatomy Trains’ contains photos of the cadavers and dissection. In ‘Anatomy Trains’, you can actually see a photos of a cadaveric dissection of a sheet of muscle from the bottom of the foot going all the way up to the tongue.

 

How do all these meridians or lines help us in understanding posture, for example hunched posture (kyphosis) or sway back posture (lordosis); or hips that go into anterior tilt (buttocks sticking out) or posterior tilt (tailbone between legs)? In the case of an anterior pelvic tilt, the psoas and the hip flexors may be tight, pulling the hips down. There are many other reasons why the hips go into anterior pelvic tilt. I will just be dealing with the psoas region in this talk.

 

The psoas is a hip flexor. It pulls the femur bone up. The psoas is also attached to spine at vertebrae T12 all the way to L5. A tight psoas gives you an anterior pelvic tilt which causes resultant compensatory tensions in the body as the body tries to balance itself. Amongst these compensatory tensions is tension in your diaphragm. If that tension is not being released, your diaphragm cannot function normally. It cannot expand or contract optimally when it is full of tension. In other words, the way that you stand affects the way that you breathe.

In my practice, I release the psoas and the hip flexors to affect the diaphragm. The diaphragm as you know is hard to reach. That being said, I can reach in for the diaphragm but I don’t do it because most of the time, it’s too uncomfortable. I’ll work with the psoas instead. That affects the diaphragm which in turn improves the breath.

 

If you move up further, working with the arm line can open the chest to create a posture that is more upright instead of more hunched. The arm line and the functional line plays a part in terms of opening up the chest. Both of these lines have functions that are crossed because everything is linked up together.

 

Thomas Myers, the author of ‘Anatomy Trains’ was a student of Ida Rolf. His method comes from Rolfing. He’s also a manual therapist. Rolfing is a form of massage. He uses manual therapy to ease out the tension from the body itself. You can use your own strategy to open up the lines. For me, I use my hands to administer trigger point therapy to open up the body. I also use movement mobilizers, simple techniques like pushing the hips forward and lifting up the hands. The subtle movement of the hips is enough to create the movement that the hips need to open up and free up the tension. I use mobilizer movements a lot instead of stretching and holding a pose for several seconds. I think there’s still value in stretching but I prefer mobilizers because mobilizers work a little bit more in terms of fascia.

 

Fascia is the connective tissue between muscles. It’s the wrapping of muscles rather like wrapping paper around a Christmas present. Towards the end, you have your tendons or your ligaments depending on what’s connected and where it is connected. That is also called the fascia. Fascia contains water and collagen. I use mobilizers as a form of movement to target fascia because fascia works best if your whole movement is rhythmic, in regular timing and is subtle and slow. This will actually help the fascia to release out all the tension within it and just slowly give it more length.

 

There’s research going on that seems to suggest that there are actually more nerve endings in the fascia than in the muscles themselves. I can’t remember the exact figure but it’s something like 30 percent of nerve endings going to the muscles with 70 percent of nerve endings going to the fascia.

 

In traditional anatomy, fascia is almost passive but in Thomas Myers’ analysis, fascia is integral to the way you move because it transfers the energy out of the system. Say that you have tension in one part of the body, the fascia can transmit tension from that part of the body into another part of the body. Previously, very few people mentioned fascia coming into play a part in transfer of energy or stress within the body itself . Fascia plays an important role in the concept of tensegrity. Tensegrity in the body refers to a structure of parts such as bones and tendons that are wrapped up in connective tissue. Structural instability in one part travels through the connective tissue so that the instability is the greatest at the weakest part of the structure. In the body, this is where you might find the pain or discomfort.

 

What’s interesting is that traditional Chinese martial arts does talk about fascia, with the training of the fascia being as important as the training of the muscles. So if you go back to some of the internal arts, they train the fascia as much as the muscles. In that sense, the ‘Anatomy Trains’ system is like a re-invention of an age-old system.

Aileron Wellness is one of the few gyms, if not the only gym in Singapore that deals with ‘Anatomy Trains’ concepts and fascial work. We find that we get results almost instantaneously because we work with fascia and not muscles.

 

Fascia is very interesting. Fascia is not being stretched when it is pulled to it’s extreme. Static stretches aim to stretch to extreme lengths. When you talk about mobilizers and mobilizing while working with fascia, we don’t stretch to extreme lengths. What we want is slow and subtle movement with rhythm and timing that actually helps to work on the fascia, getting all the fluid in to help with the hydration of not only the muscles but the fascia themselves.

 

A lot of tightness occurs because the fascia enveloping the muscle and muscle fibers is stuck together. In my practice I release the tightness by lessening the stickiness between the fascia and muscle and between muscle fibers through manual massage. I use Trigger Point massage on the muscles and Fascial Release on the fascia.

 

If someone comes in feeling tight all over, I evaluate and assess a client’s problem areas through a series of movements and through posture. From there I’ll look at movement again to assess and see where the issue lies using the Anatomy Trains analysis. The Fascial lines will tell me whether the tension is coming from the foot or whether it’s the posture that you’re holding. There are 2 approaches that I take- the bottom-up approach or the top-down approach. Sometimes I use 2 of them together because the human body works in many different ways. You can have a gait issue; you can have a posture issue due to prolonged sitting in front of a computer which gives rise to kyphotic posture. We can use different methods to resolve the issues. If the range of movement is too restricted, I use trigger point to get some of the range first then I use mobilizers to further enhance it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go into fascial release because fascia release is my secret weapon. I’m more a movement guy I try to expose my clients to different kinds of movements such as rolling round, hanging, squatting- Ido Portal stuff.

 

You need to load the human body to see changes. The system will only get stronger after you stress it. That’s how you prevent injuries and get yourself to better posture.

 

In my understanding of Ido Portal work and my own experience; my interviews and education with great teachers like Chuck Wolf and Thomas Myers, it is my opinion that the whole direction of the fitness industry is going towards how the brain and the nervous system works in terms of getting the body to move and how emotion actually affects movement. In my own practice, I get people to move in a way that helps them explore their range, movement that challenges them and makes them think and explore how they move. Sometimes I come up with what I call ‘movement play’ to open up the whole view on fitness and body. The more I work with people’s bodies, the more I have come to appreciate that the body and movement are so intrinsically connected and that free movement is truly the key to fully enjoying life. Thank you.

 

* transcript incorporates answers to questions by the audience

 

REFERENCES

Anatomy Trains http://www.anatomytrains.com/

Ido Portal http://idoportal.com

 

SPEAKER BIOGRAPHY

Chua Shengwei Terence (Fitness Trainer/ Movement Therapist)

Terence is a certified fitness trainer with over 20 professional certifications from various sports institutions. He specialises in injury rehabilitation, play- based and movement-based training.

Terence believes that fun can go along with health and fitness. “Play-out” is what Terence calls his workout as he incorporates a series of games into his training methodology.

Certifications

◦ PTA Global Advanced Trainer

◦ Rehab Masterclass Certified

◦ Rehab Trainer Certified

◦ NASM Certified Personal Trainer

◦ NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist

◦ Twist Conditioning ‘Gold’ Level Coach

◦ Master Trainer Twist Conditioning Program

◦ Master Trainer Trigger Point Performance Ultimate 6

◦ Trigger Point Performance Therapy SMRT

◦ Movement Specialist ( Ido Portal )

◦ Anatomy Trains for Movement Specialist

◦ Anatomy Trains Fascial Fitness

◦ Power Plate Level 1: Health & Fitness

◦ ViPR Certified Instructor

◦ TRX Certified Instructor

◦ NTU Minor in Sports Biomechanics

◦ CPR & AED

Specialisations

◦ Sports & Athletic Performance

◦ Injury Rehabilitation

◦ Functional Training

◦ Play-based and Movement-based Programs

 

Visit Aileron Wellness at http://www.aileron.com.sg/. Like Aileron Welless on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AileronWellness

 

Grace Ng EeWern is a voice teacher based in Singapore. Her interests include Mind-Body connection, integrative teaching strategies for singing and speech and body, health and lifestyle. Visit her website at www.singaporesingingteacher.com