Healthy Bodies Start with Healthy Minds

– The MOVEMENT Movement with Steven Sashen Episode 121 with Dr. Theresa Larson

Dr. Theresa Larson (aka “Dr. T”) has become one of the healthcare and fitness world’s most sought-after experts on movement health. Dr. Larson earned her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of St. Ignatius in San Diego, CA and founded Movement Rx with her husband in 2013 to break free from the limitations that traditional physical therapy puts on practitioners and patients. The result was a company where skilled practitioners can authentically treat patients with the time, care, and movement education they deserve.

Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Dr. Theresa Larson about how having a healthy mind leads to a healthy body.

Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:

– Why you should pay attention to what goes on in your body when you are triggered.

– How people must pay attention to their body and the biofeedback from the ground.

– How finding stillness and quiet in your body is finding your balance.

– How slowing down and being mindful are great first steps for your movement journey.

– Why it’s vital for people to pay attention to their own mind body connection.

Connect with Theresa:

Guest Contact Info
Twitter
@movement_rx

Instagram
@movementrx

Facebook
facebook.com/RxMovementrx

 

 

Links Mentioned:
movement-rx.com/experience

 

Connect with Steven:

Website

Xeroshoes.com

Jointhemovementmovement.com

Twitter
@XeroShoes

Instagram
@xeroshoes

Facebook
facebook.com/xeroshoes

Steven Sashen:

When we think about getting healthy, we think about all the things that we got to do within to our body. But what if that’s not the right place to start? What if you need to start somewhere else? We’re going to find out more about that on today’s episode of The MOVEMENT Movement – the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body. I like to say starting feet first because those things are your foundation, but maybe we’re going to go somewhere else today. On the podcast, if you don’t know, we break down the propaganda, the mythology, sometimes the flat out lies you’ve been told about what it takes to run, walk, play, hike, do yoga, CrossFit, whatever it is you like to do and to do it enjoyably and efficiently and effectively. And did I say enjoyably? Trick question. I know I did. Because look, if you’re not having fun, you’re not going to keep it up so do something different till you are.

 

I am Steven Sashen from xeroshoes.com, your host of the podcast and we call it The MOVEMENT Movement because here with Xero Shoes, we’re creating a movement that involves you. It’s easy, it’s free. I’ll tell you in a second about natural movement, basically letting your body do what it’s made to do without getting in the way because that’s usually better than and all the things that get in the way. The movement part that involves you is really easy. If you want to find previous episodes, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. It’s not a club, it’s not a cult. You don’t need to pay anything. That just means like and share, review, give us a thumbs up, hit the bell on YouTube. You know what to do. If you want to be part of the tribe, please subscribe. So with that said, I think that kind of covers everything, let’s get started. Theresa, tell people who you are and what you do and what God’s name you’re doing here. And welcome.

Theresa Larson:

Well, thank you so much. Well, I’m stoked to be on this and this is just so you guys know there’s a, and ladies, there’s a skeleton in and his name is Dr. Skelly. So he kind of supports me with my efforts of education and whatnot.

Steven Sashen:

Was that his actual name when he had muscles, ligaments and skin or did you…

Theresa Larson:

I named him. I named him. I think it’s a him. He might not actually identify with any gender, but based on his pelvis structure, we believe he’s a he.

Steven Sashen:

You think it’s a him. I have to ask if it’s real bones because my dad was a dentist.

Theresa Larson:

No.

Steven Sashen:

Okay. My dad was a dentist and growing up we had in a box, we had a skull that trust me, I brought to more than my share of what was that called in school? Showing off things.

Theresa Larson:

Oh, show and tell.

Steven Sashen:

So yeah, that was very entertaining.

Theresa Larson:

Well, so Skelly is about 10 years old. I got him in Germany. I got him from a German company, but half of his body is off because he’s so old. So all of his bones are in the corner of my room, just in case I need to demonstrate.

Steven Sashen:

Something like?

Theresa Larson:

Like on the foot, we’re going to start with feet first. So yeah, I just pull up bones. My kids love coming in here and playing around. Anyway, that’s my colleague here. He doesn’t talk much or eat much, thankfully. Just shows me, gives me… He’s a good demo. But I am Theresa Larson. I am excited to be on the show. I’m a former marine officer. I run a company called Movement Rx. So I love the theme of this podcast clearly. I’m a big fan of Xero Shoes too. But yeah, I’ve had a pretty different upbringing and very adventurous upbringing and a very adventurous career that led me to this practice. I’m a physical therapist now, but I don’t do traditional PT at all. So yeah, here I am.

Steven Sashen:

So, I teased it at the beginning of this only moments ago. Do we want to start there or do you want to say a little more about how you got to where you are because yeah, you already hindered things in your history that make people go what?

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. So I always… This is my pickup line and this is great for this podcast. I used to blow things up for a living literally with demolition and now I blow your minds on movement.

 

And meditation. Yeah. So yeah, so I grew up in a family of all men. So my dad was a single father, two brothers. I’m 6’1″. My brothers are 6’8″. I’m the tiny person in my family. And we had some serious games of basketball growing up, like serious games of basketball. So, but we grew up very athletic, very competitive. I ended up getting a college scholarship to a number of universities, but Villanova is where I chose to go to play softball. I was a pitcher. So if you’re familiar with fast pitch softball, tune into ESPN during the spring and you’ll see some legit players play.

 

But yeah, so that was my… I did that in college, did Marine Corps ROTC. So Villanova has a very large naval ROTC program and I was a Marine option and got commissioned as a second lieutenant, became an engineer officer in the Marine Corps, served for four years, deployed to Iraq, deployed domestically as well, doing construction demolition. In Iraq, we did landmine clearing. I was a female insurgent escort so terrace escort because I was one of the most intimidating women on Camp Fallujah. That’s a good, good story there. I actually wrote a book called Warrior that goes into all of that, if you really want to hear about that story. But yeah, that was the first career I had legitimately and it made me grow up very fast. It brought up my strengths and my weaknesses. I mean, that’s what it does. It’s one of the most extreme jobs you can have and I did. I was in combat before women were allowed to be in combat.

 

So as a leader or I would have it no other way. Right? I’m with my Marines, I’m going to do what they do and I’m not going to ask them to do anything I can’t do. So, but I ended up struggling internally actually with an addiction called an eating disorder and no one could see that I had it. Right? You look like you look. There’s no real… People can’t really tell usually and so I struggled with that for a number of years, got out of the Marine Corps and got help with it. But that led me actually, because I was a good softball player in college, I played professional softball in Italy and got to play a picture out there and play for a year and get paid crap and then I got injured playing softball.

Steven Sashen:

Come on, all the pizza you can eat.

Theresa Larson:

All the pizza you can eat, which of course, someone with an eating disorder, that’s not very awesome. Right?

Steven Sashen:

Exactly. Not a great thing.

Theresa Larson:

I was in recovery when I was playing softball too. So there’s a lot there to unpack, which not necessarily the focus of this, but if you did want to read about it, it is in my book. But coming out of playing softball, I needed to do something in medicine. I wanted to help people get better. And my mother struggled with breast cancer. She died when I was very young and it wasn’t medicine I was actually interested in. It was more of the sports performance side, the physical movement because I saw her struggle with physical movement with cancer. And then I had friends in the Marine Corps who got blown up and hurt and didn’t have any information about what was next for them.

 

It was like there’s rehab and then what? Whereas all of us who kind of look normal and maybe move more normal-ish, right, there is a what’s next. So I decided physical therapy would be a great next path for me after playing professional softball and so I went to five years of doing prerequisites and then graduate school. Kind of like essentially feeling like I went backwards. Right? But not going backwards, that’s all a story. But having to go back to a community college to get my prerequisites to get into a doctoral program to do what I’m doing now. And basically the first year of actually being a PTO is like F this, I’m running my own business, and that’s what I did.

Steven Sashen:

I’ve got to ask you a question. Actually, I got two things. One is you’ll get a kick out of this. When I was in my early 20s, I was on an airplane sitting next to a guy, overweight, flannel shirt that was thread bear. He was drunk by the time the plane had taken off. He was about 75 years old. And we were having a conversation and I asked him what he did and he said he was in the demolition biz. And I said is that a good business and he goes well, I got $7 million in the bank and went that’s a good business. I said what kind of stuff do you blow up? He goes oh, well, my first gig, I actually got hired by a friend of mine who was in the business.

 

And then for the first gig that I got, someone called me by accident. And it was the Navy. They had a ship that they had sunk. They’d filled it full of concrete. They wanted to reclaim it, but they wanted to keep the hull intact. So I figured out a way to blow out all the concrete keeping the hull intact and that led to my career. I said so have you been blowing things up in places that we’re not supposed to know you’ve been? He goes all of them.

 

And that’s his career was doing things that we are not supposed to know happened. And I don’t remember how it happened, but he mentioned he’d been married 50 years. And I said what’s the secret to a 50 year marriage and what he said next just got implanted in my rain and I used this in my wedding vows. He said oh, it’s really simple. Find a woman you like, figure out what it takes to make her happy and whatever you can just shut up and do it.

 

So that was part one. So I thought you’d just get a kick out of that. Part two. And you don’t have to go into this if you don’t want to and I’m sure you’ve done it in the book, but you’re the first person I’ve got to ask about this. I was in China in 1989 during the Tiananmen Square Massacre and to make a very long story very short, I got shot at and captured and held a gunpoint for a while. And when they let us go, I was with my best friend at the time, I again, making a very long story short, as we’re riding our bikes down this street that’s littered and broken glass and our tires had been blown out and I got this endorphin wave. I mean, literally it felt like when you’re standing in the water at the beach facing the shore and a wave comes underneath you and then behind you and then overwhelms you. That was literally what felt like in my mind with just this endorphin rush.

 

And my next thought was, if I were in any of the armed services and something like what just happened to me including this endorphin wave happened a couple of times, let alone a couple of times a day, a week, a month, it would be 10 about to impossible to come home because somebody would say my refrigerator’s broken and all I’d be able to think is why do I give a shit? I mean, I literally can’t imagine. And especially with what you’re doing, again, feel free to just go and get it and leave it at that. But if there’s anything that, I mean, I’ve never had been able to talk to anyone about this before.

Theresa Larson:

Well, so you, I mean, hit the nail in the head. It’s very hard for Marine soldiers to come home after being in such severe intense situations. I mean, that’s why the whole transition process and coming off deployment, there needs to be better care. And that’s actually what my work is a part of now, thankfully. But yeah, it is very hard and I’ve had to do a lot of internal work on this of like I come home from deployment or I work with these service members who are dealing with a similar transition that I did. I actually work with the Navy Seal, a retired Navy Seal, right, who’s been through some of the most extreme operations out there to include Operation Red Wing. And you go to Walmart and people just could give shit or seemingly, right? On the outside, just they have no clue as to why they get this freedom, right? To do what they do or run their suck. And I hope I can swear on this and do… Yeah. Okay.

 

So, yeah, but it’s just like there is that initial anger sometimes or frustration of the fact that the rest of the world has no idea. They have no idea what it’s like to be an Afghanistan or see the woman over there, it was such… And oppressed the way they are. Right? When it all happened in Afghanistan, I mean, yes, the soldiers and the Marines that are over there are impacted, but so are the women and children. Their dreams, a lot of them are crushed. And so, but the rest of the world has no idea. People just care about what’s on happening on social media. And it makes me extremely irritable or angry yet that’s where this mindfulness meditation and being able to forgive and understand that no matter who you are out there, whether you’re completely fucking clueless or you really understand, I’m still here to help you with your… I’m still here to create freedom in our country.

 

I would do it over again in a heartbeat and I’ve had to, I’ve set up part of the practice I teach now and what I do is like yeah, it is frustrating and infuriating yet I can’t live like that. No matter what, I’m here for the common good and to create this freedom and stability in our country and help people do what they love to do. And I hope that people can remember though the people that have come before them and who have fought for them to help them do what they do. And if they don’t, they don’t. But I have to just be focused on the good that I can do and what I’ve done. But yeah, there’s… I mean, Sebastian Junger wrote a book on Tribe. It’s a great book.

Steven Sashen:

I was just going to bring it up. Yeah.

Theresa Larson:

So, we actually… I mean, John and I, my business partner talk a lot about that. I had a moment, a total wakeup call in my business, which a colleague I was working with was like you go into business and sometimes you get with the right people, sometimes you don’t. Right? It’s running the business. You’re just going to have all the ups and downs. But there was a moment where, this was years ago, I remember him sitting down and saying you know what? Working with military and veterans isn’t really my thing and I want to be famous. And I remember thinking to myself goodbye.

 

Goodbye. I am still going to be here and support no matter who you are. If you’re someone like that, I’m still going to fight for your freedom and our freedom and not stop what I’m doing. But sadly, I don’t want those people in my life who are clueless. So I can still have compassion, but doesn’t mean I have to be around them.

Steven Sashen:

Well, and for people who don’t know Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe, the point that it makes and it’s so true is, or one of the points, is that we have the luxury here of not having war in our backyard. We don’t have a visceral experience of it in a way that many other people do. And of course, there’s an irony to that as well. I don’t know what your experience was, but when I was in China during this crazy time, there were certain places that were flat out insane and the way we got captured was a whole other story, but there’s also this weird phenomenon where right next door to that is completely normal in some way that is impossible for people to fathom. Just the juxtaposition of life going on in the midst of complete chaos and then the complete chaos, which is literally unimaginable if you haven’t been there.

Theresa Larson:

Yep. Yeah, it is. And that is the reality of war. And that’s something John, my business partner, has helped me understand more and more because he really is the mindfulness meditation coach of the two of us. But there’s a wonderful author, her name is Gayle Tzemach Lemmon. And she’s written a bunch of books on basically the Afghani. She’s written a book, The Daughters of Kobani, which is about ISIS, how this woman, Kurdish militia fought ISIS. And she’s written about a book called Ashley’s War, which was great because it showed America. It was a New York Times best seller. Women were in combat before we were allowed to be in combat and a lot of women were attached to different and special operations teams. And she speaks to that experience of the world doesn’t realize how powerful women are in war, right? How important they are in war. It’s not just oh, she’s my daughter, she’s my wife, I can’t work with her. Women are needed in war.

 

I don’t care how old school you are. If you want to win a war, you need women on your side and you need women working with you because most times, the families are run by of the woman. And in order to make peace in an area, you need to work with the women and children. Right? Because the women are the ones selling their kids to these terrorists or in the cells. And so, yeah, that’s a good eyeopener book for a lot of people. But the fact that there’s all this intensity happening to create this ability for people to walk around and be free and do what they want to do, there’s always going to be a huge disconnect of what it’s like unfortunately and I think that’s the part of, for us as the military, even with our own families, we’ll never understand.

 

My husband was never in the service, but he’s willing to listen and be there for me. However, nobody will really ever understand what it’s like except for us. And that’s the reality so we got to do the work there on no matter who you are out there, no matter what you do, I’m doing this because I’m doing this for the greater good versus I want people to act and understand and respond and people just won’t. Right? So that’s the reality of war. You’re always going to come home and people are going to not know what the fuck to do with you, except hopefully, your caretakers, which is where the military is getting a little bit better on that transition home. But it still could be better.

Steven Sashen:

Always. I mean, and first of all, thank you for sharing that And I don’t want to be glib with and say thank you for your service, which is one of those phrases that I find is such a pat something. And I mean, I’ve talked to a number of people who, when they hear that want to punch people who say it. I know some people who appreciate it and some people-

Theresa Larson:

Yeah, thank you.

Steven Sashen:

It’s a little glib because people don’t really get… I mean, it’s an easy way for the person saying it to, and I’m not saying this true for everyone obviously, but it’s an easy way for the person saying it to acknowledge something, but not really get in there in a way that would impact them.

Theresa Larson:

Totally.

Steven Sashen:

That’s a whole other conversation it would take to do that, which people often don’t want to get into.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. Well, don’t worry. I’m ready to get into anything.

Steven Sashen:

Well, thank you.

Theresa Larson:

Of course.

Steven Sashen:

And you hinted at it, I mean, to make… Let’s talk about awkward transitions.

Theresa Larson:

I’m awkward. I’m the queen of awkward.

Steven Sashen:

Perfect. So, but you hinted at it that part of what was happening for you both with the thing of getting back into PT school and suddenly being with a bunch of naive kids, I imagine, must have been challenging for all the reasons we just described, but then also doing the practices that allowed you to address what had was going on, which led you to where you are now, which is what we hinted out at the very top of the episode, which is maybe health isn’t all about your body. You’re starting with your body. And you’ve mentioned that a couple of times and that that’s a huge part of what you’re doing. So shall we dive into that?

Theresa Larson:

Let’s do it. I love it.

Steven Sashen:

All right. So onto you, I’ll just let you take it.

Theresa Larson:

Okay. Yeah. So I mean, I’ve learned over the years. So when I first started my career, obviously I said piece out to traditional PT and I actually was a coach. I taught the movement of mobility course for CrossFit for three years while I ran my own practice in San Diego. And I got really busy in my practice, but I still found traveling and teaching CrossFit tactics and stuff. I mean, I’m a big fan of the communities, but there was something missing, right? There was this element of like okay, we all want to move harder, smash this, smash that, to lift heavy or go faster, be stronger, but there still is this element of something missing. And all the while, I was dealing with my own mental health struggles. I didn’t have my eating disorder anymore. I mean, I’m always in recovery, but I did struggle with some depression and anxiety even running my own business. And so I ended up, one of my sister Marines introduced me to a biofeedback mindfulness meditation coach, who I started to work with. He’s like a fucking Abraham Lincoln.

Steven Sashen:

Well, so pause right there for a couple reasons. One, I’ll give you the personal one, but one I want you to unpack that a little bit and it doesn’t sound like there is a lot to unpack but there is. So FYI, so I am way older than you. So I started meditating when I was, let’s see, I’ll do it by a year because it’s more fun that way. Let’s say 1974 and by 1976 or so, I was one of the first biofeedback pioneers. So I was getting-

 

I was getting complex migraines and the medication stopped working and my neurologist said there’s this new thing they’re doing called biofeedback. I don’t know if it works or anything, but give it a whirl. And that was the end of my migraines and I was doing all this crazy shit.

 

So, in fact, the simple, crazy story, one of the things that I learned to do was change the temperature of my hands because, to make a long story short.

 

They found that for migraines, people who were getting migraines, their hands were getting cold and they didn’t experiment with a woman in the early biofeedback days where she started to get a migraine, they said see what happens if you try to warm up your hands, she didn’t get a headache. And basically the idea is that sort of shunning the blood from your head. But more importantly, the fun story was I had to get some minor surgery on my eye and the doctor said, well, if I give you an anesthetic, it’s going to puff things up and I’m going to have to make a bigger incision, you’ll get about four stitches. If you can just grin and bear it, then you won’t get any stitches.

 

And I thought, I said give me 10 minutes. This is what I said. Just give me 10 minutes, come back in 10 minutes. So I thought if I can change the temperature in my hands and make them warmer, I wonder what I can do to my face. So he comes back 10 minutes later, does the surgery and says to me what did you do? I said why do you ask? He goes you didn’t bleed. It’s like huh, cool.

Theresa Larson:

So awesome.

Steven Sashen:

So, biofeedback mindfulness, but if you can, I want you to unpack each of those, let alone how those got put together for you because that’s a phrase that I hadn’t heard someone use before.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. Well, so that’s so awesome. The temperature change that… I mean that’s the bio part of the biofeedback is that temperature change in your body. You can increase it and especially in the extremities by doing it. So either way, I thought okay, meditation’s like woowoo. You can’t get me to slow my mind down, just the whole, that whole thing. And yeah, I was wrong, of course. It wasn’t woowoo. And what I loved about this guy was he’s a brain researcher too. He worked at UCSD. I mean, he’s traveled to Tibet and done all the different studies and just a wonderful man. And I sat and I was like his student. I was like yeah, initially this was needed for my own health, but then I just would go and take notes and learn from him.

 

But he had me meditating and attached to electrodes and he would help me understand the breath, my breath pace with and where my mind was going with the breath pacing and stuff like that. And then he had me doing progressive muscle relaxation and different things and taught me about how the mind is impacted, how the mind impacts the body. So when you have a trigger, for example, pay attention to what is going on in the body too. That’s the biofeedback. How is the temperature in your hands? Is your heart increasing? Your heart rate increasing. How’s your respiratory rate? And you’ll find that when you do have a mental trigger or I mean, a trigger in the mind, right, it’s also in the body.

 

And so, biofeedback, this work through meditation, he did the biofeedback through meditation really because I had done that on my own at home was when you have this trigger up here, tap into that tactile sensation of the body to create calm up here. Right? So it’s like well, you have something going on up here, it’s going to manifest in the body because the body keeps the score. But then work on calming and creating this grounding sensation in the body by alleviating all the other sensations with the tactile that helps create a less of a stress response in the mind. It doesn’t mean it solves a problem, but you grip less essentially. You’re grasping less. And maybe a good phrase is you hold lighter to life. You learn how to hold lighter to the problem or the situation at hand.

 

So, it was cool to learn this because being alone with my mind was scary, but there’s all these things that my mind would say, I didn’t know how to control it, it’s like a monkey mind and that was the worst thing for me is being alone with my mind. And so he taught me skills to ground myself in these triggering moments or moments I was alone and practicing over time paid huge dividends. So now, I love to be alone because even if I have a bad day or a bad moment or something happens because we all have them I know what to do. I know how to create some space and calm in my body so I can better respond to the situation versus react. And so I actually just spoke to my biofeedback therapist the other day and I’m having a session with him tomorrow again, I constantly am, each month working with him because I want to continue to learn and grow and that…

 

So that was happening when my business, I was growing my business and I was like what is this missing component to what I’m teaching? It’s not just about smashing and stretching and lifting more. People are unaware of how they’re moving. How do we bring this level of awareness to the fact that their feet aren’t walking straight, right? Or the fact that they can’t feel the ground because they’re wearing such cushy shoes, those foot prisons. Right? And or the fact that going to other level of you think you’re focused at home at the dinner table, but your phone is always there and you’re always attending to your phone, right? Yeah, you’re actually not. People’s perceptions of what they’re doing and how they’re being in the world, it does not match their reality.

 

So yeah, I can’t teach you, smashing isn’t going to help it. You’re stretching isn’t going to help it. Let’s to actually build. And so I was like okay, well, I work with this biofeedback therapist but I’m not one so then as life happens, I met a retired Navy Seal and he became a good friend of mine and he happened to be a mindfulness meditation coach, John. And we teamed up right away. And it was like he is a brother from another mother and he teaches that side of things and I teach the movement and they go together, right? He teaches how to bring this level of awareness in the body by being still and quiet. He even teaches our members from the day one this walking meditation where you’re walking 10 feet over the course of 10 minutes and being aware of your foot and what’s happening in your knee and then your hip.

 

But imagine just if you people did that and if they paid attention to what was happening in their body and the biofeedback they get from the ground, the sensation from the ground, very minimal shoes. Right? Or if they wore bare feet or if they’re sitting in stillness, how’s their posture? Where’s their neck position.

Steven Sashen:

I’m going to put you on the spot a little bit and rather than sort of we’re talking about it a bit, not quite hypothetically, but a bit, what’s the word I’m looking for? I can’t find it. Anyway, here’s the putting that spot part. Can you think of a simple exercise that we could offer to people now rather than sort of talking about it in the upset. Let’s give them something to experience.

Theresa Larson:

What I want everyone to do actually let’s do the stillness and quiet. When your body can find stillness and quiet, your body and my can find balance. Yes, there is such a thing as balance. Balance doesn’t mean just steady, there’s a yin and yang to it. So what I want everyone to do, okay, is put your phones away, right? Just if you’re listening to this, great. You’re watching it, but put your phone away.

Steven Sashen:

I was going to say if you’re listening or watching on a phone, ignore that.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. Just put the phone down, face down maybe.

Steven Sashen:

There you go.

Theresa Larson:

Put your feet flat on the ground. Okay? Go ahead and sit nice and straight with your legs spread a little bit so your pelvis is kind of in this more neutral position, we call it. Roll your shoulder blades back, tuck your chin. Okay? Now go and close your eyes to take away so that when you close your eyes, that takes away about 60% of the sensation, the senses. So like your vision, use your vision a lot and you pay attention. There’s a lot to pay attention to. So when you shut that down, there’s more of a sense of peace you’re going to have. If you can wear your earphones so you can focus on my voice, great. Don’t be eating anything right now. Gently close your mouth. All right? And just start to pay attention to where your body is in space. How is your posture? Right? How heavy do you feel on your seat? What does your feet feel like?

 

So now what I want you to do, we’ll do this for a couple minutes. Just we call it a grounding practice. Okay? So keep your eyes closed, gently closed and go ahead and start to breathe in through your nose if you’re not congested and fill up your belly like a balloon. Belly, and even your low back. Think of your whole lower area like a balloon, right? We want to breathe 360 degrees into that area versus just into upper chest. So breathe in nice and deep and then when you breathe out, don’t worry about the exhale or anything, just breathe out and let yourself sink deeper into your seat and just feel focus on that. The physical sensation of breathing in. And then when you breathe out, the physical sensation of sinking into your seat.

 

And let’s just do four slow breaths that way. Okay? And I’m going to just talk you through it. So breathe in, focus on the rise of that, the opening of the belly and the low back, the fall of the diaphragm actually, falls down a little bit when you descend, when you breathe in and then breathe out and then let yourself sink deeper into your seat. If you have tight muscles in your pelvic floor, your butt, relax those. Let’s do it again three more time times. Breathe in, fill the rise of the belly, the back, the influx of air. Breathe out. Sink a little bit deeper, get a little bit heavier. Let’s do it a couple more times. Breathe in, fill up the belly and the low back, breathe out. Sink a little bit deeper. And one more time. Breathe in and then let it all go. And then open your eyes.

 

So that in a nutshell is just a simple grounding practice of bringing all your attention to this physical sensation. Right? The physical sensation of filling up the belly, the physical sensation of drowning in your seat. And now what is important about that? It’s not woowoo. It’s physically taking away all of the other sensations ideally, right? You might hear stuff and there’s ambient noise, of course, but ultimately it’s giving your brain a vacation from the monkey mind and training it to be present to just the tactile sensation, which can help stop the unraveling that the mind where the mind can go when it feels out of control. Just doing that breath even in between sets of a workout, right, can help you tap into a more parasympathetic nervous system. The rest digest versus always being sympathetic driven. Right?

 

This little grounding practice is a great way to start your day before you jump into work or before you go home. Right? I transition from my bedroom to the kitchen. That’s my commute. So yes, I’m doing a grounding practice before I go there to prepare my mind for what’s next. Right? So just think where can you fit this little two minute increments or four breaths into the transitions in your day? When you wake up, before work, after work, before bed kinds of things.

Steven Sashen:

I want to highlight that one of the things it’s interesting about what we just did is just that focus on the sensations or a different way of paying attention to the breath where a lot of people think oh, it’s all about just watching my breath in some way, which really does not help because it’s a little too vague, it’s a little too ephemeral. And so it allows your mind to keep doing much more versus the instruction that we were just playing with of feeling that sinking sensation, paying attention to the way that you’re sitting, paying attention to the sensation to your feet on the ground and I’ll report one of my experiences which was fun was the more I paid attention to that feeling of sinking and paying attention to my sit bones basically, the more I felt my neck and shoulders chill, which was a very entertaining thing to watch how that connection is.

 

I’m paying attention to one part, but the effect is happening on a different part, let alone that it’s giving your mind something tangible to work with. You just gave me a funny flashback. Tibetan monk friend of mine did this , we are at a place together and he gave people instruction on this one particular Tibetan practice. And it was all about visualizing things. Imagining light, the following color or doing the following things, et cetera. And it was kind of a joke because at the end, all these people were talking about how it changed their life in that 10 seconds.

 

And one woman finally said it doesn’t work for me. I can’t keep my mind focused on that and just doesn’t work. And my friend Tashi, he says, well, the monk, if he come down from the monastery from a cave and go to a shopping mall, he can’t do it either. I said oh, so I just told her that the pros can’t do it any better than she could so she’s off the hook, but this paying attention to something so potently visceral literally is a way of approaching the mind that most people are not aware of. So thank you yet again.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. That was a very powerful distinction for me because all of a sudden I gained this huge, this amazing tool to help me when my mind was going maybe out of control or wanting to cope in not helpful ways, not healthy ways. And I literally what we call it is anchoring down. You could even call it anchoring down like I have an anchoring down time each day or I ground myself in that tactile sensation. And what it did over time, it’s like you just you can’t expect to go to the gym and get amazing biceps after one week. Right? And people have to remember that or whatever you want to get. Right?

Steven Sashen:

You can’t expect that. It just won’t happen.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. It’s not going to happen. Right?

Steven Sashen:

Yeah.

Theresa Larson:

And so, you can’t expect to go to the gym for one week after new year’s and be the super fit person that you think you want to be. Right? It takes time and it takes commitment and consistency and we call it the compound interest. It’ll play huge dividends over time. And it did. I’ve been doing this for six years now and now it’s part of my life. For the first four years, it was like push and pull, push and pull. Only when I was needing the medicine, if you will, the meditation, would I do it. And that’s a lot of people. That’s actually behavior a lot of people have is only when I need the meditation will I do it and once I feel better, I won’t versus consistently doing it.

 

If you want to be proactive about your longevity, then you got to start matching those behaviors with the intention and doing it consistently. What is going to make it consistent and you hit on something really important for behavior change. That’s why slowing down and being mindful is a huge first step is like the one little four minutes of meditation or two minutes of grounding will help you respond better to your kids. The spiral, the domino effect of the responses you’ll have with people in your life. Even on this podcast, I’m more focused and present because of that. And when I work with my kids who are in different ages, four and 18 months and they’re bickering, I’ll respond versus react, right? Or whatever else is going on in life. When I train, I’ll be more responsive versus reactive. Actually react to train is good, but still I will be more likely to go and train versus give myself an excuse of I don’t really feel like it.

 

Well, I already started the domino off. That’s another thing that I know will help me feel better and improve my mood because I want to match my behavior with my intentions. So again, we call it the domino theory. You do one thing and it should be and the most powerful way to start that domino is with a grounding practice, whether you just are still and you pray. If you like to pray, great. If you just want to breathe, but focus again on that tactile sensation of the prayer and the breath or the meditation.

Steven Sashen:

So, there’s two things that I want to talk about, so I got to have to make a note about one because otherwise I’ll forget. So there’s the note. So can you say a little bit more understand about how in the practice the two of you have, you are putting these two things together. So patient comes to see you. They have no idea about this whole notion of biofeedback based mindfulness or body based mindfulness. How do you put these together for someone? What happens when you do that? What happens for them when you do that?

Theresa Larson:

So, for me, just full disclosure, I don’t treat patients anymore. I did, but when we… We have a clinic in San Diego. The way my PTs and I have practiced is when they come in, we first focus on evaluating their breath, their sleep, their movement patterns. Right? We just look at, okay, show me how squat, show me your breath, show me a good deep breath or whatever is their goal. Right? That’s what we get in their subjective. We kind of do a movement analysis based on that, but it always starts with the breath. And so from there, even though they’re coming to see us for physical therapy, what we’re doing is we’re filming them and looking at that you and then showing what optimal looks like and helping them see okay, this is where you are and this is where we want you to be. And so this is what we’re going to work on. And we’re maybe going to do some mobility techniques, maybe we’ll just do some neural education, but it always slows smooth, smooth as fast.

 

So always slow them down. Show me what’s your goal. Let’s see how your breath is. Typically people breathe very vertically, right? Versus more horizontally like I just taught you, was teaching you breathing in 360. So that’s the first thing. Now the part where we can really tap into more of the mindfulness and meditation piece so there is… Mindfulness means basically awareness. So mindfulness and meditation are actually separate. You can practice mindfulness, improve your mindfulness awareness with meditation, but that’s not the only way. Right? So movement in our physical therapy practice is where we practice mindfulness by slowing people down.

 

And sometimes we do prescribe meditation. We’ll have them go on inside timer or we now have meditations on our platform. But now working with John, so I run a whole digital side of our business. So we have digital health programs and we have this program called mindfulness and meditation or sorry, movement and mindfulness experience. It’s a 21-day experience where every day someone gets a meditation by the Navy Seal, right? It’s five or 10 minutes long. And then every day they get a three minute movement from me. So every day, they’ve got 15 minutes of a meditation and then a movement to do. And the movement is focused not on kicking your ass, do like 50 jump squats in a minute, but it’s hey, let’s learn how to access our glutes and our hamstrings with some diaphragmatic breathing.

 

Let’s learn how to do a single leg glute bridge, but one every 20 seconds. Or let’s work on mobilizing the glute and then practicing, improving the squat depth. Right? So we’re bringing this level of awareness to the body and all of the techniques can be useful for a morning routine, an evening routine, like a warm up, a cool down. Like I could really give a shit about the workout you do. I mean, I guess I care about how you move. I care about what you do in those off times. Like when you wake up, our body is meant to move, right? We’re born to move. And so you got to get your body moving right away. And so that’s like each day we help get their mind right, which John teaches you how to get into the body when you meditate.

 

And then we do a down regulation technique with movement like mobilizing the glute, or again, learning how to breathe while you’re accessing your hamstrings and glutes. It’s kind of abstract, I’m sure. It sounds very abstract, but there’s certain techniques to slow your body down, right, and teach you how to access those gluts so when you do squat and hinge, you actually feel those areas versus just your quads or your low back. Right? A lot of times when people bend over, they feel their low back. So we’re taking all the common impairments the people have when they move and adding them into a daily practice. And just saying work on this a little bit every day and it’ll increase your awareness. So when you do go and freaking get after it on Peloton or CrossFit, you’re a little more aware.

Steven Sashen:

Well, what you’ve done that I really appreciate is you have broken down and turned into a practice and demystified what a lot of people refer to as the mind muscle connection. Which is a meaningless phrase. And it’s meaningless in that most people, the closest they get to understanding what you were just talking about is the notion of paying attention to the muscle that’s moving, whatever you’re doing. If you’re doing a bicep curl, you’re paying attention to the bicep rather than just trying to crank out reps. But what you’re describing is much more elegant than that because it’s much more refined than that and much more about the awareness part than the muscle part. And that’s where it really begins anyway, because you can’t pay attention to this, the bicep part, if the mind is not able to have an anchor to latch onto, have something to pay attention to, more specific than pay attention to your bicep moving your forearm that moves the weight which is it’s just a little too obtuse, a little too abstract.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. We try to keep it real simple for people. You always have a… There’s a mind body connection, right? I know. I mean, maybe that was foreign to me before PT school, but like oh, the mind and body are connected? Yeah. Through your spinal cord. In the brain. And you’ve got this amazing central nervous system and peripheral nervous system and the vagus nerve, right? And the frantic nerve that regulate your respiratory rate and heart rate and heart rate variability. There is already a mind body connection. It’s just now what we’re trying to do is kind of slap you in the face gently and saying wake up. Instead of focusing on your Instagram account or whatever it is where your mind is going, maybe it’s the dinner you have to make or all the emails you have to make, whatever it is, right, we all have stuff is be present to the fact that how you hold your body during the day, how you breathe, how you are in the world, you can change all that and you can shift it to be healthier, but you also got to slow down.

 

And, by slowing down and being aware of how you’re holding your head and space and how you are moving that shoulder joint, the more present you are in that movement, the happier you’re going to be. Like you said at the very beginning, move, find something that makes you happy and keep doing it. Exactly. The more present you are whether you’re cleaning toilets or shoveling shit or you’re actually lifting a barbell or lifting your kid, the more present you are, the happier you’re going to be. And unfortunately these things are always trying to distract you. They’re meant to be distracting.

 

Some of us work from our phones, but just have boundaries with them. And the more you can practice this, moving a little slower, being more thoughtful about where your mind is in a present moment. Like right now I’m aware of how my feet are, how my pelvis is because I’m actually sitting. Normally I’m in a stretch position when I am working, but I’d be moving out of time and you’d be like kind of, I don’t know how that would go on in podcast. So things should be fine on this one. But I’m aware of how I am sitting to talk to you. My head is in alignment with my computer so I’m not this, right? So then at the end of this, my upper back is starting to hurt.

 

So, I know, I’m very aware that how I am right now and how I am talking to you, how present I am with you. And that’s the way I want to be in life. So I would ask all your listeners and this is something I had to ask myself, how do you want to be in the world? Do you want to be healthier? Do you want to be more present with your loved ones? Or do you want to just keep doing what you’re doing? Right? And you can answer that on your own, but the ways that are going to add life to your years and years to your life, the practice is being more aware, slowing down and present with whatever you’re doing at any given time and the way to practice that is mindfulness and meditation.

 

And so that’ll help your movement, that’ll help the way you eat. That’s helped me recover from my eating disorder. Right? I didn’t even know I was doing mindfulness when I always had bulimia. Okay? So I had to be present with my food. When I eat food, I sit down and I eat it and I eat it with my kids without having the TV on. We don’t even have a TV. Right? And I don’t even have my phone near me and I’m present with the food that’s nourishing me. And actually that helps you digest it. When I’m on my phone, I’m on my phone. If I’m with my kids, I say give me five minutes. Yeah. Even with the 19 month old, I’m like dude, just give me five and I’ll do my phone then I’ll put it away and then I’ll be with them versus try to do at the same time. Right?

 

When you start to build this awareness, it may seem like a lot throwing at you all, but when you start to build this one awareness, this awareness of grounding yourself every day, you start to be more present in those moments and you push away the things that maybe are starting to distract you like the phone or the TV or the loud music or even the friends. Right? Sometimes it’s even helped me kind of let go of some people that just I don’t need the noise. Right? So there’s lots of things that… This practice impacts all areas of your life, but you can’t just go straight to like oh, I’m going to meditate an hour a day, I’m going to train one hour a day because such and such on Facebook is doing that. Right? Slow down first, find out what makes you happy. How are you going to build that awareness into your life? What’s that practice going to look like? Is it prayer? Is it stillness? Is it meditation? What is it? And then start to add the layers of other things.

Steven Sashen:

Well, and I love that your sort of intro to the practice is four breaths. Everyone’s got time for that.

 

And I mean, we just wrap this up, but I have got to give you one of my favorite meditation stories about everything we just said that it adds a little layer of paradox to it. So the first long meditation course I did where we were sitting on our butt doing various things, not on like this for 16 hours a day. The teacher was a woman named… I could do that in English, a woman named Ruth Dennison and over breakfast one morning, one of the people in the course comes up to Ruth very upset and says you’ve been telling us this whole time we should just be doing this one thing at a time. When we’re walking, just walk. When we’re sitting, just sit. One thing at a time. But here we are, I’m looking at you eating your breakfast while you’re reading the newspaper. And Ruth just looks at her and says but I’m only doing one thing. I’m eating my breakfast while I read the newspaper.

 

Which I just I loved the… She just didn’t want to give anyone somewhere to land anywhere. Anyone somewhere to land. It was just here’s the paradox of it. It’s a very simple thing and it doesn’t mean you’re moving in super slow motion all the time. But like you said, giving yourself this permission to reconnect with the sensations as we’re doing whatever we’re doing, especially when there’s something in our minds going on. And it’s a push and pull, it goes in both directions, that relationship.

 

Cultivating that in these little ways and what you’re doing these little bite size daily bits just is just delightful.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. You’ll find more success that way and you’ll feel better that way. I mean, when I eat my breakfast, I’m with my kids so I’m either yelling demands or just dealing with the food flying in my face or whatever. So there is no such thing as multitasking, right? You’re always switching, but I’d rather just do the switching when I’m eating my breakfast with them versus having the TV on responding to my phone. So it’s eliminating, just making it super simple and you’ll find you’re actually more productive that way too. And then you’re happier at the end of the day. I am way less amped up at the end of the day when I just, again, like I have this amazing podcast right now and there’s other things I’ve got to do, but I’m just present right now with it versus thinking of all the other things. I got a chance to do my grounding practice before this. Some of you might not have had that chance, but now you do maybe your lunch break or in the bathroom. Hey, the bathroom is a great, quiet place to do what you got to do.

Steven Sashen:

I found when I lived in New York subways were a great place for this because for me, the noise of the subway was just a little louder than the noise in my thinking. So it was a really fine place to do any of this.

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. It’s great ambient noise too. I mean, eventually you can learn to do it anywhere. I go out on hikes and I’ll sit by myself under a tree. Really, I could do it in the car. That’s a big one. If people do commute in the car, before you go from work to home, sit in your car for a moment and do the four breaths. And again, it just helps create calm in the body and the minds. When you go into the home, you respond versus react.

 

And that is a huge thing. And then even if you go into a gym, right, you’re more likely to pay attention to your movement patterns. Oh, you know what? Like my hip to doesn’t feel so good on the left today. I didn’t even notice that. Maybe I should start working on that. Right? Pain and dysfunction doesn’t have to be oh my God, my life is over and I can’t do active things anymore. It’s actually like a wake up. Use these times as a wake up for you like oh, the lip tip feels kind of funny. I need to start working on that. Or you know what? Why does my mind always go to this or that? When that happens, use that as a sign to say I’m just going to ground myself real quick and that thing, that thought comes up and that’s when you start to repattern and create that neuroplastic response in the body and mind. So that’s where change happens.

Steven Sashen:

I do want to give people sort of permission if you will, or perhaps it’s a warning. There are a lot of people that I know who come to the idea that if you do any of these practices long enough, you were talking about sort of responding versus reacting that the reactive thing just doesn’t happen any longer. And what I can promise people is that that’s not the case.

 

And the permission is to drop the idea that there is that perfected state where you go through all day every day, totally just responding clearly without doing anything stupid.

 

My line is unfortunately we can’t be smart when we’re stupid. When for whatever reason our brain shifts into that mode, that’s the way it is until it’s not. Sometimes it seems like we can short circuit that, but more often not. It’s just time until everything calm down. And then you can do something. But just to again, give people permission, which is a horrible way of saying it. Just having people recognize that there’s not some ideal state that you will get to. It’s a wonderful bit of mythology that has evolved in the meditative world that sadly has made more problems for people than created solutions.

Theresa Larson:

There is no arrival. And that is an important distinction. Yeah. And I felt like actually, when I was… So I wrote my book a while ago. Right? And this is it, but that was really important for me when I shared my story was I haven’t arrived. It’s a daily process for me and I’m constantly get getting better each day. I’m choosing to get better. And some days, I don’t.

 

Right? I’ve had major… Two days ago, I blew up at my children. 18 month and four years old. But with the work I knew I did, I had to take a moment to myself because I did react. And then I just why didn’t I talk about it with them? Like this is why mommy is frustrated. And so, yeah, there’s no such thing as perfection. You’re a human being. And the key is I love Pema Chödrön, an author I love to read about. I’m sure you may have heard of her. She’s a wonderful author. She’s written a book called The Places That Scare You and The Gift of Uncertainty and all that stuff, but imagine these things that come up in your life because you’re always going to have something come up. They’re like waves, right?

 

You could either sit there and drown or you just keep getting back up and working through it. The way through trauma is trauma. You work through it, you lean into it, you work through it, you face it and you surround yourself with those good people and those practices that you can do right here and now. And that’s why the beauty of mindfulness and meditation looks different for everyone. But it’s what you can do right now and it’s almost like a nice, a warm blanket or hug. I envision it like that because not to make this sad, but having lost both parents, I envision them giving me a big hug when I do this work. It’s like my time with them, paying attention to them and their souls around me. So whatever it is for you, there’s no such thing as perfection, but you will find that you are able to respond better in a lot more situations than you were before.

Steven Sashen:

Perfect. Sadly, and we could keep doing this for many anymore hours, but I don’t know about you, but I got somewhere I have to go.

 

I must put my attention in that next thing. So first of all, thank you. Secondly, if people want to find out more about what you’ve been doing and how they can experience this more, can you please tell them how they can do that?

Theresa Larson:

Yeah. So I would love to hear from all of you, if you want, but my company is Movement Rx. You can find us movement-rx.com/experience is where you can learn about the mindfulness of movement experience. That kind of goes in line with what we talked about today. So it’s just movement-rx.com/experience. Yeah. And feel email me [email protected] too. I mean, I’m on LinkedIn mostly. We have our companies on Instagram and Facebook, but if you want to get a hold of me and really connect with some of my work, LinkedIn is probably the best place.

Steven Sashen:

And we’ll have the links for all of that in the show notes and on our website and everywhere else we can put it. So once again, Theresa, it’s been a total pleasure. For everybody else, thank you. As a reminder, go to www.jointhemovementmovement.com. You’ll find previous episodes, all the ways you can engage with us. Like and share and do all that stuff you know how to do. If you have any questions, any recommendations, people who should be on the show, if you want to tell me I have my head firmly at my butt, whatever it is, I’m open for it. Drop me an email [email protected] But most importantly, go out, have fun and live life-

 

 

 

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