Aging – How You Move Matters!


“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns. I love that line. I often hear my massage clients say that their pain is a result of old age. This amuses me, as often enough, I am the same age or older than they are. They will ask me after giving a 90-minute massage, “Aren’t you exhausted?” I say, “Not at all, if anything, I feel invigorated.” It is all in the way I move when massaging someone. I use the larger muscles in my body to move around the table and put myself in a position of mechanical advantage to reach the area I wish to work on. I apply pressure where needed by using my body weight to get into those niggly bits. I bend without rounding my back to keep my own back healthy. I don’t buy into the idea that we have to become stiff and live in pain as we age. That is why I also teach people how changing their posture, can change their lives. By teaching people how to lengthen, strengthen and reshape their bodies, they can start moving and enjoying their lives again. The bottom line is “How you move matters.”

It breaks my heart to hear people having to give up the things that they love because they just can’t move the way they used to. I am not only referring to sports but things like gardening, dancing or even walking in nature. Learning how to align the body to work the way it is designed, gives you more freedom to move with less pain. People don’t get too old to move, they stop moving and then blame their lack of ability to do things on age.

“My creaky aging joints are unavoidable.” Actually, not exercising is what makes achy joints inevitable. When Australian researchers at the Monash University Medical School looked at women ages 40 to 67, they found that those who exercised had more cartilage in their knees. It suggests that being physically active made them less likely to develop arthritis. Even if you’re born with the healthiest set of genes, how you live your life determines how they behave over your lifespan. One way your genes can be changed is by how much physical activity you get. If you aren’t moving as much as you would like due to painful joints and muscle aches, I would suggest you look at why? Most of the pain we experience today is a result of imbalances and misalignment of the body due to poor posture. Correcting it becomes a very important first step in getting active again. Recent studies have proven that 90% of low back pain is the result of poor posture.
You don’t have to conform to the belief that as you age, your bones become fragile and your posture becomes bent. Remember, only death is certain when it comes to aging. Osteoporosis is definitely more common in older people, but it’s also very preventable. A study of females over 100 years of age found that only 56 percent had osteoporosis, and their average age at diagnosis was 87. Not bad, given these women grew up before the benefits of diet and exercise on bone were understood. Thankfully, you know better. Exercise should be part of the optimal management of every patient with osteoporosis. However, this is not usually the case as most physicians don’t know how to direct people when it comes to physical exercise in these cases nor do they have the time to follow up and track the results. Weight-bearing exercise, which works against gravity and stimulates bone formation, is more effective in preventing osteoporosis than non-weight bearing. Bones respond better to particular types of exercise, including: 1.) Weight-bearing exercises like brisk walking, hiking, stair climbing, tennis, netball, jogging and aerobic dance. 2.) Resistance training, doing planks or machine-based exercises like leg presses and seated rowing or using free weights i.e. dumbbells or ankle weights. 3.) Yoga won’t bulk you up but it will improve flexibility, balance, bone density, endurance, muscle mass, agility and energy level.images
If I haven’t inspired you to start moving more at this point, perhaps you can look at how movement affects your sex life. Impotence and reduced libido are related to normally preventable medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. The solution is keeping yourself in shape. Something as simple as lifting weights a couple times a week can improve your sex life. And yes, sexual desire might decline a bit as you age, but that doesn’t typically occur until age 75.

The bottom line is, there is no universal definition of aging. How you’ll age is entirely up to you and the time to begin writing that definition is today. If you are looking to regain healthy movement in your life, see how changing your daily habits can change your life. Go to my teacher’s page for updates on Free workshops and courses in Australia

Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher and Posture Coach. PH: 0428 223 271 Email:


What is Limiting Your Happiness?

happinessWhen John Lennon was a young boy, his teacher asked the class to write down what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some kids said they wanted to be doctors, actors, nurses and teachers. John Lennon wrote, he wanted to be happy. When the teacher came across his answer, she said, John, “I think you misunderstood the assignment.” John responded, “I think you misunderstand life.”

Today we have more of everything than we have ever had before: more, choices; freedom; opportunities; education; more spending power; more TV’ channels; more ways of drinking a cup of coffee. The interesting thing is, that our happiness levels have not increased as a result of having more. In our striving and struggle to acquire more things, many of us have lost our true selves. So what are some things that might be blocking our happiness in our busy lives?

Here are some blocks to happiness, based on the teachings of Robert Holden, PhD. “The Happiness Project”

#1 The Pursuit of Happiness – When you are chasing happiness it becomes something outside of you like a needle in a haystack. You become so wrapped up in chasing happiness that you never really grasp it. We are living quicker than we have ever lived before. We tell ourselves we will be happy when… The longer we pursue happiness the longer the pursuit takes. In doing so, we forget how to enjoy our lives in the present moment. Children, no matter what they are going through, will choose happiness all the time. They focus on the now and not yesterday or tomorrow, and kids will find pleasure in the most mundane things. Perhaps we need to remember how this felt and choose to be happy now.

#2 Mind-Wandering. We will be happy once we find our purpose in life. Instead of living our purpose now, we’re off chasing the pot of gold and not seeing the rainbow right in front of us. When we are chasing purpose it evades us. Looking for happiness instead of living our joy. Looking for love instead of being a loving person. We put our lives on hold because we’re trying to find our happiness and purpose somewhere in the future. We’re not really living our life, we’re somewhere else. We understand that we should be living our life in the now. It’s just not the “now” now that we want. Our now is somewhere down the road. All of this adds up to something missing in our life. What is missing is YOU. You will never be happy until you stop the pursuit and get into your life.

#3 Positive thinking can mask our feelings of unhappiness. It can be your greatest strength. But, because you’re so positive, you are probably the last person to know you’re unhappy. Getting honest with your unhappiness is one of your greatest learning experiences. Meeting your sadness can help you make positive changes that need to happen. It can be a gift, even if it seems unpleasant at the time. “Happiness is the capacity to meet your sadness and handle it in a positive way.”

One of the greatest ways to find happiness is knowing what causes us to be unhappy.  At first glance most of the causes of unhappiness are outside of us. They are in the circumstances, the events or our relationships. On closer inspection we find that we are playing a part in these situations. That is what we are going to look at now. How are we limiting our own happiness? Examples: (chronic busyness, focusing on what I could have done, playing the martyr, self-neglect, holding grudges)

Fill in the Blank Exercise: Do this NOW! Get a pen and paper and complete the following sentence 5 times. “One way I’m limiting my happiness is___________.”

You now have a list, a personal inventory of how you see yourself limiting your happiness. Take that list and see what’s not working for you. Then take an action to change something. You can do this with a friend or family member. Sharing your list actually helps you release things on it more readily. Knowing what doesn’t make you happy enables you to see more clearly what does make you happy. That is a good place to start.

Michelle “Mickie” Ball Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher – Ph: 0428 223 271 or






The Value of Healthy Posture

We put value on many things in our life. Diet and exercise are considered important in today’s society to stay healthy and fit. But there is a blind spot when it comes to the importance of posture. Funnily enough it is something we use 24/7 and it gets little focused attention beyond trying to sit up straight when we catch ourselves slumping. This doesn’t last and it’s as bad for you as slumping.

What value can we put on properly aligning the organs, bones, and muscles of the body? In a nutshell, it: improves circulation and breathing; boosts the nervous system; supports organ functions; promotes muscle relaxation and stress reduction; enhances athletic performance; reduces risk of injury; and accelerates healing from injury.

Here are a few added-value tips to help you move towards healthier posture:

  • Shoulder Roll: Instead of trying to pull your shoulders back and sit up straight, try rolling one shoulder at a time into a healthier place. Starting with the right shoulder, move it a little bit forward, a bit up and then all the way back and then relax. Now do the same with the left. The shoulders will actually stay where you place them without straining the rhomboid muscles located between the shoulder blades. Value: Truly good posture does not take a lot of muscular effort and quickly becomes a comfortable habit.shoulder-roll
  • Breathe: Once you’ve gotten the shoulders where they belong, take a deep breath in. You will notice that the breath goes into the chest and expands the ribcage. Value: More oxygen to the body and to the brain.
  • Stretch-sitting helps to stretch your back while letting the chair do all of the work. Hint: You may wish to place a towel on the back of the chair to create some traction if it is slippery. 1.Start by placing your buttocks well back in a chair with feet hip width apart. 2. Now hip-hinge forward and round the upper body over slightly. This lengthens the lower back and prevents any sway you may have. 3. Keep your bottom anchored to the chair. With both hands hold onto some part of the chair (seat, sides or armrests) and push the upper body up away from the lowerstretchsitting half of the body while maintaining the forward curve. This move adds extra length to the spine. 4. Maintaining the length you’ve created, gently come back and hitch your back to the backrest of the chair and relax. You have just put your lower back into traction. Value: relaxes and lengthens the muscles in the back, brings more circulation to the spine, decompresses spinal nerves and discs.
  • Start Now: It is never too late to learn healthy posture. The more you align the body and start using the weight bearing bones that you are meant to use, the stronger these bones get. When weight-bearing bones are not used and stressed due to poor postural habits, they tend to get weaker. Value: Using the weight bearing bones helps prevent osteoporosis and osteopenia.
  • stack-sittingUn-Tuck: Tucking the pelvis as instructed by many exercise and dance instructors as well as some health professionals, goes against the natural structure of the body. When we became bi-pedal millions of years ago, the disc between our L5 & S1 vertebra evolved to be wedged shaped. Tucking can cause this disc to bulge or herniate. Also if you observe people sitting with a tucked pelvis, you will notice that their upper bodies are usually slumped with head protruding forward. Un-tuck the pelvis and watch what happens to the upper body. Value: Having a forward tipped pelvis provides the optimal position for the upper body to align itself.
  • Activity & Athletics: If you have poor posture, increased activity is not an efficient
    way to arrive at better posture and can even result in injuries instead. It is better to focus on posture in its own right, or on posture alongside increased activity. Value: Once you have good posture, you will get much more out of your activity; activity will maintain your muscles and your posture.

If you have any questions regarding your posture, contact me

Michelle Ball, Massage Therapist and GokhaleMethod® Teacher – Ph: 0428 223 271 or



Every Bone In It’s Natural Place

Every Bone Has It’s Natural Place

The particular arrangement of the human skeleton is a product of the demands of upright living and the constant force of gravity. Each bone has a natural place relative to its neighbours. As in the song “Dem Bones” by James Weldon Johnson, The foot bones connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bones connected to the leg bone, The Leg bones connected to the knee bone … and on it goes.

Our weight bearing bones need healthy stresses to keep them strong. If they are not stressed adequately enough calcium leeches from them leading to osteoporosis or osteopenia. Weight bearing exercises keep the bones strong. If the bones are misaligned and weight is distributed incorrectly, it can lead to arthritic changes in the form of bone spurs (osteophytes). Our spines, hips, knees and feet are subject to misalignment.

Foot Problems – When we went from being qudrupedal to bi-pedal beings, we developed a large heel bone to support our new upright position. The heel bone is made of cross fiber construction and can bear the weight of our bodies. The bones in the front of the foot are delicate and not meant for weight bearing. The problem is that many people now days carry their weight on the middle or front of the foot. This can lead to bunions, Morton’s neuroma, sesamoid bone fractures and planter fasciitis. Remember to keep your wknockknees2eight over your heels.

Knee Problems – Rotating the knees inwards can wreak havoc on other areas of the body. It can cause our hips to be misaligned in the socket and the feet to pronate causing instability in the ankle and the foot arches to collapse. It also directly correlates to underuse of the buttock muscles. In any case this posture can cause torn ligaments, damaged meniscus or arthritic changes in the knee. Solution- wrapping the leg muscles outwards will externally rotate the entire leg resulting in healthy alignment of the hips, knees and ankles.9-hyper-extended-knee

Another problem is locking the knees. Locked knees causes tension in the leg and poor circulation. This can lead to improper hip position which can cause it’s own set of problems. Think “soft knees.”

Hip Problems – People today often let their hips ride forward when standing or walking. This causes the natural space in between the ball of the femur and the acetabulum (hip socket) to lesson, compromising the joint and causing a bone on bone situation. Bursitis, arthritis or even the need for a hip replacement could be the result of this unhealthy stance.hips-forwardvsproperalignment

Hips pushed forward will also impede circulation by occluding the femoral arteries, veins and nerves to the legs and feet. Some situations that may result are cold feet, slower heeling of the legs, and Raynaud’s Syndrome.

Learning to align the hips over the weight bearing heel bone is key in avoiding these unpleasant scenarios.

Proper Alignment – When you look at yourself sideways in the mirror what do you see? Where are “Dem Bones?” If you are standing correctly the shoulder, hips, and ankles should be in a straight line. This tells you that you are putting healthy stresses on the right bones in the right places. Re-establishing correct posture is your ticket to preventing future problems caused by misaligned bones.

Article based on “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale

Contributed By Michelle “Mickie” Ball, Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher – 0428 223 271

For more information on current Gokhale Method® Courses in Australia go to



Strong Feet and Glutes Allow Me to Run Without Pain.

I had been running for years in really expensive cushioned shoes. When I was in my 30’s I developed a sharp pain in my heels. I fixed this problem with orthotics as it was a quick fix. My arches were supported and the fascia no longer got inflamed due to the shortening of the foot. Supporting the arch in my foot lessened the pull on the attachment of the Fascia to the heel bone. I ran with these orthotics in my very cushioned shoes for 20 years. Then in my mid 50’s I developed runners knee. I couldn’t run anymore, it hurt too much. So I started bike riding. I found that if I pointed my feet outwards (externally rotating the leg) when I peddled, it didn’t hurt my knees. I took this concept back to my running. I read the book “Born to Run” By Christopher McDougall. In it, I discovered that really padded running shoes gives the body a false sense of protection. When the brain doesn’t perceive danger it does nothing to protect itself from repetitive actions like running with the knees misaligned or a hard jarring heel strike as was the case for me. I switched to a mid barefoot shoe and got rid of the orthotics. I found that consciously using my feet again and having a better connection to the ground was profoundly helpful. I became very interested in posture and mechanical alignment of the body and how it correlates and affects performance.  After reading the book “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back” by Esther Gokhale. I signed up for the Gokhale Method Foundations Course. This is where I learned to walk a line with my inner heels on that line.  This was the deal breaker for me. I found that this movement along with using my new found foot muscles and engaging my glutes helped externally rotated my leg and align my ankles, knees and hips. I am now 58 years old and I am happily running again without any knee or foot issues. Today, I just came back from a barefoot run along the beach. I haven’t had knee problems for over 2+ years now.

Conclusion: We are meant to move and run. Finding out the best way to do this is important. Our Ancestors didn’t have orthotics or marshmallow running shoes. Yet they managed to hunt and gather their food on a daily basis without all of the injuries that we incur today. Maybe our bodies are not designed to be supported with so many comfortable and corrective external objects. I believe, looking carefully at how the body is designed and relearning how to use it, is the answer.

Is Sudden Back Pain Really So Sudden?

Scenario: Imagine you are getting ready for a holiday. You’ve been planning it for a long time. You’ve spent every spare minute fantasizing about all the activities you will partake in. All the details have been meticulously prearranged and it’s now time to pack your suitcase. Your mission is to free the case from where it has been buried for far too long. You find yourself balancing on one leg and twisting slightly to get at it. Now with an unassuming tug you free it from its’ hiding spot. But wait, something’s wrong! That little tug has caused your back to go into spasm. How can such a small movement feel like someone has just stabbed you in the back? Ugh!!

OK so maybe this particular scenario has or hasn’t happened to you. But perhaps you have had the sudden onset of back pain that kept you from doing something you really wanted to do. Something like: a holiday activity; gardening; picking up your child or grandchild; maybe it kept you from going to work … All right that one may not seem so bad for a while. But it’s not so great if you can’t do anything fun either.

I am a massage therapist and I get many people coming to me with these types of scenarios. They will say, “I don’t know how it happened. I picked something up, sneezed, bent incorrectly or whatever and it just went out.” People on holiday often over-exert themselves or spend too many hours sitting poorly in a car or on an airplane. In any case it ends up with the same result, an annoying pain that keeps them from doing what it is they really wish to do.

Back pain is frustrating and can keep you from doing things you love. But I am here to tell you that it doesn’t usually just happen all of a sudden unless you’re involved an accident or something that really jars the back. According to statistics, eight out of 10 people will develop back pain at one point in their lives. And in many cases, people come down with a serious case of back pain for no apparent reason.

While it may seem to be something that strikes from out of the blue, it’s really just the straw that breaks the camel’s back. A whole syndrome of muscular imbalances precedes the movement or sneeze that triggers the back pain incident. It doesn’t take much to cause the muscle spasm to start, if for months or years those muscles have been forced to do something that they were not really designed to do.

It could be that you sit with a tucked pelvis causing the upper back to slump forward forcing spinal discs to bulge, ligaments to over stretch, and muscles in the neck and shoulders to get tense. You may stand with your hips thrust forward in front of the torso causing the weight to be disproportionate over your feet and your back to sway. Or maybe you suffer from hip imbalances because you don’t engage the gluteal muscles enough when walking or running.

Untitled-1slouchstandingWeak Glutes

These are just a few poor postural habits that come to mind. All muscles are fashioned to do a specific job. Some muscles can become tight if they continuously get used in place of muscles that are designed to carry that particular load. Also, muscles that are meant to do very specialised jobs become weak and underdeveloped when not used as they should be. Ligaments can become loose or over-stretched in both of these scenarios. This can cause the muscles to tense up and spasm in an attempt to protect the area.

In these cases, my clients ask me if massage will fix their problem. I say, “It can definitely help ease the spasming muscle and make you feel more relaxed and at ease. But unless you change your daily habits, it will rear it’s ugly head again.” Don’t get me wrong massage is a great thing…that’s why I do it. But changing your daily habits needs to also be addressed in order for real change to happen. Building greater body awareness is key. Most of us don’t pay a lot of attention to how our body is positioned in daily life.

I am a Certified Gokhale Method® Teacher. I  teach posture and alignment courses to help students prevent or relieve back pain using everyday postures like sitting, standing, bending and even sleeping. People will often laugh and try to stand up a bit straighter when I tell them what I do. They will say something like, “Oh ya, my posture is really bad.” But what they don’t understand is that their poor posture habits are the key to them having back, neck or other musculoskeletal pain in the first place. I recommend to my clients and students that they start sitting, standing and moving in ways that help lengthen the spine and strengthen the muscles of the back, deeper abdominals and gluteals. There is a lot that can be done to help prevent sudden or not so sudden back pain from messing up your plans. But you need to make some changes to your daily habits for this to happen.

I teach  Free Workshops and Gokhale Method Foundations Courses on posture and alignment. Check out my Teachers’ Page on the Gokhale website for a course near you or to request a course in your city.

Contributed by Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher Ph: + 61 0428 223 271

Is Sugar the New Fat?

We were told for years by the Heart Association to cut out fat from our diet. That fat was bad for us. How many times do you see packaging on food items in the super market claiming that it is “Low Fat or Fat Free.” What does this mean for our health and our waistlines? If you look closer at the ingredients in many of these products, what makes up for the fat is added sugar. So what do we do and how do we make healthier choices.

For decades we blamed fat for making us fat. It seemed to make sense. Just cut out the fat and we’ll get skinny. So manufacturers were touting Low fat foods but slipping in extra sugar The consequences have wreaked havoc on our health and our waistlines.

The fat versus sugar debate has intensified in recent times, with more nutritionists arguing it is not fat making us obese, but sugar, in an argument that threatens to turn the dietary world upside down. Indeed those who warn sugar is the enemy claim we should be eating full-fat products and ignoring ‘diet’ labels. Some go so far as to say that while even natural honey and high-sugar fruits such as bananas and watermelon are off the table, cream, cheese, nuts and butter can be piled on aplenty.

According to Dr Mehmet Oz. Too much sugar in your diet decreases nitric oxide levels, causing blood vessels to become narrow, which causes high blood pressure and an increased risk for cardiac disease. He claims it can also lead to higher levels of Bad cholesterol, leading to heart disease. Too much sugar spikes insulin which can affect the liver, lead to obesity or diabetes.

In a study in 2012. The average Australian consumed approx. 27 teaspoons (118grms) of total sugars a day (including natural sugars) The American Heart Association says that adult women should get 5 teaspoons (20 grms) of sugar per day, adult men 9 teaspoons (36 grms), and children 3 teaspoons (12 grms). To put that in perspective, a can of soft drink alone can have as many as 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons of sugar.

The best way to cut added sugars out of your diet is to limit processed foods as much as possible, and satisfy your sweet tooth with fruit. Hidden or added sugars in things like fruit-flavoured yogurt (19grms), low sodium pasta sauces (12grms) and granola bars (21.8grms) are very deceiving. While it’s important to avoid added sugars in processed foods, you should also limit the amount of sugar you add at the table. It’s worth mentioning that things like breads and crackers have hidden sugars in the form of refined carbohydrates. They have a high glycaemic index and can spike insulin and cause the body to store more fat.

There is also a need to examine the health risks linked to artificial sweeteners. They’re not always the healthier option. You may wish to look to natural spices and herbs to trick your tastebuds into thinking you’re eating something sinfully sweet. Try adding cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla or allspice to your coffee, cereals and baked goods. These natural alternative sweeteners may also do the trick: Honey, unlike white table sugar, honey is a complex food. One teaspoon contains 25 other compounds including proteins, amino acids and trace minerals. Stevia, a low-calorie sweetener that comes from a plant native to Paraguay and Brazil, stevia is 200 times sweeter than table sugar, so a little goes a long way.
Dr Oz says to never eat high-sugar foods by themselves. When not eaten with other substances like fat or protein, sugar consumption can cause blood sugar spikes. Pair sugars with nuts or some olive oil and bread first. This slows your stomach from emptying and will keep sugar levels stable.

So is sugar bad? If we eat lots of high-sugar foods (or drinks) that have little nutritional value it can make it much harder to stay healthy and be active. Sugar spikes your energy then depletes it just as quickly leaving us craving more sugar. It makes it very easy to consume extra kilojoules, which can lead to being overweight and this then sets the scene for other problems such as Type-2 diabetes and heart disease.

 You be the judge. Maybe consider exchanging that coke for some spring water with a twist of lemon. Try dark chocolate in moderation or some berries that are loaded with anti-oxidants. Add some healthy fats to your diet like nuts or avocados when your craving a snack… As always be well and keep trying your best.

Contributed By Michelle “Mickie” Ball – Massage Therapist and Gokhale Method® Teacher Ph: 0428 223 271