Aaron Alexander – Aligning the Body, Performing Better and Preventing Injuries – Body Alignment Podcast #38
Body alignment is the optimal placement of the body parts so that the bones are efficiently used, so the muscles have to do less work for the same effect. Pilates is a form of exercise that stresses proper body alignment. Many pains and problems in the body are associated with long-term misalignments.
Our bodies have become contorted and reformed due to the repetitive everyday tasks that we do on a regular basis. Like a Jenga game, we began with a stable body structure but later on, it has turned into this decrepit figure made of jumbled up blocks on top of one another. One wrong move, and Jenga! You are in trouble.
Realigning your body into its optimum state is very important. With proper exercises and proper carrying out of your body’s functions, you could save thousands in hip replacement operations and other injury treatment. You will feel better and relaxed.
Because we have been doing these repetitive tasks all our lives, sometimes we forget that our bodies can do other things too. What you need to do is to explore them. Discover!
In this episode with Aaron Alexander, we cover:
6:44 The Fascia and Why it is Important to Performance and Health
22:44 Techniques He Uses to Help his Patients Heal Faster
36:38 What exercises should be in your work out routine for optimal health and performance
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Aaron Alexander has working with clients of all ages for pain relief improved athletic performance, and other goals for over 10 years. He attended the Rolf Institute and is a certified Rolfer. He is an expert on the human body and he is available to meet with clients at his office.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Hey there! This is Dr. Justin Marchegiani and welcome to another awesome episode of Beyond Wellness Radio. Again, we have a great show in store for you. Before, go to BeyondWellnessRadio.com, click on the Newsletter Signup button and you can sign up for our newsletter and get show updates right in your inbox before anyone else. You can also click on the questions button and even speak questions live, and we’ll be able to answer it on the air for you.
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Hey there it’s Dr. Justin Marchegiani with Beyond Wellness Radio and we got Aaron Alexander from Align Method. Aaron’s website is AlignTherapy.com. Aaron, welcome to the show!
Aaron Alexander: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome! Yeah, it was great. I was at your podcast a few weeks back and I’m so stoked that after learning about what you’re about, I wanted to get some of that information out to my listeners.
Aaron Alexander: Yeah, sure. So, what would you like to know? Where are you aiming at starting? Like, it can all go in all sorts of different directions.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So, Align Therapy. It’s a so cool name. I like it. It kind of seems like you have your own technique and your own different therapies and modalities that you do to help patients get out of pain in order to improve performance and even prevent injury. Can you first kind of give me some background on how you got into this?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah. So, I started off with personal training. That was about 12 years ago. And from there it was like, pretty much, like, I was into fitness, I was into body building, I was into ice hockey and just like basic new sports. I wanted to be as strong and fast as I could be like every young person in sports.
From there, it turned into kind of like, my own self-discovery researched into that and started to recognize that, hey, I could probably help other people and make some coin on the side. So that was the initial beginning of it. And then from there, I wanted to get a little bit deeper from what I was. So I’m just recognizing that helping some people lose fat and gain muscle and be able to run sprints. That was great, you know. It was gratifying to a degree.
But then there’s this whole other realm of human out there. Like most of us, we have chronic pain. Whatever it is in our body, we want to go a little bit deeper than just guts, getting carved body sets or whatever it was, you know. And so from there, I ended up studying massage therapy in a more clinically based massage school in Hawaii. And so I travelled out there and I was studying psychology at the University of Hawaii as well.
And this mesh of what’s happening inside of our mind and what’s happening inside of our body starts to get bigger and bigger. You know, there’s such a parent connection between how we think, how we feel, you know, emotionally and how we express ourselves. How we relate to the world and how we carry this physical body of ours. And so by hands-on work, we ended up talking a lot because the ideas need to land with people. How you feel about your body is gonna impact – the way you carry your shoulders, the way you carry your spine, or whatever it is. So, continuing evolution, I travelled around, studied different folks, studied in Thailand for a while, went to South America, watching people, and then came back, went to the Rolf Institute, and then became a certified Rolfer.
And then from there, it was still every time you learn something new, for me, I kind of add my own layer or spin to it. And my spin has been movement man. You know, it’s like, we have this refined structural functionality first. That’s the groundwork. Once you find that structural foundation, from there, you know it’s like: Can you dance? Can you move? Can you play? Use your body. Because if you put all this work in the gym to get your biceps curled, your chiseled abs, and all that stuff, great. You look great. You look fantastic, you know. But how’s your volleyball, how’s your dance? What do you do with yourself? Can you climb a mountain? That’s the thing that I’m really far more intrigued by my own self. Hence, why I’m ending up helping other people with that, you know. So, what I’ve coined for that is dynamic functionality. First, functional, then dynamic functional.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Sorry to interrupt. But were there any practitioners that molded you along the way?
Aaron Alexander: Oh man! So many folks, man. I really like Rey Cook. I really like Kelly Starret. There’s so many people. I had tremendous teachers over at the Rolf Institute. My very first teacher at message school is fantastic. He was actually a Rolfer himself. So, it’s always been for me this structural background.
As far as specific people, I dig Ito Portal, I love Fief Meller with his work and all. But even just Olympic athletes – people that move well in their bodies are all inspirations to me. People that smile, they’re all inspirations to me. People that genuinely take advantage in their life. To me, that is an expression of their vitality. If you’re a person that goes out and smiles every day, that means that at a nutritional level, at a physical level, things are working. From that person, I wanna hear from him “What are you doing?”. So many inspirations.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So you talked about a couple of videos on your site at AlignThereapy.com connected on your Youtube channel which is Align Method. You talked about an analogy in one of your videos about Jenga and how your body has to be in alignment for proper function and performance. Can you elaborate on that theme there for me?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, thinking about your body as this Jenga game. When you start off, all the blocks are lined up perfectly. The game is so easy. You could stack a hundred pounds and probably more than that on top of those Jenga blocks. And it’s no problem, right? But as soon as you start shifting those blocks, all a sudden the game starts to get a little bit more complicated. That shifting up the block is a collapsed arch or a knee, or your vagus are drooping in or your hyphotic in your spine or forehead. All that stuff, are all blocks that were in place at one point, hopefully maybe not. Hopefully, at some point, they were placed and through the stresses of life, be it sitting in a chair too much, be it being stressed out about your business or taxes or car problems or whatever. All this stuff starts to contort this Jenga game that we’re playing every single day. the analogy with that is like every day figuring out where are the blocks and how to start to bring those blocks into a more structurally integrated position. Hence the name structural integration. So rolfing. It’s not my favorite name of the world. But it came from P. Rolf, the one who innovated structural integration.
So structural integration is about rolfing. So that’s the analogy.
The Fascia and Why it is Important to Performance and Health
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Got it. Rolfings’s dealing a lot with the fascial plane to the body. Is that correct?
Aaron Alexander: Yes, sir. So Rolf is all about connective tissue. So, when you’re looking at somebody you’re looking at this fascial web essentially. So, you’re wearing a blue shirt right now. V-neck, I love v-neck, man.
So, pull your shirt. You don’t need to but for the listeners out there, grab the end of your shirt. And pull that shirt down towards your hip. So it’s kind of a down angle. What happens if you feel it a little bit deeper, you’ll start to feel that pull impact all the way to the back side of you, right. So the connective tissue shirt that we’re living in, that is the fascial body. If you strip away everything, all the bones, all the nerves, except leave the fascia, you still have this perfect human form. You would totally recognize the human. So within that fascia, it’s bustling with mechano-receptors and it’s as sensitive as the iris in the eye. That space is receiving so much information in our day-to-day life. And if it’s disorganized, it ends up interpreting those signals that would be whatever its, it’s cold outside, or I have pain, or whatever it is. It’s starts misaligning the interpretation of those signals which ends up stressing us out.
Once again, the term of the day, integration. If you do not have integration, it’s communication. If you are in a scrambled up fascial web, it’s gonna be very challenging for you to create communication throughout your system. Does that make sense?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes a lot of sense. Awesome.
Aaron Alexander: Yeah. So that’s the roundabout of where I was going. I think I was talking about rolfing but.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Ahahaha. So when it comes to rolfing, right? That’s the therapy you’re using to break up altercations in the fascia. It’s actually when the fascia gets to the tissue to the muscle that we have the tugging of the shirt and the analogy that you gave us. So, obviously, best-case scenario is all of our patients or anyone that gets injured, a good rolfing session or some good tissue work to break up those issues to accelerate healing.
Aaron Alexander: Correct. Absolutely. 100 percent. Either working in tandem with chiropractic is really important. For my perception, you know I think which is why I think it’s fantastic that you seem to have a really holistic approach with your work. I think if we get too caught up and just like from my experience, I feel like, in my own self, I need more than that. I need to understand why are we doing the adjustment. You know, I need to have that more communication which is why I need that working with the connective tissue. What’s binding to those bones is a really helpful system to work with.
From there, all of a sudden, adjustments come so much easier. It’s my experience but I’m curious on your opinion on that. (11:32)
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah I think a lot of chiropractors do not address the soft tissue the soft tissue that move the bone are so important. So a lot of chiropractors are adjusting the bone to the joints and they are ignoring all the soft tissue. It’s the muscles and the tissues that are moving the bone safe these muscles are turned off, or inhibited , because of pain or whatever, you can adjust someone and that joint really going to regain structural integrity because it’s the tissues and muscles that make it move and give it integrity.
Aaron Alexander: Right. You know a really simple analogy for that next time you go out camping you’re setting up your tent notice the Pull of the string the cord or the wire. if you want to crank down and one of those wires, it will distort the whole structural integrity of that tent. It will be an uncomfortable looking tent. What we have in our society is that our spine is pulled forward our heads are pulling forward. We end up getting pulled in this position like when we are looking at computers. Or when we are sitting in cars. We’re holding our children. We’ve got to unwind whole entire time frame or even holding your child. You’re folding your shoulder in, you’re folding your spine over. We were nurturing this child, now it is you!
Hahaha. The analogy I use for that is sinking your specializing in a specific sport or holding your child or whatever it is. It’s literally like you’re putting on a suit or putting on a connective tissue suit you’re holding yourself a certain way. When you get finished with that, It’s so important to take that suit off always finding that initial Jenga game back to balance or whatever it is. When you ride a bike, you’re contorting your body to the bike. It’s important to get back. That’s not going to fit. if you take a nap and you lie flat on your back without pillow you’re not going to fit into something else. We have got to get back to that human-ness.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s right. Now I know in a couple of your videos you talked about Myofascial release at home for the everyday individual. Can you talk about what they can do to help there fascia back in action?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah yeah, man. That’s my favorite subject one of my personal favorites, So the big thing that I’ve recognized is when I’m working with people in my clinic, if they’re not exactly understanding what I am doing I feel like I’m failing. You know, every time that I work with somebody, I should be pushing them along with their ship. But they have to actually steer their ships themselves. What I do is teach them how to take care of themselves. if I have my elbow into the insertion of their peck minor or what it is, it’s like, cool. This is great that we’re having this experience. I’ve taken them to a place that they’ know they’ve never been before. But you can do this without me. That’s the magic of it. You need to recognize that right now, this is actually a class, hopefully. And then as soon as you leave here, you can take a ball, you can take a band – and this is all in the self care kit that I have for sale on my website.
You can take all of the stuff and you want to see exact same thing that I’m doing. I’ve relocated everything into this package. You can find it on all stores or whatever it is. The combination of tactile touch and deep pressure, and then combining that with movement, you start working at all ends of the spectrum. So you’re starting to get into this mechano-receptors, and all that fancy terms that nobody needs to know. You know, what you need to know is work the attachment points, use slow deep pressure, follow your intuition. If it feels good it’s probably good. If it feels painful why is it painful? Maybe we need to work around that. And then by actively moving your body, this is a simple technique that people pay a ton of money to receive and it’s just pin and stretch. You know, you might do pin and stretch practice. It’s pin and stretch. Your pinning tissue, you’re pinning that tissue and then you’re asking the person to move their arm or their hip or whatever it is underneath that pin. That pin can be my hand. It could be a ball. Does that make sense?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So basically you’re talking about Active Release technique right there.
Aaron Alexander: ART, men. Yah it’s so funny when you learn all this different techniques I I have learned a little bit of ART, I’ve learned a little bit about so many techniques. when you start getting Into it, they are all kinda the same. they are not exactly the same but pin and stretch, man!
You spent thousands of dollars and all this time learning techniques, and I was like, move, pin and stretch, PNF. You know PNF, acronym for Propireceptive neural-muscular facilitation. Doesn’t matter what the heck it means. What it is is that you are starting to activate the nervous system you’re starting to incorporate the nervous system into that stretch. Into that myofascial release technique, or whatever. I break all the stuff down in the videos.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That makes sense. So, just for the listeners at home, pin and stretch, you’re taking a muscle, right? Let’s say it’s your back, you’re reaching across, you’re finding those adhesions and that front part of your peck muscle and then you’re opening that muscle back up stretching it may be against the door jamb where you hold that adhesion tight. The idea is you’re breaking down the scar tissue and then you’re also helping realign that fascia back to that fascia and scar tissue when you bring that arm or that leg back into position. So that’s really cool when I see your align kit here online, you got a band, you got a full-on roller, you got some trigger point balls, what’s the little circle mat that says “Alignment Line”, what’s that?
Aaron Alexander: Circle mat with line method on it. That is the band. Is that what you’re talking about?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So the left of the foam roller the orange roller…
Aaron Alexander: Ooh that’s the cap. So all of that stuff fits inside of the foam roller. So foam roller holds them. So this came from me. When I go on road trips, you know, obviously, the movement’s a big deal to me. So I bring a big old kettle bag, I bring bands I bring balls. I bring foam rollers, like, I bring all of this crap. You know it’s like the car is filled up with it. It looks like a mobile physical therapy unit. And then, so, what I started to kind of like, originally, I did it for myself. it was like, I gotta consolidate this stuff. Literally, just, finding the products, finding the foam roller, that’s actually hollow. And then getting the right balls. So, it’s different sized balls as wells so it fits on the different nooks and crannies to your body. And then the band as well, super helpful for exercise for one thing, but also decompression of joints. You know, and just finding that perfect package that fits altogether and throw the caps on the end. And then, boom, you throw that underneath your seat and you literally have a mobile physical therapy myofascial release kit.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s cool. Can you tell me about the bands? I know Kelly Surrett, he was big on the Supple Leopard book. Can you just talk about how you would apply it therapy-wise to your patients?
Aaron Alexander: Hundred percent, yeah. You know, so. Do you do any myofascial work in your practice?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I do some active release technique but I do a lot of the ART way which is using electricity to kinda do a myofascial release. Little different though.
Aaron Alexander: I’m getting a cold laser here in the next couple of weeks. So I’m curious if you have any opinion about that. But that’s obviously after the show. So with the band, what I do with the band is essentially, it’s replicating. If I were to decompress a joint, right? You know, so, say your shoulder is jacked up to your ear like so many people’s are. You’re so like, you’re walking around with this tensed up turtle position all the time, right. And there’s so many people in that position, you know. It’s like they’re perpetually surprised.
So, taking my hand and I would decompress their shoulder guiding them into a more functional position and then from there, have them move. It’s not complicated stuff and you’ll find that with most things that really work. It’s not complicated always that complicated.
So I’ll guide them into a position that feels functionally stable and then have them move through that. The trick comes in. It’s kinda feeling like, what’s too much and what’s too like. It kinda just takes time to feel. But the magic of that is people can find that in themselves, quite quickly.
Right? Because you know right away as soon as something feels good or not. You can play in your eye. You can poke yourself in your eye. You know you exactly the moment that it’s not good anymore. It’s like we have this sensitive bodies, yes. You are so much more intuitive than you give yourselves credit for. The thing is that intuition comes with practice. That’s what the kit’s all about, really. It’s like having a medium to practice being in your skin. That’s what I have people do. There’s a door anchor attached to a door. Then you can change the different levels like the height of it so you could attach it to your shoulder joint, for example, pull your shoulder back. So many people roll it forwards. And then move through. Bring your arm, bring your arm down, bring your arm back. You can do this on your ankle, on your knee, on your hip. You can do this anywhere. And then it also doubles as an exercise bed so there’s also some stuff you can do with that.
Techniques He Uses to Help his Patients Heal Faster
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s very cool. Awesome. Love it. So a couple other things here. You do your Align Therapy exercise. I’m just curious. I’m a big fan of, I like Eric Goodman’s work. He does foundation training. It kinda seems like what you’re doing is kinda in sync with that. Is that correct or not?
Aaron Alexander: It’s so ridiculously similar.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So can you compare and contrast? Just talk about some of the compound movement and what exercise you’re doing?
Aaron Alexander: Yah. You know, so foundation, he calls it the founder. Right? One of the things, and the founder essentially is almost like a pseudo-snatch position, right? So what you’ll see with all of these different things is like. You’ll see this in yoga, you’ll see this in pilates, you’ll see this in all different mediums in Olympic lifting. It’s tough to say who because it all came from thousands of years ago. And you just figure out like “Our bodies still need this!”.
So what the founder is, you’re bringing your arms up over your head and it forces your spine in extension. Extension being forward, extension being coming back. Oftentimes, again, hypercichosis, fun word to say, you end up a lot of people being stuck in that position because our life is in front of us. We don’t end up exploring that space behind our backs so it’s essentially turned off and that’s the thing. It’s like we need to start expressing our fullest body map. We need to start feeling into the posterior side of our shoulder. Feel into our rhomboids. Everything in the backside ever. We just want to give you a relationship with it because it’s behind us.
Like, I got this work to do. I got this girlfriend. I got things in front of me right now. Like what am I gonna do with my multifetus. What’s that? You know? And so, what that does is it starts to bring your arms back and starts to contract the muscular intrinsic muscles around the thoracic spine. And then watching you as you’re doing that. Is your arms up over your head? Are you maintaining a neutral spine. It’s so much easier to just watch the videos. So get on to the AlignTherapy.com website and you will find all this stuff because explaining it is a little bit much.
Maintaining neutral spine, keeping the knees wide, keeping the feet facing straight-ish, keeping arch support in the feet, you know just going down the checklist in your body and saying “Is everything tight, compressed, engaged”. Because we end up being chronically disengaged throughout the day. This is a really simple practice to kinda see if we engage that.
When our eyes start to veer off around the rabbit hole is dynamic movement. I would say the Founder position is a very functional position. When you’re beyond that it’s like great, cool. Founder’s not that sexy. Sex appeal, man. Like, I wanna have fun. I wanna move. You gotta keep it sexy. People wanna be sexy. You know it’s like when you’re in the gym, it’s like, what are you working out for? A part of that is you wanna be kinda attractive to the opposite sex. You wanna be attracted to yourself. You wanna be able to express yourself in a more fun, fantastic and dynamic way. Hopefully. If you don’t want that, that’s fine. You’ll stick to bicep curls it’s like nothing else. It’s great. You know, but going beyond that, that’s when it starts to get fun. That’s what I mentioned. I don’t wanna go too deep into this because it’s eh, it’s all analogies not too big a deal. But expanding your body map, expanding your sensory awareness of yourself, and you’ve seen in the videos. There were these guys here. But they’re really like all over the place. Explore the back side of you, the less side of you. Expanding all of your movement patterns, you know, because if you don’t explore them, they will not be yours. You know, thinking about every movement that you do and love. Are you on a ball right now or something?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: I’m not. I’m just sitting back and forth here and standing. But I’m making sure I’m making good Jenga blocks.
Aaron Alexander: Love it. So I have the foam roller here I have the balls and all that stuff. I keep all this stuff underneath me and as I’m doing the interviews, right? So while I’m standing here, I’m standing up on a foam roller. I’m rolling my foot around with the ball. You know, it’s like keeping that motor map exploratory. Have fun in your body. Because every moment of the day, we are expanding our potential of movement. You’re expanding our potential of physical expression. Most of us forget that. And so back into the web analogy, the more intricate you make your web, the more potential of communication cross bridges there are in that web. You know, so it’s like if you ever learned a type of dance. Breakdance is a great one. It’s like you start of like on the 6th step. You know, as soon as you’re on the sixth step, all of a sudden, you start to link that up to other stuff. Now I’m doing a CC and all this different things you see on youtube. You start linking all of these movements together where first, it was so arbitrary and weird. It was just like total system malfunction.
Once you start to connect those cross bridges, mileanation, you can call this connecting the bridge or synapses or whatever you want to call it. Once you start to make those bridges combine, your potential of sophistication of movement and self-expression exponentially increases. Was that too heady?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: No, that totally makes sense.
Aaron Alexander: Cool. So that’s what I was talking about.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: So can you break down some of the resistance training, some of the things that you do? I see you do a lot with lunges. I see you do a lot with kettle bells. So the average person can, you know, think of exercising things that you’re doing and kinda put an image to it in their head. What kind of movement patterns are you doing?
Aaron Alexander: Yah. So starting off, if you ever come into my office, I have some pretty strange stuff. I have gymnastic rings hanging on the ceiling. I have a deadlift bar or a barbell with big bumper plates. I have stall bars on the walls. The stall bars are like in these old gymnasiums, it’s like a ladder back into the walls, actually. We do all sorts of fun stuff with that. But as far as resistance training, what I start off with people is deadlifts, squats.
Deadlift- I changed the name, officially changed the name. I haven’t trademarked it. But I changed the name of deadlift because it intimidates people. You know you got a yogi and like I want you to do deadlifts because you’re not looking flexible. And they’re like ah, no. Never. Like but I changed the name to Pick Stuff Up.
You are gonna learn to functionally pick stuff up. And that’s the thing, like, we don’t know how to pick stuff up. That’s messed up. You know, we never learned how to functionally pick something heavy off the ground. That’s a huge, huge deal. We look at how much we’re spending in healthcare, and like disc herniations, that’s a preventable issue. 100 percent. If you have the movement sophistication in your body , then you’re not gonna blow a disc because you know how to move as strong as you possibly could want without blowing anything out because you’ve trained yourself. So I think deadlifts, compound movements is generally all I’m gonna do. Sometimes, I’ll do specific isolation exercises if there are specific muscles that are completely disengaged. I use e-stem and some other fun tools as well. I’ll hook some e-stem pads up to people and activate those muscles and kinda just build awareness to these areas. But deadlifts, squats, overhead presses, if they have the shoulder range of motion for it. Pretty much what I’m gonna be doing in my actual hours. Kettlebells, I love kettle bells because it links dynamic swinging because all of a sudden, momentum becomes a part of the equation. So if you figure out the deadlift, start swinging a kettlebell. So it’s kinda like this tier, right? Can you pick something up? Alright, cool. Can you swing something? Right? And from there, can you swing at different angles? From there, can you jump, do some plyometrics and jump and land and catch yourself and have that motor mapping and sophistication to catch yourself. It’s always this stacking of layers. That’s actually is what I’m doing.
If someone is already a high-level athlete, then we’re going straight to high-level activities. If it’s the very, very beginning, we’re not going too much further than the deadlift. But deadlift, that’s high level forever. We should always be deadlifting, we should always be squatting, in my opinion.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yeah. I remember when I used to do a lot of personal training over ten years ago. One of the things I started out with patients is I get them over there and just say “We’re gonna do sits today”. It’s just amazing. When I say squats, their form would go to hell. When I say, today we’re just gonna sit in this chair. It was amazing just how their brain would connect into doing the form appropriately. Kind of the same thing, pick stuff up, right? AKA deadlifts and their brain just kinda goes into that different form.
And I know, on that note, picking stuff up, one of the things that Eric Goodman has kind of coined is put out there and amazing. One of the terms I use with my patients is the term hinging instead of bending. I think that’s one of the big issues that most people have when they’re not picking stuff up correctly or sitting correctly. So bending more versus hinging more. Can you talk about what’s happening with bending vs hinging for those listening at home?
Aaron Alexander: Ya. Absolutely. So for folks out there at home, you know, do this with yourself. You know, like, have some fun. I’m a weirdo, so I’ll video tape myself. You know, I have those body mirrors and other equipment. Look yourself in the mirror, videotaping yourself. Be your own therapist. That’s the courage I want from my clients.
Be your own therapist. Get intrigued by your body. Get fascinated by your own body and learn about it. Come down and imagine you’re picking up a barbell, pick that thing up. If your initial inclination is to hinge at your spine, then you’re putting unnecessary stress on your spine. Your vertebra is not built to sustain a load like that. It’s built to maintain that neutrality as you’re coming down. And hinging at the hips allows you to load that weight into where it’s meant to be loaded. You butt’s the strongest set of muscles you got in your body. You know, so when you’re coming down and loading up that hinge, the hinge being the hip, you’re actually stretching out those gluteal muscles. As you come down through there, you need to have the strength and the activation to pull yourself up from that hinge. That’s the only safe way to pick up something heavy.
You know, it’s not just something heavy, it’s you start digging that path over years and years of that type of movement. You know, eventually, you pick up the wrong paperclip. And boom! Disc herniation. You know, when you come down, it’s that forward flection and then add a little contortion to it and it’s a beautiful recipe for a serious injury.
So figuring out how can I maintain that core support and core is a weird word. You know, because we have again all these connotations of what it is. So I coined the corset. Because corsets are much more specific. You know, it’s like transversive dominance especially. Transversive dominance being just literally, just think of it as your corset. You corset muscle, and really your abs. maintaining that stabilization through the midsection, stacking the spine the way it’s meant to be stacked, hinging at the hips and then keeping the knees wide, which Kelly Starrett calls torques and hips. So you’re creating this rotational force in the hips and essentially taking all of the slack out of the hip.
So you don’t want a loose slacked out joint if you’re gonna load a few hundred pounds onto it, or any amount of wait into it. So you wanna take the tension out of it, take the slack out of that space, find a stack between your knees and your feet, and come down and hinging at that hip. And that’s gonna be a safe way to load any amount of weight. Everyone should be able to pick up as much weight as they possibly can or more than that. Not actually pick up off the ground but pull on it, and not hurt themselves. If you cannot do that, then you are missing a serious, serious, serious human function.
What exercises should be in your work out routine for optimal health and performance
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Tell me about your workout routine. What are some the key movement patterns and the key exercises that you do in a day in – day out basis?
Aaron Alexander: Well, so I’m starting to add more of this into the Youtube channel. Like every week they’re like, “What do you actually do, Aaron?”. You know, so what I do is I do heavy deadlifts. I do heavy squats. I do front squats predominantly because I wanna maintain that neutral spine. I haven’t been a very exceptional athlete, like, growing up, I was into body building, which screwed me, man. Like, who said it’s such a bad idea. Because I started breaking down my system and I always checked.
I was like, you know, 250 pounds and like 16 years old. It was very ridiculous. But I wasn’t so good an athlete. You know, you could put somebody in front of me, I’ll knock them on their butt. But we’re complicated than that. It’s gonna start looking mechanical. So, what I end up happening is I end up blowing up my shoulders. I ended up dislocating my ankle. Your body will start to deconstruct if you exercise that way.
So when I put myself up into these athletic situations, be it rock climbing, be it surfing, or whatever it is. Like, all of a sudden, you gotta move with the wave. You know, the wave, metaphorically life. You gotta be able to move with whatever comes at you. You know, so figuring out, start off with that strong foundation, I do my heavy compound lifts. I do heavy kettlebell swings. I’ll do, like, snatches, essentially like kettlebells up over my head. And then maintaining that kettlebell up over my head. I’ll come down and do some squats. All those stuff is rehabilitory for me. I consider it to be all rehabilitory because I’m unwinding that forward spine poster that got imposed upon me from sitting in high school, sitting in college. You know, sitting in my car. All of a sudden, not feeling like I’m good enough or whatever it is, it starts to fold you forward.
So my workout ends up working kind of rehabilitory but kind of heavier than that. It’s powerlifting but in my mind it’s very intentional. And then from there, I dance a lot, man. So, in between, if you look at somebody in the gym, you know it’s like. I’m kind of a freak in the gym and people at first will be like, “What the heck is that guy” and another will be like, interested. I’m teaching classes about it. That’s been a good transition. But in between sets, you don’t need to just go down and set down in a crummy position. From there, explore a full range of motion in your body.
You know, go for a jog, go to some jumping jacks or whatever you wanna do. What I end up doing is kinda like Capueta, which is a Brazilian martial arts. It’s like dance fighting essentially. I do some Caputa techniques. I do some breakdancing techniques. I do a lot of handstands. Everything that I do inside the gym is very brief. I’m in the gym maybe for 30 minutes max. It’s very intentional. I’ll pick up heavy stuff and move it. And then I dance. Essentially.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: You get all these fancy lingo terms and like, you must be a breakdancer. That’s great. So talk to me more about some of these overhead lifts and squats. I’ve always found these very difficult to do. Can you talk about what these are doing, and the alignment. You’re pressing over your head maybe with a kettle bell and then you go and do a squat position?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah. They’re difficult because, generally speaking, our shoulder girdle has been formed forward. How many people do you know that hang everyday? Rock climbers, gymnasts. Who else? You know, right, so that’s the thing. Our shoulders are built to hang. It’s like the fancy term brachiation. Our shoulders are completely built to brachiate or to hang on stuff. So what ends up happening with most of our lives is we end up being rolled forward in this position, as we write our notes, as we’re working on our computer, or whatever it is. Like I said, it’s getting back to that fascial shirt thing. We start developing tissue around the spaces that we’re using a lot. And then we end up losing that range of motion that’s essential to doing things like hanging off of a tree limb.
So, what I’ve been doing again is heavy lifting, but rehabilitory. It’s getting those motions back. What I’m used to is doing some myofascial release techniques, so like, doing the band in the front of your shoulder and to your back doing a strong state position. Rotating your thumb backward again, this is hard to explain. But rolling your thumb backward, putting that shoulder again in a stable position which is external rotation on your head and just slowly exploring it. you’re not gonna get it on day one. You’ll just not.
You know, it’s a slow change. You’re looking like our connective tissue gets really laid out for 7 months. This might take you a little bit of time. It’s not just boom, today we got it. It’s an every single day thing. Am I rolling my shoulders forward so much today? Stop! Don’t do it. You know, it’s like did I get myself 30 minutes of rehab or prehab, or whatever you wanna call it? If you didn’t you have 20 minutes. You got 15 minutes. It doesn’t take a lot. It’s just those little titrations. You get a little bit every single day, it starts to compound. Albert Einstein called it compound effect but wonders of the world. There’s little steps every single day. It doesn’t look like much and then all of a sudden, you’re like you own the world. You know it’s willingness to take that time but it’s really to keep on going. And that’s the big thing, right.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Right. So, if you’re trying to get that shoulder girdle back, maybe just some good hanging?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah. Totally. There’s different types of hanging right? There’s passive hanging, there’s dynamic hanging. I would say if you have shoulder injuries, probably don’t passive hang. Passive hanging being not active – not activating your shoulder girdle, not activating rhomboids, not activating that line that’s kind of engaging and kind of keep it connected to your body. Start off with a little bit more active hanging and actually rotating that arm out and really engaging your midsection and really section that shoulder in. But while maintaining a hang. And also have a partner to help you out, have a step to step on, because this could be a dangerous thing. It wouldn’t be dangerous if we did this our whole life. It would be no big deal at all.
You look at a kid in the jungle gym and he is passive swinging all over the place. It’s fun. When you look at an adult in a jungle gym, they’re very inactive. They engage the biceps, they engage the shoulders and protect themselves. That’s good. It’s super important. But it’s good to have that full range of motion, and the reason that those kids are able to do that is they haven’t jumped up their shoulders yet. It’s that day in, day out, incorrect dysfunctional movement or lack thereof that ends up junking our joints up. And then we go like, “I’m an athlete” because they watch Youtube videos and like bombing off the mountain. But it’s like dude, you’re not an athlete anymore. You had the potential to be an athlete but now you need some serious prehab before you put yourself in a vulnerable position like a potential fall. And you get that fall risk with older folks.
If at any point in your human experience, going down to the ground is a scary and dangerous thing, the human body is not meant for that. If you could spend your entire life, go to Japan, look at fall risk out there, I’m pretty sure it doesn’t exist because they’ve grown up on the floor. They sleep on the floor. Sitting up and standing down off of the floor activates this whole entire full range of motion through our muscles that we don’t get when we sit on these crappy chairs. Chair is death.
The chair isn’t even a big deal. It’s the lack of movement that’s the big thing. We need to express ourselves to the fullest potential of movement as often as possible if we wanna live happy expressive lives.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Great. Love that. So, just hang for your shoulder health, lunges, front squats, to really get those erector, that extension muscles for good posture, dead lifts, or pick stuff up, and good sits or squats. Does that sound about right that it is our core part?
Aaron Alexander: It sounds right and I would go a step beyond sits and go deep squats. We have this illusion that it’s bad for the knees, it’s not bad for the knees. You go to other countries, people aren’t dealing with things like hip replacements, right? How is it possible that we have the best medicine on earth accessible to us and we’re still the most unhealthy country in the world. We might not be the most unhealthy country in the world but it was pretty low. How is that possible that we have everything at the same time we’re dealing with the most problems?
It’s the disease of affluence. Because we don’t need to do anything, our bodies are like “Right, I’m not doing anything.” Every day exploring your range of motion. If all you do is sit to 90 degrees, good. Tomorrow, sit to 86 degrees. See what that’s like. The next day, let’s do 84. Gradually, you’re gonna be down to 35 degrees. I’m not so great at math, but you’re gonna be down there quick. Every day, you gotta stack that up you gotta teach your body, you got us into recognizing that your body is a humble servant and it does exactly what you ask of it and no more. That’s the big thing. We think that blabla free lunch or whatever it is. There’s no such thing as free lunch, man. If you didn’t do anything, good luck with progress. Good luck with heart disease. Good luck with all the stuff that is to come. You didn’t move. I could not imagine anything but failure in the body.
I don’t wanna be too fire and brimstoney because nobody likes that, but moving is a gift. We just need to start recognizing that every moment is a gift. Take full advantage of it. Make sense?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Yah. That’s great. Can you connect nutrition to healthy movement and feeling good and being good and not getting injured and preventing injury? A lot of physical therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, and personal trainers don’t really make the connection to diet, and the nutrients, and the useful information. Can you connect how important diet is to being healthy in a physical perspective?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah. Sure. So, diet isn’t my niche, but I read a ton about it. You know, I’m very fascinated by it but it’s not something that I speak with too much authority on. But in general, I tinker with it all the time, man. If I had any message in regards to nutrition and diet, I would say, get as much as you can from Whole Foods because recognizing that food is information. Just like movement is information.
Imagine a book. Imagine someone giving you a book and all of a sudden they ripped out Chapter 3, chapter 8, chapter 15, and chapter 19. And they didn’t tell you and they give you that book and you’ll read the book. You’re like “I didn’t read it. It was a cool book. It has a flashy cover but like, I don’t really get it.” Right? That is hydrogenated food. That is processed food. That is supplements that aren’t assimilatable on the body. That is all of this stuff that, I’m not saying supplements aren’t assimilatable, I’m saying THE supplements that aren’t assimilatable in the body. You know, it’s like you’re not what you eat, you are what you assimilated. I think you said that. I got that from you.
You know, so it’s like, recognizing the more that we can get Whole Foods, organic foods, support our local farmers, you know, because, like, the fate of the world is kinda dependent upon that, I believe. You know, it’s like recognizing that money is votes. It’s like who are you voting for president, and I’m not sure how important that is. I can tell you for a fact where our money goes in. So, recognizing that everything that you purchase, you are voting for that product. You are voting for that organic, local, farmer who has a smile on his face. Or you are voting for that pesticide-ridden GMO, like polluting the environment, pouring sludge into the rivers and destroying our children guy. And it’s all gonna save you what? 40 cents?
So my perception on nutrition is quite holistic as you’ll probably expect. So really, like, recognizing that the food on our body that breathes and loves and will assimilate the best is the stuff that comes straight out of the ground and that we haven’t tampered with. And as far as diet, nutrition, or align stuff go, I say tinker. That’s the best you can do. You know, because when the Atkins came out, it was like “Cool Atkins!”. When someone finds some type of nutritional plan that worked for them, they’re gonna run up to the top of the mountaintop and scream to the world “This is it. This is the final one!” You know, it’s like, for you to just take that one person because they’re so excited about it, I would take that person as information, but not fact. You know so it’s like, play right now what I’m tinkering with cause it’s like, maybe like, paleo, or reducing sugar, or reducing like white stuff in general, I mean I absolutely believe in that, like, don’t put white crap in your body, generally. You know, unless it’s coconut.
You know, but, playing with adding more fat into the body. Playing with putting different types of macro nutrients into our system. If you eat a bunch of sugar in your breakfast, you’ll probably feel a little sleepy in a minute. You know, and you’re gonna need coffee. You know, and you’re gonna need red bull. You’re gonna need whatever it is. So my nutrition advise in relation to the body is eat natural, eat organic, eat whole foods, experiment. You know, see what works for you. Clean up your palate. You know, clean up your system enough that you can actually recognize what health food impacts you. If you have a dirty system, you’re not gonna know what’s what. You’re not a controlled experiment anymore because you have so much crap running through your system.
You know, so clean things up. And then just tinker. Add a bunch of fat in your body and then see what happens. Add a bunch of white sugar in your body. See what happens. Explore it. That’s my thought.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome. So I’m kinda still in these three questions or last two questions that I ask my guests. I still have one from Motsul and another one from David Ashby. First question, here’s Motsul’s question, if you were stuck on a desert island, what herb would you bring with yourself. If you have one herb?
Aaron Alexander: Man, I’ve been playing. Can I say? I’ve been tinkering with Ashwagandha recently which is. Ashwagandha is a mushroom type I believe, right?
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Technically a nightshade.
Aaron Alexander: Alright cool. So, I’ve been tinkering with that recently and I’ve been really excited about it. And there’s something I’m curious about this. I’m curious of your opinion on this. I’m sure you’re not gonna answer now. But I take like little capsules of Ashwagandha and I feel pretty good. And then my buddy, he’s got this natural butter called Gem butter, delicious stuff. He’s like really into all this supplements and stuff. And he hit me with a big handful of Ashwagandha the other day.
And oh man, I felt phenomenal afterwards. It’s good.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: It is. It’s actually Sanskrit for “to impart the strength of the horse”. So that’s pretty cool. I mean, you can’t get much better than that.
Aaron Alexander: But that’s something that changes for me a lot too. Like I said, I’m always experimenting with stuff. So, currently, that’s what I would say. Ask me in two months, it would probably be a different answer.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Awesome. Very good, yeah. And just for the listeners, Ashwagandha is a very powerful adaptogenic herb to help with vitality and immune function, and strength. I had a podcast interview ahead this morning with Dr. Vogel, he said milk diesel, which is a common liver tonic and he said, hey, you’re gonna be drinking on this desert island, what’s up with that?
Aaron Alexander: Yeah, right. I wanna be stimulated man.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: That’s cool. So we got Ashwagandha. And then now what are the three powerful things, just three things, that you can only tell one person to do to improve their health?
Aaron Alexander: Drink good water. You know, so if you got chlorinated water, stop. You know, get a good filter. Do spring water, man. Get on, Daniel Vitalis has a pretty cool site. I forgot what his spring website is called right now, we could look it up afterwards or whatever. But get spring water if you can. Your water will be your blood.
If you’re running chlorine through your system, you’re running anything that ends in –cide, you know, pesticides, or runoff in your crammy farms or what it is. It’s like –cide means death. You know, antibiotics, uuurrrghhhh, anti-life. Don’t do that. Get good water.
The next thing is sleep. You gotta sleep like a mofo man. If you are not sleeping well, then that’s a serious issue because that’s when our body is developing. You know, we think that we get strong when we are exercising. Exercising is catabolic. We’re breaking our bodies down. What permits that strength is the time between the sheets. You know, it’s like if you get to sleep between 10 and 2. There’s something I’m gonna add on that. You know I have like a ceremony before I go to bed. I have my little magnesium spray thing. I have like an earthing sheet, which sounds like a totally different subject. I blackout the whole entire room, you know, it’s like I have my little end of the night traditions. It’s like make it ceremonial. We have these traditions on how to get up regulated or how to amp ourselves up, we don’t have so much with how to down regulate. I would say absolutely embrace down regulation. Rest when you need to rest. It’s not always the right decision to get to the gym to get yourself up, right. You know, take naps throughout the day.
Cut out the necessity for coffee through rest. Cut out the necessity for whatever stimulant through rest. And then you can play with stimulants, right?
And last one, I would say dynamically squat. You know, so, squat, you know, follow all the functionality guidelines, and then from there, get dynamic with it and play. Dance. You know, I would say dance squat. You know, when you’re on the dancefloor, get down the ground. You know, get low. Learn through the full range of your motion. You know, learn back bends. Explore. I wouldn’t say there’s one exercise because that’s just one range of motion. I would say dance, express, move, and pick heavy stuff up functionally.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Pick heavy stuff up functionally. I love it. Well I appreciate your energy here, Aaron. Really good. I think we covered the gamut. We’ll spend more time in the sheets, do a little dance squat. Just make sure you have the little collars on the ends of the barbell just to make sure that you don’t have the weights flying everywhere when you squat down. And then Ashwagandha, cool. Alright. Awesome.
Thanks so much, Aaron. Anything else you wanna add for the listeners, about how they can find you, your website, your info, facebook, etc?
Aaron Alexander: Yah. I think you know. Everyone can find anything about me in AlighnTherapy.com – A-L-I-G-N-therapy.com, and from there there’s links to everything, and give you the twitter handles and stuff. You’ll find it all there. So that’s all I have.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: You also have a great podcast too.
Aaron Alexander: Oh, man. Thank you so much for mentioning that. I got excited about the squat thrust stuff. Movement Medicine podcast, where I interview phenomenal people like the good doctor here on the show. And we kinda have this conversation but I do a lot less talking. Sometimes I do more talking than I should probably do.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Hahahaha. Love it. Awesome. It’s great. We’ll have you back on the show sometime soon. A lot of great information. Everyone’s having to listen to the podcast twice.
Aaron Alexander: Alright, man. See you soon.
Dr. Justin Marchegiani: Alright, thanks.
Aaron Alexander: Bye.