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Okay, so today we’re veering away from the philosophical mumbo jumbo and getting on the practical-tip train.  Are you ready?  Are ya? This may be the quickest, most effective tip I’ve ever learned.  So I hope you’re excited, because I’ve learned a lot of tips in my day.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce to you, Super Brain Yoga!

It’s so exciting, I made a video.  But first, let me tell you why Super Brain Yoga is so damn exciting.

We know, from research and science and lovely things like research and science, that the brain works better when the two halves of it are communicating well.  For this reason, activities that involve contra-lateral movement are super good for the brain.  Contra-lateral means both sides of the body are being used in opposition, like when we walk, and our right arm swings forward as our left one swings back, but it’s balanced by our right leg swinging back, and our left leg swinging forward.  Get it?  So activities like walking, crawling, cross country skiing, and freestyle swimming, while super great for the body, are also super great for the brain, because they demand that the two halves of the brain work together.  Super Brain Yoga is like a condensed version of going for a half hour walk.  You won’t get all the physical benefits, but you will get the mental ones.  And the mental benefits of your brain halves talking to each other include improved memory, greater focus, and even getting smarter.

I was originally shown Super Brain Yoga as something I might want to teach a client who suffered from ADD and a general inability to focus.  But it seemed so easy (it takes 3 minutes and you don’t work up a sweat!) that I tried it myself.  I would do it in the mornings while I waited for the water in the shower to heat up.  And you know what? I noticed a difference.  More importantly, my boyfriend, who always made fun of me for my poor memory, noticed a difference.  Which was all the proof I needed.  Less teasing?  More remembering?  Done and done.  So, for a few months, I did Super Brain Yoga pretty much every morning.

Then I moved somewhere where it only took a few seconds for the water in the shower to heat up, and I couldn’t justify letting all that hot water just pour down the drain.  But even though I stopped doing Super Brain Yoga, my improved memory stuck around.  Now, I do Super Brain Yoga whenever I think about it.  Which, honestly, is probably about once a month.  But I should do it more.  ‘Cause it’s awesome.  And easy.  And effective.  And I like being smart.  Right now I do it when I’m tired, or feeling fuzzy, or unfocused, or ungrounded.  But really, doing it every day would be swell.  If you do it every day I’ll be so proud.  Also, I’ll be blown away by your superior intelligence.  So there’s that.

So, are you ready to learn how to do Super Brain Yoga?  Yeah, I bet you are!  Click on the picture to watch the video.  It’s just a minute long, so you have no excuse not to watch it.

Did you watch it?  See?  Isn’t it easy?  I told you it was great.  Just don’t do it right before you go to bed ’cause it’ll wake you up and then you won’t get a good night’s sleep and that’ll make you feel dumb, which is the opposite of what we’re trying to do here.

Oh, and Super Brain Yoga was on the news!!  Four years ago, but still.  It’s an interesting clip, I promise.

Now go, impress me with your super brain!  I can’t wait to be wowed by your intellect!

What is this ‘carpal tunnel syndrome’ everyone keeps talking about?

First, a little anatomy: You’ve got several long, spindly bones in your arms.  There’s the humerus (from shoulder to elbow), then the radius and ulna (parallel from elbow to wrist), then your metacarpals (between wrist and first knuckles), then your phalanges, which make up your fingers.  But right in the middle, with your radius and ulna above and your metacarpals below, you’ve got 8 small bones that aren’t long or spindly.  They’re called your carpals, they make up your wrist, and they’re more cubical, wedge-shaped, or spherical, depending on which one we’re talking about.  My favorite is the Pisiform, but I really like saying ‘Triquetrum.’  Any other anatomy nerds out there with a favorite carpal?  Sorry, back to the task at hand.

So I know what carpals are; what’s with the tunnel?  Well, the carpals form an arch.  If you put your right hand flat on the table in front of you, palm down, your carpals form two rows going from the thumb side of your wrist, up, over, and back down to the pinky side.  On the underside, there’s a ligament, called the transverse carpal ligament, that acts as the bow string to your carpal bow.  It pulls each end (pinky and thumb) toward the other, forming this nice little tunnel for nerves, arteries and veins, and muscle tendons to pass through on their way from your arm to your hand, and back again.

I get the tunnel.  What’s the syndrome?  If you hold your wrist straight (like you’re pointing at something far away) your carpal tunnel is very comfortable.  Plenty of room for everything inside to do what it needs to do.  If you curl your hand towards you (like you’re pointing at your own chest), there’s still lots of room.  Maybe even a little extra room.  If, on the other hand, you flex your wrist (Stop In The Name of Love style), your carpal tunnel gets flattened a bit, and everything inside (again, that’s nerves, arteries and veins, and muscle tendons) gets a bit squished; which is no big deal once in a while.  But if you’re doing it all day, every day (flexing your wrists to type is the most common culprit, but too many pushups or too much time on the mountain bike can cause strain as well), that adds up to some cranky wrists.  And that, my friend, is basically carpal tunnel syndrome:  cranky, over-flexed wrists.

What to do about it
Stop flexing your wrists so often, for one.  Go ahead, sing and dance along with Diana, it’s not a problem.  But take a look at your keyboard at work and at home; is there a way (with a pad or a different keyboard) that you can have your wrists in a more neutral (straight) position?  What about the way you drive?  Can your wrists be straighter as they meet the steering wheel?  There are push-up devices out there and some of them may help your wrists stay in a more tunnel-friendly spot.  You’ll have to find the one that works for you.

Curl your wrists after flexing for a while.  Maybe some of your wrist flexing is unavoidable.  If that’s the case, remember to open up that tunnel after all the squishing.  Just curl your wrists (pretend you’re a T-Rex for a while) and give those nerves and blood vessels some room to breathe.

If you’ve still got pain or numbness, seeking outside help may be the way to go.  There are lots of different options out there, as I’m sure you’ve seen and heard advertised.  Surprise, surprise, Rolfing can help.  There are splints that don’t let you flex.  There are surgeries that cut into the tunnel to open it up.  An ounce of prevention can go a long way when in comes to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, but if you’re past that point, just make sure you do your homework before jumping into one route or another.