LIFT: A Great Non-Profit Organization

Dear Naylor blog-ites,

Welcome back.

Who said we ever left?

Aww, so sweet.

Dont get ahead of yourself now.

Janus-faced, as always.

To the subject at hand—or, should I say keyboard—: LIFT.

 

In a nutshell, LIFT is a registered non-profit organization specialized in guiding and supporting healthy youth development, in order to prevent substance use disorders, delinquency and high-school drop outs (taken from LIFT’s website).

LIFT organizes two adult retreats a year, from which all profits go to organizing retreats for youth. The adult retreats last one weekend, normally from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon.

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LIFT participants and volunteers – November 2017

The main focus of the weekend is taking care of one’s self, by means of meditation, yoga, osteopathy, healthy eating, and relaxation.

One of my close friends Antoine—whom I met during my osteopathic studies—joined the LIFT team a few years back. When he told me about the organization’s mission and motives, I was enthralled, and I wanted to take a part in it right away; however, at the time, they were not in the need of extra hands—pun intended.

So I lifted LIFT out of my head for the time being.

Nice dad joke.

Several months later, I was asked to come to the second adult retreat organized by LIFT—which took place in early 2017 and at which I volunteered at—to offer osteopathic consultations and workshops on maintaining good bodily health.

You can imagine that my answer was an ecstatic yes!

It was a rich experience, in which I relaxed profoundly, disconnected from technology, and made a handful of deep connections with the volunteers and participants at the retreat.

This past weekend, I volunteered once again—at the third adult retreat organized by LIFT thus far—, and had another inspiring weekend.

A Little Summary Of The Weekend

The weekend begins on Friday afternoon. The participants are asked to arrive sometime in the afternoon, between 4:00 PM and 5:00 PM. The two retreats that I volunteered at took place at Au tournant du coeur, located in Sutton.

Once all the participants have arrived, supper is served. On cooking duty for the weekend is Meesh Coles, a holistic chef, from British Columbia, who is aided in the kitchen by her hard-working companion and lover, Ben Sbrollini, a co-founder of LIFT. They labor non-stop, all weekend—and I mean, all weekend—in the kitchen, preparing sumptuous dishes beyond your imagination.

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Meesh, hard at work in the kitchen at Au tournant du coeur

After supper, everyone goes up to the large meditation room to participate in the opening circle. Participants are given the choice to speak up if they’d like, with emphasis on what they think they can contribute to the weekend. The LIFT team also explains the proposed schedule for the weekend, and goes over some other important information—information not pertinent to this blog post.

A short restorative yoga class is then given by Jeanne Mudie, one of the owners of Ashtanga Yoga, located in Montreal.

On the morrow: a morning walk on the Arcadian property of Au tournant du coeur, breakfast, mindfulness meditation—given by Elvis Grahovic, a mindfulness meditation teacher based in Montreal—, yoga, lunch, a hike, supper, and some more yoga.

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Elvis and some participants, sitting the meditation room

All throughout the weekend, osteopathic consultations were offered to participants who were interested in receiving one. They were offered by yours truly, the writer of the Jonathan Naylor Blog: Jonathan Naylor, an osteopath from Montreal.

Talking about yourself in the third person? Haughty mister.

Sunday’s schedule was: morning walk, breakfast, mindfulness meditation, yoga, the closing circle, and lunch.

The closing circle is always an emotional intrapersonal and interpersonal event, in which participants are asked to share anything and everything they have in mind. Several tissues are needed to wipe the flow of tears that inevitably ensue, occurring with one participant beginning the waterfall, and several others hoping aboard and aiding the stream of blotted rivulets.

After lunch, the bags are packed, and everyone says goodbye, wishing they could spend another week at the amazing Au tournant du coeur.

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The view from the main room, Au tournant du coeur

The two days spent were rich emotionally, tiring and relaxing physically, and all around peaceful. I always have trouble leaving Au tournant du coeur‘s gorgeous landscape, but such is life.

I can’t wait to do the next retreat, which will be with the youth in January.

Excitement level: very high!

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LIFT participants and volunteers – November 2017

Have you ever volunteered at a retreat? Or have you been to a retreat as a participant before?

Side-note: you will LIFT up the youth, and the youth will LIFT up the world.

Low Back Pain Part 2: The Core

Hello blog-ites,

Hola.

This is part 2 in my Low Back Pain series. Here is the first part if you haven’t read it: Low Back Pain Part 1: How To Stretch Your Hamstrings.

What Is The Core?

The part of the core I will focus on in this post is the abdominal muscle: the transversus abdominis. I will not cover the other parts of the core, such as the back muscles and the thoracic diaphragm.

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The proper functioning of this muscle is essential in avoiding low back pain and maintaining a healthy low back. It acts as a natural belt that allows the lower back to function optimally, while diminishing the risks of having pain—something all too many people have.

The transversus abdominis is relatively easy to strengthen, and can be done from the comfort of your home—and of course, at the gym as well.

Working The Core: The Plank

One of the most effective exercises for it is the plank.

To do the plank, place your feet together, in the same position as if you were going to do push-ups. Support yourself on your forearms, at about shoulder width. While doing the plank, you want to maintain a straight line that goes from your feet to your head. You want to avoid having an arched butt—that is, a butt sticking up—or a curved lower back—pelvis tilting and shifting towards the ground.

You can start by doing the plank on you knees; again, it is important to maintain a good posture, and not arch your back or tilt forward. I often ask my patients to begin with three sets of 30 seconds on the knees, three to five times a week. I tell them to progressively build up to three sets of one minute. Once that is easy enough, I ask them to change from their knees to their feet, and to begin again with three times 30 seconds, and progress up to three times one minute as explained previously.

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Another Important Factor For Low Back Health: Contracting The Transversus Abdominis When You Lift Objects

Having a strong core is great and all, and of utmost important for taking care of your lower back, but you must also consciously contract the transversus abdominis while doing activities that could hurt your back. The most common of these activities is lifting objects—and I mean lifting of any sorts, whether it be a heavy box or a small baby toy off the ground.

When lifting an object, it is always important to bend the knees and avoid flexing forward with your back curved frontwards. Also, the entire time that the object is lifted up—AKA: you are holding it—you want to slightly contract your abdomen inwards. To do so, gently pull your belly button inwards, and maintain this slight contraction the entirety of the time the object is in your hands—a contraction of about 30% of your maximum belly-button inwards contraction is enough.

Summary

  • The core is important for low back health.
  • Strengthening the transversus abdominis is easy: the plank—on knees or feet—will allow you to strengthen it.
  • Bending your knees when lifting objects instead of bending your back forward is a must—a must!
  • Contracting your transversus abdominis when you are lifting objects is also important—to do so, gently suck your belly button inwards, as if you were trying to bring it closer to your spine.

Have you ever had low back pain? If so, what helped you get through it?

Low-back-note: 5. The magic number is 5. Unless you are a cat, in which case 7 is the magic number.

Meditation – Part 1

Morning, Earth beings.

Two months ago, I volunteered at Camp LIFT. Their mission statement is:

“To foster optimal development in youth, by educating them on holistic principles of healthy minds, bodies and relationships. To promote fundamental values surrounding global health in order to reduce the incidence of addiction, delinquency, and school dropouts”.

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It was a seven day sleep away camp, for youths aged 14 to 17 years old. I volunteered on the first day and the last day; I picked up some of the teenagers in Montreal on the first day, drove them to the camp, stayed there to sleep the first night, came home on the morrow, returned on the last day to hang out with them, and drove three of them home the day after that.

During the first evening, we all gathered up in a circle so that the youths could hear the schedule for the week. Amongst two hours of daily sports, morning meditation, yoga, and healthy eating, there was also a 6:00 AM wake-up scheduled for every morning, not easy tasks for teenagers who do not live this lifestyle regularly.

I used to get up around 5:30-6:30 quite often in the past, because of school; however, since school finished almost two years ago, I had not been in that groove anymore. I was getting up somewhere between 7:30-10:00, and I missed being up early—I feel my most productive time of the day is between 5:00 and 11:00.

The next morning, I woke up with them at 6:00 AM, meditated, broke my fast, and then drove home. I couldn’t stay for the week because I had work.

I thought about the teenagers a lot when I got home; I had already become attached to many of them, and so I decided I would stay with them in spirit: I recorded a short video, explaining how I would get up at 6:00 every morning of the week, and meditate on my own, to support them in this endeavor.

Every morning that week, without fail, I was up at 6:00—my alarm was actually 6:01, but no one needs to know that, except my awesome readers—to go meditate at the park next to my house.

This expedition was at the beginning of August, and I have kept up with morning meditation ever since, save three days due to feeling frail and sickly. I do not get up at 6:00 every morning though; instead, I put my alarm on seven hours and 30 minutes after I get to bed. Chiefly, it varies between 6:30 and 8:00, which I largely prefer over 9:00 or 10:00, which is the loophole I had fallen into.

Excuse me. The title of this post is ‘How To Meditate’, not ‘Here Is A Personal Anecdote Of Mine’.

Picky, as always.

I am getting to that presently.

I have three different meditation routines, of which I alternate between each morning. For example: I will do meditation 1 on Monday, meditation 2 on Tuesday, meditation 3 on Wednesday, and loop around as of Thursday.

Today I shall explain one of these meditation techniques I use.

The Bubble Meditation

I discovered the bubble meditation while reading Lawrence LeShan’s book How To Meditate.

The goal of the bubble meditation is to be fully focused on your thoughts in the present moment, taking about six to ten seconds to observe each thought.

Here are the steps, described briefly:

  1. Sit down. Imagine that you are seated at the bottom of a lake. If this thought is too difficult for you, imagine you are sitting on a mountain-side, observing the environment ahead—in this case, it will not be a bubble meditation but more of a column of smoke meditation, which I shall explain very shortly.
  2. Close your eyes. Each time a thought comes to you, imagine that a bubble has formed at the bottom of the lake, in front of you, and that the thought you had is encompassed in the bubble. Then, observe the bubble as it rises higher and higher, until it is no longer visible—this should take about six to ten seconds. Do not judge, or try to understand why you are thinking of this; simply observe it. If you are imagining yourself sitting on a mountain-side, imagine a column of smoke rising instead of a bubble, with the same parameters as described previously.
  3. Do the same thing for the next thought, and so forth, always without judgement. Start with 10 minutes for several sessions, and then you can increase if you’d like, or not, it is entirely up to you.

The goal is to observe your thoughts in the present, without judging or trying to understand them.

Sometimes, the same thought will come back several times in a row. That is fine; just observe, and keep going. You might have instances where no thoughts emerge, and if that is the case, that is fine too. There are no set rules, besides observing your thoughts and doing nothing else.

I normally do this for ten to fifteen minutes. I never put a timer on at the park when I meditate, so I am ball-parking the duration. I used to put a ten minute timer on when I mediated at home several months ago, to help me not think about how long remained, and that way I could just focus on the task at hand, and nothing else—although I never managed to have a full ten minute session when my brain didn’t divagate at least several times.

There you have it.

Thank you.

Woah. A thank you. From you?

Don’t get used to it.

Next time I write about meditation I will share another method I use.

Do you meditate presently, or have you in the past? How did or does it make you feel?

Bubble-note: I’m simply observing my thought, over and over, of how I’d love for you to subscribe to my blog. And if not, that is fine; as I mentioned, I am only observing, and not judging.

 

Low Back Pain Part 1: How To Stretch Your Hamstrings

Jonathan here, again.

We sure hope so; it is your blog.

No need to be incogitant now—I’m trying to help you out with this post.

This is part 1 in a series I will be writing which aims at helping you deal with low back pain. Subscribe if you’d like to receive the next ones as they are posted in the following weeks.

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Always trying to get people to subscribe…

Yes, for sure: I’d love to make it to a double digit subscription number!

Alas, let’s get into it.

For those of you who do not know: I am an osteopath.

One of the main reasons of consultations that I see in my office is back pain—whether it be upper or lower. This series of posts will focus more on aiding those who have low back pain, although it is just as important even if you are pain-free.

There are a few important muscles that must be worked when low back pain is present. A lot of this work can be done right in your home, by yourself, for free.

One of these aforementioned muscle groups are the posterior thigh muscles, called the hamstrings.

A blurb of anatomy:

The hamstrings consists of three muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and bicep femoris. They attach from the pelvic bone’s ischial tuberosity—that bony lump you sit on, right in the middle of the bum—to the knee joint—that knee joint, the one you have two of. These three muscles run along the posterior surface of your thigh.

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Now, for the stretching: first and foremost, do not do the hamstring stretches standing up, where you bend over and try and touch your toes, or the one where you are seated, bending your entire back, trying to bring your head to your toes. These put a lot of stress on the back, and can actually accentuate and worsen your pain and prognosis.

Here are two ways to stretch your hamstrings, which are much safer for your low back:

1. Lie on your back, on a comfy surface, such as a yoga mat. Take a towel or band, and loop it around the underside of your foot. With the leg relaxed and extended, gently pull the towel or band towards you, until you feel tension in the posterior surface of your thigh. Your other leg can stay straight—as shown in the picture below—or can be bent at 90 degrees, with your foot planted firmly on the ground. The bent knee will diminish the tension in your low back.

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2. Stand in front of a couch, chair, or anything that is around or slightly lower than the height of your hips. Keep the leg straight, and gently bend forward at the hips; keep your back straight! An easy way to do this is to imagine that you are approaching your navel—belly-button—to your toe. If you do this, your back should stay straight. There isn’t much movement required for you to feel the stretching in the posterior surface of your thigh.

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Different beliefs exist on the amount of time that stretches should be held. I generally tell my patients to hold the position for about 30-45 seconds, 3 times per leg, several times a week or every day. The tension during the exercise should feel no more than 2 or 3 on a scale of 10, where 0 is no tension and 10 is maximal tension. If for any reason you feel numbness during the stretch, slightly lower the amount of tension that you are applying to your hamstrings.

There you have it: two safe hamstrings stretches to help with low back pain.

More to come in future posts!

What do you normally do to help with low back pain?

Lumbar-note: plugging semimembranosus in a sentence always gives you a nimbus of awesomeness.

Sources: all images taken through the Google search engine.

How Does Camping Make You Feel?

Hello again.

Hello, Mr. Naylor. Writing on time I see. Congratulations.

Now, let’s talk about camping!

Or rather write and read about it?

Yes yes…

Camping is one of my favorite summer activities. I try to get away from the city life at least 1-2 weekends each summer, and take in the fresh air, cellphone-less days, and the beauty of nature.

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I just came back from a two day fishing trip where I got to do just that—minus the camping with a tent. We spent the whole time on the boat fishing—and caught zero fish, great—, playing horseshoes, throwing frisbees, playing board games in the chalet, and relaxing in the sun. I always find days such as those very enjoyable, and I feel like I return home with a new outlook.

I have the luxury of going—camping this time—again this upcoming weekend, for three nights, and over 72 hours of non stop music—I will obviously sleep at some times, or else a collapse will occur inevitably. It is less relaxing on the body having to dance for all that time, but my mind will still manage to relax; nature has its ways of soothing me.

The festival this weekend is Eclipse, where there are four stages with music for 4-5 days. It is my first time going to this festival, and I look forward to hearing a lot of psychedelic-trance—fast paced electronic trippy music!

I know I will also take some time to just sit back, read, and stare in awe at the wonders of the trees, those emerald pillars staring down at us.

How does camping make you feel? It is a routine to go every summer, or even winter?

Side-note: it would rock if an Eclipse was set to occur during the Eclipse festival; sometimes, I tend to ask for too much.

My Five Year Testimonial

Straight to the point today.

Go for it.

Here I go.

Go!

I have been a Big Brother with the Big Brothers Big Sisters association for just over 5 years now. I was asked to write a testimonial of this experience. After shedding many tears yesterday while writing, I felt like sharing this with you all.

Here is the result of what will be read tomorrow night at the annual meeting:

Good evening to you all (from a distance, since someone will be reading this in my place),

I started my adventure as a Big Brother just over 5 years ago. Let me take you back to that time, since it is the starting point of a wonderful journey that has allowed me to evolve tremendously.

My mother told me about the Big Brother Big Sister association one day while driving in the car. Just to situate you all, I was 19 at the time, and I have one brother who is four years younger than me. Only a few weeks after hearing about the association from my mom, I was already sitting in front my computer screen, all excited, writing an email to the association to express my interest in becoming a Big Brother.

After a short amount time, my first meeting was setup with Christian, my soon-to-be little brother. I was explained that Christian was a 9 year old boy who liked sports and video games. This was perfect seeing as I am a video game, board game and sport aficionado.

I met Christian and his family with the caseworker on a nice sunny afternoon, and I will admit I was a little shy, and so was he! It was a good thing someone from the association was there to help break the ice (even the sun that day wasn’t enough to melt the ice away!). The meeting went well; we played some frisbee, chatted a little bit, and once finished, we setup our next meeting. We decided we’d play some board games next time. Christian didn’t know much about board games, but he seemed very interested in delving into something new.

During our next meetup, we played board games for a few hours. With this, and the next few meetups, we quickly discovered our activity which we still do every time we see each other until this day: play board games! Within a month or two, Christian became much more comfortable and we started discussing about our lives, video games, his family, my family, and every thing that came to mind!

Fast-forward one year.

I was contacted by the association saying that I had fulfilled my minimum 1 year mandate. My reaction was “Really? It definitely doesn’t feel like a year has already passed!”. They asked if I planned to stop or continue with Christian and the association. I sat there, perplexed. To me, there was only one legitimate answer. Just the thought of not getting to see Christian anymore squeezed my heart. I felt like I now had a second brother, and I could not fathom cutting this deep bond that had been created between him and I. I answered saying I planned on continuing for the years to come. But throughout the following years I was even more surprised with what happened and how I felt: the bond deepened, and we started talking even more, had a few sleepovers where we played a lot of games, and our relationship evolved into something I never even imagined.

The tipping point was the day of our 3rd yearly meetup with the caseworker. Every year, Christian, his family, the caseworker, and myself meetup to keep tabs on how every thing is going. There was one of Christian’s answers during the meetup which touched me profoundly (even now, as I write about this moment, shivers are creeping down my arms and a tear is dripping from my eye).

Each year, Christian was asked “What is it that you enjoy the most of spending time with Jonathan?”. The first two years, his answer was the same. He answered: “I get to play a lot of board games!”. An answer which I was happy to hear, because it reinforced the fact that the activities we were doing were chosen in duality, and that I wasn’t forcing my hobby upon him. But during the 3rd year’s meeting, he gave a different answer. His answer was:

“I just like spending time with Jonathan. I feel like I now have an older brother.”

Such a simple answer, yet it revealed so much to me. A wave of emotions swept over me, and in that instant I realized how grateful I was of having decided to become a Big Brother. It has been one of the decisions that has impacted my life the most in an indescribable way.

To this day, I still see Christian every two to three weeks, and yes, we still always only ever play board games. And we love it!

The 5 years have passed so fast. And just thinking about spending another 5 years with Christian brings a smile to my face.

Foot-note: want to play a board game? I sure do.

I Am Proud

This will be a quick post, and mostly a boastful one. But hey, I think I deserve it—actually, I know I do! I’ve been working on my mémoire for the past year and a half, and I submitted my final version yesterday.

After having graduated from the 1st cycle of osteopathic studies in December 2015, I had to decide between two options for the 2nd cycle. My choices dwindled down to:4790331313_8f291f6480.jpg

  • Mémoire: consists of doing either a quantitative or qualitative study. The mémoire requires a large amount of research, dedication, no procrastination, and a lot of writing, which are all mainly stuff I dislike—beside procrastination, that, I bathe in!
  • Clinicat: consists of working for several days in a clinic supervised by an experienced osteopath, writing a case report, taking several post-1st cycle classes, and some more—et cetera.

Throughout the four and a half year 1st cycle program, I was convinced I was going to do the clinicat seeing as I profoundly dislike research. However, one month before having to submit the form stating which 2nd cycle program I’d like to do, I had a paradigm shift; all of a sudden I wanted to do the mémoire. Why? Simply because I thought I’d get more out of it in the long run. I also didn’t think the clinicat would bring me much of anything. The thought of doing the clinicat instead of the mémoire up until then had always been the choice of the easy path, a path I am all too used to trotting down.

But wait. Didn’t you just say you hated doing research?

Indeed I did.

I still do.

And maybe I always will.

It was the first time in my life—I think—that I came to the realization of choosing a path because of what it would bring me throughout the journey. I’ve always been someone who likes taking the easy path—although I still put in the necessary work, with a good chunk of awesome procrastination—and for one of the first times I decided to take the path less enticing in exchange for greater personal growth.

That is why I am feeling proud, right now. A grin carved its way across my face yesterday only several minutes after having handed in my final version of my mémoire. I was, and am, proud of myself.

[Celestial high-five!]

I also have trouble giving myself credit in everyday life, so I am doubly proud of having written this blog post.

[Interdimensional high-five!]

When was the last time you were profoundly moved by your own action / accomplishment / anything special to you? I’d love to hear some of your heart-warming tales.

References: Jonathan Naylor’s proud brain.