Isnin, 16 Disember 2013

The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Health

A ball for working the body and mind


A nasty fall led David Weck to invent a new fitness device called the BOSU ball.

WHO would have thought that cutting a stability ball into half would lead to the creation of an innovative fitness training apparatus?

Well, that's what David Weck, inventor of the Both Sides Utilised Training (BOSU) ball, did. He kept falling from the stability ball while trying to stand on it, and frustrated, he cut it into two.

That was in 1999 when functional training was starting to emerge, and since then, the revolutionary invention has taken the world by storm. Now, the BOSU ball is a common fitness equipment found in gyms and is used widely among professional athletes.

"I was in New York City and injured my back from a motorcycle mishap. My lower back hurt for a year, and traditional physical therapy or alternative treatments did not work for me," recalls Weck, during a recent trip to Malaysia. "So I started working on the stability ball to rehabilitate and discovered that the balance and core training provided relief from my pain. Standing on top of the ball was beneficial for coordination, but I would continually fall. One night, I had a nasty fall, and that was when I thought it might be easier if I cut the ball into two."

That night, he went to sleep with a gut feeling that he was onto something big. The next morning, he cut the ball, put a cardboard underneath and created a prototype. With it, Weck fully rehabilitated his lower back and a recurring plantar fasciitis problem, applied for patents, and thus, a new "star" was born.

Originally, the name BOSU was an acronym for "Both Sides Up". It meant that the BOSU ball could be used on either side, i.e. the dome or the platform.

The American says, "Initially, I was going to call it Balance Turtle, but the authorities wouldn't allow it!"

Weck was doing personal training at that time and introduced his gadget to his clients, ranging from ages nine to 86. They loved it. He even had one client with the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis who used it to develop better coordination, balance and strength.

"All my life I have loved to exercise and explore better ways to get more from my training. I've been called a 'mad genius' (fortunately, it was said as a compliment), and also, a 'visionary' in the fitness world. I'm certainly not afraid to think outside of the box, which has led to some profound discoveries like creating the BOSU ball, which I'm extremely proud of," he shares in the BOSU Fitness website.

Weck explains that the BOSU ball is how the human body is designed to move and function most efficiently.

"Alternating bilateral coordination of both sides of the body is the common thread in crawling, walking and running (fundamental to humanity). The hips, legs and feet work opposite the shoulders, arms and hands, in a balanced 'equal and opposite' relationship. It also balances the right and left hemispheres of the brain."

The BOSU ball can be used to increase cardiovascular endurance and strength.

The BOSU ball can be used to increase cardiovascular endurance and strength.

The basics of BOSU training are dictated by the structure and function of the human body. Two principle objectives are the balancing of left and right sides (control of centre through symmetrical rotation), and the timing efficiency during the down/up movement. Improving these two fundamental capabilities fortifies the foundation for enhanced performance in all movement, sports and life.

It doesn't matter if you're facing the toughest competition of your athletic career, looking to return to a fitter you, or just starting out. There are plenty for options with the BOSU ball. Besides helping reduce injuries, it aids in agility, core stability and coordination.

"There are many things you can do with it such as assembling a combination of moves that work together. Basically, it's like a chef cooking with lots of ingredients thrown in. You have to experiment to create new things," says Weck, who is in the midst of training runners, including US sprinter Tyson Gay, on the BOSU ball.

Weck's two kids, aged four and six, are proponents as well.

He adds, "We're now using it for anti-ageing properties. Exercise can transform lives and we're making a big push into that market as healthcare is a big issue worldwide."

The 43-year-old's love affair with sports dates back to the time he hit puberty and his testosterone began to flow.

"I used to spend hours at the library combing through microfilm (this was before the Internet) researching various training techniques and the latest science in sports training. The weightroom was like a second home for me in high school and in college.

"I'm a voracious reader and used to be a full-fledged anatomy and physiology geek. I draw tremendous influence from the works of Moshe Feldenkrais, Ida Rolf and F.M. Alexander – some of the pioneers in somatic (body) education. I've continued to expand my knowledge in diverse areas including traditional Chinese medicine and tai chi chuan."

He has now begun incorporating props such as skipping ropes and sticks to create a unique BOSU workout.

"These days, I don't lift heavy weights very often like I used to. But, I perform exercises with ropes and sticks/bars that most 'stronger guys' simply can't handle - because they don't train the way I do. As a result, my movements are fluid and my strength is spiral in nature. I've never been more athletic! I wish I knew all this at 14," Weck says.

One gets better balance, coordination and core stability by using the BOSU ball.

One gets better balance, coordination and core stability by using the BOSU ball.

He reckons rotation is the key to human movement as there are no straight lines in the body. Anyone, irrespective of age, can benefit from using the BOSU ball anywhere from one to three times a week.

Weck offers, "Just standing on the ball while watching television is enough to engage some muscles. Doing simple things like holding something while you do this makes it more challenging. BOSU is not just a product, but a training concept."

He cites his favourite exercise as standing on the dome side of the ball, on one leg, with eyes closed. There is very little risk involved in this (you can always open your eyes and step down) but it works the core stability and balance.

Already, the US Olympic track and field, and ski teams use the BOSU as part of their training. In Asia, Weck says the seeds have just been planted.

"My goal is to leave a legacy in the fitness world, forever changing the way people fundamentally work out, move their bodies and their overall approach to fitness. I'm doing this by rebranding BOSU from meaning a half-blue ball to an entire training methodology," he says.

Facing your fears


A psychologist comes up with a combination of yoga, hypnosis and auditory vibrations to help people bring their minds, bodies and spirits into balance.

IF possible, most of us would want to live free of drugs and pain. We want to be physically, emotionally and mentally balanced.

When something moves out of balance, our mind and body go out of sync, too. That's when we need healing.

After much research on different healing modalities, Dr Lennie Soo, a psychologist and clinical hypnotherapist, has come up with a unique, non-invasive method called the Full Moon Vibrational Gong Healing.

By combining simple yoga postures, hypnotherapy and gong healing – three modalities with proven track records – she has seen positive healing results in her clients.

"With medication, the pace of recovery may not be so fast. The body may heal, but not the mind.

"Vibrational healing is among the fastest ways to achieve results with daily problems, such as confidence and stress, as well as ailments, such as fertility and irritable bowel syndrome, which are very much affected by stress," she says.

Dr Soo calls it vibrational healing, but the Chinese call it chi healing, the Indians, pranic healing, and the Japanese, reiki.

The energy is the same, but is introduced and harnessed in a different manner.

According to Dr Soo, research reveals that the vibrational sounds of the gong help reduce stress, stimulate the glandular system, strengthen the immune system, clear negative energies, increase intuition and cleanse negative karma.

It also helps activate and tune your vibrations, aligning and balancing your chakras and energy grid.

These vibrations focus and slow the mind, moving the body into a deeper, slower state of vibration. It is in this deep state that healing and realignment can occur.

"I am constantly looking for ways to put my patients into a trance state, where I can access their subconscious and deeper unconscious minds.

"I found that different people respond better to different types of inductions, for example, physical induction (kinaesthetic types), narrative induction (visual types), emotive induction (feeling types) or waking induction (nervous types).

"I started to experiment with techniques that involve all the senses within a person.

"By combining bodywork (yoga) and the gong (auditory), most patients are able to relax more deeply and become less resistant to hypnotic suggestions.

Dr Soo starts beating the gong as participants enter a deep state of relaxation after a session of gentle yoga stretching and breathing exercises. ¿ Photos by RICKY LAI/The Star

Dr Soo starts beating the gong as participants enter a deep state of relaxation after a session of gentle yoga stretching and breathing exercises. – RICKLY LAI/The Star

"Many experience cathartic releases in one session, which accelerates their healing," she explains.

Getting relaxed

This writer was invited to try out a recent session held at BE Urban Wellness, Damansara Heights, Kuala Lumpur.

I had experienced gong baths before, where you are surrounded and immersed in the sound of gongs, but this was completely new and I didn't know what to expect.

The objective of the session was for Dr Soo to address deep-rooted fears, phobias and anxieties in participants.

While the sessions do not have to take place solely during the full-moon period, Dr Soo says research has strongly indicated that the moon affects human behaviour.

She says: "Extrapolating the conclusions of this research, I felt that the biggest positive effects that therapy can have on a person is when that person is at their peak negative state.

"It is for this reason that I have the group therapy session during the full moon.

"It can bring out the worst in people, and allow therapy to be its most effective.

"Naturally, it has to be well-controlled, and at no time must the people be exposed to actual danger.

"The perceived danger for phobias, for example, comes mainly from their own irrational fears, and not from exposure to real danger."

The motley crew of participants were in a sea of whites, except yours truly, who didn't know there was a colour code. White emits all colours, easing the way for heavy and dark emotions to be discharged.

We started off with some yoga breathing and gentle stretching, led by lawyer-turned-yoga teacher Balraj Pannu.

The breathing helped induce us into a state of relaxation, and as we lay on the floor, face up (relaxation pose), Dr Soo started beating the gongs.

It was therapeutic, and when we had a sharing session later, everyone reported having had different images in their mind.

Dr Soo says: "This form of therapy is very safe for all races, ages and background.

"Most people sleep through the entire session and wake up feeling transformed in ways that feel 'natural'.

"When they wake up, they forget the stress they brought with them to the session."

An unexpected guest

What came next was totally unexpected.

Dr Soo went to the corner of the room, grabbed a basket and announced: "I've got a guest in here. Just sit quietly and feel your fear. I'm going to count down to ten, then you'll open your eyes and you will have no fear."

There were hushed whispers all around; some participants started uttering profanities, some cried, others smiled, while I sat frozen.

Earlier, we were asked to fill a questionnaire on our fears, and I had noted down "snakes and leeches", giving it a five on a scale of one to 10 (10 being "absolutely terrified").

Some had mentioned fear of sharks, cockroaches, rats, drowning, confined spaces, etc, but the majority had said snakes.

As I suspected, she took out a three-year-old python, Samson. Someone screamed and started sobbing hysterically, whereupon Dr Soo went to calm her down.

Dr Soo then told us to close our eyes, immerse ourselves in our fear, while she counted down from 10. When we opened our eyes, our fears would supposedly have disappeared, or subsided.

My heart started to race as Dr Soo then invited a participant to carry the reptile (this participant had rated her fear as a nine).

The woman coolly cradled Samson in her arms and said he felt "expensive".

I was up next.

No, no, I can't do it, I pleaded.

"Just try," urged Dr Soo. "Come and give Samson your hand. Let him smell you."

I just about managed, but couldn't bring myself to touch him, even though he seemed like a friendly fellow.

But, it was a start.

Self-directed healing

What do Dr Soo's results from her new healing modality reveal?

"You have observed for yourself that quick results can be achieved with phobias for some people, and for others, it might take a few more sessions.

"All benefit from it at a cellular level because it does affect the para-sympathetic and nervous systems in a positive way.

"Vibration healing is non-directive and non-suggestive. You take from the session what you need.

"The role of the therapist is to engage with all your senses at a subconscious level, and it is entirely up to your body, mind and spirit to direct it towards whatever your physical, mental, emotional or psychological parts need and want.

"Thus, with phobias, we direct you towards your phobia and give you the resources to deal with it hypnotically.

"Then, it is up to you to release it whenever you feel ready to do so.

"The degree of release is determined by your own subconscious mind, or perhaps you might want to examine your own fears within the safety of the therapeutic setting.

"Our fear affects us very deeply and controls our psyche.

"Fear is the product of the story you tell yourself.

"When you can conquer your fears, it opens you to courage, strength and limitless possibilities," she says.

Hence, the kiasu part of me decided I could indeed conquer my fear, and I asked Dr Soo if I could try again.

She gladly obliged, and this time, I managed to hold Samson for a few seconds.

It didn't seem that bad, but I was feeling squeamish the whole time.

So, did I conquer my fear?

I don't know yet. If my stomach woes improve, then Samson must have done me some good.

As for Samson, he accompanies the doctor during her sessions.

"Samson likes the vibration of the gong. Snakes are very sensitive to vibrations - their entire length is a vibration antenna.

"The sound of the gong relaxes them, so I bring him along for meditation sessions, gong sessions, healing sessions, etc.

"He seems to enjoy it," shares Dr Soo about her pet snake.

But not to worry, Samson only comes out of his basket when Dr Soo needs his help to assist clients to conquer their phobia of snakes.

* The next Full Moon Vibrational Gong Healing Session on chronic illnesses will take place at BE Urban Wellness on Dec 17 at 8.30pm. For more information, call 03-2095 1999.


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