Dr. Mike Fenster knows that health cannot be compartmentalized; our minds, bodies and neurosystems are interconnected and must be taken care in synchrony. At his Williamsburg practice, House of Chiropractic, Dr. Mike helps his patients achieve full-body connectedness and holistic wellbeing. We sat down with Dr. Mike to learn more about the relationship between mind and body and the real impact sitting has on our health.
How does physical stress impact mental stress?
In our office, we are always relating things back to the nervous system, that intricate brain/body connection that uses the spinal cord as its highway to send signals up and down. When the vertebrae (those segments that surround the spinal cord and allow us to move in many directions) are out of alignment the body starts to compensate and adapt to the poor position, and that is when our function decreases. The three forms of stress that act on the body (physical, chemical and emotional stress) can overload the system at times. When that nervous system is overloaded, things start to go haywire. For instance, a stressful day can lock up the upper neck and back musculature, which in turn puts the brainstem and parasympathetic nervous system at a disadvantage. If that misalignment stays there for extended periods of time (weeks months or years) our thinking can actually become foggy, our decision making can be put under stress and the body can actually get stuck in a heightened "fight or flight" pattern, which can have detrimental effects on the overall health of the body.
What’s the first step someone should take when they want to be more mindful of their health?
Seeing a chiropractor is a given, since there can always be improvements on one's health, so It is always important to know that we need to "Preserve the Vessel" as much as possible. We are only given one body for this lifetime, so we must do all we can to preserve it. But also knowing that nothing lasts forever is important to fully enjoy things. Every day is a gift, so friggin' take advantage of it!
Meditation through movement or stillness?
I grew up in a household where both my mom and dad meditated, as well as my step-father. He is currently in Nepal 6 months out of the year studying and helping his teacher. I never saw them meditate in any other way than cross legged on the floor using a zabuton cushion. Because of this, I always thought you had to sit still to meditate correctly. But i can tell you honestly that I have had some of my most meditative moments or "mindful chunks of nothingness" during physical activity. My horizons have been opened over the last few years to the realization that I don't think you can meditate incorrectly. If the intention is there, the meditation will be true.
Is sitting really the new smoking?
Sitting slumped in chairs and in front of computers and in cars sucks! With that being said, smoking is pretty friggin bad and has direct links to cancer, so puffing cigs still takes the cake for being worse, BUT, if you are totally sedentary at home, at work, in the car going home and in the car going to work, then sitting is eventually going to catch up to you. Stand up! move around! go for a walk, or do your computer work standing up! Your brain and spine will thank you!
What is happening to your body when your back is unsupported while you sit?How damaging is this to your overall health? Because all of your spinal segments (vertebrae) are highly moveable, they are also susceptible to subluxations (those misalignments we spoke about earlier). Chronic subluxation can lead to arthritic changes and decreases in range of motion, decreased muscle function, decreased nerve flow and an overall decline in health. So if we must sit, we must sit right! Not slumping into our seats and preventing out head from jutting out in front of us is a great place to start. Remember, once the spine starts to have arthritic changes, there's nothing to do to reverse that, outside of surgery. I am trying to keep as many people away from the knife as possible. Keep it Moving!