When we run into trouble, particularly with our bodies, the tendency is to seek out help and put yourself in the hands of someone else.
And, of course, if you have something serious going on, you should absolutely seek out the help of a professional. However, many people have nagging aches and pains that they’ve sought help for and have had little success.
Aaron Alexander is a massage therapist and Rolfer, but he created his company, Align Therapy, with the goal of helping people take charge of their health, rather than relying on him.
Here’s a snippet of Aaron’s philosophy:
“If you can reach in and sort yourself out, then you are empowered.”
Aaron Alexander has been professionally working with clients of all ages seeking a variety of goals from pain relief to improved athletic performance for over 10 years. He is currently seeing clients at his office, Align Therapy, in downtown Bend, Oregon.
Aaron is a licensed manual therapist, certified personal trainer, and certified Rolfer. He teaches self-care, myofascial release techniques, and functional movement practices.
Not only does Aaron teach these methods in person, but he also posts videos online, offers online courses, and runs a podcast through his website.
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
- (00:20) Who’s Aaron Alexander?
- (02:50) The creation of “Alignment Therapy”
- (06:30) Tips and tricks for dealing with your body and traveling
“When life gets challenging, you can either grow or grow a tumor.”
- (08:24) Traveling is a great time to explore new movement
- (09:40) Why Ryan loves flying
- (12:50) What it means to “check in with your own body”
- (16:55) Aaron’s tips for creating a “self check-in”
“Go outside of your box… The poor Mona Lisa is sitting in a tomb. It’s depressing to look at the Mona Lisa in my opinion.”
- (19:06) “Foundation is figured at your hip.”
- (20:45) Everyone should be in a “winning position”
- (23:34) People just need to be excited to explore!
“It’s about pushing the boundaries of your body. If you do not push the boundaries they will suffocate you.”
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
Ryan: All right, welcome to this edition of the GMB show today with my buddy, Aaron, Aaron Alexander from Align Therapy. How are you doing, man?
Aaron: I’m doing fantastic. Thanks so much for having me on, Ryan.
Ryan: This is going to be fun. Just let me give you a quick intro here. Aaron Alexander, he’s the owner of Align Therapy. I just said that didn’t I, anyway, world-class movement coach, does a lot of manual therapy. His approach combined is mainly self-care, mainly self-care with myofascial release techniques and functional movement practices. The system can be utilized any time or any place, that’s what we’re going to be talking about today. Right now Aaron is in Spain traveling around the world. Hey, man, do you want to tell us a little bit about what’s going on with your traveling and a little more of a background about you. That’d be great.
Aaron: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. The traveling part, should I start with the traveling part? Is that [crosstalk 00:00:58].
Ryan: Yeah, let’s start with that. I think it’d be good, I think it’d be good, yeah.
Aaron: Yeah, so I’ve been working pretty hard for the last couple of years, specifically a lot of time on the Internet and the computer and working to put the work that I do out into the world. I noticed a lot of different transitions and progressions and potentially even at moments digressions in my body as a product of that. I reached a point of wanting to shed some skin, I guess, explore some different realities, see how the rest of the world is operating. It’s very easy to get shrouded by what we think is the most effective way to do things because I live in America and this is what we do here.
To me it made sense to go see how people do things in Spain and Morocco and throughout Africa and Europe and such. Wintertime was coming, it was getting cold. Bend, Oregon, where I live at, it’s just got a foot and a half of snow, kudos for them, [inaudible 00:01:58]. Yeah, I decided to take five months off and bring the podcast, bring some recording gear and start filming, mainly recording audio bytes of how people are doing life in random corners of the world.
Ryan: Oh, yeah, man. Just like me being over here in Japan and traveling around the world, every… not every month, but pretty much every month. Today we talk a little bit about traveling and really how it can mess up your body a bit, but what you can do about it. Basically, just learn a little bit about how we can become more in tune with our bodies and get some of your tips, I think that’d be great. First off though, let’s hear a little bit about the Align Method. If you can go into that for us, let us know a little bit about it.
Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. Align Therapy is what I’ve been calling it. Originally I was calling it Align Method and then I decided everything is Align Therapy it makes a lot more sense, so Align Therapy is what I call everything.
Ryan: I’ll write that down.
Aaron: Yeah, exactly, note to self. What it is, so originally it was working, so doing hands on, manual therapy with people. It looks a lot like osteoapathy in a sense of moving joints, moving connective tissue back to their homes into the most optimal place for them to live at, rehydrating that tissue, getting the system moving well, so that the body can heal itself, right. That’s the thing is we think oh, we’re going to go see the blahdee-blah and they’re going to fix us. That belief is broken, that belief I hope it’s getting old and starting to get thrown away, but still a lot of people are attached to that. I need to reach out for someone else to fix me as opposed to reaching in to sort my own self out, right.
If you can reach in and sort yourself out then you are empowered, then all of a sudden you start knocking on the door of the fountain of youth because every moment becomes an opportunity to get better in your body, better in your mind, right. What I do or what I was doing and still do, I still do manual therapy with people and I still teach movement and I still do workshops and such. That’s what it’s transitioning to being more of. Working to teach people on how they can do the same techniques that I’m doing with my elbows or my hands or my feet or whatever it is that we’re doing they can do that with themselves, right.
That was the beginning of creating a bunch of videos for people and that was the beginning of starting to write out how to, DIY instructions on how you can be your own physical therapist, how you can be your own osteo or massage therapist or whatever it may be, right. It’s just takes… You got to learn to fish, to learn to fish it takes a little bit of time and that’s the thing that people sometimes aren’t willing to negotiate with is like now I really want to take the pill. That’s what we’ve been inundated with in our culture is what’s the green pill, blue pill, what do we got.
We can do better than that, right, and so that was the transition was turning it into teaching people how to use self-care techniques, balls, bands, rollers, so that they can do what a manual therapist would do. Then teaching them movement re-education, so they can occupy the space that they created in their body via the elbow or the foam roller or the ball or the hand or whoever or whatever it was to create the space.
Ryan: You’ve got so many, so many videos on your YouTube channels, just great, I love it.
Ryan: Coming back to your travel though and obviously this is something that I love talking about because I travel so much and I love traveling. The one thing that really gets me, being on the airplanes for long periods of time because I’m in Japan it’s a great hub. A lot of people don’t really realize this, but Japan is actually a great place to be because no matter where I want to go in the world it’s about the same distance.
Ryan: The only problem is is that pretty much every single airplane ride is going to be about 10 hours for me. By the time I get there and by the time I start having to teach some stuff’s going on and I move okay and so I have that, but the thing is I think that we all have these issues. What I’d like to actually ask you is how do you handle the stresses of traveling and what are some of the things that you find that maybe you didn’t notice until you started traveling. I’d like to hear that.
Aaron: Yeah, absolutely. I was actually writing about this last night…
Ryan: Oh, really, cool.
Aaron: …in my little traveling journal. Not with any anticipation of talking to you about this, but just in general it was something that seemed very apparent and it’s like finding… Traveling’s a struggle, there are a lot of aspects. When people are, wow, Aaron, you’re so lucky. Yes, I’m very grateful for everything that’s happening in my life, but it’s a lot easier to live at your mom’s house. It’s a lot easier to never leave the nest, right. She makes you the peanut butter sandwiches, you get to hang out.
It’s like great, it’s like being put in an imperfect situation and you can either… One of the things that I like to say is that when life gets challenging you can either grow or grow a tumor. Being put in these imperfect situations you can ahh, shrink up and contract and go oh, my god, this is so hard traveling. They eat differently at different times and the light’s not perfect and da, da, da, da. Or you can look at it as a challenge and an opportunity to think more creatively on how you can express the most optimal version of yourself in a wide variety of situations.
Aaron: Right, so we’re here in the room that I’m currently staying at here in Spain which I should probably change the light up here. Anyway, I notice I’m pretty [inaudible 00:08:06].
Aaron: Oh, that’s a little bit better.
Ryan: That’s nice, yeah.
Aaron: Anyways, yeah, so last night I was here in the room and working to do my own little movement, workouts, whatever you want to call it. I don’t say the word workout ever, I think that was the first time I said it for a long time. All of a sudden you start looking around at the shape of the room, right. Oh, maybe I can put my arm up on the sofa here and maybe I can bring my leg up over back and maybe I can hold that contraction and then maybe I can pass my leg through, right.
That full range of motion, all of a sudden I’m dancing with the room that I’m in, right. I didn’t have a human, too bad I didn’t have a pretty Spanish girl with me, but still I didn’t have a human with me to dance with, so I danced with the room, right. I figure out how do I contort myself to fit this space in the most optimal expression of me, creating power, creating strength, creating balance and integration in this new, potentially uncomfortable environment. If we can figure that out then every space, every moment, every place that we’re at becomes an opportunity to move better.
Ryan: It’s funny you say that because I get some of the strangest looks in the world when I’m on the airplane and I’m not just going to sit there, right. It’s like I got 10 hours to do whatever I want. This is interesting because I love flying, that’s my time. I don’t have to worry about… Everybody’s like how can you do that with all these people around you? I’m like dude, it’s great. I don’t know any of these people, I don’t have to answer emails, I don’t have to do all this other stuff. I get to be there and explore and think about stuff.
Just you talking about being in the room and moving your body and doing that, I do the same thing and I love it. I’m really happy to hear that because if more people would do exactly what you said instead of just going somewhere and thinking that you have to for one do the exact same thing you’ve been doing when you’re at home, no, go outside of your box there and try and look for new ways of doing things and explore and just get creative. I love that, I love to hear that you’re doing that.
Aaron: That’s all the same philosophies of Bruce Lee, that’s all the same… I’m sure he got a lot of information from Morihei Ueshiba, which is the founder…
Ryan: Yeah, Aikido.
Aaron: …of Aikido and such. It’s similar stuff where it’s what we end up doing as a culture is we take good advice. Like this conversation, I think this is conversation is good advice. I don’t like the word advice at all, but there’s potentially some good nuggets in here, right. It’s very easy to take that and all of a sudden put it up on a pedestal and a shrine and we worship that. Okay, he said put his arm up on the thing, put the foot through the thing, right, and it’s like, okay, there it is, I got my new system, right. The way Ueshiba describes that is he describes the way that these worshippers end up putting these various, different whatever [inaudible 00:11:12] up on the stool as putting them in a tomb as well, right.
Aaron: I was just at the Van Gogh museum and that was one of the things I noticed is like the poor Mona Lisa is sitting in a tomb there with the people with their photos and it’s depressing to look at the Mona Lisa in my opinion because it’s not alive anymore, it’s [inaudible 00:11:35] up.
Ryan: That’s such a good point. Let’s be honest, other people put people on those pedestals as well and it gives that pressure to be a certain way. We all fall into that trap or hopefully not. If we have the wherewithal to understand that… What doesn’t keep moving gets stagnant and will turn to crap basically is what it is. Here’s something I want to ask you. Over the years then though do you have certain checks that you do with your body? An example, as we progress in our body and get better in tune with our body we’re going to feel more, we’re going to be more sensitive in a good way and so obviously there’s certain things… Going back to the airplane, when we’re sitting I always tend to feel it in my hips a lot, lots of grappling and things over the years. Do you have these certain checks that you go through before maybe you go into exploration mode?
Aaron: Yeah, yeah, so I’m going to probably drop another Ueshiba quote here in a second just because I was reading The Art of Peace, one of the books he wrote, it was just great. One of the things that he mentioned in there was… He’s teaching a class and then one of the students is, “Man, Ueshiba, master. We’ve been doing the same fricken pose, the same movement for the last hour.” This is getting ridiculous, right. Ueshiba says, “You idiot.” What you don’t realize is that every single pose that you’ve done, every single movement that you’ve done is a completely new movement, right.
Once you realize that and you feel into that then you’ll be practicing Aikido, right, and so getting excited about walking down a street, right. As you’re walking down a street, yes, you’re ambulating through the whatever. It’s not just about getting to the coffee shop, right, it’s about checking my toe hinge. What’s the quality of the range of motion in my toe, right. If that’s limited that will limit the range of motion in my ankle, right. If that’s limited that will limit the range of motion in my hip, right. If that’s limited it limits the range of motion, the rotation through my organs, so I can wring out those rags, right, and get a full expression of my organs. They want to breathe, right. They have a subtle movement called motility where literally all of the organs are going like this uh, ah, uh, ah.
Ryan: Like a sponge, right? Yeah.
Aaron: Like a sponge, everything in your life moves, it oscillates in and out, right, and then the shoulder comes back and then the head is able to get a full range of motion and just going through… That’s one of the most basic things that I do in workshops that I teach is let’s talk about walking, let’s really do a biofeedback or go through an experience. What’s happening at the level of every joint? Now let’s step back and look at the landscape, right. Let’s have a global view of, okay, now we’ve got myopic, we checked out the joints. Now what’s the quality of the whole orchestra, right? Is there some kind of dissonance that you hear there or there’s some kind of violinist that’s out to lunch and it’s like pull that back. Now do we have music yet? If we do, play, that’s the way to get better. Just play, right. If not we got to sort it out.
Ryan: You do bring… It’s a wonderful point because I do think on another level a lot of people get so focused, just so myopic in thinking that it has to be a certain protocol each and every single time instead of allowing themselves to get to the point of play.
Aaron: Yeah, that’s it.
Ryan: Oh, no, no, no, I wasn’t able to do ‘x’ today, so I’m not allowed to play or something and I’m like don’t tell my son because yeah, he doesn’t give a crap, he just goes off and he plays all he wants, but a different story, right. Okay, I love it, looking at exactly what’s going on instead of thinking that it has to be a certain time each morning and a certain exercise or something, wherever you go basically. Getting a better understanding, a better awareness of what’s going on in your body instead of just going from point A to B. I’m trying to appreciate the process of getting there and the journey of getting there and seeing what’s going on along the way.
What about the average Joe out there? You pretty much described how you can do it. I’m sure somebody’s listening to this and they’re like, okay, I get what Aaron’s saying, I really do and he’s got these great videos on there and everything, is that where I start? Are there certain positions or something I should be checking with or how does that go?
Aaron: Yeah, really basic. Get your feet about shoulder width apart and you can play with this, you can go close together or you can go wider. Once again there’s not a one specific movement that is the Lord of all the movements, right. There are more functional developmental movements. If you have no foundation at all let’s start really simple, right. Let’s just get down and squat to take a poo in the woods, right. This is primal stuff, right. You want to go to Thailand, you want to have some soup, right. Let’s get down and we’re going to squat down to the ground and eat some soup, right. If you have that full human range of motion in your body then you got a foundation.
Most people if you look around the world you’re going to see the knees collapsing into that [inaudible 00:17:30] position. You’re going to see the feet go into that pronation, completely losing that beautiful tent that is the arches in your feet, right. You’re going to see all of the power that could have been maintained in the hip joint completely lost because you slack it out and it just spills in, right. Then you see the spine collapse forward, the shoulders collapse forward. Now I’m a working slave in our working class society, right, and this is just who I am now. I’m just a machine that keeps the wheels going, right.
Figuring out can you maintain a strong position with a squat and I’m sure you have tons of videos about this as well, but I have tons of videos about this stuff. Figuring out can you keep that weight transfer from your shoulders, imagine you’ve got a pretty girl up on your shoulder there and you want to pick her up, right, or a pretty guy maybe if you’re a girl, right, and you come down, are you able to hinge at the hip because your hip is a robust super joint, right, as opposed to hinging immediately at the knee, spitting all of that energy out into the knee. Your knee is not built to support that, right, if you’re carrying a load.
Sometimes you can have fun and do various… break dancing and whatever, I’ve got the knee in a funny position there for a second, right. It’s calculated, we’re talking foundational stuff here, right. Foundation is figuring out your hip. If you can figure out your hip you’re developing the foundation for every fancy movement practice out there, every powerful movement practice out there the hub is in the hips, right.
Ryan: Oh, absolutely, man, yeah. Martial art, that’s my background. It doesn’t matter what martial art you’re doing, it’s the hips, yeah.
Aaron: Yeah, and then stacking the knee on top of the foot or even create a little bit of external rotation there, right, which lifts the arch, pulls the slack out of the hip joint and forces you to activate your external rotators in the hip. The gluts, turn your fricken butt on, right. Welcome to modern society, we’re too long in the gluts and we’re disengaged. A fancy, 50 cent word for that which is hilarious, it’s called gluteal amnesia, your ass forgot, right. If you have that full range of motion, once again you’re able to go through that full range of motion with the ankle joint then that’s a good foundation for, okay, I can start building on top of this.
Ryan: Like it, I love it. This is the shit I get off on. I love talking about this obviously. We’ve got a lot of videos on similar stuff. Again looking at some of the videos that you’ve got out there and not just some of them, there’s so many of them and they’re not very long which I like.
Aaron: [Inaudible 00:20:12].
Ryan: It’s okay, check this out, look, do it, get on with it and I just think that’s brilliant the way you have those. What are some major issues though that you see with people whether it be in your seminars, hands on sort of thing, but what are some major issues? I’m sure that I can mention… Obviously squat is a big one. I’m lucky I live in Japan and a lot of people don’t really have that problem, but you’d be amazed with some of the younger children now because they sit in chairs all the time and all this other crap. What are some of the things that you see that you would like people to maybe become more aware of and pay more not just attention, but actually do something about it?
Aaron: Sure, so many. One really apparent one … again welcome to modern society is awareness of what’s happening. I want to reach around the back of myself. It’s funny, reach around the back of yourself right now, right, and feel your thoracic spine, is there an extension in there? Do you have any articulation and movement through that space? Or are you just stuck in the servant position, right. This position of being hunched forward like that has been shown to decrease testosterone, increase cortisol stress hormone, right. Vice versa, opposite of that, the vice versa happens, right, testosterone levels start to increase.
Ryan: Yeah, yeah.
Aaron: You feel more powerful, right. You can start to tap into your physiology just by your movement, right. Your cells at a deeper level they don’t have eyeballs, right. They’re dependent, all those mechanoreceptors and such are reading the information of where we put our body in space to determine are we winning or are we losing, right. If you can put yourself into a winning position and start just training life from that things get better, right, and so that’s thoracic extension to be more specific with that.
Aaron: Just getting down, you could use a ball or a foam roller or even a band, you can wrap a band around that space and lean back and start just exploring range of motion in there. Start to contract your muscles, go into shoulder flexion and just push back, right. It’s not complicated, right. It’s slowly pushing the boundaries of my body. If you do not push the boundaries they will suffocate you, so every moment it’s how do we slightly start to feel the periphery of the walls that we live in, right. Open up your room, get rid if your couch, get rid of the crap in the room, so all you can do is walk around like this. Your ceiling’s too low, jack it up somehow, move out, right, open the window, change your surroundings, so you can grow.
Ryan: Yeah, go outdoors. Get outside, do some stuff.
Ryan: Yeah. Now that is something and good point, it doesn’t have to be difficult, simple. Just simple, simple stuff, but having a greater awareness of what’s going on and using what you have. Even if you aren’t able to move out, use what you’ve got. You could figure something out.
Aaron: Use what you got.
Ryan: Explore, explore. All right, so let’s go back to something else regarding this is a question, I’m just going to read this. What’s the one thing you wish people would do for their bodies right now?
Aaron: Okay, one thing I wish people would do for their bodies right now is I would say … I’m reading a book called Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau right now.
Ryan: Oh, my goodness, so it’s not a very deep book at all.
Aaron: Really, really good. I feel most history classes or whatever, cultural whatever would probably… It’s required reading. One of the things he mentions in there… I’m going to ruin the quote, but something along the lines of “Modern humans are selling themselves or letting go of their humanness and becoming machines.” Right, so they’re selling themselves to the state essentially and just becoming these cogs in the wheel. Getting out of that standard, okay, I go to work, I sit in my car, I come back, I watch the football, I sit in this position, I sit in that position. Then I hunch over and I cut up … hopefully, eating some veggies. I cut up my veggies in this hunch over position. Just start becoming a little bit more excited about expanding your potential range of motion with power, right.
Flexibility is not enough, okay. If you were just really flexible to the point of hypermobility that’s as much of a problem as hyperrigidity, right. It’s figuring out how do we… Okay, cool, you want to do the splits? Can you do the splits and maintain contraction with that, so that you have strong support or you just hypermobile hip joint and it’s flying over your leg and you have no control over it, if that’s the case you have an issue and you need to batten down the hatches a little bit, right.
If there was anything… This is nebulous the way I’m responding, my apologies. If there’s anything, one suggestion, I would say in general becoming excited about exploration, become excited about just what does it mean to have a body and what is the relationship of this physical body in relation to how I feel and how I express myself and how people perceive me, right. How is my body language, how do other people interpret that to determine whether they want me to work in their business, right.
If you walk in and you say, “Master, master, I’m here to work, I’m here to do a great job.” You might get hired, but it’s because they plan on mowing you over. They plan on using you because you’re walking in ready to be used. If you walk in empowered, right, because your body language says, you know what, I can take care of myself, right. The people, the right employer or whatever is going to say whoa, I want this guy on my team because he’s going to do his own thing. He’s going to make my team stronger because he’s so strong, right, as opposed to being subservient. If you don’t create your own boundaries other people will just impose them upon you.
Ryan: So true, nailed it on that one, yeah. Man, just exploration. You keep coming back to that, I love it. Just explore and empower yourself and just keep it right here, open up, find out what’s going on there. Hey, listen, we’re going to end it here, but where can we find more info about your? We’ve got your homepage, everything that we can check out, but are you doing updates? I know you’re doing updates, but where can we find updates on what you’re doing and where you’re traveling and all the good stuff that’s going on in your life right now?
Aaron: Yeah, so I’ve been traveling for the last month, I have four more months to go and I’m cruising all through Southern Europe and then down through Africa is the plan unless I fall in love with a person, place, or thing and it’s just hang out for awhile. Where I’m updating right now because it’s the easiest is Instagram.
Ryan: Awesome, I love it. Great, great.
Aaron: Yeah, just because it’s so fricken easy. I just press the button and boom, it’s like there it is. When I come back I’ll be doing more updating on the website in relation to travels and movement and all that. Right now it’s just a pain in the butt to be updating the website.
Ryan: I hear you, man. You should be out there having fun exploring. That’s what you need to be doing.
Aaron: Yeah, yeah, so as far as… If you’re interested in the travel stuff Instagram’s the place to go and all this is linked off of AlignTherapy.com. In relation to anything that we’re talking about right now, the podcast, the videos, the courses, the self-care kit, the product thing that I sell for people to take care of themselves, the foam rollers, balls, bands, everything all inside the one thing, right, all that’s on the website.
Ryan: Cool. We’ll put all those links in there for all of you who are listening. We’ll also include Aaron’s Instagram account, so you can follow up with him on that. Yeah, man, great. Any last words, final words for everybody out there?
Aaron: Do cool shit.
Ryan: Do cool shit. I love it, yeah.
Aaron: Yeah, like I am going to die, you are going to die. Both you and I will be under dirt, a fact, right. Everyone needs a few near death experiences at some point or, hopefully, you could just be wise enough just to feel that without having to almost die. We’re all going to die, 100%, so when you are on your deathbed looking back are you going to be really stoked about that office job that you had? Are you going to be really stoked about all that money that you saved? Or are you going to be stoked about the relationships that you’ve had and the cool shit that you got to embrace?
Ryan: I love it. Do cool shit. Thank you so much, Aaron. It’s always a pleasure.
Aaron: Thanks, brother.
Ryan: I’m really excited to see your ventures and stuff, so I’ll be checking you out on Instagram all the time. Thank you again. Be safe, do cool shit.
Aaron: See you.
Ryan: Later dude.
Aaron: Bye, brother. Thanks, man.
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