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Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! We have a complete still and moving meditation training curriculum. If your primary training is in seated meditation, you will find our approach to enhance stillness practice while providing physical fitness benefits. It is said that DaMo taught the Buddhist monks a series of exercises because their single-minded sitting was ruining their bodies.
Yes! It's called Tai Chi Boost for Seniors. This specialized curriculum consists of a short series of breathing exercises and simple movements 20 to 40 minutes long. These movements address posture, relaxation, balance, bone density and coordination. Training is gentle synthesis of the following activities:
- Neigong (QiGong of Chi Kung)
- Strength training (No weights are used)
See the retreats listing below for times and dates. Ongoing classes available based on interest. Gather a group of your friends and get in touch! (520) 770-1200.
Kelley Graham has developed an elegant neuro-based system for self cultivation that rests on the following 6 essential areas of inquiry and skills development.
- Social Connections
- Mental Development
- Physical Development
The University of Arizona has an excellent overview available online. UA Science of Happiness Lecture Series
Contact Kelley Graham using this contact form or call to set an appointment for an informal interview concerning your background, goals and intentions. You will be joining a tightly knit training commnuity. If you are more interested in self-paced online training, solo practice or private consultation, let me know during the interview.
Brain Fitness and Wellness Using a Blended Approach
Needs & Benefits
This program addresses major physical, mental health and societal concerns that significantly reduce the quality of life of many individuals. This program will teach techniques to improve individual health and interpersonal relationships:
This 12 month program of intensive study is divided into two six month phases with three modules of practice and includes the following benefits.
- Better concentration and focus
- Reduced stress
- Improved physical condition
- Improved mind-body connection
Who It Will Help?
Participants are volunteers in the greater Tucson – Oro Valley community who are interested in exploring new ways and skills to improve their health, mental condition and lifestyle.
We are committed to transforming our community by helping families and individuals achieve excellence in healthy living. Meditation alone has been proven to be useful and effective, while physical exercise has its own well-documented effects. Our study will show how this brain fitness program brings the two approaches together successfully for improved wellness. The study will also explore how perceived risk and risk tolorance impacts wellness.
We have expert advisors and mentors in the areas of osteopathy, instructional psychology and internal medicine who identify measures and establish criteria. The resulting wellness model will show what works and how to apply findings to inform other similar programs.
- The role of social interactions in the propagation of new habits and thought models
- The effects of the method on the respiratory rate, resting heart rate, blood sugar levels and blood pressure
- The role of meditation alone (mind) vs meditation with stretching and specific breathing methods (body) in stress management and recovery
- The blended method and its relationship to mental acuity, risk, innovation and neuroplasticity
How Long Will It Take?
The 12 month program of intensive study is offered in TWO six-month phases with three modules of practice with 15 students.
Module One - Boot Camp - 8 Weeks
This module is designed to make a clean break into a new way of thinking. Foundational mental and physical tools are introduced with an emphasis on calming the mind to address habitual behaviors. Participants learn and practice two meditations and one movement routine. This routine includes stretches designed to simultaneously stimulate the body while calming the mind.
Module Two - Finding Ease - 8 Weeks
Stress and tension reduce our quality of life. Module two develops a stronger and more relaxed body. In addition to the continuing practice from module one, specific breathing techniques are introduced and developed that help the student recognize the mental and physical cues that occur when losing ease and becoming tense.
Module 3 - A New Normal - 8 Weeks
A new normal means that we have consolidated our gains and can move forward. No new materials are presented, only continued training. The outcome of this module is very simple:
- Practice makes perfect. In order to permanently realize the gains of this practice, the brain must be given the opportunity to change.
- Duration of practice and consistency in method determine overall success.
- This approach to practice sets a lower baseline for overall stress and results in greater mental acuity and better overall health.
If interested, contact Kelley Graham at (520) 770-1200 for an intake interview.
Conversations with Dr. Maggie Martinez concerning ongoing unpublished brain research have focused on the following key points.
- There is a brain cocktail that is required for the brain to best make new synaptic connections, aka Learning
- This cocktail is affected by emotional states. Stressors inhibit the cocktail from having the correct balance and learning cannot occur.
- The button that is pushed releasing this cocktail is under volitional control.
- This control is learned during early infancy, so early in infancy that awareness of the button is not conscious at later developmental stages. One aspect of meditative practice is recognizing that we do have conscious control of that button.
- Play, fun and pleasure all contribute to the formation and persistence of the cocktail.
Scientists used to think that the structure of the human brain didn't change much after infancy.
But in the past 20 years, there has been an explosion of studies showing just how adaptable and malleable the human brain is, and one of the most intriguing was published today by Carnegie Mellon University scientists.
Writing in the journal Neuron, brain researchers Marcel Just and Timothy Keller said that after just six months of intensive remedial reading instruction, children who had been poor readers were not only able to improve their skills, but grew new white-matter connections in their brains.
From the Wikipedia article.
"Brain fitness is the capacity of a person to meet the various cognitive demands of life. It is evident in an ability to assimilate information, comprehend relationships, and develop reasonable conclusions and plans. Brain fitness can be developed by formal education, being actively mentally engaged in life, continuing to learn, and exercises designed to challenge cognitive skills. Healthy lifestyle habits including mental stimulation, physical exercise, good nutrition, stress management, and sleep can improve brain fitness. On the other hand, chronic stress, anxiety, depression, aging, decreasing estrogen, excess oxytocin, and prolonged cortisol can decrease brain fitness as well as general health.
Brain fitness can be measured physically at the cellular level by neurogenesis, the creation of new neurons, and increased functional connections of synapses and dendrites between neurons. It can also be evaluated by behavioral performance as seen in cognitive reserve, improved memory, attention, concentration, executive functions, decision-making, mental flexibility, and other core capabilities.
Like physical fitness, brain fitness can be improved by various challenging activities such as playing chess or bridge, dancing regularly, practicing yoga and tai chi and also by engaging in more structured computer based workouts. Some research shows that brain stimulation can help prevent age-related cognitive decline, reverse behavioral assessment declines in dementia and Alzheimer’s, and can also improve normally functioning minds. In experiments, comparing some computer based brain boosting exercises to other computer based activities, brain exercises were found to improve attention and memory in people over age 60. . Other studies have evaluated other brain boosting exercises and not found improvements. A study of 67 schoolchildren aged 10 compared 7 week Nintendo brain training to engaging in pen and paper puzzles. The study found that the brain training group suffered a 17 per cent decrease in memory tests after the seven week course, while the pen and paper group saw an increase of 33 per cent. Many experts are skeptical with regard to the real value of different commercial brain boosting products. For example, a panel of experts gathered by Which? Magazine have concluded that ‘Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training’ for the Nintendo DS will not enhance brainpower at all." 
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When a deep, immersive calm is achieved and stressors are reduced, the brain can produce the neurochemical cocktail that enables formation of new neuronal connections. The brain and body are not separate. We have one nervous system, not two. The specific kind of concentration to achieve a deep, immersive calm requires the same level of effort as when learning a new language.
Urban Retreat Center curriculum engages your awareness using a physical tools. To accumulate knowledge, as in purely academic pursuits, is a less effective methodology. How do you know if you're training in just the right way to produce optimum brain fitness? Using the physical to train the mental produces better results then puzzles and games alone.
Real change is difficult and is not what you expect. Prepare to be surprised.
Anatomy and Physiology
Strength & Power are terms used to describe the capacity to have an effect or perform work. Physical strength can be distinguished from Strength of Materials. In our training, Structure is the best word for the kind of power generation that reinforces good posture. The tensegrity model and anatomy trains provide valid physiological context. Benefits of cultivating and refining ones structure can include:
- Balance - Refined awareness of the alignment with gravity results in exquisite balance.
- Endurance - Awareness of structure, rather than effect. when moving results in greatly improved use of self. An efficient movement uses less energy.
- Pain relief - Better structure means the body can move naturally and drop unnecessary habitual tensions.
- Profound Relaxation - This is a state of relaxation as your baseline condition, rather than an exceptional, fleeting, or occasional feeling.
- Resiliency - Injuries are lessened as the body is well knitted together.
As you move along the curriculum, poor structural patterns are naturally replaced with better ones. Many benefits can then be realized.
A fascia (//, //; plural fasciae //; adjective or fascial; from Latin: "band") is connective tissue fibers, primarily collagen, that form sheets or bands beneath the skin to attach, stabilize, enclose, and separate muscles and other internal organs. Fasciae are classified according to their distinct layers, their functions and their anatomical location: superficial fascia, deep (or muscle) fascia, and visceral (or parietal) fascia.
Like ligaments, aponeuroses, and tendons, fasciae are dense regular connective tissues, containing closely packed bundles of collagen fibers oriented in a wavy pattern parallel to the direction of pull. Fasciae are consequently flexible structures able to resist great unidirectional tension forces until the wavy pattern of fibers has been straightened out by the pulling force. These collagen fibers are produced by the fibroblasts located within the fascia.
Fasciae are similar to ligaments and tendons as they have collagen as their major component. They differ in their location and function: ligaments join one bone to another bone, tendons join muscle to bone and fasciae surround muscles or other structures.
Wikipedia entry Fascia
Anatomy Trains - Fascia Overview - http://www.anatomytrains.com/fascialfitness/fascial_fitness1.pdf
Fascial Congress Video
Click for the abstract.
Click for the
Active fascial contractility: an in vitro mechanographic investigation
Schleip R et al., in: Findley TW & Schleip R (eds.), Fascia research – Basic science and implications for conventional and complementary health care. Elsevier Science, Munich 2007.
With immunohistological analysis we demonstrate the presence of myofibroblasts in normal human fasciae, particularly the
fascia lata, plantar fascia, and the lumbar fascia. Density was found to be highest in the lumbar fascia and seems to be positively related to physical activity. For in vitro contraction tests we suspended strips of lumbar fascia from rats in an organ bath and measured for responsiveness to potential contractile agonists.With the H1 antagonist mepyramine there were clear contractile responses; whereas the nitric oxide donator glyceryltrinitrate induced relaxation.The measured contraction forces are strong enough to impact upon musculoskeletal mechanics when assuming a similar contractility in vivo.
Full text (PDF) available here
The Spring-like Function of the Lumbar Fascia in Human Walking
Zorn A et al., in: Findley TW & Schleip R (eds.), Fascia research – Basic science and implications for conventional and complementary health care. Elsevier Science, Munich 2007 (plus video).
Although almost every person swings the arms and rotates the trunk in walking, the movement of arms and trunk in gait analysis are generally regarded as one inflexible passenger block serving no function in walking. We introduce the hypothesis that the clumbodorsal fascia acts as an elastic spring helping to propel the mass of the trunk forward.
We developed a model of a walking human body which included the legs, the pelvis, the back, the shoulders and the arms. We described the kinetics of this body using accurate mathematical treatment of applied mechanics. The legs are represented by invertedcpendulums. The pelvic and the shoulder girdle are represented by torsion pendulums and the arms by suspended pendulums. A crisscross arrangement of elastic springs acts as a model for the posterior layer of the lumbodorsal fascia (PLF) which is put under tension by the latissimus dorsi and the glutaeus maximus muscles, thus connecting diagonally the contralateral arm and leg pendulums, based on the anatomical findings from . The PLF has an attachment at the trunk (spine) in the lumbar region. Anthropometric data were mainly taken from . The two muscles were assumed to work isometrically, thus giving the LDF a pre-stretch as described in . The elastic stiffness of the PLF in vivo is unknown – instead we used Young's modulus of human tendons. This set of interconnected oscillators in the gravity field was handled by formation of the appropriate Lagrange function. The obtained equation was solved numerically with Maple(TM) software. The time-dependent values of kinetic and potential energies during the cycle of movement were examined.
The lumbodorsal fascia, the latissimus dorsi and the glutaeus maximus muscle together form a continuous bowstring-like sling, being able to periodically exert a sagittal force helping to propel the mass of the trunk forward. Acting in this way, these two muscles (being the largest of the human body) can also do work in the normal walking movement in an efficient isometric way, in addition to the generally recognized triceps surae muscle. The values of the kinetic and potential energies during the stride cycle show a shift from pendulum to spring loading and back again. As such, the PLF acts as an active force transmitter.
In contrast to the traditional gait analysis, the pendulum action of the arms and the spring-like action of the lumbar fascia can have the potential to facilitate energetic efficiency in walking.
Here's some resources on understanding structure and your knees. Alignment is the most important principle to follow. The knee points at the centerline of the big toe of the foot. For the beginner, in a front stance, the front shin does not move past vertical. This limit must be respected when pushing or pulling.
Power will not pass safely through a knee that is out of alignment. The source of most knee pain is in the relationship betweent the hip and ankle, not the knee itself. A habitual misalignment, coupled with overtraining, will result in permanent damage to the joint.
Develop your awareness so that such misalignment does not occur. The Urban Retreat Center does not allow students to train improperly and damage themselves.
More about sports related knee injury from this article on Common Dance Injuries.