LKM – the effects on the brain of a special kind of meditation

I’ve been ranging a bit far afield from corseting lately. The reasons? Perhaps it comes from growing maturity with age than in the past? I hope so! Perhaps I can see more connections in life, but also yearn for a simpler time with more interpersonal connection. The latter sewems to have gone by the wayside on my daily walks, as those texting walk by me ignoring me, if not almost running into me! They avert their eyes, preferring to look up, across the street, or continue to look down at their phones. Anything but making eye contacact — and in a quiet , slower and less populated San Francisco neighborhood that doesn’t demand isolation from real life social contact in order to live in crowded cities (picture crowds of people jammed into NYC subways staring out, each one alone in a crowd).

Of course, I’m also working on intrapersonal connection, too! Connecting with what is really important now for me, not holding on to the past either in terms of resentments or profession and how I saw myself in the corset world or how I used to feel in general. What seems to be more important is to make my life more organic in how it unfolds, to be more open to what is coming without worrying so much, and to be more in touch on a daily basis with how I feel and what I “seem” to want to do with my day.

Of course I’m semi retired now, working only with one senior corsetiere (a super great one for making comfy training corsets, by the way — and that’s Sheri Jurnecka from Oakland). So I have more time and freedom to determine how I want to spend my day—mainly slowing down from a fever pitch demanded of us when our livlihood becons and we want more material security and/or family growth.

I was led from my Alexander Technique teacher’s website today, to LKM, or Loving Kindness Meditation. I’m lately interested in the brain and how the brain wants to protect us from harm but often misleads us with messages that don’t fit our physical needs at the time. In other words, our brain is programmed to send the wrong messages from a right motivation! Of course that deals with the area of neurology. So here is what I learned about LKM:

The practice of LKM changed several important brain regions: both the insula and the temporal parietal junction (TPJ) lit up as a result of LKM. The insula is the part of the brain responsible for our ability to empathize with others, and to make oneself aware of emotional and physical present-moment experiences. While both groups saw an increase in insula activity, the group with 10,000 hours of experience showed significantly more activation than the other group. This group was experiencing higher levels of compassion than the non-practicing group.

A similar finding appeared for the TPJ. The TPJ, like the insula, is also related to our ability to process empathy and our ability to attune to the emotional states of others. Again, compared to short-term meditators, those with a long-term meditation practice showed significant activation of this brain region. (From:

I’ve been thinking, too, about empathy, and empathy vs. compassion. A smart neighbor of mine who practices employment law, mused recently that the deluge of incidences of sexual harassment (perhaps not more incidences, but more courageous reporting of it!)  results from the difficulty or inability of many men to feel compassion. I thought a long time about her point. I agree in part.

But to me, the basic issue is not compassion. It’s: do we have empathy with others? According to Websters, compassion is sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it. Empathy is the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another. It isn’t limited to distress and it doesn’t start with consciousness of others. I think that empathy starts with being aware of ourselves, our emotions, our bodies, and then becoming aware of others and what they are feeling and what they may need.

We can’t possibly have compassion if we don’t start with empathy. The ability and willingness to put yourself in another’s shoes, to me is “empathy.” Through my Alexander Tech. teacher, I’ve been learning how to be more empathetic to or with myself. I have to put myself into my own shoes and really concentrate hard on becoming aware of exactly how I feel at any given moment.

Putting yourself in touch with yourself during the day and sometimes during each moment, is what happens when you corset waist train. It’s just one method to improve that process.

Elyse says it has a lot to do with sight, seeing and the eyes. Fancy that and who knew? But that’s a topic for another blog a bit later.


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Africa joining the obese crowd

When I updated my original waist-training book in fall, 2016, I listed a few European nations who had seen the rise of obesity during the past decade or so. I recently blogged on how it has reached into Latin America. On Sunday’s NY Times I read that Africa has now succumbed, for a number of complex reasons, not the least of which is an improving economy and the presence of junk food (see Africa’s Gains Come with an Alarming Byproduct: Obesity” by Jeffrey Gettleman).

The increase in obesity is going much faster than “just about anywhere else in the world” says Gettleman. Eight of the 20 nations with the fastest-rising rates of adult obesity are in Africa.

Problematic in Africa, as compared to other perhaps more industrialized nations, is childhood malnutrition when young, which leads to  putting on more weight as adults. And, African health systems combat other diseases like HIV, and not diabetes, and not many can afford doctors to being with. Plus, there is a social push message that “the bigger the tummy, the better you are doing.”

All of which point out that any problem is usually not simple but multi-caused, and thus, not easy to solve. Bringing to bear many strategies both institutional and personal, is the only rational way to go.

Corset waist training, even belt training and tight clothing, is just one way with which I’m familiar, but it certainly fits the panoply of strategies out there for many Americans with some economic means. However, we should not focus on one answer, but explore many to find the combination that works for each of us, to stay healthy and fit over our lifetimes!



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Isn’t it funny how we have the answers we need, but often don’t listen?

I had to laugh to read my latest AARP The Magazine and the last feature on Henry Winkler who is now 72. He was asked “the worst thing about aging?” and he responded, “Convincing my knees to straighten after a long sit.”

This parroted almost the same thing a good friend told me recently, about a struggle with a new back issue he was having. He said something to the effect, “Boy, I find I just can’t sit and watch tv so long any more, or my back hurts!”

Well, duh!!!! to both my friend and Henry Winkler.

How come I can see, but neither of these men can see, that the solution to avoid creakiness and back issues, is simply NOT TO SIT FOR SUCH A LONG TIME?

Just because our bodies and tolerances change (both mental and physical) with age, does not excuse us from being conscious of what is going on! We have to look for answers to our aches and pains, our disappointments and health issues, our blue moods and crankiness. The answer is nearly always there, just below the surface of our self-delusion or the oblivion that may envelop us.

Being aware of our bodies is a task that is harder for men than women, in my experience. Perhaps these two men are like the majority, and don’t like to face up to change or  matters that signify a possibly diminishing physicality. It won’t make them the lesser to become more conscious, and it could make them a lot more rational and better at taking care of themselves over the coming years!

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Yet another study on importance of waist circumference! from Denmark this time

“…. researchers found that higher levels of fitness were associated with a smaller waist circumference and a lower degree of inflammation independently of BMI. The researchers acknowledge that there are possible limitations that may affect the findings of the study, but overall the results suggest that increased fitness has the potential to reduce abdominal fat mass and inflammation which may improve metabolic health irrespective of BMI.

‘We found that fitness is inversely associated with both abdominal adiposity and low-grade inflammation independent of BMI,” says Wedell-Neergaard. “These results suggest that, regardless of BMI, high fitness levels lead to a reduction in abdominal fat mass and low-grade inflammation.'”

So say Danish researchers in this January publication:

What’s interesting to me, is that this finding is independent of the BMI, recently reported by our so-called president’s doctor, after examining our 237-lb leader. Apparently this doc left his tape measure at home and ignored the waistline. Just one more bit of proof that corset waist training is addressing a truly significant health indicator of risk to health and life! And it’s a heckofa lot more fun than going on (yet another) diet!

The absence of tape measures is not unusual. Most doctors never measure our waistlines! I’ve read that before, and I personally know that to be true.

What is wrong with doctors today, and medical schools that fail to teach med students to keep a tape measure in their office desk, or better–draped around their shoulders like the stethoscope we always see?


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How do we know anything? (and how knowing relates to corset waist training)

Today after my Alexander Technique class, a thought popped into my head as I drove home.

“How do I know something?”

There have been some real eureka moments I’ve experienced during my AT classes or just after  class when writing in my AT journal the past four months, but how does the “eureka” occur?

I came up with this:

1. To know something, you have to notice.
2. To notice, you have to stop what you are doing to become aware.
3. To become aware, you have to see, hear, smell, and feel.
4. To see you have to look, to hear you have to listen, to smell you have to inhale, to feel you have to let go.

For me as a AT student, it has been becoming  Aware, and Letting Go, that have had the most beneficial consequences to my overall recovery from the year-ago whiplash and remaining neck tenderness I’ve been rehabbing.

Today (as usual) during the last half of the class, I was relaxing on the table listening to my San Francisco teacher, Elyse (Body Project) teach, or perhaps occasionally I brought up some thought that popped into my head. As usual and at the same time, I was feeling her magical hands under my shoulder blades coaxing that last tense neck muscle to let go, or under my hip coaxing that left sciatica soreness to let go and the muscles to melt into the table. I think it feels a bit like slippery butter melting or pudding liquifying, as we said today, and we both laughed at the images!

In fact, before AT I’ve never felt like a pancake  not during or after massage, hot tubs, yoga, PT, acupuncture, meditation, stretching, traction, walking, sex (well, maybe sex!), or other. Only AT has allowed me to feel like a pancake: totally and completely flat.

That’s the only way I can explain it: flat, flat flat, one with the horizontal, one with the table, a thin line of a self that is completely at ease and weightless. I can only recommend the blissful feeling to you (esp. if you are a type A person or suffering a lot of stress in your life). AT gets me there.

But on the table today, let go my muscles did. Elyse, too, always feels that process when I let go in one area of my body–something that is still hard for me to believe. That’s because movement seems so subtle from my viewpoint, yet she says it is quite obvious. I know she notices, because typically she comments immediately after I let go in a big or small way. Magic! She’s clearly noticing and being aware, and so am I.

Letting go for me is all about noticing and being aware. It’s only when I bring my attention to the body part that Elyse is touching and communicating with (yup, it’s a type of communication for sure!), that the muscles can and will relax, or it can happen when I give myself suggestions that Elyse has taught me to use when I’m going about my daily life. I have to pay attention and remember those suggestions, and note how my shoulders or left hip, or neck feel — or very little happens, other than my body behaves as it has all of these 74 years. It falls too easily into routine, habitual, familiar postures, stances, and tensions.

I mused out loud that it has taken me soooooo long to develop those postures, stances, and tensions. that I realize that will take a lifetime to re-learn how to let go. A feeling of discouragement wafted by, but I put it out of my mind and went back to being aware of what Elyse was doing and saying to me, and being aware of what thoughts popped into my mind and what “let gos” were happening. Elyse reassured me that it does take some time to change ones nervous and muscular responses, but that practicing and re-practicing and re-practicing works, and changing happens more quickly after a keen “notice” or something we don’t like or feel comfy with in our body. I find that to be true at this present point in my learning of the Technique. But sometimes I find I also turn my head to look over my shoulder at discouragement coming on from time to time.

Becoming distracted or letting in negative thoughts wastes my money and time, and hers as well. I’m on a mission to get really well and healthy this year and am pulling out all the stops!

Awareness is something I try to incorporate and teach to my students during coaching programs in corset waist-training. It is only when we take smaller bites (unlike the person pictured!), count each bite 30 times (of ice cream, too), and thus, slow down the eating process in that and a few other effective ways, that we become aware of our habits. Only then can we really see, smell, and taste food, and begin to let go of destructive choices of food and eating habits.

The corset is merely one tool that forces most of us to slow down when eating (and dressing and moving fast), especially later during training when the corset becomes slowly a bit tighter and then tighter, and we wear it longer and longer without loosening it up for the occasional over-indulgence in food, and resulting discomfort we feel. Or we rush around too fast and become slightly out of breath. The corset forces us to notice how we feel, to slow down, and to become aware of the body by bringing our attention to it.

I’ve noted that noticing is an easier process for my women students than for my men students. Many men have a socially-conditioned limited self knowledge when it comes to bodily feelings as well as emotions. I’m not sure they identify stress as easily as women do, so how can they give it up if that is true? They have first, to notice and become aware that they are stressed out, or that their bodies are tight and tense, before they can let go.

The strategies and steps I’ve developed as a coach in corset waist-training (described in detail in my book of the same topic) are designed to bring my student’s attention back to the body and to the moment or hour that they must remain in the corset according to our agreed-upon schedule and training contract. Reporting to me every other day, writing in their journal, and communicating with a Training Buddy that I assign them (a former student), all help to bring awareness into their daily lives so that they more easily can reach their reasonable waist-training or weight-loss goals.

I’ve yet to find a corset enthusiast who also has trained in the Alexander Technique, but I’m hopeful someone will reach out to me so we can share our experiences. Might that be you?

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A Smile for the New Year?

Hope you are having great holidays! After all, Santa did visit me and I got a long-requested home-constructed hand rail built up the back stairs into my garden, in order to increase safety at our home. Now I can garden away in the spring. I’m truly grateful to my talented partner, and excited each day to go outside and up the stairs in safety, to appreciate the progress in our back yard! Plus, it’s great exercise!

I also implemented walking as a major part of my strategy to keep waist-trim and my weight under control (way back in 2003 and more recently 1.5 yrs ago, more  devotedly six days a week; I am now walking, and swimming three times a week, to help me get over a back spasm). It works for both, and is a nice adjunct to any corset waist-training program or “diet” for the New Year!

On my daily walks, however, I have noticed that people I pass smile less and less frequently.


Smiling actually has some benefits to exercise, albeit to more vigorous exercise. Still, I believe it would benefit anyone who walks, even if there in no scientific evidence of such, to reach out verbally and to smile at those one passes. It takes some courage to interrupt–well, you know, texting walkers who seem to live in their own little egotistical world, oblivious to the beauty of nature and the outdoors or to anyone coming along their path.

Today is a glorious San Francisco summer-like day. Really — it’s like summer weather here in the low 60s (while much of the country suffers from huge piles of snow and freezing weather). I had to change to a summer t-shirt for my walk, removing my silk long underwear, fleece top, and down vest! I was sweating by the time I got back from the 1.5 mile walk, but truly loved the trip!

However, if anyone smiles along the way, it seems to be me. If anyone says “hello” or “how are you?,” it’s usually me. Half the folks I pass are walking while texting–one of my main complaints these days. Half of half of those almost plow into me as they pass, more or less oblivious to my coming and my going. I guess they think they own the sidewalk.

The worst of the worst are mothers (always in our neighborhood it’s the moms or nannies, even) who are pushing a baby in a stroller, while they text away–even when they cross intersections. True, intersections are sort of peaceful along the route to the park and back that I take, but cars come nonetheless. I always wonder how those moms would feel if a car careered around a corner and decimated the carriage and its precious contents while the mom texted? Apparently, the possibility of risk and death escapes these moms. Unbelievable.

I recently read that smiling while running actually improves efficiency 2.78 percent as a group in a research study published in September’s Physiology of Sport and Exercise (see “Grinner’s Circle” by Gretchen Reynolds in the NYTimes magazine, 12 10 17). But they can’t be false smiles. Grinning sincerely and often near a race’s end works better, rather than continuously during it. This is the first scientific evidence to support the idea that smiling can help us exercise!

I’m not advocating taking a 20 minute walk while grinning from ear to ear the whole time.

But I am advocating reaching out to others by initiating a quick smile and a “hello” loud enough to interrupt texting, and to cause eye-to-eye contact, rather than downcast eyes as folks try to avoid contact.

To me it’s a very sad recent change in my neighborhood. We call our neighborhood in San Francisco a “village” (it has that flavor), but it’s changed over the 40 yrs. I have lived here. It no longer has a village feel, mainly because hardly anyone is friendly any more.

I think I’ll add “to smile and say hello” to every single walker I pass (sometimes they don’t even know what to say, they are so surprised!!) during my daily walks in 2018. It seems worthy goal and worthy New Year’s Resolution, plus a simple, do-able goal as well.

I can’t change the world, but I can do my part to live an example that used to be true in our village.  Maybe you can join me in your area of the country?


Model: training student Barbara, modeling a corset by Sheri for ROMANTASY)

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Tangential learnings (even from corsets and waist training), and their benefits

What? Two blog posts in one day? I’m inspired by today’s Alexander Technique class to post this blog just after posting one this morning that muses about why we are often hesitant to try new things like corset waist training.

About four months ago I sure jumped into the “new thing” of weekly Alexander Technique classes. Raven, my web assistant, happened to send me the name of this alternate therapy because she knew at the time that I suffered fairly strong low back and neck pain.

My classes are taught one-on-one by my neighborhood AT teacher, Elyse Shafarman of the Body Project in San Francisco. Elyse teaches me in her home studio, but also regularly teaches acting students at the American Conservatory Theater downtown San Francisco. For me, Elyse was the right person at the right time in my life. Sometimes it happens that way.

Elyse has made or helped me to make substantial changes in my health over the past months  — but also she has made changes in my psyche and in my life. This includes how I relate not only to my physical self and bodily feelings on a given day, but also how I relate to others in my life, as well as to some possibly new beginnings I’m thinking about implementing in the coming New Year of 2018. I’ll bet you have even given some thought to New Year’s Resolutions or goals (as I like to call them), haven’t you? Or you soon will!

Perhaps one of them might be to try an initial Alexander Technique lesson to see what’s it all about and if it might hold some benefits for you? To start, if you feel stress in your daily or weekly life, and are ready to minimize it because you are committed to your improved health and well being, then the best way to start to see if AT might work for you, is viewing the youtube video of actor William Hurt taking a lesson from a well-known AT teacher.

Some, like me, may be coming off of a physical injury that might include damaged muscles in your back (from a low back spasm, gratefully with no disc involvement) and neck (from chiropractic manipulation).  Some may suffer pain from scoliosis or perhaps, fibromialgia. Some may just be old-fashioned stressed out!

Many folks have found relief by wearing corsets to brace weak or injured backs, and even by corset waist training before resorting to surgery or even to pills. Those real life cases are well set forth in Lucy William’s great book, Solaced (available on I highly recommend that you survey the extremely wide and beneficial reasons that some of us corset enthusiasts wear the garment.

Of course, there are also more nuanced psychological benefits from wearing corsets, or from adhering to the discipline of health-conscious, moderate waist training. The structure of the corset itself, coupled with the structure in waist training, of a regular, anticipated schedule of daily (six days a week is recommended) corset wear, certain new eating habits and foods, and certain waist-targeted exercises, can be quite comforting in an otherwise chaotic, hard-driving lifestyle or world.

Likewise over the past three months I have found nuanced psychological benefits from pursuing my weekly Alexander Technique classes, benefits I did not expect at first. I can now see how taking AT classes while doing waist training, could really boost one’s progress forward toward better overall health.

I first went to have Elyse try to resolve some of the low back pain from the back spasm and worse upper neck pain that occurred last November. I’ve blogged a few times about the relief I have experienced from the classes and thereafter as I implemented both the physical postural changes I learned, as well as proper self-messaging regarding pain and posture. That continues; on most occasions I can immediately identify when I begin to hunch my shoulders, and let go, know when I am holding my breath, and let go, identify more readily when I have locked my knees and legs, and relax. I can immediately take the proper and effective counter move to correct problems that have led to too many muscles being utilized in daily activities, or the wrong ones being engaged.

I have also learned how to breathe more effectively and fully. Sounds funny, right? Has my corseting limited that in the past? Perhaps or perhaps not.

Corseting of course, means that you learn to breathe higher in your chest and not in the lower belly. What I’ve learned most of all about breathing in AT, is how to fill up and move outward my back ribs and move the breath upward under my armpits — areas not encompassed or restricted by an underbust waist-training corset that I tend to wear (I almost never wear overbust styles).

Not long ago I had to undergo a complex diagnostic procedure (with excellent results by the way!), not at all pleasant and certainly scary because of certain risks. While I was waiting for my doctor and anestheologist and lying on the gurney under warm  blankets.  I practiced the deep breathing techniques that Elyse has taught me, and I was able to relax and almost endure the wait, then not be totally freaked out when they came to roll me into the procedure room. I’m not sure I could have gone thru all that, without this breathing exercise to sustain me!

As I have continued swimming three times a week and walking 1.5 miles five days a week over the past year, plus sometimes wearing my cincher and a soft collar, the addition of the Alexander Technique classes has led to me being overall more relaxed in my life. My pain level has gone from about a 6-7 daily, to a 1-3, with no pain at all on some days and only minimal discomfort toward the end of the day. I can now stand an entire day without having to lie down, tho’ I often love to take a 30 min. to one-hour lie-down in the late afternoons to rejuvenate myself for the evening.

I now seem to be better able to focus on the task at hand, I am more content with how my days go by, I have even made a few good new friends, am reaching out more to neighbors, and I have faced a few tough personal relationship issues with more equanimity and better results than ever before in my past.

Sure, when we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s, many of us are hard-driving in our quest for a decent, acquisitive lifestyle and perhaps, our own career advancement and family well being. That makes sense; we need to push forward! Then in our 60s and 70s and beyond, we reach a slow-down stage and learn to work smarter, not harder, or we enter retirement, or we face a disabling health challenge that puts us down for the count. It is then that we come to think hard about how we are spending our time, what action results in real improvement, what truly gives us pleasure, and how much effort we want to put forth to achieve the results of goals we have set.

What has happened to me is somewhat mysterious.  Elyse’s gentle guidance and gentle laying on of hands while I stand, or lie on her massage table,  has minimized my pain to the point on most days of muscles feeling like I “overdid” exercise but with no sharp or nagging pain. Her classes and teachings have given me a more patient approach to my life.  I’ve learned and am still learning how to be patient with myself and my slow progress toward being as fully functional and as pain-free as I can be, with no particular time table. I’ve learned not to be so driven as I have been in my former life when I opened a retail shop for eight years, transferred to the web, went around the country to national exhibits to sell corsets or lecture on waist training for six or seven years, wrote two books, and worried greatly about the future of my business and business model. As one consequence, I’ve weaned off of heavy pain-control pills, to take none on a daily basis over the past three months.

In the 27 years I’ve owned ROMANTASY, I’ve met or corresponded with maybe 20,000 people or more, those interested some, or a lot, in corsets. I have often been surprised and concerned when we get to more personal conversations, to learn how many people are taking anti-depressants, Or anti-anxiety meds. Why is that?

Are doctors pill-pushing quick fixes on us? Is it just more convenient and easy to pop a pill than to work on a relationship or go ask the boss for a raise? Is some transition we are working on–be it divorce, changing from male to female, being fired and having to look for a new job, or rehabbing from a bad accident–sufficient reason to take pills to calm down and be able to face our days, and our choices?

Since the Alexander Technique has minimized my pain substantially, and has minimized the stress I feel in my life overall, I see it as a possibly beneficial alternative to pills or doctors for most folks, even if they don’t have physical pain. Sadly enough, my Kaiser plan does not offer it and my primary care doctor knew nothing about it–so I bear the cost (it’s not cheap but it’s also not expensive!).  I recently called this program to the attention of the No. Calif Kaiser Medical Director and staff.

Here is my point: if you are suffering from the stress of a tight budget, a demanding job or family, an upcoming physical relocation or house purchase, a nasty boss or coworker, overwork and tight deadlines, or any other stress-causer — AT classes might be just the right investment of your time and money, at least for a few weeks, if not for a few months, or even occasionally over the coming years in a kind of “tune up” when needed.

Yes, you can learn quickly in a few lessons what to do and think. But really feeling the hands-on of the teacher showing you gently how to relax and let go, giving her the chance to really observe you more than once to come to some conclusions about how you might re-balance your body, learning the most beneficial self-messaging, getting feedback and original ideas that fit your unique body and psyche, and having the chance to engage your mind and discuss with your qualified teacher the theory of AT and how and why things work the way they do in our bodies and minds — those things have been of enormous benefit and use to me in all aspects of my life, personal and professional.

As we all think about possible New Year’s resolutions for 2018, I hope better health and continued good health are your top priorities!





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