Monthly Archives: May 2017

Let Go — Let Corset — Un Do!

I just returned a few hours ago from my third Alexander Technique lesson with Elyse. Once more, as after the first session, I did not need to put my neck collar on  to provide relief from a whiplash injury last November (it’s a lovely microwavable soft supportive collar) until about now. (The link provided is to one f the best videos I’ve found that shows what the AT is all about, featuring the first graduating student of Mr. Alexander’s class in Englad, Marj Barstow. I recommend that if you have any interest, take the time to watch the entire video).

I’m still thinking about all the points Elyse made during this session, mainly about “Un Do.” If I try too hard to “release my neck, let the top of my head float upward,” it might happen — but if I thereafter double check with myself to see if my neck responded, then somehow this works against progress! Better for me to practice expanding my awareness outward from my body (feel my “personal space” as Elyse describes it), and only give gentle suggestions to my neck, then focus attention elsewhere and see what happens.

Likewise, one really can’t force relaxation; it happens if one lets go. The miracle so far for me in the AT table work part of the class (about half is standing up, discussion and practice, while the other half is lying prone on a massage table), is that after Elyse applies her gentle hands to my scapula, back, hips and legs, for the first time in my life I feel my body lying totally “flat” on the table. It’s an odd thing to say. Of course I’m flat! But the feeling of “flat” differs from shivasenen in yoga at the end of the class,or the alpha state in TM or any kind of quiet meditation, in part because in AT you keep your eyes open in (sometimes sleepy) awareness and can talk and think while you body lets go. However, the overall feeling varies a great deal.

Go figure that one!

Still the principle reminds me of what I say about corset wearing.

One needs to learn to let go and let the corset hold and mold you, not suck in your breath and try to get as small in the waistline as you possibly can. If you “try” to be smaller to permit lacing down, it most likely won’t work. Progress in lacing down is made not only slowly, but by having a “right mind”, that is, one of “letting go”. That requires some un-doing, much as the Alexander Technique apparently urges (nothing is ‘required’)  in order to improve posture and release body tensions, as I’m learning. It is when you can relax and let go into the corset that you can lace tighter!

Seems like a number of things in life require letting go and un-doing. “Let go and let God” is a slogan of AA.  Many disciplines seem to have related principles, but the application of them has slightly different results. Of course I’d love to hear from those of you who have practiced the AT successfully, and how it worked for you.

 

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Beware of branding – a trap for the unwary readymade (“OTC”) corset purchaser

My New York Times Magazine from 5/21 has a terrific section called “First Words.” Normally I go first to that article because I like words. I believe they should be carefully crafted in writing, and also carefully and deliberately spoken. Those two beliefs are likely why I don’t cotton much to social media with its rapid-fire modality…but I do like blogs, that permit more thoughtful comments.

This weeks  NYT’s article is about branding, storytelling, commercialism, and the “scam economy”. The author says, “More and more, we fully expect things to fall short of their advertising,” says the author—and more’s the pity! We’ve become accustomed to hype, super-branding, and false claims.

I believe that some reasons these negatives run rampant include our own failure to exercise caution, think for ourselves, and embrace patience. We don’t often bother to ask “on what do you base your conclusion?” or “how do you know that?” It’s not always a pretty habit to others. Sometimes I drive my partner crazy. He  is one talented man who can fix anything and understands machines the way I understand corsets and corset waist training. So I am inclined to ask that question more times than not when a machine has broken down or is giving me fits and I’ve asked for his help.

We must look behind every commercial claim if we want to avoid being victimized. I hate to think that we have to be suspicious under every circumstance, but perhaps we should start out that way, or at least, start out with great caution before we purchase any product or service.

I’m particularly peeved with the way “wannabe” readymade (“OTC”) corsets are flooding our US marketplace, and how they are advertised. Somehow calling something  a “waist trainer” or “for waist training” makes it so in some folks’ minds. As the NYT article says, “We are now expected to favor the story over reality, to accept that saying a thing makes it so.”

That’s why it pays to look behind the story on every website, and behind the claims of every corset maker. I’ve known some corset makers who aren’t willing to pay their dues, or put in their journeyperson time to hone their skills and up their quality before they overprice their products or enter the marketplace or sub marketplace. You never know how a web advertised and pictured corset holds up over time — unless the corset maker has paid her dues, has countless recommendations of those who wear their corset in the manner you intend to wear yours, and who can recommend the quality of the product as tested over time. You don’t know if you can properly or easily train in the corset you are buying–unless you talk to someone experienced, and one who won’t “oversell” the product or sell you a style that just won’t work for your purposes.

Take a look at the ‘eye candy’ pink corset pictured here. It’s cute, perhaps. But look at the strange shape of the waistline on this model, the wrinkling of fabric  at the midriff (that will or can uncomfortably pinch over time with tighter lacing or long wear), and the overbust embellished style that is tough to train in because it limits body flexibility (compared to the recommended underbust style). Furthermore, the ruffles are hard to disguise underneath clothing if the corset is for foundation wear on a daily basis. Your belly might be squished out from under a too-short readymade corset, or you may encounter muffin top. The too-short bottom pictured here on the model wearing a custom muslin (interim corset) was corrected and lowered in the final fully custom corset. Those problem issues can be avoided in the main when you order a custom corset.

Talking directly to some customers is always a good bet. Taking time to examine the length of experience in business making corsets, and the number of corsets made in that particular style by your chosen corset maker, is always wise. Just because some burlesque queen on the web looks stunning in a gorgeously-embellished corset, isn’t sufficient information when it comes to purchasing a quality, durable and comfortable training corset.

As a related matter, I’m saddened when I learn that some custom corset maker has gone out of business, or gone overseas to find a sweat shop to make readymade corsets to sell. I’m gobsmacked every time someone emails me and rather than purchase a ROMANTASY custom corset, tells me they have already found a readymade corset and want to start waist training now. The reason usually has to do with being penny wise and pound foolish: making a quick purchase according to brief social media recommendations or buying a particular “brand” or unthinkingly believing a claim that the corset is “for waist training,” or because the maker has quick shipping practices so that the corset enthusiast can quick! — start to lose weight before he loses motivation.

But corseting and waist training are marathons, not sprints. You don’t get anywhere rushing around before you do your homework, especially when it comes to ordering a training corset. A Halloween corset for maybe two hours of continuous costume wear? Well now, 0k! Go for the OTC cheap “wannabe” corset!

I’m even more saddened and frankly, disappointed, when I learn that some qualified custom corset maker has agreed to assist an overseas readymade manufacturer “improve” his corset product. To my mind, that is extremely detrimental to the art and craft of custom corset making, and it jeopardizes the existence of same. I’m aware that not everyone shares my opinion, even among otherwise responsible corset enthusiasts. Still, I know many accomplished corset enthusiasts who share my opinion.

If you are new to the corset and waist-training scene, you’ll have to make up your own mind about the issue, but I fervently hope you will come down on the side most times of supporting custom corsetry.

 

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Good posture and corsets–initial thoughts on what the Alexander Technique might add to your comfort during waist training

I believe that the most immediate, and perhaps most beneficial, result of wearing corsets and corset waist training, is improved posture. So is the result of the Alexander Technique–the topic of today’s blog.

It is only after some months of dedicated corset wearing, coupled with corset-friendly nutrition practices and waist-targeted exercises, that temporary figure improvement can be converted into permanent figure improvement — if you then don’t pig out on Krispy Kreme donuts and revert to dubious nutritional practices. After all, we have to use common sense when it comes to corseting, as in  all other matters of life!

Recently I’ve started learning about and pursuing lessons in the Alexander Technique (“AT”). My immediate motivation relates to a lingering whiplash cervical injury given to me by a particularly incompetent Chinese wife of my Chinese acupunturist, sad to say. In a moment of pain and depression from a lingering low back muscle spasm, last November I allowed her to manipulate my spine and neck before acupuncture– and three days later, just as with a car accident, the neck injury appeared. I should have known better, but I was too vulnerable. I’m still seeking relief and recovery, which is coming all too slowly for my taste.

Raven, my great friend and web mistress, only a few weeks ago found a video on the Alexander Technique, and “felt” it was for me. I’ve considered cold laser threatment, Feldenkrais, and other. I’ve pursued competent physical therapy, and started swimming three times a week at my warm rehab pool (such a blessing to have the Pomeroy Center in San Francisco!). I’m still not 100% and my neck causes me from mild to serious pain or discomfort every day.

When I viewed the video on the AT that Raven sent a link to, and a few others on the technique, I was gobsmacked. Something seemed to resonate with me about AT theory and practice. I particularly loved it when a local San Francisco AT therapist, in describing the technique and practice, called it: “the thinking person’s physical therapy.”

Like the AT, corset waist training, to be both effective and safe, requires advance thinking and understanding of the whys and hows of what you are doing. That’s why I wrote my initial (600 page equivalent) book in 2003 Corset Waist Training, and updated it substantially with new information, in my Primer book from 2016 (300 pages). But in some ways, the corset and corset waist training, does not go far enough — and there’s where the AT comes in.

The corset, much akin to how a physical therapist or gym trainer works, changes the form of the body, but there’s not too much advance thinking involved, and usually, not much discussion or study from those who jump right in. Sure, there is the “right form” advisable for physical exercises so that we don’t injure ourselves inadvertently. I talk a lot about that in my exercise chapter from the new 2016 corset waist-training book. Starting with the “TVA” squeeze or “set” of that important waistline muscle, minimized injury risks in many exercises. My own wonderful Kaiser PT Matt Sheehy, made sure to teach me the “right” form for my back rehab exercises, however those sessions were only 30 min. long (curse the state of the US health care system) and there was limited time to be sure I knew what I was doing. There was almost never the time to find out “why” I was being asked to do what. Had there been more discussion, then I could have gone off and reflected deeply about those reasons. For me, that’s the way I cement new learning into my body, mind and soul, otherwise it is too easy to just slip away outside of my PT’s office.

If you wear corsets to protect your back from further or new injury, to improve your posture and fit of clothing, and/or to waist train, you might want to look into the Alexander Technique which I believe can be practiced effectively and beneficially in tandem with corseting. Check out this post based on the the AT, and an important mid-page photo showing improper and proper sitting posture.

“Posture isn’t just physical.  It’s a psychophysical (mind/body) state that we get into in response to our environment, technology, emotions, furniture, and people with whom we interact.  It’s easy to get stuck in these habits and then metaphorically spin in circles trying to get out of them.   We can make things worse by trying to fix them in away that intensifies the exact habits that we are trying to change (i.e. The lifting the chest and pulling the shoulders back phenomenon.)”

I was gobsmacked to learn from my talented, amazing local AT therapist. Elyse Shafarman, that unless we think about posture and take ameliorative steps to re-learn correct, non-stressful body habits, we merely take on and reflect, the poor posture of others. “We are social animals,” Elyse says, and we unconsciously pick up on not only the energy and spirit of others–but also how they look and move throughout their day.

I was also gobsmacked to learn form Elyse, that good posture does not mean throwing our shoulders and head up and back! It’s almost the opposite in the AT: the top of the head is “thought” to rise up a wee bit, the chin slightly (ever so slightly) down and the head almost “bobbles” easily on the neck, gently stretching out the cervical spine and elevating the entire spine. At the same time, the shoulder blades are “thought” to expand outward, and I have to learn not to squeeze my scapula, AKA “chicken wings”, backward.

But of course, there’s more — much more to AT, and for me to learn. After all, two lessons does not an AT expert make!

As I’ve been practicing these techniques and new thoughts for the past two weeks during my twice-daily walks, I’ve noticed that as soon as I think of spreading out or widening my shoulder blades, I always notice that my shoulders have automatically hunched up! While my cincher or corset worn on some days, tends to keep my midriff erect and protected, it does nothing to protect or alleviate discomfort in my shoulders and neck.

Even my high-backed corset (there are two or mine pictured, first the  white corset mesh with green and blue patterned bone casings, and above, the hot pink denim corset; the green high-backed corsets is modeled by corsetiere Sue Nice’s sister), at 10″ and 9″ from waist up to top in the back, can only do so much to alleviate neck discomfort and improve posture. Lingerie-style support bodices that promise to hold back the shoulders, also seem to “cut” under my armpits in the most uncomfy of ways.

I’ll post more on what I learn and observe over the coming weeks. If you have studied the AT, I’d love to hear from you as to what you noted, and the results of your practice.

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Success by one student in working the corset waist-training process!

Yesterday, Sunday, was the last day of a three-month dedicated corset waist-training effort by my coaching program student, Ms. K.

I am exceedingly proud of her perseverance despite her grave doubts that she could “toe the line”, lace the corset on, and give up a few guilty pleasures that had likely added on a few pounds she decided she wanted to drop. And yes, I heard a bit of mild complaining along the way, especially when I asked her to forgoe her guilty pleasure of milk chocolate! She subbed in 70 percent dark chocolate and found it not too too tough to do. She doubted she could give up chips — but after reading The Dorito Effect (highly recommended reading!), I think she gave up and gave in to the author’s and my point that this manufactured food as well as most processed foods, contain additives that are truly not good for us or our figure-shaping efforts.

Here are Ms. K’s concluding stats:

Waist line inch loss from 34.5 to 32.25, a 2.25″ loss
Ribs from 37.5 to 37.25, a 1/4″ loss
Derriere from 40.5 to 38.5, a 2″ loss
Weight from 184 to 171 lbs, a 13 lb loss

Compare these stats to her initial goals of:

Weight loss goal:  lose from 190 lbs (by the time she started training, on Feb 7 she was, by herself, down to 184, not 190) to 180; she lost to 171!
Waistline inch loss goal: lose from 34.5″ to 32.5″ or two inches, thus, she reached her goal plus 1/4″ more!

As for her written evaluation the following 10 items were rank ordered in terms of importance in reaching her goals:

  1. Regular exercise
  2.  Contact with Coach
  3. Changing eating habits: manner of eating and food choices
  4.  Specific exercise routine
  5. Cutting way back or out fried foods,, sugars and fats
  6. Monday reports to Coach
  7. Increasing water and juices (NB cut with 1/2 water)
  8. Cutting back portions
  9. Small presents from Coach
  10. Tiny increments of tighter and longer corset wear every three days; going slowly.

The process works — if you work it!  I’ll be back soon to post Ms. K’s ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures … and I can’t wait to see the results!

 

 

 

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