Trina Altman - Yoga Deconstructed | The Mindful Strength Podcast

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About Trina Altman

Trina Altman, B.A., NCPT, received her training through STOTT PILATES® and is an E-RYT 500, YACEP®. She’s the creator of Yoga Deconstructed® and Pilates Deconstructed®, which take an interdisciplinary approach to foster an embodied understanding of yoga and Pilates and their relationship to modern movement science.

Trina has presented at Kripalu, the Yoga Alliance Leadership Conference and Momentum Fest, among others.  Her work has been published in Yoga Journal, Yoga International, and Pilates Style magazine and her classes have been featured on Yoga International and Yoga Anytime. She also consulted for Equinox to help develop their signature program Best Stretch Ever, which utilizes the mobility stick to improve functional range of motion, body awareness, and total body strength and has presented an online training for Yoga International entitled Yoga Deconstructed®: Creative Sequencing with Somatics.

Woman in triangle pose on a yoga mat

Trina’s Links

Her book, Yoga Deconstructed®: Movement Science Principles For Teaching

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For more information on Trina and her online classes and courses

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Follow her on Instagram

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About This Podcast

In this episode, Kathryn and Trina talk about Trina’s new book Yoga Deconstructed. Trina shares how she decided what to present in the book, and what she thinks yoga teachers really need. They also discuss the biopsychosocial perspective and why this is essential for teachers to not only learn about but integrate into their teaching and cueing. Trina and Kathryn talk about breaking free from rules about movement and innovating new ways of moving and teaching.

Podcast Transcription

Kathryn Bruni-Young: This episode of the Mindful Strength Podcast is brought to you in partnership with Offering Tree. Offering Tree has set out to make digital marketing fun, easy, and most importantly for us yoga teachers, affordable. They are your one-stop-shop for your website, scheduling software, zoom integration, selling digital content like classes or courses, payment processing, email newsletter, and more. Stay tuned to hear more about them later in this episode. 

Kathryn: Hey Everyone, welcome back to the podcast.
Today, we are going to hear from Trina Altman. Trina has been on the podcast a couple of times before. She was actually one of the first-ever people to come on the podcast, one of those very first episodes. Those episodes are no longer available, so don’t go looking for them.

Trina is a friend and a colleague. She’s always been so supportive of my work, so I’m always happy to have her on here. We talked about her new book, Yoga Deconstructed, which is incredible.

I had a chance to look through it a little bit before this interview. I totally recommend it. There are so many great little tidbits of information in there and it’s also really science-based. It took Trina a few years to put this book together. So much work went into this. It’s hard to even imagine. And now the information is so readily accessible for all of us.
A big round of applause for Trina Altmann for putting this. I highly recommend you go order her book. We will have links to it in our show notes and on the website.

I want to take a moment to remind you all about the Mindful Strength Membership. This is our online studio and education platform. Kyle and I both teach weekly live classes which are included in the membership and then we also upload on-demand classes every week.

They range from kettlebell workouts to restorative sessions. They range from 20 to 60 minutes. We try to make these classes as accessible and diverse as we can. We also have a great collection of guest instructors. You get to learn from not only Kyle and me but a couple of the teachers we most admire. If you want to try our membership and practice along with us from home, you can head over to mindfulstrength.ca.

For those of you who have not yet tried online classes, I highly, highly recommend it. I was one of those people who never even considered doing online classes until the pandemic began. I started signing up for online classes and I realized how much I actually enjoyed them and how much motivation they gave me. I definitely recommend you go check it out. Even if you feel like you’re not the online class kind of person, we can help you with the technology, if you need help.

It’s super simple. We’ve got tech support. You can always email us. To do all of that, go over to mindfulstrength.ca. All the information that you need is there.

All right, everyone here is my conversation with Trina Altman.

Kathryn: All right, Trina, welcome back to the podcast.

Trina Altman: Thanks so much for having me back, Kathryn.

Kathryn: I think this is our third time around. The first time is not available anymore. The first ten or twelve episodes of the podcast we’ve scrapped because the quality was just so bad back then. But you were one of the first people who was ever on this podcast.

Trina Altman: I remember. Yeah. You had just started it. I remember a Facebook post you did that was like, “Hey, I’m going to start a podcast. Does anyone know where I should go to get the equipment?” Do you remember? And I was like, oh, I love her. Just like resourcefulness, you know?
I mean, because it was. How long ago was that like three or four years ago?

Kathryn: Yeah.

Trina Altman: Yeah. As somebody who’s much older, I was like, “oh yeah. I could just ask people on Facebook”. It’s great to be back.

Kathryn: And you finished your book. Your book is available for preorder and probably by the time this podcast comes out, they’ll be shipping it. Do you want to tell us about what that has been like for you over the last year or so since I think you were on here last year?

Trina Altman: Well, actually, let’s see. I signed the contract after they approved my proposal in December of 2017, and I told them I needed…what I tell them? I think I told them I needed until December of 2019.

Two years to do it, which is a little bit longer than most people; they maybe try to do it in a year. But I told them I travel all the time to teach and I teach when I’m in town in person in Los Angeles during the week. The only time I’m really going to have to write the book is the weekends where I’m not traveling to teach. So yeah, it took a while. It ended up taking…it will be out December 4…so about three years. I was almost done by the end of last year.

There were still, I’d say, maybe one and a half chapters left, I still had to do. I got an extension until May of this year and the pandemic happened in March. That made it so I was at least home in April and May, which gave me a lot more time to finish everything up by that May deadline.

It feels really good, too. It just didn’t seem real until I was holding the book in my hand. I got a copy in the mail. I guess that was maybe like a week and a half ago.

Kathryn: Are you happy with it? What was your feeling when you saw the book?

Trina Altman: Yeah, just relief. I mean, I know it’s one thing that was really challenging that I didn’t expect to be so challenging was the cover…deciding what to put on the cover and then also change the title.

The original title was Yoga Deconstructed: bridging the gap between rehab in the classroom or something like that. Then when the pandemic began and all the yoga studios were closing permanently or temporarily. It was originally “Bridging the Gap from Rehab Back to the Yoga Studio” and something like that.

We went through so many iterations and so long story short, now it’s called Yoga Deconstructed: Movement Science Principles for Teaching because most people are not practicing in a studio anymore. They’re practicing at home virtually. And there is not necessarily, quote-unquote, “classrooms” like there used to be. Right?
I and the publisher wanted to change it to something that was more reflective of the times.

Kathryn: Mm-hmm. How did you decide what to include in the book? I imagine you’ve been teaching workshops for a long time.

I’ve been teaching workshops for a long time and they’ve changed a lot over the years. You probably have a million exercises and ideas you could pull from. How did you decide what was most important to go in that book?

Trina Altman: Yeah, I mean, everything was organized around concepts that I wanted to include in the book.
The concepts are related to how I teach classes and also how I teach private students. I would say more so how I teach group classes because when I teach private clients, I just use so many different types of equipment.

I wanted this book to be something that yoga teachers could use in a yoga space with the idea that they would have props like blocks, blankets, straps, or resistance bands that would be easy to come by; maybe massage balls, but not including anything like a lot of equipment or kettlebell or dumbbells. I would use those 95 percent of the time when I’m teaching my private clients.

For example, if I wanted to talk about external load and pulling movements. How can you incorporate that into your classes and convey to your students that it’s really difficult to get stronger by only using the same amount of weight, your bodyweight? This is why I love you, you do this so well.

I knew I wanted to do a triangle pose with a band and without a band. From the top hand to the top foot. I knew that I wanted to have a section in my book about somatics. In my regressions, using directions of movement at each joint for a pose or sequence of poses. I often will teach a somatic sequence, either a Bartenieff, Hanna Somatics or a Feldenkrais sequence that deconstructs something that we’ll be doing later in class in a more complicated pose.

I just kind of organized the book around concepts that when I would travel to teach people would just say like, “well, how do you know what somatic sequences to include in your class and when you know. How do you incorporate resistance bands without ruining the flow of the class or if the studio doesn’t have them”.

All kinds of questions that I would get over the years from teaching, you know. How do I help someone sense where their head is in space when they are in a plank pose if I don’t want to touch them?

I have a lot in the book on using props and constraints for external cues and kinesthetic feedback. I have a lot about pain science. I can go through chapter by chapter, and that would be a more organized way of telling you what’s in the book. From start to finish, as far as like big things, would that be helpful?

Kathryn: Sure.

Trina Altman: OK. The first chapter is Introduction to Yoga Deconstructed, which is really like why did I write this book and why do I teach the way I teach. It’s sort of the state of yoga asana practiced in the West right now and how this all sort of came about, including my history of injury and pain.

The next chapter is about the four main principles of yoga deconstructed. Those have a lot to do with different types of learning. One thing that I noticed a lot as a student of yoga was that a lot of yoga was taught with only verbal cues and no prompts for kinesthetic feedback or external feedback. The was no demonstrating for students who are visual learners. I talk a lot about the importance of teaching to all learning styles and all different ways so that you’re not leaving anyone behind.

And then chapter three is on proprioception, it’s called “proprioception & pain science”. Chapter four is creating grounding and resilience with interoception. And Chapter five is finding embodiment with sensory feedback methods. Sensory feedback methods meaning using props such as massage therapy, balls, foam rollers; or even just normal props like box blankets and straps to help people sense whether it’s like a bony landmark or to connect to a certain muscle.

I should go back. In chapter four, “Creating, grounding, and resilience with interoception”, is what I talk about. It’s kind of like the prelude to chapter six, which is called “Using Somatics to Prepare for Asana”. Then chapter seven is preparing to load with preparatory exercises. Then chapter eight is called “How to Design a Yoga Deconstructed Class”.

The way I have that chapter set up is its plug and play. But it’s also set up in such a way that I’m encouraging you to use your critical thinking skills. I’m a big fan of when it comes to learning, the first thing we do is we imitate, learn something and then we just teach it exactly the way it is. But then after that, we start to integrate other things that we’ve learned in other places.

Then the third step is often innovating coming up with things on our own. I can tell you a lot more about chapter eight if you want me to go into more detail on that.

Kathryn: Let’s go back to one of the other chapters. I’m curious why you had so much information about pain science and how you explained…I know I totally get why pain science is so important for learning any type of movement. But when I reflect on the writing that I’m doing right now, again, there’s so much pain science going into it.

It’s just so interesting because none of the other yoga books that are on my mom’s shelf, or on anyone’s shelf who’s been buying all the yoga books for the last 30 years, have big sections on pain. I feel like it’s the books of the future that are including this information, which is so wonderful. How do you explain to people why that research, why that information is so important to you?

Trina Altman: Yeah, I mean, I usually start with the story of a shoulder injury that I had and I went to physical therapy and it was probably 2011. About nine years ago. We learn the most from our injuries. The process of that experience was when I was in the acute pain phase, he had me doing ice or heat. He would do a little bit of bodywork with his hand.

It was passive interventions to calm things down. I remember the very first time I went to see him. He put his fingers on my front ribs and kind of pressed and asked me to breathe. My homework was to do that myself, to put my own fingers on my ribs and breathe and make sure it was moving, because obviously, he sensed how anxious I was.
I’m sure that I was just breathing all up in my neck and chest. Then as I progressed out of that pain phase, I was still having pain. But he started introducing exercises and the exercises were all progressively loaded.

First I was just lifting my arm up and down. Next, I was lifting my arm up and down with like a quart water bottle half full. And then I remember once I had been doing the exercises for a while, I really started to feel so much better…strengthening all the muscles in my shoulder. But then I would have these times where I would come in and be like “my neck and jaw have been killing me or my shoulder was fine for the last, whatever, five days and now it’s hurting again”.

He lent me the book, Explain Pain by Lorimer Moseley and David Butler. I read it and I was like, “oh, my God, this is everything. This changes everything”. Before I went to physical therapy, when I had pain or injuries, I would go to the acupuncturist or the Rolfer you name it. Any sort of passive, non-traditional, non-Western modality.

They’re all great, don’t get me wrong. But the thing that got me better was going to the physical therapist and going through that process. I’ve worked with private clients for so long, I know that every person is different. I would go to teach these trainings and workshops and every time I would teach a teacher, I would say, “well, what’s the best exercise for someone with arthritis or what should I have my student do who just had her hip replaced and is finished with physical therapy or and it was always correlated to a diagnosis”.

I would just have to say over and over again, “I have four clients who have had the last eight years that I have scoliosis. Do you think I’d give them all the same exercises because they all have scoliosis?” It was a combination of just no awareness of the biopsychosocial approach, no awareness that we are all different because most teachers were not teaching private clients, they were just teaching classes. They had taken continuing education about how to work with people who’ve had injuries and the answer was always like, “here’s the injury. Here’s the list of contraindications of what they can’t do. Here are little exercises they should do”.

It was just so frustrating to me because that’s not how I worked with my private clients at all. They would be different from week to week. It would be different based on if they had stressful things going on in their life.
It would be different if they were having a flare-up and went back to physical therapy and then back seeing me, what we would do? I just felt like all the teachers wanted this cookie-cutter, black and white approach and they weren’t letting us do things. If our students have arthritis, they would be like, “well, you can’t do blah, blah, blah, blah, blah”, all this thing.

I would talk to them and teach about nocebic language and how pain is in the brain and it’s I mean, I can go into that. But I would say that when it comes to movement modalities like pilates or yoga or somatics, we know that pain science tells us that a basic function of pain is to protect the body.

Your brain might consider moving quickly or with increased effort as in heretly dangerous for your muscles and joints. When you have students move slowly and mindfully, whether that’s implanted or yoga or somatics or whatever, with reduced force and effort, this can demonstrate to the brain that a movement is safe.

Once those movements are safe, you can start introducing, moving more quickly, increased effort, increasing loads, learning that, and expressing that was what was just a huge goal of mine. I was so frustrated and you know what I’m saying.

Kathryn: Yeah. Oh, my goodness. We’ve had similar conversations many, many times on the podcast.
But I agree with the questions about like, “what’s the best exercise for my hip or what’s the best?” You know, it’s like there’s a lot. I think also that when we talk about the body in terms of this is the best exercise for your glute medius, we maybe without knowing it, further mechanizes the body and further makes it into this machine.

I think that people assume when they do something and something hurts, we assume that it’s doing damage or it’s doing more damage. And so then we can get super focused on that and super avoidant to certain types of movements. I mean, I’ve done this myself. I used to like twist and feel a feeling in my lower back and be like,” that’s not good” and avoid twisting for a long time, for years, I kind of avoided twisting.

I really think that learning all this information about pain and the biopsychosocial model is life-changing. I’m glad you think so as well. Many more of the exercise and yoga movement books that are coming out right now include this information. Although this information is common, it’s not like you’ve landed on this golden nugget no one else knows about. The information is out there. I think that people know it to some degree.

But to be able to actually understand it and put this into practice and stop the nocebic cueing is a whole other thing. It’s just so ingrained.

Trina Altman: And I don’t think that the general population really knows it. I don’t.
I have private clients who say to me…all physical therapists are different…but one of my clients goes to a PT that doesn’t embrace the biopsychosocial. All she does is hands-on with her every single time and every time. I’ll say, “how was your session?”

“Oh, well, you know, she massaged my psoas because it’s all knotted up”, you know. That wouldn’t be a big deal if that were just like a one-time thing. But that’s what she says every single week. She’s been seeing this PT for, I don’t know, more than ten years. There is a benefit, I think, and soothing, that comes from seeing the same person week after week and having them do a passive modality with their hands on.

As somebody who knows from knowing all of the stuff and from personal experience, that’s like: “But don’t you want to not have to keep going?” It’s tricky. I’m sure you experience this, too. It’s hard. Like if I refer somebody to a PT that does talk about pain science and does use the biopsychosocial approach, it’s easy. I have clients who didn’t ask for my recommendation on a PT and already had one. That makes it a lot harder.

Kathryn: Mm-hmm. Why is it important to take an interdisciplinary approach to yoga?
Seems like you’ve been doing this interdisciplinary thing kind of from the beginning, which we talked about the last time you were here on the podcast. A little bit. Why does this still feel so important to you?

Trina Altman: Well, I think movement variability is really important. It’s important because it’s beneficial for improving proprioception. It’s helpful for reducing discomfort in a posture or position, whether that’s a yoga posture or a daily life posture.

What happens when you have movement variability is the part of your body that’s receiving mechanical stress. And a movement or posture is constantly shifting or drawing awareness to sensations that these shifts create. If somebody’s been doing the same type of movement practice for years and years, whether that’s pilates or yoga or tai chi, when you start introducing other types of movement, these minor changes, angles, or vectors can create a sense of relief.

It’s part of your body that might not always experience work, is going to have to engage. And then a different part of their body that maybe was always working has an opportunity to stretch or relax. I think it also goes back to learning styles and then, of course, culture. Somebody who might really benefit from pilates wouldn’t do pilates often if they’re male because it’s not really marketed to men very much…even though the person who created it was a man.

Then it’s like, “Don’t call it Pilates. We’ll do some core yoga”. My yoga has some pilates in it and they don’t have to know that. Right? I think it’s the core work that’s done in yoga. And so I think it gives me a lot of freedom to really help people and meet them where they are without all the expensive labels. Most people don’t even know the term Feldenkrais or Bartenieff for Hanna Somatics.

But I can start cueing them into those types of movements and it feels to them like yoga because it’s slow and mindful and they’ve heard of yoga.

Kathryn: I am going to take the next minute to tell you about our sponsor Offering Tree. If you are trying to get your teaching or your business online, I highly recommend you use Offering Tree. I’m using them for my own online teacher training for a couple of reasons. First of all, it is by far the best price for all of the features that you get.

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You get all of those features for twenty dollars a month when you sign up for the year. But you have to use our link, which is offeringtree.com/mindfulstrength.

All right, everyone, back to the show.

 

Kathryn: Today when I was teaching my class, we were doing squatting on one leg exercises. Basically just doing leg exercises. We did the same exercise in all of these different ways. I looked over at Kyle and I made a joke. I was like “and we’re doing it in all these different ways, which is like kind of a rebellion where I came from”.

Right? I’m sure, well I don’t know, did you get started in yoga and pilates doing exercises in poses the same way all the time with the same alignment for years and years before you started moving things in different ways?

Trina Altman: No. I’ve always been an integrator. Ever since I was a kid, I always, I guess, kind of see the big picture. And when somebody tells me to do something in one way, I immediately know or if they tell me to do it that way, I want to know why, there has to be a really good reason why.

I think for me movement has always been movement. I mean, of course, when I was going through my five hundred-hour yoga training and five hundred-hour pilates training, I learned everything as it was taught to me in the manual because I didn’t know anything before. It wasn’t like I was a fitness instructor and I was like going to quickly be able to memorize movements and teach them to other people.

I really hunker down and I’m a total nerd. I need a flashcard for every single pilates exercise because we’re supposed to memorize it for the test with the breath cue. You had to inhale on this part and exhale on that part, which for cat-cow is the easiest it’s two things memorize. But for like side overs on the reformer, there’s this dance background. There were like ten inhales and exhales to memorize along with what springs and what the arms were doing, just your arm and leg.

I learned everything as it was taught to me in the training. Then as soon as I kind of had that down and I was like, “OK, I’ve got this”. Then I started to learn other things because, you know, when I would teach exactly as I had learned it in the training, I would help a lot of people, but I didn’t help everyone.

I wanted to be able to help everyone. When you teach pilates, you can, because there’s a conversation, the person can say, “you know what this isn’t really working. Let’s try something else”. If you don’t have anything else to give them to try, then you can’t help them.

Kathryn: Yeah, such an important point.

Trina Altman: Yeah. I mean, I think it’s important. I do think, you know, some people go overboard and study all the things, and then they don’t really ever integrate it. If that makes sense. It’s kind of like, “oh, let’s, let’s do this. This method is going to help with everything. No, it’s no good. I’ve moved on now”. Whereas for mem whenever I learn new things, I relate it back to what I was doing before and find the commonalities that make sense.

Kathryn: Yeah, totally. I started taking pilates reformer lessons a few months ago. My mom had a reformer in her garage that she wasn’t using, so she gave it to me and I started taking classes.

It’s been so interesting because what I do on the reformer feels like the reformer practice. At first, I was like doing strength training stuff and yoga poses stuff on the reformer. But now that I’m taking actual classes, I’m like learning more of that method. That’s cool. I’m not on purpose, bringing that into the mat classes that I teach every week. It’s so funny to start to see how much crossover there is.

Movements that I would do in my classes before are also coming up in pilates are very similar to what could have also been a yoga pose. It just makes more and more sense to me to be combining all of these things up. That’s really not how I grew up practicing yoga. That’s really not how I was trained. I think I work with a lot of people who had backgrounds similar to mine where they did the same set of poses for years and years and years and exactly the same way.

Now they’re moving away from that. Now they’re trying new things. I think that’s sometimes a challenge that people have is like, “well, if there are a million options, like how do I choose what I’m actually going to do in my group class?” For so many people, I think it’s so much easier to be like “I’m going to teach the twelve poses. Here they are”. As opposed to like, “wow, now there are five different ways to do a squat. So, like, what do I do?”

Trina Altman: You teach you that you can teach all five. You can teach two ways and the next week teach two more ways. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I get bored really easily. Remember all my twenties, I lived in New York City and it’s a very highly stimulating environment and I was much less self-aware then. Looking back and I remember I just loved walking down the streets because that’s how you would get from place to place, besides the subway and buses and the cabs and stuff.

But when you would walk from place to place, there’s like the restaurant and the clothing shop and all the people and just constant input. This was the nineties before we had smartphones. I think I just got like the flip phone towards the end of the nineties or something. I remember doing Bikram yoga for a while, but I was like, I’m in New York City, I’m going to try all kinds of yoga.

And so I did when I was there, there weren’t that many, believe it or not, back then. But yeah, I guess I think I’m a quote-unquote shopper. I was kind of like eighties materialism. I just remember going to Toys R US and be like, “oh, my God, you know, like there are so many toys here to choose from”. That’s the idea of not making a decision until I had a good amount of choices.

Kathryn: You’re like “I’ll take this hip bridge and I’ll take that pulling exercise and…”

Trina Altman: Yeah, yeah, I’m just creative too. I think the gymnastics I did and cheerleading as a kid informed my work. I didn’t come to yoga until after years and years of doing gymnastics and competitive cheerleading. When I did Pilates, it was after doing yoga for a while. I was like, “oh cool, yoga is like gymnastics, but I can do it as an adult and pilates is like yoga. I get to load with springs and I have the equipment to work with. This is great”. I’m kind of seeing the similarities.

Kathryn: You’ve mentioned a couple of times two different words I want to ask you to define them. One of them was proprioception and the other was interoception.

Trina Altman: Yes, OK. And it’s so funny before we spoke, I was like, “oh yeah, I have the definitions”. But then I realized I pulled up my book and it’s like my book is so meaty and detailed that I opened the page that’s all about how proprioception works; Golgi tendon organs and Pacinian corpuscles and spindles and I don’t know you want to hear about that.

My definition of proprioception is having awareness of where your body is in space without being able to see it. That’s the definition I give from my head. I know you had Jennifer Pilotti on and she gave a much more detailed definition.
I would say hers if I could remember it, but yeah, I would need to sorry…I thought I pulled up my PowerPoint slides with those definitions, but from my head, that is what I say proprioception is.

Kathryn: You mentioned before that you had combined proprioception with the Pain Science chapter in your book?

Trina Altman: Yes. Yes.

Kathryn: So why proprioception in pain science together?

Trina Altman: Because there’s been a lot of research that shows the higher your proprioception is, the less likely you are to feel pain. And let’s see, I’m looking right now because I know the research. Right? So it’s well, this is about…I can read you a little section. This is just a sentence. I have a section called proprioception versus kinesthesia. And I’ll read this part.

“In recent years, there’s been some debate about the differences between proprioception and kinesthesia. Some researchers limit the definition of proprioception to the ability to assess joint position while defining kinesthesia as the awareness of joint motion. Whereas others consider the terms to be synonymous or categorized kinesthesia as a subset of proprioception and expand the definition of proprioception to include the ability to sense both joint position and joint movement”.

Then the research for that is Hohn et. al. 2016. And then I further say, this is the preamble: “In this chapter, I will be using the expanded definition of proprioception as the ability to sense and integrate both joint position and joint movement”. When you write a book, you have to make a lot of decisions about how you are going to talk about something based on definitions and because sometimes researchers have different definitions. In this case, I had to pick one. I hope that’s helpful.

Kathryn: And, yeah, introspection.

Trina Altman: Yes. So and actually, I have a little graph on page forty-five of my book. And on the left, it’s exteroception. In the middle is proprioception and on the right is interoception. If you think of a horizontal line going across the page with arrows in each direction, proprioception would be in the middle in between exteroception and interoception.

Exteroception is how the body perceives stimulus from the outside world and taking information through your sensory nerve endings, which are called exteroceptors. Examples could be the feeling of airflow from a ceiling fan on your skin versus interoception, which is the ability to perceive physical sensations from inside of your body that relates to your organ function could be hunger, thirst, heart rate breath.

Here’s my definition in the book of proprioception: “is the subconscious ability to sense where the joints and limbs are in space without visual feedback through the input of sensory nerve endings located in muscles, tendons, and joints”. Those nerve endings detect changes in joint angle, muscle tension, pressure, speed of movement. Then they send that information to your brain, which tells your body where your joints are in space. It also triggers protective reflexes to slow or stop movements to prevent injury from occurring.

Kathryn: I think it’s kind of cool that those proprioceptors are like in the muscles and just all over the body. It’s like your body awareness is literally coming from every part of your body and all of your muscles and the knowing of where it is in space. I think that’s so cool.

Trina Altman: Yes. Yeah. Yeah, I do too.
Yeah. It’s really important for balance and coordination and controlling movement. If you don’t have proprioception, we wouldn’t know how high that it to step up onto a curb or to catch ourselves if we were about to trip and fall.

Kathryn: How do you think people could work on their proprioception if they wanted to?

Trina Altman: All kinds of ways. I mean, I think we spend a lot of time focused on improving proprioception and in a typical yoga class and the same thing with somatics, same thing in pilates, but also in weightlifting. I mean, even when the pandemic hit, I used to get a massage once a month or once every six weeks, and I knew that wasn’t going to happen anymore.

My husband and I got one of those like massage gun things, that’s like a vibrator. And it’s very similar to when I would go to the gym. They had those vibration plates that you could stand on or lie on. I think my brain was triggered because, I mean, we can sense things like vibration and mechanical pressure through proprioception.

Little movements and learning movement helps with it, even things like self-massage or using the floor as a way of quote-unquote massage. Right? By rolling or spending time on the ground, you can help improve your proprioception.

Kathryn: Do you think that’s because when you’re like doing massage or doing floor work, your muscles are actually getting squished into something? And because those proprioceptors are in those tissues and muscles and joints like you’re actually…I don’t know what the right word is like…engaging that or something?

Trina Altman: Well, I mean from a cultural standpoint….I’ll talk first and then I’ll say science…culturally, I think here in the West and especially in America, we are trained and taught from a very young age to get out of our body and get into our head; to go to school, sit still, don’t move, get good grades.

When we’re told to do things with our body, it’s usually competitive and sports-related. It’s not like, “oh, notice how you feel when you’re kicking a soccer ball”. No, it’s like “try out for the soccer team. Hopefully, you make it and then win all of your games so you can go to the next competition”. For most people doing movement or exercise or anything where they’re paying attention to how something feels it’s just not that common. I mean, it is more common now because yoga has become so popular.

But then as far as sciencey stuff goes, there are many proprioceptors in the human body, but there are three that are related primarily to the musculoskeletal system. The muscle spindle, the Golgi tendon organ, and the Pacinian corpuscle. The muscle spindle is the stretch receptors found in the belly of skeletal muscles that senses the amount and speed of stretch that’s being placed on a muscle.

The Golgi tendon organ is a stretch inhibitor located where the muscles and tendons, joints, and that sense the amount of tension being placed on a muscle. Then the Pacinian corpuscles are pressure sensors found in the skin, the joints, the viscera and bones, and provides information to your brain about the joint position, but responds to tactile feedback such as vibration and mechanical pressure. The Pacinian corpuscles are the ones that are, to my knowledge, the ones that are going to be affected by self-massage pressure.

Kathryn: So there’s like that combination of that’s like there’s like scientific things that people could look up to figure out how that happens. But then there’s also the fact that, like, you’re moving slowly, you’re doing this like feeling and sensing. It’s probably mindful. And so that is also helpful and that is different from what we’ve been conditioned to do, some of us at least, in our exercise culture.

Trina Altman: And even though I mentioned sports, but even at the gym, I mean, I grew up like a kid in the eighties when gyms were becoming popular and every cardio piece of equipment would have like a TV that was connected to it somehow. You would be watching TV while you are doing your cardio or even if you were doing weightlifting, you were maybe counting reps or sets, but a lot of it was on the machine.

You didn’t have to think a whole lot about proprioception. Right? You would just set up the machines with a little peg. I mean, not that there wasn’t proprioception being built. I think there is. But different from, say, something like yoga or pilates or dance or somatics for martial arts.

Kathryn: Yeah, awesome. If people want to get a hold of your book, where should they go to do that and where should they go online to learn more about your stuff?

Trina Altman: Yeah, you can go to my website trinaaltman.com and there’s a tab that says “book”. Then there’s a button, you can click there to get the book. It’ll take you to Handspring’s page. Handspring is the publisher. And let’s see, what was the other question?

Kathryn: Well, I think you answered them both.

Trina Altman: OK. OK, got it.

Kathryn: I will put links in the show notes on our website where the transcript is. What’s your teaching life like right now? Are you like teaching online classes? Are you teaching workshops or you’re taking some time off? What are you up to? know you worked so much one on one with people. Are you still doing that?

Trina Altman: Yeah, I do. I reached out to you at the beginning of the pandemic because I admire you so much with everything that you do online. And so, yeah, so many all of my in-person weekends of continuing ed were canceled. This year, I guess, September was my first experience I taught a 12-hour virtual online training called Yoga Deconstructed: creative sequencing with somatics through Yoga International. It was a huge learning curve. I mean, it was a course that I created from scratch. So there was that. I did it from my house and I had all the tech meetings with them ahead of time.

It was all done virtually. Usually, when I’ve filmed I go somewhere, we film it and it’s pre-recorded. That was a great experience of…and then, of course, they did all the post-production edits..and so now anyone can take the training self-paced.

That kind of, I guess, sort of helped me get over the first time you do something new, it’s so scary, and then finally you do it and you’re like “hey I’ve done it”. So, yeah, that is my plan. January, I was going to go teach in DC. We are going to do that online with a 30-day replay. That’s my Science of Sequencing Immersion, which is brand new and based on Chapter Eight.

I was supposed to go to New Zealand in February to teach my Creativity Meets Science immersion. We’re going to do that online as well with a 30-day replay. I’m just getting the hang of…I had been teaching online for a while, pre-recorded, but figuring out how to transfer these things that were in person; 12 hour weekends into something online that still has a component of feeling connected to the other people; that has a lot more flexibility in terms of people in different time zones can do it and things like that place.

Kathryn: Alright, Trina, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast for the third time around.

Trina Altman: Thank you so much for having me. I mean, one of the things I so enjoyed at the beginning of the pandemic before I was if I had to start figuring all this stuff out, I was like, “cool, I can finally take classes of all the people that I love to learn from”. And so I just loved I took so many classes from you and Kyle on your membership and it was just great. I love what the two of do. I got to take your whole teacher’s immersion online.

And so anyways, I just I always look to you because everything you’re doing, I’m just I’m such a fan of and you’re so smart. It’s true. I mean, just everything that you offer and teach and how you teach, I really, really admire. I look to you as a role model.

Kathryn: Thank you, Trina.

Trina Altman: You’re welcome. It’s true. I’m so happy that people like you exist. I guess back when you were doing your Ashtanga, I felt very alone.

Kathryn: Now we’re all together.

Trina Altman: Now we’re all together, doing random variables things.

Kathryn: Amazing. We’ll have all your links and everything in our show notes, people should go order your book. It’s great. I looked through it today in like 10 minutes. I just skimmed the whole thing. It’s amazing. We’ll talk to you soon.

Trina Altman: All right. Thanks. Have a great day.

Kathryn: And thank you again to our amazing sponsor Offering Tree. If folks want to get started getting their stuff online, go to offeringtree.com/mindfulstrength.
All right, everyone, I’ll see you next week.

Kathryn: That’s our show. Thank you, everyone, so much for listening. If you’re listening on the Apple Podcast and you’re loving the podcast, please consider leaving us to review. All of the reviews really, really help. If you want to learn more about my work, my membership, my teachers’ course, or my new free course called Mindful Strength Foundations, you can head over to mindfulstrength.ca