Monthly Archives: April 2016

Relieving Neck and Shoulder Tension



If you’re like most people these days, you sit a lot, lean over a computer, use a cell phone, carry a purse or other bag on your shoulder, and drive a car – and chances are you have chronic tightness and discomfort in your neck and shoulders.
Here are some ways to relieve neck and shoulder pain.






The scalene muscles are a group of three pairs of muscles running along the sides of the neck. They originate in the cervical vertebrae C2 to C7 and insert onto the first and second ribs, connecting the head to the rib cage. They allow us to hold up our heads and move our necks.
An adult human brain weighs about three pounds. The adult human skull plus its eyes, teeth, facial muscles and skin weighs about seven to eight pounds. So all in all, an adult human head weighs around 10 to 11 pounds (4.5 to 5 kilograms).
Imagine balancing two five pound bags of sugar at the top of your neck and having to support that weight and control its minute movements side to side and up and down.
Many of us also tend to hold emotional tension in our neck muscles.


Weight of head slumping forward over a cell phone



With all the work our necks do and the less than good upper body posture most of us maintain, it’s easy to see how our scalenes get chronically stressed.
These two useful videos, by Dr Jasper, who calls himself the Wizard of Health, show how to work the trigger points to release the scalenes and how to do effective scelene neck stretches:












Our trapezius muscles extend lengthwise from the occipital bone at the base of the skull to the lower thoracic vertebrae and across the shoulders. They allow us to move our shoulder blades and arms. We also  tend to keep a lot of emotional tension in these muscles.
Using a 10 foot yoga strap is a nifty way to keep your shoulders and neck in proper alignment and de-stress your trapezius muscles. This video, by Roberta Dell’Anno, E-RYT 500, Certified Scoliosis Trainer, and owner of EssentialYoga Studio in Andover, MA, shows two ways to use a strap for improving posture and releasing shoulder tension.





Ellen Saltonstall’s Bodymind Ballwork offers several techniques for using balls of various sizes and hardnesses to release muscles in the body. Here’s an example of Ellen using some of the balls on the shoulders:
(Source: Ellen Saltonstall)
(Source: Ellen Saltonstall)


Bodymind Ballwork is a bodywork system that can benefit people of any age or physical condition. The distinct feature of Bodymind Ballwork is the use of rubber balls of varying sizes and textures (as small as a walnut and as big as a melon), which support, massage and stretch localized areas of the body.  There are techniques for every part of you, from head to toes. The result is a wonderful feeling of lightness and ease in the body, and quiet alertness in the mind. To quote one student: ‘It’s like having a massage therapist in your pocket’.

“I have chosen the name Bodymind Ballwork for what I teach to underscore the truth that any and all experiences register in the body and the mind simultaneously. Our mental state will shift from working on the body, and our physical state will shift from mental focus. We are already “integrated” but we don’t always feel that way. This technique is an elegantly simple and profound pathway toward the experience of integrated self.

“Bodymind Ballwork evolved from my forty-year practice of Kinetic Awareness, a bodywork method developed in the 1960’s by Elaine Summers who was a dancer, choreographer, film-maker and teacher.  The origins of this approach to bodymind education go back to pre-war Germany, to the work of Elsa Gindler, an innovative physical education teacher.”

– Ellen Saltonstall


An assortment of Bodymind Ballwork balls

(Source: Ellen Saltonstall)
(Source: Ellen Saltonstall)


Her new book about Bodymind Ballwork will be coming out soon. I highly recommend it in advance for whatever ails you. In the meantime, here’s Ellen’s website.



There’s also the Acu-Masseur made by the Body Back Company. It looks like it might be a kinky S & M device but is actually a clever way to apply shiatsu pressure to specific, hard to reach parts of the body to release tension. It’s particularly effective on tight trapezius muscles.




I also find self-applied reflexology on various acupressure points along the fleshy and cartilaginous parts of the outer ear very helpful. This is Acupressure Therapist Dr Michael Reed Gach’s video on how to use the Shen Men acupressure point in the outer ear to boost wellness, relieve inflammation and pain, and counter addictions.





Chronic neck and shoulder pain are not necessary parts of aging. I hope you find some relief in these techniques.






I owe great thanks to Ellen Saltonstall, my therapeutic yoga and Bodymind Ballwork teacher in New York City, for helping me relieve the tension I held in my neck and shoulders and also to Warren Fraser, MD, for spurring me to write this post.



REFERENCES (2016). Acu-Masseur. See:

Dell’Anno, D. (2012). Video: Using a Yoga Strap to Improve Posture & Release Tension in the Neck & Shoulders. See:

Gach, M.R. (2013). Video: Health Boosting Acupressure Ear Point. See:

Jasper. (2015). Wizard of Video: How to treat scalene muscle trigger points – trigger points – how to self treat trigger point pains. See:

Jasper. (2015). Wizard of Video: Best scalene muscle stretch – scalene trigger points – neck stretch – scalene neck stretch See:

Saltonstall, E. (2016). Ellen Saltonstall. See:



© Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


A Connection between Folic Acid, GMOs, and Autism



This short interview with Dr Stephanie Seneff is quite interesting. She explains how supplementation with folic acid during pregnancy can interact with the glyphosate in genetically modified foods to produce an autistic brain in the fetus. Dr Seneff work is a good source of research information on the various health dangers created by glyphosate.
Folates, a group of water soluble B-vitamins (also known as Vitamin B9) and naturally found in food, are vital for health. Folic acid is an oxidized synthetic compound used in dietary supplements and food fortification.
This is a transcript of the interview. (, 2015)




“Despite the risks associated with high levels of folic acid intake, it is well established that adequate folate intake from the consumption of folate-rich foods is essential for health. Folate aids the complete development of red blood cells, reduces levels of homocysteine in the blood, and supports nervous system function. It is well known for its role in preventing neural tube defects in newborns, so women of childbearing age must be sure to have an adequate intake prior to and during pregnancy.” (Kresser, 2012)
See Kresser’s article The little known (but crucial) difference between folate and folic acid for more information about the difference between folic acid and folates.


If you’re interested in reading more about how GMOs and glyphosate are harmful, see the “So What’s the Problem with GMOs?” section in my earlier post Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food (Hardin, 2014)
And here’s a longer, more comprehensive interview with Dr Stephanie Seneff about The Health Dangers of Roundup (glyphosate) Herbicide.


A major conclusion from the findings Dr Seneff describes in this video is that glyphosate has profound negative effects on the probiotic bacteria making up the gut microbiome, home to most of our immune system. Glyphosate destroys the beneficial bacteria in our guts, triggering an enormous range of health problems.




Canty, K. (2013). Jeffrey Smith interviews Dr. Stephanie Seneff about Glyphosate. See video:

Hardin, J.R. (5/29/2014). Genetically Modified Organisms – Our Food. See:

Health Freedoms. (2009). Autism Triggered by This Recommended Supplement?! See: (12/17/2015). Autism Triggered by This Recommended Supplement?! – video and transcript. See:

Kresser, C. (3/9/2012). The little known (but crucial) difference between folate and folic acid. See:



© Copyright 2016 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

3 Breathing Techniques Taught by Dr Andrew Weil


“Practicing regular, mindful breathing can be calming and energizing and can even help with stress-related health problems ranging from panic attacks to digestive disorders.”
Andrew Weil, M.D.


Andrew Weil, MD



Most of us can use some help handling the stresses in our lives, keeping ourselves from becoming depressed or anxious – or getting back to a good place if we do get mentally or physically depressed or too wound up, and getting enough restorative sleep.
Below are three breathing techniques (pranayamas) Dr Andrew Weil teaches his patients, other doctors,  and anyone else who’s interested to help them maintain a relaxed, focused state of mind. They’re reproduced here from Weil’s article Breathing: Three Exercises. Each breathing technique description includes a video of Dr Weil demonstrating how to do it.



Exercise 1:

The Stimulating Breath is adapted from yogic breathing techniques. Its aim is to raise vital energy and increase alertness.

Inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed but relaxed. Your breaths in and out should be equal in duration, but as short as possible. This is a noisy breathing exercise.

Try for three in-and-out breath cycles per second. This produces a quick movement of the diaphragm, suggesting a bellows. Breathe normally after each cycle.

Do not do for more than 15 seconds on your first try. Each time you practice the Stimulating Breath, you can increase your time by five seconds or so, until you reach a full minute.

If done properly, you may feel invigorated, comparable to the heightened awareness you feel after a good workout. You should feel the effort at the back of the neck, the diaphragm, the chest and the abdomen. Try this diaphragmatic breathing exercise the next time you need an energy boost and feel yourself reaching for a cup of coffee.

Watch a video of Dr. Weil demonstrating the Stimulating Breath.

Exercise 2:

This breathing exercise is utterly simple, takes almost no time, requires no equipment and can be done anywhere. Although you can do the exercise in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.

  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation. The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.

This exercise is a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system. Unlike tranquilizing drugs, which are often effective when you first take them but then lose their power over time, this exercise is subtle when you first try it but gains in power with repetition and practice. Do it at least twice a day. You cannot do it too frequently. Do not do more than four breaths at one time for the first month of practice. Later, if you wish, you can extend it to eight breaths. If you feel a little lightheaded when you first breathe this way, do not be concerned; it will pass.

Once you develop this technique by practicing it every day, it will be a very useful tool that you will always have with you. Use it whenever anything upsetting happens – before you react. Use it whenever you are aware of internal tension. Use it to help you fall asleep. This exercise cannot be recommended too highly. Everyone can benefit from it.

Watch a video of Dr. Weil demonstrating the 4-7-8 Breath.


Exercise 3:

If you want to get a feel for this challenging work, try your hand at breath counting, a deceptively simple technique much used in Zen practice.

Sit in a comfortable position with the spine straight and head inclined slightly forward. Gently close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Then let the breath come naturally without trying to influence it. Ideally it will be quiet and slow, but depth and rhythm may vary.

  • To begin the exercise, count “one” to yourself as you exhale.
  • The next time you exhale, count “two,” and so on up to “five.”
  • Then begin a new cycle, counting “one” on the next exhalation.
  • Never count higher than “five,” and count only when you exhale. You will know your attention has wandered when you find yourself up to “eight,” “12,” even “19.”
  • Try to do 10 minutes of this form of meditation.

Watch a video of Dr. Weil demonstrating Breath Counting.




Samuel Jakob Kirschner



Many years ago, Samuel Jakob Kirschner, a wonderful meditation/breath work teacher in New York City, explained depression and anxiety to me this way:

“Depression lives in the out-breath and anxiety lives in the in-breath.”

What he means by this is:
* We let our breath out with a sigh when we feel depressed and then don’t re-energize ourselves with adequate in-breaths. This breathing imbalance keeps us emotionally and physically depressed.
* We breath in and then hold our breath when we’re anxious and then don’t allow ourselves to calm down by breathing out. This keeps us feeling anxious and can lead us into a panic attack if we keep it up.
See The BREAZE to learn more about Samuel, where he’s teaching, and how to get his CDs.
Many thanks to Christian John Lillis of the Peggy Lillis Foundation for bringing Dr Weil’s article to my attention.








BreathBodyMind. (2016). Samuel Jakob Kirschner. See:

Kirschner, S.J. (2016). The BREAZE. See:

Weil, A. (2016). The 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breath) Exercise. See:

Weil, A. (2016). Breathing Exercises: Breath Counting. See:

Weil, A. (2016). Breathing: Three Exercises. See:

Weil, A. (2016). The Stimulating Breath. See:



© Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


The Hang and Hand Pan

Updated on 4/3/2016 & 4/17/2016. Updated on 5/13/2016.


If you’ve never had a chance to experience the hypnotic, meditative sounds of a hang or hand pan, this may be a revelation – possibly life changing.
Here’s an example, one of my favorites:


Daniel Waples – Solo Hang Drum in a London Tunnel


The original steel Hang instrument was invented in 2000 by two Swiss musicians in Bern, Felix Rohner and Sabina Schärer (aka PANArt) who were inspired by the traditional steel pans of the Caribbean islands. They spent years researching how to achieve the sound they wanted their new instrument to have and introduced a first generation of it at the Musikmesse Frankfurt in 2001.
Hangs make use of the basic physical principles of a steel drum or pan, modified to act as a Helmholtz resonator. Rohner and Schärer made several generations of Hangs before stopping production in December 2013.
“Helmholtz resonance is the phenomenon of air resonance in a cavity, such as when one blows across the top of an empty bottle. The name comes from a device created in the 1850s by Hermann von Helmholtz, the “Helmholtz resonator”, which he used to identify the various frequencies or musical pitches present in music and other complex sounds.” (Wikipedia, 3/9/2016)


Helmholtz Resonance


“Hang” is a registered trademark and property of PANArt. The word comes from the Bernese German word for ‘hand’.
See History of the Hang and handpans for a fuller history of these musical instruments.



Hang (drum) Solo Concert – Rafael Sotomayor – Gent



David Kuckhermann – Hang Solo – Royal Albert Hall, London, September 2012



“Minkara”, written and recorded by Adrian Portia on an AsaChan handpan



Spacedrum by Yuki Koshimoto



Supersonic Hang (drum) Solo (HandPan) Rafael Sotomayor



Ananda Krishna sings & plays his “street hit” with Hang & Didjeridoo at Lisboa, Portugal



Hang Massive – Once Again – 2011 (hang drum duo) – Danny Cudd & Markus Johansson



“We Three Kings” Adam Maalouf playing a  Bell Art Hand Pan – recorded on Christmas Day 2013

Adam’s website:



  LOTUS DRUM – Handpan – Spacedrum – Hang Drum Alternative – Melodic Drum – Tank Drum played by Juan Gil de Lamadrid on a Pentatonic 18” 3rd Generation he built

To order a Lotus Drum from Gil:



Handpan How To – Basic Song Structure – David Kuckhermann



Here’s PANArt’s Official Documentary about Felix Rohner, Sabina Schärer and their Hang instruments. It’s 55 minutes long but wonderful – worth watching:




Google searches of PANArt, hang drum, hand pan, and the names of the various musicians whose videos are shown above will produce more videos of these and other musicians, their CDs and MP3s, other how-to-play-them videos, hang performances and festivals, and other information – including videos by the artist-musicians who started making variations on the original hangs. The original hangs have become  hard to come by and will be quite costly if you do manage to find one for sale.


Added 4/17/2016

Another Hang Massive video – “Beats for Your Feet 2012”


Added on 5/13/2016:

Australian handpan player Sam Maher recorded at the 7th Ave. G/F station in Brooklyn, NY on December 10, 2014






AM Drums. (undated). History of the Hang and handpans. See:

Wikipedia. (3/9/2016)). Helmholtz Resonance. See:



© Copyright 2016. Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.