My Journey of embodying Kaizen

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Kaizen is the Japanese business principle of continuous improvement. As the gospel at Honda, it is what accounts for their breathtaking success. The fixation is not on some big hairy audacious goal in the future, but on being better now than you were yesterday. Paradoxically, when you are maniacally focused on making continuous tiny improvements, you give yourself the best chance possible to achieve your dreams.

This is a principle I have tried to apply to my life over the last few years, and it has been truly life-changing. I am even applying Kaizen at applying Kaizen 😉. The power of viewing anything in life through this lens is that it brings you back to the present moment (Read More:Mindfulness in Motion). This helps you keep the big picture vision in mind as well!

Instead of viewing tasks as a burden, viewing them as a privilege and an opportunity to improve just for the sake of joy, transforms even the most mundane tasks you complete. Personally, this was essential in allowing me to successfully complete my master’s thesis in time so that I could begin my medical studies in the fall. Undoubtedly, you will fall back into your old comfortable way of thinking, but it is essential to become aware when you do and apply the principle of Kaizen.

In my journey of completely embodying this principle, I realized that I needed to let go of my perfectionist tendencies and face my fears directly. I have started creating my own business where I help athletes rediscover the joy of pain-free movement by using Douglas Heel’s Be Activated technique, along with a slew of other modalities to optimize athletes’ performances.

To propel my efforts to establish a clientele of athletes that are sick of being in pain and not achieving their potential, I have created a website: www.pavanmehat.com where athletes can connect with me to reach their full potential. If you would like to connect, you can contact me here or like my page on Facebook. Further, I will have a blog on my new website, so if you enjoy my posts and find they allow you to better pursue personal excellence, feel free to visit. I will no longer be posting on this blog. Lastly, for anybody interested in a muscle activation visit here.

Thank you everyone who has supported and inspired me to write on this blog post. I am truly grateful for every one of my readers and for the opportunity to share my ideas and hopefully positively impact and enrich your lives.

Continuously Improving, 

Pavan Mehat 

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Using Douglas Heel’s “Be-Activated” Part II – Sequencing: Theory and Illustration

Heel’s system is designed to uncover compensation patterns in the body.  It revolves around posture, breathing and muscle recruitment, which all go hand-in-hand.  Every movement must start in the center of the body and move outwards, effectively expanding the body, instead of starting at a distal (far from the center) area and moving inwards, which causes a collapse in the body.  Heel divides the body into zones, pictured below.  1-2-3 is the ideal muscle sequencing pattern, anything else is a liability for injury or subpar performance.

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Zone 1: The Diaphragm, Psoas and Glutes:

Hip flexion and extension is the body’s primary priority – it cannot move without it. The psoas and glutes are designed to flex and extend the hip – they are in the best position to do so. The psoas will not be working properly if the diaphragm is not working properly, because the fascia encasing the diaphragm also wraps around the psoas.  If breathing is compromised, due to stress or bad posture, the functioning of the entire body will also be compromised.  If the glute/psoas can’t do their job correctly, another set of muscles will take over in order to move. I say “set” because no single muscle can do the job of either glute or psoas.

The diaphragm is involved because the fascia holding it in place connects to the psoas.  If the diaphragm shuts down due to stress, poor posture or other reasons the psoas cannot do its job.  Due to reciprocal inhibition, the glutes cannot fire if the psoas cannot fire. If the glutes cannot fire, the hamstring will do its own job AND take over for the glutes.  Because these muscles are supposed to fire first in any movement, if you can’t breathe deeply into your belly, you won’t sequence properly.

Sequencing should be 1-2-3. However, most athletes are firing zones two or three first – this means that they fire their quad and abdominals together to make up for a misfiring psoas (leaving those muscles unable to effectively do their own jobs) or firing their shin or even hand muscles first. I was surprised to see how many athletes cannot get their brain to fire a hip flexor without tensioning the ankle joint first – these athletes may have shin splints, Achilles problems, chronically tight calves or any other disfunction stemming from the way they compensate when their feet hit the ground.  The predictive value of an athlete’s sequencing pattern has been pretty on point in my limited experience testing this in my athletes.

What does a 1-2-3 look like in action? Here is Irving Saladino, Olympic long jump champion from Panama. In this picture, notice the lack of tension immediately after takeoff – you can see it in this slow motion video as well, fingers lightly curled, jaw lightly closed, toe mildly up, but there is no excessive tension in these areas when he raises his free leg upon takeoff. His psoas muscle is able to do its own job, the hands and face (which cannot add anything to the jump) are able to relax because they are not called upon to work. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZbLZKY2CRk4)

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What does a malfunctioning pattern look like? Here I am, in two separate pictures. My pattern on the right is a 3-3-3 arm – this means that in order to flex my right hip, my brain sends tension to my left hand first. My psoas on that side cannot do its own job, so the brain tries to add tension in other areas to assist in hip flexion. This is why I make a strange claw with it as I jump. This need-for-tension in my hand explains how I could hit my head on the rim, but could not get anywhere near that high with a basketball in my hand – holding a ball forces my hand to open, and as a result, my brain cuts the amount of power it gives to my hip drive. This is a setup for injury as well, because my strength levels drop when I cannot/do not close my left hand. It also explains why I have injured my left thumb so often – my hand thinks it has to do hip flexion, so when it has to do its own job it is tired or out of position. My face is also holding a ton of tension, which is only hindering my ability to jump far.  My mind-body connection had blown a fuse, it didn’t know which muscle to fire when.  While I had some success this season, I also missed almost all of it because of injury.

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The way we get it working again is first by working with the breath – if the diaphragm isn’t working nothing will work properly – and rubbing neurolymphatic reflex points that cause our brain to wake up muscles that it has stopped using, whether because of stress, bad movement patterns, or other reasons. The result is that there is a measurable difference in performance in controlled tests. That difference can be flexibility or strength, depending on the area. The pre/post test differences are often shocking – 45* to 90* range of motion in the hamstring, two fingers pushing down a raised knee to my full bodyweight on said knee. It can resolve pain and optimize performance. It’s pretty cool.

Using Douglas Heel’s “Be-Activated” – 4 Week Reflections – Part I

This system has completely changed the way in which I look at the body and mind – posture, body language, breathing, recovery, focus, and performance.  I now activate almost every point we were shown every day, in the morning and/or before training.  I have many of my athletes do a smaller version of activation before practices/workouts.  Our reactions are below:

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What’s changed for me?

Running/jumping feels effortless

Used to sleep with a pillow between my legs because hip pain would wake me up at night, and have avoided playing basketball to avoid aggravating my hip’s FAI impingement/damaged labrum – pain is completely gone at rest and during intense activity

Low back (SI joint) pain gone a few hours after bothersome activity (heavier weight training) instead of a few days. This recovery time is still getting shorter as well (update: have not had pain in several days, for the first time in a year)

My usual head-tilted-to-the-right posture has diminished significantly

Left hip can raise up above 110* while standing, when it could not go much past 90* previously

Significantly less soreness in hamstrings after sprinting/doing posterior chain work, more soreness in the glute

Passive range of motion of the gastrocs (calves) went from barely 90* to 15-20* past that – if the calves can only get to 90* the whole body will have to compensate

Previously fractured area of my right foot no longer goes numb in the cold/with tightly laced shoes – felt a serious rush of blood in there during one particular treatment

Right knee pain can be reduced/almost entirely eliminated immediately by rubbing a particular point and repeating 1-2x daily for a few seconds – and every time it comes back it comes back less

Neck and shoulders no longer stuck in forward position – feel taller, more confident, with significantly less tension

Jaw finally jiggles while sprinting – gotten rid of harmful tension there

Have not gotten my usual monthly migraine, even with a more stressful month than usual

Butt (glute muscles) have grown significantly relative to others

Maintaining posture feels easy/effortless by focusing on breathing – in slouching I am aware of how much it restricts my breathing!

Can breathe into my belly with no extra effort

I can get out of fight or flight stress response much more quickly than before to make rational choices while under stress

I do almost no stretching now – once the right muscles fire, your body removes the tightness it created as a way of protecting itself from your dysfunctional movement patterns

What’s changed for my athletes?

I have tried the technique (mostly zone 1 – diaphragm/glute/psoas) on friends, family and a large portion of my collegiate track athletes – their reactions listed below. The first few are almost universal, while others are more specific; although I may have included a specific quote all reactions I list here were mentioned/seen in more than one athlete/client:

Improved strength – ability to contract zone 1 (psoas/glute) without tensing jaw, shin, or other distal areas to assist – meaning changed order of sequencing – more on that in part II

Ability to breath into belly more easily/more deeply

Changed posture – taller, reduced head forward/rounded shoulders position

“I feel lighter”/”like I lost 20 pounds”

“Effortless” feeling while walking/running/sprinting

“I didn’t notice much until halfway through my run – my legs didn’t feel heavy where they usually do”

Improved mechanics while running – greater push through hips, knees appear to pop up without extra effort

Relaxation – at rest, and seen while running (ability to relax jaw)

Improved ranges of motion – as drastic as hamstrings going from 45* to 90*, calves from 0* past 90* to 25* past 90* in one 10 minute session

Reduced/eliminated pain in back/hip

Reduced anxiety during strength test after treatment (less feeling of “things about to snap”)

Feeling “cleansed”

And my favorite reaction, from an athlete that was clearly not sold after treatment, halfway through the toughest workout of the week: “I just feel so loose right now. I feel amazing.” Then he proceeded to crush the rest of the workout.

The Story:

The morning of the Super Bowl was a little manic for me – our local Patriots were playing that night, and a blizzard was scheduled to hit before work the next morning. But both of those things were not really on my mind, as I was trying to reserve a spot at Douglas Heel’s “Be-Activated” Level One seminar the following weekend, looking into the last-minute travel arrangements that would go along with it.

To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect – the videos/articles I saw showed results, but since this system didn’t fit into my previous knowledge – touching points on the stomach to gain flexibility in the calf, for example – part of me was not sold. We worked in partners on both days, one partner for each day, to learn activation. My partners were novices in activation work, as I was – one had experience with manual therapy as an osteopath, the other was a high school track & field coach. Video from another course, but similar to what we saw (and experienced) while in Chicago.

The Seminar

**Part II of this article will explain some of the theory behind why this works**

Felt cleansed afterwards – endorphins out of this world, perhaps partially because some of the points were so painful – but I also felt that I had let go of things that my body and mind had held onto for years. Difficult to describe, but profound and worth mentioning, since I am not the only one who mentioned feeling that way.

I have studied Zen, tai chi, and chi gong for 7+ years…I thought I knew how to breathe into my belly. After that day I took breaths into my belly that I don’t think I had taken since high school, if not longer – activating the diaphragm and psoas made an impact on the quality and natural depth of my breathing.

I visited a friend that night who is living in the area – he remarked that I seemed “really excited” about my work as we talked – I had a ton of new energy, that’s for sure.

SINCE THEN

As a former athlete recovering from several injuries, a couple in particular combining to end my college athletic career early, I have always felt a feeling of the wheels about to fall off while sprinting.  It’s not a happy feeling, it is my brain receiving signals from my body that something ain’t quite right.  Upon returning to practice, I noticed myself running back and forth between coaching venues the way a kid runs – getting somewhere serves as an excuse for the joyous activity that is running. I was bouncing off of the walls with energy. That feeling of the wheels falling off being imminent was completely gone and I felt freer than I had in a long time. Later that week, there was a day in which my car’s battery died and I had to wait at the shop all day, missing both of my jobs for that day – despite the initial stress, I was able to return to a state of acceptance about missing work by focusing on my breathing and my posture. The next day, I had too much energy and a blizzard was threatening after I picked up the car – I didn’t have time for a workout at the gym, as the snow had already started to fall, I knew my sanity for the next two days holed up in my home was at stake. So I laced up my trainers and ran. A couple minutes in I noticed that I didn’t feel any tightness, so I turned it up for a stride. Before long, my “run” turned into sprints on pavement at about 85-90% intensity. In 30* weather, with the snow falling – without any tightness, without the usual anxiety accompanying maximal effort. It was awesome.

While the initial rush has worn off, I am in significantly less pain on a daily basis than I have been in at any point in the past 6 years, and my posture is effortlessly so much better. Perhaps just as important, my relationship with stress has changed – I am much more able to address situations calmly, with an open mind. By changing my posture, I can change the way that I feel and think for the better – perhaps because our posture influences the hormones our body releases. I really buy into Heel’s saying that “what’s in the body is in the mind, what’s in the mind is in the body.” Look in a mirror, close your eyes, then picture your most embarrassing moment in vivid detail. Open your eyes again. From demonstrations I’ve done with my athletes, 100% have adopted a forward neck, rounded shoulders, hip-out-of-alignment posture, sometimes even with crossed arms. How can you perform in that position?? Any trainer, coach or mom can tell you that a body looking like that cannot safely and effectively perform. On the flip side, the posture that kids adopt on their best days – a light, open posture – is exactly what Heel’s system builds. This is the position that trainers dream about their athletes getting into, and coaches picture when they picture their team succeeding. Don’t take my word for it, watch people on their best and worst days. Change the body and you change the mind, change the mind and you change the body.

To learn more about activation, and to try it yourself, contact me at swuest22@gmail.com,

check out this article (http://www.joekelly.me/pdfs/Muscle%20Activation.pdf) in Runner’s World UK,

or check out this list of US practitioners (http://itccca.com/9825/2015/02/dont-implode-explode-be-activated/)

I have to thank Joel Smith, Tony Holler, Dr. Tom Nelson and Chris Korfist for providing enough information/excitement for me to fly out to Chicago to learn from Heel in person. Smith, at just-fly-sports.com for posted an interview with Chris Korfist in which he mentions Heel’s Activation work – causing me to google around and see Tony Holler’s articles on Activation, Nelson’s videos/website (activateanddominate.com) on the activation work he does with Nazareth’s football team, along with actual injury statistics and player/coach reactions.

You can read Smith’s articles here:

http://www.just-fly-sports.com/epic-speed-training-interview-with-chris-korfist/

http://www.just-fly-sports.com/chris-korfist-interview-on-ankle-rocker-speed-and-vertical-jumping/

You can read Holler’s articles here:

http://itccca.com/9825/2015/02/dont-implode-explode-be-activated/

http://itccca.com/8430/2014/10/you-only-know-what-you-know/

http://www.freelapusa.com/3-reasons-why-activation-is-a-game-changer/

http://www.freelapusa.com/hamstrings-activation-and-speed/

http://itccca.com/8163/2014/09/speed-never-sleeps/

How Plastic Containers could be sapping your manliness from you.

You may think wow Pavan Mehat has really gone off the deep end. Now he is telling us to avoid plastic altogether. Well first of all as I have re-iterated multiple times whatever I write about are just recommendations NOT orders. As Bruce Lee said: “Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.” 

Nevertheless this is something that I am certain that can have a huge effect on your life. Why? It may seem inconsequential but it is the small, easy to forget tasks that are consistently applied that lead to success (aka the compound effect). There is no hoopla or award for doing these small tasks, but your results never lie. You get exactly what you deserve by your previous actions. The inspiration video below that is summarizing some of the pearls of wisdom of Elliot Hulse eloquently describes this concept perfectly.

But your probably thinking what are the cold hard facts that are going to motivated me to make this change? I am NOT going to delve into the details in this post because all information is dead. The only thing that is truly real is your presence and your experiences in this moment. Therefore cultivating awareness of how your environment effects your body is key. As a society as a whole we have really disowned and grown wary of our bodies because it to have betrayed us. But that is not our bodies fault. Our bodies have infinite intelligence inside of it. It is what allows your heart to beat without you consciously thinking about it or how a baby will grow inside of a women’s body without any effort on her part. Our body betrays us because we mistreat it. 

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My mom used to always tell me to use glass containers, and I used to always dismiss here recommendations as my mom just being my mom and loving us too much and worrying about every little thing. But boy was I wrong! I wish I had listened to her back then. But why did I not follow her recommendations before? I had not cultivated the awareness of how damaging plastics has been to my system. 

But you may ask how do you cultivate this awareness. You need to cut out the agent of concern temporarily and then re-introduce it and your body will notice the deleterious effects? Why do you need to do this? Your brain and body have marvelous intelligence which allows them to desensitize yourself to regular and consistent barrages of poison to your body.

I implore that for a week you do NOT drink any water from plastics containers. Afterwards try drinking some water from a conventional plastic water and you will most definitely notice something that is off. The water tasted off. I usually love water, and to have water taste funny to me was very concerning.  I was shocked how easily my body became sensitive enough to be aware of the negative effects of plastics on my system.

Do not get me wrong there is plenty of good hard science detailing the dangers of excessive plastic use. However, this information is not going to provide the driving force to make make long-lasting positive change, but your experience will  give you the impetus to get rid plastics from your life. As I mentioned in a previous post every time you buy something you are casting a vote. Choose to NOT to support products that harm your own health as well as damage the environment.

You may think I am obsessively worrying about trivial things, but I would argue that is absolutely wrong. It’s the little things over time that can transform you life. Below is a nice story about how the small changes can drastically change the path of an airplane travelling to new york. “If the nose of the plane is pointed only 1 percent off course – almost an invisible adjustment when the plane’s sitting on the tarmac in Los Angeles – it will ultimately end up about 150 miles off course, arriving either upstate in Albany or in Dover, Delaware. Such is the case for your habits. A single poor habit, which doesn’t look like much in the moment, can ultimately lead you miles off course from the direction of your goals and the life you desire.” (pg 60 The Compound Effect). Sweat the small things and enjoy the momentous results to come.

Chase your Dreams without Killing Yourself,

Pavan Mehat

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PS Here are a few ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address. 

Pavan Mehat’s LinkedIn

Pavan Mehat’s Facebook

Pavan Mehat’s Twitter

Pavan Mehat’s Instagram

Quality of Food is much MORE important than the Quantity of Food

When I woke up this morning I realized there was a major point that I did NOT mention in yesterday’s post that is super important. What happens if you just can NOT afford Organic or high quality food? What happens if there is no high quality grocery near your place. 

You make whatever sacrifice you need to eat only high quality food. This may mean that you need to drive/walk significantly further and may need to drastically decrease the amount of food you eat. I first became fascinated by nutrition after I started my college track career because I was looking for that extra edge to put me over the top. When I was searching for books in the library my brother pulled out Clean because the cover looked cool. That was the beginning of my fascination with nutrition and its impact on one’s life.

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However, as I began to eat better quality food, I noticed that the food I needed to eat was much more expensive. Therefore to deal with this I ended up eating much less food. This resulted in a marked weight drop (when I cam back to Boston for my sophomore year everyone made a comment on how much weight I lost). At first I was worried. However, despite my weight loss I was way stronger, recovered faster and had way more energy. This made no sense. Why did I see positive effects?

Eating high quality foods is what I like to call a “Force Multiplier” which drastically improves everything in your life. That is why it is so important to make whatever sacrifice you need to make to eat high quality food. If affording high quality food is an issue, you are most likely going to need to eat less food. This may seem counterintuitive but if you are not nourishing your body with high quality food you will never reach your full potential. 

Chase your Dreams without Killing Yourself,

Pavan Mehat

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PS Here are a few ways to connect with me if you have any questions or have any specific topics you would like me to address. 

Pavan Mehat’s LinkedIn

Pavan Mehat’s Facebook

Pavan Mehat’s Twitter

What Kobe knows about failure that you do not, and how he leverages this to achieve amazing results.

Kobe Bryant is one of the greatest players and scorers in NBA history. An entire blog post could be written to describe his impressive list of athletic accomplishments. However, it is Bryant’s failures and missteps that are the subject of this post. Last night Kobe Bryant may have played on of the worst of his careers (as detailed here). Many may admonish him, and point to the fact that he went 1-14 as a perfect example that he is one of the most selfish players in the history of basketball. However, I vehemently disagree. Kobe Bryant is human so he will be disappointed and may become discouraged with subpar performances. However, unlike the vast majority of us he uses his failures as fire to fuel his success.

Most of us, myself included, once we come upon resistance or failure we respond to it by backing off or looking for another avenue to pursue. This is a natural human response to failure, but if you want to be elite or maximize your potential in a field you CAN’T respond to failure or rejection by backing off and shrining away. You need to attack your failure. I look at Kobe’s 1-14 shooting night and I am impressed. His unwavering faith in his ability is what separates him from his contemporaries. I do not know of any other players in the NBA that would continue shooting when they keep missing. Most other players shy away and stop shooting when things do not go their way. It is Kobe’s relentless drive and ability to push through adversity and setbacks that have made him one of the greatest players in NBA history.

How you can apply this “mamba mentality” to your life. Instead of being fearful of failure or making mistakes, you need to aggressively attack your limits and relish the defeats and set backs you experience. It is during these failures that you learn what you are really made of and when you truly become acquainted with who you are. You do NOT learn or become better when you are succeeding. It is failure that provides the impetus for you to improve and to evolve to new levels. You should not desire failure but seek out and attack your limits which will require you to confront failure and setbacks head on. Societal conditioning has ingrained in us that failure is bad and should be avoided at all cost. This is absolutely garbage. You should love failure because the negative feedback you get is the most real feedback you will ever get that will allow you to become the best you can be.

Cutting Edge Science: How processed foods effect your body.

Below is a very short (4 min)  and powerful TED talk regarding HOW the food processing process effects how foods are handled and digested in your gut. It is readily apparent how much artificial sweeteners and food processing can damage your digestive health and impede digestion of nutrients. Sam wrote a great article recently about food combining, and how important it is to be judicious with how you combine foods because if you are spending too much energy on digesting foods you will not have enough energy for things you want to do. The same things hold true for consuming too much highly processed foods. It can be clearly seen that processed foods take substantially more energy to digest and have plenty of unknown negative effects on your health. I know that the vast quantity of conflicting messages in the fitness and nutrition sphere can be overwhelming, but remember the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. Stick to eating whole foods that your grandma would recognize.