April 16, 2024

Do you know what homeostasis is? This is the tendency or impetus for the organism to stay the same. For example, if you try to lose weight or gain weight your body says, “Whoa, that’s not normal. Let’s put the breaks on that!” This, in the beginning, is one of the issues with weight loss or gain. The body sees this as a threat to its established pattern and attempts to stop it. This is the comfort zone.

Here is the rub. Everything you do that is perceived as new is perceived as a threat by the body/mind. It manifests in the mind as reasons to quit or not attempt something new. Or, when some action needs to be taken to create the new thing procrastination sets in. These can be quite subtle messages such as, “I’m tired. I can do it later or better yet tomorrow.” Or “I don’t quite understand this. Maybe I should ask Jack, who knows all about this stuff before I start.” Even more subtle is the message, “I’m really not enough of an expert. I can’t really be successful.”

These kinds of messages are pure sabotage. They stop you dead. Here’s the kicker, at the same time that you are stopped you feel better. Why? Because you didn’t challenge your comfort zone. You stayed in it. And although there might be a bit of guilt there is an overwhelming feeling of relief. The struggle is over.

“Okay, Cliff. I get it. How do I deal with this sabotage?” There are many ways but the way I think is best is to get a very strong why behind your venture into something new. If you lost your job and have a family to support, starting a new company will seem necessary. You can attack the subtle messages by saying that what you are doing is a matter of survival. Finding the why behind your doing something new can be difficult. The reasons you give can’t be silly or grandiose. For example, saying I want to be rich isn’t a good why. It is too unclear and certainly doesn’t stir the blood. And the reasons behind the why are more emotional than rational. Your why must stir your blood. When you wake up in the morning your why needs to shoot you out of bed with the excitement to come to grips with your tasks. Your big why isn’t a goal. It is the picture of who you desire to be in the future. This can be intimidating. You want to become someone else. And that threatens your body and mind. After all, a new you is eliminating the old you. And that is terrifying to your subconscious and your conscious mind. That is the source of the sabotaging messages. If you create a why that you love, then the obstacles to your success are greatly diminished. That doesn’t mean that you won’t have issues on your path. But the internal messages that stop you before you start are now controllable and the motivation to attack your new dream is high.

Spend the time and effort to create a why that makes you smile every time you think about it. If you need help with this write to me.

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April 9, 2024

Have you ever tried to cut something with a dull knife? If you have, then you know how difficult it is and how tough it is to keep going. Sharpen the knife and everything is easy. Focus is the sharpening of your attention to what you are doing-now. Not in the future, not in the past but all your attention is only about what you are doing now.

Last week I had two things I had to do. I needed to do them because they are important to my well-being. They needed a phone call. But I put it off because…I thought it would be hard…I could do it later…I didn’t feel like it…I thought it would take a long painful set of conversations.

Until this morning when I metaphorically sharpened the knife. I decided that right this minute I would do the two essential calls. I practiced what I would say and did it. The most important call was the first, and it took 2 minutes. The result I got was to my benefit and made my day. The second call took 3 minutes and set up the rest of my week. Total time; 5 minutes; results; excellent.

Use the image of sharpening the knife to face the tasks and challenges that exist in your life. See the knife (your attention) being sharpened and as it gets sharper your attention to the task at hand gets tighter and tighter. This is what focus is; the obliteration of anything except your task in your mind. Practice this metaphorical sharpening every time you must do something. Watch your life change.

To a life of focus.


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April 2, 2024

We talked last week about criteria for trusting a practitioner. Then I was mostly talking about medical people, doctors, and other health professionals. The number of people pushing exercise advice swamps the numbers pushing medical advice. You can have three people discuss the same exercise and get wildly different advice. How do you determine who to believe?

As with the medical people you start by looking at their background and education. Education doesn’t mean just degrees but who they studied with and how they were trained. Secondly, you look at the reasons they are pushing a particular exercise method or technique. Is there some logic behind it or is it just how they feel or how someone else taught them i.e. do what I say. Thirdly, there is a feel to a person and their message. I dislike excessively negative presentations that don’t have good reasons behind them. The exercise world is full of these kinds of presentations. I’m also skeptical of people who are practically naked in their talks. I feel there is something more going on than just good information. Lastly, I look for results from what they teach. On YouTube reading the comments can be valuable. Look for ones where the people have followed the teacher for a while and give a kind of testimonial. There are many people who give really good advice and even training. Some names include Mark Wildman, Mike Chang, Kelly Starrett, Pete Egoscue and Adelle Bridges. They all teach simply and directly without bombast and without negative comments about others. The comments they have on YouTube alone show how they change people’s lives with their methods.

Just briefly I will talk about my work. As you know the central theme of what I teach is good posture. This core tenet lets me get people out of pain. It also is a guiding light for how to move and how to judge your movement. From this core you can analyze your own pain and movement and figure out for yourself why you are in pain. Or why a particular movement isn’t getting you the results you want. I learned this from Pete Egoscue and martial arts. All of the martial arts I teach (Tai Ji, BaQua, and Hapkido) teach good posture and rely on it to become proficient. There is a logic behind this that governs motion. If you study good posture and work on making yours as perfect as it can be not only will you live a pain-free life, but you will see examples every day of people moving with poor posture. I don’t condemn other methods; rather I embrace them with the addition of good postural methods.

Start your day by looking in your mirror and seeing your posture. If it isn’t perfect, work on it. Or call me.

To a great life.


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March 26, 2024

When we go to a doctor, especially if he/she is in a large practice, there is a standardized care. This has been determined by two criteria; 1) over time practices that give a reasonable chance of a good result and 2) practices that minimize the chance of a lawsuit if something doesn’t work out to the satisfaction of the client or his heirs. If you decide to try other methods than your doctor recommends or don’t like his advice, you are more or less on your own.

There are an enormous number of alternate practitioners you can choose from and sometimes they are very good. They may have other modes of treatment that have a good track record and data to back them up. But you have to decide by yourself if the advice they give is a path you want to follow.

Then there are uncountable numbers of advice givers on the Internet. Anyone can write a blog or create a YouTube video and claim a particular success in dealing with an illness. Some of them claim they are doctors. Some just state emphatically that what they present works and is true. (And I haven’t even mentioned the hundreds of books published on Amazon about health, sleep, and diet).

How do you decide that what they are pushing is true? Either in the alternative practitioner or a YouTube poster?

Firstly, you should look at their credentials. Are they either a medical practitioner of some kind with a recognized degree i.e. MD, ND, or other credential? Is the credential they have from a reputable institution? Secondly, what is their specialty? Do they have publications about the topic they are recommending (Multiple YouTube posts do not count!)? Is there some way to see what kind of statistics exist for what they are recommending? Are they tied closely to a drug company? This might be hard to find but it isn’t impossible. Thirdly, is there any clinical data that supports their claim? There are a lot of goofy studies that have 10 to 15 people in them or worse studies that ask about people’s habits without controls or verification of what they really do.  Studies by survey are not true science. People lie. So those kinds of studies are suspect. Fourthly, is it a fad or recurring fad. We see these all the time. Recently, we’ve seen the return of the Atkins diet to the keto diet. This diet showed enormous problems in a massive study about 20 years ago. Another very hot topic on YouTube is the intermittent fasting protocol. Our science is now good enough to predict that this fad is not sustainable for a lifetime. The analogic reasoning used for this diet is that our hunter/gatherer ancestors must have eaten that way. Well, the average lifetime of our ancestors of that age was probably around 30 years. Our mortality average now is around 78 years. It is a different calculation needed and analogic reasoning isn’t good enough.

There can be so much hype about a particular methodology that your reason can be blown away. For 30 years the low-fat diet nearly wrecked our national health. High blood pressure is another topic that YouTubers go crazy about. A large number of protocols are recommended here. How good are they? A large study done in Wales (more than 2000 patients and controls) was just reported by the AARP on exercise for lowering blood pressure. The study showed that isometrics exercise was the best thing to do for high blood pressure. The exercise that worked the best was wall sits!

Conclusion. Try to take the emotion and hype out of your analysis of an alternative program or protocol. How much science is in the conclusion that demonstrates that it works. For example, Barry Sears’ work has more than 30 years of science that backs up his recommendations and conclusions. And a lot of those studies come out of Harvard. Don’t pick a program that promises a lot of weight loss. Pick a program that demonstrates your health will be better. This means your life will be better.

Now what about the exercise protocols I teach that promise pain relief? I will talk about that next time.

To a happy, healthy life.


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March 19, 2024

Iatrogenic diseases are diseases caused by medical treatment. The relationship of these diseases to pain management has been around for a very long time. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last 15 years you are aware of the opioid crisis. This disease is an iatrogenic disease. Physicians want to stop their patients complaining and so prescribe these drugs. They are incentivized by the pharmaceutical firms to prescribe these addictive medications. Hence, a new disease appears. Instead of getting their patients into the hands of practitioners like me, they take the easy route (for them) and help create a very nasty societal problem.

This has been going on for a very long time. Don’t believe me? Here are two ads from the turn of the century (19th to the 20th century). The first ad was run by Bayer who proudly extolled heroin as a cough suppressant. The lab that made the heroin laced cough suppressant is now used to make aspirin. The second ad was run by Martin H. Smith & Co., Chemists said, “The problem of administering heroin in proper doses in such form as will give the therapeutic virtues of this drug full sway, and will suit the palate of the most exacting adult or the most capricious child, has been solved by the pharmaceutical compound known as GLYCO-HEROIN. The results attained with Glyco-Heroin in the alleviation and cure of cough are attested by numerous clinical studies that have appeared in the medical journals within the past few years.” Yes, the symptoms of the cough were reduced at the cost of entering the road to addiction and perhaps death.

You think this isn’t going on today? On television from 5 in the evening to around 9 most if the ads are about new drugs you should be taking if you have certain diseases. They talk about the wonders of their clinical trials. Do yourself a favor and listen to the side effects of taking the drug. They should make you shiver. Why are they appealing to the general audience directly? They tell the patients to ask their doctor for the advertised drug. They found out that sales increased by 30% with this advertising. I believe we have some new crises coming due to doctors being overwhelmed with patients demands for help and the drug companies pushing their drugs. Unfortunately, the people put in place to protect the public such as the FDA and the National Institutes of Health are not of much help. They don’t do a particularly good job and since the law changed in 2011 that made it legal for researchers at the NIH to take bribes (they don’t call them bribes but research consulting) from the drug companies it is getting worse.

As usual, you are on your own. Before accepting a drug or vaccine do your own research. For example, 3 years ago my doctor was pushing me to take a pneumonia vaccine. I did some research on it and found out that Britain’s National Health Service had stopped recommending it because a long-term study showed it didn’t work. This is the kind of research you need to do.

I acknowledge that when you are in pain in your body you just want it to stop. And doing exercises and learning to understand the relationship of posture to pain is work. And you want it to stop ‘right now’! The best thing to do if you are hurting is to get on the floor, put your feet up on a chair and lie there until the pain recedes. If you get tired of lying on the floor, do wall sits for a few minutes. Then get back on the floor. Eventually you will be able to move without pain. Then you can start the process of fixing your posture. This will fix your pain in the long term and give you a better daily life.

If you need help, reach out. Come study Qi Gong, Tai Ji or Ba Qua with me to use motion to create good posture and a fulfilling life.

All the best,


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March 5, 2024

This post is an excerpt from my upcoming book, tentatively titled, Motivate to Move. In it I talk about what is necessary to be motivated to accomplish something you desire. I teach that there are three games that we must master to be motivated daily. They are the psychological game, the mental game and the action game.

I would appreciate any comments on this excerpt as it will help me improve the book. This is a selection from the chapter, The Mental Game.

The Mental Game

The mental game is simply strategic thinking. Strategic thinking is the overall goal you or your organization wants to obtain. For example, the major strategic objective of the Allies in WWII was to defeat the Axis powers. The next step down in the strategic objective is to unite the efforts of the Allies so that they act in a concerted fashion. To do this requires certain kinds of structures including agreement on command and control of the war machinery. It also means helping the Allies to keep the wellbeing of their citizenry as good as can be done. Notice that this says nothing about how you are going to do each of these. This stage is to make as clear as possible the major goals you want to achieve and in what order. This sounds easy, after the fact, but in general this is so difficult that most major corporations have given up on this kind of thinking and planning. There has been an enormous amount of material created on how to do strategic thinking and planning. As I said, corporations don’t do it much anymore, but as individuals dedicated to making ourselves the best we can be, we can use this material for our benefit.

The nice thing about working as individuals is we don’t have to fight with a lot of people with competing ideas of what is the highest goal. We decide what we are going to chase. It doesn’t mean it is easy to get there. It takes focus and commitment to decide the goal you will dedicate time and energy to. I will take you through a process that I think works. I will use material from what strategic thinkers in corporations used and abandoned. As I do that I will talk about their successes and failures. I will also explain why they quit doing it. Once I’ve explained the process you will have the tools to design your own strategic goals. In the appendix is a design sheet you can use to help navigate the process.

The Why

Let’s start defining your goal. As the title of this book is about motivating you to exercise daily let’s assume that is your goal. (Clearly you can choose any goal. These techniques work for any goal). So, write that down. Use the worksheets from the appendix if you want or design your own. The first thing to determine is why? Without a strong why this becomes a meaningless pantomime.

Have you ever determined to do something? It could be as simple as losing some weight or as complicated as becoming competent in Tensor Analysis. How long did you work on this? If you’re like most people you ‘tried’ for about a month. The something happened. You were too tired to exercise as part of weight loss. You told yourself you’re just too old to do higher level math. All these excuses that turn into not doing what you say you want. Why is that happening to you? Because you never figured out why you wanted to accomplish it.

The first principle of systems engineering is knowing what the desired outcome is. This is the top-level question you always ask before starting to design or build a new device. The personal analog to this is why do I want this goal? What will I become if I accomplish this goal? Who will I be if I lose this weight or master Tensor Analysis? This is the picture you hold in your head about your desired outcome.

When you ask this question of why for a new goal, some of you will have quick strong answers. Some of you will feel very strongly that this is what you want but aren’t sure what your why is. So, you will have to journal it to find out what the why is and who you desire to be. This may take some time. Let it. It’s better to get a strong why than to finish something quickly that doesn’t resonate for you. This story should make clear what I am talking about.

One of my sons called me towards the end of his sophomore year in college. He was a dual major in software engineering and pre-med. He was busy and doing well. After we talked for a while and caught up, he said, “Dad I think I want to become a SEAL.” Now this shocked me as my wife is a birth right Quaker. Quakers don’t believe in war. My son and his older brother had been raised as Quakers. We weren’t fanatical about it but this announcement shocked me. I said to him, “Why do you want to do this?” He went on to give me a bunch of reasons that were more platitudes than thought out convictions. After chatting about this for a bit I said, “You know these aren’t reasons. None of them will keep you moving forward in the cold light of 3 am. You need to come up with better reasons. I’m not going to talk with your Mom until you’ve thought it out better.”

He said, “How do I do that?”

“Remember all those notebooks I have in the library?”

“Yeah, there are shelves of them.”

“That’s how I talk to myself and figure things out,” I replied. “Get yourself a notebook and start writing. Figure out your why. Until you do that it doesn’t mean much. If you can’t do this, how are you going to react when you have to swim in the surf off San Diego where the water is cold and miserable?”

We ended our conversation and for about 2 years he never talked about it, and I didn’t ask. But in the spring of his Senior year, he called me again. He said, “Dad, I know my why and I’m going to do it.”

“How did you do it? “I asked.

“I did what you said. I wrote in my notebook for all this time. I filled one and a half notebooks talking to myself about why it was necessary, you know, all the stuff we talked about it. I have it clear in my head now.”

“You’re sure,” I asked.


“Okay, I’ll talk with your Mom. Good luck.”

The conversation with my wife was not fun. My son went on his journey. The SEAL stuff didn’t work out, but he did become a Special Forces soldier, a green beret. After he came back from Afghanistan, he told me that when he went through the Q course to become a Green Beret if he hadn’t done the exercises I’d asked him to do he would never have made it. It was the why that kept him going no matter what.

Knowing your why is the single most important strategy you must have. It requires deep thought and deep emotional commitment. Without it you will quit. My son told me stories of guys just quitting because, “I don’t need this bullshit.” Their whys were not strong enough. It’s the reason the training is so hard. Without that commitment they don’t want you.

This act of determining your why is a creative act. After all, you aren’t the person you will become, yet. You must see yourself as someone new; a different person from who you are now. Whatever goal you are striving for is a change of who you are. It is scary to contemplate this change. You are probably comfortable with who you are now so becoming a different you is threatening. But first you must get that image of the new you clear. To do that we ask questions and answer them. Here they are.

What do I look like once I accomplish my goal and how is that different from how I look now?

What character traits must I acquire to be able to do this?

What habits do I need to develop?

How do I need to change how I see the things around me to succeed?

Is there a particular set of things I must do to succeed?

Is there someone who’s done what I want to do who can help me?

What kind of investment of time and energy will this work require?

Where can I find significant support outside of myself for this task?

What are intermediate milestones that I can use to fuel my effort?

What we are doing with these questions is trying to bring into focus the person you will become. This is what happens when you design a new machine. We have a vague idea of what the tool should do. Then we put some parameters on it that tell us how it functions. Then we write a detailed specification of what is required for the machine to do in detail. Now we start to ‘see’ this machine. In the case of us and our goals we start to see what is needed to become our most desired outcome.    

How do you know that your why is ‘good enough’? What is good enough? Good enough is the why that takes you through the inevitable blocks and failures on your way to that desired outcome. And you will fail sometimes. And you will get those crazy thoughts about quitting and finding something else. You know because after all the work you do one of two things happen; 1) your why settles into your heart. It becomes your constant companion and image. This is what you are meant to do. 2) Your why doesn’t resonate. You feel something off even as you start pursuing it. Something isn’t right. If the second scenario happens you must back up and work on your why more until it does become part of you. If you don’t have that feeling you will not follow through.

Why so much work for the why? You know what your goal is so why do you have to work so hard to define the why? Do you know how many company projects fail every year? It’s so big that most companies won’t take on a massive, paradigm changing project. Do you know how many people wanting to lose weight either quit the work or gain back the weight immediately? It’s an enormous number that is very hard to gauge. And the reasons behind both the companies’ and the individual’s failure is the same. It’s a lack of seeing the desired outcome and defining the deep why for doing the task. Companies can’t give as a why that it will make us lots of money and be the market leader. That kind of frivolous reasoning does not spark the hearts and minds of the people tasked with creating the product. Similarly, if Joan wants to lose weight and her why is that she will look better I guarantee that that why will not get her up in the cold dawn to exercise. She has to see herself as someone new. She must hold up this vision of herself to herself every day. When exercising becomes tough, when the hunger pangs strike, it is only that vision that will carry her through. The process of forging this ideal she imagines provides energy and focus and determination even in the darkest moments of the project.

I will remind you of Olivia, from my book Joint Pain Be Gone. Olivia was diagnosed with MS when she was 28 with a one-year-old son. Her husband was abandoning her. Her doctors gave up and told her to prepare for being an invalid for the rest of her life. Her vision of herself did not agree with that. She fought to be who she imagines herself. More than 20 years later she is not bedridden or handicapped. She has pain sometimes but works every day to improve her mobility and keep herself independent and strong. It is the image of herself and her definition of what her true why is that keeps her strong and as well as possible. She doesn’t go for quick fixes or rah-rah moments. She focuses on the here and now, in line with her view of herself and her why. She changed who she was to become the hero she is. She is my hero.

Find your why and become great.


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February 27, 2024

We are going back to talking about posture and how we influence it in our daily activities.

There are many ways we influence our posture and our health without being aware of it. We do them at work, at play, and while resting. Generally, as a one-off thing if doesn’t affect much. Unfortunately, doing them for a long time does cause damage and pain. I will talk about a few of these in the next few sentences.

Using a Laptop

Laptops or tablets are everywhere in our life. They are so much a part of the landscape that we see them in television programs where the serious investigator whips open his laptop, hunches over it and draws astonishing conclusions. (Note that the smallest computers, i.e. cell phones, create the same behavioral pattern). Notice the phrase above ‘hunch over it’. This is how most people use laptops or tablets. They rest the machine on their lap or a surface that is level with their belly button. Then they bend their neck (and cervical spine) into a C i.e. they hunch. Most of the people I know are using these machines more than 5 hours a day. Guess what happens over time? You are right. They get headaches, neck aches and tight shoulders. A quick rub or rotation doesn’t fix it because the spine is not in position.

How do we fix it? The fix is two-fold. First, we fix the behavior i.e. how we use the machine. Don’t put the laptop or tablet on your lap. Put it on a flat surface and raise the surface up (be creative!) so the center of the screen is at eye level. Next, sit so your feet are flat on the floor and your hips are pushed forward. Relax your shoulders. Lastly, try to take breaks at least every hour where you stand up and walk around briefly. I prefer 40 minutes for the break but if you can’t do that do at least 1 hour.

Next how do we fix the pain we’ve already created? Do the exercise two feet up on the chair from my book for 15 minutes every day. Do gentle neck rotations 10 times each way. Do Cats and Dogs 15 times. Do the exercise on page 54 in my book, Opening the curve of the lumbar spine. Make sure you let the head dangle completely relaxed as you hold the position.


Most people run incorrectly. They use their hip flexors to swing their legs forward, barely lifting their legs. Their feet lift up only an inch or two, so their feet seem to skim the surface. This puts pressure on the knees and hips because the body isn’t aligned. Gradually, over time, pain develops in both the hips and knees. It can also shift to the spine and shoulders as the torso is misaligned.

How do we fix it? I show how you are supposed to run in my video here https://www.dropbox.com/s/t9sec63ri320i8w/20200420_FunctionRun.mp4?dl=0

The key points are, 1) relax your body and hold your hands in a relaxed grip near your waist. 2) lift your knees and shift your weight forward as you run so your heals strike under your hips. Most runners have week thigh muscles because they use their hip flexors to run. If you do this (run in the function run) for a bit your thigh muscles will ache because they are finally being used.

What if you are in pain already? Most likely your knees and hips are aching. If the pain isn’t too bad doing Walk Like a Heron from my book and deep squats will help. Doing function run as shown above will correct your alignment over time and correct your pain. For more help just get in touch with me at calanmartin@gmail.com.

Lounging in a chair or sofa while watching video

There may be nothing worse than sitting in a lounging position while you watch videos or play games. People tend to contort their bodies into unbelievable shapes that distort the perfect alignment of shoulder, hip, knee, and ankle but worse twist the spine and neck into very difficult positions. Lower back pain and neck pain are usual results, but shoulder pain is also developed due to the shoulder freezing because it isn’t used.

How do we fix it? DON’T SIT IN A SOFT SURFACE WITH OUR FEET OFF THE GROUND. If you must watch videos or play games sit in a hard chair with your feet flat on the floor. Push your hips forward so there is a slight curvature in your lower spine. Open your chest, if you are playing games, so your breathing isn’t constricted, and your hands are free.

What about fixing the pain associated with this position? If you’ve been in this position for a long time, you will find your posture is distorted. You will have to analyze your posture and fix it. See my book for help on this. https://amzn.to/3OpWyM9  .I can help you if you need some help. If you won’t correct your position for watching TV and playing games prepare to be in pain.

I’ve presented three positions that most people experience in their lives. This is just a summary of the pain and dysfunction that is caused by these incorrect uses of the self. They are by no means comprehensive. In the case of laptops, I’ve not mentioned the eye problems that frequently are associated with long laptop use.  Spend some time thinking about how you use your body and if you do any of these things try to correct them. Reach out if you need some help.

There will be more to come in future blog posts.

To a pain free life.


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