Kapok is Enlightened…Down is for the Birds

by Linsi Deyo and Nichole Chigoy

Many people have wondered what kapok is and why Carolina Morning uses it as a stuffing for so many of our products. Some wonder if down or feathers might be a better alternative. In society at large, it seems like feathers are considered the premium filling. However, there are many reasons kapok excels as the best choice. “Kapok” comes from the seedpod of the kapok tree and is similar to the milkweed pod: a hard shell outside and feathery seeds inside. It is one of the few sustainable crops grown in the rainforests and is found in Asia as well as in South America. It does not require pesticides or herbicides.  Among many of its benefits, it is hypoallergenic, resistant to mold, forms to the shape of one’s body while simultaneously bounding back when not being used. Kapok even floats and is often used as the stuffing in airplane seats.

At Carolina Morning, we choose kapok because we love knowing that it comes from a tree and that it has so many healing qualities. The tree isn’t harmed by the harvesting process.

One of the common alternatives to kapok is duck and goose down.  The down we see in so many of the common products sold in the marketplace – from jackets, to comforters and pillows comes from water fowl, or duck and geese. Feather pillows are far more popular than kapok pillows, although this is slowly changing.  At Carolina Morning we like offering products filled with kapok as an option to feathers and down. While kapok is a stuffing that is eco friendly and cruelty-free, feathers and down can’t make the same claim. It’s sad to report about this issue. So many of us aren’t aware of it, and by sharing this information we hope to reduce the suffering of our beloved bird friends.

Birds are a symbol of spirit and of freedom. Keeping them in captivity to take their feathers is harsh, but there’s more to it. The subject is a complex and controversial one. If you continue to read this article, you’ll learn about nature and human nature. It’s not totally pretty in that it shows the shadow side of human nature. We encourage you to read it to educate yourself, and to–when shopping — choose kapok stuffing over feathers. Click here to continue reading and to see a 5 minute TV news report video which summarizes the issue.

Here is a short video of a news broadcast on the subject,(it has some harsh scenes).

Some areas of the world have made efforts to protect the birds in various ways. Live plucking is the most common way to gather the feathers and is very cruel. In the USA and Europe this practice is outlawed. Since more than 80 percent of down and feathers come from China and other places, that makes a small difference world wide. And unfortunately that doesn’t insure that that the materials (down and feathers) are cruelty-free. There are ways around the laws, and enforcement is difficult and sometimes absent. If the birds were killed and used for meat, and then feathers taken off the dead bird, it would actually be a more humane way of collecting them. The reason live plucking is so rampant relates to water bird feathers being the feathers of choice.

Nature protected water birds with two kinds of covering: feathers, which allow the bird to fly, and down, which insulates and keeps the bird warm. Down grows beneath the feathers, close to the skin, and mostly on the chest and underbelly.  Because ducks and geese live partly in the water, both the feathers and down are coated with an oil produced by the birds and applied during preening. This waterproofing enables the feathers and the down to stay dry even when the birds are in the water.

Due to the waterproof nature of ducks and geese, removing feathers after slaughter, by scalding (as is the typical route for poultry), doesn’t work as well for waterfowl. It’s a slower process and requires more attention compared to poultry.  For this reason, along with the production of fois gras, a French delicacy requiring the force feeding by metal tube inserted into the esophagus, live plucking has become a common choice for many down suppliers.

In 2009, the Swedish news program Kalla Fakta released a documentary uncovering the hidden secrets of the industry.  The report revealed that in the three largest down producing countries, Hungry, Poland, and China, live plucking has been widespread.  The expose included footage of live plucking and the trauma endured by the geese. These birds endure repeated plucking, as often as every six weeks,  throughout their lifetimes. The plucking often leave the birds with open wounds which are sewn up hastily without anesthesia. It is a traumatizing existence for the birds.

The Swedish documentary  gained lots of attention at the time of its release and forced well known companies such as The North Face, Patagonia, and Ikea to address the issue of where they source the raw materials for their products. As a result, two major organizations were formed, Responsible Sourced Down and Globally Traceable Down Standard, in an attempt to provide certifications to companies who pledge to support safe and humane practices of down harvests.

Still, the controversy lingers.  Even though well-known companies are pledging to source cruelty free down under the standards of the mentioned organizations, there have been reports uncovering more unethical behaviors:

Some reported issues remain:

  • Certified non-live plucking farms are still buying down from live pluck farms who then resell the down masked as humanely sourced.
  • There are loopholes that allow farms to divide there facility into two sections: one area that abides by non-live plucking standards and another area that does not. Once down is plucked (live or after slaughter) there is no way to determine if it came from a live plucking situation. Therefore, these ‘responsible farms” maybe operating more irresponsibly than not.

As you might realize, navigating the industry of down filling can be a daunting process if one is seeking 100% cruelty free options.  At Carolina Morning, our goal is to lessen suffering, both physically and mentally and we feel that kapok is one choice we can make to support that goal.  Harvesting kapok causes no injury to the tree, other plants, or living creatures. In addition, kapok is not a synthetic-petroleum based product. It is truly an earth-friendly stuffing option for our pillows, cushions, and futons.  We hope this article helps to raise your awareness to the controversy of down so that we can continue to grow as mindful consumers.  

https://zafu.net/postings/materials (for information on kapok)

Isaac Galton Experiments With Meditation

Isaac Galton Experiments With Meditation

In high school I was often bored and lonely, but I kept myself motivated with the hope that life after graduation would be better. I longed for an environment where I could be intellectually challenged and find a strong supportive community. When I got to college, I gradually realized that I was probably not going to find the environment I craved there. I slowly became more and more depressed.

Late in my freshman year, the news-anchor Dan Harris came to our small college’s campus, to promote his book 10% Happier, which advocated introducing meditation into your daily routine. I was impressed, and from time to time would attempt to meditate for 5 minutes or so, but didn’t keep up with it because I found it so difficult to keep my mind from wandering. The following school year, I became even more unhappy and I ultimately decided to take time off from college and then later decided to switch colleges. At first, I wasn’t any happier at my new college and a therapist mentioned that maybe I should try meditation. A few friends of mine studied abroad in India and Nepal and they become very intrigued about Buddhist philosophy and meditation. Fortunately, my depression eventually subsided on its own, but my interest in meditation remained.  

I wanted to learn how to meditate, and even bought The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein, but still never managed to get started on a consistent routine. Some of my favorite podcasts put out episodes extolling the benefits of daily Buddhist meditation and taking extended meditation retreats. I still never was able to set aside daily time for meditation. So when my housemate my senior year of college mentioned that she had taken a free 10 day course. I promised myself that I would try it someday.  Eventually, six months after graduating college, I found the time to register for a course on dhamma.org. I was on the waiting list and received an email just days before the course was set to begin that I had been accepted off the waiting list. I accepted the, and a couple days later I packed up my car and drove the 7 hours to the nearest center in Southeast Georgia. I was armed with my zafu cushion, and a zabuton and peace bench lent to me by my generous neighbor who worked at Carolina Morning, but I didn’t really know how to even use them.


I went into the course knowing almost nothing. I came to learn that the promise of Vipassana meditation (at least as taught by S. N. Goenka, the man who founded the worldwide network of Vipassana meditation courses given free of charge) is that with hard work and dedication, anyone can liberate themselves from the miseries and dissatisfactions of life. The teaching dictates that misery and dissatisfaction stems from either craving things or having aversion towards things. Cravings and aversions stem from ignorance: everything is always changing and shifting. Any pleasant sensation or feeling that we crave will go away in time as will any unpleasant sensation that we dislike will do the same. If one can learn to accept and observe the ever-changing nature of reality with equanimity, then one has liberated oneself from the misery of unfulfilled cravings or the unpleasantness of manifested aversions. Vipassana meditation essentially consists of continuously scanning one’s body, observing the sensations without reacting.  One must observe an itch without scratching, observe soreness in the knees and keep them crossed, all the while merely observing and not wishing for the sensations to go away. Remembering that all sensations, good or bad, are impermanent and will come and go on their own.

 As maybe you can imagine (or perhaps you know already), practicing Vipassana meditation is very difficult. For the first 3 or 4 days, we practiced Anapana meditation (observing the breath) in order to sharpen our focus in preparation for Vipassana. My main challenge, even after the days of practice with Anapana, was that my mind would wander into daydreams and I would cease doing the body-scans. Other times I became frustrated or even angry that I could not observe sensations on multiple parts of the body at once. Our days essentially consisted of meditation all day with some longer breaks to eat, rest, and walk and shorter breaks between meditation sits to stretch and use the bathroom. In the evening we would watch a video recording of a lecture of Goenka’s in which he would explain the theory behind the meditation techniques we were practicing. Each day the meditation technique would get slightly more complex and so would the accompanying theory.

 In order to facilitate the environment where it is possible to practice the technique for 10-12 hours a day, the 60 students were expected to maintain “noble silence.” Starting on the first evening of the course until the final full day of the course, my classmates and I refrained from all verbal and nonverbal communication except for with the teacher and the course manager. The silence and other restrictions (which include no use of electronics, books, or eating snacks outside of mealtimes) help one not get distracted on the task at hand: the sharpening and purification of the mind.

I admit at times I longed for the days to move more quickly and for the course to end. I craved snacks. I wondered what was going on in the news. I worried I would miss an important email. It was impossible for me to maintain focus on the meditation practice for 12 hours each day. Sometimes, during an hour long sit, my mind wandered for 50 of those minutes, remembering places I had been and people I had met in the past few years. Sometimes my knees got stiff.  Sometimes I craved a chicken dinner or even a Google search. I just wanted the retreat to be over. I admit I rarely floss my teeth, but I flossed every day at the retreat because I wanted something more to do.

Other times I was focused. My mind only wandered for 10 minutes spaced out over an hour. I was able to observe sensations without wishing for them to stay or go. Part of the practice is learning not to get frustrated when you can’t maintain focus and not being happy when you can maintain focus. The objective is to merely observe what is going on without reacting.

Finally, on the last day, we were allowed to speak with the other students. It was a relief to be able to speak to the people I had been very physically close to for over a week but never even made eye contact with and in some cases, never heard their voice. It was amazing how different everyone’s experience had been. I thought I had had intense feelings at times, but compared to the anguish and fear some others mentioned they had felt at times, I realized that perhaps I had had an easy time of it. Everyone seemed in a very good mood on the last day, and ultimately I was a little sad to go just as I was making friends with the fellow students.

I learned a lot. I learned how difficult it is to control the mind. I learned that purifying the mind and reaching inner peace is a lifelong endeavor. And I learned that what kind of meditation cushions you use are super important. In order to sit still for an hour, you need some comfortable cushions! I especially liked the combination of the Carolina Morning Peace Bench with the Zabuton sitting mat. The sitting mats in the meditation hall were much thinner than my Zabuton was, but unfortunately the Zabuton would take up too much space to use in the hall, so I left it in my room to use when we were allowed meditate in there.

It had been more challenging than I expected, but I am so grateful that I was able to attend the course.

A Thanksgiving Address

A Thanksgiving Address


“What would it be like to be raised on gratitude, to speak to the natural world as a member of the democracy of species, to raise a pledge of interdependence?  No declarations of political loyalty are required, just a response to a repeated question: ‘Can we agree to be grateful for all this is given?'”.

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass

Is is a common belief among  Native American traditions that humans do not dominate this planet but instead we are students of the ancient plant and animal elders. For instance, the Onondaga tribe have a particularly strong tradition of expressing gratitude called the Thanksgiving Address.  There are multiple versions of the address. Some are lengthy while others are condensed.

Onondaga children are taught to recite the Thanksgiving Address in grade school and it is spoken out loud at the beginning of gatherings and meetings.  The Thanksgiving Address is meant to unify people as a way of agreeing on the common denominator that connects us all – our beautiful Earth. Unlike Americans, who grow up to memorize and recite the Pledge of Allegiance (to a flag),  tribe members grow up learning to recite a pledge of gratitude to the natural world.

Below is one version of The Thanksgiving Address.

Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

Greetings to the Natural World

The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms‐ waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds‐from the smallest to the largest‐we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

The Thunderers

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

Now our minds are one.

The Sun

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

The Stars

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.

Now our minds are one.

The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.

The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.

Proper Care Tips For Your Carolina Morning Products

Proper Care Tips For Your Carolina Morning Products

Show here with removable cover.

As you may know, Carolina Morning is located in the Southern Appalachian Mountains at the base of Mount Mitchell and the Black Mountains Range.  The region is considered a temperate rain forest with one of the most bio-diverse eco-systems in the world.  This summer, in particular, has felt very damp. We have received an abundance of rain.  The high humidity levels have been a common source of conversation among folks in our parts.

Perhaps some of you are experiencing a similar weather pattern.  Has your region experienced an unusually wet summer?  Do you live in a home without air conditioning?  We thought it would be helpful to discuss proper ways to care for your toxic-free, all-natural products.

A warm and humid environment creates a perfect scenario for mold growth.  It can grow on almost any surface – paper, wood, stone, fabric, etc.  For this reason, to best protect all of your Carolina Morning products, moisture management is a must.  Meditation cushions, yoga props, and organic bedding (futons, paleo pads, and sleeping pillows) are all susceptible to mold because of their soft qualities.  But even wood based products, because they are natural, can be susceptible to excess humidity.  These include Eco Squares, Eco Backrests, and Peace and Sky Benches, and Tilt Seats.

Traditional Zafu meditation cushions

Kapok Zafu Meditation Cushions

Mold thrives in moist, damp environments with poor air circulation.  As a result, the first preventative measure to mold growth is reducing the indoor moisture level.  Optimum humidity levels in a home should be in the range of 30-60%.  A dehumidifier or an air conditioner can help remedy high moisture levels.  Either may show the humidity level, or you can buy a humidity gauge for under $15 to track it.  You also want to make sure that laundry dryers and stoves are properly vented out of the house and that plumbing pipes are not leaking.  If you do not have an air conditioner or dehumidifier, keep indoor air circulating by opening windows or running fans.

Though our products are created with mold resistant materials such as wool and kapok, their effectiveness can be compromised if they are kept in environments that harbor excessive moisture.  Since mold grows on dust, keeping the dust level low in you home will be beneficial as well.  If your pillow or futon begins to smell musty, it is important to act quickly.  A great natural approach is to wash the pillow protector or futon cover in cold water (since heat shrinks cotton).  Hang the covers to dry or put in the dryer on “air”, no heat.  If you have an outdoor space, on a dry, sunny day, sprinkle baking soda on the surface of your cushion or pillows, and sun them outside.  Flip the cushions to allow each side a chance to absorb the sun’s rays.  The sunshine will kill the mold spores and the baking soda will absorb the odors.    Repeat this process for a few days, if possible.  If you live in an urban area or do not have access to an outdoor space, you can still sprinkle the cushions with baking soda and let them air out with the help of a dehumidifier.

Gently spot clean your cushion if it gets dirty from day to day use without a protective cover.  With a damp cloth and a little soap, you can rub areas of the cotton clean.  Do not soak the fabric as this will result in wet kapok that can become susceptible to mold.  After spot cleaning, please allow your cushion to dry completely, preferably in the sun.

Floor couch

Economy Floor Couch with Restorative Yoga Mat

Another important protective measure to consider is a removable cover.  If your product doesn’t come with one, it can be purchased separately.  The removable covers come in an assortment of colors and are easy to take on and off to wash.  They will work to preserve the life of your pillow or cushion by offering another layer of protection from the elements.  Here, at Carolina Morning, your products are made using only the highest quality, earth-friendly materials.  If they are taken care of properly, they can last for years.

How We Learned To Live In And Love A Tiny House – Part One

Camping in a tent next to a pile of lumber, recycled windows, and boxes full of our entire household belongings, Linsi and I had a task ahead of us: build a house and move into it before winter. It was at that time mid November of the year 1987.

Okay, the house was really only a cabin or trail shelter, the dimensions: 10 feet by 10 feet with a loft. But we had never done carpentry before and we were attempting to build this thing from a book.

We had to leave our previous house suddenly. Some good friends with some land in the mountains offered for us to build there.

Okay, we may have been crazy, but what prompted us to move before we had a place to move into was that we were allergic to just about any house that was available for rent. Green building was a brand new concept, and we were going to be one of the first. This chance to start all over and build something that would let us live allergy-free was the best plan we could come up with. We had spent the past 2 years sleeping in the loft of a barn as a way to get out of the house that was making us sick.

We were both excited about the prospect of designing and building our own living space. There was even something attractive about getting rid of almost everything we owned in order to squeeze into our house and live simply. Perhaps our habit of accumulating stuff had gotten to us. The prospect of needing to relocate with such short notice really pointed out how many unnecessary belongings we had accumulated over many years of dumpster diving, yard sales, and receiving useless gifts. What a hassle to deal with all that stuff. This new life would be a forced march into really thinking about what is important in life and cutting out the extraneous–a fresh start.

About that time we chanced upon a little book called Clear Your Clutter with Fung Shui by Karen Kingston. This book was a step by step instruction manual that preached the fact that clutter–belongings which are uneccessary and not used–actually hurts us in non-material ways. Fung Shui–the art and science of placement–starts with the premise that strategic design enhances vitality, health, and success. The antithesis of auspicious placement, it follows, is clutter. Clutter includes things you are saving in case you might some day use them. It also includes things you use but don’t have an orderly way to store. What we keep, why we keep it, where we keep it has far reaching ramifications in one’s personal life, according to Kingston. This book gave us the determination that we could do it, and in the process become empowered.

Another book that had influenced our decision was Tiny Houses. We had spent three years studying this book and had even gone so far as to buy some lumber and tin roofing for one of the knockdown modular designs. The plan was to build a little studio or get-away to hang out in. The house was never constructed, and now the prospect of actually living in the thing started us thinking about the design in a different way.

We tried to imagine what it would be like living in such a small space.

Okay, it took more than a weekend to build. We were ‘dried in’ in a month, and the rest of the year found us house sitting in different friend’s houses much of the time. We stayed in our unfinished house in-between housesitting gigs, moving often to where there was access to running water and electricity.

If you wonder what it was like to sleep in the shell of the house before insulation, water, power, and heat–just imagine sleeping under a gong or cymbal during a parade. The slightest wind would send our tin roof banging and crashing. We were sleeping in the loft, with plastic taped over the openings where the window would some day go. Oh how we dreaded thunderstorms at night!

Eventually we bought land nearby and moved the house, all the while living in it. Then we proceeded to build a house around that initial cabin, which we live in today.

The six years of living in our little trail shelter allowed us to save up enough money to buy land. It also had a hidden benefit and probably the most valuable. We started thinking outside the nine dots about design for small spaces.

Whether it’s a condo in the city, a garage apartment, or a cabin in the forest, small spaces have a lot to offer. It was this challenging and sometimes terrifying experience that we came to learn how to live in and love a small space. This experience prompted several years of inquiry, research and study about the art and science of small space living.

A Room of One’s Own

The biggest flaw in our 10×10 house was that neither of us could differentiate our belongings, our energy fields, and our lives. At first it was novel and fun, but there came a time when it just didn’t work anymore. We came to see the importance–indeed necessity–of each person having a room of her/his own.

It took about two years to complete our 432 square foot house (12 feet wide by 36 feet long). We lived in our 10×10 the whole time besides the last month. The new house literally engulfed and dissolved the original cabin. Each board and window and piece of roofing of the original was taken apart and applied somewhere else in the larger design until the only thing remaining of the original is the floor and front wall.

When our new house was completed we felt like we moved into a mansion. It felt weird to actually walk across a room to get to the phone. Even though most people would consider 432 square feet cramped–to us it was a long awaited opportunity. Now we could start testing out our ideas for Japanese design and furnish our house with the products our business makes. Most people would call what we had an ‘efficiency’ and furnish it with a table, couch, and bed–thus completely covering up the beautiful empty floor space. But to us, that floor was our new frontier. Spacious, simple, uncluttered–a blank canvas. How would we organize our belongings based on principles of Body Friendly Furniture and the New Ergonomics?

Click here for part two.

Back Pain Management With Holistic Methods: One Person’s Success

By Laura Sobel

I had wholly-debilitating symptoms of sciatica due to minor stenosis (@neural foramina) at L5/S1 that were so painful, I was prevented from pursuing employment as a massage therapist, let alone tolerate a car trip across town.

I was diagnosed with “degenerative disc disease,” but thankfully I met a surgical team who did not wish to cut on me to make me feel better for my particular pathology.

I originally purchased your chair [EcoBackrest™] with the intention of using it to help me recover from back surgery, as well as provide me a way to work on my computer in the only position that was comfortable at the time—laying prone and up on my elbows—but with the aid of my treatment team and my education. I chose the way of lifestyle changes and manual therapy.

I also implemented several changes suggested by the articles on your website: What’s Wrong with the Chair, Laptop Ergonomics, and The Chair-Free Lifestyle.

The EcoBackrest™ became an excellent tool to help educate my body on what exactly were beneficial positions of ease while relaxing, as well when it was time to get up and move again. It is also holding up well to much use. Since June, I’ve thrown out my sofa, sitting desk (replaced with standing desk,) & soft mattress, & soft pillows (replaced w/CM buckwheat pillows.) My only source of “lounging” seating in my home is the EcoBackrest™ chair. The rest are rolling stools and two hard, folding chairs which promote active sitting.

About Sleeping, after reading your article Sleep Ergonomics, Sweet Dreams on a Hard Surface

It took me about 6 weeks to transition from a thick, memory foam mattress to a 3″ pad on wooden slats. I had two beds going in my bedroom. I’d start the night on the pad on the floor and sleep until it was too painful to sleep, then finished the night on the old soft mattress. It took some time, but the structures in my spine eventually lengthened where necessary until I could go the whole night on the floor with the pad. This has corrected about 85-90% of the hyper-kyphosis I had going on in my thoracic spine. If I do too much heavy lifting in a day and my back is aching, I sleep on my back on the floor on a thinner pad to “fix” it by the next morning.

I also started walking 3mi, 3-6x week which helped my back pain tremendously.

There were unforeseen benefits to sitting on the floor too. It snuck in some strength training with getting up and down.

So last June I was in so much pain that I couldn’t stand or sit for more than 10 minutes before I had to lay down, ice myself & take drugs, and had no hope of pursuing my new massage career after graduating w/a 4.0. After all these body mechanics habits & lifestyle changes, ditching all prescription pain meds, plus using your chair, I’m able to massage again, am applying for work, and can go days without even thinking I need a tylenol for my back or foot pain. I still have positions that bring on the pain.

Losing lordosis in my lumbar spine will eventually bring it on… so no more poor body mechanics for me!

Now to share some information…

My Orthopedic Spine Surgeon, Dr. David Hanscom, is involved in a project of defining new non-surgical care protocols for the treatment of spinal injuries and back pain. It includes a program for people to participate in to eliminate their chronic pain called “Back in Control.” He has published this information “open source” so others may use it. I have been telling him about all my lifestyle changes I have made in addition to his treatment that have helped my pain just basically, evaporate. Dr. Hanscom has been quite surprised with my progress. I’ve responded quicker than most of his patients. I credit this greatly to the changes I made described above. Here is a link to a video where he speaks about how the term “degenerative disc disease” just needs to disappear. It is part of an interview with him on the myths surrounding spinal fusion surgery and the horrible statistics for prognosis afterwards, chronic back pain, and the role of the mind in the pain equation.

The whole talk is 19 short videos. Slightly disorganized in the upload/playback, but who says neurosurgeons must know how to use youtube perfectly? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WksaMM2XzNU&list=UU6APETlzqG4C9kaC4h_FSwg&index=15

Here is a link to his “Back in Control” program. People do this on their own, at home. Those who actually perform the writing portion achieve the most success. http://www.drdavidhanscom.com/

Lara Sobel

Kirkland, WA