A personal interview with scientist Dr. Linda Chamberlain PhD MPH, who has found Asahi Nordic to counteract the stress of too much sitting.
Interview with Dr. Linda Chamberlain PhD MPH
Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Chamberlain has a love for arctic regions, living in Homer, Alaska, and having done extensive research in Finland. She found out about Asahi Nordic as she was looking through the offerings of of FinnFest USA 2023. Since she wasn't able to attend FinnFest last July, she completed her beginning-level Asahi teacher training online in Alaska at the beginning of August. At the end of August, she gave a presentation in the FinnFest Virtual Lecture Series on the stress of sitting, and how Asahi Nordic can help relieve that stress. After many virtual interactions, we met in person for the first time in September at the Christine Center in Willard, WI, where she came to complete the advanced-level training. Now you, too, have a chance to get to know Dr. Chamberlain better through the following interview:
1) Why do you call yourself a “recovering scientist?"
I am a public health scientist. When I met my husband and I told him I was an epidemiologist, he later divulged that he went home and looked it up in a dictionary. While most people think of infectious diseases when they hear the word epidemiologist, I specialize in how stress and trauma affect our brain and health. There is new science about the nervous system that is transforming our understanding of best practices to undo the potential harm of stress and trauma. Movement, breath work, focused attention, and body awareness are essential tools for well-being and healing. Asahi combines these tools into a simple practice that is accessible for everyone.
I referred to myself as a “recovering scientist” during a lecture I did on the health effects of prolonged sitting and how Asahi can help. Here’s a link to the replay of the lecture. The thing is, I am sitting in front of a computer screen looking at research for hours upon hours every day. I am in my sixties and injuries from an active northern lifestyle have caught up with me. Asahi is helping me counteract years of prolonged sitting and joint injuries.
2) What was it about Asahi that caught your interest?
I am certified in several modalities that use movement therapeutically. Asahi is a science-based approach that works with the whole body. It starts with movements for relaxation to shift the nervous system—that’s brilliant. Breath is combined with movement. Moving with the breath is a highly effective strategy to breathe more fully while evoking relaxation response in the body. Asahi incorporates certain types of movement such as the pumping action to stimulate circulation and the lymphatic system, another strength of this practice. The four Asahi modules address key health concerns such as balance. Recent research has shown that balance is predictive of longevity. The neck and shoulder module is important for adults like me, as well as children, who have “tech neck” from poor posture while looking at their computer screens and phones. I appreciate how Asahi does not require any special equipment and how it can be easily adapted from a standing practice to being done while seated or in bed.
3) Why did you adopt Asahi as a personal practice?
I travel frequently with my work. I can do Asahi anywhere—all I need is me! While I do at least one full Asahi Series daily, I also do one module at a time to break-up my time in front of the computer. Studies have demonstrated how important it is to get up and move for five minutes for every thirty minutes of sitting. Asahi is my sitting solution.
I am learning how to do traditional rug hooking. It is a wonderful way for me to have an artistic expression but involves a lot of sitting. When I attend rug hooking events, it is not unusual to sit for eight to ten hours. I take Asahi breaks during these events and explain to others what I am doing and why I am doing it! I am making headway as there is interest in a lunchtime session at one of these events next year.
4) Was there anything particularly challenging for you in the practice?
I am a yoga therapist and doing balancing poses is part of my daily practice. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that I was unsteady while doing some of the Asahi balance movements! This body awareness is invaluable to aging gracefully and continuing to do the things I love to do like cross-country skiing. Within a month of doing Asahi, my balance had improved.
(photo: Linda with her most recent book, which you can order here)
5) You have a special place in your heart for the Arctic and northern lifestyles. Can you share more about this?
I have lived in Alaska for forty years and worked throughout the Arctic and sub-Arctic, especially in Finland. I recently retired from twenty-five years of dog mushing, and now I wrote a children’s book using my sled dogs to teach children simple brain-body strategies for self-regulation and managing emotions. I see wonderful possibilities for sharing Asahi as a story with children in ways that relate to traditional skills like hunting and berry-picking.
It has been a privilege to work with indigenous people throughout the north. My observation is that there is an intuitive understanding and appreciation of the innate wisdom of the body. I am keenly interested in user-friendly strategies that can be adapted by other cultures. As I share Asahi throughout Alaska, my impression is that the natural flow and rhythm of Asahi makes sense to diverse cultures.
6) Any personal story/piece of advice for our readers?
I have wondered how to encourage people to try Asahi, especially people who have a sedentary lifestyle. To Asahi teachers, I would say keep putting the word out there and lead by doing. I practice Asahi on-the-go so that might be during a conference break, a meeting (online or live), at a rug hooking event, or hanging out in the airport! To people considering the practice, I believe we all want to be our best selves. With Asahi, a little can mean a lot—give it a try.
Well, it is time for an Asahi movement break! Thank you for letting me share my Asahi journey with you.
Bio for Linda Chamberlain, Ph.D. MPH
Scientist, author, professor, and founder of the Alaska Family Violence Prevention Project, Dr. Linda Chamberlain has worked in the field of brain development, stress, and trauma for over two decades. Known for her abilities to translate science into practical strategies with diverse audiences, she is an internationally recognized keynote speaker who conveys a message of hope and empowerment. Her current focus is on brain-body practices that work top-down and bottom-up to address how stress and trauma are stored in the body. A trainer with Capacitar, an international network for transforming trauma, she shares a wide range of simple tools that use the breath, mindful movement, meditation, and polyvagal-informed strategies to promote resilience, self-regulation, and healing. Dr. Chamberlain taught for the University of Alaska and earned public health degrees from Yale School of Medicine and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is the author of the Amazing Brain Series, a nationally acclaimed resource on healthy brain development and several national curricula on trauma. Recognition for her work includes a Scientist Scholar with the Fulbright Arctic Initiative, a National Kellogg Leadership Fellowship, an Alaska Women of Achievement Award, and the Inaugural Scattergood Foundation Scholar on Child Behavioral Health.