You may have seen Industry Aligned at the 2023 America’s Beauty Show (ABS) or noticed their very active Instagram, where company owners Jenifer Khan and David Castle have some fun while demonstrating body mechanics to keep hairdressers functioning without pain. Their mission, Jenifer says, is “to keep people in this industry as long as possible.”
Partners in Life and Business
When Castle and Khan began dating in 2016, he was a personal trainer and she was working full-time behind the chair, as she continues to do, at Linmay Studio in Evanston, Illinois. At 200 pounds, Khan wasn’t feeling able to easily get through a busy workday. Castle began training her, and she quickly started to feel better and drop weight.
Then in 2019 Khan experienced an injury, which threatened to undo much of the progress she’d made. She went on painkillers and into intensive physical therapy, but the pain kept her sidelined.
“I was unable to work,” Khan recalls. “After three months of no success, with my doctors advising surgery, David took over my rehab and I started getting better and better. Thanks to him, no surgeries were necessary, I got off pain meds, and I went back to work, feeling stronger than ever.”
How does she explain her recovery?
“It was incorrect movement that got me into this mess, and proper movement that got me out of it,” she explains. Castle’s passion was contagious, and soon Khan found herself just as determined not only to help people heal but also to help them prevent chronic pain and injuries from occurring in the first place. The pair partnered to establish Industry Aligned—and they became a couple in life as well. Now Industry Aligned teaches beauty professionals how to position their bodies for correct movement and provides comprehensive information on health and health improvement.
Addressing Salon Work
“Creating something industry-specific is important to us,” Khan says. “We hairdressers have our common pain points and habits that contribute to our own downfall.”
Along with offering Zoom-based training and preparing their first non-customized learning program, Industry Aligned goes into salons to arm salon pros with strategies to stay healthy under their real conditions and interacting with the equipment they use every day. Many stylists have never paid close attention to managing the physical aspects of their work, from limiting the back and leg strain of standing behind a chair and leaning over a shampoo bowl to understanding the ergonomics of holding a blowdryer and cutting with scissors.
“I want to get people’s wheels turning,” Castle says. “I want them to think, ‘How do I move as an individual?’ Stylists may disassociate with their bodies—ignore the pain and hope it will go away. They know they hurt but don’t know what to do.”
With more women than men in salon work, Castle and Khan have thought a lot about ailments typical of a woman’s body.
“Over time, hormone production diminishes, and muscle mass decreases,” Castle explains. “Women get hit harder with this than men. They deal more with osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, and sarcopenia—age-related wasting. We make women aware of their position so their body doesn’t start atrophying, which it will do within 24 hours of non-use.”
Industry Aligned’s approach does not necessarily mirror others you may have tried:
- Rest less. “While resting is an important component, your body has to start regenerating collagen and tissues that have been destroyed,” Castle says. “You can ice and heat, rest, elevate, and take anti-inflammatories—but don’t forget to continue to move. Moving will help you to recover in a quick, healthy way.”
- You don’t need a gym. Many of the movements Castle and Khan promote require neither machines, weights, nor bands. “We go through each body section, which is a fun way for people to get familiar with their body,” Castle notes.
- If you use weights, they don't have to be heavy. “Challenge is relative,” Castle says. “On social media you see people lifting copious amounts of weight, but all you need is as much weight as it takes to challenge yourself. It’s so individual.”
- Teach your body that there should be symmetry. “Your body will bias a dominant side and then tend to neglect the other side,” Castle explains. “So use your non-dominant side for small tasks. If you’re right-handed, for example, brush your teeth or pack your kids’ lunches with your left hand.”
- Worry less about movement looking the same for you as it does for someone else. “Execution and good form are the key that will unlock the door to freedom from pain,” Castle says. "But exercise doesn’t have to look a certain way. Just move!”
- Can’t carve out time to exercise? Multitask! If you like to watch TV, you can just get on the floor and work out your body while the television is on.
- Hairdressing is not an active job. “As a hairdresser, you’re standing and moving, but that doesn’t make salon work an active profession,” Castle cautions. “Limited motion like that is not challenging your body or training your brain to get your body into new positions.” And as many hairdressers learn, the repetitive movements required in the work are the very ones that can generate pain.
- View your body as connected parts. Your joints do not operate in isolation, Castle says. “If your hip and ankle aren’t functioning efficiently, your knee is going to try to make up for that,” he elaborates. “Instead of thinking that your elbow hurts from using it, think about what your shoulder and wrist are doing to support that movement.”
- Vary your movements. “We get locked into a certain position, like leaning on one hip,” Castle says. “Maybe you’re stiffening your torso so your lower extremities have to compensate, or you’re rounded over the client’s head. Try other shapes. The movements are so detailed and intrinsic in hairdressing, but our bodies have access to 360 degrees of movement.”
Remember that you’re the only you. Every body is different, and both injuries and solutions are individual, the duo emphasizes. Khan compares it to giving a haircut. “The canvas is always individual, so every haircut will be different to get the same result,” she notes. “David approaches each person like that—the process will change depending on the body. That’s why he has so much success. He looks at everyone as an individual.”
Essential in this Industry
Khan recalls a participant at an Industry Aligned workshop who asked Castle to look at her wrist, which had been causing her pain for 15 years.
“David gave her two movements to do, and she found immediate pain relief,” Khan recalls. “She started crying! She’d tried everything with no results. Everyone says, ‘I wish I’d found David sooner.’ All hairdressers can feel as good as I feel. I’m 20 years into this industry and feel I can go another 20 years, no problem.”
It’s never too early or late to learn how to prevent strain, fatigue and injury. Castle reminds hairdressers, “Your body is your business!”
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