Do Your Arms Hang Low?

….do they wobble to and fro? Well, in that song, I think it was about your ears, and there were more subtle meanings as well that I didn’t get as a child. I also didn’t get the subtleties of hanging either. I was a child that liked to be planted firmly on the ground!

And now I’m making some advancements toward a healthier shoulder girdle by learning to hang. Last week, I posted about hands and wrists. Today I’m talking upper arms and getting them into correct positioning to hang well.

I’m also learning how to post a video. I hope. Rotation in the upper arms is easier to show than describe. I love this exercise in finding your upper back muscles! I hope you have fun with your challenge for this week:

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#everydayposer : Think INSIDE the Box!

Here is some wellness news that I came across in a recent Time Magazine (Feb. 16, 2015): mindfulness helps children in learning. Whoa! As opposed to mindless learning? We need studies to figure this out?

Maybe so.  It seems that we need to qualify everything. Even things that should be common sense. A colleague of mine recently gave a public talk about alignment and Restorative Exercise™ (RE). Someone in the audience wanted “proof” that the theories behind this approach to movement was valid. Well, the theories behind this approach are that 1-movement is a biological requirement and 2-bodies respond to that which we do most often, not what we do most enthusiastically (read more).

I’m going to propose a proof: bed sores. Stasis eventually brings about cell necrosis which, I’m pretty sure, isn’t good. Here’s another: overuse injury. Repetitive movement creates friction and eventually, tissue damage. There may be studies that confirm these findings, however, I’m going to suggest that it is sufficient for this rant er, blog to simply rely on common knowledge.

About this blog: it is about what you do at your desk–inside your “box.” Are you able to work without creating physical damage? If your desk job IS causing health problems, then how does that affect your success and eventually, your company’s?

Sitting is the new smoking and standing work stations have become all the rage, but standing has problems as well. Going back to RE, movement is the biological requirement. So it’s not sitting OR standing, but rather changing positions that is going to be most beneficial to your workday/life outcomes.

Here are some changes of positions I have devised behind my desk:

standing on my rocks!

standing on my rocks!

squatting on my BOSU!

squatting on my BOSU!

lunging on rocks and BOSU!

lunging on rocks and BOSU!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing positions often will help to relieve the pressures our bodies feel, both in stillness and repetitive movements like typing. Small stretch breaks should occur every 20-30 minutes with a complete change in position to follow. Remember, it isn’t what you do at the gym for one hour, but how you move your body (or don’t) for the other 15 hours of the day that counts. These 3 positions change the degree of my hip flexion, the rocks create a variety pressures on my feet and “encourage” me to alter my stance, and altering my relationship to my screen allows my arms, head and eye positions to change. The BOSU has tons of other movement options when I’m not doing desk work as well. And the rocks are fun to try to pick up with my toes.

Another very cool and hip way to change positions often is to get an IKEA “Bekant” desk. Of course, between sipping kaffe and looking suave and making the desk go up and down every 5 minutes because COOL! and needing to run to the loo because KAFFE! and HAIR! I doubt that my work outcomes would be very good. But if you show this video to your employer and suggest that you need either one of these (with the very cool matching  chair, file, and attitude) OR a much cheaper BOSU and a pile of rocks–I’m betting you’ll get an okay update your desk in some way. Bring some proof if that is what it takes, too. This blog will suffice.

 

 

Walk b4 u Run #everydayposer

We don’t really have to teach a baby to walk. They will move through the necessary phases of rolling over, pushing up, crawling, pulling up, cruising, and then taking a first step.  However, as we enter adulthood we slowly take on habits that override our natural reflexes.

Here are the activities that typically make up a day in the life of a modern Westerner (I especially like the 70’s era TV pic): images-13 images-12

 

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What do you see that is common to all of these photos? (hint: seated posture with hip flexion–which isn’t so much a hint as the answer)

It is no wonder that our running gait looks like this:

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Looking carefully at these two runners, neither one of them is really extending their thigh relative to their torso. The woman in red looks like it–her leg is back and she is closer to extending, but she is also leaning forward considerably. Try drawing a line from their ears down to the midline of their pelves and see how far you can draw it into their upper legs. Hip extension happens when the femur (thigh bone) is moving towards an angle larger than 180 degrees.

I’ve been doing walking gait analyses on clients now for about 6 months. And probably everyone I’ve filmed flex forward at the hip and knee to take a step. You might argue that is how we are supposed to walk and run.

My mom always told me that I shouldn’t be influenced by what everyone else is doing. I bet your mom did, too.

Think about paddling a boat. Which way do you push? Do you reach waaaay forward when you put the paddle in? Nope. You put the paddle in close to you and push back. The way physics works is to move forward there needs to be a backwards force. And that push should start from the point closest to the center of mass to be most effective.

Walking (and running) then, should be EXTENSION of legs (and arms too). If we flex at the hip to move forward, it means that our glutes are not doing the work.Want a toned butt? Try using it! Extension is where it is at, baby! And if you watch that baby learning to walk, that is exactly what you will see! Notice in this photo, the leg she is landing on is directly beneath her. Draw that line from her ear to the middle of her pelvis and you’ll find her thigh is behind her. No hip flexion is happening in either leg.

Unknown-3Here is a final image of a group of children running. Notice the amount of movement behind their bodies:

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If you have a habit of sitting more than 2-3 hours per day, go back to walking before beginning a running program pretty, pretty please! Learn how to extend your hips and arms again. I think you will find it extremely challenging and a way to really improve your ability to run well too!

#everydayposer: Contents Under Pressure!

Ahhh, so we have been exploring stretching. And now we are coming to the time of year when we stretch our stomachs. Hello holidays! Let’s revisit the drawing of areas in the body that tend to have tension:IMG_1498

In my last post, I exhibited how stretching the back of the legs can have a release throughout the entire back side of the body. I also, in my blog before last, explained that stretching is a temporary thing due to the elasticity of muscular tissues. So here, in THIS post, we see that my little stick person rather than stretch regularly AND change lifestyle habits (in this case wearing those 1-inch heels), the heels have remained and tension patterns are still present.

No problem–if things get a little tight in the back, there is plenty of room in front, right? Except that this poor little stick person is likely to suffer from back pain if the abdominal muscles aren’t able to provide support. Enter the six-pack abs!

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Everything looks good now! And unfortunately, many, many fitness and health professionals will do exactly that: add tension to help with tension. Which works, sort of, until….

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We see A LOT of abnormal abdominal issues in our country. And not just at Thanksgiving. Issues that have to do with pressure (no stick pictures on what that looks like–I’m going to let your imagination run wild!). Pressure caused by tension. By each of us, to ourselves. It’s time to stop the madness.

Stretching may only create a temporary release to tight muscles. And that is a good thing to do because, even for a little while, you can relax. But more importantly, attempting to stretch an area that is tight lets you know that it IS tight. The next step isn’t to tighten up more, but to find out why the tension is there in the first place. And then start to change your lifestyle, slowly, and stretch, regularly, and you might find that over time you feel better. In many ways. You sleep better, don’t burp as much, your knees don’t ache as much, tension headaches disappear, constipation is eased, sneezing doesn’t require a change of pants…..you get the picture.

So, enjoy your holidays. Enjoy your family. Take a walk and stretch your legs together. Eat together. Sit on the floor together. Hang from a tree together. If you go shopping, look for shoes without heels for each other. I have some other gift thoughts as well: a Squatty Potty, toe separators–like from a pedicure–or toe separator socks, yoga classes (maybe from yours truly?), a hanging bar for your house–even better, line a hallway with several bars so you can monkey swing! There are lots of ways to relax and relieve pressure. And wouldn’t that be the BEST way to enjoy the season?!!

21st Century Yoga #everydayposer

A friend of my daughter just got back from an extended trip to India. He brought her a couple of cool gifts, one of which she stuck onto the dash of our car. I don’t like car time, but I might just have to spend a LOT more time looking at this:

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It’s a solar powered prayer wheel. It happily spins all day long glowing brightly in the corner of the windshield. It is maybe the best way I can imagine to enhance the driving experience. Ever.

But, maybe the best part of all is the instructions that came with it:

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Hard to read in the photo, but I wanted to prove that I didn’t make this up–so if you doubt me, maybe zoom in and look very carefully.

Instructions

1. Banned by the compulsory rotation forcibly cone.

2. If the solar lenses and base surfaces have dirt, please dry, clean cloth wipe gently. Do not add any cleaner is wiped. 

The back of the instructions go on to just as clearly describe what a prayer wheel is and how it works metaphysically–not too difficult a task at all to do in a foreign language.

So. My fellow students going through the Whole Body Alignment training come from many backgrounds, including midwives, physical therapists, yoga or pilates instructors, people with bad hips, people that love science, and I’m sure many, many other areas as well. You can imagine that we all talk in different languages and have subtle (or not so subtle) differences in expressing what we mean to our clients. We probably know what we mean, but in complexity do express is not correct use.

In a recent discussion online (we have a *secret* facebook page), a yoga instructor asked about the cuing often used in yoga to “press into the 4 corners of the feet.” This is an instruction I personally used to employ as well, but no longer. It was a long and thoughtful thread and I appreciated reading everyones’ translation of what that cue should mean or why it is useful or just plain wrong. Since the teachings of yoga originate from the same place as my new solar prayer wheel, maybe, just maybe, something has been lost in translation. Another thing to consider is that premodern yoga teachings were directed toward a very different population.

Which is why I no longer use that cue. I see loads of bunions and crooked, gnarly-looking toes which speaks to me of TOO much pressure already in the front edge of the foot. So my instruction is to back weight into the heels and go from there exploring the movement sensations of the front and sides of the foot. Other cues which I find no longer pertinent include “lift your kneecaps” since many people cannot lower them, and “tuck your tailbone” since most of our population already has a posterior tilt to their pelvis. Pressing, pulling or tucking something already engaged in that activity is too much effort in one direction. Physically and metaphysically, yoga is essentially about balance. Therefore, I need to understand the forces in the lives of my students–right now and in our cultural setting–that affect them in a negative way and introduce a practice that remediates imbalances in body, mind and spirit.

Yoga has and continues to evolve. The tenets remain that were laid down in the Sutras of Patanjali, but the way we practice today is far different than thousands of years ago. If you would like to know more about the changes in modern yoga practice, I highly recommend Mark Singleton’s book, Yoga Body.

As teachers, we need to evolve yoga language and practice to guide our students toward physical and mental liberation so spirit can be fully experienced. That can only be achieved by knowing their current physical condition and mind set. Culturally, there are many commonalities, so this is becomes easy to discern as we observe our students practice. It is also helpful to actually know your students–not to teach to such a large class that you aren’t aware of their personal limitations. And then we must learn the language of instruction that compulsory clarity do not body distort.

Sunday Morning Coffee

I love Sunday morning. Even though I’m not currently involved in a religious community right now, having been brought up in a tradition of observing a time of reflection, it sticks.

So, I have my coffee and one of two things result: quiet time on the deck or a meditative walk with week-in-review-time in my head. Guess what: it is time for a rant.

I almost titled this blog “Dear Exercise Science Major Please Note: The Foot Does NOT Pronate” because that is what this rant will be about. But I like “Sunday Morning Coffee” better because it sounds nice and I’m nice and I really don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But, then again, this isn’t about feelings, it is about understanding. One thing a college education should teach you is how to discern information, especially information within your field of study.

So, last week was Father’s Day and I took my wonderful spouse out for brunch. It was a glorious, kick back in your chair kind of meal out on a deck, casual enough to put our feet up on the extra chairs. Seeing my husband’s shoes, our really nice waitress struck up a conversation about running and shoes and she pronates and is an Exercise Science Major going into Physical Therapy. And I said, “feet don’t pronate.”

Please know this. It is important. Pronation is a movement that only happens in a human body within the relationship between your wrist and elbow due to the fact your radius and ulna can rotate. ROTATE. So if you are told by a shoe salesperson that your feet “pronate” (which they don’t), and you need expensive, supportive shoes to “fix” pronation, what the SHOE salesperson is trying to sell you is essentially snake oil.

bowlegs

You don’t need special shoes. You need hips that are strong enough to align your knees. I can explain this or I can just send you to this video clip by Katy Bowman. She is the shit, so watch her explanation please!

The lateral hip is pretty stinking important. Keep yours strong. Because what is rotating is your knee. Not. your. foot. Your feet most likely turn out, but that is called eversion, which is most likely due to you shifting your weight forward in your foot toward your big toe knuckle. Let’s just say there is a bunch wrong with that and stick to the knees for now. You don’t want your knee to rotate, mkay?

And so now I can go finish my Sunday morning walk, practice using my lateral hip, and return to coffee on the deck. Have a beautiful day my friends!

Everyday Poser–Yoga in the Loo

I hear this a lot: “I don’t have time to do yoga.” That is why I started this feature of my blog called #everydayposer and am featuring ways to sneak postural awareness into your life. I would love for you to make time to come to classes, too, of course. And especially classes at On The Path Yoga (wink wink). But, even if you come to classes two or three times a week, it is the daily practice of awareness that will begin to bring your practice to fullness and light.

So today, let’s shed a little light on your bathroom. How much time do you spend there brushing your teeth and you know, sitting around? Two ideas to bring yoga into your day without adding a minute of time to your schedule:

#1 a calf stretch while brushing teeth or washing hands:

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Most of our back body tightness starts here, so to relieve back pain, this is the BEST way to start your day! (Even better than Folger’s in your cup.)

#2 a deeper squat whilst sitting:

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I sort of can’t believe that I’m posting a picture of me on the toilet, but, here it is with our bamboo Squatty Potty that we have in the studio. So that makes this photo sort of classy. I have a less classy version at home. And I had a member describe the Red Green version her husband created with paint cans and duct tape. Super classy!

The importance of this position for proper elimination can’t be overemphasized. It is the design of the body to squat to poo, but most American toilets have the hips high–sometimes even higher than the knees. Anatomically, the rectum is in a forward position and cannot easily relax unless the hips are flexed closer to 30 degrees. A squat also does a whole lot of good for low backs, too. And healthy knees. Not to mention how important it is to take the hips through their entire range of motion.

So there you have it. Two ways to integrate postural awareness into your day. If it seems too basic to be yoga asana, well, try to come into Warrior pose with calves, hips, or lumbar that are too tight. Try entering into a meditative state while feeling constipated. I’ll end with a quote from Vanda Scarafelli: “As the sun opens the flowers delicately, unfolding them little by little, so the yoga exercises and breathing open the body during a slow and careful training. When the body is open, the heart is open.”

Open your heart when you close that bathroom door and try a little yoga in the loo!