YIKES! Is this you?
Flat Back….But My Back Isn’t Flat….Or is It?
“Exhale flat back fold forward” or “wide arms flat back rise up” are common cure in the fitness industry and one deceptive and very misleading on many levels. A cue I teach all my teacher trainers not to use and for many reasons.
We don’t have a flat spine, and why would you ever imply such a possibility? Our spine is curvy, and has four curves to be exact; curves that have been strategically placed in our body for several viable reasons. First, being they help with impact, without them jumping and landing would kill our disc, vertebrae and giggle our head right off our bodies. They assist in shock absorption, ever jump on a bed, the springs allow the sock to be absorbed, now imagine a bed with nails and take jump, ouch is right.
The curves help our organs stack properly and create pockets for larger organs to sit and push other organs into position. Those much needed curves should be cued properly rather than ignorantly overlooked. Nothing against any form of exercise or any one training, but lack of real knowledge of the body and a mimicking of one teacher to the next on top of never really understanding the body, instead mirroring movements, leads us to cues like the one above. Another cue in disrespect to the spine which I hear quite often is “press your back into the floor”, like a loss of our lumbar curve isn’t already an issue, lack of proper back muscle and misuse of hip flexors, especially in core work needs more encouragement, stacked right on top of our eight to twelve hours a day we sit in ill supporting chairs, couches and even on fitness equipment, isn’t a cause for concern.
A quick review:
· We have 33 interlocking bones that make up the vertebrae, the top 24 are moveable and the lower nine are fused together.
· Our cervical column (or neck) has seven vertebrae (C1-C7), and the neck is unique because the top two vertebrae allow the head to nod, due to the fact that C1 and C2 are like a peg in a round hole, allowing the head to look in most all directions.
· The thoracic column in the mid torso/chest region, spanning 12 vertebrae (T1-T12), here the spine helps hold the rib cage in place to protect the heart and lungs, there is limited mobility for a very good reason here.
· Our lumbar region spans five vertebrae (L1-L5) and its main function is to bear weight, the vertebrae are larger in size allowing them to carry more weight and deal with heavier loads as needed.
· The main function of our 5 fused sacral bones called the sacrum, is to connect the spine to the iliac or hip bones, this is a fused area, and together the iliac and sacrum create one oscillating ring called the pelvis.
· Finally our coccyx, which is made up of four fused bones creating a place for ligaments and muscles to attach to, helping to create the pelvic floor.
· Keeping in mind that when our spine curves one way it then curves back the other to help support the body with gravity and every day movement’s.
So if you are a teacher and are reading this, ask yourself “why are you using such cues”? “What are you trying to imply or convey to your students”? What if simply by learning better cueing you could end the misleading guidance and offer more functionally based cueing? And then you say to me as you read this, “but my students get what I’m saying, or I don’t really mean flatten your spine”. So then why are you saying it? Why even suggest such a possibility, why not take a stand and educate your class and use cues that reinforce just that. The goal of every fitness class is to live a better life, is to feel better, number one hands down. But if it’s just uneducated cues, fun choreography and feel the burn moves, your students are not gaining much more than what they started with and among all of that the spine surely suffers.
So what do I do?
Learn neutral, from the ground up, start with the feet and learn proper placement of the pelvis, ribcage, shoulders, base of the skull, chin, and head.
Change your language, throw to the wolves cues like: flat back, navel to spine, press your back into the floor, straight spine; and trade them in for things: like elongate your spine, find or keep neutral, extend, make space in your vertebrae, honor the curves of your spine.
Try rolling down into forward fold or at a minimum making sure the deep pelvic-core is turned on and if your mind will allow it bend your knees so the back has a fighting chance.
Experiment with things like rolling up in the spine using your inner core power or what I like to call core pump, where the core is used like a trampoline and the spine can float up from the rebounding of the deep core.
Reflect on the poor postures of society and question if your teachings or practice is feeding into those issues, or helping to lessen them.
Learn about the spine, on a very basic level there is not much too it:
· 4 curves
· 33 vertebrae, broken into several sections: cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, coccyx
· The disc are much like jelly donuts between each vertebrae that should not be abused continuously in only one direction, but rather brought to more space and moved in all directions mindfully.
· Just because our spine goes there doesn’t mean it belongs there. Many peoples alignment is skewed, meaning it’s out of balance, learn how to recognize these imbalances by observing people walk, stand, sit, and yes exercise.
· And once people learn neutral their ability to move in and out of neutral will be more balanced and supportive.
· When our spine is out of alignment the shock absorption abilities of it are reduced, and pain is most likely a result.
These tips are just a starting block to better spinal health and better spinal cueing for a lifelong success of health and happiness and you are only as healthy as your spine is (healthy, flexible, stable, supportive take your pick).
Functional Warrior Sagittal Flexion
Join me for a new version of flex ion and extension, one that does not involve killing your spine and avoiding your tight hips. I welcome you to feel space, freedom and flexibility they way every body is intended too! And when we incorporate our deep core muscles it becomes a killer total body boost!
Here's the skinny!
-Plane of Motion: Sagittal
-Keep the pelvic floor strong
-Move from the hips not from the mid body, we do this when we do not have the transversus abdominis strength to stabilize.
-when moving forward draw the ribs up and in and keep the ASIS landmarks tipped up and in (this will keep you in neutral)
-When moving into extension make sure the hip socket of the back leg is leading not the mid belly, when the hips are tight we usually back bend only in the spine. This is not good; we will end up with too much compression in our vertebrae, wearing down the disc and joints. Shorten up the stride so the movement can be achieved.
-To have more assistance in the extension use the same arm as the back leg to rotate the hip forward when you back bend to help emphasize the hip leading forward and the spine will naturally follow.
-To have more assistance in the forward reach use the same arm as the front leg and draw your hip back as you reach forward, making sure you keep the front keep stable.
-Work with this movement up to 10 times on each side, go back and work the weaker or tighter side with the 2:1 ratio.
Functional Warrior in Extension
Functional Warrior: Too much load in lower back
Functional Warrior: Movement from hip, good core control and hip flexor release
Shoulders hurt, neck tight, headache, jaw pain. You are not alone, we exercise and work out and even in the yoga community many have forgotten about release as a major part of healthy and harmony in the body. Join Hope for a detailed step by step 25 min yoga session dedicated solely to the neck and shoulders, stretched the right way. Sit in a chair, on the floor or combine them into yoga postures. Today is the day you start to feel better!
Join Hope Zvara for a great 15 min Plank-it series focusing on 360 degrees core based moves and toned arms. Hope focuses on functional movement and is known for her detail guided instruction for a sure kick butt practice no matter what!
You’ve probably felt crippling pain in your heel or arch and a common culprit is plantar fasciitis
(PLAN-ter fash-ee-EYE-tus). It's an irritation of the plantar tendon, a clustering of microscopic tears at the cellular level causing tenderness and discomfort when you walk or strike your foot or heel to the ground.
It's estimated that this condition affects over 2 million Americans every year and 10% of Americans
will experience plantar fasciitis at some point in their lives. Where is the plantar tendon?
The plantar tendon is located on the center of the bottom of the foot, attaching the heel to the toes, and the plantar fascia
covers the bottom of the foot. Fascia is the netting that covers every muscle and every fiber of every muscle, and can often restrict proper muscle, ligament, tendon or connective tissue function. What causes this kind of foot pain?
More common causes are:
- Being on one's feet for long periods of time
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes
- Wearing high heels
- Imbalances in the feet (excessive pronation or supination)
- Being overweight
- Having tight hips
- Having tight calves
- Wearing shoes for long periods of time
- Not walking enough
Our bodies are like rubber bands; the tighter a rubber band gets on one end, the more it will pull on the other end. And if our fascia becomes stiff, the more we feel that sticky stiffness in our bodies.
So what I'm saying is: if your hips are tight, your feet will react, and if your feet are tight, your hips will react, and in the middle are our poor knees ... do you see where I’m going with this? How foot pain can cause neck pain: To continue reading this article visit MindBodyGreen (<- Click) where Hope had this article originally published
Many of us have a large stability ball at home and have no clue what to do with it. Enjoy just 10 minutes with me and your stability and I know you and your stability ball will develop a whole new relationship together. 10 minutes of core, this video will leave you quivering, feeling like you've done your body good in 10 minutes flat!
Everyone is busy, and not everyone has time for double workouts, join me for this sweaty class featuring the best of yoga combine with light hand weights. Do you think you have what it takes to follow through the entire 75 min class? Lets find out. Get ready to burn calories, build lean muscle, cultivate core strength, gain flexibility and enrich your mind-body connection. Enjoy!
Anjaneyasana or what I like to call Deep Lunge is a core staple pose in yoga, one that many will practice several times within a class.
I think for many it's a pose we fly into and fly out of never really noticing what exactly is going on in our bodies in the process.
I remember one of my first yoga DVD's by Shiva Rea, a Sun Salutations Vinyasa, I did love that DVD, however after a while and after I began to dive into learning more about asana and my body I began to recognize that I was falling victim to my tightness and the speed of that DVD.
For many of us, we have landed tight hips, a tight lower back and a weak core, for a number of reason that I am not here to discuss, but lets just say that it is very easy for our practice to start to dance around our limitations, restrictions and weaknesses without even knowing it.
So here is a question "What qualifies as going deeper into the pose?" I use to think that it meant dropping as deep as I can, I never really drew a relationship to what my body was doing to what I needed to be doing or was avoiding.
Let me help you, look at the two pictures below, the one on the left is me sinking deeply in the lunge, and the one on the right is me working more diligently in my restrictive areas of my hips.
The picture on the right is:
- Me not using my pelvic-core (pelvic floor + TvA)
- Which is allowing my tight psoas to drag my pelvis forward and drag my lower back ribs down towards my sacrum, leaving me with flared ribs and a sinking body
- My inner hip is much more open than my outer hip, so when I unconsciously practice Deep Lunge my hip swings open like a barn door and moves straight towards the more "open" area of my hip to sink me down
- Here the back leg is forgotten about, basically resting on the mat
- For those of you with a tight goin or psoas (muscle going from inner femur through the pelvis and abdomen to attach on lower vertabre and 12 rib) in Deep Lunge this muscle will pull your pelvis forward and shorten your back muscles, be careful of this and notice where your body should go rather than where it just goes because
So on the left:
- I am working to bring the outside of my back hip forward more into a neutral, in doing this I stretch the inner hip where I am the tightest and on the hip of the front leg I work to strengthen and lengthen the hamstring and IT band
- By activating my pelvic-core I allow my pelvis to stay in neutral and keep my lower back long rather than crunched
- Drawing length from my back rib cage upwards towards my fingers and dropping my front rib cage down I can lengthen 360* around rather than just the front ribs
- Work to internally rotate the arms from the shoulder sockets, broadening the scapula away from the spine, rather than just turning the palms to face inward
- Finally press the back big toe and top of the foot into the floor (first check to make sure it's behind the hip, tight hips the leg will swing in to cross the mid-line), take that pressing and activating of the back leg and extend upwards through the finger tips
- Drop your arms to cactus and turn the palms to face in for more arm activation
- Place a blanket under the back knee for more support
- Draw your arms down and have them rest on a chair at your side or blocks by your hips.
To practice this pose:
- Inhale prepare the body and Exhale keeping your pelvic-core strong and active, keeping pelvic neutral begin to lower your pelvis towards the front foot, without tipping it forward.
- Press into the front foot and notice it activate to help hold you in place.
- Draw length into your lower spine and keep your belly contracted, relax your rib cage and on a nice strong Inhale extend your arms upwards, reaching.
- Press through your back big toe and reach to your finger tips.
- Hold strongly here for five to ten breaths.
- Repeat opposite side and then go back to your tighter side for 2:1 ratio
Deep Lunge with me sitting in the openness of my inner groin and hips
Deep Lunge with me working to neutral my hips and work more with the restrictive areas of my groin and hips
Hip flexors, nothing but a pain in the butt. Well, if you put it that way, the hip flexors are considered the front butt of the body.
In my experience the hip flexors and particularly the psoas in the body is an abused and misunderstood area, an area that drastically dictates our level of comfort and discomfort anything from sitting, standing, or running to infamous core work and worse yet, pain here can keep us up at night with a dull ache that just wont stop!
For most people stretching is either loved or something we just race through because we see it as not a good workout or too painful to withstand even for just a few breaths. But the truth is keeping our hips limber, stable and happy will not only help with pain in the entire body from foot to head, but improve our running, biking, sitting and sleeping.
The Scoop:When the body has not be taught properly how to work it will just grab onto any willing muscle, tendon or ligament and pull and grab until the job or task we are asking our bodies to do is completed. So all those boot camps and core cruncher classes you have been taking, heck even yoga will just make matters worse, if you let it. For many when we get injured or have pain we rarely want to admit it was our workout that caused it, but sadly this is the case for many.
So how does it work properly? Well many of you have probably heard me say this a number of times and I'll say it again "the body is built in layers", layers of wonderful tissue, and in the area of the hip flexors (the fold of the hip) it is an intersection of lower body muscles, core muscles and upper body strings all crossing and attaching in various points.
Our quadriceps feed up from the knee and into the hip flexor, the ilicaus and psoas come from interior-superior part of the femur bone (thigh bone) and run up through the inner hip and the psoas continues through the abdomen to T12 and the bottom rib and every vertebra below (T12-L5). Within our core neighboring muscles like the obliques, rectus abdominus and transversus attach near by making this a tricky area for who came first, the chicken or the egg. For many stretching consists of a few touch our toes and maybe a yank of the leg, pulling our heel to our buttocks. And it's not that these stretches are wrong but depending on what we are trying to achieve our approach, posture, position and length of time have a lot to do with the outcome.
Our hips hold on to the things we consciously and unconsciously hold on to. Fear, regret and the need to be grounded in our own personal being. Take time as you breathe to consider offering up the things that bind you down. For those with constant back pain or aching hips during core work our cardio, release the hip flexors is a very important aspect of healthy living. For every Yang there must be a Yin, balance is key!
- Lying on the floor take a yoga block (or mini exercise ball) and place the prop under the sacrum, take a moment and make sure that the block is not under the spine but under the flat plate feeling bone (which is the sacrum, and actually three separate bone meeting to feel like one).
- Take a moment and check your pelvis and spine, gently allow the pelvis to move into a neutral position (ASIS and pubis bone gently parallel to the ceiling) and relax your rib cage.
- Guide your left knee into your chest, but do not yank on the leg and pull in tight just yet.
- Slowly now, extend the right leg out to a lengthened position, flex the extended foot and reach through the heel.
- With the right leg extended take a moment and notice the initial stretch in the extended legs hip, do not let yourself be tempted to pull the bent leg in until the sensation you are feeling currently has passed.
- Now close your eyes and breathe, really focusing on the hip flexor of the extended leg. Imagine that the lower leg is literally being pulled out of its hip socket. Continue to focus on the socket.
- Depending on how your body is currently grabbing, you may need to rotate the lower leg internally or externally slightly to feel where it is you need the release.
- Continuing to keep the lower leg strong, reaching out and anchoring down, keep the hip socket soft and stretching. Check in after several breaths and if your body gives you permission to draw in the bent knee a bit more.
- Work here for 3 to 10 minutes on each side. This pose holds the most benefit when held for an extended period of time. Remember to use your breath, especially focusing on the exhale to release all tension.
- After your first side take 1-2 minutes and rest the body in a fully extended position, do not move to get rid of the sensation, but take some time to feel what your body is offering you. If needed, during this time remove the block and then reinsert on the second side.
- Explore the 2:1 ratio and go back to the restricted side a second time and repeat, allowing your body to seek even greater balance and harmony.
- Once you have completed the exercise on both sides rest on the floor with your body completely open and willing to receive all that you have opened it up to.
- NOTE: The block or ball may be too much for some, practicing this exercise on the flat floor is a great place to start.
Core work just got easier. Functional application requires us to throw away our old way of thinking and apply what actually makes sense!
Join me for a great 7 minute upright core workout that will leave you feeling stretched and core empowered!
Focus: Transversus Abdominus, Back Extensors, Obliques, Pelvic Floor and Rectus Abdominus