Join Hope Zvara for a great 45 min session dedicated to functional back care. Combining traditional yoga asanas with functional movement give you the perfect stretch and strengthen combination for a pain free lower back.
1. Performing sit-ups will increase back health. In all reality there is very minimal research and true testimony to support this concept. The quality of actual core development you receive during core work on your back with full flexion of the lumbar spine in combination with excessive and repetitive disc stresses; this can in fact lead to lumbar damage in most people. National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health states that repeatedly compressing the spine to levels higher than the NIOSH standards in a repeat fashion has been shown to increase the risk of low back disorders (Axler and McGill 1997).
2. Strengthening your back will aid in protecting your back from injury. You would think this to be true and many use this catch phrase to assure people that what they are teaching is helpful rather than hurtful. But it is important to understand that muscles work as a team and just because you are strengthening your back does not take into account that you won’t throw it out again or that your chances of injury will be lessened. Your back is a part of your unique core circuit and when I care for my own body and other people’s bodies, I try to make it a point to help people understand that they body should not be segmented into tiny little muscles or controlled areas, but rather seen as a unit. Think of back care as full body care. Many of times the need for back care is really an issue with the hip flexors, or sacrum, hamstrings, even the arches of the feet.
3. Stop crunching your vertebrae. And I mean exactly that. As a yoga teacher and educator in core health, I have seen huge success and head way for those who change their approach to back bending. Most of us lean back and call it a back bend, only to leave the back, particularly the lower lumbar and sacrum to suffer. Now that suffering may not be felt today or even in the next year, but that build up of negative compression over time will eventually lead to an unexpected pain or injury. Utilizing your pelvic floor and leading with your pelvis can allow you to feel a more complete spinal opening and also receive release in the groin, an area we have muscles attaching in and locating their opposite ends at our lower back and ribs. So stand up, find neutral, activate your pelvic floor and torso circuit and inhale raise your arms and leading with your pelvis lean back. Let your spine, neck and head follow in the action of the pelvis rather than the neck and head flailing back as a means to go deeper.
4. Strength and stretch simultaneously. When you work with back care do you find you have separate moves for strengthening and separate moves for stretching? If so, why? What if every pose was its own counter pose, what if what you were doing was able to work the entire body and the back reaps the benefits.
5. Our back muscles cover our kidneys which is an area all about detoxifying and letting go. You can do all the physical exercise you want, but sometimes the physical ailments you are feeling are of something much deeper. Look at your person body, mind and spirit. When I work with students one-on-one or in a group, I am constantly reminding them that their life and issues are not separate of their physical bodies. Our bodies are like a filing cabinet, and if they have not been emptied out in thirty years, well then, I think you get the idea.
6. Finally, in the end how you care for your back is really a mental change even more than a physical one. We as a society (this is just a generalization, not everyone) have a: give it to me now, quick fix attitude. And that attitude will reflect in our bodies’ responses to healing. If you want to improve flexibility, strength, or heal an injury, we need to start understanding and addressing that those things take time, both as the student and as the teacher to develop and maintain. A little goes a long way. Be detailed in what you are teaching and ask questions as a student. Just getting the movement done is not enough and just because something is hard or you are moving quickly doesn’t mean it’s healthy. So if your back could talk what would it say to you today?
I love fall weather, as long as I dress for the wind, I love fall weather! There is nothing like the smell of leaves, a cool breeze and for me the aroma of cut pines in my backyard. I find myself lately stopping dead in my tracks to take a moment and breathe in the moment, literally, breathe in the moment. And in that moment, life is just so sweet. I often think about the people who are simply too busy or who haven’t cultivated the means to “stop and smell the roses” and what they are missing out on.
Each day I find myself working to be a better version of myself from the day before. And as I continually work to do this I find myself being reminded that a yogi is not someone who necessarily practices asana two hours every day, but rather someone who understands what the asanas are trying to do for them, understands that a yogic mindset and life style will take you farther than a two hour practice. I am partly saddened at the direction yoga in the West is taking, and find it pivotal to educate thirsty yogis for what the asana really feels like and further more how to truly translate that into their everyday life. Now I want you to know that I am not the world’s greatest yogini, I unfortunately do not have a daily asana practice that one would think is necessary to be a yoga teacher, I make mistakes, I can’t please everyone, I tend to have a late night snack and I sometimes get in a funk that is less than impressive. But that all being said, I am living a life more in the moment that I have ever before, I am more aware, more comfortable in my own skin and have cultivated the means in which I am 99% of the time O.K. with my choices because I know that everything is an opportunity to learn.
And this opportunity is such a sacred one, that when we turn away from it we are the only ones who lose out. The person I once was ran with fear every time something got hard, was judgmental about everyone and their uncle because I was fearful and judgmental of myself and the choices I was making, or to be more exact, the choices I was not making. My fear has turned into compassion for those still turning away from opportunities to be better versions of themselves simply because it was not what they expected, because fear steps in and they liked it better being stuck and feeling crappy about who they are or worse yet, critical about the situation at hand, not really realizing how their actions and reactions have a direct affect on everyone around them.
So, fall is a time in which we “change with the seasons”, where we transform from who we were into who we are; and even though we may not exactly love or even really like who we are right now, we need to be that person in order to become the person we are striving to be. A student told me just yesterday that she is learning how to really live her yoga off the mat, she is really beginning to see the difference between what I continually say on the mat about “honoring the pain but learn to sit through the discomfort”. And she went on to say how she is actually O.K. with the discomfort, knowing it will pass. Simply put, discomfort is a way for us to not be comfortable, because when we are comfortable then we aren’t growing. For many of us, we stop thinking we need to pay attention, we stop working our butts off to be the best version of our selves.
Now that being said I’m not saying you need to be a manic workaholic, but rather continually work to be in the moment, discomfort or not, and remember that this moment will soon pass; just like the trees, you look out your window right now and they have leaves, but tomorrow when you wake up they may not, and yet they are still trees, you don’t judge them and you simply let that moment pass. You are that tree who is learning to be O.K. with how and when your leaves fall.
In this instant, as we move forward and accept life in a more loving, authentic, honest way, know that things get easier, and they feels more effortless. And what I have come to better understand is that our mindset’s change, not so much the trauma or drama that comes, but rather our actions and reactions change and things feel simpler. So my intention for all of my students and reader is that you let your leaves fall more simply and enjoy the surroundings in which this occurs. That you learn to step back and smell the roses and head into the discomfort with your head held high, even if you have to grit your teeth because your ego thinks otherwise. Because the only thing constant in life is change itself.
Functional Squat is a wonderful way to safely and more effectively perform squats. It's vital to stretch and strengthen our muscles to keep them balanced. This type of squat allows us to incorporate the entire back and core, where most people shorten the back muscles and push out the front belly, let Hope teach you how to do the opposite.
You don't need a fancy $1,000 machine to get great arms, shoulders and a killer core. I encourage all my students that before they try to use an external source of weight they should be able to use their own. My goal for my students is to help them (and teachers) to discover how to really truly discover their bodies and all the amazing things this hub we call the body can do for us.
Our pelvic floor is literally the bottom of the torso, where all muscles eventually insert. And commonly, teachers just assume you know where the pelvic floor is, what it entails and how to activate this vital area. Join me for a few minutes as I take you through the three areas of contraction (for women, 2 for men). If you want to be 85 and not peeing your pants and hopefully improve your sex life and energetic vitality, then this is a must to all your teachings and an exercise you can do anytime and any where! Namaste!
Staff of Brahman is a wonderful warm up or wake up that can leave you with every muscle stretched and toned in just a few minutes. Replace your Sun Salutation today with Staff of Brahman and give your body something new to talk about.
No one persons body is the same. No one persons body is put together alike, nor do they hold trauma or recover the same way either. So then why are we treating our students like they are all the same? And as teachers, trainers or coaches, part of our responsibility is to help and educate our student to know their bodies as many of them don't.
As a teacher and (teacher) trainer myself, I know this well. Teachers learn the "routine" and then teach it to their students. But what if a student shouldn't or can't do what your piece of paper says to do? What do you do? How do you accommodate them and still keep the class going? Or wouldn't it be nice to walk into class and ask your class what they would like to work on and be able to meet those needs? It's possible, just requires a bit of work on your part.
I unfortunately have seen the back lash of this, both as a student and as a teacher. Students having an "ah ha" moment in class as they realized that their back SHOULDN'T hurt in Cobra (I hear this a lot from new to me students of yoga). Or I as a new student in class was never asked about any health issues or concerns I might have (and this was at a very popular New York studio). What if I had a heart condition and knew nothing about what not to do, like lifting my arms overhead would be a concern and put pressure on my heart. Or what if I just had knee surgery and this was my first exercise class since then, or ever. The reality is that students don't think that issues they have would pertain to your services for various reasons. My mom had a heart attach while teaching at my studio and I was there and know that she is no no medications and know that she has no preexisting conditions and for me to do CPR on her and they EMT's to use the AED I know that no extra damage was ever done. But what if that was one of my students. In my case I have health records for each of my students and this is why. The question is "do you?"
Who cares if you have a successful business or any club for that matter, because if your business lacks the ability to actually do what you are saying you are setting out to do,to me that is a huge problem.
So now the question is how do I change this?
1. Update your client history at least once a year and post regularly that students need to inform you if their health has changed for any reason. And if they ask let them know that it is for "their health". How can you help someone if you know nothing about them?
2. Get to know your students, read the waiver forms, ask your clients and class questions about health issues, I can guarantee that your client retention will be much higher when they notice that you are actually paying attention to them and are hear to "help" them and not just kick their butt.
3. Re-evaluate what you are teaching or coaching? Why are you doing what you are doing? And what you are guiding, does it have merit to the health and well-being to your clients and students? I like to ask myself the "why" question. Why are you teaching me this, why are we doing this. Now don't go all mental on me, I am using this context to look at how we move our physical bodies, I don't believe we need to know all the why's in life, but I do think this one is important.
4. If you feel the need to pre-write your classes, base them off of your students issues and concerns. And remember what they need and what they want may not be the same so "show" them and educate them as to what you are teaching. This is a big red flag for students. If you teacher is just "doing" something just because, I would be worried. Many of my students know that as we go into to something they are not virgin to hear me say "if you have XYZ going on do not do this or go that far", followed up by "and this is why". If they know why they are more likely to not do it and then not hurt themselves and as a result trust you more.
5. Talk to your students. Get them to talk to you and respond to inquiries you are provoking on them. "How does this feel". I like to quiz my students in class. "Why do you think we are doing A this way?", this makes them stop and think and for a moment not just go through the motions. Plus they feel you are actually invested in them and that you do in fact know what you are talking about.
6. Get them to "self check". Ask them to look at their feet (or body part), I often use the lingo "actually look at your feet, take a moment you are this close-LOOK". This kindly reminds your students to actually practice body awareness, something we often "think" we are doing but are really off in la-la-land.
7. As the teacher or the trainer learn these flags (and teach them to your students): they can't do the exercise, there is tension or pain, alignment is off or difficult. Often times when a student experiences one of all of these they force even more and end up in greater pain or frustrated and if there is no line of communication between student and teacher how will you ever solve this problem.
8. Ask yourself and have your students ask themselves "how is this helping"? How is this helping them, is what you are doing just so hard that they are creating more problems just to do it, than actually trying to achieve the purpose of the exercise. When our bodies have dysfunction and we move in a way that encourages that dysfunction, how are we any closer to wellness than before; how are our bodies any healthier than yesterday? The only benefit may be in our head (ego).
9. Think "corrective exercises". Identify what the "pain" is or the "dysfunction" is and work to create balance. We are often thinking backwards. Balance is our goal. But if we can't identify the imbalance how will balance be achieved. This also encourages your students to take some self responsibility and create body awareness as they have to think for themselves. Something many honestly are not very versed in.
10. And finally as the student, you cannot put all the responsibility on your teacher or coach; at some point you must be responsible. This is a great reminder for all students that your teacher is not God, they do not live in your body, nor are they a mind reader. But as the teacher it is in our best interest to teach and encourage and educate clients on what is asked of them and let them know how this can help and show them the parallel to everyday life. I often point out to my students that as we blame our teacher or our mat or the distracting student next to us for why we can't do something, we most likely are also living that way (I am talking from life experience, this is how I use to live).
Mind-body fitness, yoga and any type of physical, mental and spiritual well-being exericse is a give and take, teachers give your students reason to want more and students give a little something for your teacher to work off of, you'd be surprised as to what comes about.