For many of us we own a foam roller or some sort of fascial releasing toy, but the question is “are we using it the way we should be”? I love me some foam rolling, and as a functional fitness professional, I work to educate my students that rolling is a vital method- where we release the tissues so our favorite or much needed mobility practices are a bit easier and more beneficial.
What do I mean? Well for many we are trying to move around in a catsuit five sizes too small expecting at first move our bodies to do exactly what we want them to. And to get to the punch line- if you can’t move a body part how can you expect it to function and operate correctly (safely)?
Rolling is a method that everyone (yes, everyone) should be incorporating into their daily routine. A few minutes prior to a yoga session can increase your range of motion with less effort, and less injury. A few targeted hot spots before you run or lift can make all the difference in you continually adapting the movement to accommodate that catsuit of yours leaving you always shy of every getting to the heart of the issue.
So here are four hot spot areas that I like to hit in my personal practice and guide my students through for an all over improvement in how they move both on and off the mat.
Foam Rolling your Lower Legs
Rolling lower leg (360) is essential. I tell my students all the time, “imagine walking around with two two year old’s on your legs all day-that’s what it’s like when your lower calves/legs are restrictive (short and tight). For many that is how we are living. And then we show up to yoga, Cross-fit, Zumba, whatever and expect to do everything without so much as a brief introduction to our friend the calf.
Consider rolling out your lower legs, front, back and sides and you will be amazed at how you feel and what your range of motion is like after you ditch the two year old’s.
Release Your Jaw
Not exactly a yoga pose, but our jaw is an area of our bodies that needs more attention. Our jaws are deeply connected to the health and happiness of our hips and often times when the hips are out of wack (very scientific term) our while we sleep our jaws will grind and clench to help rewire the hips and bring them back to balance.
Using one end of an acuBall, twist and turn the ball like you would turn a door knob and feel the tissues being pulled and released. Or try my favorite and imagine you are painting with a paint brush and with your wrist paint circles as you push gently in and pull the tissues around in a circle. Notice the release all the way up into the hair line. After several minutes on each side open and close your mouth and notice the new found space. This is amazing to do before bed.
Relax Your Occipital Muscles
A stiff neck, tight shoulders, and tension headaches are usually a precursor for some pain meds, but consider something a bit less chemically altering and consider something with a bit more instant gratification.
Using a warmed up acuBall, lie down on the floor and place the ball underneath the lip of your skull (occipital bone). Nod the head and gently turn the head side to side. You should notice right away the knotty parts and FYI this may not be your favorite. But if you struggle with upper body tension, tension headaches, and even the jaw clenching we spoke of earlier give this a try. You won’t be sorry you did.
Roll Your Feet
So you walk around with casts on your feet all day. Yes, you heard me correctly, casts, those things you call shoes. Those things that do not allow your feet to move, expand and take on different textures, surfaces, and environments. Those things that cripple your feet, it’s no wonder so many elderly struggle to walk, because the one thing they need to walk has been under used and no longer considered for therapy.
So kick off those shoes of your and under your desk with a mini acuBall roll out those sweet feet of yours and show them some love. We start off almost every yoga class with rolling out of our feet. It’s the base of our body and if your lower body is not in balance and ready to take on life, how can you expect the rest of your body to?
The feet hold 72,000 nadis or nerve endings that all connect back with different areas of the body, tapping into those areas thorough the feet also offers an additional healing we could all use. Once you’ve rolled each foot notice how your foot feels to the floor when standing or walking afterwards. You should feel more connected, more aware, more alive. And now, so will you!
Four reasons to roll it out that will give you instant gratification with little time spend. Remember what we do does matter, and I want you to do things that help you bring more movement and well-being into your day.
Diastasis Recti: Splitting of the Fascia of the Rectus Abdominis
A Little-Known Core Concern that Warrants Recognition
By Hope Zvara
Most people would love to have a killer core—that is, a waistline to die for—but at what cost? Diastasis recti is a splitting of the fascia of the rectus abdominis down the linia alba, or midline, that separates it into left and right halves. The condition occurs primarily in infants and pregnant women, but can also be the result of obesity, particularly when excessive fat surrounds the abdomen. Diastasis recti can also be cause by certain abdominal exercises and heavy weightlifting— which is a common cause of the problem among men.
In women, diastasis recti can occur during pregnancy, when the pressure of the uterus against the abdominal wall causes a widening and thinning of the midline tissue. However, women can live with diastasis recti for several years after pregnancy, especially if they do not perform the proper exercises to fix the issue or if they worsen the separation by exercising incorrectly. Having several consecutive pregnancies can prevent the uterus from returning to its normal size and interfere with the body’s healing.
A split that creates a gap wider than two-and-a-half fingers’ width may be considered a medical issue and should be dealt with immediately. Even at two fingers widths, sufferers may notice back pain, the sagging “mama belly” or a coning or V-shape at the line of the linia alba, where the abdominals should be connected. At any gap size, diastasis recti is a concern that can create issues if left unaddressed as the core muscles develop improperly. When something in our bodies is not working correctly, something else compensates, and that compensation eventually catches up with us.
What to Avoid
Exercise classes and boot camps that are focused on weight loss and strength training usually do not provide students with an understanding of transversus abdominis and pelvic support, so it is important for anyone that suffers from diastasis, especially new mothers, to understand the problem and how to properly heal from it. Because pregnancy stretches and thins the abdominal walls rapidly, the muscles afterward are vulnerable to injury. Like a balloon that is inflated and deflated several times consecutively, the abs can become distorted and saggy unless the proper care is taken to heal them from being stretched thin.
The abdominal exercises known as crunches or sit-ups can create a pressure down the midline of the belly that can cause the split. The source of problematic weightlifting is incorrect form; either sucking in or pushing out the belly prevents building true transversus abdominis strength.
Women should avoid wearing a support girdle or other tummy-trimming undergarments unless the split is two or more fingers width apart. The girdle’s support prevents sufferers from working the core muscles, leading to an issue that is much worse than a simple tummy bulge.
How to Strengthen and Heal
Learning proper pelvic floor exercises will give the core the support it needs and build the base from which to mend the issue. The pelvic floor is the bottom of the body; with strengthening, this foundation can lighten the load on the rectus abdominis and help remedy urinary incontinence.
Due to pregnancy, excessive abdominal weight or improper core work, many women that have diastasis recti also have lordosis, an exaggerated forward curvature of the lumbar and cervical regions of the spinal column. Intentionally bringing the spine into a neutral position helps retrain the muscles into their proper position.
Choose exercises that facilitate using the transversus abdominis properly, working in three dimensions, or planes of motion, rather than simply along one plane (for example, with crunches, the movement is just rounding forward). Learn core exercises that require work in the transverse (horizontal) plane, rather than in the sagittal (or vertical) plan, as traditional sit-ups do.
Practice breathwork that will encourage a co-contraction effect on the entire pelvic core, from the pelvic floor to the entire torso. When exhaling, instead of sucking in our pushing out, make a small deflation of the belly, but more distinctly, a firm contraction of the entire core to feel a bracing effect.
Finally, become educated and ask questions. Not all workouts are equal and unfortunately, not all instructors are aware of the effects of their workouts on all parts of the body.
Three Moves to Rehabilitate Diastasis Recti
Forearm Plank Twist
Come onto the forearms in a forearm plank position, actively pressing forearms into the floor, keeping head in line with the body parallel to the ground. From the natural waistline, twist your lower body to the left, rotating your pelvis and feet to point in the same direction onto the side of the left foot, so that the left hip points toward the ground and right side faces the ceiling. Lift your hips actively away from the floor to feel the oblique and transversus abdominis turn on. Remain here for five to 10 breaths. Pause in plank and take a short break, and then repeat the opposite side, twisting the lower body to the right. After completing both sides, decide which side needs more work and repeat that side a second time.
Mini-ball Extension with a Twist
Sitting tall with a nine-inch, core-training mini-ball gently tucked behind your sacrum, sit tall on your sit bones and on an exhale using your transversus abdominis, press only your sacrum barely into the ball without rounding your spine. Inhale and extend your body back to make a 45-degree angle with the floor, watching not to arch the back and keeping a maintained focus on the linea alba. Keep the intention of exhaling and connecting both sides of the belly together. Place the fingers of one hand on one side of the rectus break and the thumb on the other. Upon exhaling, use the fingers and thumb to merge the split muscle. Do not extend too far back and remember to keep the pelvic floor active; a mini-ball or block can be placed between the inner thighs to assist. On the next inhale, take a gentle twist to the right and rotate only the torso, taking care to not move on the mini-ball, and with a strong exhale, focus on using your corset core, the area between the hips and the ribs, to rotate you back to center. Repeat each side five times and then work the weaker side again another five times.
Lying on the floor in a supine position, place a mini-ball underneath the sacrum with the pelvis in a neutral position. Exhale and actively contract the anal sphincter, vaginal passageway (for women) and urethra. Keeping this support, lift one leg up so that the shin is parallel to the ceiling, with the knee aligned over the hip. Keep steady and extend your opposite arm towards the lifted leg, palm to thigh. Now without moving the pelvis or spine, press leg and palm towards each other, creating resistance, for 10 to 20 seconds. Release the leg and arm and then repeat on the opposite side. Notice which side is weaker and repeat that side a second time. What you should notice is the entire core activating without you needing to do much of anything. This way to effectively use the core and support the spine is called bracing, or co-contracting.
Here are my 4 quick effective yoga poses to do while flying, because if you are anything like me…I’ll take any help when I can get it.
Now a days flying can easily be an all day affair and that means little movement and a whole lot of sitting. When you can take full advantage of my five quick and effective yoga poses to do while flying for instant relief for all those traveling aches and pains.
4 Quick Effective Yoga Poses to do While Flying:
- Nervous Nelly Neck Stretches: Nothing like a crick in the neck from carrying all those awkward bags, the ergonomically correct posture perfect seats in the gate area or sitting in those super roomy airplane seats (NOT)… Relief is here…
- Flying High Hip Stretch: Again nothing screams happy hips more than an airplane seat. Get a little relief with this super quick, yet effective move.
- Twist and Shout Spinal Release: When your flights start to hit double digits the body starts to feel the pain of those incredibly spacious seats. Pardon your neighbor and take a time out to twist and shout. A few of these throughout the flight saves my back a lot of pain and stiffness in the days to come.
- Ground Level Pow-Wow: It always amazes me how many people are so eager to sit down before they sit down pre-flight. My suggestion find some floor space (FYI it’s also usually where the USB and outlets are anyway) and take a floor seat. Here you can stretch out your legs and even do a forward bend or two while you wait.
O.K. I have to admit, I do love traveling and really don’t mind flying at all, but I have traveled on some less than comfy flights. China Air really is not designed for Americans, even small ones like myself. And now a days they are packing us in like sardines so it is yours and my best interest to do all we can to make that flight as enjoyable as can.
Safe and Happy Travels!
Want even more from Hope?…
20 Quick Fitness Hacks for Better Health: Part 4
16. Mini Ball Minute: Designated corework or any workout for that matter does not have to be long winded or complex. My mini ball is my most favorite workout out item and it goes everywhere with me. Working with a mini ball give you 10x the muscle response as ground corework does. And unless you are a mechanic on his (or her) back all day, get up off that flat floor! (Want more mini ball? CLICK HERE) Hold a 45 degree angle for one minute-keeping good posture, you should start to feel the earth quake (welcome to your deep core).
17. Peek-a-Boo Pop Up: Playing with your kids can be fun and a workout too. I am always conscious of how much I do or don’t move, and my little ones loves a rising round of peek-a-boo so why not make it extra fun. Ten rounds = ten squats, jumps and laughs!
18. Dance Party: My kids love when it’s dance party time. When we are at home we turn on the tunes on the T.V. and it’s usually Latin dancing music and we groove out. We take turns being in the “spot light” and by the time we are done we have done some major bonding, letting go and moving. (PS we also do elevator dancing, I do the beat box and we go nuts until the next floor hops on!)
19. Early Arrival Power Walk: How often do you arrive somewhere early to then find yourself standing around or sitting in your car scrolling Facebook. Those moments are a perfect opportunity to get out and move your legs. When I’m early to my kids school they have a perfect square of sidewalk surrounding their school that I can easily power around for a quick mini walk. And the days I do that I never regret it later!
20. 5 Minute Yoga Break: It can be so hard to break away from the computer, but trust me, when you do you will always come back refreshed. Set your phone timer, and then put it face-down not to see any texts pop up. Pull up a five minute yoga practice from my YouTube page, or just move on your mat in a way that feels good. Chances are you will go beyond five minutes, you just needed a little motivation to get started.
Great work! Now you have 20 ideas to bust through those excuses that you have not time to work out or get moving again! Remember, never let your reasons become your excuses as to why not.
Stay tune for Part 3 of the 20 Quick Fitness Hacks for Better Health!
Want more from Hope?
Check out my FREE Top 10 Core Torching Moves E-Course!
We are back with more hacks to better health! Time is of the essence when it comes to making time for exercise, working, raising a family, cleaning your house and all the other million things we have going on. But the moment I got smart about movement and stopped putting my fitness in a box of I have to be practicing for X time, and I have to be at X location in order to get a good workout, I noticed I was happier, stronger and over all my fitness level improved even more!
It’s not the time you take out of your day for fitness, it’s the total sum of movement you participate in that really counts!
So lets get moving!
20 Quick Fitness Hacks for Better Health: Part 3
11. Stand Up and Type: Sitting is the pits, and when you get up and move a bit, those typed words per minute don’t seem so bad after all. But just standing won’t cut it-try to move around every 15 minutes to keep good blood circulation and happy body parts! Happy typing!
12. T.V. Straddle Stretch: O.K. so we all enjoy some R&R at times, and don’t feel guilty if you want to do it watching your favorite show! Get off the couch and get a few good floor stretches in while you watch and relax. Feeling stiff? Use those couch pillows to prop up your torso so you can relax into the stretch for a bit! Enjoy!
13. Kitchen Cabinet Calf Lifts: I don’t always have time for a yoga practice, but I do have a few minutes, even a few seconds-here and there! Looking for your favorite snack on that high shelf? No problem! Work our those sore tired feet and get them moving PLUS pump those calves of yours with an easy lift and lower. I know your body will thank you!
14. 10 Minute Power Cleaning: It seems that I clean my house and then all of a sudden its like a tornado blew in. It’s amazing when we set the timer at home for a quick power clean up how much we all can accomplish! And the bonus is we are all racing each other so what a workout: squatting, reaching, bending, running, jumping-it’s all fair game when the 10 minute clean up is on!
15. Parking Lot Power Walk: O.K. so we all do it, we are in a hurry and search the lot for the closest spot to park to get in and out ASAP! But lets get real, if you park just a little further away and get those extra steps in, how much time will that really set you back? Plus you are less likely to get dings in your fancy car when you park further away, because, well, people rushing like you aren’t going to park near you. BONUS!
Until next time—Keep moving!
Stay tune for Part 4 of the 20 Quick Fitness Hacks for Better Health!
Want more from Hope?
Check out my FREE Top 10 Core Torching Moves E-Course!