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TfHP 10 : Warrior 1 from the ground up.

………..If Tadasana is standing then Warrior 1 is walking……..

The Power of Touch. A Guide for Yoga Teachers. p.62.  (2015) Monica Voss and Tama Soble (www.esteryoga.com)

The title of this book is poignant at a moment in our history when remote contact is becoming the norm. Your yoga class may include “hands-on assists” , or your teacher may employ verbal cues/assists more generally.  You may be used to a combination of the two approaches but the key, and I agree with Monica and Tama wholeheartedly, is  “..relaxation……both the student’s and the teacher’s (p 62).  Yoga teachers providing “assists” will know that students need time to understand the support – to sense that held tension can be reduced.  Tense bodies may not readily accept support ; thus patience is essential.  It is perfectly natural for a student to be tense at this stage since the “assist” comes with the premise that something can be “improved”.  In a weekly/regular yoga class, trust is established between student and teacher; ethical considerations are paramount; the principle of non-harm, a fundemental part of yoga, is observed.

The importance of relaxation and patience are even more relevant at this time, I believe.  In home practice, the absence of a regular teacher may be unsettling.  Online teaching has taken off and thus verbal cueing/assists are more common.  Warrior pose may be very useful for home practice since, as menioned in TfHP9 – Warrior 1, it looks simple but there are many aspects to relaxing into it that help us understand the intention of lengthen and grounding. Such understanding comes with an appreciation of how the ease of breathing enriches our practice. Often a “fill-in” before the stronger Warrior 2 and 3; perhaps it merits attention. Added to this, the connection to walking makes it a perfect pose to “take off the mat”.

Tips to sense Warrior 1 from the feet up:

  • Forward/backward distance between the feet = 1 natural walking step.
  • Avoid the “tightrope” stance – feet may need to be placed wider.
  • Anchor the back heel – imagine that a helpful hand is there rooting the heel.
  • Exhale, root the back heel down. Remember the activation of the back leg in the Guardian video.  Now you are activating and lengthening through the back line of the body by dropping, grounding the heels and feet.
  • Hands at the waist may square the hips and help you find your feet more easily.  These “helping hands” will sense the downward movement of the sacrum..
  • Helping hands at the back of the body – with back of the hands relaxing on the sacrum, fingers pointing down and elbows out to the side,  we can notice the elongation of the spine as the thoracic area releases upwards.
  • Or place the palms of the hands on the back of the pelvis, fingers pointing down and elbows softly bent. This may open the chest for some but it depends upon how the arms are set into the shoulder sockets.
  • The use of hands may prevent the shoulders from getting involved too early and taking us “off our feet” as the centre of gravity moves upwards.
  • Then practice the movement through the thoracic and pelvis see TfHP9 – Warrior 1
  • If all ok and breath is even and tension free. – arms can float up to a suitable level – not holding the arms up – let them sit in the shoulder sockets . This informs you of the best position for you – ie soft bend at the elbow, cactus arms or hanging arms.

The more the feet are rooted, the more the sense of the spine lengthening will be real. With a reduced stance the postural muscles, which are closer to the joints “have their day” and this takes the load away from some of the global muscles. This is useful for general agility. The wide lunge produces great force into the ball of the front foot, the quad is loaded and has to work hard to get into balance.  Practice immediately on the other side.

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The Power of Touch. A Guide for Yoga Teachers.

Follow on movement:

Warrior 2 or Warrior 3 is often practised after Warrior 1 .  From TfHP9 – Warrior 1 the suggestion of  simple extension moves on all fours or dog face up may help you to investigate extension through the thoracic and to “map” that movement, but also try:

  1. An easy squat/ half squat to reinforce foot placement, assess stability and how your body is coping with load
  2. From squat perhaps down to child with arms forward to open the shoulder girdle
  3. Then dog down, using the feet and legs to unravel the spine, rather than pushing up with the arms, thus creating tension in the shoulders.
  4. Then…… see how you feel.  That’s the beauty of home practice.

 

Easter Greetings.

Stay safe.

 

 

                

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TfHP9 – Warrior 1

Positioning Virabhadrasana I: Warrior I Pose | Gaia

I’m following TfHP8 – walking with a look ar Warrior 1 – Virabhadrasana1.  The front foot is firmly placed , the back foot is set behind and the pelvis is facing forward.  This may be why the pose is generally listed as a beginner pose.  I don’t often write posts on specific yoga poses (apart from Sprinters) but at this moment when many are beginning to practice yoga at home and walking is a diversion from our housebound exisitence, Warrior 1 may be attractive to beginners.  Benefits such as strengthening of the legs and feet are desirable and others such as “helps to build focus,….. improves power and stabilty ……cultivates our inner warrior..” would appeal to many at a time of uncertainty and worry.

Indeed the Wikepedia entry states:

………Virabhadrāsana has been called “easily one of the most iconic and recognizable postures in yoga…….

However, there are so many contraindications listed on so many sites. Warnings about high blood pressure; heart problems; shoulder impingement; neck problems, knee problems; ankle problems to name a few.  It is, infact quite complex due to the different planes of movement. The body is working to balance forward and backwards, It involves spinal extension, hip and knee flexion. There is  upward rotation of the arms and commonly (still) external hip rotation. Combine this with the demands of balance and it is understandable why so many instructions are given:

………………. activate the shoulder blades, contract the quads to protect the knee, lift the chest, engage the gluts………….

As well as information overload for beginners this can result in bracing at key points in the body.  Bracing tends to impair balance rather than improve it.

Warrior pose is a standing back bend in which the extension pattern can be distributed evenly through the spine.  This is movement we do everytime we look up and  reach up – you may once have seen many people reaching up to top shelves in supermarkets.  Thus it can be helpful to include in home practice.  Pete Blackaby cites the purpose as To develop compliance in extension throughout the whole body  This is difficult enough since the thoracic spine does not naturally extend very easily, thus if you are asked to hold your arms aloft over a wide base, the force – the load- will fall into vulnerable areas. These areas will generally brace in response – the nervous system is crying “help”.

I would encourage beginners to ask themselves:

Where is the centre of gravity?

Where should it be?

The most helpful way in which a novice student can answer these questions is by noticing when and where tension creeps in and how their breath is affected by this tension.  The most useful tip is how to modify.

The illustration above is an idealised representation but it seems to be a common image of Warrior found online and in many yoga books.  When replicating this many students will shift the  centre of gravity up high in the neck and shoulders.  With the centre of mass being so high, extension in the thoracic spine, which is not natural to the thoracic, is impaired still further. The diaphragm is “dragged up” with the braced chest and for beginners it must be so difficult to pull the diaphragm down for good inhalation.  The body is also coping with a wide load.  This begs another question – why do online images commonly show the idealized/advanced postures rather than  modified versions?

As soon as we put one foot infront of the other the psoas pulls on the back leg causing the lumbar spine to move towards extension.  If we practice Warrior 1 with such a wide stance this pull is intensified.  Add the rotation of the back leg, above and the gluts have to grip in order to stabilize the pelvis.  Gripping compresses the the sacro-iliac joint area and this often creeps up to the lumbar spine.  Remember that , for most beginners, the shoulders and neck are already holding tension and as muscles fatique, tension increases even more.

I am writing with beginners to yoga in mind. It is helpful for beginners to strip the pose back and focus upon movement patterns. However, I believe that it is useful for all of us to return to basics at times. to review and to put ourselves in the footsteps of a beginner.

TIPS for beginners and for home practice –

  • Stand with feet forward facing and head forward then look up.  Can you do this  without the chin leading the movement and simply wagging up and down. Try to sense that if you can relax the chin and lift the breastbone; that the thoracic spine could move behind the breastbone (a tiny movement at first but an important one).  Sense the bones -The backward movement of the skull being balanced by the rising sternum.
  • Notice whether the shoulders want to do the movment for you (jump up to the ears) and whether the ribs jut up and tug on the back of the waist
  • Don’t worry about lifting the arms.
  • Try to establish do-your-best footprints
  • Take a normal step forward and try to  make the footprints as even as possible. Repeat the movement.  You may notice that as you look up and the upper spine begins to move that the pelvis rocks forward as well.  This is crucial.
  • Don’t move into another pose before repeating this on the other side.
  • Practice this extension pattern down on one knee , front foot placed square.  This takes the hamstrings out of the equation and keeps the pelvis  balanced.
  • Repeat on the other side before practising any other pose.
  • If you think that your thoracic spine is not moving well then practice this extension pattern on all fours (beginners) and in face up dog (more confident practitioners) – see videos on http://www.intelligentyoga.co.uk

 

The British Wheel of Yoga does offer this modified version of Warrior 1 with the arms lowered but I would still encourage beginner students to reduce the stance so as to make the footprints as even as possible.

Warrior 1 can be such a balanced pose in which we tap into our roots – the process of which reminds of how much we can learn from simplicity.  Then, if we are lucky our breath becomes plenteous; nourishing.  A huge bonus at present.

More about the feet in a ground up approach to Warrior 1 in the next blog plus some suggestions for follow-on movement.

Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TfHP8 – walking

man in grey hooded jacket walking on grey concrete road

** Photo by Farhan Abid at https://unsplash.com/photos/uj6Vz-TH2V4

Tips given to my students are often taken on board whilst the same tips give to certain family members are disregarded until they appear on a website or video link – expecially if the link is “verified” via “esteemed” sources.

So it has been, of late, with tips for walking.  Many of us are trying to walk more now, if we can.  A sensory approach to yoga practice improves many aspects of functional movement, which are transferrable to everyday life.  We try to “take our yoga off the mat”.  While it is not easy to take a structured/held yoga pose into the office, car journey or walk near home, it is possible to take awareness of an active and stable foot with us.  Noticing how that provides sequential activation of postural muscles; of support – something that many  of us need right now.

Previous posts Standing and walking – free the pelvisTfHP6 and TfHP7 include:

  • The push off by the back foot is essential to move forward open ankle is key
  • Lengthening and spreading the toes – distributes the “load”
  • Good placement of the supporting foot – produces a smooth and efficient swing at the “toe off” phase – when the toes leave the ground the the back leg swings forward

All  given and more to the above mentioned family members.  A “Eureka” moment came, however, when this clip was viewed:

How to walk better; start with your feet.

All useful clip.  I would add:

Walking is undoubtedly beneficial to our health.  A 2016 study by Stanford University is one of many that links walking to strengthened neurological and physiological pathways.  Urban polution is a little less damaging at present and walking may be more enjoyable in towns and cities. in 2019 an Irish neuroscientist wrote “In Praise of Walking”  also highlighting  strong links between the brain health and walking.  Shane O’Mara presents:

………… a “motor-centric” view of the brain – that it evolved to support movement and, therefore, if we stop moving about, it won’t work as well……..

We all, kind of know this I suppose, but we don’t take as much notice until such is quoted by a “reliable source”.

I can reliably inform you that the family member is now noticing, listening. Perhaps  taking tips onboard will be next.  The Stanford Study suggested that walking may improve creativity. Apparently, walking and talking is good because we are “multi-tasking” – moving, talking, looking around, avoiding obstacles.  Great that we can still walk in pairs.  William Wordsworth, however, seemed content to talk to daffodils.  There is hope.

Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

TfHP7 – Feet and psoas

Day 8 of the Yoga Toe Challenge and there is some tiny improvement. My brain is beginning to remember that I have a little toe that can move – if I “speak” to it on a regular basis.

“Speaking” to areas of the body that may have disengaged from the “conversation” due to unintentional neglect, is still possible and the “conversation” does not have to be complex.

A student kindly shared a simple leg swing movement that helps to release a tight psoas.  The psoas major connects the spine to the legs. This muscle not only helps to flex the hip, but also changes the shape of the lumbar spine. When tight, the lordotic curve becomes more pronounced and the back can ache.  It has a pivotal role in walking, posture, balance and flexibility. This simple exercise also highlights the connection between the psoas and the feet:

At Home Leg Exercises For Stroke Recovery Patients

Psoas Release Leg Swing:

Stand by a wall, put one hand on the wall, take weight through the leg nearest the wall and swing the other leg.  Beautifully simple movement – swinging the leg in the hip socket but beware compensation patterns creeping in:

  1. Over arching in the low back (the psoas directly affects the shape of the lumbar spine)
  2.  Bending the swinging leg due to tightness in the hip joint – this recruits the hamstring unecessarily and closes the ankle (more in next blog)
  3.  Excessive swaying in the upper body – psoas is not fulfilling it’s stabilising function.

Such compensations are due to imbalances and compensation can lead to injury.  Susi Hately, a kineseologist,  names the psoas muscle as “The Queen of Compensation”   See her demonstration the leg swing:

 Susi Hately -Biomechanics of Healing

Susi is strong and balanced enough to maintain stable recruitment of the supporting leg using a block to help the swinging leg “clear the floor” but not everyone can do this’.  My student demonstrated the leg swing wearing trainers and standing beside a wall using a hand for support.  Noticing whether the knee bends is a useful tip.

Practising the leg swing barefoot, requires us to find the support of the bones of the standing leg.  To slowly transfer weight a little; a little more and a little more until the pelvis and trunk are truly carried by the standing leg and foot. If we get this right, and with a bit of luck, the musculature through the foot, ankle and up the leg will activate sequentially; this “spreads the load” and protects the joints from compression (tension).   The opposing muscles psoas and gluts should work together and the abdominal muscles will kick in – the exhale can help us to sense this (collar bones drop). We often use this technique for tree pose – stacking the leg bones, balancing the pelvis and swinging , circling , gently rotating the free leg before placing the foot on the supporting foot or by the supporting leg (not on the knee joint).

This clip by Heart and Bones Yoga, demonstrates another way of finding support through stacked leg bones – this emphasizes muscle rather than bone but may help some:

Psoas Release Leg Swing  

My student’s osteopath provided a helpful tip.   A balanced weight bearing pelvis allows  for efficient transfer of “load” from the upper body to the lower body. A clip illustrating how the psoas connects the spine to the legs may help you to visualize this. The blog Iliopsoas – the powerhouse  provides more indepth information.

Stay safe.

TfHP6 – Best foot forward

https://image.slidesharecdn.com/thefoot-150902114427-lva1-app6892/95/anatomy-of-the-foot-5-638.jpg?cb=1441194555

Best foot forward for me is my right.  On day 5 of the “Toe Yoga Challenge” my left foot is feeling the “burn” – especially along the outside edge.  Proof of  just how weak the Abductor Digiti Minimi is, the muscle that should move the little toe out to the side.  The “post-workout” feeling along the outside edge is probably due to old injuries but also because of over- pronation – my left foot caves in towards the midline which stretches the inside ankle and tightens (weakens) the outer ankle.

Confirms that my left foot placement is not stabilizing me as it should.  Improving strength and flexibility will help.  Toes play an important role in increasing the weight bearing area during walking, thus every effort to increase their function is time well spent.  And I have 36 more days of the “Toe Yoga Challenge”!

Foot strength and flexibility, or lack of it, seems to separate us from our common ancestors, whose feet enabled tree climbing and dwelling.  The evolution of a stiffer foot allowed humans to push off from the ground with greater force as they walked and ran on two feet. Perhaps it is this stiffer foot encased in shoes that lead us to forget that our feet are divided into 3 sections:

  • forefoot – toes and long long bones (metatarsals)
  • Mid foot – pyramid-like structure of bones forming the arch
  • Hindfoot – heel and talus bone which supports the leg bones, forming the ankle

Illustration Picture of Anatomical Structures – Foot Anatomy

This 3 part structure , supported by 4 layers of muscles, means that when the heel is raised in the “push off” stage of our walking pattern, weight is not taken solely on the tips of the toes.  However, this only works well if the toes are able to lengthen and spread to “take the load”.  Thus toes crammed into tight shoes is not helpful.  The toes should lengthen and spread as much as possible to distribute weight evenly across the foot.  With a less structurally balance foot (left for me) this does not happen and the foot can suffer from chronic stress-related problems.  Easier to imagine when you consider that on average we take 3,000-5,000 steps per day; 10,000 for an active person. Bunions, for example, occur gradually over time due to the way each foot absorbs force during walking

Research has shown that ‘even the simplest footwear starts to rearrange the bones of those who habitually use it’ (Tenner, 2003: 58). The fourth and fifth toes, when we walk barefoot, slightly curl as if picking over the ground ( a reminder of our prehensile curl).  In shoes we:

…..lose the characteristic rolling motion of the bare foot which starts from the heel and runs along its outer edge, ending with the ball of the foot and the toes (Ashizawa et al., 1997).

We see how yoga practice, usually in bare feet, strengthens the mechanics of our feet and our walking pattern.

TIPS – work tirelessly on “making good footprints” in your practice.  Appreciate the stability that the outside edge provides.  Plant the outer edge if your foot rolls in (the knee will probably roll in as well.).  Sprinters, is, of course the perfect move to practice and to perfect.

During this past week we have had much cause to find our feet; to feel the ground beneath our feet – to get out of our heads.  A student kindly passed on a description of practice following the “kitchen chair” maneouvre.  This is a wonderful evocation of finding the feet, resting through the bones and sensing when tension creeps into the body:

……When I do the chair thing I start with a slow scroll down. finding my feet, bending my knees lots. Very slumped. And I go in and out of the chair move. straightening my leg slightly etc. Quite a lot of staying there. Feeling the grounding thing and the connection of stability through bone rather than muscle etc. I Finish in a relaxed slumped squat then slowly scroll back up. Nice little sequence. I enjoy the opening and space around the lower back and hip flexors. It works my quads a bit. the scroll down and opening of the torso and the release of the neck. It’s also good for mapping my feet with movement as with sprinters …..

This sequence is indeed useful.  The slow scroll down through flexion allows the shoulder blades to slide apart, the neck to relax and the arms to hang or swing into a soft eagle arms cross.  Both can remind the body of a hug.  Hugging allows our body to relax and it is known to help relieve stress.  We may not be doing as much of that as usual but we can still be reminded of how good it is for us.

Take care.  Stay safe.

TfHP 5 – Anxiety and worry

image

By shortening the title of this series of posts (Tips for Home Practice) , I remind myself that brevity is called for at a time when our devices become overladen with instructions, self-help and online tutorials.

The image above, signifies, the importance of caring for others. To do this we must take care of ourselves.

Worry and anxiety is a natural response to Covid 19 and to the latest restrictions to stay at home.  Jane Barker, Counselling Psychologist, who led me through an 8 week Mindfulness Course has posted the following message.  It is extremely helpful:

……………I know that this is a massively anxiety provoking time for many so thought that I would take the opportunity to ‘have a chat’, from me to you, about anxiety and how to manage it……..…… Jane

View Jane’s video on You Tube

I have a number of posts in which mindfulness is mentioned.  The site’s  search facility will itemize them for you.

Enough for now.  Take care.

Yoga Class Closure. Home practice 4

Image result for cartoons of feet

Short and sweet today – as will be many  of your lovely feet; whilst mine are somewhat longish and not so sweet!!  Aware of this, I ty to improve, but why is it so hard for us to give feet the attention that they truly deserve?  Pedicures, yes, easy; but moving toes apart and by themselves as much as we can?  This is difficult, and it shouldn’t be.

There are 206 bones in the adult human body and 52 of these are in the feet.  Feet comprise a quarter of the entire skeleton, they hold us up and yet we seem to lose touch with them.  We certainly seem to lose flexibiliy in them.  Why can I move the little toe of my right foot fairly well but not of my left foot?  Ok I have injured my left foot in the past but still I walk a lot and it supports my gait, so what’s the problem?  In my case, it is because I practice moving the toes of my right foot more often than those of my left foot, because I can move them more easily and thus “avoidance” becomes the habit.  If something is difficult, most of us “drag our feet” – excuse the pun.

A student shared experience of avoidance strategy in relation to child’s pose – ” I found (it) uncomfortable – nobody is making me, so why would I?  Now, by going in and out of the pose during the practice, discomfort is lessening for that student.  As discomfort lessens, the brain relaxes a little and the emergency “alarm” – “get me out of this!” – is sounded less.

In and out of a pose; little and often; back off if tension creeps in but keep everything moving – all good tips.  Helpful and healthy repetition.

Apply this mantra to your feet.  The following videos are worth a look :

Be careful with the balance ones – support from a wall may help at first.  Any moderate -severe pain, then stop. My fears around on-line learning of yoga centers around this.  The absence of a teacher who can keep an eye on movements, who knows the students well and who can advise “on the spot” and “in the moment”.  However, we live in strange times in which safety is essential, not just a good idea; so be sensible with all practice led online.  I include this blog also.

Having said that, I liked the seated demonstration in the first link. I liked the use of toe separators in the second link. We know about Pete’s “toe yoga” and how helpful it is but also how challenging it is!!!

I wrote about the planning and organization required to establish a regular yoga home practice. Practising unfamiliar movements, such as “toe yoga” produces changes in the brain which alter the information that the brain sends out to muscles, thereby changing the movements themselves.  Namely, we get better at moving our toes and, hopefully, we practice them more often because we can now see improvement.

It seems that real improvements in these fine motor skills may be made in 240 – 600 hours (10 – 41 days)  I’m going to give myself lee-way by setting  a 41 day challenge for myself.  If you join me, consider the following:

  • begin practice immediately after viewing a demonstration.
  • be patient: you may need to practice one component of the skill at a time, rather than all the toe move.  If your motor memory is a bit rusty, you may beed to work on just lifting the big toes for a while.

Let’s see how it goes

This week is all about feet

Stay safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga class closure. Home Practice 3.

How to make a start?

20200319_204202

Many thanks for the helpful tips re planning regular home practice that I share below:

 

… ……….. I set my timer for an hour when I “move” then set my timer for 10 mins with an alert in the middle and sit and breathe changing the cross at the alert….and then I lie in shavasana for 5 mins . And I get up feeling better and having really enjoyed it. …

………….I favour little and often, so daily or every other day even 5 minutes will help. Your body will tell you if it wants to do more on a particular day. Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day…………..

Also the joy of keeping things simple:

……The most simple is best as we all don’t have huge amounts of technology knowledge. I went through one of my yoga sessions in my head talking about it and I think some of it is very simple and it can do No harm, only good………

More Tips from readers: Helpful Apps:

  • Insight Timer (https://insighttimer.com/meditation-app) . The free version allows you unlimited access to the timer.
  • Down Dog and Daily Yoga – these can reinvigorate your practice and give you new ideas…
  • I use the Headspace app to meditate each morning – they have just introduced a ‘weathering the storm’ section which has lots of great things in it

 All helpful.  So where does one start??

In class we often settle on the floor in semi-supine, relax the body and back then press into the feet etc.  This helps, I think, to move focus from the busy brain to the feet; to begin the process of grounding from the base; to remind us of balance.  It’s a lovely entree into awareness of breath and the movement of breath.  I wrote about this and mentioned home practice in Active rest if you are interested.

Starting here seems to suit quite a few people:

…….I like the breathing exercise with the mimicking of the breath lungs and belly. Then with the pressing of the feet and the holding of the breath halfway. ….. All this is lovely…….

There is much to process at present; you are being bombarded with information; it behoves me to be brief.  I started with shoulders and some mention of dog pose in Yoga class shutdown. Home practice 1 so have a look at Pete Blackaby’s teaching. of Downward Dog Variations.

This video illustrates so clearly how important it is to make adjustments to classic yoga poses.  The practitioners have an awareness of areas of their body which don’t move as freely as others and they make their own adjustments – based on Pete’s teaching.  There is a wonderful connection here with the feet and our sensing the footprints in semi-supine at the start of a session.

With thanks to Pete for his generosity in sharing his teaching and ideas. You will have links to other teachers whom you trust and from whom you learn.  Your teachers will learn from you.

We are all on the same path, I feel

Stay safe and take on the wise advice give by a reader above:

….Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day…..

 

 

 

 

 

Yoga class shutdown. Home practice 2.

Hoping that some comments re Tip 1 may reach me.  The “kitchen chair move” is actually recommended for shoulder impingement, a common cause of shoulder pain. This affects the rotator cuff tendon, the rubbery band of tissue that connects the muscles around the shoulder to the top of the arm.

Shoulder diagram, 103 kb

The space in the shoulder (subacromial space) where the rotator cuff tendon, muscles and bursa pass through is very narrow.  This space is made even smaller when you raise your arm – the tendon rubbing or catching on nearby tissue and bone causes discomfort.

The kitchen chair move may help to ease this discomfort, as may leaning onto  the seat of the chair and allowing the other arm to swing like a pendulum.  I link the Codman Pendulum exercises in the post Shoulders -bearing up in yoga practice which also features the above illustration and some explanation as to how some yoga practice can be unhelpful if you have shoulder problems.

When shoulders are tense/sore we naturally “guard” against the discomfort.   Dr Chris Jenner , a consultant in pain management describes the response to pain:

…. Muscles are tensed (and the breath held) in fear of pain. This brings more tension and pain -muscles can build up toxins while tensed then don’t get released. ……Neck and Back Pain: A self-help guide (How to Self-Help Guide)

Gentle exercises help to increase blood flow,  to warm and relax these muscles. Most students find the side lying movements that mobilize the thoracic spine and shoulder girdle very useful for shoulder issues.  In our sensory approach we develop an  awareness of motor connections from the hand through the elbow to the shoulder and the upper spine.  We notice how freely movement travels through these structures and in doing so, become sensitive to the whole movement:Image result for images for side lying shoulder exercisesWith thanks to poise-health.co.uk   See ** TIPS below

With as much relaxation as we can – Lying on right side (above) head , neck, top shoulder (left) , ribs hips, thigh, leg and foot, trust the support of the floor and move the left shoulder forward and back leading with the fingers.   Fingers of the left hand initially just to the inside of the right elbow – back and forth a few times .  Try to keep the left arm long and relaxed so that the movement includes the left shoulder blade. and upper spine.  As you draw the left hand back across the body and increase the rotation, the movement involves the shoulder, ribs and hips.  The left elbow leads the movement towards the floor behind.  You may be able to rest your left arm on the floor – I can’t…too tight!!

**TIP: Practice with a “heavy head” (a good thing in this case) – this will reduce tension in the neck, face and shoulder.

** TIP – practice the above with both legs bent and knees drawn in towards the body to avoid any extension in the back.  You can reduce pulls in the shoulder or back by keeping the feet together and allowing the top knee to lift away from the bottom knee (still on the floor) as you rotate and draw the left hand across the body to the floor behind.

Shoulder Sweeps – when you move the joint through rotation , can produce a “pull” or “snag” or “catch”; all of which could indicate impingment to some degree – may be very small.  Have a look at this video:

shoulder sweep

**Disclaimer – I would encourage those with tightness to release that top knee (as decribed above) if the rotation is pulling the lumbar spine into extension but the video serves to illustrate the movement of the shoulder joint, so many thanks to Active Orthopedics.

**TIP – if you experience a pull or snag it may behelpful to consider:

  • Do I push through it?
  • Do I stop and pause, back off a little and then proceed?
  • Do I back off, start the movement again and repeat to the point of discomfort, then go back to the beginning and start again?

Sometimes in yoga we do a little too much and sometimes too little.  Sometimes we benefit from working a little harder and sometimes less.  We need to understand effort that is healthy (are balanced enough to do a bit more?) and tension that is unhelpful.

Sounds SO corny but that is why yoga, being a reflective engagement with ourselves and our body, can provide us with some insight into how we approach life – maybe – some of the time.

Please use the comments box to let me know what you think. Some may have queries about placing the head/discomfort in the shoulder on the floor etc.  If you don’t understand the moves, contact me.

Stay safe.

 

 

Yoga class shutdown. Home practice 1

Image is from The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Apparently, a habit is an automatic urge to do something often triggered by a cue.  The stronger the cue, the more ingrained the habit becomes.  Why can’t many of us stop touching our face at present?  I don’t have the answers, by the way but many behavioural scientists do and are writing about this.

Routines require practice, deliberate practice like attending your weekly yoga class, gym class etc.  Routines require more planning.  However, with enough time and enough practice, routines can develop into habits and yoga practice is a good habit.

  • Stick to routine:
  • – plan your practice at the same time as your class
  • – prepare your space ; you walked/drove to class/you spoke to class members  – consider music/chat on a device as your roll out your mat and prepare
  • You may prefer a short walk or activity before yoga practice
  • key is to make it regular
  • Start small:
  • once a week is fine; your class may have been once a week
  • one movement/pose each practice is also fine
  • Set a timer is you feel fidgety/at a loss without a teacher – it will “sound” eventually
  • Consider your type/preferences:
  • It may be easier for you to move first and then lie down/sit to breathe
  • It may be that you can get into your short practice quickly by lying down, finding the support of the floor and exploring your breathing
  • Reward yourself
  • you may have been used to going to a cafe after class/chatting with class members or going home to shower/have lunch/snack – substitute some “reward”.

Remote contact with class members may also rewards.  In class we discuss and compare our practice, class members already give advice to others about their experience on the mat.  This is common in our classes.  The comments section in this blog can be a platform for some discussion.  You will probably have more ueful tips than those above and you can share these with others.

SO – to business – I aim to address some areas of difficulty/discussion that pop up in class.  I aim to post on Mondays, Wednesays and Fridays at the same time and to keep the posts short.  The latter is a big “ask” for me!!

DOG POSE – pushing/leaning through the bones of the arms.

So difficult to know whether you are pushing/leaning when you begin to practice in a sensory approach to yoga practice:

Teacher : make good handprints and lean through the bones of the arms.  Notice when you push and if you are pushing “back off”.

Student:  I think that I am pushing

Teacher :  Notice that your neck and shoulders brace when you push.  Push a bit more then don’t push.

Student: ??????

Teacher (too much teacher talk at this stage); dog pose is all about using the legs to free up the shoulders.  Use the feet and legs and try to leave the shoulders undisturbed.

Student:  (quietly/silently) “I think I’ll go into child’s pose”

Try this

Image result for shoulder impingement exercises

**with thanks to posturedirect.com

  • Stand behind the back of a kitchen chair. Rest your hands on the top of the back so that you can lean into the chair.  Push down and notice – neck and shoulders tense?  Shoulders lifted and muscles at the side of the neck braced?
  • Try leaning rather than pushing – any difference?  There should be a difference, so maybe try again.
  • Whilst leaning, walk your feet back to to a place where you can sense that the shoulders and neck are not bracing and that the back is lengthening.  Consider bending the knees to sense the feet – inside edge, outside edge, heel and toes. Imagine that you are going into child’s pose and keep the hip flexors relaxed.
  • Walk the feet back to the starting position and notice any effect upon the spine and shoulders as you do that.
  • Repeat using one arm/both again.

Maybe stand and roll the shoulders or just walk around and allow the arms to swing and the shoulders to sway.  Dog pose may be an option, as is lying in semi supine to settle shoulders, back, neck and head.  Observe your breath.

With thanks to Pete Blackaby, as ever, for his teaching of dog pose which has revolutionized my practice.  He has helped me to realize that if I get into the habit of using my arms too much them my legs will forget to do as much work as they should in this movement and in other daily movements such as geting up and down from a chair, the floor etc. .  Use the comments box to let me know how you get on/to provide tips for others.

Enjoy the classes that you are attending.  I had better get planning.  My reward is now a cup of tea and then a walk.

See you soon.