What Came First Poor Posture or Weak Breathing?

Is your poor posture because of the way you breathe? Or does your posture create weak breathing? The YogAlign Core SIP Breath informs your body of how to be in good posture by aligning you from the inside out. Through the practice of The YogAlign Core SIP Breath, one begins to feel experientally how core breathing can create length from the crown of the head to the arches in the feet. It is the crucial connection from the diaphragm to the legs via the psoas that is most important in re-establishing core-centered fluid movements and longevity-boosting extension in the spine.
To practice The YogAlign Core SIP Breath:
1. stand with feet hip distance apart.
2. knees slightly softened
3. let your arms hang by your sides
4. gently press into the floor with feet (notice how your spine responds by elongating) focusing on keeping the lift.
5. pucker your lips as you would if you were going to whistle and slowly breath in through your mouth as if you are sipping through a straw.This inhalation creates an extension in the body, and an engagement of your waist muscles deep in your core. Keep sipping in as you breathe, while you consciously focus on the lengthening of your body that occurs each time you inhale.
When you exhale, practice keeping this length in your spine and waist rather than letting the contraction movements of exhalation shorten your waist or pull your sternum, or breastbone, down.

Food for thought

Are you sitting well? Sitting in the same seat means that the seat cushions mold to your particular shape and became far less supportive over time, but also encourages bad posture habits. It could be that you’re not sitting face on to the TV, so when you’re watching it your body may be turned ever so slightly at an angle. Over an extended time period this will train your body to shape in a particular way, a way that will cause strain and weakness on certain joints and muscles, which can lead to bad posture and in turn will lead to aches and pains. A great  solution to this, is a   cushion with added lumbar back support.

One Last Thing

Also by slouching we are compressing our stomachs and our internal organs, which over time could impede their functions – they are called vital organs for a reason, they are essential for our survival. Coupled with the fact that the joint laxities resulting from creep compromises stability for a substantial time after you have changed position, no wonder we get back pain. This means that if you sit in a slouched posture the spine is more unstable so leaves you at risk of injuring your back even when doing something seemingly innocuous such as picking up that pen off the floor! This type of sitting for long periods I am sure contributes to a large percentage of back problems and is often a big factor in problems that seem to come out of nowhere.

The Age When Your Self-Esteem Peaks Will Pleasantly Surprise You

By Kelly Gonsalves

How will you change over the years as you get older? Past research offers strong evidence that, although there are parts of personalities that stay relatively set throughout our lives, we do in fact experience real character growth over time. The primary way we change is through maturation: All of our more pro-social, positive traits (things like conscientiousness and social skills) tend to increase as we get older, whereas many of our more negative traits (things like impulsiveness and anxiousness) tend to decrease.

And now, a particularly sunny new study just revealed one area of ours that will likely continue to grow through most of our lives: our self-esteem.

The paper, recently published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, found that people’s self-esteem actually peaks at age 60. That’s a delightfully uplifting revelation—it means that we’ll spend the majority of our lives with our love for ourselves continuing to grow year after year. The study, which was actually a meta-analysis of 331 different studies looking at data from a total of 164,868 participants, found people’s confidence grew steadily (with a brief pause during the teen years, understandably so) until they reached about 60 years old. They then tended to spend the next 10 years riding that self-love high before seeing a slight decrease from ages 70 on.

For young people currently struggling with learning to see their own worth—and even for those who already value themselves highly—these findings offer hope that there’s only upward and onward from here. Not only does aging bring us wisdom and emotional maturity from years of experience, but it also nurtures a unique, natural sense of self-love.

Part of the explanation might be that, as you get older, a lot of the material concerns that absorb us in our younger years start to lose some of their weight. It becomes a lot easier to accept yourself for who you are when you no longer have to bend over backward to conform to societal expectations of beauty, performance, success, and other such things. We can think of people who push past 100 years old to further understand this change in mindset, says gynecologist Christine Northrup, M.D.

“Healthy centenarians all share the same characteristics,” Dr. Northrup wrote on mindbodygreen. “They are future-oriented and are rebels who have very often been black sheep all of their lives—surviving and thriving despite the same losses and challenges that everyone on the planet also goes through. Healthy centenarians do not identify with their wounds or with what society (or their families) expect them to do or be ‘at their age.'”

So rejoice as the years go by: They likely will only get better, and so will your sense of self.

Zafu or Bench? How Yoga’s Vayus Can Make or Break Your Meditation

by Charlotte Bell

In the early 1990s, when I was just a few years into vipassana meditation practice, I sat a 10-day silent retreat. It was my fourth such retreat, so I knew that physical discomfort would visit from time to time, especially in the first few days.

On every retreat up until that point, I’d experienced physical pain in my shoulders and back—a deep pain that was absent in my daily life. I knew my knees would tire, and I’d feel both sleepy and restless at times. But on this particular retreat, there was an inexplicable agitation I couldn’t place. I felt jittery and ungrounded, and wanted nothing more than to jump off my meditation bench and run out of the room.

After a few days, in the middle of a 45-minute sitting, without thinking, I suddenly pulled my bench out from under me and sat cross-legged on the floor. Immediately, the agitation subsided. I felt grounded and peaceful. I sat on the floor—on a zafu—for the rest of the retreat.

It took me a while to figure out what had happened. It turns out that my position on the meditation bench was going against the vayu that was dominant in my body at the time.

WHAT ARE THE VAYUS?

Here’s a description of the vayus from Yoga International:

“The yoga tradition describes five movements or functions of prana known as the vayus (literally “winds”)—prana vayu (not to be confused with the undivided master prana), apana vayu, samana vayu, udana vayu, and vyana vayu. These five vayus govern different areas of the body and different physical and subtle activities. When they’re functioning harmoniously, they assure the health and vitality of the body and mind, allowing us to enjoy our unique talents and live life with meaning and purpose.”

Here’s a quick look at where the vayus are located and what areas of our physical/mental/emotional bodies each governs:

  1. Prana: Chest, head. Governs intake, inspiration, propulsion, forward momentum
  2. Apana: Pelvis. Governs elimination, downward and outward movement
  3. Samana: Navel. Governs assimilation, discernment, inner absorption, consolidation
  4. Udana: Throat. Governs growth, speech, expression, ascension, upward movement
  5. Vyana: Whole body. Governs circulation on all levels, expansiveness, pervasiveness

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED ON THE MEDITATION RETREAT

The day I started feeling the strange agitation on the meditation retreat happened to be the day I started my period. According to the vayus, apana (downward-flowing) energy is dominant at that time because apana governs elimination. For some people—including me—sitting on a meditation bench promotes an upward flow of energy. So when I sat on the bench on retreat during that time of my moon cycle, the upward-flowing energy from sitting on the bench was in conflict with the downward-flowing energy of being on my period. As soon as I sat on the floor, I became more grounded and harmonized as apana energy was able to flow without disruption.

There are many anatomical reasons to choose one form of sitting support over another. But the retreat taught me that I also need to consider energy flow.

For example, if sleepiness is one of your challenges in meditation, a meditation bench might help you raise your energy level. If restlessness is more common for you, a Zafu, V-Shaped Cushion or Zen Pillow might be a better choice. Of course, different vayus dominate at different times, so it could be helpful to have more than one choice.

Overall, I’ve found the V-Shaped Cushion to be the best fit for my body, both anatomically and energetically. But of course, we’re all different, so it’s important to try out different options to see what works best for you at a given time.

For more detailed info on the vayus and how to work with them in your asana practice, visit this post.

Always Be Moving ~ A morning run or evening Spin class may feel great, but if the rest of your day involves sitting on your ass, a brief burst does little for your overall well-being.

Yoga for First Responders

By Heidi Wiegand, NRP

When most people hear “yoga,” they have one of a few responses: “Yoga is for girls,” “I’m not flexible,” “I don’t know how to relax,” “I’m too overweight,” “You won’t see me in a pair of yoga pants!” I thought a lot of the same things. But after six years of training, I’ve learned yoga is so much more than I could have imagined.

The first time someone told me to try yoga, I laughed. I’m your typical adrenaline junkie—I’ve been in EMS for 25 years. I thrive off the rush you get going to emergencies, the thrill of the fast-paced thinking in touchy situations, the high you feel during and after a bad call.

But I’m also a runner, which has resulted in frequent injuries. Following my initial skepticism I decided that if yoga could help me get back to running, I’d try it.

It wasn’t enjoyable for me at first. The practice made me slow down and challenged me physically and mentally in ways I hadn’t been challenged before. Yet I forced myself go back. And while initially it was a way to get me back to running, I soon found yoga was actually changing my life.

Calm in the Storm

The focused practice of yoga goes biologically deeper than just stretching and relaxing. Yoga taps into your nervous system by focusing on mindful, purposeful breathing. After years of compassion fatigue and secondary trauma from my career, it felt as if my nervous system was about to break. Yoga helped bring calm to my storm.

First responders live in a state of hypervigilance. We’re taught to be constantly aware of our surroundings. We are extraordinarily alert, perceptive, and active, and make split-second life-or-death decisions daily.

EMS providers also see more illness, pain, death, violence, and destruction in one shift than the average person sees in a lifetime. As soon as we start out on a call, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. Our heart rate increases, our blood pressure rises, we begin to sweat, our digestive system slows, and stress hormones flood the bloodstream. These hormones are necessary to perform under stress, but if they are released constantly without allowing time for our system to return to homeostasis, we may begin to show a decrease in compassion and increases in  illness, cardiovascular disease, insomnia, and depression. Eventually these physical and mental symptoms can develop into post-traumatic stress.

What if there were a way to proactively teach our bodies to maintain a calm and focused state during these stressful circumstances?

Features of Yoga for EMS

There are many opportunities for EMS providers to practice yoga: at the gym, in a studio, at home, or even at work.  One of these programs, Yoga for First Responders (YFFR), builds resiliency through somatic and cognitive exercises within the foundation of the yoga philosophy. It uses techniques geared specifically for first responders as a tool for stress management.

YFFR focuses on tactical breathing techniques that open the door to access the nervous system. Physical drills are added along with mindful, conscious breathing for releasing stress and building mental and physical stability. Using these techniques, along with cognitive behavioral therapy, changes the mind-set surrounding stressful circumstances.

Designing a yoga program for first responders speaks directly to our needs and supports the skills we require daily. “Prayer hands,” chanting, music and Sanskrit (the classic Indian language used in yoga postures), while often components of other yoga disciplines, are not features of this program. It offers a choice of various poses.

By practicing tactical breathing while in a physical posture and using a technique to mentally reframe your experience, your brain will develop a memory of it and tuck it into a subconscious “file folder” to use later. Continued practice will make it an automatic reset for your nervous system to fall back on after stressful calls.

There really can be a calm in your storm. It’s up to you to take a chance and try it.

Sidebar: 5 Yoga Strategies

Olivia Kvitne, founder and director of YFFR, and a featured speaker at EMS World Expo 2018, offers these yoga tips for EMS providers:

1) It takes just three minutes of mindful breath work to effectively calm the nervous system.

2) If an overwhelming sensation begins to take hold, try this: Begin to breathe through the nose rather than the mouth. Drop the breath down low into the belly. Extend the exhale longer than the inhale.

3) When you begin your yoga practice, there’s often an expectation to feel relaxed, peaceful, or at ease. You may not, and that’s OK. Release those expectations.

4) Move first thing. Simple movements, coupled with breath and an empowering affirmation, can set the tone for your entire day.

5) If you experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress or vicarious traumatization, look for a yoga class taught by a teacher trained in trauma-sensitive yoga.

—Source: Yoga Journal, http://www.yogajournal.com

Heidi Wiegand, NRP, is an active paramedic and team leader with McCandless Franklin Park Ambulance Authority in Pennsylvania. She earned her yoga teaching certification in 2016, teaches power vinyasa flow yoga, and is an ambassador for Yoga for First Responders.

The 11 Moves That Help Athletes Get Better with Age

Stay in the game longer and stronger with a solid prehab routine, and go harder with a smart recovery routine by Nick Heil

Among the most important things an athlete can do to preserve fitness for years to come is avoid injuries. Sprains, tears, and broken bones can resurface as nagging aches or weaknesses as you get older, preventing you from pushing yourself with the kind of high-intensity interval training that’s so important for older athletes. Enter prehab, pre-exercise routines that prepare your body for the loads and stresses of a workout or race while also helping stave off injury.

“It’s a daily evaluation tool,” says Eric Dannenberg, performance manager at Exos in Phoenix, “a way to make sure you can perform movements before you load your muscles.”

Dannenberg recommends doing each of the following five exercises before every hard workout. They’ll add about seven minutes of warm-up, but the payoff will be huge when it comes to longevity in your sport. “Greatness isn’t one game or race,” says Dannenberg. “It’s consistency of habits over many years.”

The Five Exercises You Should Do Before Every Hard Workout

Half Turkish Get-Up (unweighted)

half-turkish-get-up.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Lie on your back, right leg extended, left leg bent so your foot is flat on the ground. Use your right arm to prop yourself into an upright seated position, with your right arm straight and your left elbow resting on your left knee. Push through the ground with your left heel to raise your hips toward the sky. As you do, raise your left arm so that it points at the ceiling. Repeat by lowering your butt to the ground, returning your left arm to your knee, and driving your hips and arm back toward the ceiling.

Bear Crawl

bear-crawl.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

On all fours, crawl forward ten steps, moving your opposing hands and legs forward at the same time. Stay low, with your back straight and your knees just a couple of inches off the floor. Finish by crawling backward the same distance.

Lunge with Twist

lunge-with-twist.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Step forward in a deep lunge. Plant both hands on the floor inside your forward foot. Keep your back leg straight. Raise your inside hand toward the ceiling so your torso twists upward. Plant your raised hand on the outside of your forward foot and straighten your forward leg to achieve a deep stretch in your hamstring. Finish by returning to the standing position, feet together. Repeat on the opposite side. Alternate for six total reps.

Bodyweight Squat

bodyweight-squat.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

With feet a little more than shoulder width apart, lower your butt down and back as deeply as you can without rounding your back. Keep heels grounded. As you move down, raise your arms so they extend straight in front of you. Your knees should stay over your toes. Keep your head up and your chest out. Do six reps.

Pogo Jump

pogo-jump.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Bounce on both feet in a full upright position, as if you’re on a pogo stick. Continue for 15 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Do two sets, adding height or speed to make it more challenging.


The Six Exercises You Should Do After Every Workout

Superstuds like Ned Overend don’t get that way by charging relentlessly through middle age. They understand that at least half the game involves recovering properly, which allows for consistent hard efforts without the detrimental effects of overtraining. A nutrient-rich, plant-heavy diet and lots of sleep are essential, but a recovery plan that includes daily breathing exercises, foam rolling, and mobility work will help you rebound even faster.

“A lot of top athletes come in wanting to improve their movement and speed, but their nervous system is out of whack or they’re broken down,” says Miguel Aragoncillo, a strength coach at Cressy Sports Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts. “There are techniques to help you regenerate between workouts and correct the problems.” Here are six of Aragoncillo’s favorite recovery exercises. Do them immediately following a workout, in the evening before bed, or during a rest day.

90-90 Hip Lift

90-90-hip-lift.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Lie on your back with your feet on a wall, knees bent at 90 degrees. Place a ball or foam roller between your knees. Tilt your pelvis slightly forward. Squeeze the ball or roller, and lift your tailbone a couple of inches off the floor. Repeat five times.

Payoffs: Improved posture; pelvic alignment

Deep Exhale

deep-exhale.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Lie flat on your back. Breathe in deeply using your diaphragm. (Your belly should rise and fall rather than your chest.) Exhale as deeply as possible, holding at the end for a few seconds. Repeat for five breaths.

Payoffs: Deeper sleep; relaxation

All-Fours Belly Lift

all-fours-belly-lift.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Get down on your hands and knees and draw in your breath, pulling from the front of your stomach toward your spine. Round your back, breathing into the stretch. Repeat five times.

Payoff: Improved breathing

Plantar Fascia

plantar-fascia.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Roll a small, firm ball under the arch of your foot, applying pressure as needed. Hold it against sore spots for several seconds as tolerable.

Payoff: Foot mobility

Adductor

adductor-exercise.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

Lie on your stomach. Place a foam roller under the inside of your upper leg. Roll back and forth, from groin to knee, gradually lowering your body weight onto muscles and soft tissue.

Payoffs: Balanced running mechanics; increased blood flow

Hip Flexor

hip-flexor.jpg
(Todd Detwiler)

On your stomach, place a ball just below your hip bone. Lower your weight onto the ball and roll it around that zone. Hold the ball against sore spots for several seconds

Payoff: Hip mobility

 

The SI Joint Whisperer Tells All (Part 2)

By Bizz Varty and 

PART TWO

Rehab – How can I be BFFs with my SIJs?

Disclaimer: While I have lots of personal and professional experience helping people heal their SIJs, I am NOT, in fact, a doctor. If these exercises help you, that is wonderful, but if they do not or if your pain gets worse, PLEASE see a medical professional – ideally one who has experience working with dancers.

I’ve provided a number of options for each step because I’ve found that every SIJ joint issue has a personality of its own, and different bodies respond better to different therapies. I recommend giving all of them a try to find which ones whisper the sweet nothings that your SIJs need to hear. The best course of defence against future issues in the SIJs is to do a little work on them every day, from a minimum of 5 up to an ideal-world 20 minutes, either all at once or a few times a day, as needed. Once you become familiar with the exercises and with the difference between the way a functional and dysfunctional SIJ feels, you’ll know what your body needs and when, and you can address any weird twinges before they throw off your alignment and set off a zigzag effect throughout your body.

Step 1: Loosen Up

Since so much SIJ drama is caused by tension, the first order of business is loosening the f#$% up (something most over-achieving dancers prefer not to do) (note from Monika- HAHAHA! So true).

This is as much mental as it is physical – you need to get into your happy place so that you can let go of the anxiety that pain and injury cause. In extreme cases, I often recommend a glass of wine to promote relaxation (you gotta do what you gotta do!).

Bouncing: with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart, bend your knees slightly making sure they point over your second toes, and simply bounce gently up and down, letting go of tension throughout your body. You can let your head roll side to side as you bounce, and try bouncing on one leg at a time while you stack your joints over one another from your feet to your head.

Pelvic Tilt: laying on your back with your feet hip width apart on the floor and your knees bent, gently tilt your pelvis towards your head, rocking your tailbone up off the floor and slightly flattening the curve in your low back. This is a subtle movement that wakes up your deep muscles, so you need to keep it small. Your obliques, transverse abs and adductor magni can rock your pelvis, but only if you relax your glutes and try not to push with your legs.

Step 2: Align

The second most important thing you can do to improve your SIJ function is to embrace inward hip rotation.Turnout is not your enemy, but over-reliance on turnout muscles is, so do yourself a favour and learn to love parallel feet, hip width apart. In yoga, the opposite of turnout is called ‘inner spiral’. A balance of inner and outer spiral appropriate to the body’s position is the key to SIJ stability. A great way to learn to use inner spiral is to use an image I call the “pelvic smile.”

a

Pelvic Smile: When you activate your pelvic smile, you turn on your deep abdominals and activate your inner spiral while releasing your outer rotators. To do it, imagine that you are able to look at a cross-section of your body, as though you were cut in half just below your navel at the level of your ASISs (the bony points at the front of your pelvis). A top view from here would reveal the two halves of your pelvis connecting at the SIJs in something like a semi-circle.

If you make your index finger and thumb into a semi-circle on each hand and connect them at the tips of your thumbs, you can simulate this image. Without proper alignment, your hip bones can feel (and your hands will look) kind of like a ‘W’. We want to make them into a ‘U’ or smile shape. To accomplish this, there are three main actions:

First, you will imagine widening across the back of your pelvis, pulling your low belly muscles in towards your sacrum (pulling your thumbs out to make a rounder shape) Next you’ll use your deep abdominals to narrow your ASISs (hip points) towards each other in the front of your pelvis (pull your index fingertips towards the centre to make your fingers perpendicular to your thumbs). The third action deals with the body in space. When you are standing, the pelvic smile (fingers and thumbs) should be parallel with the ground, and when you lie on your back the ASISs will point up towards the ceiling. When on your stomach, the pelvic smile forms a bridge from one hip point to the other, with the sacrum at the apex. When you are moving through space, the pelvic smile should move with you, maintaining its position between your head and your feet.

Once I experienced the magic of pelvic smile, I couldn’t help but do it everywhere – in the shower, while washing dishes, grocery shopping…. it works wonder to get you in alignment, and you’ll find that after a little practice, you’ll develop a smirk on your face to go along with it, one that says “bet you can’t guess where I’m smiling right now ;)”.

Step 3: Warm Up

Developing a mental picture of your pelvis by using imagery (such as the pelvic smile) will help you to understand what does and doesn’t work for your body. If the pelvic smile doesn’t work for you, there are lots more options – ask around or check out Donna Krasnow’s dancer-saving Conditioning with Imagery.

Muscles, like people, have trust issues, and when dancers focus all their attention on the outer rotators, the inner ones will weaken and retreat, sulking in a corner and refusing to do their jobs. Being an especially touchy and stubborn kind of joint, the SIJ responds better to attempts at realignment once it’s been flattered with a little attention, so be sure to warm up before you try any of the release techniques.

You will find the exercises below described in my free workout video “The Pilates Quick Fix on youtube (or visit my website to order a DVD). Here is a quick list of the most important exercises to improve your relationship with your SIJs, so if you don’t have time for the 25 minute video, you can choose the exercises you need the most.

Abs: Imprint

Multifidus: Cat/cow

Glute medius and Adductor magnus: Hip release

QL & Latissimus dorsi: Back extensions

Ilio-psoas: Hip fold

Step 4: Release

Retraining involves three things: releasing tense and spasmed muscles, strengthening weak ones, and then stretching and massaging to lengthen the short ones. Because SIJ dysfunction affects so many parts of the body, it would be inefficient to try and strengthen the weak muscles without first putting things back into place.

Releasing is not the same as stretching. While stretching involves pulling on the ends of a relaxed muscle to make it longer, releasing places the body in a position that brings the ends of a tense or spasmed muscle closer together so that the muscle can relax. It’s important to release before you strengthen (and before you stretch), because it will help maintain your alignment as you retrain your body.

Some people hold more tension in their piriformis, while others focus theirs in the glute medius or QL. Releases are best held for 3 minutes, but the longer you stay, the more your muscles will remember what it feels like to loosen the f$%# up.

Outward rotation (releases glute max & piriformis)

b

Laying on your stomach with feet hip width apart, bend the knee of the affected side so the shin is perpendicular to the floor. Take the bent knee out to the side, about 30-45 degrees from the midline of the body, and place the knee on top of a pillow or cushion. Now allow the foot of the bent leg to drop towards the straight leg, passively rotating outwards. You need to relax the entire leg on the affected side, so you’ll want to prop the foot against something so you don’t have to use your hamstrings to keep the leg bent. I like to do this in a doorframe or near a table, but a chair or stack of heavy books would also make a decent foot-stopper. Once you’re there, focus on breathing deeply and relaxing the outer rotators on each exhale. I also like to reach back and use my hand to give the butt muscles a good jiggle to make sure they’re loosening up. This one is way easier if you get a friend to help, but it can be done on your own when necessary.

Inward rotation (releases glute med & IT band)

c

Laying on your side (with the affected side on top), make sure your body is in one straight line from head to toes. Bring your top knee forward, at an angle of about 45 degrees to the body and place the entire shin on a pillow or bolster. Roll forward slightly so that your weight rests on the cushion (you might like to cuddle a pillow to your chest as well). Make sure the foot and shin of the bent leg are at the same height as the knee. Once again, breathe deeply and go to your happy place, and add a little jiggle if necessary.

Seated fourth (releases glutes, piriformis and IT band)

d

This one is a great quick release you can do just about anywhere, no props required. Sit in fourth position with the affected leg behind you (bend the unaffected leg in front of you as though you were going to sit cross-legged, with the unaffected leg curled around behind you near your butt). Align your upper body with the thigh bone of the back leg, and lean away from the leg and rest on your hand or elbow. While relaxing the glutes and thigh muscles of the back leg, massage the piriformis and glute med. I often twist and wiggle around some in this position to find the ideal spot for release.

Bolster release (SI and QLs, etc)

e

For this release you’ll need a prop that is at least 8-12” in length and not much wider than your SI dimples. A foam roller will do but you can also use a tightly-rolled yoga mat or a bolster if you want something softer. The roll will line up with your spine, and you will lay on it with the bottom at your tailbone. If your prop isn’t as long as you spine, you’ll want to cushion your head and upper body above its end. Once in position on top of your roller, bring the soles of your feet together and your knees out to the side. Place your hands on your hip bones and rock them gently side to side while thinking soft and happy thoughts about your glutes. You may feel a clunk or a shift, or you may not feel anything move, but either way this is a VERY effective release for the SI joint once the muscles surrounding it have chilled out.

Step 5: Strengthen

Now comes the business of strengthening those tense, weak inward rotators so that they feel equal to the outers and start doing their jobs. Don’t skimp on this part – you have probably spent more hours ignoring your inner muscles than you care to admit, and this is your chance to make it up to them. Although joints can be replaced these days, you can’t just trade in the ones you’ve got for ones that trust you more, so you and your SIJs might as well start talking about your feelings and working through your issues now.

Pilates is a very effective way to strengthen your deep core muscles and facilitate neuromuscular repatterning. Make sure to use your pelvic smile! Instructions for the exercises below can be found in my Quick Fix video.

Abs: Tic tocs, Ab curl

Multifidus: Back extensions

Glute medius: Clam shell

Adductor magnus: Butterfly

QL & Latissimus dorsi: Swimming, Arm & leg reach

Ilio-psoas: Hip fold (*try it with a straight leg, too)

Step 5.1 Re-release

In the beginning stages of retraining, old habits could pop up during strengthening and cause a spasm in the outer muscles. If this happens, don’t stress, just go back to step 4 and re-release them before you stretch.

Step 6: Stretch/Massage

Stretching and massaging is about balancing the resting length of your muscles. You need to lengthen your outer rotators to balance them with your inner ones so your SIJs can rest easily between the two. Because the SIJ’s range of motion is small and controlled by deep ligaments, muscles and fascia, stretches won’t be able to get at all the structures that need attention. Massage (using props for those hard to reach places) will dig down into them, basically reverse-stretching them in the way you would roll out a pie crust.

Yoga is a great way to stretch while maintaining proper alignment and activation of your postural muscles. You will find instructions for most of these poses in my Hippy Hippy Shake videos (or see YogaJournal for step-by-step basics). And don’t forget to use your pelvic smile!

Downward dog

Chair pose (with twists)

High and low lunge (with twists)

Warrior 2

Side angle

Triangle

Pigeon

Fire log

Cobra

Bound angle

As for massage, a pair of hard rubber bouncy balls are ideal for getting into the deep structures around your SIJs (tennis ball size is good, but I find tennis balls themselves to be too soft and slippery). (Note from Monika- You can get a lacrosse ball for four bucks from Canadian Tire). Place them on either side of your spine and roll up and down against a wall for a nice deep massage. You want to avoid rolling over your spine, instead focus on the muscles and tendons. Make sure you get down into the glutes, and even turn sideways to get the entire glute medius and the IT band.