Low Backs, Glutes & Lats


The gluteus maximus was probably the muscle most responsible for pulling us up onto two legs and now look what’s happened to it. Our flexion-addicted lame-ass (no pun intended) society had forced it to be neurologically bullied about by tight hip flexors. If reciprocal inhibition doesn’t completely rob its massive power, injured SI joints and low backs certainly will. It attaches and is continuous with the biceps femoris, long dorsal SI ligaments, thoracolumbar fascia and crosses over to form the posterior spring system with latissimus dorsi (Fig 1).

The g-max and lat dorsi are not only dynamic lumbar spine stabilizers, but when working in conjunction with other spring systems, play a major role in coordinated cross-patterned gait (Fig 2).

It’s easy to spot those with weak glutes. Due to reciprocal weakness, these folks tend to stand with the pelvis tilted one way or another with their butt kinda “hanging off” the hip capsules and lumbopelvic ligaments. If the muscles, tendons, and fascia are relatively weak in relation to the demands of a particular sport or repetitive activity, the vertebral joints (usually beginning with the disc) will deteriorate (Fig 3). When deterioration becomes severe it can be difficult to carry out the functions of daily living, let alone any high performance athletic endeavor. Any attempt to manually lengthen or stretch weak intrinsic and extrinsic spinal stabilizers causes greater forces to converge on the spinal discs and facets resulting in premature degeneration.

Spindle-Stim Technique

OK, so the glutes are typically weak….whadda we do about em? Even though the clients love it, the last thing we want to do is start massaging and digging around creating more stretch weakness. We could always send them to the gym for squats, leg presses, lunges, or…we could try to tonify them during the therapy session using fast-paced spindle-stimulating techniques.

Try this Spindle-Stim ‘test & treat’ routine:

• With client prone, ask them to lift their left leg as high as comfortably possible and get a sense of how high the extended leg comes off the table…then test the right.
• Place the left foot against the right knee forming a “Figure 4” position with the leg. This places g-max on the stretch.
• With arms extended, use soft fists and begin bouncing on the left hip..
• Now, drop your body weight so all the energy is coming from your legs.
• Working the tissue in all directions, begin to gradually pick up speed until you see the entire body rocking & rolling. (This is not tapotement folks…use your body weight)
• The goal is to kick in a mild stretch reflex via muscle spindle’s dynamic gamma motoneuron system..
• After two minutes of rapid spindle-stim stop and retest their degree of hip extension.
• Results are often dramatic depending on your use of the technique and the degree of weakness the client presents with.
• Repeat on the opposite side and take notes on the degree of improvement so you can test them next session to see which g-max needs more work.

What about the tight lats?

Gotta love these guys. Considered a lower quadrant muscle, lat dorsi is innervated by the cervical ganglia and instrumental in all shoulder and arm movements, i.e., chopping with an axe. Two major structural/functional problems can occur in the presence of lat hypertonicity:

• Due to their attachment at the lesser tubercle of humerus, they work with teres major and the clavicular fibers of pec major to internally rotate the humeral head leading to upper cross syndrome patterns, forward head postures and rotator cuff injuries.
• Optimal functioning of the posterior spring system during cross-patterned gait demands there be precise length/strength balance between g-max and lat dorsi. In the presence of tight lats and weak glutes, the posterior spring system fails to participate with the other spring systems to wind up the lumbar spine and propel the legs forward in the gait cycle.

Try this ‘lat-lengthening’ technique:

• The client is left sidelying, knees flexed with his/her right hand grasping the top of the therapy table.
• With your left hand behind your back, grasp the client’s right ilium and lean against your arm to brace the hip.
• Place a soft right forearm along the lateral border of the lat fascia and get a good fascial hook.
• Establish a counter-force by anchoring with your left hand and slowly hooking and gliding up the lats with your right forearm. The goal is to lift the rib cage off the pelvic girdle and open up the lateral side of the body.
• After a few strokes, stop and this time ask the client to inhale to a count of 5 while gently pulling up on the top of the therapy table.
• As they relax and exhale, hook the deeper fascia so you can really decompress lat adhesions and activate the posterior spring system.
• Repeat on opposite side.

GOAL: Help your clients maintain a strong, mobile spine and spinal spring system to minimize injuries and maximize sports performance. Advise against overexertion during competitive or recreational activities to avoid microfailure (fatigue) and eventual spinal degeneration. Remember, the spine cannot support itself without help and that’s where these spinal engine spring system routines come in handy. Restoration of optimal range of motion, length/strength balance and proper firing order are essential components of the Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques(TM).


For the past several years Australian world champion and Olympic medalist Mitch Larkin has been incorporating yoga into his training in several ways. Larkin has been working with physiotherapist and yoga teacher Tom Barton to develop a program that improves both performance and prevents injury.One of the ways he uses yoga on a regular basis is as part of his dry land preparation before heading into the water. Larkin has taken several of the movements and poses that he has worked on with Barton to create his own yoga inspired pre-swim routine.There are five main focuses in this routine:

  • Alignment
  • Cross body connection
  • Body rotation
  • Shoulder activation
  • Creating length through the front and the back of the body


Almost all of the movements and poses incorporate a focus on the alignment of the head, ribcage and hips. This creates length through spine as well as activating the core, which are foundations of strong posture both in and out of the water.

Poses that highlight this include the halfway lift and single leg back bridge.



The cross body connection is the link between opposite arm and leg through the core. By bringing awareness to this connection through the activation of the core is an effective way to prepare for freestyle and backstroke.

Two of the ways that this done is through the two-point plank as well as movements from a three legged dog.



Body rotation in this routine is another aspect that is very applicable to swimming both freestyle and backstroke. It is also important in developing spinal mobility, which is an aspect that influences healthy movement through the shoulder joint.

This is highlighted in aspects of the advanced dead bug pose as well as side angle with arms overhead with a twist.



The activation of the shoulders focuses on the posterior aspects of the joint including posterior deltoids, rhomboids and trapezius. This is accomplished by the extension of the shoulders and retraction of the shoulder blades (bringing the shoulder blades towards the spine).

These movements are done with the arms in three different positions:

  1. Hands by hips
  2. Arms straight from shoulders (T position)
  3. And arms overhead in a Y positioning



Activating the spine by moving through flexion and extension creates length in the front and the back of the body. This allows for greater freedom of movement in the spine.

The movements that highlight this are cat cow as well as both the forward fold and sphinx, which are part of Sun Salute A.




Stand, Walk, Recline: Alternative Meditation Poses

This entry was posted on April 1, 2019 by Charlotte Bell.

When we think of meditation, we usually think of someone sitting cross-legged on a zafu or other type of meditation cushion. Indeed, sitting meditation is the cornerstone of meditation practice. In a proper, supported sitting position, there’s a balance of both energy and ease that helps our minds to stay both alert and calm.

But there are other traditional meditation poses as well. In Insight meditation, we practice sitting, standing, walking and lying-down meditation. These alternative meditation poses help us integrate our practice more easily into the rest of our lives.

When sitting is the only position for practice, it’s easy to segregate meditation practice from life practice. When we’re sitting, we’re meditating; when we’re not sitting, we’re on to the next thing.

I first learned this on long, silent meditation retreats. Alternating between sitting and walking meditation all day long began creating a sense of continuity in the practice. Suddenly, I was not only sitting and walking more mindfully, but I was also eating, showering and brushing my teeth more mindfully as well.

Alternative Meditation Poses

  1. Standing Meditation: In standing meditation, we practice Tadasana (Mountain Pose), often beginning with awareness of the feet and legs, and then spreading awareness through the entire body. It’s not important to focus on every minute detail of Tadasana alignment, although it is important to make sure that the tops of the thighs are drawing back so that our pelvis tilts forward and our spine can rest in its natural curves. Standing meditation is a great practice on its own, but it is also a way to lift our energies when we feel sleepy in sitting meditation. It can also be helpful to pause and practice standing meditation in the midst of walking meditation practice when our energies feel scattered.
  2. Walking MeditationWalking meditation is a wonderful grounding, and often energizing, practice. In walking meditation, we walk slowly—usually from one point to another, maybe a path of 10 to 20 feet or so. The focus is on the sensations in the feet and legs, although other senses—especially seeing, hearing and smelling—often come into play as well. Walking meditation helps us shake off the effects of sitting, but more important is its role in providing a bridge to the rest of our lives.
  3. Lying-Down Meditation: Oddly, lying-down meditation is the most challenging—at least for me. The position itself, usually a comfy Savasana (Relaxation Pose), is not so hard. It’s the tendency to drift away that makes it most challenging. When we’re lying down, our minds are accustomed to moving toward sleep, so often we end up lying in a sort of spaced-out, sleepy state. It takes some energy to employ the tools of mindfulness to lying down, but it can be done. We rest our focus on the contact points in our bodies, including the surface we’re lying on, the clothing on our skin, even the contact of the space around our bodies with our skin. As with sitting meditation, we also bring the breath into focus.

Feel free to be creative with these alternative meditation poses. For example, you can practice walking meditation next time you spend time in the outdoors. Practice lying-down meditation before you go to bed, or if you wake up in the middle of the night and find it hard to get back to sleep. Practice walking or standing meditation when you need grounding.

Practicing alternative meditation poses, along with your sitting practice, can help you find creative ways to integrate mindfulness into your life.


Two sweet cats that got left behind need your help.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

Aloha,  my name is Renee’ Fulkerson and I am reaching out to you asking you would you be willing to support two sweet cats that got left behind – White Kitty and Orange Kitty find their forever homes? https://www.gofundme.com/two-sweet-cats-that-got-left-behind-need-your-help

In April 2018, a series of thunderstorms produced record-breaking rainfall on our island home of Kauai. The heaviest rainfall occurred on northern Kauaʻi where White Kitty, Orange Kitty and myself live. There, a rain gauge owned by the Waipā Foundation, just west of Hanalei, recorded 49.69 in (1,262 mm) of rainfall in the 24 hours between 12:45 p.m. on April 14 and 15.[nb 2] This was the greatest 24-hour rainfall total on record in the United States. The heavy rainfall produced flash flooding and landslides that covered roads and washed away several vacant houses. The floods damaged or destroyed 532 houses.

Needless to say many animals large and small lost their lives and in this case these to sweet innocent cats got left behind when there humans did not return.

I began feeding the two cats’ at their abandoned home’s during and after the storm in hopes their human would return to them however, that did not happen.  It is coming up on one year and their loneliness is heartbreaking. I have taken in two cats and I am unable to take in anymore due to my rental situation. These two sweet cats deserve a human and home to call their own and find the love they have lost.

I have reached out in many ways and the blessing that has come is through two animal welfare organizations here on Kauai –Kauai Community Cat Project and Kauai Animal Welfare Society.  KCCP is willing to transfer them to a non-kill shelter in Seattle, where they often get adopted within a week to their forever homes. The cost is usually around $250/cat ($500) which includes a rabies shot and health certificate from a vet, as well as the plane ride over. KAWS is willing to handle all flea, worm, possible dental and veterinarian visit cost for both cats. This is a gift as there are only so many homes for unwanted cats on an island the reality for a forever home for these to in within reach.

The cost as mentioned above is estimated at $500 I have set the goal at $600 to absorb some of the gofundme fees as I am not a non profit.  If less monies are raised we will keep working towards are goal in other ways and if more monies are raised than our goal the monies will be given directly to Kauai Community Cat Project and Kauai Animal Welfare Society to fund more animals left behind to their forever homes. The priority is to get these sweet cats transferred and into their forever homes AS SOON AS POSSIBLE they need your support their quality of life depends on it.


The white female is friendly, very sweet, gentle and purr’s when you pet her. She is independent  however, she will snuggle up to you, lick your hands and toes. She does well with other cats (I am not sure about dogs) She loves catnip kitty treats, plays with toys / string and enjoys a good combing, All around happy girl and comes to the name white kitty.


The orange male is very sweet, friendly and is a talker meow, meow, meow. He purr’s when you pet him and he loves to cuddle while sitting on your lap (lick your hands and toes). He seeks out lots of attention, is good with other female cats and is shy and hunkers down or runs away when he is approached by another male cat. He is a passive cat who could be an only cat but I think would enjoy a female cat buddy.

Much love, respect and gratitude for taking the time to read, share and support this Journey towards a happy ending. These two sweet innocent cats have weathered the storm literally and will finally be able to heal with their new human in their forever home with your  donation.  https://www.gofundme.com/two-sweet-cats-that-got-left-behind-need-your-help

Thank you for your support,
Renee’ Fulkerson

Woman, 40, suffered a stroke from YOGA after tearing a major blood vessel in her neck while performing a tricky ‘hollowback’ handstand

  • Rebecca Leigh had been filming yoga tutorials for 26,000 social media fans
  • Over the day she saw symptoms of a stroke but didn’t connect the dots 
  • She now has daily headaches, memory loss and struggles with speech
  • She continues to practice yoga for an hour every day after a six-week recovery


A woman has revealed she suffered a stroke by tearing a major blood vessel in her neck while practicing a yoga headstand.

Rebecca Leigh, 40, from Gambrills, Maryland, had been filming a tutorial for her 26,000 social media fans just hours before the injury.

Her vision became blurry, her limbs weak and she had headaches, but she at first thought she had slipped a disc in her neck, having had similar symptoms when she done so in her twenties.

Two days later, after seeing a doctor, she was shocked to discover that despite being young and healthy, she had suffered a stroke and was at risk of another any minute thanks.

It is believed she tore her right carotid artery in her neck while performing a ‘hollowback’ handstand.

Today, Mrs Leigh cannot speak for more than a few minutes due to nerve damage, has daily headaches and has severe memory loss.

But Mrs Leigh revealed just one month after the terrifying experience, she was back on her mat and she still practices yoga for an hour every day.

Mrs Leigh, who was barely able to get out of bed as her artery healed, said: ‘After decades of focusing on working out and my diet and making as many healthy decisions as I could for my body, having a stroke by doing yoga just didn’t seem fair.

‘But I had to get back out there and do the things that made me happy and one of those things was obviously my yoga practice.’

Acarotid artery dissection (CAD) occurs when blood leaks into a tear in the wall of the blood vessel.

As the blood pools, it causes the layers of the artery wall to separate. This prevents oxygen reaching the brain and is a major cause of stroke, mostly in people under the age of 50.

Mrs Leigh said: ‘I was on my front porch practicing a pretty intense type of yoga handstand called a hollowback handstand.

‘This pose requires you to extend your neck, drop your hips back and arch your lower spine all while in a headstand.

‘I felt that I had really nailed it but as I walked inside my house, my peripheral vision went out and the rest of my vision became blurry.

‘It was like a curtain coming down all around me.

‘I sat down and tried to put my hair into a ponytail but my left arm flopped around without any control.’

At first Mrs Leigh attributed the symptoms to the severely herniated discs in her neck which she had been diagnosed with in her early twenties.

She said: ‘I knew that arm numbness could be a symptom of that. It only lasted for five minutes but then my head began to hurt.

‘I have suffered from headaches and migraines since I was a teenager but I knew this was different.’

Two days later, Mrs Leigh was horrified to notice that her pupils were different sizes.

‘My right eye drooped and my pupils were different sizes,’ she said.

‘It was terrifying. It was then that I knew something was very, very wrong.’

Mrs Leigh and husband Kevin, 45, who works in federal law enforcement, immediately went to the emergency room where an MRI scan revealed Mrs Leigh had suffered a stroke.

She said: ‘The doctor on staff came into the little room we were waiting in and said in a monotone voice: “Well, you my dear, had a stroke”.

‘Kevin and I both let out a little laugh, because we thought he had to be kidding.

‘There was no way that someone my age, in my health, could have had a stroke. But he responded to our laughter in solemn silence and his face said it all.’

She spent the next five days in the neurological intensive care unit as doctors battled to understand why an active, healthy eating, non smoker aged 39 could have suffered a stroke.

Mrs Leigh said: ‘After all the blood work, ultrasounds, MRIs and CT scans, it was finally a CTA scan that explained it.’

While doing handstands Mrs Leigh had torn her right carotid artery, one of the four arteries that supplies blood to the brain.

The tear sent a blood clot to her brain which caused the stroke and the trauma of the tear in the wall of the artery also caused a small aneurysm, a bulge in the vessel, to develop.

At first Mrs Leigh felt fury and disbelief that something as healthy as yoga could have triggered a stroke.

She said: ‘I couldn’t believe it. “How could this happen to me?” I was angry at my body, I felt that it had betrayed me somehow.’

For six weeks, Mrs Leigh endured terrible pain with constant headaches which made any kind of light unbearable. She lost 20lbs (9kg) and couldn’t get out of bed without help.

She said: ‘The stroke caused massive head pain, unlike any headache I had ever experienced before.

‘I couldn’t shower without help, wash my hair, feed myself, or take my pile of scary and unfamiliar, life-saving medications.

‘The nerve damage made any sort of light unbearable.

‘The pain it caused my eyes was excruciating. My usually bright, sunlight-filled house was kept completely dark for the first few months.

‘For the first three months I heard a constant “wooshing” sound in my right ear. That was the sound of the blood trying to get through my artery up into my brain.

But slowly she began to notice improvement and was able to take short walks outside by herself.

Mrs Leigh said: ‘I slowly started to take two to three-minute walks outside. I started to make simple meals for myself and I was able to sit up in bed to watch TV.

‘These small accomplishments felt huge to me.’

Incredibly just one month after the stroke, Mrs Leigh was back on her yoga mat.

She said: ‘I simply sat on my mat in lotus pose and listened to my breath. I slowly led back up to simple stretches and the poses that felt most safe to me.

‘I knew that if I didn’t get back to my practice relatively soon after my stroke, I never would. I would have freaked myself out too much about it.’

At Mrs Leigh’s six-month scan, doctors told her that her carotid artery had completely healed. The aneurysm however was still there and Mrs Leigh feels the effects daily.

She said: ‘The immediate arm numbness that I experienced during the stroke went away that day, but in its place is a nearly constant tingly sensation.

‘It’s like a wave of electricity is going back and forth from my elbow to my hand and back over and over again.

‘I am still dealing with some sort of headache, face or neck pain on a daily basis.

‘The carotid artery apparently houses a bundle of nerves and when it was torn, those nerves were damaged.

‘My face physically hurts and gets worse just by talking for a few minutes or having a busy day.

‘My eye is still a bit droopy and my memory is awful. I forget things quickly. I have to ask people to remind me of things they’ve already told me, something I never had to do prior to my injury.

‘I fatigue much quicker than I did before. It doesn’t take more than a trip to the grocery store to count me out for the rest of the day.’

But the most damaging after effect is the fear that the stroke could strike again at any moment.

Mrs Leigh said: ‘It’s very hard to recover from something so scary that came out of nowhere. You think you’re doing everything right and then when something like this happens, it’s hard not to think that it can happen again.’

But the yogi is happy to be back on her mat, practicing sun salutations.

She said: ‘About a year after my stroke I was about 75 per cent back to where I was before my stroke.

‘I know I will never be where I was before 100 per cent. The fact that I can touch my toes is enough to make me smile.

‘I wanted to share my story so that something like this doesn’t happen to any other yogis. I had never heard of it happening before it had happened to me.

‘If I had read of just one incidence of something similar, I would have known that a stroke was a very real possibility when I was experiencing my symptoms.

‘That it wasn’t my neck, my herniated discs or my nerves. It was my brain gasping for its life.’


A carotid dissection is a tear in one of your carotid arteries. These are a set of two arteries at the sides of your neck that supply blood to your brain.

A dissection is a tear of the inner layer of the wall of an artery. The tear lets blood get in between the layers of the wall and separate them. This causes the artery wall to bulge.

The bulge can slow or stop blood flow through the artery. It can also cause problems by pressing on nearby tissue or nerves.

The tear can also trigger your body’s clotting system. A clot can then block blood flow at the site of the tear. Blocked or decreased blood flow can lead to a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke.

A carotid dissection can happen at any age. It tends to occur more often in younger adults than in older adults. It is a common cause of stroke in people younger than age 50. It is slightly more common in men than in women.

This condition is often caused by a neck injury from things such as:

  • Swimming or scuba diving
  • Skating
  • Dancing
  • Playing sports such as tennis, basketball, or volleyball
  • Doing yoga
  • Riding roller coasters or other rides
  • Jumping on a trampoline
  • Giving birth
  • Having sex
  • Sneezing or coughing
  • Having a chiropractic adjustment to your neck (rare)

Source: Cedars-Sinal Hospital


There are two kinds of stroke:


An ischemic stroke – which accounts for 80 percent of strokes – occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel that prevents blood from reaching part of the brain.


The more rare, a hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel bursts, flooding part of the brain with too much blood while depriving other areas of adequate blood supply.

It can be the result of an AVM, or arteriovenous malformation (an abnormal cluster of blood vessels), in the brain.

Thirty percent of subarachnoid hemorrhage sufferers die before reaching the hospital. A further 25 percent die within 24 hours. And 40 percent of survivors die within a week.


Age, high blood pressure, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, family history, and history of a previous stroke or TIA are all risk factors for having a stroke.


  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause


Of the roughly three out of four people who survive a stroke, many will have life-long disabilities.

This includes difficulty walking, communicating, eating, and completing everyday tasks or chores.


Both are potentially fatal, and patients require surgery or a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) within three hours to save them.

Walking Might Be the Best Exercise There Is

Yoga linked to lowered blood pressure with regular practice

By Lisa Rapaport

(Reuters Health) – Adults who practice yoga with breathing and relaxation exercises at least three times a week may have lower blood pressure than people who don’t, a research review suggests.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from 49 trials with a total of 3,517 participants who were typically middle-aged, overweight women and men who already had high blood pressure or were close to developing the condition. These smaller trials assessed blood pressure before and after participants were randomly assigned either to doing yoga or to a control group without exercise programs.

Overall, the people in the yoga groups experienced average reductions in systolic blood pressure of 5 mmHG (millimeters of mercury) more than those in the control groups, and diastolic blood pressure was reduced by 3.9 mmHG more with yoga.

When people with high blood pressure did yoga three times a week in sessions that also included breathing and relaxation exercises, they experienced average decreases of 11 mmHG more than control groups in systolic blood pressure and 6 mmHG more in diastolic blood pressure.

“Our results not only showed that yoga can be just as, or even more effective than aerobic exercise to reduce blood pressure; but also quantitatively showed the importance of emphasizing yoga breathing techniques and mental relaxation/meditation along with physical forms during practice,” said lead study author Yin Wu, a researcher in kinesiology at the University of Connecticut in Storrs.

“So, yoga, among other lifestyle interventions (such as diet and smoking cessation) should be adopted early on even when the blood pressure is still relatively low, and should be continued along with medication when blood pressure is relatively high,” Wu said by email.

Yoga appeared beneficial, but less so, when people practiced regularly but didn’t focus on breathing and relaxation or meditation. Under these circumstances, yoga was associated with average drops of 6 mmHG more in systolic blood pressure and 3 mmHG more in diastolic blood pressure compared to the groups doing no exercise.

In adults, a normal or healthy blood pressure reading is considered to be 120/80 mmHG or lower.

People in the study started out with average blood pressure readings of 129.3/80.7 mmHG. This suggests the reductions associated with yoga might be enough to return some people to the normal range.

The first number in the reading, known as systolic blood pressure, is the pressure blood exerts against artery walls when the heart beats. The second number, known as diastolic blood pressure, represents the pressure between beats when the heart is at rest.

One limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on the intensity of yoga practices, including how long people held poses and how rapidly participants transitioned from one position to the next, the study authors note in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

And while yoga with relaxation techniques appears to be beneficial, a separate study in the same journal offers a reminder of the potential risks for some in a review of records from 89 patients with injuries caused primarily by yoga.

The study looked at the types of injuries that occurred and found that 66 people had soft tissue injuries including pain from overuse, and six had discomfort or mobility limitations around a rotator cuff in the shoulder. In addition, 46 people experienced aggravation of pain from degenerative joint disease, while 13 had compression fractures.

These observations only included injured people, researchers note. The study wasn’t designed to determine whether or how yoga might directly cause injuries.

“In general, yoga improves balance, strength and flexibility, but trying to be extremely flexible with fragile joints can cause problems,” said senior study author Dr. Mehrsheed Sinaki, a rehabilitation specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

“Also, if a person is 70 or 80 and does too many hip-opening movements or hyper extensions, they may develop hip pain,” Sinaki said by email.

While most people can practice yoga safely, older people with osteoporosis (thinning, brittle bones) should be careful, agreed Dr. Edward Laskowski, coauthor of an accompanying editorial and co-director of Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine.

“Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, an individualized exercise prescription which takes into account a person’s unique medical history and personal goals should be considered,” Laskowski said by email.

Gymnastics, contortion and social media are changing yoga – and not in a good way

 By Melanie Swan

You wouldn’t know it to look at Instagram, but yoga is an ancient art designed to prepare the body for meditation. Yet these days many people associate the practice with extreme flexibility and the perfect handstand. In the age of social media, the lines between yoga, gymnastics and contortion have definitely blurred. So what has happened along the way?

Australian Simon Borg-Olivier, who will visit Lifestyle Yoga Dubai from March 27 to April 1, is a decades-long practitioner and lifelong student.

He has studied under some of the yoga greats, including Ashtanga Vinyasa creator Pattabhi Jois and BKS Iyengar. He also believes that modern yoga has lost its way, becoming separated from both its essence and original philosophy.

“In the ’70s and ’80s, people perceived yoga to be boring, as meditation,” he says. “I wanted to show people it could be a bit exciting, but in retrospective it went a bit out of control. I knew at the time that asana was a small part of it but I thought I could at least attract people.”

Borg-Olivier is partner in Yoga Synergy, a yoga school in Sydney that has been running since 1984. His spinal flow, inspired by Asian martial arts and his background as a physiotherapist, is designed to be a pain-free way for people to move while gaining all the benefits of the yogic tradition.

“We’ve swung from one way to the other,” he explains. “People do want fitness and long-term health, but what’s being taught now is short-term gains with long-term potential damage to the nervous, reproductive and immune systems.”

Much of the yoga being taught now, what Borg-Olivier calls “the aerobics of the 2000s,” is having a negative impact on the musculoskeletal system. And Iyengar, with his obsessive attention to alignment, and Jois, who encouraged practicing all of yoga’s eight limbs, would likely not approve.

“There are so many people teaching nonsense yoga,” says Borg-Olivier. “It’s taken the place of aerobics. If you practice in a way that causes pain, injury and stress, you’ve missed the point of yoga completely.”

The packed classes of today are a world away from the way Borg-Olivier learned, during a time when teacher-student relationships were sacred and maintained for years.

“The teacher-student relationship was lost years ago,” he says. “You can’t have it in a group class. How can a teacher have a one-on-one relationship in a class of 50-plus?”

One of the biggest flaws in the system are the plethora of too-short teacher trainings that enable the newest of practitioners to be qualified in a sacred art.

“You can’t learn to teach in 200 hours, you can’t even learn yoga in 200 hours,” he says. “It’s an insult to real yoga teachers to give them a certificate and say, ‘Here you go, you can teach along with everyone else.’ We’ve got to know what yoga is. Most people don’t know. It takes decades to even get a hint of what it is but people are trying to do this with just a brief amount of experience.”

The massive emphasis on promotion through social media also doesn’t help — “It’s not about knowledge.” He continues: “It doesn’t matter if the posture isn’t fantastic, provided the picture is nice.”

Cristian Brezeanu Dubai
Cristian Brezeanu, Olympic gymnast

Cristian Brezeanu, a multi-medal-winning Olympic gymnast who competed for Romania and South Africa and is based in Dubai at Fly High Fitness DXB, agrees that social media has been a powerful force – and not always for good.

“In this age of Instagram and social media, people are looking for quick, shortcuts to fame, fortune and publicity,” he says. “There are yoga teachers out there trying to attract followers, publicity and in order to do that, there is this reaching for more and more visually impressive skills. Whether these skills are gymnastics or extreme flexibility, borderline contortion, they tend to focus on the physical aspect because they think it’s a quick and easy way to attract attention.”

Many people are moving into yoga from dance or gymnastic backgrounds, easily adapting to the flexibility and contortion aspects, he says.

“The other yoga teachers have begun to almost compete with this, as if bending into a pretzel or doing a perfect handstand makes you a good yoga teacher,” he says. “It’s become a game of ego.”

Along the way people have become confused about what it means to be a good teacher, or even a “good yogi,” which is another matter altogether, he says.

“Those skills have nothing to do with how they live their life or their ability to safely teach others — how to achieve such skills,” he says.

All this showing off on social media – which for a lot of people has become a primary source of information  – creates a misguided perspective for those who want to practice. There is a big responsibility on teachers to convey the right message, at a time when many of the misconceptions are being conveyed by the teachers themselves, he says.

“You’re so bombarded with this information, there is to some extent a sense of confusion about what yoga is,” says Brezeanu. “It’s very intimidating for many people. For the people spending time in studios, working with good teachers, they’re the ones who realize how much more to it there is.”

Melissa Ghattas yoga Dubai
Melissa Ghattas teaches at Zen Yoga. Photo: Katie Vickers

Melissa Ghattas, who has 500 hours of training and teaches at Zen Yoga in Dubai, has experienced the influx of teachers from the worlds of yoga and dance. That is mixing up the yoga world in other ways, too.

“You have these pretty, aesthetically gorgeous girls who can do these amazing things with their bodies, and we have created this culture that is no different to what we spoke about in the ’80s with skinny or airbrushed models, as if this is the role model for young girls,” she says. “Yoga is supposed to be a holisticapproach to life.”

Instead, an ancient healing system that is supposed to be good on a physical as well as mental and emotional level is doing the opposite, by emphasizing handstands and contortion.

“Not only do such extreme postures have nothing to do with yoga,” says Ghattas, “the average person can’t do these things with their bodies.”

It is this deeper level of yoga that Ghattas strives to teach and embody. It’s also what helped her get over bulimia, during 15-year journey that took her down many avenues in her quest for healing.

“Yoga was the only thing that actually penetrated a deeper level of my consciousness, to have this healthy relationship with food,” she says. “This is what yoga is about. It helped me discover self-love and self-acceptance. I’m not an ex-gymnast or dancer, so for me it’s been about the journey and the realities that your body doesn’t necessarily move that way.”

 By Melanie Swan

Melanie has been practicing yoga for 11 years and teaching for nearly six. She discovered the practice at a time when work life-balance was at its lowest, living a busy life in London working for national newspapers. She teaches at Fairmont The Palm and Zen Yoga Dubai Media City.

YogAlign – Pain Free Yoga From Your Inner Core

In YogAlign, we actively seek out positioning, alignment and movement that reflects how we move in daily life. We avoid uncomfortable, unnatural, and compressive positions that restrict deep breathing or that cause spinal compression. When we are aligned with the spine in natural curves, the body connects naturally as a continuum and we feel relaxed, balanced, secure and peaceful. We attain a comfortable and natural state of being, connected to our true essence.

YogAlign encourages proper body alignment, builds strength, and increases mobility.

YogAlign can add longevity to your life by providing a template for the body to follow, allowing it to be functional and highly mobile well into old age.

YogAlign emphasizes maintaining natural body positions and the natural curves of the spine, and only utilizes positions that mimic functional movement

The basis of the YogAlign practice is to create and maintain posture in natural alignment and therefore the emphasis in on posture, not the poses.

What  differentiates YogAlign from other practices is its focus on rewiring of real-life movement patterning, rather that confusing the body with poses that do not necessarily stimulate real-life function or movement.

Capture me

The practice of YogAlign is centered on eight principles:

  1. Create the Foundation with SIP Breathing.
  2. Learn to Activate the Psoas Muscle-“The Core of Your Core.
  3. Establish Spine Alignment.
  4. Learn Concentric/Eccentric PNF Neuromuscular Postures.
  5. Free Your Fascia and Know Your Anatomy.
  6. Learn Self Massage and Sensory Body Awareness.
  7. Practice Presence and Awareness Now.
  8. Know Your Bodies Authentic Needs.

The Core SIP Breath or Structurally Informed Posture inhalation creates an extension in the body, and an engagement of your waist muscles deep in your core. When you exhale in YogAlign you will practice keeping this length in your spine and waist rather than letting the contraction movements of exhalation collapse your waist and pull your sternum and breastbone down.

With your awareness, each inhale and exhale can be used to traction, align and strengthen your spine and the muscles that act upon it. Using this breathing process can support you in achieving natural alignment that will free your neck and shoulder muscles from the constant strain and overuse that occurs when breathing and posture are less than ideal

The Psoas Muscle ~ The Core of Your Core ~ What does that mean? In YogAlign the psoas is just one of the four muscle we will be referring to as the core muscles. The psoas major joins the upper body with the lower body. It forms part of a group of muscles called the hip flexors, whose action is primarily to lift the upper leg towards the body when the body is fixed or to pull the body towards the leg when the leg is fixed. If constricted and weak, the psoas can not only cause back and hip pain, but can also engages the fight or flight nervous system, likely creating feelings of anxiety, Why is it important to learn how to engage, activate, lengthen and relax this muscle/ group? To live pain-free from your core.

Establishing and supporting your spines alignment and your natural curves in YogAlign practice is yet another way to live a pain-free life. Since spine alignment is a major determinate of your overall health and quality of life, you should practice yoga postures that support and engage the natural curves of your spine. This is why in YogAlign practice all yoga poses stimulate good posture and functional, real life movement. Good health can be regained painlessly and quickly by addressing posture and breathing habits, in order to attain natural alignment during yoga, fitness, and life’s daily movements.

Learning and practicing Concentric/Eccentric PNF Neuromuscular Postures is simply tightening what feels tight. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is a technique where you are activating a specific muscle in order to relax the muscles around a joint so you can decrease the stiffness around a joint.  In YogAlign practice we refer to this as resetting the tension. The PNF essentially outwits your habituated stretch reflexes, and resets resting muscle length, which determines your level of flexibility. By consciously tightening a muscle past its normal contraction, or tightening what is already tight, during normal exercises, the nervous system throws a switch that opens you up to more flexibility. PNF allows you to become strong and flexible at the same time, and this occurs quickly with no pain or strain to muscles or joints.

Freeing your fascia and knowing your anatomy are topics that are woven throughout the entire YogAlign practice. A basic knowledge of anatomy will grow as you begin to relate the yoga poses and their benefits to your body. Fascia is a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. YogAlign uses the inner movement of deep breathing to bring blood flow and fasciareleasing where it would be otherwise impossible to palpate or massage your structure. The YogAlign combination of SIP breathing, self massage and yoga postures can be very effective in freeing your fascia. Don’t forget to drink lots of water to keep your fascia hydrated and pliable. After all we are mostly made up of water and space.

Sensory Body Awareness and Proprioception in YogAlign practice allows you to pay attention to the sensations of tension and/or release in the muscles, a feeling of where the body is in space and time and become aware of the kinesthetic sensations while moving through your yoga poses. Sensory Body Awareness and Proprioception will support you in practicing presence and awareness in the now ~ staying in the moment.

Gradually, as you practice YogAlign, you attain the innate muscle memory that allows you to stay in natural alignment without thinking about it-moving gracefully and easily from the core center of your body-with a toned, flexible spine and strong, stabilized joint functions. Showing up to YogAlign practice will allow you the time and space to get to know and support your bodies authentic needs.

YogAlign was created by Michaelle Edwards on the Island of Kauai

“Hey Doc. I’ve lost my core”. Spinal Stability explained.

Article written by Healthfocus Physiotherapist Dr Mandy Hobbs PhD.

Have you ever been told that you need to work on your “core” by a health professional or fitness instructor? Does your “core” just disappear because you didn’t know it was there in the first place or did you just misplace it one day?

So what does the term core stability mean? Like so many terms related to health, it has various meanings to different health professionals.  Some clients with back pain will roll their eyes when I suggest using an exercise approach to low back pain.” I’ve done it all before and it doesn’t work” they lament.  What can be difficult, is determining what they have been shown as exercise  previously and how this relates to their particular back problem. Whilst no one approach to back pain works for all people, understanding the concepts used to treat low back pain is useful.

The concept of spinal stability has evolved  through the 20th century.  Joseph Pilates devised his “Pilates” system of exercise , that emphasised control of movement, in the first half of last century. The idea  of spinal pain resulting from  poor control of spinal stability, developed in the 1970s. This suggested that repetitive microtrauma damages spinal tissue because the spine looses stability. In the 1990s Manohar Panjabi, a researcher in the US described a system of spinal stability that further enhanced this knowledge .

If the spine is considered an unstable stack of bones that buckles without muscle control, Panjabi’s spinal stability theory relies on 3 subsystems that all work together .

The first known as the  passive system is the bony and soft tissue structures including the ligaments and discs, and joints of the spine that keep the spine together particularly at the extremes of movement.

The muscles that act on the spine, know as the active system, is  the second. Muscles can generate forces that control how the spine moves. This however is only as good as the computer that drives it. Relying on the third system known as the control system, muscles can only work when receiving correct messages from the brain.

Confused? You’re not alone. But essentially, a break down in any one of these three systems can lead to poor spinal control and potential damage and pain. So what can we do to improve this when things go wrong and can exercise help?

One approach is to identify which muscles are not working  well and then retrain them so that they return to doing  their job of controlling the spine. Because in the “normal” healthy  spine  these work on automatic pilot without us thinking about them, learning to turn them on during activity is not necessarily easy. It is not a case of just bracing everything and hoping for the best. Too much force and pain can actually increase, and mobility can be lost.

Thorough assessment by a physiotherapist can identify those muscle that have stopped working , and those that may be overworking because the brain has identified an error in the system and has started to recruit the incorrect  muscles. Technology such as  real time ultrasound can be utilized to accurately  visualise  how the deep muscles are working. This can  assist in prescribing the correct exercise program for each individual.

So for those of you that are lucky enough to not have back pain, breathe a sigh of relief that this wonderful, complex system of motor control continues to work and protect your spine without having to think about it too much.