Quick recap – I started Joaquin on a regular YogAlign practice schedule of three to four times a week starting in January 2019 shortly after his diagnosis.
This was a one on one program, one to two hours per practice with YogAlign teacher Renee’ Fulkerson AKA mom. Needless to say we had a few challenging moments to say the least until we found our rhythm. Joaquin is dedicated he knows YogAlign will be a part of his life for the rest of his life.
After roughly a few months Joaquin began attending my regularly scheduled public YogAlign Classes with a bit of hesitation of course. Then as teens/ mothers and sons start the debate on comprise we started a new dialog on body movement (exercise).
Swimming Joaquin requested he be able to have the option of practicing YogAlign half the time and swimming the other. Swimming like YogAlign engages the entire body throughout the entire movement it was the perfect solution to our required body movement regime.
Now we are not only seeing amazing postural shifts from the regular YogAlign practice but also from the regular for us Ocean swimming and hey if your going to swim why not swim with the turtles?
Definition of swim: propel the body through water by using the limbs.
Health Benefits of Swimming (web MD)
Intensity Level: Medium
You’ll use your lower and upper body muscles for a steady workout. You can make your swim harder by going faster or longer.
Areas It Targets
Core: Yes. Swimming gives your entire body a great workout, including your core.
Arms: Yes. You’ll need your arms for most swim strokes, so expect them to get a workout.
Legs: Yes. You’ll use your legs to propel yourself through the water.
Glutes: Yes. Swimming uses your glutes.
Back: Yes. Your back muscles will get a workout, whether you’re doing the backstroke or a water-based exercise class.
Flexibility: Yes. Swimming will make you more flexible.
Aerobic: Yes. Your heart will keep pumping as you use your entire body to move through the water.
Strength: Yes. You’ll get stronger from the resistance of the water, which is about 12 times the level of air resistance. Try using hand-held paddles, foam noodles, or a kickboard for extra resistance.
Low-Impact: Yes. Swimming is an excellent low-impact workout. The water gives you buoyancy, so you’ll float through your exercise session without putting pressure on your joints.
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.
The practice of YogAlign is centered on eight principles:
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
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.
Does stretching prior to a run prevent injuries and improve performance? Does guzzling water prevent cramps? Here’s the truth about the top 10 fitness myths.
Chances are some bogus training advice has wormed its way into your fitness regimen. Time to root it out. Here are the ten performance myths holding you back, from pre-race stretching to the evils of high-fructose corn syrup. Plus: Three truisms that are still up for debate.
Myth #1: Stretching Prevents Injuries
Myth: Stretching Prevents Injuries Truth: It could ruin your 10K time
In 2010, researchers at Florida State University asked ten male athletes to stretch for 16 minutes, then run for an hour on a treadmill. In a later session, the same crew sat quietly for 16 minutes, then hit the treadmill for the same duration. Without the pre-run stretch, the men covered more distance while expending less energy. The researchers’ blunt conclusion: “Static stretching should be avoided before endurance events.”
Still, the pregame ritual endures. Most of us were taught by our third-grade PE teacher that we need static stretches—like touching your toes and holding for 30 seconds—to be fast and flexible. Most physiologists now believe that when you elongate muscle fibers, you cause a “neuromuscular inhibitory response,” says Malachy McHugh, director of research for the Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and an expert on flexibility. By triggering this protective counter-response in the nervous system, which tightens the muscle to prevent it from overstretching, you render yourself less powerful. In experiments, static stretching temporarily decreased strength in the stretched muscle by as much as 30 percent, an effect that can last up to half an hour.
But stretching prevents injuries, right? Actually, in several large-scale studies of athletes and military recruits, static stretching did not reduce the incidence of common overuse injuries such as Achilles tendinopathy and knee pain.
Your Move: The jury is still out on the best pre-workout alternative, but dynamic stretching, which incorporates a range of body movements rather than muscle isolation, doesn’t stress tissues to the point of activating the nervous system’s protective instincts. If you’re a diehard stretcher, use this five-minute dynamic-stretching routine to warm you up for the race:
Jumping jacks (set of 20)
Skipping, forward and backward (one minute)
High-leg marches: walk forward, kicking each leg up in front of you with knees locked, like a tin soldier (one minute)
Kick your own butt: hop on one leg, kicking the other leg backward, touching your buttocks (set of ten per leg)
Myth #2: Running Barefoot Is Better
Myth: Running Barefoot Is Better Truth: It all depends on body type and discipline
Shoes alter how we move. As soon as you put toddlers in cute little loafers, their walking changes: they take longer steps and land with more force on their heels. In the January 2010 issue of the journal Nature, Harvard scientists reported that urban schoolchildren in Kenya who wore shoes ran differently than unshod rural youngsters. Most of the urban children struck the ground with their heels, causing impact peaks, or shock waves, to travel up their legs. The barefoot runners landed lightly near the front of their feet.
A compelling finding, sure, but practically useless. Unless you were raised in the bush, you grew up wearing shoes, and as repeated biomechanical studies show, our bodies cling stubbornly to what they know. When researchers from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse outfitted recreational runners with barefoot-style running shoes, about half of the runners continued to strike the ground with their heels, just as they had in their old shoes. But if you hit with your heels and no longer have cushioning to dissipate the force, you amplify the pounding instead of reducing it. “It’s tough to relearn to run,” the scientists cautioned in their report.
Meanwhile, landing near the front of your foot, as adept barefoot runners do, can be beneficial but is no guarantee against injury. Biomechanics research shows that forefoot striking sends shock waves up your leg, too, but in a different pattern than when you heel-strike. These forces move mostly through the leg’s soft tissues instead of the bone, meaning less risk of a stress fracture—but more chance of an Achilles injury. In other words, your body takes a pounding from running, barefoot or not.
Your Move: The truth is, going barefoot can be good for your body. It all depends on your susceptibility to specific injuries and how you make the transition. If you’re ready to give it a try, experts agree you should start slowly. “Go for a typical run,” says Stuart Warden, an assistant professor at Indiana University’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. “Then take off your shoes for the last quarter of a mile.” Gradually increase the barefoot distance by a quarter-mile at the end of each run. And, above all, concentrate on form: land lightly, don’t overstride, and try not to hit the ground with your heel.
The biggest mistake barefoot newbies make is overstriding. Adopt quicker movements that cover less distance. If you’re on the fence about whether barefoot is right for you, use the following as your guide.
Will Barefoot Running Help My Injury?
Sore Knees: Barefoot running is worth a try; it can lessen knee pain.
Achilles-tendon problems: Barefoot running is probably not worth trying. Striking your forefoot increases stress on the Achilles.
Heel pain or plantar fasciitis: Do not swith to barefoot running. Without perfect form, you’ll be pounding that sore heel without any padding.
Sprained ankle: Barefoot running could be beneficial after the ankle heals. Going shoeless can improve the body’s pro-prioception, or spatial awareness, reducing risk of another sprain.
Myth #3: You Need to Focus on Your Core
Myth: You Need to Focus on Your Core Truth: Core strength is probably overrated, and you risk injury by focusing too specifically on it
First off, many athletes erroneously cling to the notion that six-pack abs are a sure sign of a strong core. More to the point, it’s unclear whether core-specific training benefits athletic performance at all. In one study, a group of collegiate rowers who added an arduous eight-week regimen of core exercises to their regular rowing workouts wound up with stronger, tauter cores. But they didn’t become better rowers: their performance levels remained the same. Similarly, researchers at Indiana State University measured core strength among a group of Division I varsity football players and then had them complete sets of standard exercise drills like shuttle runs. The researchers found almost no correlation between a supercharged core and athletic performance.
What’s more, the crunch, that ubiquitous exercise that promises a solid midsection, is often harmful, because many gym rats are pumping them out with terrible form. When researchers simulated crunches using spines from pig cadavers, the spinal disks usually ruptured after a couple thousand reps. “Crunches are totally unnecessary,” says Thomas Nesser, a professor of physical education at Indiana State University.
Your Move: Core strength is important, but most people get what they need simply by practicing their sport. Common routines like squats, deadlifts, and kettlebell drills add plenty of core strength. And new studies show that running—long thought to provide little or no core benefit—does work your midsection. “Train for your sport and core strength will develop,” advises Nesser.
Myt#4: Guzzling water prevents crampsTruth: Water and electrolytes have little to do with muscles seizing upMyth:Guzzling water prevents cramps Truth: Water and electrolytes have little to do with muscles seizing up
Myth #4: Guzzling Water Prevents Cramps
Myth: Guzzling water prevents cramps Truth: Water and electrolytes have little to do with muscles seizing up
For years we’ve heard that exercise-induced cramping is caused by dehydration and the associated loss of sodium and potassium. We’ve been urged to load up on bananas or chug salty sports drinks before and during workouts. But in 2011, South African researchers studied hundreds of Ironman triathletes, a group frequently felled by muscle cramps. To check for signs of clinical dehydration, researchers took blood samples just prior to the event’s start, for measuring levels of sodium and other electrolytes, then drew blood again at the finish line. Forty-three of the Ironmen cramped during the race, but the afflicted were no more dehydrated than the other competitors were, and they had comparable electrolyte levels. The principal difference between the two groups was speed: the tested group finished faster.
A team of scientists at North Dakota State University in Fargo reached similar conclusions. In a 2010 study, the researchers asked a group of fit young men to fill up with water, then induced cramping by zapping them with a series of low-level electric pulses. They did the same after the men rode stationary bikes in a heat chamber, with some of them losing up to 3 percent of their body weight to sweat. Since it took the same number of electrical shocks to induce cramping again, the spasms “were likely not caused by dehydration,” says professor Kevin Miller, who led the study. Instead, he believes that muscle cramps are due to exertion, fatigue, and a cascade of accompanying biochemical processes.
Get over it: Miller can’t tell you how to eliminate cramps altogether—there isn’t enough research—but stretching seems to be the best option to relieve acute cramping once it’s set in. That and pickle juice. In one of Miller’s recent studies, cramp-stricken cyclists who drank 2.5 ounces of it recovered 45 percent faster than those who drank nothing. Miller speculates that something in the acidic juice disrupts the nervous-system melee in the exhausted muscle.
Myth #5: Popping Ibuprofen Prevents Soreness
Myth: Popping ibuprofen prevents soreness Truth: It does more harm than good
At the 2006 Western States 100, an ultra-endurance marathon in Squaw Valley, California, seven of ten racers polled said they had swallowed ibuprofen before or during the race, while almost 60 percent of racers polled at the 2008 Brazil Ironman said they popped painkillers. “It’s become part of their ritual of getting ready,” says Stuart Warden, director of the Center for Translational Musculoskeletal Research at Indiana University and an expert on rehabilitation of sports-related injuries.
After the Western States race, however, competitors who’d used ibuprofen were just as sore as those who hadn’t. Surprisingly, they also displayed more blood markers of inflammation than other competitors, even though ibuprofen is an anti-inflammatory. Recent work from others has suggested that frequent use of painkillers can blunt the ability of muscles to adapt to exercise. In a 2010 study of distance-running mice, researchers determined that “ibuprofen administration during endurance training cancels running-distance-dependent adaptations in skeletal muscle.” In other words, the rodents’ muscles stopped building strength in response to the training. In an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2009, Warden went so far as to say that “ritual use” of ibuprofen “represents misuse.”
Your Move: Don’t take ibuprofen unless you have a legitimate injury. Muscle pain is part of the body’s training response, and nothing has been shown to effectively ward it off.
Myth #6: Dehydration Hurts Performance
Myth: Dehydration hurts performance Truth: Overhydrating is more likely to sabotage your personal record.
In the 1990s, endurance athletes were advised to stay ahead of their thirst and drink as much as they could stand during training and races. A decade later, almost everyone had been schooled with the knowledge that hydrating to excess can cause hyponatremia—essentially, intoxication caused by consuming too much water, a potentially fatal condition in which cells swell with the excess fluid.
However, whether dehydration is equally troublesome and a hindrance to peak performance remained up in the air. But according to a 2011 review of time-trial studies of dehydration, losing up to 4 percent of body weight during exercise does not alter performance. Results from endurance events seem to bear that out: during the 2009 Mont-Saint-Michel Marathon in France, researchers measured the weight loss of 643 competitors and compared it with their finish times. The runners who lost the most water weight were also the fastest. Most of those who finished in less than three hours lost at least 3 percent of their body weight to sweat.
Your Move: “Drink when you feel thirsty,” says James Winger, M.D., assistant professor at Loyola University’s Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, who conducted a survey of distance runners last year and found that misconceptions about hydration were rampant, even among endurance athletes. “Thirst is an exquisitely finely tuned indicator of your body’s actual hydration status,” Dr. Winger says. “Listen to it.”
Myth #7: Ice Baths Speed Recovery
Myth: Ice baths speed recovery Truth: They’re not worth the chill
Many elite athletes, from marathoners to gridiron stars to starting pitchers, practically swear by icing up as a way to promote healing. But this nearly universal post-race/game/workout ritual now looks like nothing more than proof that the placebo effect is alive and well. In a 2007 study in the Journal of Sports Sciences, men who completed a punishing 90-minute shuttle run and then eased themselves into a 50-degree bathtub for ten minutes told researchers afterward that they were sure they were less sore than they would have been without the bath. Yet their levels of creatine kinase, a hallmark of muscle damage, remained the same as in runners who hadn’t soaked. Also in 2007, in one of the few randomized controlled tests examining the popular practice, 40 volunteers did seated leg extensions until near exhaustion. Afterward, half sat in lukewarm water while the other half sat in an ice bath. Next day, those who’d ice-bathed were just as sore as the control group. In fact, the ice bathers reported more pain than the others during a test in which they were asked to rise out of a chair using their tired leg for support. The authors concluded that the “protocol of ice-water immersion was ineffectual.”
Get over it: If you like freezing your butt off, soak away, but the benefits are strictly psychological. Any physiological effects won’t last longer than the ice itself.
Myth #8: Long and Slow Burns More Calories
Myth: Long and slow burns more calories Truth: You need to pump up the intensity
For years it’s been assumed that you eliminate more lipids in the magical fat-burning zone—exercising between 68 and 79 percent of your maximum heart rate—than when you really exert yourself. Why? Because, the theory went, low-intensity exercise allows the body to fuel itself from the midsection rather than from readily available food calories.
But a report by David Nieman, a professor in the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, showed that strenuous exercise burns more calories per minute than easy sessions. Which isn’t surprising: higher intensity equals more calories. But that study also determined that intense exercise increases your metabolism for up to 14 hours afterward. In other studies, light-duty exercise produced no such caloric afterburn. “We’ve become a nation of exercise wimps,” Nieman says. “Too many people don’t bother or are afraid of exercising hard. But intensity is probably the only way to lose weight with exercise.”
Your Move: Start sprinkling high-speed intervals into your slow runs. Do hill repeats on your bike. Try to maintain a heart rate at or above 80 percent of your max for about 45 minutes several times a week.
Myth #9: Fructose Is a Performance Killer
Myth: Fructose is a performance killer Truth: Fructose can be a performance superfuel
The warnings are stern: avoid fructose, especially in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, because it’s contributing to an obesity epidemic. And the evidence is strong that people who are sedentary should avoid it. But for active individuals, it’s a different story. “All athletes who compete or train for a period longer than 45 to 60 minutes will improve their performance by ingesting a solution containing carbohydrates,” or sugar, says Luc van Loon, a professor in the Department of Human Movement Sciences at Maastricht University Medical Centre in the Netherlands. And you’ll get more performance bang if that sugar is, in part, fructose. When cyclists in a British study drank a beverage containing both fructose and glucose (a simple sugar that typically appears on labels as maltodextrin), they rode almost 8 percent faster during a time trial than riders who drank fluids with glucose alone. “Fructose and glucose are taken up in the intestine by different transport proteins,” van Loon says. “This allows for a more rapid uptake of carbohydrates from the gut.” Which means you have more calories available to you more quickly if you drink or eat carbohydrates containing fructose.
Most high-fructose corn syrup contains approximately equal portions of glucose and fructose and is perfectly acceptable for athletes. The concerns about high-fructose corn syrup have more to do with the highly processed foods they often show up in rather than the intrinsic characteristics of the sugar. The drawback for endurance athletes is that the ideal ratio of glucose to fructose is 2:1 (not the 1:1 of corn syrups). “There are very few drinks on the market that provide that perfect mix,” says Asker Jeukendrup, a professor of exercise metabolism at the University of Birmingham in England, who led the study of cyclists.
Your Move: Read labels. Some drinks, such as PowerBar’s Ironman Performance beverages, tout their 2:1 glucose-fructose mix. For do-it-yourselfers, sports nutritionist Nancy Clark’s homemade sports drink, from the fourth edition of her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, is an ideal performance boost. Gather together these ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Then, in a quart pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in ¼ cup hot water. Add the orange and lemon juice and 3 1/2 cups cold water.
Conventional Wisdom: They destroy free radicals, molecules created during exercise that are thought to contribute to cell damage. Science Says: According to recent studies, some free radicals appear to trigger chemical reactions that actually help strengthen muscles after exercise and improve health. So taking antioxidants in excess may curb the benefits of exercise.
Conventional Wisdom: A flavonoid found naturally in apples, red wine grapes, and other fruits and vegetables, it’s thought to improve endurance capacity and fight fatigue. Science Says: Athletes get little or no benefit from it. An upcoming review of seven studies concluded that quercetin may be useful for out-of-shape people who start exercising but does next to nothing for the already fit.
Conventional Wisdom: It’s the most popular supplement in the country, and power athletes insist it helps build muscle strength and bulk. Science Says: It does—to a point. College football players who used creatine bench-pressed more weight, and Australian soccer players sprinted faster. But if you’re an endurance athlete, creatine draws extra water into cells, leading to diarrhea and even cramping.
Conventional Wisdom: DHEA raises testosterone levels and helps build muscle and increase power. Science Says: Yes and no. DHEA is a naturally occurring hormone that affects the body’s ability to produce testosterone. But a 2006 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that daily doses in men with normal levels did not increase muscle strength.
Up for Debate
Massage Boosts Recovery
In a 2010 study, Canadian researchers had 12 healthy young men squeeze a hand grip until their arm muscles were spent, then had a certified sports-massage therapist give half of them a rubdown. The other half received no such pampering. Surprisingly, the massages did not increase blood flow to the men’s muscles—one of the primary reasons athletes seek bodywork after a strenuous workout. Additionally, researchers concluded that a massage “actually impairs removal of lactic acid from exercised muscle.” Missing Link: Studies are needed that examine whether post-exercise massage might have other benefits. Most athletes swear they feel better after being kneaded, but so far there’s no evidence at the cellular level to justify the indulgence.
Surgery is best for an ACL tear
A landmark study on torn ACLs published in 2010 in the New England Journal of Medicine led to heated disagreement about the effectiveness of going under the knife. Researchers randomly assigned either surgery or physical therapy to a group of 121 active adults who’d suffered an ACL tear. After two years, the groups’ knees were similar in terms of function and pain, showing that there was little advantage to the surgery. Missing link: Finding a better way to repair wracked knees. While plenty of athletes have come back from an ACL tear at an extremely high level—surgery and physical therapy can usually restore basic knee stability—many never reach peak performance again. In current ACL surgery, injured tissue is often replaced. But some surgeons are experimenting with reconstructing the ligament with new forms of tissue grafts, which could produce better long-term outcomes.
Cortisone Shots Speed Healing
Although they can provide immediate pain relief for soft-tissue injuries such as tennis elbow and Achilles tendinopathy, the shots can slow healing over the long term, according to a number of new studies. A comprehensive review of the available research published last year found that people who’d received cortisone shots had a much lower rate of full recovery than those who’d done nothing at all. Plus, they had a 63 percent higher risk of relapse. Missing link: Trying to figure out exactly what’s going on inside overtaxed tendons and ligaments. In fact, scientists don’t fully understand the mechanics of injuries like tennis elbow and Achilles problems, so they don’t know how best to treat them—except to say that cortisone shots don’t appear to do the trick.
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.”
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 myHippy Hippy Shake videos (or see YogaJournal for step-by-step basics). And don’t forget to use your pelvic smile!
Chair pose (with twists)
High and low lunge (with twists)
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.
The sacro-iliac is quite possibly the most mysterious and misunderstood joint among dancers. As a dancer and a yoga teacher, when I hang around with my dancer friends, I spend a lot of time releasing stuck, jammed and pinched sacrums (they call me the SI joint whisperer). As delightfully satisfying as a recently-released SI joint can feel, (note from Monika- BEST. FEELING. EVER.) I have realized that constantly putting it back where it came from is like using a cup to catch water from a leaking bucket just so you can pour it back into the bucket – that is, rather inefficient. This realization plus my own lengthy history of pain in the posterior hip and spine have led me on a search for long-term solutions in the form of alignment, conditioning and neuromuscular re-patterning.
An injury back in high school began my long journey to understanding my SI joint. I was dancing every night as well as playing soccer, and woke one morning with a pain in my back/hip, a pain that eventually moved into my knee.
For weeks I felt I’d ‘lost my bounce’, because jumping sent a ricochet of pain all the way from my toes to my neck along my right side. Being young and stubborn, I did not seek medical attention or even apply an ice pack. Instead, I just tried to dance it off. Though the intense pain eventually went away, my right hip and knee were never the same. Fifth position and attitude derriere caused pinches and twinges in my back and I constantly had an incredibly tight IT band.
For three years I was held hostage by the twinges, aches and pains that seemed to move around to a different part my body every week. Then, in my second year at York, a ballet teacher suggested that maybe one of my legs was longer than the other. Intrigued, I went to a physiotherapist who said that they were, in fact, the same length, but my SI joint was stuck on the right side.
That first SI adjustment changed my life – for a few weeks anyway. Not knowing that this was something I would eventually become very passionate (ok, maybe a little obsessed) about, my early efforts to maintain this new and wonderful SI joint balance were half-assed at best. Going to physio each week became more like going for an SI release every week. That is, until my PT got fed up and showed me how to release it myself. Then, she began teaching me how to activate my deep core muscles, which blew my stubborn dancer’s mind.
In the 6 or 7 years since, the amount of attention I’ve paid to the problem has varied in relation to the wide assortment of injuries and misalignments I encountered. I would try to dance (or swim, do yoga or even walk) with my SIJ locked. Then, I would have to spend several days dealing with the after-effects only to have it happen again the very next week.
I learned the hard way that the best offense is a good defence, and began addressing my SIJ with daily re-patterning work about a year ago.The improvement has been magical.
Certain activities (especially if done when tired or distracted) will still throw my SIJ off, but now that I know the symptoms (non-specific pain in my knee and IT band) and the solutions (I live for pelvic smile and seated fourth release!) I no longer suffer daily from the repercussions of poor patterning.
My method may not be the simplest, but I find it very effective, as do many of my students. Stabilizing your SIJ, especially if you are a dancer who expects your body to maintain a large range of motion, should be a daily practice. Tight muscles will pull the SI out of alignment, and the body’s compensatory efforts will keep it stuck there.
If you have SI joint issues, chances are good that they are supported by years of well-intentioned but inefficient movement patterns. (Note from Monika- I agree… the road to dance injury is paved with the best of intentions).
I don’t say that to discourage you, I say it to help you understand that you can’t half-ass this if you want it to work. Trust me on this one, I’ve lived through the drama and made it to the other side. A happy SI joint will improve your movement in a million little ways that you can’t even imagine until you’ve experienced it. It takes some time and effort to find what works for you, and to figure out how your body tells you that it needs attention, but it is SO worth it!
Anatomy: What is the SI joint and how does it work?
The Sacro-Iliac joint is in fact two joints – one on each side of your sacrum where it meets the back of your pelvis – specifically, the inner edges of the ilium. You can find these spots by looking for the dimples at the back of your pelvis (just above the crease between your cheeks). The bump you will feel near each dimple is your PSIS or Posterior Superior Iliac Spine – anatomy-speak for “the bony bump at top of the back of your Ilium.” The SIJs are weight bearing joints that provide shock absorption for your spine and distribute the weight of your upper body onto your pelvis and into your legs and feet.
There is some misinformation out there that states that the SI joints do not move, but in a healthy body this isn’t true. To be fair, the SIJs are not designed for a large range of motion as they are stabilized by many deep ligaments. Especially in the type of loose-jointed (which is to say, long-ligamented) bodies that dancers tend to have the bones do move in relation to one another, and when they do they cause widespread (though usually subtle) shifts in overall alignment. Rather than a ball and socket joint like the hip and shoulder, or a hinge joint like the elbow and knee, the SIJ is a gliding joint, more like those found in the spine, where two relatively flat articular surfaces slide against one another. (You can find out lots more nerdy pelvic anatomy stuff on Wikipedia if you’re interested!).
So, if your loose ligaments aren’t holding the SI joints stable, what is? That would be your deep core muscles, namely the transverse abdominus, multifidus, piriformis and ilio-psoas. But there are a number (some say as many as 35) of other muscles that have a connection with the SIJs including the gluteus maximus and minimus, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, quadratus lumborum (QL), hamstrings, quadriceps and tensor fascia latae as well as the IT band. You would think with so many supporters the SIJs would be good and stable, however all of these muscles also have other jobs to do when the body is in motion, and when those other jobs take priority over SIJ stability, it can throw all kinds of things out of whack.
Side note: SI joint dysfunction is sometimes called “piriformis symdrome” because the piriformis in one of the primary culprits for malfunction, especially in dancers who overwork their turnout. While piriformis syndrome may well be caused or aggravated by SIJ dysfunction, it is a distinct problem that affects only a small portion of the general population. In less than 20% of bodies, the sciatic nerve runs through the middle of the piriformis muscles (instead of underneath it) and when the piriformis is overly tense it pinches the nerve, causing a radiating pain down the back of the leg. The only way to determine if you fall into that 20% is by cutting your butt open to take a look so you may never know for sure, but if you have a shooting nerve pain that starts in your buttocks, you can bet that your sciatic nerve is being irritated by your piriformis.
Symptoms – What do unstable SIJs feel like?
SI joint instability is a bit of a misnomer. What I see in many dancers are SI joints that have become locked into place by tight, weak muscles. In an effort to protect what is an especially loose joint in dancers, the body tenses up resulting in a joint that is in fact too stiff for its own good.
As I said before, the SI joints should move, not a lot, but just enough to transfer information from the pelvis and legs to the spine and back again. When this doesn’t happen, because the joint has locked into place in the interest of self-preservation, pain can sometimes be felt at the back of the hip near the dimples. But the body is crafty, and in a dancer’s loose body, the spine, pelvis and hips can shift subtly to work around the blockage. In cases like this, pain might not be felt at the SI joint at all. Rather, the over-stability there will cause instability in other locations – typically in the front of the hip, the low back and the knee, but sometimes all the way down to the toes and up into the neck. (For me, I don’t feel anything in my SIJ until after I notice a pain in my knee).
Usually the piriformis, and often the QL and glutes will be very tense, (Note from Monika- Yep. So. Tense.) and could even be in spasm. To make it more complex, a problem with the right SI joint could very well cause pain in the left side of the body, as the brain will just reassign whichever nearby muscle is strongest to cover for the weak ones that are busy tensing up to create more “stability” – essentially, to use the technical term, an “anatomical cluster-f#$%.”
Try this at home: If you suspect your SI joint is locked, you can get a friend to try and help you determine on which side. Standing tall with the feet parallel, have your friend stand behind you and place their hands on the SI joints, just above the dimples. Raise one knee to hip height slowly, then lower. Repeat on the other side. If your friend feels the SI joint lift upwards when you raise your knee (instead of staying still or moving down slightly) the SI joint may be locked on that side.
Causes – What makes dancers so vulnerable to SIJ cluster-f#$%s?
Most people are stronger in the outer hip and weaker in the inner thighs as a result of sitting for long hours and standing with poor posture. Dancers tend to be looser-jointed than the average population, as the dance world has a way of discouraging those less flexible folks. Add to that the dancer’s affinity for overusing the outer rotators to create more turnout as well as a penchant for general over-exertion and you’ve got a recipe for SI disaster. The SI joint was simply not designed with turnout in mind, as most mammals move most efficiently in the saggital plane. But that’s not to say that dancers and their SI joints can’t be friends. In fact, you too could very well become BFFs with your SI if you regularly practice the exercises which will be outlined in part 2.
Here’s a little about Bizz:
Bizz (Elizabeth) Varty has a passion for dance, music and mind-body fitness. While completing her Honours BFA in Dance at York University she discovered her love for dance science and kinesiology. She also studied Arts Management at Humber College and is certified as both a pilates and yoga teacher.
Bizz has studied dance for more than 20 years. She has choreographed and performed across the province including her 2009 work, the Janis Joplin-inspired piece Honey, I Know How You Feel for the BAZAAR dance festival at Toronto’s Opera House. Along with Beth Lifeso, she is co-director of Cocktail Dress Productions, who have performed at Massey Hall and The Rivoli in Toronto.
Her interest in fitness began at a young age and she has been practicing Yoga and Pilates for 15 years. Her teaching style combines the precision and efficiency of pilates and the philosophy and flow of yoga with the creative expression of her dance background. Bizz’s attention to anatomical detail and her fun, engaging instruction have earned the respect of students of all ages and backgrounds. For more info and free videos, visit www.basicfitness.wordpress.com.
1- THE BODY IS A MACHINE
Just like a car the body is a machine designed to work in a specific fashion. Nothing in the body works in isolation—every part has an explicit function meant to work in harmony with other parts. Our skeleton is like the chassis of a car and the quality of our posture determines whether all of the moveable parts can work effectively. Many of the body’s muscles though far away from each other are meant to work in synch and require proper posture to do so. Our body follows a mechanical model—it is a series of arches, hinges and pulleys, and learning about and understanding your body’s mechanics will allow you to effectively utilize the genius behind the body’s design.
2- OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS
You have to learn how the body works in order to use it correctly. A question I am often asked is—Don’t we just know how to walk? There are so many things we teach babies and young children— how to eat with a fork and spoon, how to tie your shoes and zip a jacket, but when it comes to walking, we all take our first step somewhere between ten and eighteen months old, get a big clap and a cheer from our parents and are then left to our own devices.
The fact is we are designed to walk in a specific way. Bones hold us up; muscles move us; nerves tell the muscles to move the bones. The foot is meant to fall very near to parallel with a distance of two or so inches between each foot. Our arms are meant to move in opposition to the legs with each step—when the left leg moves forward the right arm should move the same distance at the same pace. Our head is meant to be level so that the eyes can best communicate with the spine.
3-BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED
Some people are born strong. Look at your ancestry. Where did you come from? If your forefathers were strong like mine, you likely have a reserve of strength stored away in your DNA. Our level of childhood activity goes a long way to determining the strength you carry into adulthood as well. An active child who played a lot of sports or just ran around a great deal will have a lot more core strength and body awareness than someone who spent more time indoors and avoided the playing field. There are many mitigating factors to movement as well, including illnesses, accidents, and traumas both physical and emotional.
Core Power is a very popular cultural buzz phrase. My approach to the core is about creating strength to support the muscles and bones of walking. Without the proper tone in the muscles of the pelvis and trunk, the body is a machine that is not free to move effectively.
Our society’s aesthetic focus is on the surface and the extremities. When most people go to the gym they work the muscles that people can see—they build strength in the arms legs and the surface of the belly. While tone in these muscle might look good, if it is pursued at the expense of the muscles responsible for holding us up and moving us we will run into trouble in the long run. The muscles of the inner thigh, the pelvic floor and deep low belly are the key core muscles for the FitzGordon Method. These three groups of muscles tend to be weak dues to imbalances with their opposite more external counterparts. Pay attention to your mechanics and learn which muscles need building for a more finely tuned tuned and balanced body. The body is a machine that likes to function efficiently but you have to show it the way how.