Next time you take a trip down memory lane by looking at your photos take note of how you move your body. Hip Hinge and Bending Over – the proof is in the pictures.

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I recently attended Ohana (family) Day a school function for my tenth grade son which entailed building several garden boxes from scratch and then planting vegetables in the garden boxes. I began taking pictures of the beautiful moments taking place between the diverse community that had gathered for Family Day.

As I looked through the camera lens I started noticing with greater attention how folks were moving their bodies. The differences between young and old, male to female and visible health. The first big difference between young and old was the way they each approached the planting of the vegetables. The younger kids/ teens almost always squatted down to plant their seeds while the parents/ older folks bent over into a C shape to plant their seeds.

Inner Breath Yoga Yogalign Kauai

I flashed back to a time before I started training and teaching YogAlign a time before I was taught proper body mechanics and real life movement in a yoga class. Where I would practice forward folds with straight legs which at the time I did not realize that was creating pain in my knees in my everyday life.

Flash forward to today and I realize I have come along way in my YogAlign practice. I have been able to over time re-wire the bad habits that had become my normal daily improper movement patterns. It is one thing to know why it is beneficial or not beneficial to move your body a certain way such as bending down to pick something up and actually bending down properly.

While looking through some pictures of a recent summer trip I was very pleased to see my regular YogAlign real life movement practice was having positive effects in my daily life. It was completely natural for me to hip hinge while capturing water from a natural water spring. Just this type of proper movement hip hinging, my spine can stay in a neutral position, while the hips and upper legs support my body weight. When you bend at the waist (pictured on right), the back curves, putting stress on the spine.

Inner Breath Yoga YogAlign Kauai Hawaii

“Bending at the hip takes the pressure off the back muscles,” says Liza Shapiro, who studies primate locomotion at the University of Texas, Austin. “Instead, you engage your hamstring muscles.”

And by “engage the hamstrings,” she also means stretching them.

“Oh yes! In order to hip hinge properly, your hamstrings have to lengthen,” Shapiro says. “If you have tight hamstrings, they prevent you from bending over easily in that way.”

Food for thought:

The little’s younger than 3 years old are great hip hingers. They haven’t learned yet from our example to bend like a C.

I know I am a work in progress but I can imagine the possibilities in a body I can trust to allow me to continue enjoying all the activities I love well into my senior years.

Next time you take a trip down memory lane by looking at your photos take note of how you move your body. Hip Hinge and Bending Over – the proof is in the pictures.

See you on the mat!

Our Journey So Far…

By Renee’ Fulkerson

I ask that you please consider the vulnerability that goes along with sharing a personal story like this and why I believe in The YogAlign Method.  Thank you

Joaquin Fulkerson our miracle was born in December of 2003 a healthy happy baby boy.  Peter (my husband) and myself were over the moon happy as all new parents are. We did notice at birth Joaquin had a tiny curve in his sacrum area between his gluteal muscles but did not think much of it. The years past by in our then mountain home of Big Bear Lake California where we lead a very family active lifestyle. Peter and myself owned and operated a backpacking outfitting store and next door a yoga studio. Joaquin spent his first seven years of life hiking, skateboarding, rock climbing, skiing, downhill mountain biking, snowshoeing, BMX racing,snowboarding, zip lining, slack lining  and of course guiding groups with dad in the great outdoors or practicing in one of mom’s yoga classes. Joaquin born and raised vegetarian, with perfect annual health exams was again the picture of health (not even a cavity to this day)

Fast forward to the end of 2011 when the Fulkerson tribe arrived on the island of Kauai. Where as a family we continued to remain very physically active biking, hiking, swimming, golfing,boogie boarding, outrigger canoeing ,snorkeling, surfing and Joaquin continued his BMX racing on Oahu on the weekends. In 2017 Peter Joaquin’s dad started to notice Joaquin’s posture changing and not in a positive way. We both noticed a curve in his spine and a very forward head carriage. Joaquin is of the generation of Screenagers meaning his generation is spending a great deal of time in front of a computer screen. With my anatomy knowledge, YogAlign training and common sense I assumed the postural issues where coming from the amount of time Joaquin was spending sitting in a chair in front of his computer. Peter and myself became the posture police and tried reminding him to change his bad posture habits and to shift his body when we saw him out of alignment. In 2018 Joaquin was scheduled to get his annual physical exam before starting school and I had alerted his primary care physician about our concerns with Joaquin’s posture, curve in his spine and now what looked like a collapse in the left side of his chest.

This was the beginning of many Dr. visits on and off island between Kauai and Oahu. On that day at Joaquin’s routine exam he was diagnosed with Pectus Excavatum and sent for a spine x ray for Scoliosis. Then seen by both a pediatric surgeon and spine surgeon on Oahu where we was then diagnosed with Scheuermann’s Disease of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine.
Joaquin had many forms of x rays on his chest and spine and the results being his spine is healthy in regard to no cysts, tumors or abnormalities for concern however he will continue to struggle with the above mentioned Scheuermann’s Disease of the Thoracic and Lumbar Spine. The Scoliosis is still within mild concern and the Pectus Excavatum is a surgical procedure fix which we would like to avoid however, this does not seem possible and surgery is on the horizon.

Meanwhile during this roller coaster ride I consulted with my teacher and creator of YogAlign Michaelle Edwards here on Kauai and we together came up with a course of action plan for Joaquin. Joaquin’s first YogAlign session with Michaelle took place at her home studio on January 14, 2019. The session was two hours long, began with pictures of his posture, a breathing tool to help him get the fullness in his diaphragm and a few specific YogAlign postures. Our goal was and is to continue to shift his current posture as he is fifteen and his body is pliable, wake up the left side of his pectus muscles, re wire his brain with new positive posture habits and create space in his short and tight front line. Joaquin has had three more YogAlign sessions with Michaelle once a month up until now including before and after pictures. In between those YogAlign sessions with Michaelle Joaquin and myself practiced YogAlign for one to two hours 4 times weekly with great enthusiasm (well most of the time).

Fast forward to today May 30 Th Joaquin and myself continue to practice YogAlign four times a week (mostly). He is even willing to now participate in one of my public YogAlign classes. He has practiced the YogAlign method once on his own with the support of his dad – proud mama moment. Joaquin has become very in tune with his anatomy, posture good and bad and how his body feels when in it is in good or bad alignment not to mention the self confidence it has given him. He will always need to be very physically active and practice YogAlign in order to maintain a happy healthy body able to do all of the things he enjoys in life well into his senior years. I am proud of his commitment and grateful for the YogAlign Method as well as Peter and myself for being proactive in a challenging situation.
Joaquin will need in the near future to have the Nuss procedure to fix his Pectus Excavatum but until then anything is possible – the proof is in the pictures (4 months of YogAlign practice).
Much love, respect and gratitude for all the love and support now and as the journey continues.

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