4 Tips to Enhance a Staycation Yoga Practice

By Charlotte Bell.

For many of us, summertime spells vacation time. Vacations are an opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and experience something new. But vacations do take lots of preparation. And when we return, the catchup time can be anything but relaxing.

This is why many people choose to vacation at home, at least some of the time. “Staycations” give us the opportunity to spend quality time in our homes. Sometimes that means tackling long-neglected projects. At other times it means rekindling friendships with lunch dates that are so hard to fit into our work schedules. It could mean taking advantage of our communities’ unique gifts—museums, concerts and here in Salt Lake City, hiking. We can also simply enjoy the homes we’ve worked so hard to create and nurture.

But sometimes it’s a challenge to decide how to dedicate this newfound time. We can easily get lost in simply wanting to do nothing—which can be just what we need as well. I’d like to suggest using at least a portion of your staycation to regenerate your energies. Staycation yoga can be a part of this process.

Staycation Yoga Practice

Many of us are able to maintain a regular yoga practice even as we work full time. But for some, practice is spotty at best. There are several ways to approach a staycation yoga practice. One is to attend some extra classes during the week. Another is to recommit to your home practice. It’s the latter that I’ll focus on in this post.

Here are some suggestions for enjoying a fulfilling staycation yoga practice:

  1. Pick a time and stick to it. Practicing yoga first thing in the morning sets a calming and energizing tone for the rest of your day. You don’t have to get up extra early—it’s your vacation after all. But do commit to practicing before you start in on the rest of your day. It’s all too easy for a yoga practice to be crowded out of the schedule once you start doing other things.
  2. If you don’t have a dedicated yoga space in your house, just for the duration of your staycation, leave your yoga mat and other props out so that there’s no setup involved. This can help make your practice an integral part of your staycation.
  3. You’re already stepping out of your daily routine, so why not play a bit with your practice? It’s easy to get stuck in a practice that features only our favorite poses. Play with changing your practice. Try different poses in a different sequence and be mindful of the aftereffects. This is a great opportunity to learn about your practice and yourself.
  4. Take a nice, long Savasana. When we’re in the midst of our busy lives, we often don’t recognize just how tired we really are. We simply power through our days because we have no other choice. When we slow down, we often discover how depleted we’ve become. Take the opportunity of having a bit more time than usual to lie in Savasana for 15-20 minutes. A longer Savasana allows the benefits of the pose to integrate more deeply and comprehensively—in body, mind and spirit.

A staycation is a great opportunity to reflect on your daily life and make tweaks that can help you live more gracefully when you go back to work. A daily yoga practice can help give you the clarity to decide what works and what doesn’t.

Low Backs, Glutes & Lats

By: ERIK DALTON

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).

MITCH LARKIN’S YOGA INSPIRED PRE-SWIM WARM UP

BY JEFF GRACE
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

ALIGNMENT

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.

Vinyasa-Halfway-Lift-e1553905903859-272x300

CROSS BODY CONNECTION

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.

Two-Point-Plank-Forearm-640x427

BODY ROTATION

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.

Dead-bug-640x427

SHOULDER ACTIVATION

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

Ts-640x392

CREATING LENGTH THROUGH THE FRONT AND BACK OF THE BODY

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.

 

 

 

6 Exercises to Stretch Your Hands and Feet

BY GINA HARNEY

You probably know that it’s important to stretch your legs, arms, back, core – but did you know that your hands and feet need stretching, too?

The purpose of stretching is to maintain full range of motion around a joint. When we have full range of motion, we’re less likely to compensate and alter our movement patterns. Altered movements can lead to muscle imbalance, distorted posture, and can lead to injury.

So, think about your feet and hands and how often they are in a flexed position throughout the day – your feet flexed as you walk or stand, your hands flexed while driving or typing. It’s pretty easy to see that we’re not usually moving our hands and feet through their full range of motion. I thought I’d share some of my favorite stretches for hands and feet that help to reduce unwanted tension (often, tension we didn’t know was there until we stretch!) and possibly prevent injury.

Stretches for hands:

  • Start seated in a comfortable position. Extend your arms out to your sides. With your index finger and thumb of each hand, make an “O” shape. Tap each finger to your thumb (on the same hand), making the “O” shape as round as possible with your fingers. After you’ve done each finger, tap each finger to your thumb again, trying to keep your fingers as straight as possible.
  • Extend your arms out to your sides again, then wrap your thumb into your hand and the rest of our fingers around your thumb. (So you’re making a fist.) Keeping your fist clenched, angle your fingers, down towards the floor, feeling the stretch on the inner part of your forearms and wrists.
  • Place your fingertips on the floor towards your body (so the top of your hand is on the floor) then gently press your palm towards the floor. This is a great stretch to open up the tops of the wrists that are so often flexed and shortened.

Stretches for feet:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair and place a towel on the floor in front of you. Use your toes to grab the towel, and maybe lift it off the floor an inch or two. Hold it here for 3 deep breaths, then release. This stretch is especially helpful for those who experience plantar fasciitis.
  • Stand, holding onto something sturdy like a countertop for balance. Bring your weight into your left leg and slightly bend the knee. Lift up your right foot, and put it back down (top of your foot to the floor); press your toenails into the floor and try to get as much of the top of that foot onto the floor as you can. Take a deep breath and slide your right foot forward 2-4 inches. You’ll feel an amazing stretch on the top of the foot, opening up the ankle that’s so often flexed.
  • Still standing, using a tennis ball or small soft ball, gently roll each foot on top of the ball. When you find a spot that feels particularly sticky, hold it here for a few breaths.

 

Renee Moilanen: The weight of the world on our kid’s shoulders

By RENEE MOILANEN | renee.moilanen@gmail.com |

As much as I support the idea of children walking to school, I cringe every time my third-grade son hefts his gargantuan bookbag onto his shoulders and trudges hunchbacked toward campus.

Loaded up with his required laptop, lunchbox and textbooks, my son’s bookbag weighs 14 pounds. That’s nearly 25 percent of his body weight, a hefty addition on his half-mile trek to school, which is – I swear I’m not exaggerating – uphill both ways. If I had to haul an extra 30 pounds on my back to get to work, I’m pretty sure I’d malinger more often.

The poor boy has started to develop the posture of a desk-bound office worker. And every now and then, he gripes about back pain. I can’t tell if it’s the usual moans and groans of a coddled 9-year-old or the beginnings of a real problem.

The pediatrician did nothing to alleviate my concerns. Nothing more than 10 pounds, she said. If that means buying a second set of textbooks to keep at home or subjecting him to embarrassment with a rolling backpack, so be it. He’ll thank me later.

Heavy backpacks, it turns out, are a real health issue. In 2017, roughly 7,800 children were treated in emergency rooms for injuries related to backpacks, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting backpacks to no more than 10 percent of a child’s weight. Heavier loads can give kids low-back strain, shoulder pain and poor posture, a preview of middle-age they don’t need.

A few years ago, the California legislature adopted a resolution urging school districts to develop guidelines for easing the backpack load. The resolution is full of suggestions, everything from electronic textbooks and more lightweight handouts to hanging scales in classrooms to monitor backpack weight.

But if local school districts are working on the issue, they haven’t gotten the word out to my overloaded boy. I’m starting to question whether studying for a social studies test outweighs the spinal stress of hauling that textbook home. An extra-credit science project? Not if that means schlepping five pounds of clay volcano to school.

At the parent-teacher conference, I couldn’t concentrate on the teacher’s comments about math aptitude and reading scores. I kept waiting for the chance to ask my one burning question: Does my son really need to bring the Chromebook home every day? Can’t he leave that three-pound monster at school? Because achieving technological competency is important, but so is an uncompressed spine, and surely we can have both.

Experts urge ergonomic backpacks with well-padded shoulders. Waist straps, which help distribute the weight more evenly. Even smaller bookbags, which seemed counterintuitive until I realized my son was using his extra-large bag to haul around broken keychains, interesting rocks and 37 pencil stubs. I’m now more diligent about clearing the junk.

But the problem may only worsen as my son approaches middle school, and then high school, where presumably the workload intensifies, textbooks thicken and after-school activities add new supplies to his already stuffed backpack.

So I’m steering my son toward lighter-weight activities. So what if he dreams of learning to play the tuba? A harmonica is fine. And he’ll thank me later.

How to Deal With Foot Cramps During Yoga

Preventing and Dealing With a Painful Foot Cramp

By Ann Pizer

You are definitely not alone if you get foot cramps in yoga class. These extremely painful cramps are known to strike especially during poses like pigeon and hero where the foot is tucked under and the top of the foot rests on the floor. Foot cramps can be embarrassing when you have to get out of your pose and walk it off. Learn how to prevent and deal with foot cramps.

Causes

A cramp is a sudden and involuntary muscle contraction. You may experience a cramp during positions that stretch the muscles in your foot in ways that it is not used to. Even if you do a lot of yoga, the amount of time you spend with your foot tucked under is pretty small, so cramps can still affect even the most dedicated yoga students. People with flat feet seem particularly affected.

Dehydration is a common contributing factor for muscle cramps. Especially if you are doing hot yoga, you may be sweating and getting dehydrated throughout a yoga session. Or, you may not have replenished with water before starting the class. In addition, muscle cramps can develop due to imbalances in various body salts. These include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. If you drink too much water you dilute these salts, so it is best to drink when thirsty during any activity. You may also not have enough salts on board because you have skipped meals, have an imbalanced diet, or are taking medications that deplete your electrolytes.

Prevention

Start off right so you are less likely to get a foot cramp during yoga.

Drink Right: An hour before yoga class, drink a large glass of water. After that and during class, drink when thirsty. Contrary to what you might have heard, most people can trust their thirst during exercise. Keep a water bottle handy so you don’t put off drinking as soon as you feel thirst.

Eat Right: Eating an hour or more before yoga class may ensure you have enough electrolytes on board. Think of including potassium-rich foods, like bananas, and appropriate amounts of table salt.

Foot Stretches: You may also want to incorporate a few foot stretches into your yoga warm-up so that your feet are as ready as possible for whatever the class may bring. While lying on your back, roll your ankles in both directions. You can do this with your legs straight and point up at the ceiling for a little hamstring stretch or with the knees slightly bent. Then move the feet back and forth between a pointed and a flexed position. This extra attention may help and is a good habit in any case.

Props: You can use a small pillow or a rolled towel under your ankle when you are in child pose or other poses that rest the top of the foot on the floor. This will keep your foot from being less pointed and triggering a cramp. You may also want to tuck your toes under your foot for a portion of these poses so you are stretching the plantar sole of your foot.

Dealing With a Foot Cramp

If you do cramp up, the best thing to do is curl your toes up to stretch out the sole of the foot. In the middle of a pose where you are resting on the top of your foot, tuck them under the foot. Massage your arch until the pain passes Don’t worry about coming out of the pose or feel embarrassed. It’s not unusual and won’t even register on most people’s radar. What you are doing will be obvious to any experienced teacher. You can always mouth “foot cramp” in her general direction for good measure.

As with any pain that surfaces in yoga class, keep an eye on the frequency and severity of your cramping. If you try the above suggestions and nothing helps or if the cramping gets worse, it’s time to talk to a doctor. Rarely, cramps can be a symptom of a condition that should be treated. Or, you may be taking medications that increase your risk of cramps and your doctor or pharmacist can assist you in reducing this side effect.