Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Each month, I receive a publication through the American Council on Exercise (my personal training certification is through ACE) called IDEA Fitness Journal. In April's issue, Dr. Stephen Fealy, a sports medicine specialist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, noted that he sees fewer breakdown shoulder injuries in people who practice yoga. This is, of course, just an observation, and more research will be needed to specifically show yoga's role in injury prevention. But it's still food for thought for those who pitch, swim, play racquet sports, or do anything athletic that involves repetitive shoulder rotation.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Back in 2004, a study out of Springfield College in Massachusetts found that ongoing yoga practice and a single bout of yoga appeared to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in women who had performed eccentric exercise.
Eccentric exercise is the type of muscular contraction in which a muscle is lengthening. When lifting weights, we typically think of this as the lowering phase: lowering a barbell to the chest in a bench press or lowering the body to the bottom of a squat.
Many athletes will relate to the DOMS following a challenging workout in which going down stairs or lowering to sit in a chair is exceedingly painful! This study's findings support the idea that an ongoing yoga practice combined with a single bout following eccentric training will reduce this type of muscle soreness.
This is great news for athletes who train 5-6/week and want to train intensely, but still feel fresh for the next day's workout.
For a more detailed write-up of this article click here:
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Make yoga convenient and affordable this spring. Sign up for 3 private yoga sessions in your home for $120! Invite a friend or 2 to split the cost and pay the same price. This offer is available until April 30.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Tight Hamstrings + Tight Chest = Low Back Pain
This post might speak to runners, rowers, and cyclists in particular who have tight hamstrings, and because of their sport, may also have tightness in the chest and shoulders.
Think of it like this. When your hamstrings are tight they scrunch the back of your leg and pull down on your low back. When your chest is tight, it rounds the spine causing a pull up on your low back. So your lower back lands in the middle of a very uncomfortable tug-of-war. It's being pulled taught, beyond what feels ok, yet it is actually being OVERstretched. Furthermore, because of the constant tugging from above and below, it is difficult to fully contract the lower back muscles (in other words, to extend the lumbar spine or reduce the overstretching), leaving them tight AND weak.
I teach Weight Training at Temple and a student whose back felt tight and achy asked me about stretches he could do to alleviate the discomfort. Rather than stretch your lower back, what you actually need to do in this instance is: open your chest, open your hamstrings, and strengthen your lower back.
Open Your Chest:
Stand facing a wall. Reach your right arm out to the side slightly higher than your shoulder. Fully straighten at the elbow. Open up your palm and press into it; don't allow your forearm to come onto the wall. Start to turn your feet to the left until you feel a stretch in the shoulder, chest, and even the biceps. Keep turning your torso until you reach an edge. Breathe there. Repeat for the left arm.
Open Your Hamstrings:
Lying Hamstring Stretch
Lie on your back. Loop a strap, belt, or towel around the arch of your left foot and extend that leg at the knee. Allow as much strap as you need to keep both shoulder blades grounded and the knee straight but not locked out. Once you have found a sensation of slight discomfort, breathe into the back of your leg. Repeat on the other side.
Strengthen Your Back:
Set up as shown lying on your belly, propped on the forearms. Line up your elbows underneath the shoulders. Starting from the feet: press down into the tops of the feet and reach back through the big toes; flex your quads gently and feel your kneecaps lift off the floor; press your pubic bone forward and down into the mat - you should feel your low back open from this action; draw in with your forearms and hands, hugging tightly onto the mat and lift your upper chest. Focus on feeling the entire back - lower, mid and upper - contracting strongly.
Thursday, March 3, 2011
See if one of these scenarios resonates for you:
1) You drive to boathouse row, run the loop, grab some water and maybe a calf stretch on the wall, then hop back in your car.
2) You dash out of your house for a quick 30 minute run (or ride), come home and head right into the shower. You would stretch but you're late already.
3) You go to the gym, lift weights, maybe some cardio, sit down to stretch and realize you're doing the same 4 stretches that you've been doing since you were on the high school basketball team.
Maybe this is you, maybe you are doing a slightly better job at balancing the intensity of endurance training, or maybe you are already taking weekly yoga classes. I am offering a workshop on April 2nd, Yoga for Athletes, to teach athletes how to use yoga for a post-workout "cool-down." This is more than stretching! Implementing a yoga routine that is 15-30 minutes long following your workout will enable you to develop core and upper body strength, recover faster, ease aches and pains, improve posture, neutralize muscular imbalances, help prevent injury, and of course, increase flexibility.
Here is a look at the agenda:
- 30 minutes of interval training. Yes, we are actually going to workout first! Runners can run. Cyclists can ride. We'll be creative with others! All levels welcome.
- The Athlete's Sun Salutation. When we first hit the mat, we'll work on a sun salutation tweaked for athletes to build core and upper body strength, and to open the hips, hamstrings, chest and spine. My intention is to repeat this enough times that you will have some facility with it when you are alone. I will also bring a cheat sheet that you can put at the top of your mat!
- Deep openers, or stretches, for the IT bands, glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, hip flexors, calves, chest, etc. In the workshop, we will have time to learn and practice them all. When you do these by yourself after a workout, you might pick the one or two where you feel tightest on that particular day.
- Inversions. Getting upside down in a great way for athletes to speed recovery by improving circulation and activating the body's relaxation response. We will learn simple ways to invert. I'm not teaching headstands or handstands. More along the lines of legs up the wall, shoulderstand, and supported shoulderstand.
- Deep relaxation. We will work together on progressive muscular relaxation and breathing to calm the nervous system and restore the body.
Yoga for Athletes at Yoga on the Ridge
Saturday, April 2nd
To register for this workshop, visit the website of Yoga on the Ridge. The studio is in Roxborough, about 5 minutes from the Falls Bridge at the end of Kelly Drive.
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Sunday, January 16, 2011
I think this is the most effective, albeit intense, opener for the quadriceps I know. As opposed to the typical standing quadriceps stretch (shown to the left), the posture I will detail requires minimal exertion to maintain the structure. You don't have to balance on one leg or use any arm effort to deepen the stretch. Here, you will use your body weight and gravity to send breath, space, and length into the quadriceps and hip flexors. The following set of pictures and instructions will show you how to get into the posture safely, how to support yourself within it, how to go deeper, and how to exit safely.
Start by grabbing two yoga blocks and one blanket. If you don't have yoga blocks, you can use two stacks of hardcover books, two coffee cans, or something else that is sturdy. You can sub a folded over yoga mat or a towel for a blanket. Find an open section of wall space with which to work.
Place your blanket up against the wall. Come into a table top position with both knees down and hands on blocks. Then walk your table top all the way back to the wall so that you can bend your right knee and, pointing it down, bring it into the corner where the floor and the wall meet. (Shown below)
Press your right foot onto the wall. Shimmy your blocks over to the right - this will give your left foot space to step through. As carefully as you can, press down into your blocks and step your left foot forward onto the floor.
Cross the left hand and block to the outside of your left foot. If your left foot is not in line with your hip, scoot it over to the right until it is. You are in the pose! Below you will see a head-on photo and a side shot. In the head-on photo, notice the alignment of each knee with each hip. In the side view, see that the right foot is pressing back into the wall, the hips are sinking forward and down, and the heart (with the help of the blocks) is tall and open, allowing space for breath to enter the body and reach the hips. The shoulders stay relaxed.
At first this pose can be a lot to breathe through. I teach it in a lot of my yoga classes and even the flexy, bendy, pretzel people can have difficulty with it, so be patient. Feel where you are gripping and tensing. Take a deep breath and when you exhale, see if any of that tension falls. Feel if the most resistance is in the quadriceps, the hip flexors, the gripping shoulders, etc.
If you want to go deeper, climb your hands up onto your thigh. Press the thigh away and lift your chest to the sky. Deeper still? Reach your arms overhead. Press into the wall with the back foot, surge the hips forward and down, press down into your front foot, and soar the heart skyward.
IMPORTANT!! To exit the pose, bring your left knee to the floor AND THEN bring your right knee off of the wall coming back to table top. If this was very intense, take a break between each side. Sit down and breathe deeply. Then practice the other side reversing all lefts and rights.