Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Take Two and Call Me in the Morning: How to Get Rolling on Your Self-Care Practice

In my last article, I introduced the insidious world of body blind spots; areas of your body that you do not sense well. But what to do when you discover parts of your body that have been over used, underused misused, abused and/or confused? In this post, I will be sharing techniques to help begin a self-care practice to illuminate body blind spots.


1)    Help students understand that just because one part of their body is hurting, that doesn’t mean that’s the only part of their body that needs care. Recently, a client complained of neck pain and told me rolling it out wasn’t making it feel better. In our work together, I recognized that the problem was actually originating in her pectoralis minor, a muscle on the chest. She shifted her rolling to that location and the neck pain vanished. Together, we illuminated and subsequently eliminated her blind spot.

2)    Start classes with skin rolling, light pin and spin, and gentle ball plow. See “The Nine Essential Roll Model Ball Techniques” (pg. 170) of Jill’s book The Roll Model for more information on these techniques.   Pin, spin and ball plow are gentle but sensational, and will help ease students and first timers to the sensation of Roll Model Therapy Balls. This is also good for seniors, children, and sensitive populations to introduce them to the texture and grip of the balls while simultaneously improving their proprioception.

3)    When using newer balls, including the ALPHA, start on the wall instead of the floor which can lessen some of the discomfort people deal with when first starting out. Often, people are stuck in the “no pain, no gain” mentality and starting on the wall can begin to show them results with less pain. The wall also gives people better control to explore the nooks and crannies that can be more difficult to access on the floor.

4)    Keep a rolling journal of your sessions. This is an idea I expanded off of Andrew Biel’s (author of Trail Guide to the Body) suggestion of keeping a palpation journal.  Experiment with different ball sizes and techniques and record the results. You will develop a better relationship with your blind spots as you track them and be encouraged to pay close attention to rolling.

5)    Keep a journal of your classes. Record what went well and what did not.  You may even consider asking for feedback on the class and keep a tally to identify easily consumed and highly effective techniques. Include context with your journaling and use the contexts as a spring board for ideas to reach new segments of your population. As teachers, we are challenged to adapt to multiple contexts and what works with one type of demographic might help another.

6)    Take class to watch the techniques and teaching styles of as many teachers as you can. They might give you ideas that can change your perspective on a technique or sequence. Their experiences can help make great inroads and see things you might have otherwise missed.

I hope you find these suggestions useful to bringing some clarity to your and your students’ blind spots. What techniques have you found to help uncover and eliminate blind spots? Please share in the comments below and Happy Rolling!

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Enjoyed this article? Read The Power of the Pause

The Struggle Is Real – The Insidious World of Blind Spots

My introduction to mobility techniques was in an effort to limit muscle soreness from strength training and daily CrossFit workouts. After being introduced to Kelly Starrett’s Mobility WOD by members, I immediately began using lacrosse balls and foam rollers after workouts and while watching TV to boost my recovery. I thought all the pain I was putting myself through was helpful and a part of the proccess. What I didn’t know at the time was that I had fallen victim to a very common blind spot – I didn’t know my own body.

Thankfully, I kept searching for more information and decided to attend The Roll Model® Method: The Science of Rolling Teacher Training. I spent the first part of the day convinced that the lack of pain I was experiencing using the YTU Therapy Balls meant they were too lightweight for a bigger guy like me with a lot of muscle. Spoiler alert! Another blind spot!

Read the rest of this blog post »

Shoulder Flossing and Other Hygiene Tips for Healthy Shoulders

Earlier this week I wrote about the importance of allowing the shoulder and arms to move freely while walking. Even though our shoulders don’t move into their full ranges of motion during walking, they can still move toward them. Here’s a little story about how moving a little past my walking range of motion helped reset a tight, dropped, rolled forward shoulder.

As a side sleeper, I often feel like many of my shoulder injuries happen in my sleep. A few months ago, I woke up with a tight and sore right shoulder that lingered for a few days. I also noticed that my right shoulder was pulled down and rolled forward. Clearly my rotator cuff was not doing its job while my pecs and other anterior shoulder muscles were working overtime. Common sense would say that I needed to strengthen my rotator cuff to rebalance my shoulder, but at that particular moment those kinds of exercises didn’t feel good. Borrowing a line from one of my teachers and founder of Anatomy in Motion, Gary Ward, I actually needed to travel further into the dysfunction to be able to get out of it. Read the rest of this blog post »

Which Way Do You Swing?

If you’ve read the last couple of my posts, you might notice that I always add walking as the last part of the Yoga Tune Up® reset. My latest posts have been about the feet and the hips, but even as we travel up the chain, I still think walking is the best way to assess and integrate movement. In my eyes, walking is probably the single, most important whole body movement that we do every day (even if it’s just from the couch to the kitchen).

While the legs and feet form our foundation in upright living, the shoulders and arms should not be left out of the picture just because they aren’t actively holding up us. Here’s a cute example of what happens when our arms are fixed when we are ambulating: Watch the Drool Model Walking

The clip is adorable (because the Drool Model is adorable) but also a little worrisome to see in slow motion what happens to her spinal movement when her shoulders and arms are fixed while in her wobbly jog. As the video replays in slow motion, we can see how much her spine has to contort and twist when it’s not able to transmit the energy through her upper limbs. This is not to say that the spine should be immobile while running or walking (or maybe even standing in tadasana, for that matter), but the best kind of spinal movement is a little bit in a lot of places. Read the rest of this blog post »

The Scapula: Not Your Pecs Wing Man

On Wednesday, we discussed the potential complications that occur due to a stiff pec minor. Stretching your chest muscles isn’t enough, you’ll need to address the positioning of your scapula and the overall health of your rotator cuff muscles.  Chronically tight internal rotators also affect the stability of the scapula, as rounding forward causes the inferior edge of the scapula to lift off of your ribs.

Going balls to the wall

The first thing you want to do to is address the built up tension in your pectoralis minor by rolling it out with YTU therapy balls. Any YTU ball size will work for this particular session, but I highly recommend the smallest size, the YTU Therapy Ball w/tote. Come face to face with a wall, place a yoga brick or large book against the wall at the same height as your chest. From here, place the YTU therapy ball against the brick and lean into it.  Begin by moving left to right, just under your collarbone and zig zag downwards, covering almost the entire surface of your pec. The slower, the better and don’t forget to breathe.

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Open sesame

Next, Lay on your belly, arms out in a ”T” shape, and press both of your palms into the floor. Begin to roll over onto one side, moving away from the floor, creating a stretch in your chest muscles. You can choose to move the top arm back behind you towards the bottom arm to increase the stretch. This particular pose creates length through the pec muscles and the front of the shoulders, areas that may feel constricted due chronic internal rotation.

The exercises in the video below address all aspects of your shoulders, by working your shoulder blade towards an optimal position and addressing the surrounding rotator cuff muscles. Watch Jill as she leads you through it.

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Hopefully, with these two options you will find some relief from your chronically shortened chest muscles!

Enjoyed this article? Read Rebalance Your Rotator Cuff

Leave Your Rounded Shoulders at your Desk

Experiencing discomfort and pain related to poor posture in the workplace is quite common. Just look around your office, and you will see plenty of people suffering from sore low backs and stiff shoulders.   Many lack balanced fitness regimens or have no regimen at all.  Rounded shoulder patterns are quite common. You see them everywhere – as you hunch over your keyboard, rounding the neck and shoulders forward, the shoulders rest in internal rotation. Do this every day for 5 hours or more with little or no external rotation to counterbalance and the result? Tight pectoralis muscles that are locked-short, pulling the head of the humerus forward and forcing the weak rhomboids and trapezius to elongate.

Let’s paint a picture: Larry is a 34 year old accountant. He works a typical nine to five and to help manage stress and ease some upper back tension, Larry goes to yoga 3 times a week. He’s an ex-athlete, and enjoys the dynamic movement and strengthening quality of the vinyasa class. His favourite pose? Chaturanga dandasana, the yogi equivalent of a push-up.

What Larry and many other yoga practitioners ignore is that when done without a focus on external rotation, chaturanga dandasana targets the already tight pectoralis muscles. You might even notice the inferior edge of your scapula wing right off your back. Spending many hours sitting at a desk, texting or driving around can cause chronically tight pectoralis muscles, creating the perfect scenario for neurovascular compression, amongst other problems.

The Pec Minor: Where is it and What Does it Do?

The brachial plexus travels down the arm underneath the pectoralis minor.

The brachial plexus travels down the arm underneath the pectoralis minor.

Let’s look more specifically at the pectoralis minor – it originates from the third, fourth and fifth ribs, inserts onto the medial surface of the coracoid process and lies deep beneath the pectoralis major. To feel the coracoid process, slide your fingers along the shaft of the clavicle (collar bone), moving towards the shoulder (this is roughly where a bra strap would cross). Slide inferiorly off the clavicle about an inch and press your fingertips into the tissues. The coracoid process has a beak like protrusion. If you’re unsure if you’ve properly located it, gently extend your shoulder and the coracoid should pop forward into your fingers. Notice the relationship between your scapula and pec minor.

The pec minor is responsible for depressing and abducting the scapula and elevating the ribs during inhalation. You use this muscle as you take a deep breath, throw a punch and downwardly rotate your scapula. What’s most fascinating about the pec minor is that its strong tendon overlies the brachial plexus, a network of motor and sensory nerves that serve the arm and hand. The subclavian artery and vein that transports blood flow from the neck and shoulder girdle, all the way through to the hands are also in close proximity to pectoralis minor. If the pec minor is tight, it limits the space in which the brachial plexus and subclavian artery run potentially causing tingling, numbness or  sharp shooting sensations.

If you suffer from tightness in your pectoralis minor, you might experience difficulty sustaining movement overhead for long periods of time even for the simplest of tasks, like when braiding your hair. More complex poses, such as downward facing dog might feel excruciating. Worst, if this muscle is chronically tight, it might affect your inhalations, resulting in shallow breathing.

So how can you address the issue in this particular tissue? Tune in on Friday for Yoga Tune Up® specific poses that will help address tension and pain in the pectoralis minor.


Enjoyed this article? Read When Your Pec Minor Becomes A Major Pain

Shoulder TLC for Volleyball Players

In my previous piece “The Rotator Cuff Lowdown for Volleyball Players,” I touched on the role the rotator cuff plays in overhead motions such as blocking and spiking for beach volleyball players. While there is no secret potion or magic routine to follow that will guarantee to prevent rotator cuff injuries, we know most injures to the rotator cuff are due to overuse and fatigue, and simple strengthening and mobilizing movements can work wonders to keep that rotator cuff healthy throughout your long beach volleyball career.

Yoga Tune Up® poses are a great way to enhance and maintain the rotator cuff mobility. One of my favorite Yoga Tune Up® poses that can easily be integrated into anyone’s rotator cuff routine is Hitchhiking Pizzas (learn how to do it here). This easy exercise can be done standing and only requires you to practice external rotation of the shoulders. Read the rest of this blog post »

The Rotator Cuff Lowdown for Volleyball Players

With the conclusion of the 2015 AVP (Association of Volleyball Professionals) season, many professional beach volleyball players are heading into their post season recovering from an intense summer of travel, sun and a whole lot of play time. I have been fortunate enough to work with some of these talented young men in my yoga classes and you better believe one of their main requests is for shoulder work, especially work that targets the rotator cuff.

gray's illustration of the rotator cuff

The rotator cuff helps to stabilize the humerus within the shoulder joint.

The rotator cuff is a series of four muscles that can be found surrounding your scapula that include the supraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor (Biel, 2001). While all 4 tendons wrap around the head of the Humerus, the supraspinatus begins at the supraspinatus fossa, the infraspinatus and teres minor are just below in the infraspinous fossa. Finally, the subscapularis is squeezed between the subscapular fossa and serratus anterior muscle, between your ribs and scapula. All four muscles allow you to raise and rotate the arm and play an integral role in stabilizing the glenohumeral joint (aka the shoulder joint).

Many athletes who play sports that involve repetitive overhead motions tend to suffer from some sort of rotator cuff pain/tension or injury, and it is never pretty. Some common injuries that volleyball players may face include tendonitis or partial tears. This is typically due to overuse especially among positions that involve blocking and hitting. In beach volleyball, both players have the responsibility for these two prime overhead movements throughout the whole game placing them at higher risk for rotator cuff injuries. These overhead motions requires the rotator cuff muscles to handle the dynamic stability of the shoulder against larger muscles that generate large amounts force, such as the pectoralis major and deltoid muscles. Eventually the force generated by the larger powerhouse muscles impedes the ability for the smaller rotator cuff muscles to continue to stabilize the shoulder due to fatigue, which leaves them at risk for injury ((Christopher & Ricard, 2001). Read the rest of this blog post »

Scalenes: From Pain In the Neck, To Breath and Bliss

On Wednesday, we explored the ways in which the scalenes affect our movement, breath, stress response, organs, intuition and joie de vivre. I also mentioned that much of our high stress life and habitual movement patterns can lead to some seriously irritated and tight scalenes. The good news is there are some simple Yoga Tune Up practices to offer balance and relief. Included at the bottom of this blog is a fabulous video offering a sequence that will both strengthen (remember, tight doesn’t always mean strong) and stretch the scalenes. To maximize the stress relieving capacity of a scalene release, finish with a few moments practicing the Full Yogic Breath as described below.

Full Yogic Breath– Come into a comfortable seated or lying position, and let your eyes close, shifting your focus to your internal experience. As you inhale allow your belly to inflate, then your ribs expand, and finally the breath moves up into your chest. Slowly exhale, and let everything release and relax. Continue this pattern for at least 5 breaths, but enjoy it as long as you like.



Enjoyed this article? Read Shift Your Stress in 3 Minutes

Seductive Scalenes: The Muscle with a Lot of Nerve!

If you’re anything like me, you’re searching for that special someone that you can connect with on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. You know, that perfect combination of a real head turner, who also helps you feel safe, relaxed, and in love with life? Look no further! Please meet (cue the drumroll)….your scalenes! Ok, while the scalenes might not be the hottest Friday night date, they are interesting and important muscles that are intimately involved in all layers of life, from the overt to the subtle.


The three scalenes are important neck muscles due to their close relationship with many other structures.

The scalenes (there are three: anterior, middle, and posterior) originate at the side of the cervical vertebrae, journey beneath the clavicle, and attach to the first and second ribs. When one side contracts, it laterally flexes and rotates the head and neck to the opposite side (see, I promised you a “head turner!”); contracting both sides simultaneously elevates the ribs and flexes the neck. Rib movement isn’t the only way in which the scalenes affect the breath – the phrenic nerve, which lies beneath the scalenes, is the main nerve of the diaphragm. Supple scalenes are imperative for a full breath because of this relationship and are capable of both energizing and relaxing us.

Read the rest of this blog post »

Jill Miller, Creator of Yoga Tune Up®

After studying yoga, movement, and the human body for over twenty years, I created Yoga Tune Up® as a simple way to restore my body and mind, keeping me balanced and free of pain. Using a specific and unique set of poses, movements and self massage tools, you too can LIVE BETTER IN YOUR BODY WITH YOGA TUNE UP®.


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