Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Golden Hips Await

On Wednesday I wrote about the importance of preserving spinal alignment to get the most of your side lying work. Once you have mastered the side lying position – here are a few of my favorite Yoga Tune Up® exercises to awaken, stabilize and strengthen your sides and hips.

1) Stimulate your lateral seam blind spots: Roll and awaken the tissues on your sides with a Coregeous ball. Roll up and down the side seam of your body, from upper arm to hip, rocking forward and backward to provide your sides with some feedback, not only from your bodyweight, the texture of the ball, but also with your ability to breathe on your side. Spend some time here, it feels wonderful!

2) Tubularize your core while side lying:  Place a toted pair of YTU Therapy Balls of any size on your side waist and lay down. Attempt to contract your abdominals to “push” the therapy balls out. If executed well, the external oblique on the bottom side of your body will attempt to lift slightly away from the YTU balls. Do not worry if your side waist still has some physical contact with the balls – look for the engagement of your obliques and then relax. Repeat this several times and mentally note what each side feels like – is one side stronger, quicker to react, easier to engage? Tubularizing your core with a different orientation to gravity is a fantastic way to differentiate the imbalances between your sides and enhance your proprioceptive map. This activation will allow hip and leg movement to be much more efficient because stabilization will be optimal.

rainbow leg lifts3 Read the rest of this blog post »

Systemize Your Sides and Optimize Your Hip Work

By: | Wednesday, April 15th, 2015 | Comments 3

With the promise of a redefined, sculpted seat and lean hip area, fitness programs like barre and Pilates have topped the list for years for those seeking such results. What is the magic formula? Is it the high repetition load and small intrinsic movements of barre or the “quality and precision of movement over quantity” low repetition strategy of Pilates that claims a longer, leaner and stronger physique?

Ask devotees from both sides and you will hear explanations defending the results oriented reputation of each of these movement disciplines. Having taught both modalities, I can assure you that to gain the most benefit from side lying hip and seat (butt) exercises, there are a few imperative steps that can help participants achieve success. Kinesthetic awareness and proprioception of the side of your body, core stabilization and a sense of opposition and resistance within the leg/hip complex while in motion are critical for success in side lying.

gray obliques

Awareness and strength of the obliques is essential for effective hip work in a side lying position.

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Wings of Change

On Wednesday, I wrote about how the tension in your lats can impact more than just shoulder movement. A few months ago, I noticed that when I brought my arms up alongside my ears – in Tadasana (Mountain pose) or Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) I didn’t have as much range of motion in my left shoulder as I did in my right and I wasn’t really sure what was causing this. Was it one of my rotator cuff muscles, possible my infraspinatus, or teres minor? Weakness? A combination? Truth be told it was probably a mix of everything.

I was able to get the big picture when I started rolling with my Yoga Tune Up® balls in that region. Not only did the trigger point of the infraspinatus – right behind the armpit – feel tender, but the pressure of the ball right at the inferior angle of the scapula and around the ribs, was almost untenable. Blind spot, I’ve got you – the latissimus dorsi!

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The Latissimus Dorsi: Spread Your Wings

I can’t help but be slightly obsessed with the mighty latissimus dorsi. Well known as the “Lats”, they’re unmistakable on gym buffs, swimmers and gymnasts, who spend a lot of time strengthening them to develop that chiselled ‘V’ physique. Well, here’s the scoop on those much-loved superhero muscles: the latissimus dorsi are the broadest and strongest muscles of your back. They look like wings and originate on the inferior angle of the scapula, spinous processes of the last six thoracic vertebrae, last three ribs, the thoracolumbar fascia; and, posterior iliac crest (where you’ll also find the gluteus maximus – more on that later), inserting into the top of the humerus.

Your lats are involved in more movements than you might think.

Your lats are involved in more movements than you might think.

Wow, that’s a lot of territory covered and thus many opportunities for dysfunction. The lats are multi-taskers. Because they cross the inferior angle of the scapulae, they’re shoulder stabilizers. They’re essential in arm and shoulder movements, including extending, adducting and medially rotating the shoulder at the glenohumeral joint (where the humerus (the upper arm bone) fits into the glenoid fossa (the “socket”)). If you’re a swimmer, rower, baseball or tennis player, you know how important your lats are to bringing your A-game. And if you’re not an athlete, your lats are still key to your health and wellbeing – imagine not being able to reach up to grab your favorite novel at the book store or, if you’re a little naughtier, the chocolate bar on the top shelf of your kitchen. But that’s not all! Because the lats latch onto the thoracolumbar fascia and the posterior iliac crest, they also act as stabilizers of the spine, helping you maintain proper posture and gait. Read the rest of this blog post »

One Less Pain in the Butt

In my previous article, “The Emperor Muscle – the Gluteus Maximus and Other Pains in the Butt”, we discussed the mechanics of how gluteus maximus dysfunction and generally weak hips can show up elsewhere in the body  as IT band pain, knee pain, and/or piriformis syndrome.

Allow me to share my tale (or tail…Ha!) of woe with you. First and foremost, I do not consider myself a runner. In fact, I may be a person who runs, but am not a runner, per se. While I enjoy the convenience and simplicity of lacing up my shoes and heading out the door, I don’t have a particular passion for running. Lifting, however, is a completely different story…

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The Emperor Muscle: The Gluteus Maximus, and Other Pains in the Butt

Gluteus maximus! Kind of sounds like an ancient emperor doesn’t it? It  IS an emperor of sorts, as it dominates  your buttocks. Made famous by colloquial expressions and Sir Mix A Lot, the gluteus maximus is one of the three gluteal muscles responsible for support and movement of your  hip joint. It originates at the posterior aspect of dorsal ilium posterior to the posterior gluteal line, posterior superior iliac crest, posterior inferior aspect of sacrum and coccyx, and sacrotuberous ligament, spans across  your backside, to insert primarily in the fascia lata at the iliotibial band on the outside of your thigh and into the gluteal tuberosity on the posterior femoral surface.  It is the most superficial muscle of the gluteal group and protects the muscles that laterally rotate the hip, notably the piriformis, under which the sciatic nerve makes its appearance.


The gluteus maximus is a powerful hip extensor and spinal stabilizer.

The largest muscle in the human body is said to have developed to allow homosapiens to run after their next meal or maybe it was to avoid being another animal’s meal? It is a powerful hip extensor, acting in synergy with the hamstring muscles to propel the body forward when running.  Furthermore, it also acts as a spinal stabilizer in conjunction with the erector spinae to control trunk function at the hip and sacroiliac joint. According to a study by David Lieberman,  it is the most active as running speed increases. You are more likely to “feel the burn” chasing the bus or playing tag, than you are going for a leisurely jog. Read the rest of this blog post »

Find Grace and Levity in Tadasana

On Wednesday, I wrote about the importance of including Tadasana beyond the scope of your daily practice. While Tadasana is instructed differently across yoga traditions, in Yoga Tune Up®, the skull is balanced over the center of the ribcage, the ribcage is centered over the pelvis, and shoulders, arms and feet are neutrally oriented.  The foundation of Tadasana is the stance: feet hip socket distance apart with all ten toes pointing directly forward. There is a slight engagement of Tubular Core, a corseting of abdominal and other torso muscles that support the spine—but not so much that you are braced as if you are picking up a heavy load.  (This is a different action from the commonly directed “draw your navel in and up.”)  You should be able to breathe easily even as your torso is supported.

Tadasana is a whole-body pose, and the stronger and more flexible you become all over, the deeper the pose gets.  Ultimately the posture is filled with grace and levity, which is why in Yoga Tune Up® we also call it Poise.

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Mountain Pose/Tadasana: A Daily Practice

At the end of 2012, I gave birth to 6 ½ lb twins – and discovered first-hand the challenges of maintaining good posture when hauling that much baby around in your abdomen!  As I grew larger during my pregnancy, my ability to move decreased and the pull of the babies on my low back challenged the well-being of my spine.  Finding Tadasana (Mountain Pose) throughout the activities of my daily life became the mainstay of my yoga and movement practice to avoid back and other pregnancy related pains.

Spinal curves facilitate movement.

Spinal curves facilitate movement and help maintain balance.

Tadasana is neutral standing posture that supports and sleeves the natural wave-like curves of the spine. The curves in your spine allow your body to maintain balance in standing and sitting, move in multiple directions and act as a shock absorber, to more evenly distribute the strain and stress placed on the spine during movement and stillness. Maintaining the integrity of these curves sounds easy on paper, but can be hard under the best of circumstances—let alone with 10+ lbs of baby dragging your lumbar spine forward.  While my situation was prolonged and somewhat unique, we all place odd loads on our body with regular frequency, pregnant or not: lifting a potted plant to move it across your patio, sliding a dresser away from the wall to retrieve something that fell behind it, carrying a large box from IKEA into your home or something as simple as supporting the weight of your own head and torso as you lean over to brush your teeth at your sink.

The benefits of good posture are many – from reduced back pain, better breathing, more efficient digestion and elimination, injury prevention and more.  Read the rest of this blog post »

Downward Dog is Not For Everyone

One of the most common yoga poses, Downward Facing Dog, can be treacherous if your shoulders are not properly prepped or your anatomy is not compatible with the shape. While there is definitely a standard human “structure,” the effects of daily living and each person’s postural habits create body blind spots (points of weakness and imbalance), so not every pose is possible for every body. Many yoga poses, while common, are so extreme that they will pull the body out of alignment because the architecture of the pose is not suitable for the person attempting the pose. If you do poses (or any exercise, for that matter) without knowing whether you should even be doing those particular poses, much less doing them with improper form and posture, you will eventually wear out your tissues and create pain.

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Healthy Feet, Happy Heart

gray's bones of the foot

The foot contains 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

With 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments, our feet are marvels of engineering. Their relative health and well-being impact us from head to toe, and the data from the thousands of nerve endings on the soles of our feet give vital positional information to our central nervous system. This allows our musculoskeletal system to quickly react to changes in terrain and adjust on the fly to maintain our balance and upright posture. The skin on the bottom of our foot is the only skin actually intended to bear our full body weight and foot maven Katy Bowman considers the sole of the foot a sensory organ. However, one of the most important functions of the feet and lower leg is the role they play in cardiovascular health via the skeletal muscle pump, a mechanism by which blood is returned from the lower body to the heart.

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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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