Yoga Tune Up® Blog

NamaStay. Sit. Roll over. Good dog.

Downward Facing Dog requires the shoulders to be in flexion and external rotation.

Downward Facing Dog requires the shoulders to be in flexion and external rotation.

The dreaded down dog blog. Downward Facing Dog or Adho Mukha Svanasana.  I’ve been thinking about writing this blog for a couple of years.  Like my healthy eating, it comes and goes. The time has come to share thoughts and create a conversation about this complicated pose, but I don’t want to create anti-ahimsa and asana arguments.  I am, after all, a yoga teacher.

That being said, I think this dreaded down dog blog needs to happen because I am a yoga teacher.  I put people in this pose.  I practice this pose. I teach level 1 classes and therapeutic, functional movement in my classes.  Regardless of the class title, many students show up with body blind spots (areas of the body that have been abused, misused, overused, or areas of the body that are just plain confused) and there is a lot of confusion when it comes to downward facing dog.   I want to share some information I have found helpful in both my teaching and practicing of this pose.  So here we go:

Always warm up the shoulders before practicing or teaching DD.
Down dog is not a resting pose. *(see below for more on this).
Have options for your students.  There are many options.
Om shanti needs to occur in your shoulders, not just in your heart. Read the rest of this blog post »

Rebalance Your Rotator Cuff

I am squarely in the dysfunctional shoulder camp. In my last post, Create Rotator Cuff Stability To Improve Shoulder Agility, I wrote about rotator cuff risk factors for injury and recovery. My shoulder issues began after I partially dislocated my right shoulder at age seven and I’ve since had chronic issues associated with both lax ligaments and muscle tightness. My left shoulder has been a problem child since I fell off of a moped in Key West about 15 years ago and had to immobilize my left arm in a sling for six weeks. Now I know that muscle strength can decrease up to 17 percent within 72 hours of immobilizing a joint and that you can lose up to 40 percent (!) of muscle strength in six weeks. While yoga and other practices helped ease my shoulder pain following the accident, it really was my introduction to Yoga Tune Up®’s Roll Model Therapy Balls in 2011 that slowly but surely began helping me to comb through and unwind those angry tissues, each time a little bit better than before. Read the rest of this blog post »

Create Rotator Cuff Stability To Improve Shoulder Agility

The rotator cuff (so named because it helps the shoulder to rotate) comprises the tendons of four muscles—the supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis—which surround the shoulder blade (scapula), wrap around the upper arm bone (humerus), and create a “cuff” that sucks the humeral head into the shoulder socket (glenoid fossa). It is one of the most important structures influencing the health of the shoulder because its individual muscles not only move the shoulder in specific directions, but because, as a unit, it acts as the major stabilizer of this very mobile joint.

Rotator cuff repair has become big business. From 1996 through 2006, the number of arthroscopic rotator cuff surgeries increased 600 percent, while the number of traditional open repair surgeries increased only 34 percent. Researchers speculate that surgeons are becoming more aggressive in treating rotator cuff tears, especially as outpatient surgery becomes more commonly available. Tears are only part of the picture, and other common rotator cuff problems include tendinitis, bursitis, trigger points, and everyday muscle aches, pains, and strains. Read the rest of this blog post »

Block It Out

In my last article, I explored some of the ways we can use a humble yoga blanket to get curious about movement and play with traditional asanas. The yoga block (or brick) is often seen as a way to bring the ground closer to you in traditional standing postures, such as triangle and reverse triangle. Let’s see how the block can do a whole lot more for you and your students.


Whole New Height

Placing a block under one foot can challenge balance, proprioception, and strength in standing poses and balances.

Placing a block under the front foot in Warrior 2 challenges the hamstrings and hips more than the traditional pose.

Placing a block under the front foot in Warrior 2 challenges the hamstrings and hips more than the traditional pose.

-Elevated tree: Place a block under one foot and set up for tree pose. If the block is squishy foam, as opposed to cork or wood, the body will need to adjust in new ways to stay upright. For more challenge, play with gaze and closing the eyes.

-Warrior II on a block: In this image, YTU® teacher Kirsten Trued plays with warrior II on a block to build strength in the front leg and create new asymmetry. Read her corresponding blog for more details on the benefits of this pose. What other standing poses could benefit from this challenge?

-Asymmetrical Uttanasana: In this video, Jill Miller demonstrates asymmetrical uttanasana, and whole new way to fold, side bend, and create asymmetry. Read the rest of this blog post »

Blanket Bonanza!

One of the great things about the advent of yoga props is the myriad of ways that they can be used. We’re often taught that blankets can provide cushion and support in restorative postures, or help pad the knee or spine in poses that contact the mat. Yet, what about thinking beyond padding and getting creative? The humble blanket offers a host of ways to get curious about dynamic movements (rather than static poses) and get sliding off the mat in new and challenging ways. Read the rest of this blog post »

Gang Up On Your Ganglion Wrist Cyst

My yoga practice has changed a lot since my early days. I’m no longer a sensation junkie and I find deep satisfaction exploring the subtleties in conscious movement. My ability to tune into my body’s subtleties has allowed me to catch any tightness in my wrists and forearms caused by prolonged computer use or a vigorous yoga practice. On Wednesday, I wrote about how this tension contributed to the development of a ganglion wrist cyst. My go-to techniques to soothe my tight extensor digitorum include applying a sustained compression to this meaty forearm muscle with the Roll Model® Therapy Balls. See how to do with fellow YTU Teacher Dagmar Khan in the video below! Read the rest of this blog post »

Keep Calm and Don’t Plank On

When I first began practicing yoga 15 years ago, I was a young, enthusiastic, ex-athlete looking for a practice that could replace the hours spent running up and down a basketball court. It may come as no surprise that I found satisfaction in a dynamic Vinyasa style practice. After a few years of happily flowing through countless planks and chaturangas, I started feeling a stiffness in my left wrist. Since it didn’t hurt, I ignored it and continued planking on. It wasn’t long before my left wrist would be sore for days after a particularly vigorous practice. Despite the symptoms, I did not attempt to treat the source of my discomfort other than resting my wrist for a few days until I was once again able to put pressure on it.

It wasn’t long before a soft, painful swelling appeared on my wrist. Continuing to ignore the source of my wrist discomfort, the pain began to persist, sometimes lasting months on end. I finally began to adjust my practice (planks, chaturangas on elbows) but pulling back on the vigorous-ness was too late. After a particularly long bout of swelling, I visited the doctor who confirmed that the pliable growth on my wrist was a ganglion cyst, an out-pouching or distention of a weakened portion of a joint capsule or tendon sheath. Read the rest of this blog post »

Restore the Bounce in Your Step with Yoga Tune Up

Do you ever have foot pain? Do you want to root deeper to the ground in your yoga practice so your balancing poses can further blossom? Perhaps you simply long for the foot freedom you had as a child?

On Wednesday, I wrote about foot development in small children – from infancy to the toddler years. If you want to restore the childlike pliability your feet once had, look no further! Read the rest of this blog post »

Caring for Your Baby and Small Child’s Feet

The human foot is a complex structure made up of 26 bones, 33 joints and over a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments. These architectural wonders provide us with the ability to stand upright, bear weight and negotiate locomotion and balance – intricate actions that most of us take for granted.

Unfortunately, most of us also abuse our feet one way or another throughout our lives, generally by spending time in ill-fitting shoes that restrict healthy movement. I personally can attest to years of stuffing my feet into poorly fitting high heels in my 20s for fashion. (Disclaimer: I still wear heels a few times a year when the occasion warrants it, but I got rid of all heels that hurt.) This can contribute to a variety of problems of the foot, including bunions, plantar fasciitis, and corns and callouses, as well as serious alignment and wear-and-tear issues with the ankle, knee and hip joints. Often, this damage only becomes apparent as we age. Mobility, stability and flexibility in our feet are crucial for our overall physical heath and baby feet, which are very different from adult feet, require special care. Read the rest of this blog post »

Uplifting News for Depressed Shoulders Part 6: Shoulder Soothing Sequences

with contributions by Keith Wittenstein. Special thanks to Sarah Court, Dinneen Viggiano and Trina Altman for editing and feedback

This article is Part 6 of 6 in a series on shoulder biomechanics.


In the previous installments of this series, I discussed the anatomy and mechanics of healthy shoulder movement and how the cues we’ve been passed down (and pass along) do not always do a service to the biomechanics of the shoulder joint.

Here is a Yoga Tune Up® video teaching an upper back and shoulder blade self-massage using Yoga Tune Up® therapy balls. To help mobilize the shoulder blades, self-massage can be an extremely effective way to untangle trigger points and adhesions in the muscles and soft tissues to free up movement of the bones they attach to. It’s also an incredible way to alleviate those hard to reach knots and relax the echo chamber of mind-body tension that builds and reverberates in and around the levator scapulae and upper trapezius. 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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