Yoga Tune Up® Yoga Tune Up Blog

Yoga Tune Up® Blog

The Ins, Outs, and In Betweens of Your Digestive Tract: How Muscles Imbalances in Abdomen Affect Digestion – Part Three: Digestion and Absorption

By: | Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017 | Comments 3

Can you stomach a deeper dive into the digestion system? We have chewed through the process of mastication and gulped down the movements of swallowing.  At this point in digestion, food has been broken down enough for enzymes to chemically transform it into smaller, usable nutrients. We’re headed downstream in the alimentary canal to the stomach and intestines. These areas, though out of conscious control, are still subject to issues arising from habitual muscular tension.

The stomach is a smooth muscle sac located on the left side of the upper abdomen. The diaphragm caps the stomach and the spleen and pancreas are tucked underneath. Gastric compressions churn food with acid and enzymes. The stomach is roughly the size of a fist when empty and has the ability to contract and expand. To make room for expansion, the stomach exterior pushes up on the diaphragm and nudges the intestines down. Have you ever eaten too much and felt short of breath and bloated? Read the rest of this blog post »

Self-Care is the Best Form of Self-Love

By: | Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 | Comments 7

In Yoga Tune Up®, we teach sequences that allow you to explore your own inner landscape. That landscape is shaped by the use, misuse, and abuse of the body in every direction.

For example, when the weight of the world (a.k.a. your head) is pulling on your shoulders, you develop postural habits that make it harder to move. Tissues on the back (posterior) part of the neck and shoulders become locked into a lengthened position, while the front (anterior) tissues are locked short. This rounded-forward posture restricts the natural movement of the rib cage, making it harder to breathe and support a neutral spine. The upper trapezius bears the brunt of this stressed position.

Building a self-care toolbox provides you with important feedback from your body so that you can focus the areas that have become silent, and living better in your body is a great form of self-love.

So what if Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year? Yoga Tune Up® can help you unwind, relax, and treat yoself with some self-care.

Self-Care ROLL-ief for People With Vision Loss

By: | Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 | Comments 5

In the first part of this article, I shared some of my own experiences in teaching yoga to people who are blind or have varying degrees of vision loss. Through the application of Yoga I have witnessed an increase in their confidence, both in movement and daily living, but it wasn’t until I started to introduce the therapy balls for self-care massage that I observed significant changes in their body awareness. As this population is often unable to “see” their body, the therapy balls have provided an opportunity for them to discover, map and explore various parts of their anatomy. Some parts of their body may feel familiar, whereas others can seem disconnected or foreign; much like the difference between navigating well known surroundings such as their home as opposed to a place they are visiting for the first time.

I previously mentioned that balance is a primary concern of my students with vision loss. After all, our feet connect us with the ground and developing a stable foundation provides an opportunity to step forward with greater confidence. Many of the students have mentioned that they wear footwear pretty much all of the time as they are never sure of what they might step on. Moreover, many with vision loss suffer from diabetes, which is in fact one of the primary causes of vision loss itself and can be accompanied by nerve damage, often beginning in the extremities. As a result, footwear is not only functional but also worn for safety and to help prevent injury.

Through the use and application of therapy balls on the soles of their feet, the students immediately felt the freedom they were now provided from their constrictive footwear and their ability to explore and register the tactile senses of their feet was remarkable and incredibly well received. For example, after exploring one foot initially, I will have them check-in and assess any changes they feel and this is where “a-ha” moments have been felt and shared. Feedback of feeling “more contact with the ground,” “wider,” “stable,” and “feel I am standing taller” are just a few of their comments. One student shared a discovery from her home environment after utilizing the therapy balls and reflected upon how she could now feel changes in texture between standing on a wooden floor versus a tiled floor, whereas as previously she was unable to distinguish such nuances.

In addition to listening to the comments and feedback from my students, I have also directly observed some positive changes. For example, I have observed that with improved awareness, they now stand with more equal weight distribution over both feet and in turn, take their steps with more stability and assertiveness which has been of great benefit with standing exercises and also getting up and down from the floor. The positive improvements do not stop there; posture is also much improved and overall body confidence soars as a result. After listening to their feedback and personally witnessing such improvements, it makes total sense and is of no surprise, that rolling their feet with the use of therapy balls, is now their most common and specific exercise request. Read the rest of this blog post »

February – March Events

Roses are red, violets are blue, this February and March, we wanna roll with you! Check below to find a Yoga Tune Up® or Roll Model® Method training coming your way!

Level 1 Teacher Certification Training

The Roll Model® Method – The Science of Rolling

Read the rest of this blog post »

Moving Beyond Vision Loss

I get asked all the time what it’s like teaching yoga to people that are blind or have vision loss. Many are fascinated and most are curious. More often than not, their first comment is along the lines of, “…well that must be very difficult…” Typically, this is then followed by a common preconceived notion of vision loss, such as, “they must have great body awareness.” While in a few cases this might indeed be true, the reality is often much different.

On the teaching side specifically, yes it can indeed be difficult. I like to think of it as a challenge and also an opportunity to not only learn how someone navigates this world without their visual sense, but also to understand their limitations and how I can help. My ultimate goal is to engage and enable individuals to move with increased confidence and to apply what they learn in class into their daily lives.

Prior to a class beginning, there is much to do. I will often guide students into the practice room, orient them to the new surroundings and help as needed with setting up of their mat and any items they may require such as a chair for support. Though this can be a busy and occasionally chaotic time, especially with guide dogs in the mix, I never rush this part of the process and always ensure that I allow each individual to function with the independence they desire.

To enable someone with vision loss to follow along in class, I use descriptive language with clear step by step instructions. This works well and is much appreciated by the group. Occasionally, I realize I’ve left out a step or two, or mixed up sides when I see the class pause and ponder what I’m asking them to do…like take your left hand to left elbow! We will have a chuckle and the injected humour works wonders for tension release. However, the use of imagery can be challenging in itself as someone who has been blind from birth may not relate to the same imagery as someone whose vision loss occurred later in life. As a result, I try to incorporate a variety of imagery and descriptors and when in doubt, I ask the students who have grasped the exercise how they would describe it. Their responses can be very unique and creative and have often helped me to provide a better framework for a specific exercise or routine.

Becoming more familiar with each student and understanding their often unique challenges has ultimately helped my teaching be successful. For instance, balance is always one of their primary concerns, as is learning how to relax, so it is very important to adapt to the specific needs of the students. As my classes have evolved, I have observed a need to incorporate more strengthening work and subsequently seeing this pay off in terms of tangible benefits to my students has been immensely rewarding.

As but one example, I currently have a gentleman who has been attending the weekly class fairly regularly for about two years. Until a few months ago, he had always practiced the floor work in a chair. He has since progressed immensely and is now able to get down to the floor with the support of a chair. Initially, he took a long time to get down or up, but now if you blink you’ve missed him do this. This type of example, where you come to an understanding of where a particular student’s abilities are at and then subsequently encourage and empower them to slowly broaden their comfort zone while witnessing their personal growth, is a very rewarding experience. It can also be incredibly humbling. Just as the students reap benefits, as do I as a teacher and I wouldn’t miss this for the world. Read the rest of this blog post »

Becoming a Little Laboratory

Many of us have crinkled that white paper beneath our seats as we wait for a doctor to enter an exam room and deliver their diagnosis of our health through tests, history, etc. This common experience is likely one of our most un-embodied in life – we are literally displaying ourselves for examination as just a physical body and waiting for a verdict. Often, doctors dismiss patient reports as uneducated – they rely on tests, facts on paper, rather than the human directly in front of them and, at times, this is unfortunately necessary. But with a practice of self-care, I believe that people can bring a scientific approach to observing their own physical experience of symptoms, fluctuations in performance and pain, to provide an essential window of information for doctors.

Self Care and Health Care

 This intersection, where health care and self-care can join hands to forge a clearer path toward overall integrated health, will be critical going forward. Requisite in this partnership is the patient’s willingness to step toward responsibility for their health, and inject a practice of caring for themselves in the service of making life both longer and better.

The word partnership requires that both parties contribute – the doctor, having spent years in study, contributes the knowledge of THE human body, coupled with potential treatments, experience with other patients and research, while the patient can add insight into their individual body, including symptoms, alterations in function and, pertinent observations. I have a student, just beyond middle aged who has tackled some health concerns in his time that exemplifies the awesome potential of this partnership.

After a bout with the flu, Adam had intense calf pain and difficulty taking deep breaths. He was able to report these specific symptoms to his doctor as a result of the careful and various methods of self-care he employs on a regular basis. Diagnosis: blood clots in his calf muscles and those clots collect on the surface of the lungs creating the difficulty in breathing. He was prescribed blood-thinning medications and he augments this treatment with a focus on self-care. Read the rest of this blog post »

Learning to Fly

We’re flying at 30,000 feet and we’re about ready to…TO LIVE!

The first moment that I felt any sense of calm of airplane in 10 years was a monumental moment. I looked out at the clouds after having some pretzels and marveled at the sense of peace that had alluded me. But it wasn’t always this way…

Fear started to build months before boarding an airplane. I would have panic attacks. Just thinking about boarding a plane made me sick to my stomach. I had dreams and nightmares regarding flying. And this all before even getting to the airport.

At the airport, panic elevated. I couldn’t eat when I needed to because the elevated anxiety had made my stomach so upset. My heart rate was elevated. Still not on the airplane…

On the plane, I felt like I couldn’t move or even look around. Hands clutched the arm rests. Whether or not the air craft was hot, I sweat buckets. I counted the seconds to landing again. Don’t even ask about turbulence.

The fear was a vicious circle of panic. It was not a way to live. I almost backed out of several trips. Fear of flying was preventing me from traveling to places I wanted to go and people I wanted to see. I also didn’t want to have to use alcohol or anti-anxiety drugs to control my fear.

Enter Yoga Tune Up® teacher training, I did this as a challenge for my 40th birthday. Little did I realize that it would complete me as human being not just as a “mover.” Learning how to down regulate myself helped me to calm anxiety, fears, and calm myself without external chemical implements.

Read the rest of this blog post »

From Belly Shame to Core Courage

Last week, I discussed my newfound awareness of the core in its entirety at the the Yoga Tune Up® Core Integration Immersion. This week, I’ll discuss how I came to terms with all of the incredible things my core can do for me, and let go of the shame I felt for my belly.

Honor the Curve of Your Spine
Since my very first days practicing yoga, I had appreciated the notion of awareness through various meditative practices involving the breath. I was getting better at sitting or lying down and focusing on the in and out of my breath. But the core immersion took me to a new and unexpected place. I don’t believe that before the core immersion, I had actually been aware of my spine. I knew in general that the core was not one thing, but many things, I knew, intellectually at least, that it was composed of the entire mid-range set of muscles that surrounded my core like a cumberbund: the rectus abdominis, of course, but also, the transverse abdominis, and the internal and external obliques. But my spine, awareness of my spine? That was something I had never, ever contemplated.

I somehow thought that this circular band of muscles woven through and hydrated by our precious fascia was all that was necessary to support the spine.

After each series of breath-filled movement, we lay on our backs and “checked–in.” Encouraged to notice my spine, I now felt the lumber curve as more curvy and more alive. My thoracic spine, surrounded by my upper back, spread deliciously onto the mat with more assurance and my cervical spine, or neck region seemed more relaxed. And my lower, front ribs seemed to relax down as well.

core stability

Breathe. Check in. Stabilize. Repeat!

The Most Coregeous Abdominal Muscle of All
Each day of the immersion began with an exploratory class that surprised and delighted. We found our innermost abdominals by resting our bellies on the Coregeous® ball. But we also used The Roll Model® Therapy Balls to release intercostal tension and to mobilize rib joints, which would improve our breathing mechanics. We did leg lifts on blocks with arms outstretched to lengthen, strengthen, and connect our breath with the central chassis of the spine. Lying on our sides we used the “Magician’s Assistant on a Ledge,” to strengthen and lengthen deep lateral stabilizers like the quadratus lumborum. Throughout all of this 360-degree movement that both lengthened and strengthened, I learned that the diaphragm was the body’s MVP.

Perhaps my biggest Aha! moment in the core immersion was that I could use my breath as a mobility tool. Certainly muscles stabilized the spine. I knew that, at least at some basic level, when I entered the immersion. But leaving the immersion with this new, very big idea about the breath and the function of the diaphragm was really a game changer for me personally and for how I design my Yoga Tune Up® classes.

We laid on the floor – all of us on our bellies – looking down at an illustration of the diaphragm in our well-worn anatomy book, the Trail Guide to the Body and then we looked up at the much used skeleton, draped with multi-colored elasta-bands. We could see, now, how stabilizing the core happened from the inside, specifically inside the ribs, with the movement of the diaphragm.

Read the rest of this blog post »

A Look Back: The Most Read Blog Articles of 2016

By: | Tuesday, January 10th, 2017 | Comments 0

Here on the Yoga Tune Up® blog we get thousands of readers every day who are looking for articles on health, wellness, support, and Roll Model® Therapy Ball tips. Below you will find the top 10 articles that you, our dear readers, read and shared.


Roll Away Autoimmune Inflammation


ytublog16_02 Read the rest of this blog post »

My Core Immersion Summer Vacation

I have been ashamed of my belly my whole life. There, I said it. And even as I write these words, tears begin to well up in my eyes. Will I never get past this feeling of inadequacy and shame?

Find out how I found the courage in my core in this two-part post on the Yoga Tune Up® Core Integration Immersion. One of the foundational YTU immersion trainings.

Belly Shame

I arrived at Kripalu last August, my too-large belly tucked and belted firmly into my high-waisted stretch jeans, wondering what Elizabeth Wipff’s  “Core Immersion: Total Abdominal Awakening” could do for this unsightly bulge.

In my younger days, I didn’t even know how I felt about my belly. It was there. It was ugly. It was my enemy. If I couldn’t make it go away, I could try to control it.

I sucked it in. I did crunches. One time I ate grapefruits for 3 days and another time I ate hard-boiled eggs for three days.  I exercised and exercised and exercised some more. I punished my belly for being inadequate. I distanced this part of my body and considered it broken, irreparably broken.

And, as I learned more about nutrition, I came to understand that my “jelly belly,” as my kids lovingly called it, was the result of metabolic and hormonal disarray. My unalterable apple-shaped midsection resulted from my slow thyroid, my near-constant high stress life-style, and, perhaps insulin resistance, which turned me into a fat-storing machine. But there was much more to learn.

My Belly was a Body Blind Spot – Abused and Overused but still Numb

Even with this relatively new awareness of my belly, it was still, for me, what Jill Miller calls a body blind spot. My belly was a source of inappropriate attention. I fussed about my belly. I looked for quick fixes. I clicked on every Internet sidebar that offered five foods not to eat.

What I was not doing, even after all this time, was connecting to my belly in a way that could help me design “a new normal” – a way of understanding how my belly was not a separate and numbed-out body part, but was instead an integrated piece of my whole being, both body and soul.

Sometimes you need a reminder to breathe

Breathe. Sometimes you need a reminder. 

Kripalu Means You’ve Arrived – Permission to Feel

This was my second trip to Kripalu after completing the Level 1 certification training and I knew that as my shuttle turned right off the main highway, heading down the steep grade toward the red brick Kripalu campus that I would be in good hands, no matter what. I smiled when I saw the sign by the road that said, “Breathe, You’ve Arrived.” Three meals a day I didn’t have to prepare. All the vegetables I could eat. And, peanut butter and jelly, when absolutely necessary. I had checked in, connected with old friends and now, finally, seated on my mat, and wondered what was in store for me – and my belly — during the next five days. (The core immersion is a bit longer than usual at Kripalu.)

We began our first evening with introductions. Nancy Bellantoni, who would assist, told us about her competitive sailing activities and how Yoga Tune Up® and The Roll Model® had provided much needed support for her overworked body.

Elizabeth Wipff, our lead immersion teacher, helped us to connect with our Sankalpas, our mindset mantra. This was new to folks who hadn’t been at the Level 1, but for me, I easily remembered my own simple Sankalpa that had supported me so profoundly during the Level 1 training, “I am supported on my journey.” Each time my frisky brain decided to do a nosedive into some old, useless, thought patterns, I used my Sankalpa to pull myself to safety. Read the rest of this blog post »