Yoga Tune Up® Yoga Tune Up Blog

Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Wind Down and Breathe Easy: Thoracic Breathing on the Coregeous® Ball

In my last post, I discussed the muscles associated with the rib cage and spine. Now that you’re familiar with the areas we’ll target, gather your Coregeous® Ball, a block and a blanket.

Find a quiet space where you won’t be distracted by family members, cell phones, or pets. Lie on your back and place one hand on your belly and the other across your chest. Check in with your breath, and feel the natural pace of the full cycle of your breath. Initiate abdominal-thoracic breathing, a two-part technique, by inhaling a breath to swell your belly then up towards your rib cage, and imagine the spreading of the ribs. On exhalation, feel both the rib cage contract and the belly soften. Continue for a few rounds of breath.

Lie on your stomach and place the Coregeous® Ball underneath your sternum, cross your forearms, and commence thoracic breathing. Breathe only into the rib cage, and pay attention to the movement of the ribs. Feel how they expand and contract during the full cycle of breath. Alex demonstrates this technique in the video below.

Flip to your back and place the Coregeous® Ball halfway down your spine. Clasp your hands behind your head and lay the back of your head on the floor. If this option creates too much of an extension in your spine for you to feel comfortable, place a blanket or a block underneath your head to reduce the amount of the backbend. Incorporate thoracic breathing again and continue for 3-5 minutes.

Massage your back and breathe easier!

Ball your way to some spinal traction, massage, and better breathing!

Building on, add a back massage and lift the back of your head away from the ground and slide the ball towards the upper back between your shoulder blades and lay back down. Then breathe in and lift your hips and head away from the floor, breathe out and lower your hips and head. Now, lift your hips and head and side bend to the right (contract the ribs and the pelvis towards one another and keep the shoulders at the same height of the hips). Then flex towards the left. Continue right and left but take your time, move slowly. Finally, with your hips and head at center, lower to the floor.

Remove the Coregeous® Ball and continue to lie on your back with bent knees. Stay here for a few breaths and re-check your breath with abdominal-thoracic breathing. Rest your arms by your side and observe the calm and peace you’ve cultivated.

I have incorporated this work into my nightly routine before bedtime and I’ve noticed the quality of my sleep has increased tremendously!

Enjoyed this article? Read Coregeous Moves to Erase Back Pain


Wind Down and Breathe Easy

How can myofascial release affect breathing mechanics? When you think of self-massage do you think deep-tissue? It doesn’t always need to be. On the contrary, it can be soothing and utilized to practice breathing techniques. Lately, my favorite way to unwind after a long day is a gentle massage along the anterior and posterior sides of my ribcage using the Yoga Tune Up® Coregeous® Ball.

The larger, softer inflatable ball is the perfect size and density and aids in heightened awareness of my breath while I employ various breathing strategies assisting in the down-regulation of my nervous system. Various muscle groups, muscle attachments and cartilage will be targeted and massaged during the technique.

The erector spinae group run like strong cables the length of your spine.

The erector spinae group run like strong cables the length of your spine.

When you place the Coregeous® Ball underneath your sternum and the xiphoid process, you affect the following muscles and attachments:

  • Transverse thoracus
  • Pectoralis major
  • Rectus abdominus
  • Internal and external obliques
  • Diaphram

Used along the posterior ribcage, the trapezius and rhomboids are affected, and deep to those muscles are the erector spinae group, including the spinalis, longissimus, iliocostalis. These muscles are located on the right and left side of the spinal vertebra, run the entire length of the spine from the sacrum to the occiput.

The erector spinae group is used in bilateral extension of the spine (backbends), unilateral flexion (side bends), and rotation of the cervical spine (turn head right and left).

Be sure to stop back Friday to learn how to use the Coregeous® Ball to roll your way to a calm mind and better breathing mechanics!

Enjoyed this article? Read Why Deep Breathing is Effective for Calming Down

Pelvic Floor – Finding the Right Balance

On Wednesday I wrote about symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD) as well as my home practice. Now I’d like to address pelvic floor dysfunction.

I’m by no means a specialist, and if it’s a subject you’re interested in, I would definitely recommend the work of biomechanist Katy Bowman who has a wealth of information to share.

The pelvic floor benefits from all types of strengthening and stretching, not just Kegel exercises.

The pelvic floor benefits from all types of strengthening and stretching, not just Kegel exercises.

But I would say is this: Just as with everything else in life, balance is the key. Nothing is inherently bad, but the frequency with which you do it, and what you are complimenting it with (or not), can set you up for trouble. For example, should you Kegel? Are Kegels bad? Maybe and no. But ask yourself this: do you know what’s going on down there? Is your pelvic floor weak? Perhaps it’s too strong? Do you have urinary incontinence when you sneeze, walk, run, jump?

In a nutshell, a healthy pelvic floor (PF) is one that is not only strong, but that is also able to release. Imagine your quadratus lumborum contracted all day long (as in when you sit cross legged all day long) – eventually your lower back may give you some feedback you may not like. It’s the same with the PF; so what can you do? Perhaps consulting a physiotherapist who specializes in pelvic floor health is a good first step. He or she will be able to assess the quality of tone of your PF and help you determine the best course of action.

But for now, here are a few helpful tips:

  1. Recapture your posture – how you stand not only affects which muscles switch on, but also how you breathe. See part one of Yoga Tune Up® for Mamahood to learn how to achieve impeccable posture that will help your PF find the right amount of tone – for example if you live in a permanent state of tucking, you may find that your PF is hypertonic.
  2. Ditch the heels – OK so I did say that nothing is inherently bad – but a few things are silly, like wearing heels! Not that you should forego them forever, but be mindful of how often you wear them. They will affect your posture and will not only ruin your feet but also change the alignment of your pelvis, and thus the tonicity of the pelvic floor over time.
  3. Instead of adopting a local approach by focusing solely on strengthening your PF, act more globally by strengthening the surrounding tissues. For example, include squats, transverse ab exercises and back work into your routine.
  4. In addition to strengthening your glutes, hamstrings, back, etc., it’s also a good idea to release those tissues – again finding balance. If your PF is hypertonic, muscles in the vicinity of your PF may also feel restricted. I cannot recommend the YTU hip sequence enough (on the floor or at the wall), the adductor release (I love to do it with an ALPHA ball), as well as using any YTU ball around the ischial tuberosities. Another fantastic way to strengthen and release the entire area is the leg stretch series. There is wonderful rendition of the series on Jill Miller’s Creative Live webinar for a healthy pregnancy. A lot of bang for your buck!

This concludes my series on Yoga Tune Up® for mamahood! – I’ll see you on the other side!

Enjoyed this article? Read Healthy Pelvic Floor: Moving Beyond Kegels.


Yoga Tune Up® for Mammahood! Part 3

By: | Wednesday, July 13th, 2016 | Comments 4

In part 2 of my blog, I wrote about some ways to keep diastasis recti at bay as well some Roll Model techniques to ease upper back discomfort.

As I write the third installment of this mamahood series, I am now 34 weeks along and although there’s not long to go now, I feel like I’ve been pregnant for an eternity.

Truth be told, the energy and drive of my second trimester has been replaced with more fatigue and some changes I hadn’t expected. The baby has positioned itself for delivery and is sitting so low into my pelvis that I probably go to the bathroom every 30 minutes! Thankfully this doesn’t seem to affect me at night!

Relaxin can cause instability in the pelvis at the pubic symphysis

Relaxin can cause instability in the pelvis at the pubic symphysis

I also began experiencing a fair amount of pain around the pubic bone, only to find out that I have symphysis pubic dysfunction. Also referred to as SPD, this condition is due to the hormone relaxin – the one responsible for loosening up the body for delivery –  doing its job a little too well! The ligaments that keep the pelvic bones stable get overly stretched which can cause the pubic bone to become less stable. So what does that mean? Well, in my case, I sometimes sense the creepy feeling of the two sides of my pelvis tugging apart – it’s weird but mostly painless. Other times, especially when I toss and turn at night or when I get up first thing, the pain can be quite intense, but it usually goes away after a few minutes of rest.

What does this mean for my movement practice? Well, I’ve had to modify things quite a bit. I’ve reduced my kettlebell training drastically (once a week) and have modified it considerably, using little to no weight, which still feels really good, especially on my back and hips. I’ve also started attending the occasional prenatal Pilates and Yoga class, but most of my practice now happens at home, where I can take my time to do exactly what I want and need.

I’m still rolling with my YTU Therapy Balls on a daily basis, especially the hips, feet and upper back and working on bringing everything to center, rather than apart. I have several go-to movements that I incorporate in my home practice: Bridge Lifts (which I do with a Coregeous® ball between my upper thighs). To not forego strength training altogether, I also include lateral lunges (making sure they are not too wide) some of which I do with one foot on a Pilates Reformer box to light up my outer hips; side planks and wall slides; and, upper body work with therabands.  All of these movements are fantastic to be a strong mama when baby arrives and to keep the pelvic floor, back, and deep abdominals strong to prevent DR and pelvic floor dysfunction.

Speaking of pelvic floor, come back Friday for some useful tips that will set the tone for an easier time post-partum.

Enjoyed this article? Read Pregnant Women, Have No Fear!

Therapy Balls in Motorsports – a Personal Testimonial

For those that know me well, I am not typically one who spends much time talking about, let alone writing about myself. However, I felt more than a little inspired to do just that, when Jill Miller recently reached out to her community seeking testimonials from female athletes and how they have incorporated Yoga Tune Up® and/or The Roll Model® Therapy Balls to enhance their performance. I quickly sat down and put proverbial pen to paper and as a result, have created this personal testimonial which I am humbled to share with you.

Sue Taylor kicking butt in her kart

Sue Taylor kicking butt in her kart

I am a female amateur athlete in Canada, currently competing in the male dominated sport of kart racing. Many are often surprised to hear that “karting” is an intense and physically demanding sport. Unlike a car, the racing karts I drive do not have either the luxury of power steering, or a suspension. One must maneuver an open wheel kart around a race track at speeds of and in excess of 80 kmph, all whilst sitting an inch off the ground in a hard fiberglass/carbon fiber seat, navigating through corners of varying degrees of complexity in multiple directions. As a result, all of the stress of movement and associated bumps are absorbed from the tires and chassis and then transmitted directly through the body, as well as all of the G-forces (<2.5G) experienced through intense cornering, and harder braking than would ever be experienced in normal road or driving conditions.

First, here is a little background history. I started racing competitively in 2012. During my first three years of racing, I sustained various injuries from the aforementioned physical demands of the sport, including fractured ribs, which are a fairly common injury in kart racing. At this time, I had already been a certified Yoga instructor for many years, but it was in early 2015 that I discovered Yoga Tune Up® and the Roll Model® Therapy Balls and have not looked back since. The high grip rubber therapy balls highlighted muscular tension and scar tissue that had accumulated in my body over the years of racing.

When I first started by diligently practicing the various self-care techniques, I observed that my tissues felt hard and unyielding. However, over time the therapy balls began to literally work their magic and I could feel my body responding and unleashing this accumulated tension. It was when I targeted the latissimus dorsi and external rotators of the shoulder that I really found the biggest change and overall benefit to my body and application to my racing. Utilizing the ALPHA ball at a wall to access these muscles I discovered the techniques of crossfiber, pin & stretch, and contract/relax (PNF) provided the most release.

Furthermore, through the use of the therapy balls, I developed an increased awareness of the large muscles spanning my back. By working on strengthening exercises focused in this region, I could now feel a more cohesive engagement and contraction of my posterior torso muscles, specifically the latissimus dorsi. Overall, these changes translated into better posture and a more efficient driving position to handle the rigors of racing. I was now able to sit up straighter and subsequently utilize the large and powerful muscles of my back and core to stabilize myself in the seat, instead of largely relying on the smaller muscles of my arms as I had always done previously.

In addition to performing self-care at home, I now always travel with a pair of therapy balls. Capitalizing on this travel time (as a passenger), I roll out my tissues during the journey to the kart track as a warm up and also on the return trip home to cool down and ease any soreness.

I am a firm believer that the regular use of the therapy balls has enabled me to remain injury free throughout the entire 2015 season. As a result, I was then able to focus on my race craft injury free and beating out my fellow male competitors. The 2015 racing season culminated in achieving two karting championship titles. The Simcoe Kart Club Masters Class Championship and also the Canadian Rookie Karting Championship. In this latter series, I finished first overall in the standings out of 342 fellow adult competitors and also became the first female overall champion in the history of the series.

On a lighter, more humorous note, I will remain forever humbled after a race when I remove my helmet and my competitors see that they have been beaten by a female, and one of a “mature age” at that! Their reactions vary greatly, some are inspired and wish they could get their wives/girlfriends to race. This tends to be the minority. There are always more than a few who are simply not very amused. I take it fully in stride with a discrete smile to myself, shake their hand and think ahead to the next challenge.


Enjoyed this article? Read Free Yourself From Bad Posture


Fix Forearm Pain in Downward Facing Dog

As you build a regular yoga practice, you may experience many new bodily sensations as you go through the process of strengthening and changing the resting tone of the muscles throughout your entire body. But what happens if you begin to encounter sensations in your body which feel less than ideal? A common question I am often asked is “Why do my wrists and forearms hurt in downward facing dog?”

In order to answer this question, a bit of soft tissue anatomy knowledge is necessary. There are four extensors of the wrist and fingers located on the posterior side of the forearm: extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radials brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, and extensor digitorum.

The extensor bundle of the forearm.

The four extensors of the wrist and fingers, located on the posterior side of the forearm: extensor carpi radialis longus, extensor carpi radials brevis, extensor carpi ulnaris, and extensor digitorum

Stand and lift an arm in front of you so it’s parallel with the ground. Extend your wrists by bringing your fingers up towards the ceiling while your palms face forward ( Think…. “Stop! In the name of love!!”) When these muscles concentrically contract (meaning the muscle fibers shorten) they move the wrist into extension at the radioulnar joint.

On the opposite (anterior) side of the forearm are the flexors: flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, and flexor carpi ulnaris. In this same “Stop in the name of love” hand position, these muscles eccentrically lengthened.

So, why is this information important? Well, let’s investigate…

Take some time to notice the current range of motion in your wrists. Make a list of many of the tasks you perform throughout the day with your hands. When you take a moment to realize what you do with your hands (drink beverages, write notes, type at your computer, drive, and scroll through social media apps) you’ll soon notice that your wrists are either in a neutral or flexed position many hours throughout the day.

Now, let’s look at the mechanics of Downward Facing Dog – you are not only putting your wrists in extension but also adding gravity and body weight into the equation! Ouch!!

Sure that can cause a bit of discomfort, especially since Downward Facing Dog is one of the most common yoga poses, you may feel like there’s no relief in sight. But alas, there is!

In Yoga Tune Up®, before we do any work on the muscles we begin with a “Check In.” First, face your palms down on a flat surface with your fingers facing you and your thumbs facing out. Attempt to press the entire surface of your palms (from your fingertips to the base of your palms) flat onto the surface.

Stay here for a few breaths and notice the range of motion in your wrists. Ask yourself, “How does this feel? Do my palms rest easily? Does it take a lot of effort to press down?”

Check out Jill below as she demonstrates Piano Fingers. I love the Piano Fingers exercise because it’s a double whammy, as it strengthens and articulates the muscles of the forearm, wrists, and fingers.


Follow it with a delicious Yoga Tune Up® therapy ball massage, such as the Forearm Fixer below or the Forearm Meltdown, which targets the extensors of the wrist and fingers and can be found on pages 319-321 in The Roll Model by Jill Miller.

You may also consider seeking instruction from a Yoga Tune Up® instructor in your area, or check my schedule for weekly classes in Chicago, IL.

I perform both of these Check Ins daily, and many of my students have experienced profound relief from the soreness in their wrists and forearms and are able to enjoy their yoga practice without pain.

Do you suffer from wrist pain in yoga? Try these two fixes and let me know in the comments below if they offer you relief!


Enjoyed this article? Read Glory Days – Don’t Let Them Pass Your Forearms By


July – August Upcoming Events

Where ever you are in North America, there is a Yoga Tune Up® or Roll Model Method® training coming your way!

Level 1 Teacher Training

The Roll Model® Method – The Science of Rolling

Read the rest of this blog post »

Anatomy in the Real World, Part 2: Tips for “Surviving” the Lab

If my last blog post has you considering taking a week or so of your life to spend in a cadaver dissection course with Gil Hedley or another teacher, I encourage you to take the plunge.

Since most of us do not spend much time in a laboratory environment, here are a few strategies to make your time in the lab as body- and spirit-friendly as possible, so that you can focus your energies well.

  • Have comfortable shoes. It’s good to have a dedicated pair of shoes that are close-toed (for protection from falling instruments) and cushioned so that you can stand for long periods of time without feeling too much pressure in your hips and back. After my first lab experience, I decided to bring a pair of shoes that are exclusively worn there, so that I don’t have to worry about tracking anything around outside the lab. Some folks like to wear booties, which may be a better option for you.
  • Invest in a second lab coat. The last thing I want to do after a long day of standing is laundry, so I invested in a second lab coat. I was grateful to be wearing one and have a spare at the ready.
  • Keep a small, personal notebook. I have found it handy to have a small notebook that fits in my lab coat pocket, because I like to be able to write notes—either to capture something interesting that Gil or another somanaut has said, or to record my own observations in the moment. The first time I took the intensive I was so busy processing information and I thought I’d remember everything. I now wish that I had taken better notes day to day the first go-round.
  • Find a buddy. Not everyone is going to be as excited about what you’re experiencing as you are, so it’s good to have someone you can share with who will let you express yourself as needed. A virtual buddy (e.g., a journal) is a great option, or you can reach out to the YTU community, or shanghai a friend into taking the lab with you (right, Alex?) 🙂
  • Don’t try to keep up with your everyday life. The lab is intense, and being there brings up many feelings, memories, thoughts, etc. As much as possible, try to leave the mundane tasks aside—pay your bills and do your laundry before you go into the lab—but the pets will still need feeding (if you’re commuting); if you have children and/or a spouse/partner, they will require your attention; and there will inevitably be something that happens to distract you from the task at hand. Do only the necessary outside tasks.
  • Be with the process. If you have a meditation practice, that can be very helpful as a tool to work with this unusual experience. Or you can find whatever outlet is helpful for you. I was lucky enough to commute mostly by ferry to all of the labs I’ve attended so far, so I used that time on the boat to write, to soak up the water and wind and sun, and to be surrounded by the living.

Read the rest of this blog post »

Anatomy in the Real World, Part 1: Reflections from the Lab

Origin and Etymology of anatomy
Late Latin anatomia dissection, from Greek anatomē, from anatemnein to dissect, from ana- + temnein to cut
First Known Use: 14th century

The first time I saw Gil Hedley’sFuzz Speech” was at a Yoga Tune Up® Therapy Ball training, some five years ago now. I remember being fascinated by the images on the screen, taking in the dissected shoulder girdle and wondering what my own tissues looked like, but I never thought that I would end up in the cadaver lab and become a somanaut (one who navigates the body).

Why go into the lab at all, when there are anatomy books available? I got asked that question a lot, and quite frankly, I wondered myself exactly what I was doing, as I am fairly squeamish. Ultimately, I signed up for the lab because I wanted to learn more about anatomy in the real world and to have that knowledge to take into the classroom with me. I wanted to see the psoas and the piriformis—muscles that are too deep to palpate directly. I wanted to know if I was capable of this type of embodied exploration. Read the rest of this blog post »

Meet the Teacher Trainer: Dinneen Viggiano

A Therapeutic Movement Educator with over 15 years’ experience, Dinneen Viggiano is a Yoga Tune Up® & Roll Model® Teacher Trainer, a NeuroKinetic and CranioSacral Therapist and a Certified Nutrition Counselor. She teaches at Yoga Works NYC, Equinox, EvenFlow Yoga, and Kripalu.

How/when/where did you first learn about YTU and what interested you most?

In 2001 I dropped in to one of Jill’s Master classes during the YTU Teacher Training at Yoga Works in NYC. I remember thinking “What the heck is going on here?!” in one moment and marveling at how it seemed irreverent, intimidating and inviting all at once. The anatomical context appealed to my inquisitive, intellectual mind while the physical practice & breath cues alighted new sensibilities in my body. I knew right there that I was “all in”.

How did YTU training challenge your pre-existing movement, yoga, or fitness knowledge and training?
Coming in to YTU Teacher Training I had already been teaching yoga for over a decade. As an experienced yoga teacher, I was under the impression that “yoga fixes everything”. If it hurt, I stretched more. It’s because of YTU that I finally understood the inverse relationship between flexibility and stability. Teaching yoga taught me preliminary skills to help people get in to their bodies, while YTU taught me how to see those bodies (and their individual restrictions) in anatomical 3D.

What has been the biggest epiphany/change in your personal movement practice?

The biggest change in my personal practice is actually being able to move/play/practice everyday without pain! At any given point I am strong and stable enough to throw or kick a ball, climb a wall, ride a bike and keep up with my 11 year old son.  Read the rest of this blog post »