Yoga Tune Up® Yoga Tune Up Blog

Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Simple solution to Strengthen Shoulder External Rotators: Improve Your Form

In part one of this post, I described some ways to use the Yoga Tune Up Ⓡ Therapy Balls on part of the shoulder joint . In part two, I will describe a movement sequence that is easily accessible and can be carried out as part of any movement practice.

Injuries tend to happen at the end range of motion of a joint. This would suggest that it is important to build strength at these points through mindful and considered movement. Turn off the autopilot and regain control of the ship! The following Yoga Tune Up® poses focus on building functional strength and, though focusing on one body area, are actually whole body movements. All are performed standing be aware of your posture. Take time to observe your standing posture and your breath before you begin. Place a yoga block between the upper thighs to activate the adductors. Ensure that you pelvis is neutral as is your head. Watch out for head forward position.

1. Matador circles – this dynamic pose is excellent for building strength in the infraspinatus, teres minor, supraspinatus, and deltoids (medial mainly but also the posterior). Use a belt if beginning, and graduate to a blanket or a yoga mat. Shoulder blades are depressed in this one and work to ensure that the trapezius and levator scapulae do not take over the show. The body will want to revert to routine and allow these dominant muscles intervene and bypass the rotator cuff group.

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Simple Solution to Strengthen Shoulder External Rotators

The effects of poor posture and modern living gets a lot of air time these days. Central to this often is mention of rounded, internally rotated shoulders and the effect that this has on everything from breathing to Olympic lifting performances. I recently completed the Yoga Tune Up® Hips Immersion with Trina Altman. One of the take-aways from the immersion was that strengthening of the external (or lateral) rotators of the shoulder joints has now become a regular feature in my own training and in the classes I teach.

The shoulder, which is in fact made up of four joints, is a complex joint. This blog will focus on external rotation of the glenohumeral joint. This includes not only the muscles, bones and ligaments but all of the myofascia and nervous system tissue that is interconnected to the rest of the body. When the body moves, it moves as a whole – our nervous system didn’t name each muscle, tendon, nerve and ligament. Every movement is a whole body movement. Therefore, building awareness and strength in one area has an effect on the entire body. I am not going to wander too far down the rabbit hole that is the movement of the body but it’s safe to say that there is much more to learn.

The prime muscle groups that externally rotate the glenohumeral joint are the posterior deltoid, infraspinatus, and teres minor. The antangonists to this direction of movement include the anterior deltoid, latissimus dorsi, teres major, subscapularis (the only one of the rotator cuff group that internally rotates the shoulder joint) and the pectoralis major. It is clear that the size and number of internal rotators exceeds the external rotators. Couple that with the fact that the external rotators of the glenohumeral joint are out of direct line of vision as they are located on the posterior aspect of the body and you can see how there may be some amnesia about these important workers. According to Davis’ Law1, soft tissue responds to stress by laying down more tissue and becoming shortened and more adhesions between the various layers. In simple terms that can result in shortening of the internal rotators and weakening over time of the external rotators. This leads to a dysfunctional shoulder, a grumpy nervous system and  frustration in  treating pain in a specific area without dealing with the cause. Read the rest of this blog post »

NeuroKinetic Therapy: A Powerful Tool in Your Therapeutic Arsenal

As a movement educator, I am always eager to learn about new modalities that will help me help my students and clients live better in their body. When I heard that the NeuroKinetic Therapy training would be offered in Dubai, where I live, I jumped at the opportunity to further my studies and gain a clearer understanding of assessing dysfunctional movement patterns and how to address them.

This practical, hands on training, runs over the course of two-days and is a fantastic complement to the work we do as Yoga Tune Up® teachers. In a nutshell, NKT relies on muscle testing – more accurately it is the function of the muscle that is being tested – to identify the root cause of a faulty movement pattern and correct it by reprogramming the motor control center located in the cerebellum.

Dubai-based NKT teacher trainer Keith Littlewood sums it up best, “NKT allows you understand which tissues are causing problems in specific patterns of movement. Instead of just going in and releasing tissue because it is problematic. NKT has evolved to ask questions of the body so that you apply a treatment to a specific tissue and pattern and not just generally, which is what many modalities often do.”

Over the two days, Keith demonstrated a variety of muscle tests, including the core, neck and upper and lower extremities. The aim of the tests is to find where a compensation exists – which muscle is facilitated and which is inhibited. Once the connection is made (and it’s not always easy to find it and sometimes requires serious investigative work and patience), the facilitated muscle is released and the inhibited muscle activated. The practitioner can then retest the relationship to see if the weak muscle now tests strong after treatment. If the change sticks – for example after asking the client to move around or challenging him with an exercise – then homework is given that includes a release and corrective exercise to be repeated several times daily to re-enforce the new movement pattern. Read the rest of this blog post »

March – April Events

March and April are jammed packed with  Yoga Tune Up® and Roll Model® Method Trainings within the US and Canada… Even one in Dubai. That’s what we like to call the “Luck of the Irish”!

Level 1 Teacher Certification Training

The Roll Model® Method – The Science of Rolling

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The Ins, Outs, and In Betweens of Your Digestive Tract: Relax and Digest

Last week, I discussed the digestive organs and the anatomy of the abdomen. This week, I’ll outline some techniques to help your organs do their job more efficiently.

The success of our digestive system depends on food being able to pass through the tubes unrestricted. Chronic abdominal tension reduces our ability to digest, assimilate, and metabolize our food. Even though the digestive processes of our stomach and intestines are out of our conscious control, we can deliberately relax the abdomen to help free up the flow.

Try the following moves to help your food move!

1. Induce the relaxation response before and after eating.

Before eating, sit and breathe deeply to prime your body for digestion. Deep breathing will down regulate the nervous system before, during, and after eating. And it’s easier to feel satisfaction before getting too full. Many of us eat on the run, but for one meal day, chill for at least 20 minutes after to rest and digest.

2. Eat without distractions.

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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 12

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 19

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 10

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

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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 »