Yoga Tune Up® Blog

Serenade the Spine with Tubular Core

In my last article, I discussed the foundational Yoga Tune Up spinal bracing technique known as tubular core. Now that you know how this concept influences your body, it’s time to serenade the spine and awaken the Tubular Core orchestra or, the or-CORE-estra. Before we begin, shift your perspective to that of “every pose is an assessment”. Turn on your inner ear and listen to what your tissues are telling you…whose participating, who’s not?

Baylea's Tubular CoreHow to activate tubular core for beginners:

  1. Inhale into the abdomen and inflate all abdominal contents as if it were an inner tube.
  2. Retain the inhale and hold the breath.
  3. While maintaining the held breath simultaneously draw the puffed belly inner tube towards the spine from all conceivable angles. It’s as though you are bracing for impact to the gut without exhaling.
  4. Quickly palpate your Tubular Core. The entire core including the sides of the waist, lower back and intercostals should all be firm.
  5. Exhale
  6. Repeat steps 1-5 until the core’s orchestra is all in the same key during step 4.
  7. Then put your core’s orchestra to the test, attempting to recreate the sensation of Tubular Core without holding the breath.

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Tubular Core: En-CORE-Age a Muscular Orchestra that Illuminates your Mid-Section

A six-pack obsession is in full swing – topping the list for many well intended yogis and fitness enthusiasts is figuring out how to tame the bulge. With a smorgasbord of “magic bullet” recipes for rock hard abs, the truth of core strength can leave one perplexed, without results, or even worse with an imbalance resulting in a global deficit that expands much greater than the core. Regardless the case, I think you should brace yourself (pun intended) for what I am about to share with you will change your outlook on your core and transform your “ab-earance”.

Since the core consists of more than just the muscles that form the “washboard abs” that are reflected in the mirror, it’s critical to acknowledge what the core unit truly is. While what you see does play a key role in our core’s strength, integrity of the core comes from optimizing global muscle activation and coordination around the entirety of the spine. Read the rest of this blog post »

Recalibrate Your State

In my last article, I wrote about how we can calm and soothe the nervous system, respond more effectively to the stressors in our lives and manage our emotional states with our breathing. More specifically, I mentioned that the vagus nerve plays a principal role in the process of reaching in to the state of calm, cool and collected. We can stimulate the vagus nerve to communicate to the brain to signal the body’s systems to calibrate to the state of “rest and digest” through the practice of abdominal breathing. Here are some additional suggestions and strategies to consider:

Bring your awareness to your breathing patterns throughout the day.

When at rest or sitting at your desk, do you breathe primarily in the chest area or do you feel the breath movement in the abdomen as well? If you put one hand on the abdomen and the other on the chest, which hand moves first as you inhale? Ideally, the hand on the abdomen should shift first at the onset of the inhale. Set up a reminder system such as stickers strategically placed or an alarm on your phone to trigger the habit of checking in. When you are prompted, pause and take 2-3 deep abdominal breaths.

Notice your posture.

Breathing is most efficient with neutral positioning of the pelvis and the ribcage aligned directly above with the spine in neutral as well. There is much more information and nuances to explore on this subject alone. For the sake of brevity here, do your best not to slouch or tilt your pelvis too much toward the extreme of one direction or the other (anteriorly or posteriorly). If you are unsure about your posture, seek out an evaluation from a professional. It’s quite informative and worth the investment for your overall health and well-being.

Shape your Breath.

Practice modulating your breath pattern to create an equality of length of the inhale and exhale. Count using whatever method works best for you to breathe in for X counts and exhale for X counts. When at rest (such as when you are preparing to settle in for the night), gradually begin to extend the exhale longer than the inhale by 1, 2, or 4 counts.


The vibration in the throat region created by humming stimulates the vagus nerve. Try inhaling to fill the lungs to capacity and then humming a continuous sound for the duration of the exhale.

Get on the Coregeous Ball!

Rolling out the abdomen with this pliable ball not only cultivates a resiliency of the abdominal wall tissues to help increase breath capacity, but the massage of the internal organs activates the vagus nerve as well.


Keep in mind that changing or improving breath patterns and developing healthy vagal tone is a practice and requires commitment and consistency. We are all a work in progress. And we can begin (or continue) with the very next breath.

Other references:

Enjoyed this article? Read The Power of the Pause

Why Deep Breathing is Effective for Calming Down

As reassuring (or sometimes annoying) the suggestion to “just take a deep breath” is, especially when you are in a moment of panic, there is a fundamental truth to this advice on how we can calm ourselves and sooth our nervous system in times of distress or strong emotional upwelling.

Our breath is unique from other visceral bodily systems in that it is both automatic and also within the realm of our conscious control. On average, we take over 20,000 breaths per day; most of that time without thought or deliberate control directed toward the process. Yet our capacity to consciously modulate the breath allows us to influence the nervous system and have an intentional impact upon our emotional state. In this way, your breath could be considered a free and readily available therapeutic salve.

Ardha-Savasana-Check-InWhen we breathe in, the diaphragm (a dome-shaped muscle located below the heart and lungs and above the internal organs) contracts and moves downward, causing the abdominal wall to swell as the breath is drawn into the lungs. Upon exhalation, the diaphragm relaxes and the lungs deflate. Sounds simple enough, right?

Though it might seem to be a rather simplistic process on the surface, the effect of breathing mechanics reaches much further than just the musculature involved. Consider that we are a complex being with neural pathways, circulatory networks and connective tissue reaching throughout the entire body, all of which contribute to the interconnectivity of the whole. Read the rest of this blog post »

Meet the Teacher Trainer: Trina Altman

Meet Trina Altman, a member of our teaching team who teaches Yoga Tune Up® at Equinox Santa Monica and Equinox Palos Verdes, Pilates Deconstructed™ Reformer classes at The Moving Joint in Mar Vista, and YTU Teacher Trainings nationally.

How did you discover Yoga Tune Up® and why did you decide to become a teacher?

I discovered Yoga Tune Up® before YTU was even official! I took a workshop with Jill Miller at Yoga House in Pasadena in 2007 while visiting relatives in LA and fell in love with the work right away! I purchased every single DVD and the upper body “Jill Miller Yoga” self-massage CD that came with a 8.5 x11 piece of paper with some black and white pictures of the various ball locations. I lived in Iowa at the time and immediately began integrating what I learned in the workshop, DVDs and CD into my classes. When my husband and I moved to LA in 2010 and I got an email from YogaWorks about the Level 1 training, I knew I had to take it…the rest is history!

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Upper Back Tension Tune Down [Shoulder Tune Up Part 3]

[Shoulder Tune Up Part 3]

If you spend any amount of time sitting at a workstation during the day, the muscles of your upper back, especially the ones between the shoulder blades, can become overtaxed and loaded with tension.

Hopefully, you have a pair of Roll Model Method Therapy Balls in your purse or desk (and if you don’t, you should!) so you can tame your tension on demand. Check out the video below where Jill Miller demonstrates the Snow Angel with a pair of YTU Therapy Balls, which is a bonus dynamic stretch for your pecs and chest.


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Do This for Your Neck Pain Now [Shoulder Tune Up Part 2]

[Shoulder Tune Up Part 2]

If you sit at a computer regularly, the muscles of the upper back and neck can get very tight holding the weight of your neck and head all day. For every inch your head comes forward from your shoulders, the muscles that root your neck into the rest of your body have to handle an additional 10 pounds of work. Add an 8-hour day of stress and you may find yourself with a very grouchy upper back.

YTU Therapy Balls are the perfect size to melt into the grooves alongside your spine where these postural muscles live, but any size of Roll Model Therapy Ball will do.

Check out the video below where Jill Miller demonstrates how to use a pair of YTU Therapy Balls at the wall, which is ideal if you are in a place where you can’t roll on the ground (like the office or an airport) and want to tame your tension on demand.

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Trapezius Tension Tamer [Shoulder Tune Up Part 1]

[Shoulder Tune Up Part 1]

You know that spot at the top of your shoulder that is constantly filled with tension and in KNEAD of a massage?

The trapezius is large muscle of the upper back that runs from the base of the skull (the occiput), to the spine of the scapula and lateral most 1/3 of the clavicle, to the 12th thoracic vertebrae (at the very bottom of your rib cage). The upper fibers of the trapezius run in a diagonal direction from the base of your skull to your clavicle and scapula. Anytime your shoulders sneak up towards your ears on that stressful phone call, you pin your cell phone between your ear and shoulder, or find yourself carrying a heavy bag or purse over one shoulder, the upper most fibers of the trapezius will very loudly let you know.

The upper trapezius also has a habit of becoming a helper muscle – and attempting to compensate or assist almost every other muscle of your upper body, leaving it overworked, exhausted and quite unhappy!

Thankfully, there is a super easy Trapezius Tension Tamer that you can do at a wall. The wall is a great option if you are in a place where you can’t get down on the floor (at work or in an airport) or if the floor is too intense.

Grab a pair of any size of Roll Model Therapy Ball, head to the wall and check out the video below with Jill Miller on how to tame the tension of your upper trapezius!

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Take the Bark Out of Your Down Dog

Picture this: Sheila is a devoted yoga practitioner and likes to stay fit by lifting weights and playing sports when she isn’t sitting in front of her computer or driving her son to and from school.  She continually complains of pain in her wrists and hands when performing Downward Dog or plank during her yoga practice.

The repetitive motions of her daily life (driving, texting, typing, lifting weights etc.) are enough to throw her wrist and hand muscles into overdrive, which causes pain, tension and discomfort.

Since we can’t put life on hold,  practice self care that will help build strength and dexterity required for planks and downward dogs.

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Does your Downward Dog Bark?

Do your clients complain they have pain in their hands and wrists while in downward dog, plank, performing a chaturanga and any position where they are bearing weight on their hands with the wrists in extension?

We have many muscles in the hands and forearms that can contribute to this painful issue. We use the flexors of the forearms and wrists countless times each day: Texting, holding the steering wheel to drive, blow drying hair, brushing teeth, eat, open a car door, using tools to drill ,hammer , rakes and shovels to garden…the list goes on.

Muscles that move the forearmMeet the hardworking flexors of the wrist and hand:

flexor carpi radialis, palmaris longus, flexor digitorum superficialis flexor digitorum profundus and the thenar group, which is the pad of muscles at the base of your thumb.
The five flexor muscles listed above create flexion primarily at the wrist or fingers. They are located on the forearm’s anterior/medial surface (the hairless side of the forearm) between the brachioradialis and the ulnar shaft. Most of the flexors originate from the common flexor tendon at the medial epicondyle of the humerus. The bellies of the flexors extend down the forearm becoming tendons near the wrist. Read the rest of this blog post »