Tricep Press Up Success!

Last Friday in the 8am and 9.30am classes an exciting thing happened......and this time I know it wasn't just me, because afterwards a bunch of you came and told me you were excited too......a lot of folk did their first really solid tricep press up. It's a tricky manouevere where you press up from the floor into a kneeling plank without collapsing the shoulder blades.6.30am folk I'm sorry I didn't get time in your session but not to worry......there's always this week! Yaay!

Why does it matter? Well it demonstrates that you have developed some fantastic shoulder stability in just 8 weeks. You've made space, you've strengthened your base of support and one of you told me you felt stronger now than ten years ago. I salute you all!

WHAT'S THE BIG TAKE AWAY FROM THIS TERM?

A key is understanding that we have to drop our disguises a little bit so that we can actually work on the muscles we've been bypassing. Gradually we then get stronger in how we hold ourselves upright every single day. We take away the need to compensate (via winging the shoulder blades, thrusting the ribs, hyperextending the wrists and the elbows just for starters) by gradually changing how we move through each day.

We looked at a range of things and you can flick back through the blog for a reminder.....but when in doubt come back to your big three:

  • Back up your hips
  • Drop your ribs
  • Ramp your head (without lifting the ribs again! Then your spine can actually lengthen)

WHAT'S COMING UP IN TERM 4?

In Term 1 we explored the pelvis, Term 2 the core, Term 3 neck and shoulders so Term 4 is a wonderful opportunity to bring it all together with an eight week journey towards optimal walking.

Lots of folk are coming back from winter holidays so please do let me know if you haven't already if you'd like me to hold your place. 8am Friday is already full (folk already in that class unless you've told me I'm assuming you are coming back so please don't worry, I haven't given away your spot!) We are opening up Tuesday 8am again so please do let us know your plans and we'll  get ready for a summer of joyful movement.

MUSIC
A number of folk have asked me to create a Spotify playlist available with some of your favourites from class. So here you go, it's called "movewell2018Spring".

FAVOURITE NECK/SHOULDER RELEASE IS ON TEACHABLE
Many of you are making the most of your access to free videos to help you practice at home. If you haven't had a go yet or have had some trouble logging in let me know. I've been able to get everyone in so far, and you have a choice of going in on your computer and/or via the Teachable app (if you have an IPhone or IPad). Here is the link to the favourite release of the term (based on feedback):

https://movewell-at-home.teachable.com/admin/courses/316280/curriculum/lectures/5422399/file

 

Term42018Flierfinal.jpg

Standing Tall, Naturally

So you might have noticed (and possibly even mentioned ;-)) that we've done a lot of rhomboid pushups this term. One of the key ingredients to lasting shoulder and neck freedom is strengthening their base of support. The rib thrust/chest lift/shoulder blades pulled back hasn't made our upper body stronger. It's actually put a fair bit more pressure on certain parts of the spine and made it hard to access some really helpful (and big) muscles.  In week 1 I gave you this Katy gem :

"The use of the arms is particularly important both to making our body more usable and to the maintenance of the body's structure. Upper-body tone not only keeps the joints of the shoulders, elbows, and wrists stable and operating smoothly, optimal tension in this area is responsible for keeping the upper (thoracic) spine upright." (Pg 117, Move Your DNA, Katy Bowman)

So for the next two weeks we will consider ways we can cement these concepts into more upper body tone management in our daily lives. I'm thinking of Denise doing rhomboid pushups at her kitchen bench (genius) and we'll adapt that using what we've got handy in the studio (the wall!) Building yourself up to hanging from your hands is also a great goal (and it's fine for you to keep your feet on the ground and for a long time this is the best way to go). If you are keen to give that a try join me outside before or after class before the end of term (in the real world tree branches, door frames and more can easily serve the same purpose as a bar. The important things is arms overhead then drop the compensations....ribs down, head ramped, shoulders down from ears). Great Katy Blog (with Youtube links) on building up to hanging and swinging can be found by clicking here.

Over To You!

You know how I love real life stories, well this week I had a fantastic email from Maureen and Marj who were on holiday in a warmer part of Australia and she even sent a photo and gave me permission to share her success with you all. Thanks ladies!

"Thought you would be interested in this Mel. We were walking up the Burleigh Heads National Park and all of a sudden for no reason I got a twinge in my knee, which caused me to limp. I tried some knee cap releases. No good. Marj was walking behind me and suggested I concentrate on hip width apart and feet straight ahead. Amazing!!! It righted itself and now as I sit back enjoying a beer after a beautiful day of 22 degrees I have no knee twinge."

I take my hat off to both of you. That's what I call team work, and we all teach other all of the time. You guys teach me things every single class. Two weeks to go and Term 4 classes are now available to be booked online (lots of folks returning from holidays so make sure you let me know you'd like to keep your current spot).

 Great work Maureen!

Great work Maureen!

Am I supposed to walk around like this?

Last week we added the idea of neutral shoulder blades (relax those wings) to dropping our ribs. The good news is this can bring instant relief to a range of aches and pains, the less exciting news is it can make you feel a bit droopy. Leading us to the oft asked question that  is best answered by Katy Bowman in Move Your DNA:

“WAIT. AM I SUPPOSED TO WALK AROUND LIKE THIS?
... The answer is no, of course not. But at some point you have to undo the masking of habitual positioning if you are going to change it. You can’t get your muscles to work a new way, to support the thoracic body, if they are always occupied with hiding your poor form. So the process is more like this: Relax some of your mask (drop your ribs and relax your shoulders when you remember). Do a little corrective work to change the mechanics of the shoulder. Relax the mask some more. Do a little more work. Slowly toggling between these two will gradually reshape your body.

I love the word 'toggle' and I use it a lot in class. There is no room for extremes in corrective exercise. As is true so often in life, the middle way is the best approach. You literally cannot ask tissue to suddenly start doing something in a different way and expect an instant response. There won't be the length or the electrical conductivity available yet.....but it will come relatively quickly if you are consistent (note I said consistent and not aggressive).

So be patient and persist and celebrate every little victory. I hear great stories every single week of how your funcitonal 'real life' movement skills are improving.....things like being able to balance more effectively when doing your shoes......or being able to help stabilise your partner who was falling - suprising you both with how strong you are becoming (I say becoming because you haven't finished yet!)

This week adventures will include head position because I feel like that's the icing on the cake when it comes to really lengthening your spine and not feeling droopy anymore. I'm going to show you the two ways we commonly (and unconciously) lift our head and a different way to think about 'ramping' into the future.

There's already a head ramping video for you on Teachable and I'll write more about why it's just so important for neck, shoulder and spine health next week:

https://movewell-at-home.teachable.com/admin/courses/316280/curriculum/lectures/5416451/file

And here's where you say.....am I supposed to swim around like this?

Sick of me saying "drop your ribs"? Me too....let's try this one "just don't lift them"! ;-)

I've heard Katy Bowman call the neck and shoulder region of our body the last frontier....and there is no doubt that what happens from the ground up impacts our entire movement machine. But there is one thing you can instantly change in your upper body regardless of what's going on down below.......drop your ribs. Actually there's a bunch of ways to say it, like soften your ribs, relax your chest down, back your ribs up....but one of my favourite ways to think about it is to just stop lifting them.

In fact you don't want to be muscling them down, that can create more tension. When people first working with me I often say to relax your ribs down by 5 or 10 % and you will already be making positive change. Katy describes it so well in Chapter 7 of Move Your DNA - Mouse Hands to Monkey Arms and so here is another great quote that fits in beautifully with this weeks class:

“Have you ever seen an older, grandmotherly woman shuffling along with her spine curved forward into a dowager’s hump? This forward curl of the upper spine is called hyperkyphosis, and many associate this posture with age or a deterioration of the bones of the spine. But .... most people are walking around with a hyperkyphotic spine, and have been for decades....(Katy then explains how we have a weakened capacity to hold our spines upright due to the limited nature of the daily movements required of us) It’s not a physiological mystery why or how our soft tissue has frozen parts of the neck, arm, and shoulder joints out in front of us. We literally live our lives there, and thus have adapted to this narrow and frequent use pattern.

Over time, this added weight out in front of the body increases the drag on the spine, causing it to spill over. Which is why parents, teachers, and other adults around the world instruct children regularly to stand up straight—a verbal cue that typically results in the retraction of the shoulder blades, and a lift of the chest and chin.

While these adjustments (chest up, shoulders back) reduce the forward-displacing loads to the spine, they don’t actually undo the curve; they just hide it. And, even worse, adjustments made to facilitate a temporary visual improvement actually introduce new curves in the opposite direction and compromise the mechanical leverage of the muscles that support the spine—all leading to an even greater curve over time.”
 
Excerpt From: Katy Bowman. “Move Your DNA.” iBooks.

So soften those ribs down. See if you can get your bottom ribs to line up vertically with your ASIS (you know those bony guys we often think of as our hip bones). I know that it does feel strange at first, so we'll talk next week about ways to alleviate that feeling. Some instant inspiration though is to notice any difference in uncomfortable feelings. So much of our back pain and shoulder tension is coming from the habitual rib lift.  This same habit also limits your core function and can be throwing off your balance too. So make it a particular focus this week and see if not lifting your ribs can become your new normal.

The truly wonderful Petra Fisher just happened to make a fantastic video this week that is completely supportive of what we are doing in class! Thanks Petra!

Does How I Use My Arms Even Really Matter?

If you happen to have a copy of Move Your DNA now is a great time to re-read Chapter 7: From Mouse Hands to Monkey Arms. There is some absolute gold in there. If you don't have a copy my favourite way to ingest this gem from Katy Bowman is to buy the talking book version and listen to it when you are out walking. She even tells you how many miles each chapter will have you covering  (Aussies can convert to km's of course!)

The way we use our arms is an important factor in neck and shoulder health. The arms spend a lot of time straight out in front of us, meaning other movements have become restricted. When you need to reach higher lifting the ribs gets the job done, but it doesn't help remedy the stickiness around your shoulder that can be contributing to tension and pain. Here's a key quote from the book:

"The use of the arms is particularly important both to making our body more usable and to the maintenance of the body's structure. Upper-body tone not only keeps the joints of the shoulders, elbows, and wrists stable and operating smoothly, optimal tension in this area is responsible for keeping the upper (thoracic) spine upright." (Pg 117, Move Your DNA, Katy Bowman)

One of my favourite ways to mobilise my arms while working on some very sticky parts of the spine is the Rhomboid Pushup. I've filmed a version of it for you that includes a more basic set (which is a great place to start) and then a second set where we start adding on some more layers, when you are ready.

Practice regularly and mindfully for best results (I've never seen a sporadic but vigorous practice get great results, slow and steady really does win the race when it comes to establishing healthy movement patterns).

 

 

Neck and shoulders and ground force

Classes start back this Friday and you might be surprised to find our first homework assignment will be focussed on balance! It's very common to be tensing the neck and shoulders even when we just stand and chat to a friend. So one of our focusses this term will be catching ourselves in the act and changing that pattern. 

The forces created by lower body tension contribute to so much of our upper body strength and movement limitation.

So I'll be showing you a little sequence that has become part of my regular routine. It's both a warm up and stability strengthening practice that helps me monitor how one side of my body tends to work harder than the other. Over time I've found that I can then hone in on that and through new patterning help the left side get stronger. I can also catch myself tensing my neck and shoulders - and if it that's happening when I'm standing on one leg for just a brief moment.....imagine what happens when I'm out walking or carrying groceries.

......and of course, we'll do lot's of focussed shoulder loving exercises too.

And just in case it might have dropped off during the holidays, get onto that handstretch. A lot of the lovely exercises I've got planned for us will be so much more enjoyable for you if you hands are a bit more mobile. I've been really enjoying creating some Movewell Flows so we can be a bit more dynamic in our practice. It also makes it easier to remember sequences and you can monitor your progress from Week 1 to Week 8.  Looking forward to sharing them with you, but in the meantime.....hand stretch, hand stretch and also calf stretch (if you've forgotten how get onto your Teachable Channel where there is even a neck and shoulder section).

A bunch of new videos for you (including a special Travellers selection and Bart pays a visit)!

Ok so Ian's video and Bart's appearances are definitely the highlights of the channel so far! Ian has promised to do another one for you and Bart turns up twice in the latest batch so that should inspire you to do some homework. One of the best ways to improve and maintain your movement health is to work the basics into your daily life and a lot of the videos focus on ways you can do that. I'm wearing my street clothes in the one below and the new Traveller selection can all be done easily out in the world. You don't have to say "I'm going to do my exercises now" to get the benefit of them.....just make those little shifts in the way that you move a regular part of the things you do all day. For proof positive of how your attitude to movement can change your life read this fascinating article.

I've put one of the new videos on Youtube but to view the rest you need to be a weekly class or private client. I know that some of you can't get to our classes so please do let me know if you are interested in the subscription service I'm creating.

Enjoy your holidays and I'll look forward to seeing you in Term 3 and beyond! X

 

 

 

Most Effective Core Workout Ever.........Ramp It!

Small chins run in my family and around the time I morphed into a self-conscious teenager I noticed the beginnings of a double chin. I can remember working out that if l lifted my chin a little, I could mask it. Before too long this habit was joined by many years of desk work... where forward head (and it's associated chin lifting) becomes the norm all too easily.

Turns out that this was the cause of the chronic headaches I suffered for 15 years. When I started working with Restorative Exercise they gradually decreased and are now a very rare occurrence, which I can nearly always link to stress. Stress movement patterns very much encourage the forward head lifted chin, pelvic tucked position so that is not surprising. The good news is I can generally turn them off now with our exercises - some of my favourites are head ramp and calf stretch - catsuit too if you are very mindful of your boundaries.

Why does this happen? Well there are a number of reasons but the combination of the forward head and the chin lift creates an excess of pressure at the base of the skull. It also creates an overuse pattern of neck muscles and an underuse of other key muscles including your core. This can trigger that 'foggy brain' feeling, fatigue through poor circulation and headaches. It can also cause neck and jaw pain and contribute to back pain too.

In class the last few weeks we've added the idea of not lifting the ribs when we head ramp. If you do lift the ribs you put pressure on the spine and turn down the core, if you do keep the ribs down you lengthen the spine and, as I like to say in class......Wam.....there it is, reflexive core!

I'm working on a new video for our channel for this one, but in the meantime this is a great one from Petra that is only a minute long and applies to the car specifically (but everywhere else too really)!

And let's finish the term with some true stories (last week's were so popular. keep them coming! Let's inspire each other....):

  • in Nic's class Ron gave us all a penny drop moment when he observed how much more natural it is to walk with feet straight ahead when you keep them pelvis distance apart. It's actually harder to duck foot it. Another great reason to stay in your tracks!
  • A major lightbulb moment for one of our 'Movewell out in the world' champions who was doing a bit of external rotation of the thighs in the shower (as you do). She noticed that without anything being sucked in her tummy muscles naturally firmed. Another example of reflexive core in action!
  • Another on the ball champion had two success stories to share: Rhomboid pushups at the kitchen bench waiting for the kettle to boil (or any other thing you are waiting for too). No gear required! and.....
  • Waiting for your turn in a game of croquet practice your stance with some external thigh rotation - by the time you've played a whole game that's a lot of exercise that really starts to make a difference to how you move when you aren't thinking about it. Brilliant!

And one of my favourite moments in class this week was when Loretta pointed out that keeping our feet in our tracks doing top of the foot stretch completely changed how the movement feels. I had my own lightbulb moment - you were spot on Loret. One of the reasons we deviate from pelvis distance apart is it just feels 'normal' and so it's easier. Our tissues have adapted to narrow feet, but we know that is causing some major wear and tear so we want to correct that habit......when we do, we notice that the exercise is more challenging. You've uncovered the true tensions and can now create change. (But I like to remind you to go gently. Regular, mindful and boundary respecting practice is far more useful than sporadic and too intense efforts). Be like our champions and make it a part of your daily life.

For those of you disappointed about the long break between classes I've got a special offer for you - get together with 2 friends and I'll run private classes for you in Newtown. $30 each for a small class tailored to your crew. So long as you don't mind a Barthound sitting on the couch. Private sessions are also available. See you soon X

Keeping Your Legs in Their Tracks

One of our key alignment points is standing with our feet pelvis distance apart (and that's pelvis distance with the feet straight ahead, not duck feet!). That means the centre of your ankles line up with the bony bits that stick out at the front of your hips (your ASIS).  This is really important for our joint health. A lot of the excessive wear and tear we experience in our ankles, knees and hips is created by the habit of moving and standing with the feet quite narrow (some folk go too wide but by a long shot most of the people I've worked with tend to go too narrow).

What I notice with most people though (and as usual I noticed it first in myself!) is that we are great in our practice but when we start walking we go straight back to narrow. Infact I think you really need to watch yourself to recognise just how easy this is to do. We know we can't change everything overnight but with the holidays fast approaching I'm thinking one thing we could think about more is pelvis distance apart. What's that you say Mel?

"Stand and walk with your feet pelvis distance apart!" Just that, you don't have to try and remember everything, just that one thing. I promise you it's not as easy as you might think."

True Story Time
A client recently had the great experience of her foot pain disappearing completely just by reverting to true pelvis distance when she walked. It happened while we both watched. It was truly remarkable and we had at least one witness who was not as biassed as me! The Hub has that wonderful mirror so it's a great place to watch yourself walking up and down the room. I can promise you that it will feel strange (the lady in question said she felt like she had made a mess in her pants) - but putting up with that weird feeling for a while seems much more sensible than putting up with the pain and it's resulting damage. If you think about it, we've been moving a certain way for a really long time so it's not going to feel normal for quite a while either. Establishing strong and supple supporting muscles is going to really help and lots and lots of patient repetition will too. Notice that nowhere did I use the word 'force'. Force won't get the job done, just be curious and patient and try it out.

It's About The Core Too
At this stage of the term you can probably imagine how this might impact upon your core too. If the ground floor of your building is too narrow for the floor's balancing up on top it's going to be wobbly up there - and we are likely to be pelvic tucking and / or rib thrusting to compensate.

You could think of it as 'resetting your feet in their tracks' - like a train track. And you could catch yourself multiple times a day when standing or moving. Is your train really on it's rails?

Video Time - Find What We Did In Class This Week on Teachable!
If you liked our warm up this morning it's the same practice I designed for my most illusive client. He let me film it but insisted on a quiet video with no bla bla. It takes care of all four quadrants of your hips from one basic position and is done in 10 minutes. He has found it's kept his back and hips well maintained for about the last 18 months now. You could substitute a belt, a pillow or two and a book for the block , strap and 1/2 dome that he uses.  For our wonderful clients, it's in your Teachable video channel, under the Block and Half Dome Series, it's called: A Quiet Practice: the link is:

https://movewell-at-home.teachable.com/courses/316280/lectures/5075039

We also did some standing strengthening of the hips which you can find in the Let's Go For a Walk section, it's called: Get Ready For Stairs and Hills.

https://movewell-at-home.teachable.com/courses/316280/lectures/5075039

And a section with more of a core and shoulder focus was included from the Block and 1/2 Dome  Series. You have 6 of these to play with but this week the one we did comes closest to Core Work and a Twist.

https://movewell-at-home.teachable.com/courses/316280/lectures/5021665

And A Bonus Petra Gem
This year we've devoted some time to how we get up and down off the floor, and I've been so happy to see so many of you embrace this task. You've clearly found it's getting easier and that you are getting stronger (which is great because then you feel more confident and more like getting up and down off the floor more often....so less chair sitting, so yay for your back and for your hips!) The lovely Petra Fisher has made a great video about getting up and down via the lunge which I think that many of you will enjoy.

 

    Term 3
    Dates for Term 3 are now online. If you are planning on coming along please do let us know at your earliest convenience. This is traditionally our quietest term with many folk heading to warmer parts of the country for the winter months so if you've been hankering after a different time slot now is the time to let me know as some spots have opened up. When we get an idea of how many folk are staying to play with us we can confirm what classes will be running.

    Want a strong core? Set your shoulders free!

    There is a very close relationship between your neck, your shoulders and your hands - they are intimately connected and their condition has a big impact on your core function. Last week we proved that connection and it was so exciting (ok maybe that was mainly me) that I made you a video - see below (it's also on your video channel under Movewell Bites). It's a great incentive to do lots of hand stretching regularly .

     

    This week we'll add another layer to our shoulder focus because the state of your core is so literally bound to your shoulders that you can't work on one without working on the other. The more you are able to access external rotation of your shoulders, the more you are going to be able to stop relying on your neck muscles and start utilising your lat (large back) and core muscles. Your lat's (lattisimus dorsi muscles) are the ones we are talking to when we attempt the 'superstar' armpits. Yes your armpits are potentially superstars because when we get fussy about how we do our exercises we stablise the shoulders and take an excess load off the spine (including your neck).

    We'll also be head ramping our hearts out because if you want to get rid of neck and shoulder tension once and for all (not to mention headaches and brain fog) you definitely want to stop living with your head out in front of your shoulders.  Now lets get to it! Stretch your hands and set your core free to work optimally well (again no need to worry about no time, the above video is only 6 minutes long!)

    (Another Easy Homework Idea: Notice how often your elbow pitts are in internal or external rotation, and wherever possible - see if you can gently externally rotate them and notice the difference. It may feel weird, but if we do it often enough it becomes the new normal).

    Motivation comes in many forms....even an app!

    One of the ways I think about what we do is working towards a deeper understanding of "how your body works and how to help it work better." There is a potential freedom that comes with that understanding and even a sense of empowerment. But of course it does take a committment to some changes in the way we think about movement and change is generally challenging.

    It's always good to be patient and observant and celebrate the little victories (you mention things to me often - like less headaches, easier to put your shoes on, a tool kit to draw on when something niggles) but it can also be helpful to have an easy reference kit with short practices to help you refresh what you learn in class. Which is where our Teachable video channel comes in.

    And a recent discovery (thanks Heidi!) means you can even access your mini classes when you are out on the road. If you have an IPhone or IPad and you go into your App Store, you'll find that there is a free Teachable app where you can access our videos. If you've had any problems logging in, just tell the computer you forgot your password and it will let you reset it and you should be good to go. (I know it can be frustrating learning to use these things, but spare a thought for your teacher who has also had to learn to use a film camera, microphone, become an editor and so on. It's a great system though and I promise that you really will get used to it and before too long it will be a breeze.)

    Over time we can evolve it together and create the home practice program that best supports you. You can tell me what might help you there.... but some ideas are to add short courses for beginners, advanced courses for particular issues and so on. 

    In the meantime the focus will be what we are covering in classes and snippets related to lifestyle. One great idea is to try one of the pre walk warms ups before your daily outing and see how that goes. I generally find it does make a big difference to how well I move which is a key way to motivate myself to do it regularly. The one below is only 6 minutes long which means any "I don't have time" ideas just fly out the window ;-)) correct?

    And as you might have noticed I do like to maintain at least a bit of a sense of humour about it all so when one of my regular clients offered to let me film his personal stretch sequence I jumped at the opportunity. Even though he insisted on pixellating his face and having absolutely no dialogue. You'll only hear a bell when it is time to change position. At this point you may have guessed who this character is. If you are curious to have a look it is called A Quiet Practice - Long Release, Yin Style and you'll find it in the Block/1/2 Dome Series section. His particular motivation is peace and quiet so if you love that approach let me know and I'll do some more like that. 

    One last motivational idea - here's some practical ways to improve how you move every day from the always inspiring Petra Fisher.

    (This blog is long enough so I'll write a little more about shoulders and your core next week, but we will prove in class that hands and core impact each other in the first 5 minutes so make sure you don't miss it)

    Your foot bone is connected to your 6 Pack

    All of our classes are whole body classes but this term we're enjoying relating everything back to the core. Already one thing is particularly clear ....... that the relative position of your pelvis to your rib cage has a huge impact on your capacity to engage your core muscles reflexively (that just means naturally, without perceived effort,  simply because of how you are moving). 

    So I think we are ready to go a 'step' further.....if your ribs need to be nicely stacked in relation to your pelvis for your core to work optimally well....then what happens when your tense feet and calves are changing the rotation of your legs (and therefore impacting your ankles, knees and hips)? For example, if your thighs are tugged in and down by tense foot muscles, wouldn't that impact on the stability of your pelvis?

    Did you answer yes?

    I know that you did, well done! So yes this week we will work on foot and leg mobility and see how it effects our pelvis and therefore rib cage stability.....and we'll do some other stuff where you can feel those abs turn on, which is always exciting too.

    I'm really excited about our new video channel and plan to add a fair bit to it by the end of the term. I've already had some great feedback so let me know how you are going. It's free to all class participants (group and privates) and once I've built up a good body of work we'll start a subscription program for those times you can't get to class. You can ask for things to be added and Nic will be filming some clips for you too. 

    Now I know it's a blow but I'm going to have to cut the bla bla short here, because Bart wants to go for his walk. He will be starring in a few of our videos because he loves getting in front of the camera, but also, just like some of you perhaps....he wants me to pipe down and get moving!

    Here's a taste of what's on offer. I designed this one for my daughter Lucy, and it may not suprise you to learn that a bunch of you did it before her! She does love it though, hope you do too.

     

     

    It all starts with the breath

    A lot of times we think about our core work as being specific to the belly region.  Consider this possibility though, what if your core was about everything that impacts on how well your abdominal muscles can function....that means we need to factor in your back and your sides, your pelvic floor, diaphragm, glutes and hamstrings, quads, psoas and let's not forget those deep hip rotators. What's that you say ? It sounds like it's all core work! I think you might be on to something.  A 1,000 sit ups won't do you any favours when your system is out of whack. Some part or parts of you are going to compensate and your body will let you know that it's not happy. Instead, let's take care of the whole body and sense a deeper, subtler core activation that helps us to do all of the things that we love.

    This week we'll put a spotlight on the breath. Accessing your rib cage to breathe engages your deep core and respiratory muscles while taking a load off your neck and shoulders. We'll be working on that in class this week and maybe you could spend some time on it at home too. Perhaps in your new favourite Psoas Release using the block and the 1/2 dome. I've just filmed 5 videos using that one, and the new channel will be up and running next week so stay tuned! In the meantime, I love this description of rib cage breathing (she calls it jellyfish breathing) by Alison Crouch. As Alison says:

    "The jellyfish breath is one way to engage your deep core and respiratory muscles and mobilize the bony structure that is your rib cage along with all the amazing muscles that surround it. "

    And here is a lovely video by Petra Fisher of rib cage breathing using an elastic band, but you know what else works really well?  An old pair of stockings! 

     

     

     

    Remember being told "Shoulders Back, Belly In"? (how has that worked out for us really?)

    One of the most limiting factors to achieving a healthy core is the commonly held cultural belief around what looks "normal and attractive". So many tell me they were always told to "pull your shoulders back and belly in" but has that really worked? Why do we have nagging aches and pains, digestive and respiratory issues, joint problems and more? Why do we have what we suspect is a weak core?

    In fact the old "shoulders back, belly in" only disguises accumulated tensions in the body.....not correct. The tensions are still there, and we've even added them by bracing ourselves in this way. We all want to be stronger - but first we have to release the tension that prevents that from happening. 

    The Psoas Release is For Your Core

    Tension in your core limits your movements and puts pressure where pressure shouldn't be. The Psoas Release is an ideal way to relieve it. We start every class that way but there are so many ways to do it. My favourite only takes a 1/2 dome and a block and I'll show it to you this week. The video below shows you a lot more too.

    The Psoas muscles (one each side) run diagonally from the bottom of your ribs, attaching to your spine in many places and also your leg bones. When they are tight they pull your rib cage forward, creating a lot of compression in your lower back (and pelvic floor). Do this exercise in letting go often so that your Psoas muscles aren't messing up your movement. Here's some guidelines:

    • Be gentle in your approach. Allow a soft belly.  If you feel a little emotional that's ok, breathe easily, be compassionate towards yourself and come out whenever you need to. Letting go of physical tension can create a release of emotion too. Mind and body are really driving the same car .....you, so be a loving mechanic! 
    • There's no perfect spot for your supports, as you'll see in Alison's video below - just make sure that your head and shoulders are supported and that you feel secure. Your lower ribs should be free to relax towards the ground. Try lining your bolster up (or other support) with the bottom or your armpits, that's about where your shoulder blades end.
    • This isn't a 'stretch' so you may feel no sensation, but do it in a way that encourages relaxation and you'll definitely notice easier movement. Music that soothes you is a great accompaniment.

    This is a foundation exercise to do as often as you can. It's great to do before you go for a walk (makes it easier to access your hips), it's great for relieving stress and lower back pain too. Check out the video below where Alison Crouch shows you a bunch of different possible variations. Give yourself plenty of time to work with your chosen shape, utilise your easy breathing and see if you can give yourself the chance to rest for at least 5 minutes.

    Ideas for home practice:

    • Feet Pelvis distance as often as you can think of it - notice just how often your feet narrow or widen, if you can see yourself walking towards a mirror you might be very surprised at how your ankles almost touch. See if you can take them towards pelvis distance even when you walk.
    • Psoas Release every day  (makes the above much easier)
    • Hand Stretch every day (getting ready for more upper body work next week)
    • Did you enjoy the chair series today? Lots of people do, which is why I filmed a version of it:

    Real World Applications

    I don't know if you've noticed but every week this term I've started you off with the same exercises. Sure, each week I've mixed it up a little bit - perhaps legs are up the wall one week and the next they are on the floor, but each week for 5 to 10 minutes we explored:

    • Psoas Release (sometimes legs extended on floor, sometimes at the wall, sometimes supported butterfly)
    • Pelvic Rocking (do you know the difference now between tucked, untucked and neutral?)
    • Hip releases (Butterfly or Happy Baby and No. 4 or cross leg variations)
    • Angel Arms and Reverse Palm Shoulder Release

    I had a lot of feedback to suggest that this helped you to remember the patterns of the movements, and that you could feel your body opening up a  bit more each time. I even noticed people coming early and doing it on their own (yaaay!) So that would be a great home practice for you for a daily unwind, but of course there are so many other ways to go. There is the day to day you've done a great job of incorporating all term - and I've seen you get so much stronger, with things like:

    • standing well into single leg balance and pelvic list (don't forget your kickstand option)
    • double calf stretch, with or without 1/2 dome, making sure your pelvis is untucked (we've done freestanding hands on thighs, used chairs, the wall and even our imaginary desks and benches)
    • chair squats (easy to incorporate)
    • keeping your head gently ramped as you go about your business, what about that external rotation of the arm and monitoring how you are lifting things? Remember in Week 7 we found we could use our arm muscles, our core and our glutes and hamstrings much more effectively just by changing the way we lifted the bolster.

    You also have (just to keep life interesting):

    •  Movement Multivitamin handout (you could pick 3 exercises a day)
    •  Healthy Pelvis handout (pick 3)
    • My Youtube Channel and Blog posts have many different ideas for home practice
    • And then there are Katy's huge array of wonderful resources. DVD's, video downloads, talking books, podcasts, books (all with exercise programs of their own) and a fantastic blog archive too. Click here to read more about your options there (many of them free).

    When in doubt remember keeping it very simple can be of huge benefit when done regularly.  It's better to do a gentle calf release often than hammer it out once a week.  Much better. On that note, here's Petra Fisher showing you how to do a really good one:

    I really enjoy Petra's approach as she is all about how we bring these functional movement tips into our daily lives. She has some fantastic home practice options for you so check our her website for more inspiration.  I'll see many of you for our final classes on Friday and the following Tuesday. Please note that I am available in Geelong for private sessions over the school holidays (you can share a session with a friend).

    And here is a sneak peak for next term's reflexive core series. You probably guessed the ribs and pelvis were going to come into it.....a lot.....but here is Katy Bowman giving just a brilliant and succinct demo of what we are aiming to do with our best possible stance. Remember we are not trying to change it all over night, but do lots of calf stretches and it might just happen a bit sooner for you ;-) Click anywhere on this paragraph to go to the link where the video should start playing automatically. It is a runners magazine, but this demo works for all of us!

    It All Starts with your feet....

    Last week we looked at learning to relax our overworked quadriceps and wake up those lateral hip muscles instead. This week we use our lateral hip muscles to externally rotate our thighs....and that's a whole lot more feasible when your feet are flexible and strong!

    Your feet are an important feedback tool, relaying information to the nervous system about how the body needs to respond to the world it's moving through. And yet from a young age they are generally restricted by shoes that don't let them utilise their full potential. We tend to look for aesthetics over function and don't even notice that most shoes have an elevated heel (including runners, children's and mens footwear). Then there is the tendency to seek out flat and level surfaces upon which to walk and the end result can be foot problems that resonate throughout the body.

    In Katy Bowman's recent podcast she answers a listener's question about shoes. It's well worth a listen but some things really stood out to me  (a big one was that it took her years to transition to more minimal shoes):

    "....you have to remember the ecology of it all. It’s not just what you put on your feet, it’s how you move in them...What you’re walking upon...I was simultaneously doing lots of corrective exercises. So everything that I recommend in my books about transitioning to minimal shoes, I was also doing. So that’s a lot more than just putting something on my feet."

    The question had been about what to wear on an extensive hiking trip so Katy added:

    "Even though you’ve been wearing minimal shoes, you do need to choose wisely (if) you’re adding weight, adding distance, and adding new terrain that your feet are not used to.... if you’ve worn minimal shoes...for years, but the longest walk that you’ve ever taken in them is 5 miles then you might want to plan a couple of 10 mile or 15 mile walks in them because you might find ... that you’re not adapted to them as much as you think that you are. Remember that frequency is maybe the most important variable.  And that goes for terrain exposure, distance, or duration..."

    You could use that same logic for city living. You can choose a shoe with a bit more cushioning for a day pounding the pavement and use your less cushioned shoes or even bare feet at other more appropriate times. Whatever you decide to do shoe wise, don't rush it. Katy has written a number of books on feet and shoes and offers plenty of free advice on her blog too. For those of you who have a copy of Dynamic Aging it has a really good index. Here are some links for more details on what we've covered over the past few weeks:

    • Go to page 71 for Relaxed Kneecaps (last weeks post) 
    • Page 76 -78 for external rotation of your thighs (or Neutral Knee-Pits as it's also known)
    • For more on shoes look under Footwear on Page 249 and you will find so much to explore including real life relatable stories

    If you loved Petra's video last week try this one. Catsuit is a gem for everything from foot pain to headaches.

     

     

    Living Life With The Breaks On.......

    I was giving some extra advice after class this week and my client wisely said to me something along the lines of "the answer always seems to take me back to the basics". That is so true, for all of us. This term we are focussed on understanding what's really going on with our pelvis and a lot of us have had a few 'lightbulbs' go off already. Maybe we thought we were in neutral but really there was quite a little tuck going on in there a lot of the time.

    This client's issue had been with activating the lateral hip in a pelvic list and the first thing we checked on was her capacity to release her knee caps. We discovered her quadriceps muscles were quite resistant to releasing. I love this video by Petra Fisher, an inspiring Restorative Exercise Specialist and Movement Coach.

    If we are living with our quadriceps activated most of the time we are really putting the brakes on our potential to move well. It's having a big impact on the pelvis and that's just for starters. I've written a number of blogs on the knee cap release over the years, so you can go back and look them up or, even better,  refer to any of Katy Bowman's books. Even if you've read them once, keep picking them up and going back to pieces. You'll be amazed how it makes more and more sense when you've spent time thinking about how you move out in the world.