DIY Friday: Move

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*Do it yourself! Every Friday we do a roundup of great posts, videos, or other resources around a theme that help people to turn their bodies from cranky to happy.*

5837875221_78fdb12266_bAn alternate title for this post was DIY Friday: Everything. Yep, we're going big picture this week and looking at our most important issue, by which I mean this one of the most crucial DIY Fridays ever, as it is the place from which most problems stem; movement. Or our lack of it. I know what you're thinking: "She's not talking about me. I work out 5 days a week." Actually, I am talking exactly to you! So here's the deal, we live in a culture where we believe that exercise and movement are synonymous. Nope. Totally not the case, particularly if your main form of exercise involves gym machines, which are, as far as I'm concerned, a plague upon our people. Don't you love how I over-dramatize things with blanket statements like that?! Me too.

Anyway, since my Rolfing® practice is filled with people who are dealing with fascial and musculoskeletal issues like chronic pain or injuries, I am frequently telling people how and why to avoid gym machines. So I figured we should just go ahead and dive into that topic here. In particular, I have no love for the elliptical machine which has been marketed as the "safe" choice, and yet creates (in my opinion) the most problems for people, particularly those with low back pain. So I wrote this article a while back when this blog hadn't yet been born and my writing of stuff was happening on my private practice website:

Low Back Pain Beware: The Machine to Avoid at the Gym.

And then Katy Bowman wrote these two stellar posts recently which really get at the heart of the matter in a way that makes my girl crush on her only blossom more. Read them, they are wise, wise, wise posts for discerning the difference between "exercise" and "movement" and understanding just what's so lousy about gym machines, and what we miss when we consider exercise the same thing as movement:

First up, Junk Food Walking, and next up:

A Wee Problem with Crossfit. (Which actually starts out addressing the peeing while exercising issue that many women have, but heads away from a pelvic floor conversation to address the root cause, which is what happens when we 1) live in a movement drought and then 2) load our atrophied bodies with "fitness" or "exercise". )

Lastly, I am also falling more and more in love with MovNat® these days, which is a great system that is taking real deal, do-what-your-ancestors-did-movement and making it accessible. If you want to experience some smart movement, find some MovNat near you. Or check out this DVD set (or you can get the downloadable version) where MovNat (Erwan Le Corre) and Functional Movement Systems™ (Gray Cook) join forces. I don't own it yet, but boy howdy, I'm am excited enough to get my hands on it, and have enough faith in both of these guys work, that I'm pre-plugging it here.

That's it! That's all for this week's DIY! I know it's a broader lens than we generally look through on Fridays here at The FFF, but it is profound stuff, and so read the articles, ponder what your ancestors were doing with their bodies back in the day, and know that moving, truly moving, can resolve and prevent a whole lotta problems for a whole lotta people.

Photo by Tigre Sauvage

DIY Friday: Lengthen those itty bitty hamstrings!

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5483358664_22080e5e98_bI have been a card carrying member of the short hamstrings club my whole life. As a result of a birth injury I had, among other things, profoundly limited range of motion in my posterior chain (think back body/postural musculature). So while every other little girl in ballet class was effortlessly falling into a full split, I was busy trying desperately to touch my toes, which at that time resulted in merely touching my knees. Yep you guessed it, ballet classes didn't last long for me (and ended in tears...). I honestly had recurring dreams as a child about doing an exquisite forward fold and being able to press my nose to my knees.

While I still struggle to some extent with mobility restrictions in my posterior chain (the nose to knees dream has yet to be realized for example) I have come a long, long way from the days of feeling like the gimpy girl in ballet class. I still smile every time my hands touch the floor in a forward fold, and I doubt that will ever go away! So for those of you who are looking at the floor with yearning as your fingertips dangle far above the floor, this DIY Friday is for you.

The first 3 videos are re-posts from my private practice blog, Soma Happy, which was the inspiration for FFF (it became FFF because I wanted it to be more than just my voice). So you can watch my three favorite insta-hamstring lengtheners in action! They are all taken from Yoga Tune Up®, which I teach, and if you want to get the magical therapy balls for yourself, you can find them here. And once you get past all of my videos, there is a link to a super useful post from Gray Cook which offers another perspective.

First up, how to use the therapy balls to safely roll out the hamstrings directly without agitating the sciatic nerve:

Secondly, this one is a sneaky little side door entrance to longer hamstrings! You'll find that by simply rolling out your feet, that your entire posterior chain is lengthened courtesy of the magic of fascia (connective tissue). Test it out for yourself by doing an initial forward fold/toe touch, then rolling out one foot, and doing another toe touch before moving on to the other side. Are your hamstrings much longer on the side that got the foot rolling? Boy howdy they are!

Lastly, this is a stretch called Asymmetrical Forward Fold which will really get you and your toes closer to one another. Try the same test/retest as in the last video by doing before and after forward folds, checking the difference between sides when you have only worked one leg.

Ok that's just about enough of me. All of my approaches here are myo-fascial release oriented. For another perspective from a great mind in functional movement, this is an excellent article from Gray Cook, one of the co-founders of Functional Movement Systems, which addresses the neural factors at play, and the why behind short hamstrings. Hint: many of us are using them as stabilizers, so if you want to lengthen them, you had also better pay close attention to upping the ante on stability and motor control as well. Bonus! It also has phenomenal instruction on deadlifting (with video) if you stick around to the end. Check it out here: What's In a Toe Touch? 

 

Photo by kevinalle

Is leg crossing to blame for your low back pain?

[Side note from Brooke: For the men reading this who are not big leg crossers, please take a look at whether you are sitting on your wallet! It has a very similar effect to leg crossing, and has a lot to do with the high rate of low back pain in men. So as you read this, you can replace "leg crossing" with "sitting on your wallet"] Enter Amanda: 2992437556_05abdf5a82_oLow Back Pain can reduce even the toughest of tough guys to tears. For years I suffered (and, yes, I even cried) due to recurring bouts of debilitating low back pain that I could not figure out the cause or cure for.  I now know that a major contributing factor was an unconscious habit of sitting with one leg crossed over the other … every day … several hours a day … year after year.  Happily, I also found my cure.

If you are a leg-crosser, sit up, uncross your legs and pay attention. The following information might provide you with the keys to liberation from chronic pain.

First, get to know your Quadratus Lumborum (or ‘QL’). Your QL inhabit the space between the bottom rib, the pelvis and the transverse processes of the first four lumbar vertebrae.  Best known as the ‘hip hiker’ muscle, its primary function is to bring the hip and rib cage closer together (as in sidebending). It should also be known as a chief culprit in cases of low back pain – and definitely held under suspicion when low back pain is one-sided.

Try this experiment:

  • Sit in a chair.
  • Cross your left leg over your right.
  • Notice: the left hip ‘hikes’ up, making your left side waist (and QL) shorter than the right.

If you sit for a large portion of your day – and you habitually cross your legs one way, BEWARE!  You are creating a QL imbalance for which you may suffer (or already be suffering) mightily. Fortunately, you can help yourself.

First: Stop crossing your legs.  Be vigilant about it.  In fact, put a post-it note on your computer screen that says ‘Uncross your legs’ as a reminder.

Second: Try the following active pose in the video below, Sidewinder,  to restore balance to your QL.  Whether you are a chronic leg-crosser or not, if your QL is responsible for the pain in your back, these exercises are your therapy.   Practice and enjoy freedom from pain. I am!

 

                                                                                       

The original post Danger: Do Not Cross! (your legs) is re-posted here with permission from Yoga Tune Up®

About the Author

Amanda Tripp ThumbIt was love at first Sun Salutation for Amanda Tripp, who was introduced to yoga as a teen when her mom brought home a video. Eventually, she sought out living, breathing teachers to help direct and deepen her practice. Her teachers have been inspirational; her yoga practice: transformational. Amanda felt the call to share the healing benefits of practice with others and completed a 250-hour teacher training program at the Yoga Centre of Burlington. Continuing studies led her to the work of Jill Miller and certification as a Yoga Tune Up® teacher. Amanda’s classes speak to the body, breath, mind and heart as she guides students toward greater ease of being.

                                                                                     

About Yoga Tune Up

avatarYoga Tune Up® is a therapeutic conscious corrective exercise format that strikes a balance between the worlds of yoga, fitness, and myofascial self-care, attracting students of all ages and body types. It breaks down the nuts and bolts of human movement and provides therapeutic strategies that create balance and flexibility in the body, while helping to relieve painful injuries, improve coordination, and reduce stress. It interweaves precise anatomy with a yogic lens of awareness, conscious relaxation, and self massage to help every student live better in their body – no matter what form of movement you practice. The study of Yoga Tune Up® delves you deeply into integrated anatomy and body mechanics while helping you discover a fresh approach to asana.

 

Photo from girlguyed