I’ve been quiet on the class front lately, looking for some help with my nagging aches and pains. Vinyasa would be a joke; even Anusara is no fun. I’ve got a classic zigzag pattern: right foot, left knee, right hip, left shoulder, right wrist. So I’m pretty sure the injuries are related, cropping up due to imbalance. (As you injure one side, you avoid it, and often overwork the other side.) And of course my lower back is getting torqued, too.
It makes me skip yoga practice; there’s too many things to worry about. I know there’s a ton of teachers I could go see, but I have to admit that the money is a concern… I spend SO much money on yoga already. I just go running instead. Not the best solution but at least it keeps me halfway sane. And I found the time to pick up a regular meditation practice again.
But then I couldn’t skip a workshop with Jill Miller, who was in from the West Coast. (I’ve written about her here and here.) She felt my total lack of resistance in an intense side stretch and said that I need some resistance training. (Like with rubber bands. Barf.) But I agree; I am extremely flexible, and not very strong any more. I told her I was overwhelmed. I stare at my mat and don’t know what to do. She recommended Claes Passalacqua: “He’s a genius.” So I met with him yesterday…
He’s awesome! Formerly a dancer, and then a bodybuilding buff, he’s now a yoga-practicing fitness trainer. (You can find him at Crunch and beyond.) He was SO in line with my thoughts about practice (telling people to relax and soften during yoga often removes the muscular support that flexible people need… you’re the only one who can know your own body, but you have to be active and find the right teachers and put the pieces together…) AND he is super studied in Anusara! So he’s a perfect complement to my current classes with Tara Glazier. (He agrees that she’s awesome too :)
Major lesson: weak abs wreak havoc! They can be the cause of both shoulder pain and back pain, as the neighboring systems try to compensate for the lack of support. My left ribs stick way out, an Iyengar teacher told me I have mild scoliosis — but Claes said it’s probably fixable, just weak left abs. Same with my left glute: it didn’t want to fire, it’s probably contributing to my knee and back pain. Old fitness theory said you should stretch the tight muscles; new theory says you need to find and strengthen the weak muscles.
I asked him to give me 20 or 30 minutes of exercises I can do every day. So. Here’s week one!
1. Focus on the transverse abs. Sit on the floor, legs extended. Lean back onto a foam roller (under the bra strap line):
- 20 small crunches (2 sets), with the torso moving only 10º below straight. Bottom ribs in and together on exhale/contraction. Hands behind head, elbows wide, arms externally rotating, shoulder blades pulling together, neck long and straight, head pressing back, chin slightly up, RIBS IN.
- 20 more crunches (2 sets), adding alternate heel lifts
- 20 more crunches with heel lift (2 sets), adding slight torso rotation (from the ribs, not the arms)
2. Extend the focus to the deep abs. Lie down, place a foam roller under the saccrum, lift the feet to the sky:
- 20 single leg drops (2 sets), stretching each heel out like you’re painting the wall in front of you. Anterior tilt to the pelvis, posterior tilt to the tail. Hip flexors relaxed. Root lock engaged, navel down. Ribs in!
- 20 double leg drops (2 sets), just down to 40º or so. Both legs squeeze together, inner spiral. Navel in, ribs down.
3. Strengthen the glutes. Lie down, knees bent, feet on the floor, lift into Half Bridge. For more challenge, rest head and shoulders on exercise ball.
- 20 butt lifts (2 sets), using only the glutes. Relax the quads. Anterior tilt to the pelvis, posterior tilt to the tail. Knees and heels settling downward. Arms extended by ears (or elbows bend, hands behind head). Shoulders relaxed. Ribs in!
- 20 with a block between the thighs (2 sets); activating the abductors helps activate the glutes
- 20 with a Pilates ring around the thighs (2 sets); this can also help find the glutes
Yay for a plan. And no rubber bands!