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Part 1: How Can Developmental Patterns Improve Your Performance?

Understanding the most basic patterns of human movement starts with understanding developmental patterns and how these patterns build upon each other in a neuro-developmental sequence. Throughout our life it can be advantageous for us to spend time revisiting these developmental patterns to break up compensations and restrictions in movement.

Photo from: On Target Publications

Photo from: On Target Publications

What are developmental patterns?

During infancy, these primitive patterns include rolling over from belly to back, moving away from our base of support we begin to become aware of our spine and how to move a little body under the weight of the head. From here, we learn to crawl then walk.

As adults the most fundamental activities of the human body revolve around simple and basic patterns such as; running, climbing and bounding.

The developmental patterns include the following:

  1. Supine & Prone
  2. Quadruped
  3. Tall & Half Kneeling
  4. Standing

This week is the first of 4 articles in of our “Ground Foundations” programs. Let’s start with the most basic posture, supine and prone. Supine, Meaning laying on your back and prone meaning laying on your belly.

Developmental Pattern #1: Supine & Prone Rolling Pattern

The Spine is designed to move, yet many of us compensate by moving more in one segment and less in another. Moving those segments creates changes to the neuromuscular support around that particular segment. It may free up some muscle tone and allow you to move through your spine a little bit better, but it will not last unless it’s combined with sequential release patterns.

Apart from mobility, we also need to address the other side of the proverbial coin and that’s stability.

Perry Nickleston, of Stop Chsaing Pain states it best; “What is the missing component? Stability – the ability to control movement under change. Uncovering an underlying fundamental stability dysfunction is a critical foundation of functional movement patterning. Going back to primal basics of fundamental movement and core sequencing reveals just how vulnerable a client is to re-injury. In order to discover why clients are in pain, as opposed to just chasing their symptoms, one must look at core function and neural sequencing.

For a more detailed overview of rolling pattern, check out Perry Nickleston’s article “Primal Rolling Patterns for Core Sequencing and Development.”

Simply put, rolling pattern offers us the opportunity to re learn basic flexion and extension of the spine, with the integration of rotation. This can improve our ability to reflexively engage the intrinsic core muscles that stability spine. Moving from upper to lower body-rolling patterns also allows us to differentiate between upper and lower halves.

Upper body rolling pattern helps to bring a greater awareness to the thoracic spine, an area that often lacks the necessary mobility and causes the upper and lower segments of the spine to become sloppy or stiff.

Lower body rolling pattern:  helps to bring greater awareness to the lumbo pelvic hip complex, an area that is usually stiff. The lower back is meant to be stable, but if the hips are not mobile this can cause the lower back to become sloppy and the rhythm of the pelvis will be off.

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Remember that everything in our body is connected, much like a pulley system. Our bones are meant to float in our body, thus we must work to find optimal range in both the joint and their associated tissues in all developmental patterns.

The main role of movement and performance is to sense, adapt and respond to stimulus in a way that saves energy and produces force. This is how movement naturally develops.

However, movement changes over time. Lifestyle habits, postural changes and stress cause significant limitations and asymmetries in our movement and tissues. This significantly increases risk in performance and our health.

Revisiting developmental patterns can be used as a screening tool to help identify limitations and asymmetries. This is what it means to test for durability.

Stay tuned for next week’s article focused on the Quadruped posture. For a complete 4 week program on working through the developmental patterns, please check out and subscribe to Onnit Academy On Demand, on my Durability Channel. The Supine and Prone program starts this September.

Sources:

  • Functional Movement Systems
  • Perry Nickelston, DC, FMS, SFMA, Stop Chasing Pain
  • Onnit Academy Durability

Review: Onnit Academy Durability On Demand

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 4.36.32 PMA comprehensive library of tools for joint and tissue health at your fingertips 24/7! There are so many online programs these days for every niche in the health and wellness industry, and it can be hard to navigate which ones are truly best for you and, or your clients wellbeing.

When it comes to mobility and ensuring the health of tissues and joints, it’s important to choose a program that aims at recovery and longevity. Not just standard warm up and cool downs for training days. Recovery is the key to ensuring you move well without pain or restriction for not only the long haul of your sport, but for your life.

Why is joint health so important?

Inevitably, each of us is subjected to the experience of aging and its detrimental impact on quality of life. The degradation of joint and tissue health are a large part of what leads to the increase in chronic pain and reduction in function that people experience.

Why is tissue health important?

Our tissue over time starts to lose it’s viscosity and pliability. This means at the cellular level our tissue loses water and elasticity and becomes stiff over time. What this also means is that as we age, we must take more time and effort to reclaim that lost elasticity and mobility to the tissues that act upon our joints. By addressing mobility issues in both the tissues and the joints we can allow greater access to range and rotation which improves the overall durability of movement.

Prevention versus treatment:
As a corrective movement coach working in both the clinical as well as the performance arena’s for nearly 2 decades, I have learned that prevention is the KEY to longevity to any given sport, and of course in life. No matter what genre of the industry you work in:

– Sports Development
– Bodyweight Training
– Unconventional Training
– Mobility
– Corrective Exercise
– Strong Man
– Endurance
– WHATEVER!

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 7.40.47 AMThe one thing every sport, and of course life, has in common is the necessity for optimal recovery and sustaining durability over the long haul.

That is why I chose to create a comprehensive system of recovery strategies that are designed to provide the public with the tools through this systematic approach to maintain and improve the health of your joints and the tissues that support them.

 

Benefits to a Durability practice:

  • Learn to apply the Body Mapping process as a tool to regularly assess the current state of various joints and tissues.
  • Understand the impact of fascial health on longevity and performance.
  • Utilize ground based drills to help increase strength and skill in targeted movement skills.
  • Develop a systematic approach to Decompression as an integral part of a performance enhancement program
  • Release unwanted restrictive tension through the practice of a Restorative Mobility practice.

At the Onnit Academy, we would argue that having the tools to positively impact yourself and others with a comprehensive joint health program is likely to provide the greatest return on investment of any physical activity.

Let me introduce you to Onnit On Demand. As the Onnit Academy Durability Master Coach my hope is that these tools can help identify and address movement limitations, tissue and joint compensations, and even reduce pain.

If you are all about optimizing your health and vitality, and interested in learning how Durability and movement competency can translate, as well as compliment, other movement based systems of training out there, then this channel is for you!

I invite you to take my 4-week challenge.

For $9 a month, you will access to full 4 week programs that help you integrate recovery, decompression and movement preparation into your daily lifestyle. With educational tutorials, an e book and full length follow along videos you will start and end your day restoring movement.

Feel free to contact me at [email protected] for questions, comments or just a good ole chat!

Subscribe HERE.

Sources:

Onnit Academy Durability

The Science of Movement Part 1: Primal Patterns

Primal Patterns:

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Each of us is born into this world free of restriction with the blueprint to move. As infants, we are asked to earn our stability in the world as we learn how to crawl and then eventually walk.

As adults, the most fundamental activities of the human body should include basic movements such as; walking, climbing, crawling, running and bounding, without pain or restriction.

However, movement changes over time and many of these activities are lost and replaced by exercises in the gym, recreational sport on weekends, and occupational stress from the job with the traditional 9 – 5 profession..

Losing the ability to connect with that authentic movement of primal patterns changes how we move amongst our environment. Movement is really a measure of quality and preparation.

Movement is your gauge. It will tell you when things start to break down. Taking care of the negative repercussions that can occur from the adaptations in training, application of load, and challenging your body doesn’t have to be complicated, but it does need to be practical and transferable to ensure you maintain the quality of life you desire.

Would you ever drive your car if it had a flat tire? Probably not. The same should be said for your body. If our body is the vehicle that carries us throughout our life, should we not take care of it?

Consider some of the common areas people feel restricted in on a daily basis:

  •   Common issues in the foot: People give up their stability.
  •   Common issues in the ankle: People give up their mobility.
  •   Common issues in the knee: People give up their stability.
  •   Common issues in the hip: People give up their mobility.
  •   Common issues in the low back People give up their stability.

It is safe to then say then; that as adults and as we age, we are asked to re-earn our mobility. The number one prerequisite for sensory pathways and learning new skills —proprioceptors and neurological connection—is appropriate mobility.

This loss of structural integrity and lack of range can over load the surrounding tissues creating stiffness, rigidity and a loss of durable elastic movement. Understanding this knowledge, as well as applying mobility tools to your practice provides the energy to keep going in a state of high quality.

Next week we will look at Durability and re integrating tissue and joint health into your daily practice.

Sources:

Functional Movement Systems

Durability Certification at The Onnit Academy 

Part 2: Screening Heart Rate Variability For Improved Health Optimization

Part 2: Screening Heart Rate Variability For Improved Health Optimization

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 12.05.44 PMThe autonomic nervous system (ANS) has been carefully developed and improved over the course of our evolution.

The ANS plays an important role not only in physiological situations, but also in various pathological settings. Autonomic imbalance is an increase in sympathetic activity and reduced vagal tone has been strongly linked to chronic pain, disease and illness.

Over the few years, HRV emerged in the health and wellness industry as a means to monitor, assess and test for optimal training and recovery zones in athletes and clients.

In last weeks article we introduced stress and the biochemical changes that can occur in our nervous system when stress becomes intolerable or prolonged. After researching recovery and stress resilience there seems to be 3 key screening protocols that can help give insight into a client’s stress tolerance and training optimization.

These 3 screening protocols were:

  1. Heart Rate Variability (HRV Advanced Analysis)
  2. Sleep Patterns
  3. Resting Heart Rate

Today we feature heart rate variability (HRV) as a simple and practical way of monitoring autonomic nervous system activity.

When looking to improve stress resilience we must consider all the physiological factors that contribute to stress, performance and recovery.

Knowledge is power, and understanding your scope of practice and what you can offer is one piece of the optimization pie. Having a referral network offers you a greater advantage to support your client’s overall health and wellness. Always consider the physiological building blocks. Here are a few we feel are the top building blocks to a client’s success.

Top 10 physiological building blocks:

  1. Central Nervous System & Autonomic Nervous System
  2. Cardio-Respiratory System
  3. Neuro-Muscular System (movement efficiency)
  4. Fascial System Integration
  5. Energy Systems: alactic anaerobic, lactic anaerobic and aerobic
  6. Hormonal Systems & Stress Response
  7. Hydration & Detoxification Systems
  8. Immune System
  9. Brain-Body Loop (Psychoneuroimmunology related systems)
  10. Brain-Body Link (Mental health & cognitive health)

The ANS & Stress Resilience:

Allostasis is our Sympathetic (fight or flight, survival) and Parasympathetic (calming, rest and digest) nervous systems automatic response to external environmental and psychological triggers. These stress responses affect blood glucose, adrenal activation, glucocorticoid/cortisol, testosterone and the digestive system.

In a nutshell, the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves carry efferent (motor) signals to the heart and afferent signals to the brain for reflex functions.  Parasympathetic nerves slow heart rate through the release of acetylcholine.  Sympathetic nerves accelerate heart rate and force of contraction through the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from nerve terminals and the adrenal glands.

In a well-rested athlete the body will make micro-adjustments to heart rate based on breathing patterns as well as other physiological processes. The better your vagus nerve innervates your heart, the stronger your vagal tone which is a direct indicator of the health of your sympathetic (fight or flight response) and parasympathetic (rest and recover) nervous system.

HRV has a direct connection to your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) and can therefore be used to gain insights into your stress resilience and functioning of your overall nervous system.

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Heart Rate Variability:

Basic Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is the degree of fluctuation and change in time between successive heartbeats (also called inter-beat intervals, R-R intervals, N-N intervals, etc.).

HRV differs from traditional resting Heart Rate (HR) that averages the number of heart beats per minute. HRV looks much closer at the small fluctuations of the heart that occur in response to internal and external stimulus.

A high HRV can be an indication of a healthy autonomic and cardiovascular response; and it can also tell you if your client is currently training at optimal levels. Understanding how to build and peak your client, as well as when to program for recovery and de loading is critical to ensure your client is always progressing.

A low HRV could be an indication of age-related system depletion, chronic stress, pathology, or inadequate functioning in various levels of self-regulatory control systems. It can also be an indicator of intolerable volumes in training, which can result in overtraining or undertraining.

A low HRV reading for a prolonged period can also be a red flag. Keeping in mind that HRV is only a glimpse at internal functioning and cannot tell you your client’s glycogen levels, testosterone levels, CNS fatigue, or if there is illness. Therefore, if there is a prolonged low HRV and you have adjusted training volume with no improvement there may be other issues at hand. The largest advantage of HRV analysis is that it can give you the signal that something needs to change or validate that your training volume is optimizing your client’s health.

HRV Technology:

HRV technology makes it easy and practical for any trainer or healthcare provider to implement into their daily routine. In thinking about the hardware and software tools that are currently available, there are many out there but prices range significantly.

The top tested are Omegawave, Bioforce, ithlete HeartMath and Elite HRV systems. They are all best suited for those who want to use HRV monitoring for the “short term reading” application.

At Moveolution, we have chosen Elite HRV as it is the most economical and practical for our business and our clients. The technical support has been exceptional and the design of the online and mobile system is attractive, easy to navigate, collect data and interpret for our clients. All you need is a heart rate monitor strap and the mobile app. 1-3 readings per day to collect the data and our coaches do the rest!

For trainers and coaches interested in knowing more about the application of HRV and integration into your business model, or just for your own health and performance we will be offering an online monthly HRV analysis webinar series in December of 2015. For more information email Sarah Jamieson at [email protected]

Next week we will look at sleep patterns and why sleep and restorative rest is integral to optimizing recovery and performance.

Improve Stress Resilience With Breathing

Improve Stress Resilience With Breathing

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.25.58 AMBreathing is the most simple, yet complex thing we do all day long. It is also one of the most important factors for progressing movement and ensuring optimal recovery. Controlled by our autonomic nervous system; breathing can be influenced by the presence of stress.

Compensations in posture can be triggered in response to emotional stress, injury, poor movement patterning and illness; which can cause breathing to be altered. We can also reverse that; breathing pattern dysfunctions can also cause changes in posture, and movement.

Stress:

Stress changes the very structure and function of your brain. Your nervous system cannot distinguish whether stress is mental or physical, it just feels STRESSED. Therefore, we are asked to consider that perhaps it is not the strongest which survive, but the most adaptable. Darwin was only half correct.

Stress can be positive (eustress) or negative (distress), how we react and respond ultimately becomes the primer for living an optimal lifestyle.

Distress directly relates to high levels of stress that we cannot recover from. This can include overtraining and the physical stress of intolerable volumes or loads of physical stress, as well as trauma and prolonged mental and emotional stress.

Eustress directly relates to positive stress such as; tolerable levels of physical and psychological stress like sport and exercise, meditation and things we enjoy.

Building stress resilience starts with acknowledging where stress is most paramount, then removing any negatives that stand in your way to achieving optimal health.

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A great approach to this is the biopsychosocial model, which offers a general approach to mapping out the biological (which entails biochemical, physiological and genetics), psychological (which entails thoughts, emotions, and behaviors), and social (which entails, work environment, relationships, and cultural) factors, all play a significant role in human functioning in the context of disease or illness, so that you can strive for optimal health. Once you have established some of the most stressful triggers you can start to design coping strategies towards managing stress. Breathing is a very effective strategy and a great place to start.

Breathing:

Two great breathing drills that can be easily implemented into your training is see- saw breath; which aims to teach the ability to breathe more deeply and divide the chest from the abdomen and  the elbow lock breathing pattern; which can be used for to provide more emphasis on the lateral openings of the ribs. The elbow lock variation encourages thoracic opening to the sides of the ribcage, and extension of the thoracic spine. Both will also improve diaphragmatic release.

Breathing encourages the parasympathetic response to kick in; which is your central nervous systems main deep recovery system towards improve allostasis and relaxation to the body and mind.

Here is a link to our Moveolution YouTube Channel and Video on See-Saw Breathing and Elbow Lock Breathing.

Enjoy!

Sources:

  • Elite HRV, adding heart rate variability to improve stress resilience and optimize health.
  • Moveolution, (Recovery)Rx lab
  • Onnit – Durability Certification
Fascia in Fitness: The 1 Arm KB Swing Snatch To Improve Your Yoga Practice

Fascia in Fitness: The 1 Arm KB Swing Snatch To Improve Your Yoga Practice

Most of you will all be wondering why I have chosen to feature a complex strength exercise on a Yoga Blog site, but it is because, as a yoga practitioner and avid student in the art of movement, I have come to appreciate the common similarities between strength and grace. It all boils down to intention and state of mind. Over the past several years, I have focused my attention and intention on implementing different tools into my Yoga/Movement morning practice and I have found that a few specific exercises stand out. Some include patterns with a light club bell and others with a light kettle bell.

Understanding the importance load and strength have towards optimal vitality can help you adapt, become more versatile and more agile in many traditional yoga postures. The 1 Arm KB Swing Snatch can be a great tool for developing more strength for inversions, hand stands and isomeric, static postures in the overhead and mid range positions.

Today, I would like to feature a few of those movements; one in particular – the 1 Arm KB Swing Snatch.

The KB swing to snatch is a fundamental exercise in building strength endurance, but did you know that it is also a great exercise tool for strengthening your fascia system? The KB snatch requires a certain level of precision as there must be the availability of both tension and relaxation for the the acceleration and deceleration phases to move optimally. Below is a step by step approach to ensuring the health and safety of implementing this beautiful exercise into your strength/endurance routine. Or if you are like me, just adding a few reps per day into my daily movement practice.

The Exercise: The 1 Arm KB SnatchScreen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.45.52 AM

1. Screen: Establishing a baseline for this exercise is critical to ensure shoulder health and minimizing risk. Ensure that the client has adequate shoulder mobility first, as well as thoracic mobility.

  1. Screen 1: Shoulder mobility screen – The FMS Shoulder Mobility Screen or Apley Scratch Test is a great test to ensure a client has optimal movement at the shoulder. Checkout the Functional Movement Systems for their shoulder mobility screens.
  2. Screen 2: Lumbar Lock Thoracic Spine Screen – This test can ensure the client has adequate mobility and symmetry in their t-spine. Because of the single arm rotational stress this applies to the spine and shoulders, you want to ensure the client has the avaliable range first. Checkout this video: https://youtu.be/7OHMFPVZYOI

2. Mobilize: Choose appropriate mobility drill based on the screening. The T Spine Rotations Bow and Arrow is a great option. Checkout this video for variations on this drill.

3. Stabilize: Choose a stability drill that can offer versatility and reflexive control. A corrective approach to the TGU is a great option. Breaking down the posts can help build stability of the shoulder and postural muscles by offering a variety of loaded positions. Check out our blog piece here for a full breakdown.

4. Acceleration:

The value of the aacceleration phase offers immense benefits in driving power from the ground up. The hip drive engages the posterior chain, but also promotes extension, under tension of the deep front line and spiral line; while simotaneously counter balancing rotation of the load. Much like winding up a spring and stacking the joints, the deceleration phase then unwinds the spring by elogating the tissue while still under tension.

5. Deceleration:Screen Shot 2015-08-15 at 9.46.04 AM

The value of the deceleration phase offers immense benefits in eccentric strength endurance; specifically benefiting the deep back line and spiral line; while simultaneously creating a level of relaxation under tension as you move from the stacking of the joints into unwinding the natural spiral/rotation we can see in the follow through. This also gives the tissue time to transition back into the winding up, acceleration phase for the next rep.

6. What are the benefits for training the fascia system: Train the tissue, and by tissue we mean fascia. The benefits are endless and can enhance your traditional yoga practice.

  • Specific training can enhance the fascial elasticity essential to systemic resilience. Think whole systems integration.
  • The fascia system responds better to variation than to repetitive programs.
  • Proximal Inhibition can offer additional elongation benefits to activate the stretch reflex. Letting the more distal parts of the body follow in sequence, much like an elastic pendulum.
  • Complex movements require reflexive control and adaptation.
  • The fascial system is far more innervated than muscle tissue, this offers immense benefits to improved body awareness and opportunity for bio feedback.

For more information visit our various pages on Facebook, twitter and YouTube.

Part 2: Post Event Recovery Using Fascial Stretch Therapy

Part 2: Post Event Recovery Using Fascial Stretch Therapy

It’s 730am and it’s already hot and humid In Vancouver BC and today, is the big day! It’s Sunday June 28th and my day starts on the start line of the Scotiabank Half Marathon.

Starting out slow and steady the first half of the racecourse is a gradual uphill. Considering the heat I decided to maintain just below my race pace to ensure I didn’t start out too quickly and waste energy or dehydrate myself early into the race. As I embarked on the end of the climb, we started the gradual descent that would last for the next 4km. As I approached the 10km mark I realized that my body felt different – it felt light and “something” I couldn’t put my finger on. I scanned by body the usual suspects… and pondered for a moment … I felt “un-injured.” That is the best way I can describe it.

For the last several months, my peak training runs has been plagued with ankle compression, tight shins, and an impinged left meniscus with radiating ITB discomfort. Moving on down the rabbit hole, the left lower back causes me daily pain from adhesions scar tissue, and let’s not forget about an anterior tilt in my pelvis on the right side. On a pain scale it’s low day to day, but in training its moderate enough to place my attempts at a personal best at a stand still for nearly a year.

For the first time since last November, my body felt light and I didn’t feel the normal compression of my ankles or the tension, the soreness in my knee or the pain of the lower back. As I closed in on the 15km mark, I realized my tissues felt great. Crossing the finish line at 2:13:19 I hadn’t achieved a personal best, but with a temperature of 31 degrees and limited muscular discomfort it was a big win!

The only change I had made to my training had been the integration of FST into my recovery days post long run for the past several months.

So why don’t more athletes’ consider fascia in performance and recovery programs?

This is a common question I am asked, and the bold answer is – because not many people know that much about it. Fascia is complex and our understanding of it is still in its infancy – and, quite frankly, it can be hard to study. It’s so expansive and intertwined it resists the medical standard of being cut up, divided up and named for textbook illustrations. Furthermore, its function and form is even more complex, yet it’s subtler than that of the other systems in our body.

For the majority of medical lineage it’s been assumed that bones were our frame, muscles the motor, and fascia just packaging. Well this is wrong. Our bones are meant to float, and it’s our fascia that holds us together and provides the super highway for neurotransmission, hydration and communication.

Recover, Restore, Realign:

As previously mentioned FST places a high priority on the assessment of each client and even though it feels predominately tissue based during the hands on treatment; each FST session includes joint and tissue mobilization, as well as integration of the nervous system and dynamic corrective movement.

Half and full marathon training places a great deal of repetitive stress on our tissues and joints beyond their capacity to recover naturally and thus placing a high degree on both wear and tear on the muscles and fascia system that inevitably cause it distress. Therefore, restoring this finite framework is crucial.

I had an opportunity to briefly connect with Chris Fredrick, co founder of the Stretch To Win Institute, who offered me a deeper insight into the power FST can have; on not only an athlete’s performance, but why the fascia system is by far one of, if not THE most important system to consider in both training and recovery.

“Some of the criteria essential for fascial fitness and training aim at:

  • Elastic recoil
  • Undulating/rhythmic movement
  • Proprioceptive refinement
  • Hydration
  • Dynamic stretching

Chris goes on to say that “All of this is accomplished with FST, so FST satisfies criteria for training fascia according to top researchers.” He also went on to note that in my particular case with an impinged meniscus; “FST often helps relieve impingement after using the closed chain movements to assess. This is because it addresses spiral & lateral lines.”

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Post Event Re Cap:

The day after the half marathon, Matt Keen, assessed my overall biomechanics post event. As you can see from the above figure of the before session and after session there is an immense change in my posture. I think these photos can speak for themselves. You can see a taller standing posture, my hips look more aligned, and the shoulder hike is significantly reduced. Prior to this session I had also spent an hour rolling and stretching.

In conclusion,  receptive motions, compression, sticky adhesions, contractures and stiffness form between fascial surfaces that aren’t regularly moved, or moved often that cause wear and tear and over time these adhesions get strong enough to inhibit range of motion, and cause possible injury.

If you are plagued by nagging injuries that you can’t seem to self manage, perhaps invest in sourcing out a professional who specializes in fascia stretch therapy and corrective movement. It could be the missing piece of the puzzle to unleashing your greatest movement potential.

Sources:

Chris Fredrick, co founder of Stretch To Win Institute and Fascial Stretch Therapy

Matt Keen, owner and FST therapist at Keensense Personal Training 

Part 1: A Review of Fascial Stretch Therapy for Athletic Recovery In Runners

Part 1: A Review of Fascial Stretch Therapy for Athletic Recovery In Runners


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Fascial Stretch Therapy, otherwise known as FST, is a partner assisted stretching technique developed by Ann and Chris Frederick at the Stretch to Win Institute of Fascial Stretch Therapy. Founded in 1999, FST was designed for athletes, but is also effective and beneficial for people of all ages and activity levels.

What is fascia?

Fascia is the connective tissue that permeates and envelops all structures of the body, essentially connecting them all together in one web like matrix.  Fascia extends from head to toe, front to back, inside to outside without interruption and is the most influential factor affecting your mobility, tissue extensibility and optimal joint range of motion.

In a normal, healthy state the fascial system maintains the body in a delicate balance of tension and elasticity.  With the proper amount of tension, fascia helps support the efficient alignment of your bones while being elastic enough to permit full, unrestricted movement. Without the wonderful world of fascia, we would literally just be a pile of bones on the floor.

Unhealthy fascia?

Faulty movement patterns, poor postural habits, dehydration, stress form aging, over training; can all have a disastrous affect on this system, causing it to shorten, thicken and tighten (like “shrink-wrap”). Over time, the accumulation of these restrictions begins exerting abnormal pressure on joints, nerves, blood vessels and even organs and can create pain in seemingly unrelated areas of your body. It can create adhesions, contractures, stiff tissue.

Furthermore, compensation in any area of the body can increase the sympathetic tone and inflammatory response. This can lead to poor performance, poor sleep, pain and unhealthy movement.

What does this mean for you, as an athlete?

At some point in an athlete’s career he/she will experience some form of discomfort or injury. The human structure is complex and the best approach we can take is one rooted in prevention and optimal recovery. Managing stress, recovery and hydration are key elements in the success of any athlete and their performance; which is why FST can be a benefit to any athlete’s program.

Stress Management – Physical activity is associated with an improved quality of life; therefore moving well and pain free directly results to improved performance. Stress can be positive or negative, and our central nervous system cannot differentiate between mental or physical stress. FST can help reduce an athlete’s stress response and improve parasympathetic activity to encourage mental clarity and mental fortitude leading up to the main event. 

Recovery – Running injuries can be related to poor running technique, as well as poor elastic bounce or rebound.; which can result in micro trauma from overuse. Studies show that the majority of running injuries is caused by miro-trauma to collagenous tissues (Elliott, 1990) (Stanish, 1984).

Hydration – Approximately two thirds of the volume of fascial tissues is made up of water. During application of mechanical load, whether by stretching or local compression, water is pushed out of the more stressed zones, similar to squeezing a sponge (Schleip et al., 2012).

 FST

What does an FST session look like?

Fascial Stretch Therapy™ (FST) is assisted stretching performed on a specially designed treatment table; which comes equipped with comfortable padded straps that aim to stabilize the parts of the body not being worked on.  It can be performed exclusively or in combination with a massage treatment or after a corrective exercise session.

As an athlete, I cycle structural integration (KMI) at least once every couple of months and add FST as part of my taper program 1-2 weeks prior to my main event.

On Sunday, I will be running in the Scotiabank Half Marathon, as part of the Pain BC Charity Challenge team, with a hope of a personal best.

Matthew Keen, owner of Keensense Personal Training and Fascial Stretch Therapy has been my go to FST guru for the past several months and I have noticed a great deal of difference in my tissue. Leading up to this event, I have had a chronic anteriorly rotated right hip; which causes the hamstring point of insertion to be painful and tender, with resonating tension down the entire back line, into the plantar fascia.

Our sessions resemble a fluidly choreographed dance between the therapist and client working with your breath to ease into a gradual series of gentle, but deep stretching patterns. The experience is relaxing and pain-free and for me, was more like a movement meditation. Matt’s ability to map out the body and see the spiral patterns that are unseen by my eyes also offers me a deeper perspective on how I am holding my tension.

What are the benefits of Fascial Stretch Therapy?

  • Improved Flexibility and Mobility.
  • Improved Overall Range of Motion.
  • Restoration of normal joint space, posture and tissue alignment
  • Improved Circulation and Oxidation to the tissues and systems.
  • Improved Energy through increased parasympathetic tone.
  • Increased Muscle Activation and Relaxation.
  • Improved Physical and Emotional Well-Being.
  • Improved Muscle, Joint and Nerve Function.
  • Decrease Pain and reduced stiffness in hypertonic tissues.
  • Decrease Compression and Pinching in Joints and Nerves.

Next week I will offer a post event review of my next session with Matt Keen, and how FST can influence recovery post your main event.

Sources:

Keensense Personal Training and Fascial Stretch Therapy

Stretch To Win

“Fascia In Sport and Movement” by Robert Schleip et al.

THE ABDOMINAL WALL: STRUCTURE & FUNCTION OF WOUND HEALING

THE ABDOMINAL WALL: STRUCTURE & FUNCTION OF WOUND HEALING

Incision and closure of the abdominal wall is one of the most frequently performed; yet least discussed, of surgical procedures. Another often over looked topic is; understanding the rehabilitation process and post surgical care. Placing the power in the clients hands and arming them with the knowledge to self manage the healing process can significantly reduce movement dysfunction caused by scar tissue or change in posture habits and inactivity; as well as, a basic understanding of the timeline for wound healing and wound health.

The structural integrity of the anterior abdominal wall depends upon the rectus abdominis muscles, the muscles of the flank, and the conjoined tendons of the flank muscles that combine to form the rectus sheath. These terms, the anatomy and function were introduced in length in my last article. The rectus abdominis muscle is found on either side of the midline with the pyramidalis muscle lying superficial to the rectus muscle just above the pubis.

Factoring in connective tissue; we mentioned the rectus sheath also forms and intertwines with the superfiscial front line and the deep front lines of the fascia matrix. However, two notable structures are often overlooked when discussing abdominal wall surgery and post surgical care. They are the pyramidalis and the transversalis fasica.

 

abdominal wall 1

The Pyramidalis:

One important muscular structure that is often not discussed in re training/ re patterning post-surgical rehabilitation is the pyramidalis.

The pyramidalis muscles arise from the pubic bones and insert into the linea alba in an area several centimeters above the symphysis pubis. Normally, the precise function of the pyramidalis muscle is unclear and considered to be of no value in the human structure. That is until abdominal incisions are made along the linea alba and near the umbilicus. The function this muscle acts to contact the linea alba, as well as stabilize the pelvis.

Therefore, if scar tissue or adhesion builds up, as it naturally will due to cutting through the abdominal wall and connective tissue, the innervation and nerve response could be diminished. In many patients, I have worked with I have seen Si joint dysfunction and low back pain that was not present prior to surgery. Something to consider in rehabilitation.

Transversalis Fascia 

Deep to the muscular layers, and superficial to the peritoneum, lies a layer of fibrous tissue called the transversalis fascia, which lines the abdominal cavity. It is visible during abdominal incisions as the layer just underneath the rectus abdominis muscles.

It’s importance lies in the nature of it’s structure. The transversalis fascia in its entirety is second in importance perhaps only to the peritoneum as an encasing membrane of the abdominal contents. It acts to reinforce and stabilize the spine, as well as regulate intra abdominal pressure. Where function demands, it thickens and develops its strong elastic fibers to a protective perfection. When there are multiple incisions necessary for surgery, like a laparoscopic appendectomy this wall is perforated and comprised for several weeks to months. Tissue strength is a integral concern and factor in corrective rehabilitation; as well as wound healing.

WOUND HEALING:

Understanding the fundamental processes that are responsible for these functions is necessary to best create and close an abdominal incision and limit the risk of inflection, as well as to understand the complex process of healing post surgery.

Inflection is the first major risk; or failure of the healing process to synthesize adequate quantities of collagen to restore abdominal wall strength.

Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI):  (Pyschological + Neurological + Immunology)

The wound-healing process is a balance between the amount of damage done to the tissue during an operation, and the ability of the body to decontaminate and repair its function.

With any incision, there is exposure of blood and platelets to connective tissue; which ultimately begins the inflammatory response that will sterilize and heal the wound. Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) plays a critical role in both healing and immune function at the biological and biochemical levels. PNI is the study of the interaction between psychological processes,  the nervous and immune systems of the human body.  Recent work in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has demonstrated that stress delays wound healing; which is directly related to the pre and post surgical anxiety and nervousness a patient will ultimately feel.

Greater fear or distress prior to surgery is associated with a slower and more complicated postoperative recovery because anxiety presumably interferes with recuperation through both behavioral and physiological mechanisms. Seems logical enough.

Listening to mindful music for an hour every day can reduce chronic pain by up to 21% and depression by up to 25%, but I will leave that stat for another article.

Our body’s nature inflammatory response

During the initial phases of this process, the small vessels in the region of the injury become permeable to both molecular and cellular mediators of the inflammatory response. First, healing is under the direction of the inflammatory response, as this is essential to eliminating bacteria; as well as immunology. Every person has a unique biological and biochemical healing process; which should be taken into account.

After this initial phase, the polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNNs) and wandering tissue macrophages begin their work of digesting damaged tissue, killing bacteria, and synthesizing the chemotactic factors that direct wound repair. These cells lay the groundwork for the later appearance of the fibroblast that will reestablish wound strength.

The next critical factor in proper healing is the amount of necrotic tissue created. Actual repair must begin from healthy tissue. Healing must then begin from the uninjured tissue behind the area of damage.

Collagen & Tissue Strength

The re-establishment of abdominal wall strength depends upon the synthesis of new connective tissue. This is accomplished by fibroblasts and requires, not only the protein precursors for collagen synthesis, but also occurs most rapidly in a normally oxygenated environment where the enzymes and cofactors needed for collagen synthesis are present.

Collagen, the primary structural protein of the body, is synthesized by the fibroblast. It begins to appear in the wound on the second day, as an amorphous gel devoid of strength. Maximum collagen synthesis occurs around the fifth day. It depends especially upon the presence of oxygen, vitamin C, and amino acid precursors.

Maximum strength development does not occur for several months and depends upon the interconnection of the collagen subunits. Approximately 80% of original strength is reached in about 6 weeks; therefore it is recommended that light activity building up to moderate activity are only encouraged after 6 weeks and as long as there is no pain or discomfort.

It is important to recognize that perfusion of the wound is the most important factor in wound healing. Integrity of the microvasculature and flow is responsible for the oxygenation needed for cellular metabolism. Damage to tissue that impairs the delivery of oxygen to the wound increases the number of wound infections and the likelihood of herniation or infection. Which could complicate and impair movement quality in the future.

CONCLUSION:

Empower the patient is first and foremost. Education each client on the complex healing process and concerns moving forward with post surgical care is crucial to not only the healing process but self management on behalf of the client. Understanding tissue strength and the body’s healing process from the inside out is of equal importance when re entering sport, play and or professionals that require manual labor.

Sources:

  • Milloy FJ, Anson BJ, McAfee DK: The rectus abdominus muscle and the epigastric arteries. Surg Gynecol Obstet 110: 293, 1960
  • Cruse PJE, Ford R: The epidemiology of wound infection: A 10-year prospective study of 62,939 wounds. Surg Clin North Am 60: 27, 1980
  • Cherney LS: A modified transverse incision for low abdominal operations. Surg Gynecol Obstet 72: 92, 1941
  • Surgical anatomy of the transversus abdominis and transversalis fascia. Ann Surg. Jan 1971; 173(1): 1–5.

 

 

Getting to the “CORE” of the Abdominal Wall Post Surgery

Getting to the “CORE” of the Abdominal Wall Post Surgery

lap

 

The abdominal wall encloses the abdominal cavity, which holds the bulk of the gastrointestinal viscera. A topic I have grown quite font of over the last couple of weeks, post appendectomy.

It’s structure and function can be broken down into these key areas:

  • Forms a firm, flexible wall which keeps the abdominal viscera in the abdominal cavity
  • Protects the abdominal viscera from injury
  • Maintains the anatomical position of abdominal viscera against gravity
  • Assists in forceful expiration by pushing the abdominal viscera upwards
  • Involved in any action (coughing, vomiting) that increases intra-abdominal pressure

Its structure is complex, yet in most cases we think of the abdomen as merely the “six pack.” When it comes to rehabilitation of abdominal injuries like an appendectomy we should consider this two fold: (1) The Rectus Sheath and (2) The Abdominal Sheath and the Superficial and Deep Front Lines.

 

The Rectus Sheath:Abdominal-Muscles-Rectus-Abdominis

The rectus sheath is formed by the aponeuroses of the three flat muscles, and encloses the rectus abdominus and pyramidalis muscles. It has an anterior and posterior wall for most of its length:

  • The anterior wall is formed by the aponeuroses of the external oblique, and of half of the internal oblique.
  • The posterior wall is formed by the aponeuroses of half the internal oblique and of the transversus abdominus.

But what about the front line connective tissue? Should that not be included when discussing the complexity of the abdominal cavity and strength of the front line connective tissue? Yes!

The Abdominal Sheath & The Superficial and Deep Front Lines:

If we include the superficial front line to the integral working of “the abdominal sheath,” we can see that the entire structure starts at the feet, then travels up the front of the body and all the way to the neck and skull. The Superficial Front Line acts to contract the front of the bod.

The Deep Front Line makes up our myofascial “axial core.” This means that out of all the myofascial meridians, it is the deepest and has the function of maintaining our core alignment and core stability.

The orientation of fibers in the muscles of the left and right abdominal wall; give it strength and flexibility of movement in many directions. By contrast, the fibers of the rectus sheath are oriented for flexing the trunk.

The anterior wall is reinforced by the tough rectus sheath and one muscle. Since the sheath is composed of aponeuroses anchored at the midline, the lateral muscles oppose one another to make the trunk of the body rigid when they contract (for structural support or to increase intra-abdominal pressure).

One other notable fact is that the anterior rectus sheath is complete, but the posterior sheath is deficient (absent) below the arcuate line (linea alba).

mm-superficial-front-line

The layers of the abdominal wall consist of (external to internal):

  1. Skin
  2. Superficial fascia (or subcutaneous tissue)
  3. Muscles and associated fascia
  4. Parietal peritoneum

 

 

“The Core” of An Appendectomy:

What is the appendix?

The appendix produces a bacteria destroying protein called immunoglobulins which help fight infection in the body. Its function, however, is not essential; however there is some evidence to suggest it play a role in maintaining a healthy gut. People who have had appendectomies do not have an increased risk toward infection. Other organs in the body take over this function once the appendix has been removed.

Laparoscopic Surgery:

In most laparoscopic appendectomies, surgeons operate through 3 small incisions (each ¼ to ½ inch) while watching an enlarged image of the patient’s internal organs on a television monitor. In some cases, one of the small openings may be lengthened to 2 or 3 inches to complete the procedure. The notable factor here, is one of those incisions (for me) is directly above my belly button.

How can the incisions affect the function of the superficial fascia?

The superficial fascia consists of fatty connective tissue. The composition of this layer depends on its location:

  • Above the umbilicus: A single sheet of connective tissue. This continuous with the superficial fascia in other regions of the body.
  • Below the umbilicus: It is divided into two layers; the fatty superficial layer (Camper’s fascia) and the membranous deep layer (Scarpa’s fascia). Superficial vessels and nerves run between these two layers of fascia.

The umbilicus is the most visible structure of the abdominal wall, and is the scar of the site of attachment of the umbilical cord. It is usually midway between the xiphoid process and the pubis symphysis.

The linea alba is poorly vascularised, so blood loss is minimal, and major nerves are avoided. All can be used in any procedure that requires access to the abdominal cavity. This is a common site for incision because it can leave minimal scar tissue.

Conclusion:

Understanding the nature and complexity of the human structure can aid in supporting your rehabilitation program. Fiber composition, the body natural inflammatory response, and the body’s ability to compensation post op is equally important to reduce the impact of surgery, as well as reduce the risk of tissue restrictions and movement dysfunction.

When there are alterations made to our structure, even the smallest of cuts changes the way our body moves, adapts and responds. Our viscera is the gateway to our nervous system and when recovering from surgery we must take this into account and begin to rebuild from the inside out.

Regarding rehabilitation, understanding that the tissue around the incision is only 60% repaired for the first 4 weeks after surgery means you should take care when re entering your sport or hitting the gym. Hernia’s are the biggest consideration when returning back to work or sport after an appendectomy. Make sure to consult with your surgeon or GP prior to engaging in physical activity post surgery. Use this as a time to nurture and honor other priorities in your life so that when you do get back to your sport, you are 100% and ready to pick up where you left off.

Next week, we will look at rehabilitation and corrective movement to reduce the risk of movement dysfunction in post operative patients appendectomy.

Sources:

Anatomy Trains

University of Michigan Medical School – Clinical Case, Abdominal Wall

Instant anatomy – Anatomy lecture made easy – Anterior abdominal wall

Meet Your Thoracic Mobility Mark: The Rib Pull Bow And Arrow

Meet Your Thoracic Mobility Mark: The Rib Pull Bow And Arrow

thoracicspine

Last article we looked at the spine and how the nature of our seated, sedentary lifestyle restricts not only movement, but wreaks havoc on the surrounding joints, tissue and systems. We mentioned that we must address the entire spine when looking at improving posture and addressing compensatory dysfunction, however, it is clear that when we closely inspect the thoracic spine, it is profoundly different than the cervical or lumbar spine regions, because it is right smack in the middle of our structure.  The thoracic spine typically has twelve segments, and it has a ribcage attached to it, providing significant stability and support, which can also become tight, restricted and lack proper function. It is common to see a reduction in proper breath mechanics with an immobile t-spine.  It is located between the cervical and lumbar regions of the spine, therefore, because of the nature of its locations all bottom‐up or top‐down movements will be forced to go through the thoracic spine and when the thoracic spine is limited, so are the other regions.

If we can understand the mechanics of the thoracic spine, then we can use the principles of how the FMS systems of corrective movement can assist clients in creating meaningful, sustainable changes in movement and pain management.

We first must look to understand coupled motion; which can be easily explained by any movement of the spine in one plane is normally accompanied by a compatible spinal movement in another plane.  For example when there is spinal lateral flexion, this is always accompanied by spinal rotation. The lateral and spiral lines of our fascia matrix allows for our structure to properly rotate, twist and turn. Restricted thoracic mobility will cause changes in the joints that are meant to be stable (aka the ones above and below) this decreased stability in distal points, results in repetitive-injury, microtraumatic dysfunction and pain. Therefore, I would also like to add that most often when a client comes to me with shoulder issues or shoulder pain, addressing the thoracic spine is pivotal. Rarely are the symptoms of thoracic spine rotational dysfunction presented in the thoracic area.

In the last article I also mentioned the “anterior dominant society” which continues to play a significant role in addressing t-spine rotation. The majority client who have limited thoracic spine mobility, have also limited movement into flexion; therefore we most often see dysfunction in extension. The cobra pose was one mobility drill or stretch if you will, we used to improve spinal extension and anterior chain opening.

Therefore, today’s article features a great t-spine mobility drill to help improve mobility, rotation and release of both the anterior and posterior upper chain, as well as introducing rotation to our spiral and lateral lines.

The rib-roll thoracic spine stretch is one such corrective exercise. It not only focuses on rotation, but also re activates the rib cage and shoulder mechanics into working with the thoracic spine in rotation.  It has the ability to stretch many dysfunctional areas at one time and is and easy and effective drill to perform at home, at the office or pre workout.

rib-grab-1

How to Perform the Stretch: Rib Pulls (progression 1) and Bow and Arrow (progression 2)

  • Client should be in the side-lying position with hips and shoulders stacked.
  • If needed, use a cervical spine support to maintain a comfortable line with a “packed (neutral) neck.” Too much lateral flexion in the neck will enable the tissue to brace.
  • Flex the top leg up to 90 degrees and hold onto it with your bottom hand.
  • Place a support (foam roller or pillow) underneath the knee to lock the pelvis and prevent excessive lumbar spine rotation (if the knee is too low, you will turn this stretch into a lower lumbar stretch not a thoracic spine stretch)
  • Place the hand on your rib cage to assist with end range. Focus on the posterior shoulder blade as well, almost like trying to touch the top posterior deltoid to the floor.
  • Place the other hand is placed on your top. knee and is holding it down with the bottom leg straight.
  • At end range, assist with bottom hand, pulling torso farther into the stretch.
  • Look in the direction of the rotation and exhale on the rotation and inhale on the return to starting position.
  • Try not to strain your neck or pull too hard at the end range, this should be a gentle movement. A good benchmark of too much stretch is an inability to breathe through the diaphragm. This is a sign that your nervous system has reached a high threshold barrier.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXMNzHry7Rg

Progression 2: Bow and Arrow

  • Client should be in the side-lying position with hips and shoulders stacked as per the first progression with knee under foam roller and shoulders stacked.
  • Place the hands one on top of the other in extension
  • Reach the top hand forward gently, pulling the shoulder blade away from the spine, then gently like drawing the bow of an bow and arrow draw the arm across the bottom arm and chest to open into your t spine rotation.
  • Take a few breaths and focus on allowing the posterior shoulder to work its way to the floor.
  • You should aim to take 3-4 breaths in each rep so that the connective tissue can relax.

 

Enjoy!

Sources:

http://graycookmovement.com/?p=118

An “anterior dominant” society

An “anterior dominant” society

yoga 1

Man’s Not so Great Invention (for our structure):

Over the course of human evolution there has been one invention that is used around the world, yet has de evolved our structure. That invention is the invention of the chair, and with this, our modern bodies have started developing tendencies and compensatory patterns. From the age of grade school we are taught to sit for hours in what we now know to be the hardest position for our structure to hold. The seated position is also the most amount of energy expenditure used and not in a positive burning calories way.

Those of us who are sedentary, or spend countless hours seated at a desk, as well as those of us who are active, seem to migrate to a group of similar mobility and stability problems as we age. Our society overall is what we call an “anterior dominant” society.  Almost everything we do in our lives results in muscle length and stretch imbalances, sloppy and stiff joints and as a result our daily posture compensates.   Many injuries have been linked to these structural changes ranging from cervical and occipital ridge headaches, to shoulder impingement or dysfunction, to low back pain and herniated discs, to mal aligned hips to plantar fasciitis. All apply.

One of the most significant tendencies I see in my practice is less than optimal mobility in the thoracic segment of the spine, rounded shoulders, forward head carriage and poor posture overall. At the least 80% of clients have some form of low back pain, and this usually comes with a concurrent trigger of pain or soreness in the upper neck and shoulders. It’s the chicken or the egg complex really. Pain changes movement. Which one came first? Most often, we don’t know, but what we do know is that addressing the major point of dysfunction is key, and that we must also address the joints above and below.

The T-Spine & Posture:

The thoracic region has a tendency toward stiffness and rigidity and most often could benefit from greater amounts of mobility and flexibility. The architecture of this region is designed for support, but poor postural habits can promote stiffness and then decrease the body’s natural ability to rotate. When this happens the joints above and below the thoracic region can become sloppy, less stable and this increases the client or athlete’s risk of injury. We need to ensure we do not just address these symptoms, but follow the breakdown of the whole chain and consider the rest of the structure, by looking at both a lack of optimal mobility in the T-spine, but also the instability of the lumbar and shoulders (the joints above and below).

A Functional Approach:

Changes in posture over decades cannot be reversed in a short period of time; we may not be able to change posture right away, but we can remove any negatives and poor postural habits at work, and in daily activities.  This requires a combination of therapeutic approaches and models, some of which could include:

  • Functional assessment of structure and compensation
  • The funcational opposite – postural positions that provide decompression and relief to the client
  • Lengthen shortened muscles
  • Release postural trigger points
  • Inhibit overactive muscle groups
  • Activate inhibited muscle groups
  • Strengthen synergistic force couples
  • Normalize proper joint biomechanics and arthrokinematics
  • Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS)
  • Corrective Intervention Strategies for pain management
  • Client education and management resources

Yoga and Therapeutic Movement:

As a yoga teacher and movement specialist, after I have assessed and evaluated my client, we move onto our corrective strategy; which will usually include addressing 1 or 2 dysfunctional patterns that have the highest risk factors, and we do so by implementing corrective exercises into their daily prescribed program.

Here is one of the key stretches/ yoga poses I offer clients who require more spinal mobility and postural change.

yoga 2

 

Yoga: Cobra Pose

One of the first stretches we give to clients when addressing postural imbalances and thoracic limitations is cobra pose. This particular pose focuses on the second bulleted point above; “the functional opposite.” If you spend hours seated in that anterior dominant position then this pose if a great way to decompress the structure and improve thoracic extension. Once you have achieved better extension and reduced tension in the front and back lines, thus making it much easier to move into rotational patterns.

                              Seated Posture           Cobra Pose

Head                          Flexed Forward            Extended Back

Upper Neck              Flexion                            Extension

Lower Neck              Flexion                            Extension

Shoulders                 Round Forward            Back / Packed

Thoracic Spine        Flexion                            Extension

Lumbar Spine          Flexion                            Extension

Hips                           Flexion                           Extension

Knees                        Flexion                            Extension

Ankle                        Dorsi Flexion                 Plantar Flexion

 

Extension exercises are often used in therapeutic approaches to rehabilitation, but this is an exercise I give to all clients who may not experience low back pain, but spend many hours seated throughout the day. Prevention of injuries is most important in the hustle and bustle of our society. Once you have increased extension in your thoracic spine, you can then start to move onto rotational exercises and stretches to improve mobility. Next week we will look at rotational exercises for improving t-spine rotation, as well as how this can affect the lumbar region and shoulder regions of our body.

The (Me)ntal (Heal)th of Yoga

The (Me)ntal (Heal)th of Yoga

Most of us recognize that when we breath and move, we feel better.  Slowing down and taking time to de stress, relaxes our body and mind, isn’t just a “buzz phrase.” There are physiological, as well as psychological proven benefits that extend well beyond the mat when you practice yoga and deeply affects your mental health.

Thursday night I held a salon conversation connecting youth with the positive platform of mental health and at risk youth. Yoga came up frequently,  from all the speakers, as one of the best forms of exercise that can be implemented into schools to help promote self confidence, discipline, and balance.

Lets dig deeper and answer these questions…

Can yoga help them do more than just feel a little bit better?

Can it heal their mental illness?

Yoga has long been seen as a tool for improving mental health, although concepts of what that entails have shifted over time and are distinct in different cultures. Not to mention mental health statistics vary globally.

Mental illness affects 1 in every 3 Canadians, and what most of us do not realize is that suicide is the second largest killer of young adults between the ages of 15-24. The annual National Survey on Drug Use and Health, states about 20 percent of adults suffer some sort of mental illness each year, and about 5 percent experience a serious disorder that disrupts work, family or social life. In Canada, one 1 out of every 6 children or youth has access to mental health resources. These are staggering numbers.

There are several schools of yoga that focus specifically on the intersections between asana practice and emotional health, and a growing body of studies indicates that yoga is often an excellent tool to treat the troubled mind.

My personal opinion on style is through experience with populations who have or are at risk for mental illness, and what I have found works for clients with mood disorders and especially my work with vets in the Canadian Armed Forces, injured in combat, a Yin style or light Vinyasa seem to have the largest affect. Both involve breath work and slow, controlled movement.

To date, the most persuasive evidence of the benefits of hatha yoga, and in particular pranayama, stems from research conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience  in India. New studies have shown a high success rate—up to 73 percent—for treating depression with breathing. .” It involves breathing naturally through the nose, mouth closed, in three distinct rhythms.

Yoga has been integrated into many high stress service careers; such as police departments and the Canadian Armed Forces. People who suffer from operational stress injuries or jobs that are high stress physically, as well as mentally are at greater risk, and Yoga can help combat high stress levels. Stress is one of the key factors in the onset of depression and anxiety.

Other benefits of yoga on our mental can include; improved ability to sleep, better moods, increased feelings of self-control, and better concentration and focus.

 

 

Sources:

Check out the full report in The Washington Post : http://wapo.st/wzYeST

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA): http://vancouver-burnaby.cmha.bc.ca/

 

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