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.


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

Join Pain BC’s Day of MOVEment: Every Movement Counts For People In Pain

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Pain BC’s Day of MOVEment, is a day to move – any and all kinds of movement count! Investing in your health and supporting the health of others has never been so easy.

Daily movement is vital to improving the quality of life for people living with pain. However, many of us have limitations and are unable to participate in a typical 5km run or walk. Plus, as a province-wide organization, we want to create an inclusive event that involves all British Columbians.

That’s why Pain BC has created a brand new event to raise money and awareness for chronic pain. No matter where you live or what your physical abilities are… you can get involved!


This day exists because Pain BC is dedicated towards promoting health in our community, as well as raising awareness for chronic pain. Your participation offers you the opportunity to do something healthy for yourself and support those who deal with chronic pain every day.

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The Rise and Shine Video is designed for anyone and everyone – from beginners to advanced movers and shakers. Explore joint and tissue range through slow, progressive movements in standing and seated postures. This style of movement is a great way to start your day and shake off any stagnant energy!

Designed to be available in the comfort of your own home so you can access movement anytime, anywhere. We had a great time creating this video at Ocean Breath Yoga on Granville Island. There’s nothing more uplifting than being near the ocean on a beautiful day.

Start your day with this 38min movement video – Click Here. 


JOIN ONE OF OUR MOVEMENT CLASSES IN BCScreen Shot 2016-06-10 at 9.39.05 AM

On Sunday June 12, 2016, join a MOVEment class at one of the participating studios. Yoga is not only about balancing the mind and body, but it’s also about fostering a connection with your community. No matter where you live, or what your schedule will be we have a class near you.

Thank you to all the studio’s providing karma classes and giving our community a boost in support!

For a list of yoga studios and classes near you – Click Here.


Your support can help Pain BC improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of British Columbians living with pain and transform how pain is recognized and treated. To date, Pain BC has done a lot with a little, effecting significant change in BC in a few short years. We’re poised to deepen our impact. With your support, we can build on our early wins, expand our reach, and increase our capacity to improve the lives of people living with pain.

We hope you’ll join the MOVEment! Because every move counts for people in pain. And if you are feeling extra passionate, why not consider donating to the cause. You can do so by – Clicking here. 


Find Out More About This Charity

3300-910 WEST 10TH AVENUE



Visit our Web Site


Part 3: Sleep and Heart Rate Variability

Part 3: Sleep and Heart Rate Variability

Stress is our response to the daily patterns of life. It affects us emotionally, physically, and behaviorally. Our central nervous system does not differentiate between physical or mental stressors, nor does it differentiate between positive or negative stress.

The right amount of stress can be a positive force that can support us to do our best and to keep us alert, ambitious and energetic. However, too much stress, can make us tense, tired and anxious.

One of the fundamental components of recovery and ensuring you perform optimally is through monitoring 3 areas of your health. As we have mentioned, this includes, heart rate variability, resting heart rate and sleep.

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Why Should You Monitor Sleep?

Sleep is a major contributor to stress resilience. Sleep is absolute rest and a time when the body and mind are offered a chance to filter and file away the day. It’s also a time for the body and mind to shut down and recover. Without this optimal experience, we wither away.

Over the last 40 years, our society has gone from sleeping 7-9 hours per night, to an average of 5-6.7 hours per night. When we do not sleep long or well enough, our bodies do not get the full benefits of sleep, such as muscle repair and memory consolidation. More importantly, the prolonged reduction of adequate sleep can lead to illness, disease and injury.

Sleep is regulated by two body systems: sleep/wake homeostasis and the circadian biological clock. It is important to keep a regular sleep schedule and allow plenty of time for quality sleep, allowing these two vital biological components — the sleep/wake restorative process and the circadian rhythm — to help us perform at our best. When this is altered or irregular sleeping habits are introduced, this can lead to poor productivity and poor health.


How Does Sleep Relate to Improving HRV?

A key role is played by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), whose modulation regulates cardiovascular functions during sleep onset and different sleep stages.

The influence of sleep on central sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity can be better understood by using the major method applicable to humans, known as HRV (heart rate variability), specifically looking at the low frequency (LF) component of heart rate variability (HRV).

We spend one third of our lifetime sleeping, yet the majority of people do not honor its importance. The interaction between ANS and sleep is somewhat complex, but simply put, any changes in ANS regulation can profoundly affect sleep onset and sleep homeostasis and, on the flip side, modifications of physiological sleep can alter autonomic cardiovascular regulation. Research has showed that sleep is a complex phenomenon in which autonomic cardiac control fluctuates between sympathetic and parasympathetic predominance, mainly according to the transition to different sleep stages. Deep sleep is essential for recovery and reducing neuro-inflammation caused by intolerable volumes of stress.

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How Can You Track Your Sleep?

Understanding your sleep phases and cycles is the best place to start monitoring your sleep. The first phase is light sleep, followed by deep sleep and a dream state referred to as REM-sleep. A full sleep cycle lasts about 90 minutes and is normally repeated several times each night.

With the use of technology, almost anything is possible these days. There are many sleep trackers out there; such as, FitBit, Jawbone and most commonly used is “Sleep Cycle.”

I have been using this for nearly 2 years. Sleep Cycle is an iOS app that watches your sleep habits from your nightstand in order to help wake you up at the best possible time of the morning. Tracking your sleep can offer you insights into how well you sleep based on your movements.

Using a sleep tracker app with your HRV are two great ways to monitor your nervous system, and can validate your good habits and offer you a glimpse into some areas you should modify to improve your health and keep you accountable towards your goals.

Get it here: Sleep Cycle

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

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

How To Turn Stress Into A Strength: Know Your Nervous System

How To Turn Stress Into A Strength: Know Your Nervous System

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Stress changes the very structure and function of your brain. Your nervous system cannot distinguish whether stress is mental or physical – thus when stress is present, every movement, thought and reaction is altered.

With that being said stress can be positive (eustress) or negative (distress); therefore, how we react and respond to stress ultimately becomes the primer for living an optimal lifestyle.

Positive and Negative Stress:

Distress or negative stress 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; as well as trauma and prolonged mental and emotional stress.

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

The Rise of Chronic Pain:

We live in a society where chronic pain, inflammation, injuries and daily soreness are at an all time high and it’s not because of high intensity workouts, it’s because of STRESS!

We live a world that feeds upon being busy, being over worked, under slept, and where every workout has to feel like going to war to be successful. Maybe, that’s a bit of an embellishment, but the majority of people I see in my practice are all searching for balance, but all spend 8 or more hours seated (not moving), that’s 489 minutes of your 1440 minutes in a 24-hour day. Then heading to the gym for an hour or more; which usually consists of high intensity training, loading the body and when they ask me… “I don’t know why I have pain, I don’t feel stressed.”

They are usually missing one major element in their lives – RECOVERY. This can include too much mileage too soon, or too much load without sufficient mobility, stability or movement screening first, but recovery is usually not on their radar.

Recent theories have suggested that neuro-inflammation and substantially increase when facing prolonged, uncertain and uncontrollable stress. Our internal systems are designed to modify the level of metabolic activity, adrenal activation and cortisol release to adapt to environmental demands that may eventually lead to maladaptive responses inducing a series of stress-related pathophysiological strains.

The hippocampus is highly sensitive to the effects of prolonged exposure to stress hormones and such a state has been referred to as allostatic load and may contribute to the triggering, the amplification and/or the persistence of the pain and soreness state. (Borsook et al., 2012).

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Your Nervous System In a Nutshell:

Your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls your body’s unconscious processes; such as blood sugar, adrenaline dump vs drip, digestion, heart rate and breathing and much more.

The ANS has two main branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) (flight or flight) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) (rest and digest). Both of which are critical to our survival.

Flight or Flight:

As humans have evolved, we no longer require the need to hunt for our food or protect ourselves from the same sort of predators. Yet the same alarm system our ancestors used to ensure survival is the same alarm system that we see being over used with busy lifestyles, lack of sleep, work hard-play hard mentality and your health is suffering for it.

Rest and Digest:

Why is the parasympathetic system important to your health and training model? Simple, our physiology depends on it with the promotion of digestion, cellular repair and the ability to sleep restfully to recharge our mechanical batteries.

Our internal structure works around the clock to ensure balance, and offers us subtle suggestions when things start to fall off the tracks. This can be in the form of mild sickness, not feeling rested, feeling fatigued or foggy, and even prolonged pain or discomfort that is out of the ordinary.

If you do not account for recovery and rest, it’s like driving a car with a flat tire and a half tank of gas and expecting it to operate like a Maserati.

It is important for your body to go into deep recovery mode if it needs it. This can have negative impacts on training improvements and longer-term health if we do not allow the parasympathetic system to do its job.

Understanding the “tone” of the autonomic nervous system can be extremely useful in assessing whether you are over training (catabolic or breaking down), under training (plateau) or developing and adapting (anabolic or building up) state; as well as determining the nature and effectiveness of your therapeutic sessions and training sessions.

Monitoring Your Nervous System’s Activity:

With the rise of wearable technology and fitness/health trackers it’s easier than ever to monitor your health; however it can be challenging to know where to start or how to interpret the data once collected.

To ensure you don’t play the guessing game, it’s always best to consult with a professional who can help you achieve a baseline or do as much research as you can to ensure your success.

The keys to monitoring your nervous system your health and the state of your recovery boil down to these 3 key ingredients:

  1. Resting Heart Rate
  2. Sleep Patterns and Quality
  3. Heart Rate Variability

In the next 3 articles, we will look at each of these in a little more detail, starting with heart rate variability next week. If you can’t wait till then for more information on monitoring your nervous system activity and recovery contact Moveolution or keep an eye on the Moveolution facebook, instagram and twitter pages.


Apkarian, A., Baliki, M., & Geha, P. (2009). Towards a theory of chronic pain Prog Neurobiol, 87 (2), 81-97 DOI:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.09.018

Borsook D, Maleki N, Becerra L, McEwen B – Understanding migraine through the lens of maladaptive stress responses: a model disease of allostatic load. Neuron 2012;73:219-34

Heart Rate Variability, Elite HRV

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:

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.

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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.

Cat Flow: A Corrective Intervention for Spine Health

Cat Flow: A Corrective Intervention for Spine Health

Cat flow posture is a classic yoga pose, and yet it still remains a staple for preventing back pain and spinal mechanics. Cat flow moves the spine from a rounded position (flexion) to the arch (extension)., ensuring that a neutral spine is maintained. A simple motion that is enormously beneficial for the health of the spine, pelvis and posterior chain.

The cat flow sequence can also be used as a corrective intervention; and is designed to stimulate the breath, mobility in the connective tissue and stability of the shoulders, trunk and lumbo pelvic hip complex.

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Some of these benefits include:

  • Reduce tension and stress to the low back
  • Activate the body’s natural relaxation response
  • Massage the organs in the belly
  • Improve expansion of the ribcage through breath
  • Promote activation of the core

Band Resisted Quadruped Cat Flow:

Start in a “tabletop” position. Make sure your knees are set directly below your hips and your wrists, elbows and shoulders are in line and perpendicular to the floor. The band should be placed around the mid back so that you can encourage the expansion of the ribcage.

Quadruped Cat Flow Hover:

Start in a “tabletop” position, using the same cues for the band resisted cat flow. Incorporating the “hover” into this exercise focuses on connecting the shoulders, to the ribcage/trunk and the trunk to the hips; while at the same time building resistance at the core.

Mind your breath and move at your pace to wind down your body and gently stimulate the spine and muscles of your back. Both of these exercises are great for building stability and pelvic position, as well as mobility of the spine.

Video link here:

Flow Sequence To Happier Hips

Flow Sequence To Happier Hips

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Yoga is known for it’s benefits in flexibility, reducing stress and relaxation, and if you are lucky enough to not have stiffness from your everyday activities, you are one of the lock ones. However if you’re not so fortunate and your tight hips are making themselves known every time you so much as walk to the grocery store, get up from your desk or getting in and out of the car — expressing themselves in the form of low back pain and muscle stiffness then taking some time to prevent further compensation from happening will make your hips a lot happier.

Tight Hips Can = Low Back Pain

Low back pain is the leading complaint in the workplace. With the invention of the chair, our bodies have to conform to an unnatural state of “sitting.” For people who sit a long time at work, the hip flexors and rotators become tight, and the gluteal muscles become weak and under active and thus this places great deal of strain on the lumbar spine. Moving on down the rabbit hole, this stress can cause the spine to change shape, increasing forward head carriage, destabilization of the postural muscles and a reduction in thoracic spine mobility.

The Joint By Joint Approach

The first thing you should notice is the joints alternate between mobility and stability. The ankle needs increased mobility, and the knee needs increased stability. As we move up the body, it becomes apparent the hip needs mobility. And so the process goes up the chain –a basic, alternating series of joints.

  • Lose ankle mobility, get knee pain
  • Lose hip mobility, get low back pain
  • Lose thoracic mobility, get neck and shoulder pain, or low back pain

Stiffness, tension and (dis)ease in the body can be debilitating. Anytime we don’t acknowledge our weakest links or confront them; we demonstrate the same behavior that caused the compensation in the first place. Carving out time every day to reduce these compensatory patterns from occurring is the first step to a pain free lifestyle and longevity in your sport and day to day activities. 

Hip Opener Series One

This sequence is designed to unwind tight hips, improve your range of motion in the spine and spiral fascia lines, improve circulation, and alleviate back pain.

Featured Corrective Yoga Pose: Locust pose and Lizard pose

Featured Yoga poses included in this series is the lizard, modified to integrate the spiral line fascia systems; as well as Locust pose at the end to encourage strengthening and lengthening of the back in extension.


* Strengthens the upper and lower back, arms and legs
* Improves mobility in the elbow joint and tissues of the forearm
* Helps to stretch the chest, shoulders and abdominals
* Prepares the body for deeper back bending
* Improves posture and counter balance using the floor as a proprioceptive tool.

Repeat this sequence once to open up the body, or repeat a few times for a corrective yoga session.

 Follow this 5min video: Video Link Here. 

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Both the upper body rolling pattern and the thoracic spine rotations are ground-based patterns designed to unwind stiff and tight tissue, improve multi-segmental movement to the spine; as well as to calm and restore the body’s natural to breath deeply (which in turn helps to improve the relaxation response).

Why is rolling important?

Upper body rolling pattern is the first pattern performed in neurodevelopment. For example as infants, when we hear mommy, but can’t see her we discover that we can roll around and move from one side and the other. Our heads and eyes direct where our body naturally wants to go and it’s how we get from our back to our front. This of course then leads into getting from A to B – crawling and walking.

The upper body-rolling pattern becomes the first time we learn to truly use our inner unit/core as infants. We stabilize our center of gravity and learn how to rotationally get around. As adults, this pattern is often forgotten, when addressing lack of mobility in the thoracic spine, and tight tissues of the chest and back it can be used as a great tool. The soft rolling patterns can be used as mobility drills, but they also require a certain level of motor control. If the thoracic spine is very limited, this will be hard to achieve without compensation. This is where the thoracic spine rotations come in to play.


Mobility before stability

Adequate mobility is first and foremost when addresses movement dysfunction and in restoring movement competency. Yet, as adults through the invention of the chair, long bouts of sitting through school, work, driving and bipedal motion, we naturally lose the ability to properly move segmentally in our spine optimally. We may feel a dull ache in the lower back, strain the neck, or feel heavy in the mid section due to compressive forces of not being able to move freely.

One of the pre requisites for the upper body-rolling pattern is ensuring there is adequate mobility in the thoracic spine. Most often this area needs a little restoring so that the muscles and connective tissue of the thorax, ribcage, deep spinal muscles can effectively rotate, move and extend.


Form and Function of the T-Spine Rotation:

This T-spine rotation series features 3 progressions, designed to re open and re connect with the breath while encouraging 3 specific vectors of force (1) hip stabilization (2) thoracic mobility and (3) fascia opening of the superficial front and deep arm lines.

This video series presented focuses on three self-managed exercises designed to improve thoracic mobility, scapular gliding and opening of the breath. These can be used together as a sequence or independently for movement preparation and decompression post workout.

For all three progressions there are 3 distinct focuses:

(1) ensure there is downward activation of the knee; the knee should drive down into the foam roller to ensure lumbar lock and limit extension.

(2) ensure there is downward activation of the shoulder in contact with the floor. This ensure stabilization of the thorax.

(3) as you open your wing, ensure your head and eyes move to the direction of the arm. Your head is an extension of your spine.

T Spine Rotations

Video reference here:


Form and Function of the Upper Body Rolling Pattern:

Flexion Pattern:
Ensure when starting this drill you lay on your back in supine with feet and arms shoulder width apart and the head in contact with the floor. The lower body should remain motionless until the upper body pulls the lower body over. Think of flexing the nose into armpit, as the arm rotates across, pull from the back and ribcage through the exhale.

Extension Pattern:
Ensure when starting this drill you begin by laying on the floor prone with the feet and arms shoulder width apart and the forehead on the floor. Much like the flexion pattern, start by moving your eyes and neck into extension, look behind as the arm follows pulling the lower body across.

upper body rolling pattern flexion2

Video reference here:

Watch the videos for specific movement and cues on how to perform these two corrective exercises. To know more about whether these drills are right for you, consider getting a functional screen first to assess your needs and mechanics stressors.

Happy Rolling!

Stabilize Your “Wings”

Stabilize Your “Wings”

When we think of the word “chicken” in the gym, we naturally think of the term “chicken legs;” but how often do you think about your “chicken wings?”

By this I mean the muscles that promote good posture, the muscles that help to stabilize the shoulder girdle; and help to assist with breathing. Many of these important muscles, are often small, neglected and overlooked when discussing corrective exercise prescription. These muscles are the Serratus Anterior and Serratus Posterior groups.

Lets look at their basic anatomy and function.


Anatomy Breakdown of the Serratus Anterior:

The Serratus Anterior is a muscle that originates on the surface of the 1st to 8th ribs at the side of the chest cavity and inserts along the entire anterior length of the medial border of the scapula. Apart from the shoulder blade it also attaches to the thoracic segment of the spine. It’s main function is to act as a scapular stabilizer; in other words, when we do shoulder movements, particularly reaching over head, the scapula must get locked into place against the t-cage, allowing unimpeded movement, yet many people find this significantly challenging.

When this particular muscle becomes hypertonic it can cause the scapula to wing out, rolling the shoulders forward and can further cause unnecessary stress to the thoracic spine.
Anatomy Breakdown of the Serratus Posterior:

The Serratus Posterior superior muscle connects the bottom two neck vertebrae and the top two upper back vertebrae to the 2nd – 5th ribs and helps to raise the 2nd – 5th ribs to assist in inhalation. It’s primary function is to help in breathing mechanics, especially when we are forced to inspire (breathing hard).

Like all muscles, the attachment sites of Serratus Posterior Inferior determine its function. Its serrated strips connect from the spinous processes (the jagged topography of your spine felt through the skin of your back) of vertebrae T11-L2, and reach upward and outward to ribs #9-#12. It’s function is to anchor ribs #9-#12 downward toward its attachment on the spinous processes; to ensure that the ribs don’t elevate during the first phase of a complete inhalation.


When this particular muscle becomes hypertonic it can promote forward head carriage and rounded shoulders. It can also cause our breath to weaken in overall capacity. It is often a trigger point for hands on treatment.

Corrective Exercise Rx:


Most of us only use 25% of our lung capacity, and many have apical breathing (chest breathing); which weakens the diaphragm from its reflexive nature. A complete inhalation takes place in two phases to maximize lung capacity. Phase one secures the rib cage (enter Serratus Posterior Inferior). As the belly swells until the lungs are about 75% full. In phase two, we can “top up” the breath lifting the rib cage to upward, filling the lungs the remaining 25% of the way.

This is often taught in Yoga classes and in aiding to correct breathing dysfunctions. This rib expansion is also assisted by the diaphragm’s attachments to the ribs and thus allows you to expand the intercostals of the ribcage horizontally and laterally.

It is here we can see the importance of the Serratus Posterior Inferior and it’s role in bracing the ribcage to encourage a deeper release of the diaphragm.

Improve Your Posture:

They help us move our arms multi-dimensionally and with great speed. We may not necessarily rely on them for bipedal locomotion, but they help us move forward by increasing our arm’s distance from danger, keeping predators at an arm’s length away or drawing an imaginary boundary.

They also are a crucial scapular stabilizer in almost every inversion and arm balance and can help to reduce tension and stiffness in the neck and upper back by re aligning the relationship between the scapula to thoracic region of the upper quadrant.

The exercise I like to use is a floor press, or a wall press. I teach this exercise prior to a push up or a scapular pushups, because it reinforces the idea of the shoulder blades packing down into the back pockets. For those clients with neck or shoulder pain, it can be difficult to hold a push up position without additional stress on the neck; therefore a floor press is a great place to start.

The actual movement is called protraction of the shoulders, which is the exact opposite of retraction (pulling the shoulders back).

Wall Press:

Stand facing a wall, arm distance length, with palms shoulder height on wall. Lean forward with your torso toward the wall, without bending your arms, feeling the shoulder blades come closer together at the spine. Ensure that your pelvis is slightly tucked to encourage the core to also engage.

Floor Press:

Progression 1: Dandasana: start with legs extended out with  both sit bones on the floor. Place hands beside the hips on the floor. Create positive tension in the legs by squeezing them together, big toes touching, flexed up. Then press into the floor, as if creating space between your hips and the floor. Hold for a count of 4.

Cue: Think about placing your shoulder blades into your back pockets, and keep head neutral over the spine.

Progression 2: Cross Legged Floor Press: Sit on the floor, legs crossed. Place your palms on the floor by your hips, with arms straight. Press you body away from the floor, till you can feel space between your hips and floor. Hold here for a count of four and gently release. For those who have limited flexion in the spine and being seated on the floor is difficult, you can also use a set of kettlebells or a bench. This offers you more space to work with. Much like the start position for a trice dip, you either hold the horns of the bells or the edge of the bench, directly beside your hips, and then press down, ensure your “get tall” through the spine. Keep knees bent and in line with the hips, feet rooted to the ground. Hold for a count of 4.

Cues: Think about placing your shoulder blades into the back pocket, and ensure you keep your head AND hips in line with the spine. Your hips should “dangle” off the floor. if this is too challenging, using a blocks under each hand can offer your spine the space to stay long.

This will help encourage better posture, reduce stiffness and tone in the neck and mid back, as well as strengthen the stabilizers of your shoulder girdle.

Happy Pressing!

Clubbell Yoga Comes to Vancouver

Clubbell Yoga Comes to Vancouver

Yoga means Union, to yoke. The Clubbell Yoga practice is a modern expression of the yoking of two very effective ancient systems, eastern Club swinging and Hatha Yoga. Yoga means many different things to many different people, and many ‘yogis’ follow a specific lineage that resonates with them. We recognize that Yoga can be a spiritual practice, it can be a devotional practice, and it can be a physical practice that leads to other intellectual studies.” – Orgins, of Clubbell Yoga, Summer Huntington

 CBY 7

Clubbell Yoga:

Clubbell Yoga is a fusion of strength and intelligent movement. For those of you who are new to Clubbells it is a tool relatively new to the Canadian market, yet well distributed in the USA, Europe, and abroad. I had the opportunity to chat with Summer Hunington, Co-founder of Clubbell Yoga to learn more about this workshop coming to Vancouver BC, this January.

Clubbells are a unique tool, which require precision, stabilization, and  a good deal of articulation under load. What makes the clubbell unique ,is its design, in that the majority of the weight is distributed above the handle, creating a longer lever to control under load. When held upright it requires more muscle activation and motor control in the shoulder complex, postural muscles and trunk stabilization to keep it steady and to transition from movement to movement, while maintaining breath and flow. Drawing from Summer’s experience as an adjunct teacher in Kinesiology,  a leader in the community of Yoga, and as a head CST coach, she is paving the way for movement culture.

CST is the “flagship” professional certification course at RMAX International pioneered by Scott Sonnon, a refined, coherent, cohesive and comprehensive approach to the industry of movement culture. CST has rapidly emerged as a leader among the premier training modalities in the health / fitness and strength / conditioning arenas.

How is Clubbell Yoga compliment traditional fields of conditioning?

One of the greatest myths of our time is that “hardcore” trainers tend to not have a background in yoga, nor do they see the benefits. Those who “lift;” don’t do yoga and vicer versa; that yogis don’t have much knowledge in training for power and don’t life. This is a misconception, and it has left many “lifters” injured due to lack of dynamic mobility and “yogis” injured from overuse and improper alignment.

Clubbell Yoga aims to bridge the gaps between these two groups and reeducate the benefit of integrating both into a seamless practice.

Who Can Benefit?

Both of these disciplines compliment each-other, and are designed to build from the ground up. This means you do not have to be experienced in either discipline; this workshop is designed for all levels in both fields of study.; especially for active professionals involved in sport. You can be a beginner or you can be experienced. The glorious thing about both disciplines is that you can go at your pace. There is an introduction to both modalities; which can have endless benefits for both body and mind.


Vancouver Workshop: Clubbell Yoga & Anatomy Breakdowns

Come learn about glute activation and core with Accupuncturist and NKT specialist Carolyn Watson and Summer Huntington, co-creator of Clubbell Yoga. They are both very dynamic teachers who will improve your understanding of yoga poses involving glutes, give you anatomy breakdowns and hold discussions and breakout sessions. Yogis, trainers, pilates instructors and everyone in between are invited to this workshop in the heart of Vancouver, BC.

Click on this link to REGISTER

VIP Registration – $99
(Register before December 15th, 2014)
Early* Registration – $129
(Register before January 16th, 2015)
Registration paid in Full – $150
(*VIP and Early registrants can borrow clubbell at event)

About the Co Founders:

Summer Huntington:

Summer Huntington is a Head Coach at RMAX International, co-creator of Clubbell Yoga and owner of Fit Body Wellness. Her primary objective is to help bridge the gap between strength training and yoga by infusing weighted Clubbells into traditional vinyasa classes. She holds an undergraduate and masters degree in Kinesiology: Human Movement & Performance, is an adjunct professor and is an experienced yoga teacher.

Summer practices and teaches vinyasa flow yoga and Clubbell Yoga with an emphasis on alignment, thoughtful sequencing and cultivating a soothing meditation through movement. Summer has been a longtime student of Scott Sonnon, founder of the Circular Strength Training (CST) method, which is mind-body exercise using a Clubbell. Her joint-mobility, Prasara yoga and Flow Fit background allow her to help students to unlock bound areas and allows for training of the nervous system.

Scott Sonnon:

Scott is the founder of RMAX International, CST and Tacfit. Scott has now taken his success in martial art, fitness and yoga off the mat and into the classrooms, as an international speaker advocating for children and adults facing labels of learning difficulties, facing the ravages of obesity, the trials of post-traumatic stress, the dangers of bullyism and the challenges of accelerated aging in joints and soft tissue.

For more information please visit the following website:

Clubbell Yoga –

Primal 12 –

Can Creativity Be Learned?

Can Creativity Be Learned?


Is creativity and intelligence the same thing? How does our brain process thoughts, feelings, ideas, questions and answers? Can creativity be learned and if so how? The study of “thinking” and “creativity” has been an area of study by the science community for some time, and over the last decade or so has gained significant traction.

As a movement coach, my professional focus is aimed at the knowledge and application of biomechanics, addressing movement compensation and approaching the health-first model with corrective prescription. With that being said we know, that movement is a behaviour; therefore I spend a great deal of my study in the arena of human behaviour and behaviour modification. What we also know is that can be re shaped; with another growing field of study called neuroplasticity. It all boils down to adaptation and the right stimulus. How we approach thinking is first and foremost.

Dr. Jung, an assistant research professor in the department of neurosurgery at the University of New Mexico, explains; “The brain appears to be an efficient superhighway that gets you from Point A to Point B” when it comes to intelligence. But in the regions of the brain related to creativity, there appears to be lots of little side roads with interesting detours, and meandering little byways.”

Although intelligence and skill are generally associated with the fast and efficient firing of neurons, many studies have shown that subjects who tested high in creativity had thinner white matter and connecting axons that have the effect of slowing nerve traffic in the brain. This slowdown in the left frontal cortex, a region where emotional and cognitive abilities are integrated, some believe might allow for the linkage of more out of the box thinking ideas, novelty and creativity. Creativity seems to take a more meandering path to a specific decision, where intelligence looks for the most efficient and readily available answer.

Contextually we can look at the thought process as one highway or another; meaning either “convergent or linear thinking” vs. “divergent or lateral” thinking – a fork in the road. “Convergent” and “divergent” thinking represent two different ways of looking at the world, but what’s the difference?


Convergent is a form of the word “converging” meaning to “come together.” A convergent thinker sees a limited, predetermined number of options; a set number of options predetermined from their previous education and experience of the world. Convergent thinking is what you engage in when you answer a multiple choice question (although, in real life, we often only see two choices). This style of thinking is known as linear thinking.

Example of Convergent Thinking:

What rhymes with brick?

  1. Lead
  2. Treat
  3. Stick
  4. Iron

The most logical answer is the correct answer.

By contrast, divergent means “developing in different directions;” therefore, divergent thinking offers you the available to open your mind to alternate possibility in different directions. It leads you to look for options that aren’t necessarily apparent at first. A divergent thinker is looking for options as opposed to choosing among predetermined ones.

Divergent or lateral thinking, is the ability to think creatively, or “outside the box;” which sometimes involves discarding the obvious, leaving behind traditional modes of thought, and throwing away preconceptions.
Example of Divergent Thinking:

Grab a timer and set it for one minute. Now list as many creative uses for a brick as you can imagine. Go.

The question is part of a classic test for creativity, a quality that scientists are trying for the first time to track in the brain. They hope to figure out precisely which biochemicals, electrical impulses and regions were used.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Jung has relied on a common definition of creativity: the ability to combine novelty and usefulness in a particular social context. While I.Q. tests, though controversial, are still considered a reliable test of at least a certain kind of intelligence, there is no equivalent when it comes to creativity.

Creativity is a complex concept; it’s not a single thing, and most researchers can agree that no single measure for creativity exists. Creativity is a collection of different processes that work in different areas of the brain.

In New Mexico, using M.R.I. technology, researchers are monitoring what goes on inside a person’s brain while he or she engages in a creative task. Taking into consideration the biochemical, neurological, biological, and breakdown of nerve firing into parts and patterns. The findings are that the images of signals flashing across frontal lobes have pushed scientists to re-examine the very way creativity is measured in a laboratory. Creativity not only involves coming up with something new, but also with shutting down the brain’s habitual response, or letting go of conventional solutions. Leading us into the direction of unconventional solutions.

Ironically, in my line of work – the health and wellness industry – we have seen a surge of coaches and businesses leaning towards unconventional means of training, vs. the traditional strength and conditioning models. It seems almost serendipitous.

As a Movement Coach and Corrective Specialist, screening a client and building a baseline is key to any client’s success. On the macro level, I have to be somewhat linear in my approach; I must be organized, data driven, and adhere to a standard operating system, so that inter-rater reliability is upheld and a baseline is set for each client. However, on the micro level when addressing goals, performance metrics or corrective strategy I prefer to think outside the box and be creative. I have more opportunity to think unconventionally so that each client has the ability to use their brain to absorb information from our eyes, ears, and other senses – all of which, directly relate to changing movement and behavior.

Sources of Inspiration:

“Happy Feet” The Importance of Foot Mechanics

“Happy Feet” The Importance of Foot Mechanics

Your feet are the foundation of every stride you take. Nowhere is the miracle of the foot more clear than watching the human body in locomotion. It is something to be marveled. The combination of 26 bones, 33 joints, 112 ligaments, and a network of tendons, nerves, our fascia matrix and blood vessels all work together to establish the graceful synergy that allows us to get from A to B. The balance, support, and propulsion of our body all depend on the foot. But before entering a fitness regimen that includes jogging, don’t forget to make certain your body’s connection with the ground is in proper working order.

So why is it that so few runners give their feet proper care? We stretch our hamstrings, tighten our stomachs and carbo-load our muscles, but barely pay any attention at all to our feet.

Which is especially misguided when you consider that, after the knee, the foot is the most frequently injured body part.

foot 1

How’s Your Gait?

Many health professionals now use gait analysis as a critical part of their assessment and screening protocol. A comprehensive analysis will look at the foot mechanics in several focuses: a non-weight bearing state, standing, walking, running at pace (i.e. endurance vs. sprint) and after fatigue. A well rounded analysis will also take into consideration more than the foot — you must look at the knee, pelvis and low back, and what’s most forgotten, the reciprocal relationship of the arm mechanics in static posture, and in swing.

Biomechanics in a non-weight bearing foot boils down to the functionality of the multiple joints of the foot and how they interact, particularly in a dynamic state. Is your foot rigid, flexible, flat or high-arched? Does your big toe have the motion it needs for push-off? Is the main ankle joint (talocrural joint) moving correctly? What changes when the foot bears weight in standing, walking or running? What happens if we load the structure, how does balance and coordination shift?

When running, foot strike location in relation to the body position is a major factor in efficiency and effectiveness. If foot contact with the ground is made in front of the line of the body, regardless of where on the foot the contact happens, the foot will act as a break in motion. Ideal foot contact should be under the body to allow forward momentum to continue unimpeded.

What does this mean for the average runner? Think more about where your foot is landing and less about which part of your foot lands first.

The Big Toe “This Little Piggy Went to Market”

The toes (especially the great toe) play a vital role in normal arch functioning, both in the shock absorption and propulsion phases. In normal stride cycle the toes are flexed up on landing so the foot lands with the arch high like a shock absorber at full extension. Then the toes lower and the arch flattens dissipating shock in a controlled manner. As stride moves forward the heel lifts up, flexing the toes up, and lifting the arch-turning it into a rigid lever for an energy efficient push-off. this “Windlass Mechanism” requires free movement of the toes and plantar fascia ligament for proper shock absorption and propulsion.

The great toe being able to stabilize the arch in midstance and takeoff is critical for a funcional gait and normal arch functioning. Remember an arch is supported by its ends- this is the front end and a heel flat and balanced with the forefoot is the other end. When medical patients lose their great toe due to injury or infection they are left with a foot that is very unstable, with no ability to absorb shock, and with limited to no propulsive properties. Not surprisingly, many of these patients often end up with severe disabilities and higher amputations as they traumatize other foot structures.

The big toe must be properly aligned and the flexor hallucis longus and brevis allowed to perform normal stabilizing functions.

foot 2

You Gotta Have the Right “Sole”
Proper shoe selection is vital to foot health–not merely the shoe brand and model, but the fit. “Bad shoe fit can cause a multitude of problems for your feet, everything from numbness and burning to blisters and painful calluses. Shoes that are too short can cause black toenails. Shoes that are too narrow in the forefoot can cause pinched-nerve pain, bunions, corns or calluses. Shoes that are too wide allow the foot to slide around, which causes undue friction, which in turn can lead to blisters. And so on. Just like Goldilocks and the 3 bears, you have to try a few on before making a decision. Most shoe stores these days have experts in this field, so seek out a pedorthist and ask for guidance.

Once you purchase shoes with the right fit, you then need to maintain them and replace them when they’re worn out. The average life of most running shoes is 350-500 miles, but if you’re a heavier or taller runner, or if your gait isn’t smooth, you may need new shoes sooner.

Think Patterns of Running, Not Parts

Efficiency is affected by hip stability and mobility, trunk stability and thoracic mobility, shoulder mobility and head posture.

Runners with a mid-foot strike will translate much of that energy into up and down motion – rather than forward motion — will be less efficient than a heel striker who sends all the energy forward.

Things to think about when taking the piggies out to the market.


Next week we will address the corrective strategies for addressing re stabilization for the foot and mobilization of the lower limb mechanics.


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