The root of many common limitations and injuries in yoga (sore backs, shoulders, hips, etc) often come from a lack of awareness and ability to properly engage trunk muscles and the stabilizing muscles associated with breath; which regulate intra abdominal pressure thereby leaving the joints and spine unsupported and vulnerable. You will notice that in this first sentence I have used the word “trunk” instead of core. The word core, in the fitness industry usually sends both professionals and fitness go’ers in the direction of understanding to merely include the abdominals groups (inner and outer unit etc); whereas, the word trunk brings to mind not only the core group of abdominals and pelvic stabilization muscles, but the postural muscles of the spine, serratus group associated with breath and muscle that connect the shoulders to the hips, and fascial lines. As well as, from a strength and conditioning standpoint, your trunk is your powerhouse, it’s the epicenter of reactionary movement and control.
The various syndromes we have looked at have targeted either the shoulder girdle or the pelvic girdle, as separate syndromes so that we could portray the articulation and understanding of each classified group of breakdowns. In this article we integrate the two by showcasing the postural integration of the trunk and associated movement patterns.
One key component of movement incompetency and structural breakdowns is asymmetry. As we know the importance of identifying asymmetry and movement in competency is to avoid building stability over poor mobility. Movement incompetency may demonstrate altered motor control, a neurodevelopmental component, or regional interdependence.
When we exercise or increase mobility to an already dysfunctional joint, this creates greater dysfunction resulting in a poor outcome to treatment and possible further injury.
What’s in your trunk, and how do you screen for instability?
In the FMS screen (as mentioned previously) is a diagnostic tool for health professionals and coaches to use to screen 7 common movement patterns. The Trunk Stability Push Up demonstrates pain, global muscle weakness, hyperextension of the lumbar spine, and “winging of the scapula”. Positive findings can indicate weak or inhibited core pelvic, and postural stabilizers including a lack of symmetrical trunk stability.
The first signs of most postural and muscular imbalance usually develop in the patient’s static pelvic positioning in tandasana (mountain pose), best while in the focus of the breath.
As in the LCS an anterior tilting of the pelvis suggests shortening of the hip flexors (iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fascia lata) and/or the lumbar spinal extensors. The Posterior tilting of the pelvis suggests tightness of the hamstrings, and a lateral pelvic shifts suggests unilateral shortening of the hip adductors. Thus including weakness of the lateral pelvic stabilizers or leg length inequality; which could also be associated with lumbar motion segment pathology.
Secondarily, observing the general postural attitude, the quality of the lumbar spine lordosis and the symmetry of body landmarks and muscular contours we then can move upward and compare the quality of the spinal extensors, postural muscles in the lumbar and thoracolumbar region bilaterally. Still heading north to the shoulders and carriage of the head. Most often we have touched on rounded shoulders, and weakness in the posterior body, with concurrent tightness in the anterior body.
Predominance of the thoracolumbar musculature could suggest overactivation in gait, poor stabilization of the lumbar spine and is associated with a weak gluteus maximus, especially if you are teaching a room full of runners and cyclists in yoga.
One other focal point to compare is thoracic mobility through motion segmentation. The rib pull or arm stack variation (modified of the “T” rotation in Yoga) will indicate limitations on right and left sides, which then can lead into postural observation in the anterior body, take a peek at the abdominal wall, breathing pattern in a variation of abdominal breathing patterns standing, supine and prone. The role of the abdominal wall and what Tom Meyers calls the “Four Pillars” (for more information please revert back to my “breath for inspiration” article earlier this year) whose role in stabilization and protection of the spine is crucial.
How can we start to integrate better movement, stabilization and connection with our trunk, shoulder and hips?
Best place to start is to understand what it means to re-pattern and “clean up” asymmetries.
1. Muscle function is movement-pattern specific. Isolation does not necessarily improve integrated movement; which is why we “re-train” movement’s not specific muscle. In a stressful (i.e. survival or threatened) environment/situation, the body will always sacrifice movement quality for movement quantity. Our fascia is connected to our ANS which functions on fight or flight for protection of our body.
2. Remember that we must train the CNS (central nervous system): The brain many times, will create a mobility problem, because it’s the only option left. Movements require the communication of our CNS, the governing body which transfers impulses and motor recruitment to primitive memory banks!
3. Motor Control is key! The timing of the stabilizers with the mover muscles is the key to healthy movement quality. Soft-core/Reactive Core (RC)/low-threshold strategy– this involves the deeper “stabilizer” muscles (aka “Inner Unit or 4 pillars) including TVA, respiratory diaphragm, pelvic diaphragm, pelvic floor, multifidus. Gray cook calls this “tapping the breaks.”
Next, it’s easy to modify traditional Yoga postures in your class or session format. Keeping in mind you need to identify whether there is a mobility or stability breakdown in movement.
FMS integrated Yoga: Yin, Hatha & Vinyasa Focused:
- Mobility: T-Spine Rob Pulls and Arm Stack Variations.
- Mobility/Stability: Modified Vinyasa All fours to Plank to Downward Facing Dog with Arm Reach (Sun Salutation Series)
- Mobility: Modified wide leg upward facing dog with transverse anterior opening sequence (Sun Salutation Series)
- Stability: Bridge Single Leg Lock with Posterior/Pelvic Stability
- Stability: Modified Side Plank Variations and Kneeling Side Angle to Gate Pose variations.
- Stability: Quadruped Stability Ball Rock with Arm Raise
Next week we will dive further into posture, structural joint integrity and once again re visit the power behind our breath. Namaste!