Tag Archives: yoga

5 Things Everyone Can Do NOW To Be Happy and Healthy

5 Things EVERYONE…despite disease, disability, and pain…can safely do NOW to create a happier, healthier life.  No need to wait until after Christmas or the New Year.  Let’s make some positive changes!

  • Eat healthy
  • Bike or swim
  • Yoga and breath practice
  • Meditate and pray
  • Create and help others

Eat healthy:  Many of you will skip this explanation because you’ve heard in a thousand times.  I hate to beat a dead horse but seriously…eat the produce aisle.

Bike or swim:  I don’t care what physical deficits or injury you may have.  One of these two will work.  In severe cases (those with para or quadriplegia or wheelchair bound) assistance may be required and the pool may be the only option.  The benefits of elevating the heartrate are phenomenal for hormonal balance, happiness, heart and lung health, and a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Yoga and breath practice:  If yoga is too difficult, begin with breath practice.  If you are conscious and breathing, you can perform breath practice.  Research beginners breath practice, slow steady breathing, diaphragmatic breathing, or breath awareness practices.  Breath practice is a standalone practice or a great addition to a yoga practice.

Meditate and pray:  Again, if you are conscious and breathing, you can meditate and pray.  Incorporate this into your daily life.  A little bit of research on the internet or iTunes will get you plenty of free resources to use.

Create and help othersThis is the most important of the five. We must perform work to complete our human task.  It’s essential to health and wellness.  Holding a formal job is not necessary.  Each week commit a minimum of 1-2 days focusing on giving back.  Giving back creates an environment of enablement as oppose to the tangled forest of a disablement, disease, and dysfunction.  Your work can be in the form of a blogging, letter writing, and any kind of art creations to give away or sell, volunteering anywhere, or making phone calls to relatives that need social interaction.

Your schedule may look something like this:

Monday:  Bike or swim 10-20 minutes.  Eat Healthy

Tuesday:  Create for others (your work), meditate.  Eat Healthy

Wednesday:  Bike or swim 10-20 minutes

Thursday:  Meditate or breath practice.  Eat Healthy

Friday:  Yoga, create for others.  Eat Healthy

Saturday:  Have fun

Sunday:  Have fun

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Strength vs. Endurance

strength

What is the difference between strength and endurance?  Simply put strength is the ability to generate force in the presence of resistance (moving something heavy) and endurance is the ability to perform prolonged, less forceful, contractions over time.  Type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers are associated with endurance and type 2 fast twitch muscular fibers are associated with strength.  We have the power to influence the abundance of each fiber, and this is depends on the type of exercise we perform.

Examples of strengthening exercises are performing heavy bench press, back squats, or dead lifts for 5-8 repetitions.  Examples of endurance exercise include running, swimming, jogging, or performing any exercise (bench, squats, dead lifts) with a high frequency (10 or more repetitions).

As with anything else, it’s important to realize that the power to change your muscle composition is yours!  Yay!  That’s empowering isn’t it?!  So first off, why do we need each type of fiber, and what fiber is the most important?

Endurance enables us to tolerate life’s activities such as caring for kids, walking to and from parking lots, and standing all day.  Endurance training also improves our cardiovascular health and endurance.  Muscle strength, on the other hand, enables us to lift and move objects.  Here’s the problem:  Many people focus only on endurance type training such as treadmill, biking, swimming, running, elliptical or light, high repetitive strength work, which is actually endurance training since the contraction becomes prolonged over time as oppose to quick and forceful for low repetitions as in strength building.

Here’s the kicker:  Endurance training does not significantly increase strength; however, strength training can significantly improve endurance.  For example–If you want to run a 5K or a marathon continuous running will improve your ability to run but it will not improve your ability to lift and move heavy objects.  I have evaluated many endurance athletes that exhibit strength deficits.  They are typically shocked at this revelation because they exercise every day.  When I question the type of exercise it is endurance training or light, repetitive strength training. This type of exercise does not correlate to strength improvements.  With prolonged endurance training type 2 fibers will convert to type 1.  Conversely, prolonged strength training will convert muscle fibers to type 2.

There are two categories of type 2 fibers.  One related to producing a quick force, and one relating to repeating the reproduction of that force over time (endurance).  With prolonged strength training, muscle fibers are converted to type 2 but because of the two categories of type 2 fibers (one for strength and one for endurance) the end result is improvements of strength as well as endurance.  This is why strength training correlates to the ability to perform endurance activities more efficiently.

Strength training also multiplies the capillary presence within the muscle promoting vascularization.  With improved vascularization oxygen and nutrients are better transported to and utilized by the muscle.

Muscle pumping action also improves hormonal release and utilization, which can have profound effects on chronic illness such as diabetes and chronic pain syndromes.  Strength building also works to prevent chronic overuse syndromes through muscular balance across multiple axis, reduces chronic pain via hormonal release, and improve vascularization and oxygenation.

Of course you will never run a 5K if you don’t practice running but the take home message is that strength training is essential to meet any type of aerobic, endurance, wellness, or fitness goal.

Life is all about balance, and both strength and endurance training have profound health benefits.  The additional caveat is flexibility.  Flexibility plays a key role in health as well.  The total package would be defined as strength, endurance, AND flexibility.  With this, please know that a weekly practice (even if just one day a week) focused at flexibility is also essential.

We are multi-dimensional beings requiring a multi-dimensional approach to health, wellness, and physical performance.

Butt Pain

Butt pain is not cool. I’m not talking rectum pain (go see a doctor if you have this), I’m talking pain right in the middle of your booty cheek. Can’t sit, can’t walk, can’t run, can’t get comfortable! What is the cause, and how can I fix it?

No one is immune to butt pain because we all have glutes (unless your glutes were bitten off by a shark). Pain in the butt may have a few causes including pinching by the piriformis, irritation of the sciatic nerve, lumbar disc bulge, low back derangement, SI/sacrum/coccyx dysfunction, and hip arthritis.

With butt pain we can assume that the glutes and hamstrings are tight and weak. There may be some associated quadratus lumborum tightness and weakness as well as quadriceps and IT band tightness (quads are usually pretty strong in healthy adults).  No matter the cause, there are a few simple fixes that can alleviate your symptoms:

Postural Change and Correction–My soap box of all time.  SYMMETRY.  It is SO important that we balance our posture.  Every 15-30 minutes change position, get up, stand, walk, stretch.  Movement helps to shift the pressures in the spine and joints to refresh and replenish the blood supply.  The blood carries vital nutrients and oxygen in and removes waste on the way out.

*If all you do is stand all day, lay down, roll like a ball, throw your legs over your head, hang upside down…change position!

LLD–what people in the biz call leg length discrepancy.  Most people have one leg that has little man syndrome.  Do not let the little or big guy rule your posture.  Either correct or overcome the LLD.  If your SI is always “out” (the biggest PT debate of all time is if the SI really moves at all), or if you have herniated discs, or a “bad side” it’s probably because the little guy isn’t up to par.  Correct LLD by placing an extra insert into the short leg.  If this feels too weird, then you will have to consciously balance your posture by even weight distribution and postural positioning throughout the day.

Cross Training–I marathon, CrossFit and practice yoga.  I began by running, and then my PT brain told me that I needed to strengthen to prevent an over use injury so I started CrossFit.  CrossFit improved my strength, which fueled my cardiovascular health for running but then I began feeling tight and too forward flexed so yoga came to the rescue.  Yoga is the the icing on the cake.  Yoga is the ultimate balancing machine.  No matter the sport, please practice yoga.

Yoga has taught me that prayer, meditation, and a healthy spiritual practice are vital components of the cross training circuit.  Again, it’s all about finding balance.  God made us to be multi-dimensional, multi-modal, multi-talented individuals capable of anything because we house His breath, life essence, talent and creation.

Eat Healthy— A healthy diet produces good neuronal firing and decreases inflammation.  Remember these simple tips:

  1.  You can’t over eat the produce aisle:  If you eat nothing but clean meat and produce, you WILL NOT be fat…it’s impossible.
  2. Clean meat:  Organic, free range, non-GMO.  Remember you are what you eat, so if your food is eating chemicals that can melt plastic, you are too.
  3. Plan your cheat meals:  Look ahead each week and decide when you are going to be bad.  Have a kid’s birthday party with a hot dog and Cheetos buffet in the future?  Know that you aren’t going to win any health awards at that party and plan accordingly.  I would recommend no more than 3 cheat meals in a week.  You can do a cheat day, where the day is dedicated to gluttony, but I’ve found it’s wiser to plan the cheat meals based on social obligations.
  4. Eat healthy most days of the week AND consecutively:  MOST days is four days out of the week. Try to string these together if you can so that your guts get a break.  You’ll notice less pain and swelling in the these four days because your energy will be used to effectively to fire your brain, muscles, and nerves.  Your guts get really tired and cranky kicking into high gear to digest indestructible carbohydrates and GMOs on a daily basis, so they’ll request energy from other sources (like your brain, muscles, and nerves).

The Earth Diet by Liana Werner-Gray is a great reference http://theearthdiet.com/.

Relationships–Look at your relationships and life, is there a pain in your butt? Shift it, fix it, or release it (as Davidji would say).  Remember that some relationships are toxic, get over it–try to shift it, fix it, or let it go if all else fails.  Look for a future blog featuring this approach to healing taken from Davidji’s book Destressifying.

Now to the physical therapy stuff…

Stretching–Feel free to totally “Zen” out in the following stretch poses:

Child’s pose:

Spread the knees wide, let the toes touch and bend forward putting your belly between your knees.  Hold for 3-5 breaths or up to 2 minutes.  Repeat with body shifted to the right and left.

child's

 

Quadratus Lumborum stretches:

This stretch is intense so please modify if needed.  Some are flexible enough to reach the top arm to the shin or grab the toes.  If you get a quarter of the way into the stretch and feel it, good job…that’s it for you today, stay and hold.

QL

Sit on the ground with legs spread wide.  Lean to one side reaching the opposite arm over head toward the toes.  You may use a strap around the ankle to assist.  Hold 3-5 breaths or 1-2 minutes.

twisted tree
Cross one leg over the other.  Allow the top leg to pull the bottom knee down and in.  You may be flexible enough to double cross the legs to take the stretch deeper.  Relax and breathe 3-5 breaths or 1-2 minutes.
Piriformis stretches:

Cross one leg over the other, grab the uncrossed leg behind the thigh and pull forward 3-5 breaths or up to 2 minutes

piriformis2

Glute stretch pigeon pose style. You can also come to elbows, or rest your head on the ground.  3-5 breaths or 2 minutes each side.

pigeon
Spinal twist by pulling one knee across the body, shift that same shoulder out and lower the opposite shoulder to the ground to deepen.  Hold 3-5 breaths or 2-3 minutes each side.

spinal twist

Quad stretches:

I like this pose because modifications can easily be done with depth of lean back (stay propped up on hands, come to elbows, lay on pillow, lay on ground).  I can totally relax and daydream for a while in this pose.  I like to let my head fall back as well.  Hold 2-3 minutes.

quad stretch

Rolling—  Sit on a tennis ball or foam roller and hang out.  Cross one leg over the other, find that nauseating trigger point and chill for 2 minutes.  Exhale through the pain, each exhalation should exit out of the trigger point relaxing it.  Just when it feels like it will never relax is when it does, so give it time–2 minutes of time, then move on to the next trigger point.  Don’t ignore the IT band because it’s often a culprit to be dealt with as well.

Glute roll:

foam roll glute
IT band roll:

ITB foam roll

Strengthening— Just because your butt cramps and spasms tighter than a vice grip does not mean that the muscles are strong.  In fact, the majority of the time, the gluteals are weak in cases of butt pain.  Try some of the following booty tighteners (after you stretch and roll):

Standing forward bend balancing on one leg: rep it out or hold 3-5 breaths.

single leg forward bend
Bridge pose (block optional):  rep it out or hold 3-5 breaths

bridge
Pistol  Squat (a CrossFit favorite):  To perform reps, you may need to modify depth, hold on to a stable object with one hand, or use a band.  Below parallel may or may not be obtained, and that’s OK.  You may also simply hold 3-5 breaths.

pistol