Deep core connection movement yoga teacher Aug 10, 2022

Central strength, vitality and mobility is not all in the abs. Connectivity from the feet, through fascia and up into the psoas is key to the core…

It is a phenomenon within Western medicine, that has subsequently been marketed within the fitness industry, to reduce the body to a series of different specialisms. A popular obsession is ‘core strength’, ‘core stability’ and ‘core work’. The most recognised definition of the core is the region containing the abdominal muscles, but to simply segment this area does not allow us to view our bodies as the web of continual motion that they are. A more systemic, whole-body way of looking at things has grown in recent years through the work of people like Ida Rolf[1], Thomas Hanna[2], Moshe Feldenkrais[3], and Tom Myers[4].

Deepening our understanding of our true core also allows us to expand beyond the concept of a mere body part to focus on when exercising. Feeling it as the central channel (...

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Is your sleep deep enough? sleep yoga Jul 28, 2022

In a fast-paced world, getting enough deep sleep may seem like a luxury, but quality and quantity of sleep are equally vital – or body and mind suffer…

The sleep cycle

When we sleep, we cycle between different phases. Each is vital and a really good night’s rest includes five or six of each of these cycles. The first sleep cycle is about 1 hours and each progressive cycle is slightly shorter:

  1. Non Rapid Eye Movement Phase (NREM) – where we first fall asleep, that floating, liminal space where we can easily reawaken.
  2. NREM 2 dropping a little deeper, heart rate and brain waves slow, eye movement stops and our temperature drops. About half of our time asleep is in this phase.
  3. NREM 3, deeper sleep, is characterised by longer, fuller breathing, Delta brain waves and an increase in Human Growth Hormone. This is where we strengthen immunity and body and brain repair. If we are woken from this stage, we feel groggy and disorientated.
  4. Rapid Eye Movement (REM), the stage in which we dream. A...
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Criss-cross body movements to boost your brain movement yoga Jun 24, 2022

How we can stimulate neural connectivity through cross-lateral movement patterns. It all starts with crawling…

Back to baby basics

Our first cross-lateral movement ­– when a limb from one side does something different to its opposite, or any movement that crosses over the midline, such as right hand touching left knee – is crawling. This is a big evolutionary shift from moving on our bellies, which moves bilaterally  – leg and arm from the same side together during which the right side of the brain controls the right, and the left side, the left side of the body. Crawling builds bridges across the two, allowing information to pass freely across the corpus callosum and coordinate our spinal muscles and bodily movement up to standing and walking. Without this stage, we could only move awkwardly with and no relationship across diagonal lines of the body. Babies who do not crawl may well find other cross lateral methods to create this effect[1].

Whether...

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Left-right, right-left yoga teacher Jun 17, 2022

How we can strengthen neural and physiological responses through cross-lateral connectivity practises…

If you’ve ever tried patting your head while rubbing your belly, you’ll have experienced cross-lateral (CL) connectivity: simultaneous, asymmetrical movement. This requires left-right brain integration; both hemispheres of the brain working symbiotically. In the example of head-patting and belly-rubbing, the CL movement is a limb from one side doing something different to those on the other side, but it can also include any movement that crosses over the midline, such as right hand touching left knee. In terms of yoga, this could be seen as another level of ‘union’, where body, breath and mind are drawn to centre.

Cross-lateral practises keep our neural pathways firing off, equally mapping across both directions. Where the movement pattern is familiar, it may feel smooth and integrated, but if it’s new and unfamiliar, practice and focussed...

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Exercise for Cognitive Function exercise movement Jun 07, 2022

We know intuitively that when we move around, we feel clearer, sharper. When we don't move around enough, then we can feel more mentally sluggish, memory can become little harder to access, and reactions slower.

We can divide cognitive process into six types – attention, perception, memory, language, learning, and higher reasoning. These can both can occur simultaneously and independently, they rely upon each other and intertwine for that orchestration of how we think, feel and move our way through life. Learning new skills and new ways of thinking are supported when we also learn new movement patterns eg a new dance, type of movement to increase our cognitive fitness and longevity of our mental processes.

When we get moving, we increase circulation, we exercise the blood vessels themselves and this helps to prevent neurodegenerative conditions known to create cognitive impairment (Journal of Internal Medicine, 2011; 269(1): 107-117). Exercise also helps to control blood sugar...

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Yoga SOS: Save our seated spines yoga teacher May 27, 2022

With more and more people facing life-threatening illnesses stemming from sedentary culture, yoga and movement teachers have a critical role to play

“Sitting is the new smoking” was a sensational headline which rippled through the news last year, but was this over-dramatic? Increasing evidence shows that it is worth examining issues facing our ever-increasing sedentary culture.

Most people, especially movement teachers and bodyworkers who see these issues across a broad spectrum of clients, associate long-term sitting with structural issues and pain. But there is also growing discussion around the correlation between increased sitting and metabolic and chronic, inflammatory conditions; often referred to as ‘diseases of Western civilisation’. A study of 4,811 British public servants was published this year[1], which followed people who were on average 44 years old, with no incidence of diabetes, heart or circulatory problems at the start. Over the next 13...

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Is sitting too comfortably bad for your health? May 27, 2022

We explore how sedentary culture is causing us more serious harm than achy backs and necks and how we can consciously shift this…

Sitting has been described as “the new smoking”, one of the root causes of some of the diseases of modern Western civilisation. And the problems arising from us sitting so much are far more ominous than the postural issues you might think; including metabolic and chronic, inflammatory conditions. A study of British public servants[1] examined how low long-term health risks for conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and an early death could stem from sedentary work.

What’s the harm in sitting?

We might wonder why sitting is so bad, as it seems natural to sit and focus or relax by sinking into the sofa? But consider that there is no comfy furniture in the wild; we were designed within nature and much of our function is bound up in those constant shifts where we would have squatted, sat on uncomfortable surfaces and kept...

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All About Sugar Cravings May 09, 2022

Sugar is addictive

It’s a rare person who is immune to the call of the sweet stuff when tired, stressed, fed-up or hearing that “I deserve it” inner voice. We can dismiss indulgence in cakes, biscuits and sodas as ‘treats’ but the truth is that high-sugar foods like have been shown to affect the same opioid receptors in the brain that are activated by drugs like cocaine and morphine1. With regular sugar consumption shown to create patterns of craving, bingeing and withdrawal, it has earned its growing recognition as an addictive substance as well as contributing to obesity, inflammation and chronic disease2,3,4,5,6.

Cravings for instant hits

Craving is the uncontrollable want for something immediately; as sugar in the form of glucose is our main energy source, it represents the most immediate ‘quick-fix’ when we feel an imperative to get a task done or the need to protect ourselves. Our brains are our most important survival organ and...

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Yoga for the Psoas – Healthy Lower Back and Emotional Opening back pain Apr 21, 2022

The psoas muscle that allows us to stand proudly upright, is located deep within the front hip joint and lower spine. As a potential source of lower back and hip pain, to simply view its involvement in a mechanistic way is to only see a fraction of the bigger picture. As the only muscle that connects top and bottom body, its role in bipedal standing and walking is critical for alignment and movement, but also for our feelings of well-being. As we gauge its ease or non-ease from deep in the belly, tension in the psoas affects us on a deeply emotional level; it acts as a messenger to and from the brain and stores responses to replay them when we remember, imagine or revisit situations that cause us difficulty.

Adding some simple movements and sensitivity to your exercise programme can make the difference between creating more tension and finding a fluidity and refinement of movement that feels in concord with your natural body needs.

The Psoas Muscle

The psoas is a multi-joint...

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Exercises for Pelvic Asymmetry back pain Apr 21, 2022

Pelvic Asymmetry

If we look at an anatomical picture of the human skeleton, it would be easy to assume that being fully symmetrical has some kind of normality. Yet, it is actually extremely rare for us to stand equally weighted on both feet, unless instructed to do so in an exercise class. So many people may be unaware that they may have repercussions in the lower back, hips, knees and shoulders from pelvic asymmetry (PA).

The pelvis is the bony bowl-shaped structure at the bottom of the spine; where our legs attach and the cradle for the lower spine bone (the sacrum) to sit into. It can be tilted away from its healthiest positioning in many ways, including forward (anterior), back (posterior), or with rotation, but here we are focussing on lateral or side asymmetry. This is also known as Pelvic Obliquity, where it is tilted to one side, with the spine curved to the opposite. One side of the pelvis is higher than the other, so when standing the top of one iliac crest (felt as the...

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Easing spinal compression - spinal stenosis back pain Apr 21, 2022

Easing spinal compression/spinal stenosis

With the inevitability pushing down of gravity we can expect some spinal compression as part of the natural ageing process, but what happens when this tips over into pathology and pain? With more and more people suffering back pain, some understanding of where the design of our spine meets how we move – and modern postural patterns – may help us find space and relief at our central axis. 

The human spine is curved (see fig.1) in an s-shape and this is an important design for our bipedal (two-legged) upright sitting or standing stance; it allows the weight distribution to shift as we move and hold our head and organs vertically up from the ground.

Our spines consist of 24 individual sections of bone (vertebrae) with rubbery discs in between to keep them separate and the whole spinal column freely mobile. This also creates space for the spinal canal, a cavity running through each of the vertebrae, which encloses the spinal...

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Hip Openers for Lower Back Pain back pain Apr 21, 2022

Research shows that around 75-85 percent of the American population experience back pain in their lives (Neurol Clin.,2007;25(2):353-7). Contrary to much investigation into inflammation (such as arthritis) and more serious conditions, most of the root cause is understood to be structural and mechanical in nature – affected by the way we move, live and use our bodies day-to-day.

Those with sedentary jobs have higher incidence and less when they move around regularly (Indian J Occup Environ Med. 2016;20(3):125-128). Much sitting on chairs can shut down the natural outward range of motion (ROM) in the hips and alter the natural ‘C-curve’ of the lower back, creating a compression into the discs of the lumbar spine (the lower back) whether we tend to sink into a forward or backwards placed pelvis. Chair sitting and sofa slumping has replaced sitting on the floor, often cross-legged or with legs bent to one side on the ground in ways that our musculo-skeletal system...

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