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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Easing Lower Back Pain back pain Apr 21, 2022

With experts estimating that 80% of people will experience lower back pain at some time in their lives (Neurol Clin. 2007;25(2):353-71), this is an issue that is only getting worse as we spend more time sitting on chairs. It is no surprise that moving is an effective antidote for this debilitating issue (Spine. 2008;8(1)213-225), but the pain involved can create a Catch-22 cycle. The holding and fear of exacerbating the issue can leave people avoiding exercise, becoming confused about their capabilities, and what can help, and what can worsen their symptoms.

The sacroiliac (SI) joint

Understanding some lower back anatomy can help us make sense of why this area may become a source of tightness, pain or inflammation. Many issues arise at the SI joints, the two sites where the lowest bone in the spine – the sacrum – sits into the bowl-like bone of the pelvis (fig.1). These joints are calibrated to the very individually human bipedal way of standing, so the sacrum acts like...

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The Benefits of Walking on Uneven Ground exercise health self care wellness Mar 18, 2022

The Benefits of Walking on Uneven Ground

As humans, we have evolved to have certain patterns of physical activity that are necessary for health.1 In fact, we’re built for long-distance walking, and it’s estimated that our hunter/gatherer ancestors covered daily distances in the range of 6–16 km (3.5–10 miles). While walking may be our most natural form of exercise, humans learned this unusual mode of transport on rough surfaces—far from the predictability of pavements and man-made flooring.

All of our ancestors’ walking and running was done on natural surfaces like grass and rocks, and often over uneven ground. Our upright two-legged (bipedal) walking style evolved alongside a nomadic lifestyle that was not just for walking to new camps, but also for getting to and from sources of food, water and wood.2 It’s even theorised that part of our large brain growth was to address the various challenges of bipedal upright walking on naturally uneven...

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Yoga and Anxiety Mar 03, 2022

First published in What Doctor's Don't Tell You Magazine.

Anxiety is a common feature in life for many. The agitated, fearful and overwhelming sensations that it brings can ripple through our lives with devastating effect. For those who tend towards anxiety, overstimulation from situations or inner turmoil can trigger feelings of agitation and needing to withdraw. For those that need lots of space in life to find calm and regroup, a yoga practice can provide both a refuge and the nervous system soothing that can allow them to cope with the demands of life.

In our fast-paced and information heavy world, anxiety is on the increase as the ‘constant alert’ this continual input provokes becomes part of the landscape. Whether anxiety is trait – part of what are now commonly termed anxiety disorders, or part of a period of chronic or extreme stress or trauma, the feelings of dread, panic, loss of control, palpitations, hyperventilation, wanting to escape and unable to...

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Sleep Soundly - Help for Insomnia self care sleep Feb 16, 2022

Recovery and restoration

We can spend nearly two-thirds of our lives asleep, yet often place less importance on this crucial de-stressing time than our waking hours. Sleep is all about recovery – physical, emotional and energetic. In order to function fully and cope with the day’s demands, we rely on the immune facilities, detoxification, tissue and muscle healing and emotional processing that occur during the wee small hours. If this downtime isn’t respected, we may quickly see stress-related symptoms like fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, skin complaints and poor recovery from illness.

Lack of sleep, even at a small accumulative level can lead to craving sugar and stimulants as our bodies try to fuel up in the face of less vitally built-up energy. Indeed too little sleep has been associated with incremental weight gain through increased appetite for this very reason.

Blood sugar balance and calm for quality sleep

Sleep quality comes from balanced blood...

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Movement for Trauma exercise health ptsd self care shock trauma wellness yoga Feb 03, 2022

Movement to help your body naturally move through trauma

The term trauma is used to describe the state an individual is left with after a shock or prolonged danger or distressing event has passed. Its prevalence in society has grown from the recognition of the symptoms war veterans were experiencing in the 1980s with the diagnosable condition Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

This has also opened up to recognise that trauma does not just stem from large, traumatic events but can be as a result of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) and the definition extended to anything that overwhelms to the point where we can’t cope, on an individual basis.

The medical world has long viewed trauma as a purely psychological issue, although recent research shows it to be a full physiological response; a reliving in this moment of an event or felt state that came before. For those with trauma, this is the only way more primal, instinctual responses can make sense of the continual.

Trauma...

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Targeted Stretching for Different Exercises energy exercise health self care wellness yoga Jan 20, 2022

Stretching can be something we look forward to or dread within our exercise regimens, so understanding its purpose and effects can create more depth and motivation, however we feel. Messages can be conflicting, so some simple basics can help us navigate confusion towards following your body’s needs.

Stretching for sports is not the same as in yoga; rather than looking to improve flexibility alone, static (still) stretching after exercise is designed to lengthen muscle shortened through use back to its normal range of motion (ROM). This is why dynamic (moving), rather than static is recommended for warm-ups. More flexibility ie more range through muscle and around joints may actually impede the action and strength of specific movements needed for sport.

We can’t actually lengthen muscle – this is already determined by its insertion and origin ie where it is attached and leads to in terms of bones and tendons – but we can lessen resistance to a stretch, where...

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Brush Strokes health self care wellness winter Jan 13, 2022

Simple and effective

One of the most popular recommendations I give to clients is dry skin brushing. This is a simple self-care home routine that can take as little or long as you have. Even doing for a minute a few times a week can have noticeably beneficial effects and most people find it is so enjoyable that it becomes part of their bathing routine very easily. Stimulating the skin in winter is important when it gets less exposure to the natural stresses of the outdoors.

Self stimulation!

The main aim behind skin brushing idea is to move out surface toxins and 'energise' your skin to get blood flow going. This is also stimulating your lymphatic system, the fluid channels of your immune system which run beneath the skin. As your skin is your largest organ and the second organ of detoxification after the liver (via the lymphatic system), brushing it increases the capacity of your skin to eliminate toxins, making it easier for your whole body to shed wastes. Dry skin brushing also...

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Are you Living True to Yourself? digestion energy food health sugar wellness winter Dec 17, 2021

January is a time of new beginnings and even recalibration – taking stock of the aspects of our lives where we go awry and find ourselves going round and round in circles.

So much of where we can get stuck is based on old survival strategies learnt in early childhood and listening to these inner voices of what we need to feel safe and secure is a key part of moving through life in a stress-free way.

The more we can let ourselves off the hook of expectation and recognise our true needs, the less self-judgment we need to throw up and the kinder we can be to ourselves.

This is the stuff that can help us be free our reactions and behaviours that we might be fed up with with; turning to sugar or alcohol when we’re stressed, arguing with our partner or feeling a mental and physical exhaustion that stops us from exercising in the way we’d like.

For instance, my ‘resolutions’ last year were:

1. Notice when I’m close to or have become overwhelmed and...

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