Category Archives: For Todays Athlete

Ow, My Hamstring!

Ow, My Hamstring!

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One of the complaints I hear repeatedly is,  “Wow, my hamstrings are tight.”  But are they really? 

Could it be that they are just not as strong as your quads and are having to work overtime to compete with the growing strength and tightness of your quads.

How many exercises do you do to strengthen your quads? I am sure there a quite a few. How often do you find yourself

Now, name all the different ways you strengthen your hamstrings. Not as many and I would guess you probably do them, o, hardly ……. never. Right?performing these exercises? Read the rest of this entry

Quads Dominance

Quads Dominance

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I can not emphasize enough the importance of balanced strength in today’s athlete.  Squats are great and have their purpose, but do you really think you can continue to strengthen the front of the legs and continue to ignore the back of the legs with out consequences?

If your hamstrings are weaker then your quads a few things could happen

  • 1.Your hamstrings can tear from the overpowering load of a contracted quad as you extend your leg back from your hip.
  • 2.Your speed will decrease as you lose power from the hip flexors and knee extensors because your hamstrings tend to contract earlier to stop the movement so that they are not overpowered by the strong quad.

Read the rest of this entry

Heel That Pain

Heel That Pain

shapeimage_1-20The achilles tendon.  The largest tendon in the body and perhaps one of the most debilitating if it tears.  You have heard of the mythological figure Achilles of the trojan war.  He was said to be invulnerable in his body except for his heal. He died because of a wound to his heal.  An arrow was shot by Apollo and punctured his heel. This wound proved to be fatal.  Even the term “achilles heel” has come to be known to describe a persons main weakness.

Injuries to the achilles tendon are common and can be difficult to come back from.  Highly preventable in Todays Athlete, and thankfully so as we rely on them so much for mobility. Read the rest of this entry

How Fit Are Your Feet?

How Fit Are Your Feet?

shapeimage_1-21I have always been fascinated with babies feet and I might say quite repulsed by adult feet.  I had such a foot phobia that I really believe it was a prerequisite to my choosing my spouse.  Crazy as that may sound, it is true.  But I must say I have gone full circle with feet.  The only thing I can attribute it to is I befriended my feet.  I began to see them not as the nemesis and cause for my discomfort, but as a mistreated, abused and neglected part of my anatomy.

Read the rest of this entry

What A Pain

What A Pain

shapeimage_1-25Neck flexion, drawing the chin to the chest, is an action we repeat all to often during the daily activities of life.  I am of the belief that time on our mat should be spend letting go of these holding patterns and moving in the opposite directions.  There are some yoga poses that seem to perpetuate repetitive unhealthy postures and and aggravate instead of heal.

Plow pose and shoulder stand are two asanas that I do not include in my practice. To understand why, we must first introduce you to the Nuchal ligament.  Its main job is to keep the neck from falling into flexion and maintaining the natural lordodic curve of the spine.

I recently read in the book, Born to Run, that it is the reason we have the ability to run (along with the glute max and the achilles tendon)

Muscles that put a strain on the Nuchal ligament and its surrounding support are muscles that todays athlete are most prone to strengthen and less prone to lengthen.  Muscles that support the nuchal ligament and its surrounding support need to be not only lengthened but more importantly strengthened.

How many times in a yoga class do we find we are flexing the cervical spine as opposed to extending it?  Why do we need to continue to increase the length of the muscles in the back of then neck, when todays athlete needs to focus on strengthening them and lengthening the muscles who function is to draw the chin to the chest.

imgresThe over all tendency in todays athlete is to be short thru the front of the body.  Even in golf with out the correct nutation in the lower back and neck when addressing the ball, the rounding action shortens the line of energy all down the front of the body and decrease the power behind the ball. Not to mention increasing stress and stain and loss of ball control.

 In football the ability to lift the head in extension is important from a 4 point stance when rushing the line in an effort to protect the neck.  I can remember my husband telling my son how important it was to keep his head up when he went in to defend the ball on the tackle.  Most Football players know this, but it becomes difficult for them to maintain the spine in extension, maintaining the natural lordodic curve in the lumbar as well as the cervical spine if the natural tendency is to round the back.  This also comes from Quad dominance and over worked chest.

droppedImage-4These two poses in my opinion are not in the best interest of todays athlete.  There is a huge risk to over stretch the nuchal ligament and because it is putting the neck in flexion, can exacerbate a disc bulge.  I am a huge fan of inversions, but this is one I do not include in my practice as I feel there are so many more effective ways to strengthen the upper back and neck.droppedImage_17

 The risk of injury to C 7 of the cervical spine are great because of the length of the spinous process combined with the weight of the body and the lack of give into the floor.

It is my humble and strong belief that because we spend so much of our life in a forward flexion, with little to know movement in extension, that to practice spinal flexion in our yoga practice is unnecessary and can create further damage and harm.  The risk of disc bulge by exaggerating the flexion of the neck far out way any benefits that these poses can provide.droppedImage_1-5

 Todays athlete is in need of extension of the front side of the body and strengthening of the back side of the upper body.  There are more effective and safer ways to strengthen the muscles of the neck and upper back in connection with a length in the hamstring and protecting the neck.  This is one way

Due to the extreme nature and weight of the weight of the head, the loss of the natural curve in the cervical spine creates added stress on already stressed out shoulders.  Just because they present as being tight don’t assume that stretching is what they need.  More then likely they need to be strengthened and are overpowered by a stronger counter part.  The pain you are feeling may be more likely due to tension from fatigue and muscle weakness then from tension do to shortening in the muscle fibers.

droppedImage_2-3It has also come to my attention that tight hamstrings creates a pull and increase in the cervical lordosis when knees are brought to chest in todays athlete who presents with weak neck extensors.  They lift their shoulders and creating an exaggeration in the flexion of the neck.  It is my observation that these muscles are not strong enough to maintain a contracted length and the head tilts back.

It is thru these observations that I move away from the idea and the need to lengthen these muscle and focus on more effective ways to strengthen them.  If these poses are being taught I encourage you to look at the intension and the necessity before putting yourself at risk of injury just for the sake of doing a pose.

 

see You, on the mat!

Kimberly

 

 

Hip Adductors And Flexors

Hip Adductors And Flexors

shapeimage_1-27To feel the muscles in action, come to an easy-seated pose, Press down on the knees while trying to lift them, this will lift the low back and tilt the pelvic bowl forward…. say hello to your hip adductors and hip flexors.

In the west, todays athlete spends more time sitting, squatting, lunging and this can cause a decrease in the length and flexibility of the hip adductors and hip flexors.

Often times  injury to this part of the body is felt in the groin.  I see so many of today’s athletes with weak core, which is so surprising to me.  The strength then must come from the quads and the hip adductors, which puts strain on the weaker counter parts, the hamstrings and the abductors. Read the rest of this entry

Just Be

Just Be
Just Be

You may find the achievements and progression decrease as you learn to just be in the asana and it is here, as the effort decreases that you find the joy.

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When speaking of balance, their are many factors to take into consideration.  You first must have an awareness of gravity, as well as a sense of the direction of movement.  This awareness must be maintained thru out each and every action.  It is here that you will find and maintain your center of gravity.  If you overstretch in one direction your center of gravity changes and you must balance your direction of movement to maintain your center of gravity.

This is why it is important in your practice not to collapse or prop yourself through a particular pose of exercise,  but to yield equally and in all directions.  We all walk into a class with a different story, different developed memories and even an intelligence residing with in our muscles as to how to move or be. It is so important to take time  time to reflect on the extension, the alignment and connect with your center of gravity as well as the full body awareness of sensation.

If you move into and out of poses too quickly you miss this very important element of your practice and continue to build on bad habits.  You may find that you habitually practice safety, but maybe only on one side, striving to hard to go as far, hold as long or stretch as deep on the other.  It is a practice to even out these sides, but it does not guarantee that physically you will ever be able to do so.

Injuries as a yoga teacher are at best an inconvenience and horribly frustrating when they come during your practice.  I have not ever had to come back to my practice from an injury as debilitating as a broken tibia. Cultivating patience with myself, with my body and with my practice are first and foremost.  Sharing the lessons with you are going to be a gift.

I have had several injuries in the years that I have been practicing yoga.  One that I often hear the echos of is a torn hamstring, on as it would be, the same leg as I have broken.  I learned thru my own practice using a tennis ball or racquetball and placing it in the belly of the muscle as I worked on seated forward folds brought me some relief.  While I was healing from this injury I was subbing at a studio and decided to stay and take the class following mine. Fortunately they had some balls and as the instructor had us on the floor to do some seated forward folds I asked her if she would mind passing me a ball, (they were seated next to her).  Would you believe this teacher complained to the owner that I was disruptive to her class!  I share this with you only to say that if you are recovering from an injury do what is best for you, not what is best for the instructor.  They are they only to guide you to have your own experience, and if you feel the need to use a prop, use it.

The injury by the way, came when I was a new teacher trying to push myself beyond my edge. The instructor was teaching an advanced pose I had never done and I did not take the time to listening, rather I was focusing on the end point.

Another injury from my practice came from an aggressive and over extension of  my neck in shoulder stand or possibly from threat the needle. I was convinced that advancing in the pose meant no blankets, and body horizontal to the floor.  I was checking on my alignment, connecting with my center of gravity, and reflecting on the extension, but I was ignoring the shooting pain in my arm until the echos of my practice resulted in a bulging disc.  Now I no longer practice either of these poses, but find relief in headstand, which by all accounts is contraindicated for a disc bulge, but the way I was taught, it helps me.

The wisdom of the body, we are responsible for our healing as well as for our injury in our practice.

The effort used  as beginners is often greater, but as you advance you find greater ease  as the physical effort decreases.  You may also find the achievements and progression decrease as you learn to just be in the asana and it is here, as the effort decreases that you find the joy.

I have had some really great teachers that have shared amazing lessons that I am able to pass on, and then there are those teachers that have just taught me lessons.  Both are responsible for my continued growth as a teacher, educator and guide.

See You, on the mat!

Kimberly Hardick                                                                                                                                                                               Educator, guide, student and Claynatomist