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8 Principles of Movement Archives - Bit By Bit Bodyworks

16 Apr

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Principle #6 Breathe To Boost Your Core Stability

April 16, 2014 | By | 2 Comments

Pick up any gym or yoga schedule you’ll find a number of “core conditioning” specific classes. The focus on the core engagement and strengthening has been around for awhile. I recently attended one of these core classes and was saddened by the lack of understanding regarding how the body works as a whole.

It is important to have a strong core to do activities of our daily life and maintain suppleness in our spine and largest joints as we age. Much of what is being taught is not improving core strength or function. In fact, it is weakening the core and creating dysfunction in the body.

What you need to know:

The core is comprised of 3 groups of muscles (I haven’t named all the muscle I’ve simply touched on those that are more commonplace and well known):

1. Deep Inner Core – transversus abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor

These muscles work together forming the central canister that connects our pelvis and our ribcage. They provide stability for smooth and fluid movement of the spine, hips, and shoulders. There is an organic grace and ease in movement when these are functioning well.  Easy natural breath is essential for these muscles to fire and recruit properly.

2. Global Stabilizers – quadratus lumborum, internal obliques, anterior psoas, hip abductors, hip adductors and hip external rotators

These muscles work together with the hamstrings, quadriceps and muscles of the feet for a balanced weight bearing pelvis in walking, running, and up right activities. The pelvis needs to be balanced to transfer weight from the upper body to the lower body and vice versa. If weight transfer is inadequate compensation will occur.

3. Power Muscles – rectus abdominis, external obliques, erector spinea, hamstrings, quadriceps and lattissimus dorsi

When someone is weak or has a recruitment  pattern issue with the deep inner core muscles what tends to happen is an over engagement of the power muscles. For example the lats brace or the external obliques grip during movement. When this happens they aren’t actually using the deeper core muscles. If the lats are being used to stabilize then there is all this inherent strength inside that isn’t being accessed because the power muscle group is being used inappropriately. When the lats are needed for power they are pooped from doing the work of the stabilizers.

How do you stop the power muscles from bracing or gripping? You come back to the previous 5 principles I’ve talked about on my blog and move in such a way that the power muscles don’t grip or brace giving the deep inner core and global stabilizer muscles a chance to organically wake up and fire. This is requires doing less not more and you can’t think your way to improving function it requires that you slow down and notice.

In order to get access to your core musculature you need to be gentle and easy initially. The effectiveness of  your core work is highly dependent on your breath.  Take a moment to consider the following image:

 

Transverse view of the thorax looking at the inferior side of the diaphragm.

Transverse view of the thorax looking at the inferior side of the diaphragm.

 

See how the fibers of the transversus abdominis interweave with the fibers of the diaphragm and the psoas and the quadratus lumborum pass behind the diaphragm and attach to the spinal vertebrea. If you are holding your breathe at all or exhaling too deeply it is going to impact the function and suppleness of these muscles as well as the pelvic floor.

I’ve given you lots to think about and consider. My May newsletter will have a couple simple things you can do to check for pelvic stability and movement to help improve it.  In June I’ll offer up some insights on gripping and bracing of the power muscles with ways to quiet them down and cultivate your deep inner core and stabilizers. If you currently aren’t receiving my monthly newsletter send me an email with “newsletter please” in the subject line.

Don’t want to wait for May and June contact me to schedule a one on one session we’ll assess which core muscles are working well, those that are over engaged and start to cultivate that which isn’t currently firing.

Best,
Dawn
“The less effort, the faster and more powerful you will be.”  Bruce Lee

17 Mar

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Principle #5 Move Joints In Their Optimum Range Of Motion

March 17, 2014 | By | No Comments

Each joint has an optimum range of motion, by design some have a wee bit of movement – intervertebral discs. Others have free and easy movement – shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles. Factors like lifestyle, medical conditions and past injury impact each joints optimum range of motion. Someone with healthy joints who hasn’t had an injury will likely have greater range of motion than someone who has broken an ankle or swollen/stiff joints due to a medical condition. The key, no matter what your situation, is to move each joint in its optimum range of motion.

How do you know you’re moving joints in their optimum range of motion?

  • You can breathe easy.
  • You are moving the joint in the direction it is designed to move in.
  • You feel no strain or pain.

 

The larger joints – hips and shoulders are designed to take more load. When the hips or shoulders become stuck, limited or lack stability the load gets pushed out to the smaller joints – elbows, wrists, knees, ankles and intervertebral discs. I have seen pain at these smaller joints reduce or go away by improving the function and accentuating movement in the hip and shoulder joints.

I offer workshops and classes under “Work With Me” that teach how to move joints in their optimum range of motion. Under “Grow Your Practice” you’ll find a collection of free 5 minute videos to support you in moving your joints optimally.

If you have pain there is a problem. Listen to your body’s “whispers” and you won’t have to hear it “scream”.

Namaste,

Dawn

02 Feb

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Principle #4. Connecting The Movement Of The Spine To The Largest Joints First

February 2, 2014 | By | No Comments

The past few months I’ve shared the movement principles I follow when teaching a workshop, group class or working one on one with a client.

So far we’ve looked at:

  1. Nourish Relaxation
  2. Move in your pain and tension free range or motion
  3. Initiate Movement: Begin with the Spine in Mind 

 

This month let’s look at………..

#4 Connecting The Movement Of  The Spine To The Largest Joints First  

Once the body is relaxed and we feel the spine as the central place from which movement occurs it’s time to find free and easy movement of the arms and legs. This requires good functioning shoulder and hip joints. It also helps to understand a how the shoulder girdle and pelvic girdle relate to the spine and our limbs.

Without getting bogged down by anatomical terms and illustrations (if you want the anatomical goods check out Susi Hately’s Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries book Fig 4-3) Let’s look at the connection between the psoas and the trapezius muscles. The upper body and shoulder girdle attach to the spine via the trapezius at T12 and the legs attach to the spine at T12 via the psoas by crossing the pelvis.

Trapezius Psoas_major

Each piece – spine, shoulder girdle, arms, pelvic girdle and legs impact the other pieces. There is a whole system of muscles, fascia, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue beyond these 2 muscles and the skeleton that make up the “web” of the body. By viewing the body as a web we understand no piece is separate from the other pieces.

The shoulder girdle provides the arms a large amount of support, mobility and stability. Think about all the ways we move the arms and ask them to support us:

  • Reaching overhead to put things in and out of a cupboard,
  • Carrying a baby or toddler,
  • Swinging a golf club, tennis racket or hockey stick,
  • Supporting the torso while riding a bike,
  • Pulling us through the water in swimming,
  • Moving and supporting us in our yoga practice.

 

If there’s tightness in the muscles of the chest, upper back or shoulders  it impacts the movement of the arms and the spine. The tightness/tension puts pressure on the blood vessels and nerves through the shoulder girdle and down the arms into the hands. Carpel tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries have greater potential to occur. There are other areas of the web this ripple of tightness might be felt or noticed:

  • Breathing pattern(s),
  • The neck (cervical spine), or
  • The low back (lumbar spine).

 

The pelvic girdles primary purpose is to transfer weight from the spine to the leg(s) – load transfer.  It acts as a bridge transferring the weight and energy from the spine to the    leg(s) while affording the leg bone (femur) mobility, stability and strength/power.  The better the “bridge” connection is from the spine across the pelvis to the leg(s) the more effortless our movement becomes.

With low back pain I often see dysfunction in the hip joint. The bridge or connection from the spine to the leg bone(s) across the pelvis has become fuzzy. Similar to tuning in a radio signal the communication from the brain to the spine, pelvis and leg bone(s) is not as clear as it could be. Curious about how tuned in your signal is? Give this a try:

  • Lay on your back.
  • Place both feet on the wall so that your knees are stacked over  your hips (knees/hips are at 90 degree angles).
  • Take 5 breaths notice your body, your breath, your  spine.  With each breath is there a sense of settling in or softening in the body in this position? If not,  please stop this is not appropriate for you today. Doesn’t mean it won’t be another day just not today. Remember principle #2 Move in your pain and tension free range or motion:-).
  • Feel your feet on the wall, gently begin to press into the wall.
  • Remember the images from above of the trapezius and psoas muscles? Did you notice your pelvis move, your butt or legs grip or clench, your breath change, your shoulders, neck or jaw get tight or tense, did your belly or breath grip or brace? If you felt any of these press again with less effort.
  • Feel the hip creases soft as you press and only press into the wall to the point that you maintain the sensation of softness in the hip creases and don’t feel any of the compensations listed above. Feel the foot and whole leg as you press.
  • Press and release a few times and notice how the feeling of this press differs from the first press.
  • Come up to standing and notice.

 

As you play with the leg press the signal from the brain to the spine, pelvis and leg bone(s) will get more tuned in. The point is not to figure out what to engage but to move in a range that you aren’t encouraging the compensation patterns. Not even a teeny tiny bit. If you suffer from back pain it will likely go down as you take this new awareness into other movements and activities you participate in.

We start to see that like the interconnectedness or web of the body the principles of movement are also interconnected. The principles aren’t linear they ebb and flow working together.

This month’s movement moment provides a couple movements for you to explore the relationship between the arms, shoulder girdle and spine and leads nicely into next month’s principle #5 Move Joints in Their Optimal Range of Motion.

Have a good one,

Dawn

February Movement Moment

 

01 Feb

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Principle #3 Initiate Movement: Begin with the Spine in Mind

February 1, 2014 | By | No Comments

Each month I dig a little deeper into one of the 8 movement principles I use whether I’m teaching a workshop, group class or working one on one with a client.
We’ve delved into:
  1.  Nourish Relaxation
  2. Move in your pain and tension free range or motion

This month we’ll look closer at………..

#3 Initiate Movement: Begin with the Spine in Mind

“The spine is the fundamental place to begin movement because of its central connection to every other piece of the body. Each vertebrae connects with fascia, blood vessels, muscles and nerves, which fan in various directions to nourish, stimulate and balance each part of the body. At its essence, then the spine is really a system of skeletal, neurological, electrical, vascular and chemical input that when balanced and connected creates magically fluid movement, much the same way a well balanced and connected orchestra creates awe inspiring music. 

The spine is composed of 33 vertebrae which are arranged in 4 curves: 

Cervical curve – consisting of 7 vertebrae Thoracic curve – consisting of 12 vertebrae Lumbar curve – consisting of 5 vertebrae Sacral/Cocceygeal curve- consisting of 5 sacral and 4 coccygeal vertebrae”

Excerpt from Anatomy and Asana: Preventing Yoga Injuries by Susi Hately

Entire Spine

The curves of the spine act as a coiled spring that absorb shock, dissipate and transfer energy when we bend, twist, flex or extend on or off our yoga mat. If the spine was straight it would be like a ridged guywire and we could not withstand impact or move fluidly and freely.

The spine as a structure is inherently stable and inherently mobile which is where we can run into trouble. The areas of the spine that are hypermobile are where the curves of the spine change directions – cervical to thoracic (C7-T1) , thoracic to lumbar (T12-L1) and lumbar to sacral/cocceygeal (L5-S1) allow more movement then other vertebrae of the spine.

When we move more through the above junctions other areas of the spine become less mobile and stiff. The thoracic spine is an area that for many becomes stiff and stuck. To compound matters we’ll compensate for the less mobile vertebrae by using our extremities – arms and legs to move the spine.

I see this when the arms are used to leverage the spine into a bigger/deeper twist rather then using the internal core muscles to rotate the spine and ribcage.

Also, in cat/cow where instead of initiating with the spine folks push and pull with the arms  /shoulder girdle and or legs to move the spine into flexion and extension.

Curious?  Give this a try:

  • Sit in a chair with your feet flat in the floor.
  • Place books under your feet so they are in full contact with the floor.
  • Place your palms together, thumbs at your collarbones and chin resting on your finger tips.
  • Take a moment to feel your sitting bones on the chair, rock slightly forward and back on your sitting bones and come to rest where you feel your sitting bones in contact with the chair.
  • Take a few breaths here and notice your low belly. Are you holding it in? Can you let it go?
  • Feel your bottom 2-3 ribs and begin to rotate the spine from the bottom few ribs in one direction and then the other.
  • Notice if your arms or shoulders are trying to lead the movement. Let the movement originate from the bottom of the ribcage.
  • Find a range of motion in your twist that allows the shoulders and arms be relaxed and easy.

 

The aim is to have a smooth even twist over the vertebrae of the spine rather than a twist concentrated in a few vertebrae. This helps keep the areas of the spine prone to stiffness supple and mobile while protecting the hypermobile areas of the spine from injury.

Here’s to a supple, fluid and dynamic spine on and off your yoga mat!

28 Dec

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Principle #2 – Move In Your Pain and Tension Free Range of Motion

December 28, 2013 | By | No Comments

Last month I introduced movement principle – #1 Nourish Relaxation.

This is the first of the movement principles I use whether I’m leading a workshop, group class or working one on one with a client.

Let’s take a closer look at the next principle –

#2 Move in your pain and tension free range of motion.

Pain and tension are loaded words with many interpretations and variations. When we experience pain that rips, tears, furrows the brow, causes us to wince, bite our lip, clench the jaw and quiet literally takes our breath away most will agree there is some form of dysfunction or compensation occurring in the body.

Tension or feeling strain during movement and our favorite activities is what happens before feeling pain. Tension and strain movement patterns over time lead to pain patterns.

For example stand up, notice your breath, feel your feet, feel your lower leg and feel your upper leg, feel your chest and shoulders, now lift one foot off the floor. Did your you hold your breath, lean to the opposite side, tense up in the upper body, grip in your jaw or face, feel any strain in your standing leg?

If you did there is an opportunity to improve the communication between the brain, nervous system, tissues, muscles, joints and bones of the body.

One of two things happen at this point:

  1. We continue to push through the pain and tension thinking we should be able to “run 5kms, do “X” yoga pose, etc. The belief being that if we keep working/exercising we’ll get stronger/more flexible and the pain will go away. This usually happens after a short period of rest to settle any acute pain. In effect we set out to “fix it” focussing in on the site of the pain. In some cases our pain will go down but we will not truly heal and may have more problems later on because the neuromuscular pattern that caused the pain has not been addressed. i.e. knee pain that comes and goes progresses to plantar fasciitis or sciatica.
  2. We recognize that the pain and tension are signs of dysfunction or compensation and if we keep running, doing “X” yoga pose, etc the dysfunction will persist. We choose to change our movement patterns.

We feed, nourish and strengthen neuromuscular patterns with our movement. If we move in pain or tension we feed the body brain patterns that are causing pain or tension. To change these patterns we have to stop moving in ways that create pain and tension.

When someone comes to see me they have usually been cycling through option 1 above. They have tried everything and aren’t getting lasting results. Many remark “they are desperate for something to change.”

Cool thing is change is always possible – at any age, in any physical condition. 

For the next week practice moving in a range where there is no click or clunk in the joint you are moving, no tension, strain or pain in your body and notice what happens.