“Stacy” (not her real name) was my new private client. She arrived at the studio where I teach in a wheel chair. She was post–op and post her allotted amount of physical therapy sessions. With a torn Achilles tendon, horrible back spasms, and a broken right and subsequently left sesamoid bone, she was in a lot of pain, frustrated and depressed. This young woman was suddenly unable to drive her car or go to work. Simple daily activities like putting on her jacket or reaching for the toilet paper sent her into painful back spasms.
She used to take an exercise class 3-5 days per week that she loved because she could “feel the burn” and she was really good at it. Here’s the problem: she was “really good at it” because the postural positions emphasized in the workout were the same ones she did all day long at work in the following four scenarios:
- sitting at a desk or in the car (in high heels)
- standing (in high heels)
- walking (in high heels)
- lifting a roller bag suitcase (in high heels)
Did I mention that all of the above are while wearing high heeled shoes?
The class emphasized a tucked pelvis(sad tail), with the femur bones in external rotation (turnout or duck foot), and plantar flexed ankles (pointed toes) in a weight bearing position; all three of which she was already doing on her own outside of the class in her daily life. Adding fuel to the fire was that she was adding concentric and isometric muscular contractions in this disastrous postural position. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a great way to train to be a better ballet dancer, but that wasn’t her goal. She wanted a dancer’s physique without the dancer injuries.
The lessons learned from this situation can apply to all types of athletic endeavors. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing from the fitness menu:
Does your exercise program reinforce what you do in your daily life? For example, do you schlump in a chair at your desk all day and then hunch over your spin bike at night for exercise? Maybe you should try a yoga class that includes some restorative backbends. Perhaps you walk and stand all day with your belly muscles relaxed and your spine in extension, then take a heart opening backbend class you are “really good at.” Maybe you should sign up for a cycling class…
So here’s the take home with regard to your exercise regime:
Your exercise can be your therapy, by choosing exercise that undoes what you do all day. Learn basic human movement and ferret out those body blind spots in a Yoga Tune Up® class and your body will thank you!
Read about the most important part of a yoga pose.
Learn about Yoga Tune Up at home.
Find a Yoga Tune Up class or workshop near you.
Yes! So easy to choose ‘exercise’ that aggravates/aligns with our musculoskeletal tendencies – even our overall desire for/ comfort with familiar speeds and intensity. It’s a great reminder to challenge our movement preferences – but never in heels!
This is such a good point. It’s so interesting how many students I come across who got into yoga because they were already relatively flexible and felt immediately “good” at it. I think part of this is human nature on the part of the student and a good thing to notice and challenge, but I also think it’s up to teachers to challenge these students to build proprioception, strength and stability.
I couldn’t agree more! Sometimes the best practices are those that we struggle with!
Variability in movement is sooo important! One of the main things I love about YTU is the context that relates what is being done back to the day to day actions of our lives. I am always trying to become aware of my habits and create sequences that counterbalance them. Or if I notice that a lot of people tend to have similar habits I will be inspired to create a sequence to counterbalance those habits even if I don’t share them. It is so easy to be tempted into doing things that you are already good at but it doesn’t lead to more stability in your body.
Yes, Yes, Yes! My older sister was bragging how her Pilates instructor commented on how well her Plie was in barre class and everything that had to do with hips in external rotation. She is a dancer! She did not feel any burn or workout in those positions and when she did bridge lifts, as she demonstrated to me, her feet were…you guessed it, turned out! I suggested to her that she may want to work her adductors and turn her feet parallel to get more of a workout. She tried a few bridge lifts and said naaahhhh, that’s too hard! hahaha. Sometimes people want to be ‘good at things’ and not struggle through it. She does come to my class and works on her internal rotation! Great article, thank you!
Incredibly important to consider our day to day life when engaging in a specific form of exercise. I thought that I was “naturally” quad dominant for 23 years of my life – until I realized that sitting in a school desk combined with biking/spinning was not ideal for my quads, nor my back position.
I can so relate – having been a gym rat for several years, I simply felt guilty if I did not keep up the robotic routine of doing a specified amount of cardio, specified amount of weights, on the exact same nights of every week. Not only was I bored, I didn’t really feel all that great – and after going cold turkey on the gym for two full weeks as an experiment (and it took a long time to be ok with this test) my body felt so much better. Had I list a bit of strength, yes – was I a little softer, yes – did I feel better, yes – was this ok, YES! Did I skip renewing my gym member ship the next year, yes – and I haven’t looked back. I have metroparks, and a bike, and several golf courses, etc. – just need to look around more and get out of the gym fishbowl!
Great points! Especially when it comes to movement I always encourage my students to move their bodies in many different ways. This keeps their body from developing bad movement habits!
Ditching my high heels was one of the best decisions I’ve made. That and not wearing shape wear. I’ll tubular core myself, thanks! I love the question: does your workout reinforce the movements you’re already doing the rest of the day? I’ve never asked myself that question and it is time to take a hard look at what movements I’m missing.
excellent article merci de nous avoir partagé
With all of the things we do in our daily life that totally tax our bodies, it’s so important that we choose to exercise in a way that counteracts that. I’m realizing more and more that by changing it up we can avoid sinking into bad patterns and creating blindspots that could cause damage to our bodies.
Having been a dancer, I was happy doing Pilates, yoga and barre all day long. A bad psoas injury from over twisting in a heated vinyasa class was my wake up call. I had to get strong– not more flexible. I was so uncomfortable initially in CrossFit. The movement was so foreign to me. The faces I made when pulling weight scared me. But now, 3 years later, I have developed enough muscle to justify some functional yoga and now YTU is the cherry on top.
This points out a very important and overlooked idea that we instead of finding balance, we feed the strengths. I find looking for the blind spots, weaknesses, can be vulnerable. This is why I tend to also teach poses that I’m good at and reinforcing it. I guess when offering and for self learning to uncover and investigate my daily life and take note which areas are neglected.
Loved the article how true we tend to repeat the same unconscious movement patterns ,Bad body mechanics and poor posture, all create pain and poor stability and coordination issues.The things we take for granted each day . Thanks for opening my eyes to the reality of how I function daily is it any wonder we are unbalance,in pain .
Advise to allow us connect our daily living pattern & unfurl our repetitive pattern of movement is so necessary as most of us are oblivious to that. We like to do what our body is good at & dislike to do what challenges our “stuck in a groove” pattern. Great observation to explore, our habits.
Guilty as charged with the heels and the horrible posture…although I don’t wear heels so much anymore, the posture still needs some work. Good news is that I stay away from the awful spin bike 🙂 I’m learning to do “better” yoga each and every day. Reverse what we do all day with our workouts. Simple. Thanks!
I loved this blog. Its so straight forward really but not something I had consciously thought through. I massage all day and one of my main down time sports is climbing – yes both are hand intensive but the massaging is generally more pushing and the climbing more pulling – one moves up energeticaly and physically and one moves relaxes energy down. I think sometimes we are lucky enough to hook into something that is opposite of what we do daily – other times I find myself stuck in the framework of “what I am good at”. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. And just because you have labeled yourself “not good” at something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or that you wouldn’t love it. My words are running aimlessly – your blog has given me food for though. thanks.
Oh another reason I want to bring Yoga Tune Up to Austin. What an aha moment for this client and everyone who has habitual postural habits. It does the body and brain good to change things up and stop wearing and tearing by repeating our same comforts that lead to so many discomforts.
Love how your article encourages the examination of how we use our body in all daily activities! I have definitely found this to be a challenging task to remember to think about the positioning of my body throughout the day, but find it to be such an accomplishment when I am doing an activity that I usually do, such as driving and realize “Hey, my ribs are popping out, better adjust!”
Trina, I’m a fan of “your exercise can be your therapy”. We love doing things that we are good at and tend to quit what we do not naturally find easy (path of least resistance). We hear non-yogis say “I cannot take yoga because I’m not flexible” and I want to slap them like the Batman cartoon floating around and say “that’s a reason to take yoga”. The very definition of yoga is union of opposites, and we can seek out the balance to undo some of our habitual bad habits. I’m finding that Yoga Tune-up is helping me to find balance from my daily yoga poses to release all the repetitions of the same yoga asanas. YAY!!!
Love this sentence: Your exercise can be your therapy, by choosing exercise that undoes what you do all day. It summarizes what I keep telling people about yoga and movement in general (because sometimes, traditional yoga is not what they need…). The thing is, people need to learn to do things they’re not always good at (and I do too!). We love doing poses we’re good at, exercises we’re good at, etc. It makes us feel proud! But once we learn that we should focus on what we need instead of focusing on what we already have, then exercise becomes the best therapy ever! Thanks Trina for the inspiring article!
Absolutely right. My most satisfied students are those that are taken outside their comfort zones and made to move in novel ways (for them). Invariably, the comments are something like, “I never knew I needed that!” Reverse those negative postural habits!
Trina – have you seen the photo of Victoria Beckham on the treadmill in high heel sneakers? While amusing, that photo always drove me mad a practitioner of conscious body movement. We are so enmeshed in our habits we almost never stop to think about how to save our bodies and try out some opposing actions to recover the daily damage that we do. Thanks for the reminder!
There is no doubt, that some times our habits define us, and not only that, we are unable to break them. The thing here is to be conscious and look for the balance of our body. The YTU give us the opportunity to reconnect completely with the muscles, joints, tissues that we are not aware. Thanks for sharing
Thank you for addressing this deeply ingrained issue. I often talk with my patients about choosing their bodies over their egos. It takes courage and education to choose an exercise routine wisely. Though, when done, movement can be the best medicine.
Awesome reminder to think outside our everyday tendencies. I used to have extremely sore feet whenever I took a yoga class. Never knew how terrible continuous high heel wearing could be. Fortunately I realized what the issue was and have gone to flats whenever possible, and my practice has gotten my feet to a better place for sure. Now on to fixing those desk shoulders!
I wholeheartedly and whole body agree with you, Trina! I have been using the phrase, “train your body for your activities of daily life” for many years now. Making functional strength a top priority is crucial part of self care. It is also important that we offset our imbalances with proper training and restoration, too.
Trina, this is such great advice!! I work as a flight attendant and do pole fitness all while wearing high bells! (What five foot girl doesn’t want to extend her legs!!). I do believe my fitness regime undoes my job quite a bit but really need to rethink the heels!
I love love love this post. My father has severe lower back pain. If he irritates it, he has to take off work for several weeks and go to physical Therapy. When he is not in pain, he likes to be active like going for walks or playing golf. I went for a walk with him recently and noticed that his right foot was in external rotation and inverted when he walked. All of his weight was pounding into that foot as he was going for long walks every night. He was doing exactly what you said in this blog…continually emphasizing his posture that was causing back pain in his excercise routine. Thank you for your post!
Such a simple concept but so overlooked and not thought about enough in our society…(as I notice my own body slumping into it’s usual patterns as I type). I particularly like the desk jockey / cyclist example, one I can relate to and know so many people who fall into this category…awesome advice – thank you!
Amen sister!! The “movement is your best medicine” train is picking up passengers daily!! And you refined it even more by pointing out that not just any movement but specifically movement that counterbalances your daily routine is the best medicine!!
Wow, this just brought so much clarity to me for my own blind spots, I had never thought about moving in a different way than my daily routine, probably because I was more comfortable that way. I do wear heels regularly but have found a lot of relief from tight feet and toes by using the YTU stretches and therapy balls. Before I started my training, I hadn’t given a lot of thought to my feet.
Thank you Trina!! I’ve been examining this all week in Level 1 training with my own body. My biggest personal take-away was “moving through poses outside of your regular movement patterns brings up blind spots”. Taking it out of the context of yoga and placing it into the bigger picture, I have a desk job during the day, and enjoy forward bends in my yoga practice. For the sake of my students, I need to start excavating my blind spots and movement patterns!
a brilliant thought, and I just offered this kind of scenario to one of my private clients. Just one week of Level 1 and already I’m thinking along these terms. He’s just developed plantar fascitis in his left foot, and ‘feels’ that his right foot is about to be next. His right foot is tighter, in fact, than the other but not in pain. We did some exercises to work on the left leg & I noticed (this was only our 2nd session) that his entire left side is much more resistant and ‘frozen.’ I urged him to delve into his daily life and look for ‘patterns’ that might help explain what was happening. That was his homework – I’m interested to know what he brings back.
I was reading about this new exercise regime on the flight over to New York here for teacher training! I couldn’t believe that it was a real style/art/what have you of fitness. Especially since high heels have been proven to do more harm than good for the structural integrity of the body and it’s alignment. I think if people just feel like they sweat it out, and burn it out, or such it’s all good. You point out very good things-not a good idea to reinforce the same movements you do every day at work-after-with the more aggressive intent of working out. The body needs balance and to do something different in regard to activity practices.
A person who works out their left arm will never find their right arm to be balanced/as strong as with the left. Eventually the person will feel silly because their friends will call them Righty, they will have to have their shirts and jackets tailored, and the dry cleaner will give them funny looks, or perhaps even worse charge them more-since the garment is a specialized piece of clothing. I’m mean damn unnecessary charges are no fun! But hey they asked for it working the same movements on the same arm over and over.
Now I’m just being silly but it’s to make a point, or I should say to agree with one of the points you made above. Good Post!
When I first started teaching yoga my practice was amazing! Strong, flexible, ambitious. Fast forward to 10 years down the road and I was tired broken and way over mobilized. Bottom line, I needed to move my body in new ways, at new paces and in varied intensities.
Thankfully, I have found a new routine that allows me to move in new ways. My aching over stretched body is healed and I am stronger and fitter than I have ever been. I also haven’t really lost any healthy flexibility. I can still hold my own in a standard Yogasana class but now I know I won’t break or ache when it’s over.
Totally agree about the finding the “yin to your yang” with exercise. Cross train, work in opposition! The high heels thing of course, couldn’t agree more. It is incredible that instead of heels becoming smaller now that we’ve realized the damage they wreak, they just seem to get larger! I have seen glamour shots of yoga teachers practicing in high heels– makes me cringe. Glad to see this article about what in particular can cause strain on the low back!
So True! I had never thought to consider this. It makes perfect sense. I recently tried a Zumba dance class( which I secretly likes) the instructor wanted everyone up on the balls on the balls of the feet( high heels). I’m safe for the occaisional class since I’m not guilty I’m in flats most days or bare feet. However I will consider this connection when questioning/ interviewing clients trying to get to the bottom of thre pains.
“Your exercise can be your therapy, by choosing exercise that undoes what you do all day.” LOVE this! I came to the YTU teacher training with a lack of enthusiasm in my yoga practice that was translating into my teaching. I was experiencing a lot of pain that was not being helped by yoga practice and in some cases it was made worse by it. This was very confusing and upsetting for me. Through my YTU Level 1 training, I have realized that for years I have been unaware of my blind spots and by practicing poses in the same old familiar way class after class my practice was actually creating pain rather than healing because it was not addressing the way I use my body in daily life. I was not practicing in a way that addressed my specific needs.. YTU poses have provided me with an opportunity to look at poses in a unique and challenging way that brings awareness to my blind spots and allows me to strengthen and heal them. This has brought the joy & passion back to my practice and my teaching!
I’ve always known yoga to be a healing practice, most of the classes I teach are level 2/3 vinyasa classes where the students want to be challenged and they want their gluteals kicked (“feel the burn”). YTU challenges me in a different way, I’m really excited/a little puzzled in how I can incorporate these concepts into my class and how well they will be perceived.
Let’s face it, women will never stop wearing heels or change the desire to do things they are already good at. Mentally, I think it is important to allow these women to continue doing what they enjoy, while emphasizing that they should do more exercises that are opposite of the movement they are good at. For example, if the woman’s posterior neck muscles are very flexible (for neck flexion), it is important to strengthen these muscles as well as stretch the anterior muscles (for neck extension) in order to bring balance to the cervical spine region.
So true, it’s so easy to get stuck into ruts doing what we like and what we’re good at. I have to remind myself to practice the poses that I dislike the most (hello twisted triangle!); there’s a reason that these poses are so challenging!!
Deanne, “Stacy” is doing great! She changed her daily habits, continued her private sessions and physical therapy, and now takes regular weekly small group reformer, gyrotonic and Yoga Tune Up classes at the studio where I teach. The healing process was slow and steady, with peaks and valleys, but ultimately her patience, perseverance and love of embodied learning paid off BIG TIME!
Really excellent article, Trina. As I was reading it, I was thinking, “How true! How obvious!” But, “Why haven’t I ever thought of that?” Thank you for bringing this idea into my consciousness. I will be more aware of when I am practicing my bad habits and will encourage my yoga students to do the same. By the way, what ever became of “Stacy”?
This is so true but something most people don’t consider when choosing an exercise regimen. This can also be true in our yoga practice where we practice/teach the poses we are good at and neglect the poses we dislike. I taught an entire class once on poses I dislike. What a bomb for all of us! Thanks for the reminder to see our blind spots and practice the things we dislike rather than overindulge in the things we’re already good at.
I am totally reposting this on my FB profile! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the same thing…and have been guilty of it myself. We all need balance. Moreover, we need to face those areas of the body that aren’t performing up to par and work on them. Not an easy task, but the YTU sequences really help!
We are such habitual creatures that we actually seek to reinforce our bad habits in the process of trying to heal ourselves! This is why it’s so important to access areas of weakness through a YTU sequence and really dig into these areas of neglect.
Interesting read Trina. So, i wonder if this is why I’m finding a lot of my yoga teachers also teach spin classes??
Yes Jamie, pain in the body, is always linked to the mind, the nervous system, and our emotions. We are so fortunate that the holistic mind/body paradigm has finally been embraced by contemporary culture and the medical community. Pain in the feet can be structural and/or related to feeling safe and resourced emotionally. Feeling “grounded” allows us the perch from which we can “fly”! Your journey to Hawaii beckons…you will walk tall and proud on your path. We are sending you on your path to dance to your music with love and support!
I’m a tango dancer so I spend many hours in 4 inch heels walking backwards and trying to look elegant doing it;-) I am finding right now that I need to remind myself that the body tells us things deeper than, “hey, you’re killing your feet here!”. I spend so much time in heels but I take care of my feet. Nubby balls and tune up balls foot rock my world daily… so why am I having debilitating pain right now…..? Expand the view… Im moving to Hawaii, taking a huge chance on the notion that there is a “path” for me and I should WALK it. What Im realizing is that sometimes it’s not structural or habitual. Sometimes it’s a side effect of resistance emotionally or energetically. Fear, anxiety, sadness… whatever, manifests in the body in a big way!
One of the best things about practicing yoga is that it gives us awareness of our bodies and minds and how we live in them. Couldn’t that awareness also be put into practice as far as our lifestyle choices? I personally don’t wear heels because I think they do more damage than good. But I do sit at a computer all day, and I am aware of how often I stop to stretch and repair my shoulders, back, and eyes. The key is in the noticing. 🙂
Today in yoga teacher training we were talking about how you would think that New Yorkers would have very muscular, strong legs from all the walking we do. But, with the carrying of heavy bags, texting and emailing while walking, and the perpetual hunching over that comes with it the majority of the weight bearing and muscle development goes into our lower and upper back. This article is fantastic in pointing out that in order to have balance in the body you have to have balance in your lifestyle. Thank you!
Ahhhh! If only women would stop doing this horrible thing to our bodies: wearing high heels. I hate them every time I put them on and am instantly in pain, so try to wear them as little as possible. Interesting to hear about working with a client who wears them.
Thanks for bringing up the need to choose a fitness regimen that balances out, rather than more deeply ingrains, our daily structural and postural patterns. I find that so often people will choose the exercise type that is easiest for them. We all want to feel strong and pretty and effortless when working out after all, and there’s no better way to guarantee that by doing something that comes naturally- i.e. something that has little to no learning curve since it’s what we already do with our bodies. However, I’ve seen countless clients in my practice get into trouble in their bodies this way. I’m always sending the loosely ligamentous ballerina/yogini types for powerlifting, and the muscle bound gym rats for YTU. With ample warnings that they are now undertaking something that will be a challenge for them, and that there will be a learning curve where they are used to not having to experience one, most are game to give it a shot knowing it will help them to get out of patterns that deepen their dysfunction.
I couldn’t agree more. After experiencing acute achilles tendonitis many years ago, I had to rethink my shoes. I never wore spike heeled shoes, I was/ am a fitness instructor, trainer, cyclist and marathon runner. What I know now is that not only was I wearing high heels, I was running over 50 miles/week in them. You know, the bouncy, cool looking trainers that everyone pushed in the 80’s and 90’s? I can’t believe they are still around. Not on my feet!
I also agree that, even though I have been a certified Spinning instructor for over 17 years, the desk jockeys and folks that drive long commutes should find a way to get some EXTENSION in their lives. A similar problem exists with the yoga crowd. We are all drawn to what we are “naturals” at. Very often the yoga folks are already hyper-mobile. Most yoga instructors offer props to folks who are tight or have long levers. Very few yoga instructors give yoga props to the “Gumby’s” in an attempt to help them find “neutral”. In the past year, I have worked with six post rotator cuff surgery, hyper-mobile women that injured themselves in yoga classes.
It seems we could all benefit from working or weakness to balance other strengths.
Thank you for your Blog Post!
I am a high heel junkie and have learned from Sarah court vie tune up that my bunions are likely the result of this. While I will not discontinue I will work to modify and incorporate some backbends
Fantastic! so many points to point out ones choices to harm their body cause no one is to blame besides ourselves. Awareness to what is causing pain.. heels and unnatural movement exercise movement. if you did what you always did you’ll get what you always get. definition of insanity.
Brilliant advise…. Our bodies definitly seek out comfort and familiarity…..creatures of habit….we gravitate to what we know…what seems easier or fun without regard to the long term effects of doing “the same old….same old” and how it will end up translating in our bodies as time progresses. Being aware of our choices, how we carry our bodies, what our daily life brings us, etc….awareness is key…once you recognize what is going on in your body,.work toward balancing that out…..or rather “counterbalancing” to find balance!
That is a great idea that many of us are resistant to. We are all creatures of habit and like to do the same things for exercise over and over again.
We all need to shake things up for our minds and our tissues. After becoming aware of all my little nooks and crannies, I want to strengthen and build muscles in my obliques and glutes.
Good point about developing areas that are opposite to the common actions of your daily life. And that it’s not about being “good” at something but challenging ourselves to find the balance in our bodies. To me, that’s an essential lessons of yoga, exploring opposite actions to find balance in the body (and the mind). Like in Ayurveda, opposites cure.
I talk about this topic all the time with my students-use your movement routine as a medicine and way to sustain your body and unravel everything that has been ”thrown” on you through the course of your day.
I believe approaching our body in this way completely changes the set of values and beliefs we hold about exercises and movement all together.We as humans are meant to move shift,run,jump,stretch,dance….get the energy on.When we look at our kids,when they are being asked to sit down (such as in bus or train)-they can’t and they are not willing to.You will see them kneeling on their seats,folding forward discovering what is underneath them,twisting their spine to friendship their fellow passengers,running around to engage their legs…they just can’t get enough of their fully aware and embodied movement.We could certainly learn a lot from them and increase our day-today and moment-to-moment levels of motion.