“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:

  1. sitting at a desk or in the car (in high heels)
  2. standing  (in high heels)
  3. walking  (in high heels)
  4. 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.

Trina Altman

Trina Altman E-RYT 500, is an Integrated Yoga Tune Up® teacher trainer, STOTT PILATES® certified instructor, and a graduate of YOGAspirit Studio's 500-Hour Yoga Therapy Program. While at Brown University, Trina took a Kripalu yoga class which ignited her passion for the practice. She teaches weekly Yoga Tune Up® and Pilates Tune Up™ classes throughout Los Angeles, and trains yoga teachers in anatomy and in Yoga Tune Up® across the country. She is an Rx Series teacher trainer for Equinox, is on the faculty of Kripalu, one of the nation's premiere yoga institutions, and is a regular presenter at yoga and fitness conferences such as ECA, Yoga Alliance, SYTAR and many others. Trina's teaching fosters body cognition and self-discovery, firmly grounded in anatomical awareness. She builds bridges between the mystical and the pragmatic, and specializes in helping others to access their body’s tissues and their heart’s purpose.

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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!

Alison Quinn

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… Read more »


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… Read more »

Amanda Rassam

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 –… Read more »

Lauren Reese

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!

Jessie Dwiggins

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.

alexandra breault

excellent article merci de nous avoir partagé

Gloria LoCurto

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.