Yoga for lower crossed syndrome

yoga for lower cross syndrome

Got low back pain?  It might not be your back. It might be your glutes – or lack thereof.

If you work in an office, chances are you sit a lot, maybe even all day.  Chronic sitting can lead to muscle imbalances and even cause some muscles to go completely dormant.  If you’d noticed that you suffer from chronic lower back pain, but haven’t been able to pinpoint the cause, your lower back pain may be due to lower cross  or lower crossed syndrome.  The good news is, you CAN recover with some exercises throughout the day, and a yoga sequence designed to fire the muscles that have gone night-night.  Continue reading

The foam roll: Your personal massage therapist

woman using foam roller for myofascial release

The benefits of using a foam roller for myofascial release and massaging tight muscles  are well discussed among sports medicine practitioners, massage therapists, chiropractors and physical therapists.  Fascia is an interconnected web of tissue just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body.  It’s literally what holds everything together. Muscle and fascia together make up what is called the myofascia system. Overtime, we develop at adhesions and scar tissue from injury, misuse, lack of stretching or misalignment.  These adhesions can restrict movement causing pain, reduced flexibility, and can even lead to more injuries as we compensate.

The good news is, in addition to getting regular massages, you can work to break up the adhesions yourself at home using a foam roller.  I like to use the foam roller before my morning practice on larger muscle groups. After I work out, I tend to use more localized techniques like using a tennis ball on particularly tender trigger points to facilitate release.

Here are some foam roller techniques you can try at home.
Foam Rolling Infographic

Roll, roll roll your glutes gently to relief.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: 70sbig)

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More yoga for runners [3 videos]

Yoga runner

If you’re training for a 5K, 10K, marathon or even a triathlon you’ll want to incorporate exercises that lengthen the muscles as well. Yoga is a great way to bring balance to your training. Physically, yoga is a great compliment to your conditioning. Mentally, it can help you learn to cultivate calm when you’re on the road. If you can learn to remain present and breathe through challenging poses like holding warrior 2 (virabhadrasana), you can learn to breathe through the ‘rough spots’ at mile 8.

Runners are go-getters by nature, so a word of caution when beginning a yoga practice. Like with anything else, start slowly. Ease into poses that you’ve never done before. Accept and understand where your body is today, before pushing it to tomorrow’s limits. Find your edge and hover. Plus, if you regularly pursue classes that push you to a drenched sweat, yoga what you need to introduce balance.

While yoga may not be the cardio blast you’re looking for, it will help you gain flexibility, tone, lengthen and strengthen key muscles to support your trek.

You can start with just a few poses a day, or you can add a regular routine designed just for runners into your week. Here are 3 yoga videos designed specifically for runners.

Mini Practice with Esther from Eckhart Yoga (8 minutes)

Pre-run with Fiji McAlpine of (23 minutes)

Post-run with Fiji McAlpine of (20 minutes)

Prevent getting sidelined by pain or injury and cultivate balance by integrating yoga into your training. Are you a runner who’s incorporated yoga into your training? Let me know about it here!


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Moksha Yoga)

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Favorite pose Friday: Supported bow pose

Let’s face it back bends are hard, and they’re not for the impatient yogi.  Warm ups and preparation are key to preventing injury and facilitating a healthy opening.  They’re about lengthening the muscles in the front of the chest, opening the heart chakra, and strengthening (not compressing) the back.  I can find both resistance and surrender in a back bend depending on how I approach it.

Like many people, I have overdeveloped (tight) chest wall muscles from working at a computer most of the day;  an anterior pelvic tilt which means I have a more pronounced arch in my low back; and a history of SI joint issues.  So gentle back bends help to strengthen my lower back muscles to better stabilize my pelvis and sacroiliac joint, while allowing me to lengthen and open my chest muscles which rolls my shoulders back and alleviates overstretching in my upper back.

But because of the arch in my low back, I have to approach back bends cautiously, so I focus on tilting my pelvis to lengthening the front of my body and extend out of my low back to bring the curve more into my upper back.  There are more than just back muscles involved.  My hip flexors, quadriceps, adductors, and iliopsoas need to be open enough to avoid compressing the lumbar region and putting pressure on the SI joint.

For me, gentle back bends have been tremendous in alleviating low back pain, specifically and I recently discovered a version of Dhanurasana (bow pose) that involves the placement of a bolster under the hip bones for support. In the post, “Better Backbends” in the Yoga Journal, Jason Crandall explains:

Dhanurasana I: Bow Pose

Propping: Place a bolster horizontally underneath your lower abdomen.

Why This Works: It keeps the front rim of your pelvis lifted and your low back long. The support of the bolster makes it easier to lift your chest and open your upper back.

How to: Place a bolster horizontally across the middle of your sticky mat. Lie face-down over the bolster so that your hip points touch the edge of the bolster that’s nearest to you. Place your forearms on the floor as though you were doing Sphinx Pose.

The placement of the bolster is key in this variation, and you’ll sense whether you’re in the right spot when you come all the way into the pose. If your hips are too far back on the bolster, you won’t feel that the bolster is helping you rock your pelvis in the appropriate direction. If your hips are too far forward on the bolster, you’ll topple forward once you hold your ankles in Bow Pose.

Follow the cue that you are receiving from the bolster and gently engage your abdominal wall; this will help you continue tilting your pelvis backward. Exhale, bend your knees, and reach back to hold the front of your ankles. If you feel yourself falling forward, simply adjust your position on the bolster.

Observe the deep opening of your chest and shoulders while your lower back arches mildly. Although it may be challenging to breathe as your diaphragm presses the bolster, take 3 to 5 breaths before releasing the pose.

Since discovering this pose and introducing it to my students, they agree that this version of bow allows them to really open their chest without the pinch that can sometimes come from trying to get into a pose before the body is ready.  We ALL want to try to do every pose the teacher tells us, but it’s not always what’s best for our body. So, this is a way to experience a challenging pose without pain and open your heart to a new process.

As with all yoga, pay attention to your body.  If you have high or low blood pressure, migraines, insomnia, or serious lower-back or neck injury you’ll want to avoid bow pose.


– Your Charmed Yogi

(Photo: Yoga Journal)

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Take the hurt out of hatha: preventing common yoga injuries


Yogis love to do yoga.  A lot.  Whether you’ve been practicing for years or you’re just starting a regular yoga regimen, moderation is key.   In fact, if you REALLY want to study yoga, you’ll practice moderation as a way of … Continue reading

Namasafe: 10 More Reasons to Practice Slow-Ga

chinese-pond-turtleThanks to the much blogged about NY Times article by WJ Broad on the risks and rewards of yoga, we’ve all had to do a bit of introspection when it comes to our teaching and personal yoga practices.  I know that as a beginning yoga student in 2001, I was extremely concerned about “how good I was doing.”  Having originally discovered yoga as a way to improve my tennis game, I was in a competitive mindset from the get go.

I would constantly crank my neck to get a peak at the students beside me without regard to how long they’d been practicing, and I’d force myself much deeper into poses than my body was ready for.  I know this now having injured myself in the past not listening to teachers and not listening to my body.  It wasn’t yoga’s fault.  It was mine.  I don’t know why I thought I didn’t have to pay attention as acutely as I did during tennis coaching, but alas and a lack.   When you begin training for a marathon, you develop a slow and achievable schedule to build up endurance and strength.  Yoga is no different.  But more importantly, yoga isn’t about “achieving” anything.   In our uber competitive society, we don’t know how to just sit still; to slow down and let the practice unfold for us.

I’m sure my students get sick of my incessant reminders about going slow, easing off of a pose and the ever present reminder that I’ve liberated from a number of mentors, “Remember the 11th commandment, thou shalt not covet thy neighbors pose.” Continue reading

Process Not Progress – Check Your Ego at the Door

In westernized society, particularly the US, we’re conditioned to  strive for improvement —  “what is” simply is not satisfactory.   We’re taught to be competitive — most often with ourselves. “Go for the gold.” “Don’t settle for less,” etc.  Life is a bloodsport, take no prisoners.  But focusing on the progress or outcome, that which hasn’t even happened yet, takes the enjoyment out of the doing; out of the process.

Think about an activity you love, even if it seems trivial.  Are you a runner?  Do you knit?  Is writing what drives you? Does painting bring you joy?  Now think about the most rewarding aspects of those activities — the activity itself.  Sure, if you win the race you have a ribbon to put in your drawer,  and your latest masterpiece looks beautiful on the wall.  But it’s somewhat bittersweet isn’t it?  When you really stop to ponder, those tangible items are simply reminders of the pleasure you got out of the actual doing.  The best part of the rollercoaster isn’t the achievement of getting out of the car at the end.  Surfers will tell you, the last moments on the surf board as you coast to shore  isn’t the sweetness, it’s the ride itself.

Now, let’s take that to the yoga mat.  Certain poses have a way of humbling even the strongest ego.  Take Vrkasana (tree pose) for example.  Looks simple enough, right?  How blissful the yogis in magazines look balanced on one leg with their arms extending toward the sky.  Okay, your turn.  Do you wobble and roll to the outside of your foot?  Is your face srunched up in fierce determination?  Oh whoops — you toppled out of the pose anyway.  But, guess what, you’ve executed the pose perfectly, for the act of trying to achieve balance, is balancing in and of itself.  Balance poses are great for teaching you t relinquish control,  remain in the present moment, and above all to laugh at yourself.

Even more beautiful than the poses themselves is the transition from one pose to the next.  For me, the transition from upward facing dog to downward facing dog has become more enjoyable than the end pose itself.  When you bring your awareness more to the “tween” poses, you understand where the word “flow” comes from in yoga.  The poses are no longer separate, they are part of one giant fluid movement.

The same thing happens when you focus on the now in everything you do.  If you try to find enjoyment in the act of performing, the idea of a goal becomes immaterial.  Guilt pokes you from the past, fear creeps in form the future — neither of which you can effect.  The only thing in the present is you. There’s a great quote by A. B. Zu Tavern that I turned into an exercise a while ago to become more aware of how I was living my life.

“If, before going to bed every night, you will tear a page from the calendar, and remark, ‘there goes another day of my life, never to return,’ you will become time conscious.”

How will you live tomorrow’s page?


– Your Charmed Yogi