What are the key things your body needs to move more and feel better?
I’ve split this into 5 pillars of whole body health to keep it nice and simple.
When it comes to our health we’re all aiming to feel as good as we can.
When I’m teaching a yoga class I emphasis the importance of starting from where you are today. Maybe you have an injury or a condition that will make movement different from someone else.
Where ever you find yourself today, with all the aches, pains, injuries and differences, is exactly your starting point for working on your whole body health.
So whilst we all have different starting points the key factors that go into it are the same. We can break them down into 5 pillar of whole body health.
These are the components that will help you work safely and effectively within your own boundaries. They are the 5 pillars that will provide structure for a safe yoga practice and ensure you’re not missing something vital.
Let’s start by thinking about the body and what it’s made up of. In very simple terms we have muscles, bones, joints, organs and a nervous system. I’m not going into any more details than that because of course we are way more complex. This basic outline is going to help you think about whole body health in terms your body functions in daily life.
If we want to keep the whole of our body healthy then need to make sure we pay attention to each of those elements. Our muscles, joints, bones, nervous system and organs all have specific roles. We can either help them, by using our body well, or we can abuse them and let them struggle along by themselves. To a certain extent our body does have lots of automatic functions like breathing and pumping blood around the body. But there is a lot under our control. There is a lot we can do, consciously, to improve the way we move and feel.
Here are your 5 pillars of whole body health.
This mainly covers our muscles which need to be the right length and strength in order to function. Our muscles work together to enable us to move through life and do the things we want to do. Being strong isn’t about how toned we look but how well we can function. We all have different demands on our body so one’s person’s strength is going to look different to another. Our overall aim is to keep our muscles working and the only way to do this is to keep working all the muscles! The best way is to think about functional movement i.e the movement we need to do in our daily life. So whilst it’s good and useful to work just on biceps by doing bicep curls for example, it’s even better if you’re working on your biceps alongside other muscles in your body rather than in isolation. Many yoga poses require multiple muscles to work together and that’s what I focus on. In one of my yoga classes I give instructions that will help you bring attention into particular muscles to activate them.
This can sometimes be confused with flexibility – but there is a big difference and mobility is better for your health.
When I talk about mobility I’m talking about the range of movement within your joints. And more specifically the safe range of movement for your joints. In the same way we need to use our muscles to keep them strong, we also need to move our joints in all of the ways they were made for. So if you think about your hip joint – a ball and socket joint – you have lots of ways you can move your leg. Thanks to your hip. What is important with mobility is that you when you move you don’t push past a boundary and cause pain. There is no set goal for staying mobile in terms of how your body ‘should’ move. As I’ve mentioned we all have different bodies so we all look different when we move in and out of poses. Mobility is using the joint safely, where as flexibility is pushing a joint further to try and achieve more range. The first one is more sustainable longterm and the later can cause long term damage.
Read more about mobility and flexibility in this blog: it’s better to be mobile than flexible
I’m going to throw in a fancy word here: proprioception. Heard of it? It basically means how our body knows where it is in space in relation to the rest of the world. It’s how we stop ourselves falling over or banging into things around us. It’s also what’s happening if you close your eyes and try and touch your nose with your finger. The chances are you will be able to make contact with your nose because your body is pretty good and knows where it is. That’s not always the case of cause and we can lose our proprioception through illness and injury.
Working on your balance doesn’t have to mean standing on one leg in tree pose (but of course it can if you want to.) There are lots of fun and easy ways to test and improve your balance and the more you do it the better you will get at it.
Practising balancing in different ways is going to really help you as you get older. If your body learns how to move in different ways it is better prepared if you happen to slip over on some ice. Not only will your body by strong and more mobile you will have prepared pathways of how to fall safely. If you’re stiff and how no concept of where you are in space then a fall could be pretty damaging!
How we stack our skeleton is important for how we move through life. If we’re not paying attention to our bones and posture we can end up in some weird and wonderful shapes. Over time your body will adapt to the positions you put it in the most. What’s important with alignment is to think about how your skeleton is meant to be shaped. Our skeleton is both a frame for our muscles and cage for our organs. In order for our muscles and organs to work at their best they need the right space and environment to work.
My approach to yoga focuses on how the body moves naturally rather. So instead of thinking about the look of a pose I focus on range of movement for your joints. The focus is on safety rather than on pretty shapes. Who really cares how your warrior 2 looks apart from your personal internal body. If you’re pulling your bones into shapes that aren’t sustainable then it will cause pulling on other body parts. This is when we cause injuries – when our body is being pushed beyond it’s safe limits.
Breathing effectively is so important and influential for whole body health. There are many different ways to breathe and sooooo many different benefits. The breathing practice I teach for pelvic floor rehab focuses on rib cage breathing. This helps the diaphragm to function correctly, ensures there isn’t pressure going into your belly and down into your pelvic floor and helps your pelvic floor relax and contract as it should do.
So there were are: The 5 pillars of whole body health.
If you focus doing a little bit of each of these 5 things then you’ll be sorted. Easy as that.
If you enjoyed reading this blog, sign up for Pocket Pelvis and receive this my weekly email. When you sign up you’ll receive my 5-video guide to pelvic floor health.
If you’re curious about maintaining whole body health then take a look at my online membership: Happy Pelvis Club. We meet every week online to move more and feel better. I can guarantee you that we’ll be including all of the 5 pilars in every single class.