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What is safe and sustainable yoga?

What is safe and sustainable yoga?

Yoga is an amazing tool for your mind and body. But not all yoga is the same or even right for you. What’s important is that you choose a yoga practice that is safe and sustainable.

Every yoga class you go to will be different, because each teacher has a different approach. The poses will be vaguely similar but how they are taught will differ.

I believe that there is a yoga style for everyone and it all depends on what you hope to get out of the class on whether a certain style will suit you.

It’s also important to know what your body needs.

For example, if you are hyper mobile then you need a class that will help you focus on building strength rather than flexibility.

If you are new to yoga, then you need a class where you can take your time to move and see what works for you.

If you are sporty then you might benefit from working on your flexibility.

I believe that you need your yoga to be safe and sustainable – no matter what style or class your choose.

What is safe and sustainable yoga?

There’s no point practising yoga if it causes you injuries or you feel pain after class. There’s no point trying to keep up with the pace of a fast class and feel like it’s too much of a struggle.

Your yoga practice should be grounded in kindness.

Safe and sustainable yoga is a movement practice that enhances, builds, improves and supports.

Safe yoga ensures there is a focus on building strength in your muscles and mobility in your joints.

Sustainable yoga offers variety in the way your body moves. It’s not repetitive sequences you do every time you stand on your mat, it’s the use of different movement patterns. This way your whole body gets a chance to move in all the ways it can.

Its means that we will pay attention to our small parts as much as our big parts. We’ll spend as much time on the wrists and toes as we do striking big poses like the Warrior series.

Safe and sustainable is my aim when i’m creating classes for you.

So here is a little more detail about my approach and who might benefit from my class.

My focus is to improve the functional movement of your body. What this means is that your bones, muscles and joints are strong, mobile and flexible in all of the right proportions so that your body feels good.

I like to include some of the traditional standing and seated poses alongside strengthening exercises and poses to release tension. We will move mindfully into each pose, flowing and sometimes holding and breathing in a pose.

Sometimes we move in and out of poses, for example, we might hold warrior 2, keeping the legs strong and work on shoulder mobility at the same time with variations of arm and shoulder movements.

Most of all there will be variety for your body – as this is the best way for you to enjoy a well-functioning body.

If you experience any of the following, then you’ll definitely benefit from my classes:

  • Being hyper mobile – it’s important for you to build strength to support your joints rather than pushing or falling into poses ‘because you can’
  • Having pelvic floor issues – my whole body approach will support the function of your pelvic floor. We focus on alignment, active stretching and strengthening which will really help your pelvic floor to work as it should
  • You suffer with repetitive strain injuries or ongoing pain in your back, hips and knees. We will move mindfully, aiming to improve mobility in your joints so that you can enjoy the freedom of movement

If you want a movement practice that will support your daily life then I’m pretty sure my approach will suit you.

I teach every Tuesday lunchtime via Zoom. It’s part of my Happy Pelvis Club membership.

3 tips for maintaining your pelvic floor health

3 tips for maintaining your pelvic floor health

My job is to support women to regain good pelvic floor function through yoga, restorative exercise, breathing techniques and lifestyle coaching. I’m sharing my 3 tips for maintaining your pelvic floor health because it’s not just about the work I do. 

Typically I work with women for 2-3 months directly to set them on the right path and get them the results they want.

My approach lays the foundations, resets your body and enables you to continue rebuilding a fabulous pelvic floor.

But what work do you need to do to ensure you get results and maintain your pelvic floor? I will teach you how to realign, stretch and strengthen. I will also coach you to make changes to your lifestyle to improve your symptoms. But there are 3 things you need to do in order to be successful.

Your pelvic floor health is a lifelong pursuit. In the same way you’d eat healthy food if you wanted to stay healthy, you need to continue with everything that you learn from me. Your pelvic floor needs to you to be dedicated to it’s cause to ensure it doesn’t sneakily return to leaking or being annoying in another way.

So what’s next?

Maintaining your pelvic floor health requires 3 key ingredients: time, effort and commitment

Here are my top 3 tips for maintaining your pelvic floor health.

Give yourself time

I talk a lot about making 10% changes. There is likely to be a lot to unpick in your quest to rebuild your pelvic floor. The way your body is now is a result of all the years you’ve lived your life. So your posture and movement patterns are habits that may need changing. Instead of thinking about quick and easy fixes, think about making a 10% change each week. These small changes will soon add up and give you the results you need and will be much more sustainable for the rest of your life.

Make a commitment

Your pelvic floor needs to be your priority. If you’ve tried many other options and still experience problems then it’s time you made a real commitment to your pelvic floor health. I’ve already mentioned that there is no quick fix but there is a solution.

The best way you are going to see those results is by making a commitment to show up and do the work.

Continuing to Google your symptoms is not going to work.

Book onto a course or class so that you have to turn up at a specific time. My Happy Pelvis Club meets every Tuesday at 12pm for a 45 min yoga for pelvic floor health class. You also get plenty of on demand yoga classes in the online studio but the focus is the live online community. We show up, do the work and know that we’re maintaining good pelvic floor health.

It’s a good place to start your journey or continue to keep up all the good work you’ve learned with me.

Join the Happy Pelvis Club and you can join us live next week.

Effort – aim to integrate the exercises into your day

When you’re working on your whole body health to get your pelvic floor to function, it is useful to include your new exercises into your daily routine.

Life is busy and before you know it bedtime arrives and you’ve not done your daily exercises. Instead of thinking about them as separate things to do, think about when you could include them into your day.

You can make yourself a plan of what you could do and when. Here’s are some ideas of when you could fit in your pelvic floor exercises:

  • Waiting for the kettle to boil – top of the foot stretch, big toe lifts
  • Calming your baby down – monster walks around the house
  • Sitting at your desk – breathing
  • In the car – more breathing (you can never over do it!)
  • Watching TV – reclined butterfly pose to release tension in your pelvic floor
  • Read a book – lie on the floor, legs up against the wall.
  • School drop off – walk instead of drive
  • Cooking dinner – hamstring stretch using your kitchen counter to rest your hands.

Can you see how easy it can be? You could even assign exercises to tasks so that it becomes second nature. Making a cup of tea could be foot stretch time. How many cups of tea do you drink per day? That’s going to be some good foot work right there and you’ll be enjoying a drink as a reward.

How does all that sound to you?

Are you prepared to make the time, effort and commitment to your pelvic floor health?

5 pillars of whole body health

5 pillars of whole body health

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.

Strength

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.

Mobility

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

Balance

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!

Alignment

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

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.

Why is glute strength important?

Why is glute strength important?

I love talking about the glute muscles when I’m teaching classes or working 1:1. I’d say it’s the most common word I say during a session. That’s because our glutes are essential for a well functioning body AND because they often get forgotten in our modern lives.

As we have quite a sendentary life our glutes suffer as a consequence. We sit down a lot at home and for work and sit in our cars to drive to places instead of walking. We’re using out glutes less, so they ‘unlearn’ how to engage when you need them the most. Our bodies adapt to the movement patterns we do most often. If we’re not using the glutes correctly for walking and lifting then other parts of our body get involved. This can be when aches and pains happen in areas like your lower back and knees. We need our glutes to be strong and active.

I’ll share my top tips for glute strength and also tell you why glute strength is important for your overall health and of course your lovely pelvic floor.

So, Why IS glute strength important?

They help your body stay upright and power you up hills and stairs

The glutes help keep the pelvis in the right position, they act as elevators when you need to lift your leg backwards or when you get up from bending forward.

They create stability around your hip joint and help with mobility

This is especially useful for all types of movement. Whether you love to dance, play sport or go walking, your glutes are helping your hips move in many different ways.

They help support the health of your knees and your lower back

Quite often when we feel pain in either the knees or the lower back it’s because of a problem with your hips. If you’re lifting and reaching for heavy things and using your back to do the work it will quickly become sore. Your glutes are perfectly placed to do the work instead of your back.

Sometimes it’s just a case of simple adaptations to your movement patterns to ensure the glutes are working and not your lower back or knee that is taking the strain.

Your glutes support your pelvic floor

One the keys to a well functioning pelvic floor is your alignment. The aim is to keep your pelvis in a neutral position instead of tucked under or tucked out. Your glutes will help your pelvis to maintain a neutral position and viola! Your pelvic floor will be happy.

But don’t overdo it and cause tight glutes!

Be warned! The answer to all of your problems isn’t to do 100 squats per day and aim for a strong butt. While on the one hand I’m suggesting you focus on glute strength I also need to add that it’s important you do it the right way. If you do too much of one type of exercise without stretching out the glutes then you could end up with tight glutes. That would cause an imbalance somewhere else in the body, which we absolutely don’t want.

So it’s really all about balance.

Glutes are great and we need to spend some time making sure we are using them.

Top tips for strengthening your glutes

The best way to work on your glutes is to move in a variety of different ways. There are tons of specific glute exercises out there in Google land but what’s important is how you do them.

Here is a short video to show you how to squat effectively. It’s a much smaller movement than you might see in a gym class because the focus is on alignment.

When I’m teaching yoga classes I offer guidance that gets your glutes working in many different poses. So for example, in a standing lunge I will say push your front foot down into the mat to feel the back of the leg engage.

Your body loves variety and diversity. Working in insolation on one muscle group can be useful but it’s also important to work on functional movements. It’s important to focus on those movement patterns that we use everyday, so your glutes can engage more effectively in your daily life.

Postnatal pelvic floor exercise

Postnatal pelvic floor exercise

Probaby the last thing you’re thinking about after you’ve had a baby is your postnatal pelvic floor exercise plan.

I get it, I’ve been there! Your focus is on keeping your baby safe and staying awake when you’ve been up all night feeding.

In an ideal world you will be reading this before you have your baby. If you’ve just started maternity leave, this is the perfect time to think about your pelvic floor recovery plan.

So let’s assume we’ve gone back in time and you’re just about to have your baby.

(If you’re reading this with your baby in your arms – hooray for taking the time to think about your pelvic floor.)

I’ll start by telling you more about the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscle is an automatic and anticipatory muscle. When the whole body is functioning well, the pelvic floor can do it’s job.

So when there is a problem with the pelvic floor, like leaking, pain or prolapse, the chances are there is an imbalance in other areas of the body.

Muscles, including the pelvic floor, need to be both long and strong. They need strengthening AND stretching.

By just focusing on those squeeze and release exercises, you’re only working on strength. That can often lead to an overactive and tight pelvic floor. And this tight, overactive pelvic floor will not function well when you need it to the most. Like when you sneeze or jump. It will be too tired from all that strength work!

It’s important to see the whole body as being connected. What effects one part of the body, affects another part. So when we feel pain in specific areas, it’s usually because there is an imbalance somewhere else.

A common one is lower back pain. Quite often the causes of lower back pain are weak core or glute (AKA bottom) muscles. The back is compensating for the lack of strength in the core or bottom. It gets tired and starts hurting.

Our bodies are very clever in that they adapt and compensate to help you achieve what you need to. If you’re picking up your your baby, with a weak core, your body will still manage to do it successfully but will use your lower back and neck muscles to bare most of the work. This is when we start to feel pain.

The first part of pelvic floor recovery is having this understanding and accepting that it’s a whole body problem.

Whole body health = pelvic floor happiness

The second part is looking at your movement patterns and daily habits to see where you need to make small changes.

Here are 4 areas for you to think about.

 

Breathing patterns

Your breath and how you breathe is hugely important for pelvic floor function. In fact it’s massively important for your whole body health, but we’ll focus in on just your pelvis area.

When you breathe in, your pelvic floor relaxes, when you breathe out, your pelvic floor contracts – this is the action you need to stop leaking.

By learning to breathe correctly you can reduce symptoms significantly.

Stance

We all fall into bad habits. Maybe you stand more on one leg or with your feet turned out. When you have a baby as well, you’re likely to carry them on your hip – so you’re sticking your hip out for a large part of your day.

This all causes muscle imbalances. It causes tightness in some muscles and fatigue in others.

Common areas that get tight are your calves and hamstrings.

Here’s link to a video to help you improve your stance.

Walking

Walking is tremendously good for all round health including your pelvic floor.

What you’ll need to be careful with is how you walk with your buggy or if you’re carrying your child.

If you’re like to carry your child in a sling, then you definitely need to make sure it’s fitted properly and not causing any undue stress on the body.

When you’re out walking with your buggy there might be a tendency to lean forward, stretch out your neck or some other strange position that won’t be good for your body.

As you’re baby gets heavier you’ll also need to make sure your glutes are getting stronger too – as you’ll need those to carry you up those hills with a 20kg pushchair and baby!!!

Hip strength

When you have a young baby you end up sitting down a lot more than you did before. Most of this time is for your baby but of course you will need to rest too.

Working on hip strength really helps to combat all that sitting and helps the pelvis to stay in a neutral position – which is what you want for your pelvic floor.

If you’re having problems with your pelvic floor, I can help you. Have a look at the options for working with me.