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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.

What is causing your pelvic floor problem?

What is causing your pelvic floor problem?

If you’re suffering with pelvic floor issues you might like to know what is causing your pelvic floor problem.

When did you first notice it? Do you have an idea of what the cause is? I think it’s easy to blame a particular event like child birth or menopause. But if we want to understand what is causing your pelvic floor problem then you’ll need to look at your whole life.

How have you moved or not moved your body over your whole life? You might be suprised to know that some types of clothing can make your symptoms worse.

In this blog post I’m sharing 5 possible things that make pelvic floor problems worse. 

My aim is to give a some areas to think about, think about your own daily habits and maybe start to understand what is causing your pelvic floor problem.

Number 1: Sitting down too much

Coming in at number 1 has to be sitting down too much. It’s number 1 probably because it’s our number 1 activity so we need to address this first.

Let’s take a look at what’s happening with the body when we’re seated. So just to be clear, I’m talking about sitting in a chair, sofa or car seat. When we sit our hips are in permanent flexion (thighs in a 90 degree angle to the body), our pelvis will probably be tucked under if we’re leaning against a chair which then means we’re not using our own body’s muscles to hold ourselves up.

What happens? We lose muscle tone and function. Our glutes (bottom muscles) get saggy and find it hard to switch on and our hips are permanently tight. Tight hips make it difficult for the pelvis to sit in a neutral position which makes it difficult for the pelvic floor to work. Boom!

Number 2: The shoes you wear

So, I’m assuming you might have now stood up if you were previously sitting in a chair. Take a look at your feet. Are you wearing shoes right now? If you are take one shoe off and place it next to your foot. Are they the same shape. Is your shoes as wide as you foot or are you squeezing your foot into a shoe-shaped (rather than foot shaped) shoe. Maybe your foot is more of shoe shape already! Do have bunions? Is your big toe curved around almost to a point like your shoes?

My point here is that most modern day shoes are not the right shape for our feet. Our feet are designed to spread wide and be able to move fully when we walk. Modern shoes do not allow for the full range of movement we need. Plus, we’ve also been brainwashed into believing we need to support our feet with insoles and special trainers. I’m telling you now…we do not. Or at least we might do because our feet have been rendered incapable of working properly due to the years of wearing incorrect shoes. Originally when we were children our feet were wide and worked really well.

So now we’ve addressed shoes, I’ll tell you why this is important to your pelvic floor. It’s quite simple really. Your feet are your foundation. If your feet are working well then your legs muscles will work. When your leg muscles work your glutes will engage nicely and then your pelvis will be able to achieve a neutral position and your pelvic floor will work. Everything good starts with good foot health.

Number 3: Your skinny jeans

You might find this next one difficult to read. I’m sorry there is no helpline at the end of this article if you’ve been bothered by any of the information here.

I’m afraid to say that if you regularly wear tight jeans, trousers or skirts that are digging into your waist then you aren’t helping your poor pelvic floor. Basically you are adding internal pressure to your organs which are either going to be forced upwards (hernia) or downwards putting pressure onto to your pelvic floor muscles.

Another problem with wearing tight jeans is that they restrict your body’s ability to move freely. Your hips are likely to struggle to remain in a neutral position and then your pelvic floor can’t work. How about that? Still going to wear your tight jeans?

Number 4: Your bra

So if you’re following along you might have stood up from your chair, taken off your shoes and maybe even your tight jeans. Perhaps make sure you put some comfy joggers on before you continue. This isn’t a striptease!!!!

If you wear a wired bra this could be making your pelvic floor symptoms worse. If it’s so tight that at the end of the day you can’t wait to take it off it might be time to rethink your underwear (not right now though, keep reading)

Your wired bra is restricting your ribcage from expanding when you breathe in. When you breathe in your pelvic floor will automatically relax. Your pelvic floor needs to relax so that it doesn’t get too tired and is ready when you need it most. If you can’t get a full breath into your body you might have a very tired and overactive pelvic floor. What happens when you next jump or cough? Your pelvic floor is so tired from being active all day that it may well not work. So there you go.

Number 5: Tight hamstrings

So by now you might be wishing you’d not read this because you’re going to have to rethink your whole wardrobe. Well, you’ll be pleased to know this one doesn’t involve clothing.

Our bodies are beautifully connect and everything works together not in isolation. You probably know this already when you pick up something with your arm you might feel a twinge in your back.

So our pelvis needs to be a neutral position for the pelvic floor muscle to work. Tight hamstrings can pull down on the glutes and cause the pelvis to tuck under.

All of our muscles need to be at the optimum length and strength in order for our whole body to work properly. That includes our pelvic floor muscles which don’t work in isolation either

We’re generally led to believe that all we need to do is strengthen our pelvic floor and everything will stay in place and never leak.

Unfortunately that is a big fat lie. Sorry. But I  feel strongly about this.

Your pelvic floor needs you to look after all of your body so that it can do it’s amazing job.

If you want to learn more about pelvic floor health sign up to my no nonsense guide to pelvic floor health: How to stop weeing when you sneeze

Are pelvic floor exercises effective?

Are pelvic floor exercises effective?

If you’re struggling with leaking, prolapse, pain or discomfort you’re really going to want to know: are pelvic floor exercises effective?

In order for me to answer this, plainly and quickly, let’s first clarify which pelvic floor exercises we’re talking about.

Are we talking Kegels? Or are we talking about a variety of exercises that help to realign, stretch and strengthen the whole body?

First question: do Kegels work?

Ok, so my answer to the first one is NO but also MAYBE. Let me clarify. Kegels are the squeeze and release exercise your GP, midwive or female relative will tell you to do to keep everything in the right place. It’s probably the most famous of all the pelvic floor exercises around and the one that most of us mean when we talk about pelvic floor exercises.

The problem with this exercise is that it works in isolation to strengthen your pelvic floor. It’s useful if you have little or no sensation or continence and if this is you, get yourself booked in to see a Women’s Health Physio.

The problem with just strengthening the pelvic floor is that it can become tight and overactive as a result. Your pelvic floor is a muscle so needs lengthening and relaxing as well as strengthening in equal measures.

PLUS – did you know the Kegel was invented in 1945 by a man who has also been noted to say he’s not sure how effective this exercise is, in the long term.

Probably about time we updated ourselves, eh?

Second question: do exercises work that realign, stretch and strengthen the whole body?

Answer: YES! 100%

Our Pelvic floors (I’m talking about mine and yours) are a bit more complex than Mr Kegel realised. It’s not just our pelvic floor we need to factor into this equation, it’s how we live our lives and how we use the rest of our body that affects the function of the pelvic floor.

Our pelvic floors can become dysfunctional for many reasons. Some causes might be sitting too much, incorrect breathing, tight hamstrings or wearing the wrong shoes.

So if we consider that the whole body is involved in the pelvic floor function, then we start with realigning the whole body. We focus on getting your skeleton stacked correctly starting from the feet and working up. This includes the correct placement of your rib cage to help you breathe properly.

We then look at stretching key areas such as calves, hamstrings and inner thighs to make sure the pelvis can maintain a neutral position.

After realigning and stretching we then focus on strengthen key areas like the glutes.

This combined approach is effective because it’s addressing the whole body.

It’s time we updated our view of pelvic floor exercises from the isolated squeeze and release technique to an approach that considers the whole body.

So back to the question: Are pelvic floor exercises effective? Yes, they are because we focus on realigning, stretching and strengthening the whole body!

Simple as that.

Actually it’s not that simple, but if you’d like to find out more sign up for my 5 day video series to learn more about pelvic floor health.

I’ve recorded 5 super short videos that tell you more about pelvic floor health and how you can rehabilitated your own pelvic floor. If you can spare 10 minutes each day over the next 5 days you’ll learn exactly how to look after your pelvic floor.

The guide is called: How to stop weeing when you sneeze and other pelvic floor stories.

Get your copy here.