Sunday, July 25, 2010

DVD Review - Yoga Link: Core Integration

To be honest, the reason I purchased Yoga Link: Core Integration a Total Abdominal Awakening wasn’t because I wanted to strengthen my abs. It was because it promised an extra feature of a Spinal Undulation. I was curious about how Jill Miller demonstrates undulation. In the typical fashion of not finding what you are looking for, I went through the entire DVD before I found spinal undulation in the core extra segment. However, I was delighted to see that undulations were included in the practice and thoroughly enjoyed the entire sequence.

If you follow the menu, you’ll start with a breathing primer after the short introduction. Miller’s method of describing yoga breathing and her ability to explain why it is foundational to practice are exceptionally well done. This segment is as valuable for advanced yogis as for beginning students.

Next on the menu is the Core Integration Workshop, in which each asana is explained in detail. If you are new to yoga or don’t feel confident in your core, then it is worthwhile to learn each piece of the practice as Miller leads you through each part of the abdominal core and how it is used in the practice. The instruction is complete including a warm up, the diaphragm and pelvic floor, rectus abdominis and obliques (which are technically not part of the core, but important to get moving so the underlying core can activate), the transverse abdominis, psoas, and total integration.

She teaches a version of Happy Baby in the warm up segment with undulations of arms and legs. I find this a wonderful way to gently activate the core, similar to my Waking Spider, which has now been renamed Blooming Lotus. There are also lovely undulations in the locust sequence.

All of the poses are available to beginners, although several progress to an advanced level. In the leg lifts and side winding sequences, I was not able to do the most advanced poses, although as I continue with practice and strengthen my core, I will eventually be able to complete every one.

Now that I’ve been through the whole DVD, I simply use the Core Integration Practice for a one hour morning practice. I’m pleased to have a yoga practice designed by someone else that includes undulations.

Speaking of the Spinal Undulation, which is the Core Extras, Miller demonstrates a version of Cat and Cow where the movement travels sequentially through the spine. Although I do think undulations are better experienced from internal experience rather than trying to duplicate another person’s movement, in this case I find Miller’s description and demonstration to be a useful aid.

Whether you are interested in strengthening your core, deepening your yoga practice, or adding undulation to yoga, this DVD has something to offer.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fascia Refresher

I recently took a workshop to learn how to release the connective tissue around internal organs. The duodenum* was one of the organs we studied. I had never heard of a doo-ah-de-what before. This organ is between the stomach and small intestine and is a major source of my own digestive problems.

Many people are unaware they have fascia, even though it is a source of their aches and pains. We know about muscles, bones, organs and nerves, but aren’t taught about the tissue that holds it all together. As a client you may already know about fascia, but it never hurts to get a fascia-nating refresher.

Fascia wraps every muscle, bone, organ, nerve, and blood vessel and holds the body together. It doesn't just wrap around muscles, but also wraps the fibers within the muscle. It creates a three-dimensional web of support that facilitates — or inhibits — your ability to function and move.

Also called connective tissue, fascia is comprised of a gel-like substance that suspends fibers and cells. Healthy fascia is slippery, like freshly made Jello® so muscles and organs can glide easily, The gel of unhealthy fascia is dense and sticky, like Jello® that’s been in the fridge for a month or even Elmer’s Glue®. To keep the glide in your gel, move fluidly throughout your body every day, especially after being still or tense.

Collagen and elastin fibers give fascia its shape and structure. The fibers line up based on lines of force in the body. Repetitive motion, overuse, and injury cause the fibers to become disorganized, which prevents smooth movement. If your hamstrings are tight, it might not be because they are over-contracted. It might be because they are encased in fibers that line up at cross purposes with the direction the muscle needs to move.

Most people think the answer is to stretch, but that runs the risk of creating micro-tears in the tissue, which get repaired with even less organized scar tissue. If you stretch and it burns, you are creating micro-tears. The best time to stretch is after activities like running, gardening, and biking. The fibers align more easily when muscles are warm. Or participate in activities that stretch while the muscles are being contracted, as in yoga or some martial arts.

The condition of your fascia is important, because it communicates between and coordinates muscular actions. You have more efficiency and ease of motion when the gel is healthy and fibers aligned. By the way, Hellerwork Structural Integration is helpful on both accounts.

*Technically, the duodenum is the first part of the small intestine, which is why I didn’t know it by name. We considered it separately from the small intestine, because it is in a different compartment