Ouch… Older and wiser yet more tight and stiff when moving is a common story.
Getting up from the sofa and feeling stiff in your lower back was my client, Dianes, story, getting in and out of the car was a problem, feeling tight in the lower back after walking to dog too. She came to me wanting to have more flexibility and feel younger again, have more spring in her step like Tigger!
So, what did we do, well, we released her joints, and it didn’t take that much time either. and in doing so, her lower back pain went.
Released her knees, ankles, hips, shoulders and helped her breathe and feel free in her body. It wasn’t quite like this, but this is a great video from Dr Eric Cobb from Z Health showing how joint compression can inhibit movement, and yes, it really can be that simple, and is just one of the things I include in a posture and movement analysis from my home practice in Llanberis, Snowdonia.
These simple releases can help your movement, mobility, flexibility, release old injuries, even as far back as to twisting an ankle at the age of two, which is just one of the injuries Diane discussed in her injury history, and yes, we discuss your injury history too.
She has homework to do, 10 minutes a day, and she tracks her responses, her brain feels secure and happy, allowing her to move more freely.
One way you can help your shoulders move more freely is to release your wrists Shake out your hands as if you had water on your fingers. Push your arms away from you, and your hands, as if you were pushing a wall, hold that position. With your little fingers draw circles away from each other x 5 and towards each other x 5 Then do the same but with your index fingers.
Really feel the movement with this fingers. Make it work for you. Repeat 5 times today, and tomorrow, and the next day.
Simple wrists releases help shoulder strength, really useful if you are exercising and doing push ups, for example, as that position can create compression the wrist, a simple release can help your strength, rather than decrease it, which means you have more power and better form, and we all know the body releases more energy when the skeleton is in alignment.
A few years ago, I remember a friend calling to me from across the road as I walked to the shop , she couldn’t get my attention because I was in a world of my own, and I was looking at the ground as I walked.She told me off for looking at the ground too much..and you know, I did that a lot, she was right…
Now, I see this all the time in clients with tight lower backs and painful shoulders and necks, they look down a lot, its as though their head weighs too much to lift it up and keep it there, and in a way, thats true..but it runs a little bit deeper than that..
Theres something called the green light reflex, and it looks a little bit like this, and call also be known as a classic Swayback Posture:
Is that you? What does it mean though? Its my posture for sure!
Hips pushed forward, extended knees, weight in the heels ( you feel as if you would lose balance if you shifted your weight forward to the front of your foot)
A green light posture can show that your mind, your beliefs, is for someone whose mind is always on the go, always doing something next, rather the a focus on the here and now. Worry and anxiety can also be a part of this posture.
If you look at the lower back, and the rib cage just above it, most of the pressure rests on the first couple of your
lumbar vertebrae, creating a painful, tight lower back, its not weak, its being over worked.
Yes, this is an extreme version of the posture, and it can vary, but this is just one way of seeing whats going on in your body and mind. There can be a restriction in the pelvis and shoulder region, pain in the lower back and hips is very common as is breathing into the upper chest.
You can work your glutes all you like (these are usually “weak” in a green light posture) but if you don’t address the cause, then you are just putting a plaster on it, glutes , like abs, don’t just work because you are doing an exercise for that specific muscle.
You can do loads of squats, but your brain might be using the wrong muscles to get there and back, and you can then look at your bum and wonder why it isn’t tight ! the same can b for abs, you can have a great 6 pack, but have a rubbish abdominal connection, usually because the neck is doing the work of stabilising, rather than the “core”.
So…if you do look at the ground a lot, if you worry about what others think of you, and find it hard to get your hand behind your lower back if you stood against a wall and the lower back was flat against the wall, then this is for you.
You look up to the sky a lot, you look at the sun, the clouds, the stars, the wind, the trees. the rain, taking washing off the line, getting a glass from a high shelf in the cupboard, and when you do, its called extension. Yet in a Pilates class, you might feel scared or worried about doing an extension exercise (In Pilates its called “swan dive” and is done lying on your front but can also be done standing)
We worry about extension because we think it is going to hurt our backs, but the opposite is true,a lack of extension will hurt your back, and using the wrong muscles too, as I say in sessions, its not how you get there, but what you use to get there.
How can you extend without pain?
1. Lengthen the spine first, create space between the tailbone and crown of the head, as if you had to create space for an extra vertebrae at your mid back, the heart line. (or the bra line for girls.) This lessons pressure on this area of your back and creates more strength for your spine.
2. Lift from the chest, rather from your lower back, as if, ladies, you were sticking out your boobs, and guys , as if you were lifting up your heart to the sky.
3. Eyes. use the signal from your eyes to switch on the muscles that help you extend, and look up with the eyes, not the head, just the eyes, if you look up and reduce the space from the back of the head to your shoulders, you are compressing the neck, which is what you don’t want to do very much of. Just look towards your eyebrows with your eyes as you extend. See what happens.
Embrace extension, it can bring a lot of freedom and strength to your back, shoulders and neck.
Posture and movement assessments online and from my posture studio in Llanberis, Snowdonia. Each takes 60 – 90 minutes and is a load of fun, because you move more freely in each session, its simple, easy, and unbelievable , and yes, sometimes people cry, me too, because you can now have more movement, without pain. Nice.
Mel Collie | How Can Your Eyes Improve Your Press Up?
The press up, you either love it or hate it. personally I love them, mainly because we rarely do many pushing moves these days, unless your chosen sport includes a lot of pouching, the average office worker will be sat at a keyboard for 8 – 10 hours a day, and usually the only thing they will be pushing day to day will be opening a door.
In your body, your nervous system runs the show. That being the case, the position of your cervical spine, your neck, will change how you execute a press up.
Think about a squat, for example, if you are in a gym, lifting a weight, using the squat technique, the neck usually compresses back, closing the gap between the base of the scull and the upper back. But thats only part of the story, as when we do that, the eyes follow. Why is that a big deal?
Eye positioning can decrease strength. Think about it…
There are small nerve endings around the eyes that give the brain & spinal cord proprioceptive feedback that go towards guiding movement, creating full body muscular responses.
Why? well, mainly to aid the vestibular system, the inner ear and the eyes work together.
How does that help you?
Well, when you look up with the eyes, just the eyes, keep the head still, those nerve endings in the muscles around the eyes, facilitate the extensor muscles and inhibit the extensors – the muscles opposite the flexors.
The same is true the other way around, so if you are flexing the elbow in a press up for example, using the eyes to look down creates more strengthen the flexors and inhibit the extensors.
So next time you do a press up, don’t move the head, keep it neutral, and just move the eyes. The same is true of any movement, like a squat for example.
So, make it simple next time you are training, eyes down when flexing, eyes up for extensors with a neutral neck position.
Mel Collie is a Corrective & Performance Exercise Specialist Working in Llanberis, Snowdonia. She currently has daily postural assessments from her home posture studio, where she combines neurological science and kinetic chain assessments to keep clients out of [pain and improve their performance.
Mel Collie | Discover simple ankle mobility in seconds
Have you seen that advert for a foot scraper? It was on a lot over Christmas, I think a company was selling them as a gift idea…for a loved one…something that looked like a cheese grater for your feet.
Maybe you never have massaged your feet let alone thought about shaving off the hard skin yourself. Why do we neglect our foundations?
And do you know, your feet are your most valuable asset, your foundation, and we all know how important foundations are for properties.
And thats where we, as adults, fall short, so to speak, we dont play anymore.
Im not going to tell you to get yourself a swing or a roundabout, though it would be fun if you did, but show you some simple ankle exercises that release jammed joints and tight fascia.
Simple exercises that take seconds, can be done at home, in the office, at the gym between sets, at the climbing wall between routes or problems, before yoga, pilates, whatever you love to do.
Just so you can imagine what area we are focusing on – put a finger on one ankle bone (the outside of the foot, not inside of the foot) move it about an inch down and 1/2 inch back towards the heel. . This is the area you are going to focus on as we do the first exercise.
a. Standing, place one leg forwards. Toes facing forward on both feet, keep a tall posture and don’t hold your breath. Gently roll to the outside edge of the foot, so the inside edge of the foot will lift. Its ok that the toes will lift, except the little toe.
The area where you placed your finger is the area you are aiming towards the floor.
Return to neutral, repeat 5 times. Then change feet.
b.This time we are stretching the same area but on the inside edge of the ankle. 1 inch down and 1/2 inch back.
Do a sideways lunge. Your focus is on the straight leg.
The area where you are focusing is the area you are wanting to stretch, so do exactly the same move as before, but its the inside edge you now want to stretch.
c. Finally, this is for the front of the foot, the cuneiform bone.
This video talks you through it, 3 – 5 reps on each side. You are focusing on feeling a stretch in the toes. Don’t do this on a hard surface, its painful ! If necessary place the foot on a rolled up towel. If your balance feels wobbly, then hold onto the wall or a chair. http://youtu.be/p96fy34vsTE
When you’ve practiced all three mobility drills, do them often.
What happens in the ankle affects the knee and hip. Take advice from your GP if you have had an ankle injury before doing these mobility drills, just to be safe 🙂