Recently my husband hurt his back, and as he limped around someone sarcastically asked him, “what, the magic of yoga couldn’t fix you?” Well no Ian, it couldn’t, but thanks for your sincere and heartfelt concern. When yoga isn’t enough, you need a little help in the pain relief area.
Everyone suffers from some kind of malady at one time or another, and no matter how much you stretch, massage, ice or elevate it, the pain persists. In those cases I have two all natural pain relief products I recommend to clients.
The first is Myo-Med Pro Pain Relief creme. I was introduced to this product by my phenomenal massage therapist and I love it. It’s not greasy, works really fast and does not smell as strong as other similar products. Here is a link if you want to check it out: https://amzn.to/2JuqmsG
The second is DoTerra’s Deep Blue Rub. Like Myo-Med, this product is formulated with essential oils, but along with the standard camphor and wintergreen for pain reief, Deep Blue has helichrysum which is known for its healing properties. Unfortunately, it’s also for it’s price which runs about $100.00 for 5 ml. YIKES!
This is why this product is markedly more expensive. My clients who have issues with arthritis and other chronic inflammation disorders have had really good results with Deep Blue. Here’s a link if this seems like something you would like to try: https://amzn.to/2HiDBYB
The next time you find yourself in pain, and the “magic of yoga” has failed you as well, you can give one of these natural pain relief products a try and hopefully find some comfort.
This post is not a paid endorsement although it does contain affiliate links. If you are concerned about this blog receiving a small commission for using the link, you can simply use a search engine to find products elsewhere on the internet.
My daughter Piper tells me that all the cool kids put their “content” on Youtube; and, we all know coolness is my lifelong goal, so I am uploading my free videos onto YouTube. You can find me wedged between “Crazy Nuttyass Honey Badger” and “Goat Yelling Like a Man” Or, you can follow this link to my Hips and Hamstrings class https://youtu.be/TCey6kBCIqM
(but seriously that Goat is unsettling)
Please enjoy this short practice which is my tribute to Yin Yoga. I designed this session to introduce my public classes to the concept of Yin Yoga. This particular session is a portion of a longer one hour class which will be available on my Vimeo page, https://vimeo.com/user64021270 in the near future.
They are finally here! The videos that I have long promised to my live classes are becoming a reality. For those of you who take my classes, you know I change my theme and sequence each month. Sometime around the end of the month, I will be producing a video of that month’s class so you can replay your favorites.
Remember, this is no excuse to miss class, I still want to see you, in person, on your mat at least once a week. You are part of a community that needs you, whether you know it or not. I will link the classes here at Next Level Yoga when they come out, but you can always go to my YouTube Channel Tara Kestner Next Level Yoga YouTube Channel
Right now the videos are all free, in return I only ask that you take the time to subscribe to the channel and share them on your social media so we can build an online community, just like the great groups we have here in Ohio at the live classes and workshops.
WHAT’S ALL THIS ABOUT?
This class is beginner friendly and appropriate for all experience levels. It will be therapeutic yoga, designed to undo the damage done to the body either at work or just the stress of everyday living. Each class will have a nice balance of work for increasing flexibility, joint stability, balance and overall stress relief. Sound like something you need, then read on…
WHO’S IT FOR?
This class is available to active and retired firefighters and their immediate families.
Mondays from 5:00 pm-6:00 pm, please arrive at least 10 minutes before class begins. Starting date- November 16, 2015.
Toledo Firefighter Union Hall
714 Washington Street
Toledo, OH 43604
5 class pre-paid pass is $60.00.
Passes are perfect for those that know they want to commit to a class, but may not be able to make every week.
Drop-in price is $15.00 per class.
Not sure yoga is for you, try dropping into a class. This one class at at a time approach is a perfect way to test the waters with no long term commitment.
Cash, Check or Credit Cards accepted.
I’M INTRIGUED, TELL ME MORE….
**Don’t own a mat? No problem. Mats and props will be available for use at no additional charge, the only condition is you must let Tara know that you will be coming and need a mat before class.
** What should I wear and bring? Don’t feel awesome in spandex pants, no problem. Just wear something comfortable, Lightweight clothing is best, layers are your friend. I recommend bringing a beach size towel with you, the floor can be hard and cold.
**Drop in participation is welcome, so long as there is space available. If you want to drop into a class shoot me (Tara) an email at firstname.lastname@example.org before class just to ensure space is available and I have enough equipment on hand.
HOW DO I JOIN?
You can email me at email@example.com and indicate if you want a pass or want to drop in. Message me on Facebook at Tara Kestner Next Level Yoga Ltd.
In part two of this Yoga for Firefighters, Shoulder Edition, we will cover a craze which appears to be sweeping the nation, labrum issues. It seems like everyone has a piece of this particular action, just ask Kevin Love. I cannot count the number of times someone has sidled up to me after a class and said “what have you got for a bad shoulder.” After a little bit of q & a, I usually find out the person has some sort of labrum damage.
In my previous post, cleverly titled Shoulder Edition, Part 1, I covered the shoulder structure. Building on that, we will delve into the details of the glenoid socket and labrum. By the way, the labrum is in the shoulder and hip, if you are thought it was a part exclusive to females, you are going to need some remedial anatomy work, and that’s a whole other post.
The glenoid socket is rimmed with a fibrous tissue called the labrum. Injury to the labrum can happen either through trauma or repetitive action. Common occurrences include falling on an outstretched arm, a sudden pull when trying lift a heavy object or a violent overhead reach. Know anyone who might do this as part of the their job? If a labrum tear is diagnosed, anti-inflammatory drugs are usually prescribed and surgery may be necessary.
Once a labrum tear is healed enough that the person is cleared for activity, yoga can be helpful to regain mobility in the shoulder joint. Certain poses can strengthen and condition the rotator cuff muscles which support the shoulder structure. Finally, by increasing the circulation to the area, the labrum and other connective tissue is conditioned and will hopefully develop more elasticity and tone.
Here are a couple of examples. First, assuming the inflammation has passed and the joint pain has subsided, we need to re-determine the right alignment of the shoulder, to do that try Extended Mountain pose (also called Upward Salute). This may seem like simply reaching your arms in the air, but there is more to it than that.
Extended Mountain Pose or Upward Salute
Stand with your hands by your side, turn your palms up rotating your thumbs back, then sweep the arms up overhead. Once up there, allow your shoulders to sink down away from your ears and slightly back, then notice how your shoulder feels in this proper alignment. You may be surprised how difficult this is to hold properly. Hold for 3-5 long breaths, then lower arms and repeat 2 more times.
Next for flexibility, try Reverse Tabletop (or Upward Plank). This pose will stretch and strengthen the pectoral attachments at the front of the shoulder. I prefer Reverse Tabletop, but many people like Upward Plank. They accomplish the same stretch, choose the one you like.
Reverse Tabletop works the same as Upward Plank, it is a personal preference thing, choose the one you like.
For Reverse Tabletop, sit on the ground with your hands several inches behind the hips, fingers pointed toward your feet. Place your feet on the floor, at least a foot from your butt. Lift your hips until your torso and thighs are parallel with the floor, adjust your feet as necessary. Press your shoulder blades against your back to lift your chest, allow your head to fall back as far as you can without compressing your neck.
Upward Plank is simply Reverse Tabletop with straight legs, flattening the soles of the feet, reaching toes for the floor. There is more leverage at play in Upward Plank, which can make it more intense. Hold for 3-5 breaths, sit back on the floor, rest, then repeat one more time.
Upward Plank Pose
Finally, let’s work on strengthening the back rotator cuff muscles, which are usually the weak sister of that group of muscles. We will do this in a reclined pose called Supine Spinal Twist.
Supine Spinal Twist
Lie on your back with your knees lifted directly over your hips. Extend the arms out palms facing up, pressing the forearms firmly into the floor, activating the backs of the shoulders. If this is too painful, try the cactus arm version with a 90 degree bend in the arms, pressing elbows firmly on the floor.
Now, allow your knees to drop to one side. Adjust the knees so that BOTH shoulders stay fully anchored on the floor. That means you are going to have to adjust the height of the knees and probably the degree of bend as well. Gently press the upper back into the floor forcing the rear rotator cuff muscles to contract. Hold for about 1 minute on each side.
These are a few more of the many yoga poses that can help with shoulder issues. In the final installment of Yoga for Firefighters, Shoulder Edition, I will put together a short sequence you can do everyday to help relieve shoulder pain and condition the shoulder for better performance.
If you are interested in trying an all-level yoga class, I have an open class which meets on Wednesday evenings at CPW Health Center, contact me for more information. Also, if you would like a live Yoga For Firefighters class, contact Lt. Joe Clark, or the Toledo Firefighters Health Plan and let them know you are interested.
We are working on getting a Yoga for Firefighters (and their families) class approved by the Firefighter’s Health Plan. The tenacious and dapper Lt. Joe Clark is spearheading this effort, but until that is off the ground, I wanted to address some of the specific physical challenges that firefighting creates.
First up, the shoulder. In order to understand which yoga postures are helpful to prevent shoulder injuries, and in the event that fails, promote recovery of shoulder issues, you have to know a little about the shoulder structure.
In short, the shoulder is built for mobility, not stability or strength. The shoulder joint (the glenoid socket) is a wide and shallow joint which has a large range of motion. Because of this huge range, injuries happen fairly easily. The supporting cast of the back side of the shoulder are the four rotator cuff muscles, the trapezius, the levator scapulae and the rhomboids. The pectorals support from the front, and the deltoids form the end caps.
Common issues include, tendonitis, bursitis and impingement (often vaguely called “rotator cuff injuries”). Cumulative stress on the shoulder is caused by repetitive movements, compression (being forced to bear weight) and sustained, awkward positional use (like overhauling a building). Any of this sounding familiar?
So how can yoga help? Well first of all, thanks for asking, good to see you are still reading, yoga can help a couple of ways. Yoga increases flexibility and range of motion, allowing you to move more freely avoiding impingement issues. Yoga poses which strengthen and condition the rotator cuff muscles add support to the shoulder structure. Finally, you can expect increased circulation to the shoulder to help avoid inflammation issues, and speed recovery should an injury occur.
Three of my favorite shoulder poses include Thread the Needle, Prone Anterior Shoulder opener (it doesn’t have a cute yoga name) and Puppy pose. First, Thread the Needle, great for opening that space between the shoulder blades.
Thread the Needle pose
Come to hands and knees, extend your right arm out to the side lining up the wrist, elbow and shoulder. Then feed the right arm (palm facing up) behind the left arm and lower down on the right outer shoulder, adjust yourself until you find a place where your head and neck are comfortable.
Start to walk the fingers on the left hand up towards the top of the mat, until you can gently press into the palm causing a little more sensation and rotation in the upper back. Hold for 5-10 long breaths and then switch sides.
Second, Prone Anterior Shoulder opener, is a fantastic pose to open the front of the shoulder. This is an easy pose to overdo so show some restraint.
Anterior shoulder opener
Lie on your belly, turn your head to the right (resting on your left cheek). Extend your right arm out and line up your index finger with your sight-line. Then turn your head to the left, so you are resting on your right cheek.
Start to roll onto your right side and bend your knees, bringing your left palm to the floor, close to your chest. If you are feeling a lot of sensation in the front of the shoulder stay here. If you need a little more, straighten your right leg and place your left foot on the floor behind you. Stay here for about 30-60 seconds, and then take it to the other side.
Finally, Puppy pose for an overall shoulders and the spinal stretch.
Come to hands and knees, keeping the hips over the knees walk the hands forward, lowering the chest towards the floor. Lower your forehead, (or possibly your chin) to the mat, draw your shoulder blades back and down into the spine and reach your hips for the ceiling. Hold for 5-10 slow breaths.
These three poses can help improve your shoulder health. In part 2 of shoulder edition, I will address the specific problem of labrum injuries, a craze that seems to be sweeping the nation.
We are starting a new on-going yoga class which will be open to the public, here’s the 411…
Hatha yoga is the name for the type of yoga generally practiced in the US. The word hatha translates to Sun and Moon, denoting the union and balance of opposing forces, heavy right? Basically, it means yoga with movement, postures and a focus on breathing for increased flexibility, joint mobility and stress relief.
This class is beginner friendly and appropriate for all experience levels. It’s designed to undo the damage we all do to the body either from athletic activity or just the stress of everyday living. Each class will have a nice balance of work for increasing flexibility, joint stability, balance and overall mobility. Sound like something you need, then read on…
Wednesday evenings from 6:00-7:00. A starting date will be announced when a minimum number of participants have confirmed.
CPW Health Center
3130 Central Park West Dr. Suite A
Toledo, OH (419) 841-9622
6 class pre-paid pass is $60.00.
Drop-in price is $12.00 per class, subject to space availability.
Cash, Check or Credit Cards accepted.
I’M INTRIGUED, TELL ME MORE….
**Don’t own a mat? No problem. Mats and props will be available for use at no additional charge.
**Space is limited, therefore, participants holding pre-paid passes have first chance at class space (another good reason to buy the pass).
**Drop in participation is welcome, so long as there is space available. If you want to drop into a class you must check with Tara at firstname.lastname@example.org before class to ensure space is available.
HOW DO I JOIN?
You can email Tara at email@example.com and indicate if you want a pass or want to drop in.
You can call CPW Health Center (419) 841-9622 and tell them to sign you up.
One of the most common complaints I hear from athletes is that they have “tight hips.” On further review, I generally discover the culprit is the mystical hip flexor which is actually a group of muscles that allow the hip to flex and extend. Basically, the hip flexors allow the hip to draw the knee towards the chest. When the hip flexors are tight, doing a simple child’s pose will feel like wearing pants that are three sizes too small.
The hips are a complex piece of bodily equipment, the problematic hip flexors are primarily three muscles that make up the iliopsoas group; the psoas major, psoas minor, and the iliacus. Other important muscles of the leg make up the secondary hip flexors, but when I hear hip flexor complaints, the iliopsosas is usually the culprit.
These muscles attach the leg bone to the low spine, but because the area which is generally painful and tight is the iliopsoas tendon (the section that attaches to the bone), you will often hear it referred to as the “hip flexor tendon.” Tendons do not have the same elasticity as muscles, so when stretching, bear in mind you will not get a lot of length out of this area and you will need to hold the poses for a few minutes to relieve tightness.
Some yoga poses which I find helpful for hip flexor tightness include lunges, pigeon, upright frog, bow, and supported bridge. I make no secret of my love for pigeon pose and have covered it fairly extensively in other posts such as The Fast and the Flexible, Part 1. I have also covered lunges in The Fast and the Flexible, Part 3, and would recommend a long lunge set using all three versions with focus on sinking the back leg towards the floor. Also try giving the following poses a try.
Upright Frog, Garland Pose or Squat.
Stand at the top of your mat with your toes angled out so that the balls of your feet on the floor while your heels remain on the mat. With me so far? Bend your knees slightly and bring the palms of your hands together. Place your elbows on the insides of the knees and flatten out your back. This may be where you stop, but for those ready to venture on, you will start to allow your hips to sink down.
The key here is to keep your heels firmly on the mat, if they start to lift, back out a bit, take a few breaths and test it again. It may take several tries before you obtain the flexibility in your ankles to get all the way down. Under no circumstances should you force your way into this pose, you will hurt yourself and frankly that is simply counter-productive.
And here you are, in the elegant and ever so dignified Upright Frog pose. Try to stay here for 45 -60 seconds, taking deep breaths to ease the discomfort.
Bow pose is great for opening the entire front side of the body, it works especially well for stretching the front of the hip. Lie on the floor on your belly, bring you feet towards your backside grasping the outside of the ankles and flexing the feet. As you inhale, gently lift the feet holding on with the hands causing the chest to peel up off the floor. Take several deep breaths rising slightly on the inhale, sinking on the exhale. Hold for 30-45 seconds, repeat a second time after a short break.
If a full bow pose is a bit daunting right out of the gate, try half bow. Lie on your belly, place your right arm so your forearm is parallel to the front of the mat. Reach back with the left hand and grasp the left ankle, flex the foot and start to lift the leg up off the mat. Press into the front forearm gently lifting the chest from the mat. Hold for 60 seconds and repeat on the other leg.
Half Bow Pose
For as much as my love for pigeon pose knows no bounds, my dislike of bridge is also well known. Don’t get me wrong, bridge is a useful and beneficial pose, I just don’t happen to like it. But supported bridge, well that’s another story, this is a pose I can get behind. What is so great about supported bridge is that it is a passive stretch that requires absolutely no work on your part, sound good? Then lets do it.
You will need a yoga block, if you don’t have one, stack up some books and wrap them with a towel so they stay together. Lie on your back, knees up, feet hip distance apart. Lift the hips and slide the block under your sacrum (the base of the spine). You will have to play around with the placement of the block until you find a comfortable spot, then settle in for a few minutes and let the hip flexors passively release.
A good sequence of these poses would be lunge series on one side, upright frog in the middle, lunge series on the other side, bow pose two times, then end with a couple of minutes of supported bridge.
I have a couple of other non-yoga suggestions to help release this area. The first is the dreaded foam roller, yes that little torture device. Sure they look innocent, little short fat pool noodles in soothing pastel colors but don’t be fooled. They are ruthless, but very effective. For hip flexors, lay on your belly and place the roller at the middle of the front thigh. Slowly roll over the front of hip and back again several times. It won’t be pleasant, but it does work.
My second, and far more pleasant option involves you and your couch. That’s right, the couch. Lay down on the couch on your back, drop one leg off, bending the knee, dropping it toward the floor. Stretch the arms up over head and let the stretch slowly and comfortably develop in the front of the bent leg. Stay here for as long as you like, just be sure to switch sides occasionally.
Tara Kestner is a registered yoga teacher in Sylvania, Ohio and owner of Next Level Yoga, Ltd. She specializes in designing programs which help athletes improve their performance, prevent injuries, and promote recovery.
Super Bowl QB Russell Wilson. The Seattle Seahawks use meditation as part of their season long conditioning program. Interesting…
Meditation? Seriously? I know what you’re thinking, but yes, seriously I am going to talk about meditation for athletes. I consider myself to be a very practical person so my approach to yoga has always been from a real world perspective. Meditation has always seemed like a bunch of new age hokum.
OK, so I was wrong, it happens. The important thing is I have come around and now understand a regular meditation practice has very tangible physical and mental benefits. Specifically for athletes who are used to being cranked up for competition, it is necessary to stimulate the para-sympathetic nervous system to ground them or eventually they are going to find their tank is empty. Meditation also helps gain control over the breath which can be vitally important when hand-eye control is required like making a free throw, catching a pass or throwing a strike.
Finally, I can’t really explain why, but meditation helps athletes find and maintain occupancy in “the zone.” You know “the zone,” that phenomena when the goal or basket seems to be a mile wide, or your opponents seem to be moving in slow motion. All athletes seek time in the zone and meditation can help get them there.
At this point, you are convinced I am right, and can’t wait to get started. Right… I know that look, I’ve cracked tougher nuts than you. Just try this short “focus exercise” for five days in a row. If you hate it, give up, go ahead you big quitter. (Dropping some old school coaching on you there). Really, just try it I sincerely believe you will find it beneficial.
First, sit in a comfortable, semi-quiet place. A car is a great place to start. Close your eyes and just settle in. Don’t try to control anything, just sit there letting your thoughts bounce around. Feel free to think this is stupid if you want, I know I did when I first started.
After about a minute, start to take control of your breath. Inhale, counting 1-2-3 pause, then exhale 1-2-3. Try to visualize the actual numbers 1-2-3 in your mind’s eye as you breath. Do 10 rounds of this 3/3 breath pattern.
After the 3/3 breath pattern you are going to start lengthening you exhales. Continue counting, this time inhaling 1-2-3-4 pause, then exhale 1-2-3-4-5-6 pause, and repeat this 4/6 pattern for 10 rounds.
After the 4/6 breath, come back to an even 5/5 breath. Inhale 1-2-3-4-5 pause, exhale 1-2-3-4-5 pause. Repeat this 5/5 pattern for 10 rounds. Don’t be surprised if you find this a little exhausting, it can be at first.
After you complete the 5/5 breath pattern, just let your breath go back to normal, sit there quietly, eyes closed for about a minute, longer if you want, and then softly open the eyes. See that wasn’t so hard, or weird.
Now, just like one set of sit-ups won’t give you ripped abs, one meditation, sorry focus exercise, won’t bring you enlightenment, but keep it up for 5 days in a row (maybe twice a day if you can hack it) and see what it does for your performance. I bet you will notice something you can’t quite put you finger on, you’ll feel sharper, clearer, more in control. In short, better.