Archives for posts with tag: poor alignment

If you’ve taken my class or know anything about my professional background, then you’ll know how I feel about Plank.

Its such a fundamental pose, yet SO many students, clients and yogis have a hard time with plank. ¬†This is a challenging pose… but why is it so hard if all it takes to create the proper alignment is to stand up straight? Yea, its that simple (not easy), plank pose is the same as standing tall with a neutral and erect spine, except we turn it on its side.

Most commonly what I see is that people are not able to draw in and up through their core. This creates a sagging effect through the lower back, and puts more strain on all of the joints in the upper body. Another challenge people usually have, is to not let their head pull them down. A human head weighs upwards of 10 lbs. Letting it hang down pulls the whole pose in to a collapsed state. Keep your head in line with your spine, eyes forward and up with the back of you neck long.

Here are some tips for you the next time you are in plank pose:

1. Engage your WHOLE body! Fingers, forearms, biceps, triceps, chest, back, core (front and back), glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves. Yep, thats one of the main reasons I love it so much- its a full body workout! When you are engaging these muscles, do so in such a way that makes you feel like you’re pulling the muscles into the bones, rather than bracing for some kind of impact.

2. Keep a buoyancy in your shoulder girdle. A lot of times this is where things start to fall apart, and unfortunately I hear a lot of instructors cueing this incorrectly. You’re not trying to only round your shoulders NOR only squeeze them together- you are doing BOTH. The shoulderblades should be in an in-between state to create the strength and buoyancy I’m talking about.

3. USE your legs! So many folks try to hold their body weight in their arms- which will be eternally challenging in this position. Your legs are super strong and can help to distribute the weight more appropriately. Try this: when you are in plank, pull your hands and feet toward each other. Then when you move to Chaturunga you’ll feel light as a feather! (well, almost!)

4. Mind over Matter. Without any training or pre-run I held a 4 minute plank. I’ve had students who trained and held plank as long as 20 minutes! Its ALL in your head. Consider what comes up for you when the pose gets challenging. When you want to give up, take one more deep breath… then maybe another… and another…

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For fun, set a timer and see how long you can hold plank. Then start doing 60 seconds every day. On the 7th day- don’t rest, time yourself again ūüėČ

See if you’re able to hold it longer. Then set a goal- after 3 months of training how long would you like to be able to hold plank?

My goal: Dec 21- 8 minute plank!!!

http://willpowerlife.com/galleries/world-plank-2013/

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I was at a yoga event last night to assist the students by providing physical adjustments. Sometimes these assists are done to help you deepen your practice, and sometimes they are meant to correct your alignment. Part of this process, from an adjusters point of view, is to first scan and observe the students as a way to assess who could benefit from what type of assist.

Well as I was walking through the students in this class Monday night, I noticed how poor some of the alignment was. There were a handful of yoga poses where bad form was viewable throughout the room. Two thoughts crossed my mind: what are we doing as instructors that is contributing to the bad alignment, and how can we improve the alignment of the largest number of people possible at any given time. Now one answer to these questions in this scenario are to make sure we, as teachers, are teaching to the students in front of us, instead of relying too heavily on a script. Also, there are adjustments we can make to the sequences and yoga poses we are teaching so that people, in general, benefit from the practice instead of reiterate bad habits and poor alignment.

The reality is that form matters A LOT. In the fitness world there is a method called ‘mind in the muscle’, and it suggests that you can increase the success of your results as a weight lifter by up to 30% by paying attention to what your doing. So when you are doing biceps curls, even if you use a 3 lbs dumbbell, if you think about the muscles you are using and connect your mind with your body- your results will be maximized. In the world of yoga this is nothing new. After all, the mind-body connection is the whole point of moving through the poses and breathing with intention.

Bad form generally comes from favoring bad habits, or even a lack of understanding of what the actual intention of the pose or exercise is.  Something as simple as stacking your joints or feeling your alignment can prevent injuries AND deepen your practice.  When we work from proper alignment then the appropriate muscles engage/ disengage to help make our bodies stronger and more efficient. For example, if your shoulders are rounded because you have a bad habit of slouching over a computer all day, then in yoga or at the gym you should focus on strengthening your upper back, stretching your chest and standing upright.

In order to make your form work for you pay attention to the alignment of your joints- they should all stack in straight lines or 90 degree angles (for the most part).  Think of the muscles engaging around the bones to support and create movement. Most importantly, whether you are performing a yoga pose or an exercise at the gym, think about what you are doing, where you feel it, and what you want the outcome to be. A little mindfulness and awareness will go a long way.