Knee

Step into your power zone.

Chandni Kapur has been practicing yoga with me (Nadine) for a year and a half. In this article, she shares her love for tadasana (mountain pose). Here she is, reaching for the sky, in tree pose (vrksasana).

DSC01098

“Stretch your hands and feet toward the sky… reach for the stars”

The words of my then yoga teacher when I first learnt Tadasana some 15 years ago still ring a bell. Too easy, I thought at the time. What an easy way to exercise — stretch …stretch… and stretch some more.

As time passed by and I caught up the do's and don’ts of everyday life, Tadasana was no longer important. It was just one of those easy stretches that didn’t feel valuable enough to do because I was after the more rigorous stuff that would cut my belly fat, make it vapourise!

Until last month.

 

I’ve rediscovered the magical power of Tadasana.

 

The ever so simple, full body stretch and I’ll tell you why you should let it support you.

A considerable few years of neck, shoulder, back and knee pain and all other sorts of body aches that a 36 year old shouldn’t even know about, have left my body fully misaligned. It mainly meant I was trapped in a vicious cycle of being unable to stretch and exercise. And not helpful that I’m flat-footed, overweight, and have no arches to support my feet and take the weight off my knees and back.

Over the past 1.5 years, Nadine has been helping me (patiently) revive each muscle back into action. It’s been a frustrating journey until earlier this year when I decided to take her advice and be more compassionate to myself. So I listened to every word she said, every muscle movement she explained to me, and started to learn to respond to what my body was telling me.

I needed support. Big time!

I decided to wipe clean all my assumptions and scepticism and just follow what felt good for my body. This meant that I was squeezing my buttocks because I needed those muscles to support my back better. And while I started with some scepticism, it’s now a habitual practice and happens quite unconsciously!

With consistent practice and a more compassionate outlook, I spent one month learning how to raise my feet gradually just a few inches above the ground and enter Tadasana. I vividly remember the early days – staring out to the Westgate Freeway to keep my mind focussed (terrified internally that my knees won’t bear the weight.) As I practiced I felt better, more still and more at ease. Often forgetting I had knees and legs - so fully focussed on the idea of surrendering to the asana.

The next step was crucial – the arches. I had to get those working to take the pressure off my spine and knees.

So, nervously, I followed the instructions and demonstrations. As Nadine patiently kept showing me how to create the arch in my feet, I realised this is such a new concept for my body that I can’t comprehend such a simple thing. It was a humbling moment. The turning point for me was when Nadine broke the instruction down to small tactile cues.

So I focused on the two most important aspects - Toes screwed into the ground and heels dug into the floor. I suspended my intellect.

No fear, no judgement, no analysis.

Just do those two steps and voila I could feel the muscles along my legs and into the buttocks tighten up like a warrior ready for battle.

That’s not just a literary expression, Tadasana has allowed me to create a calm stillness in my body that feels right, feels aligned and feels in control.

While I’m still in awe of the physical stability it gives me, I’m super excited about the clarity it creates.

It’s my best time to visualise, to focus on my intentions and often to let them emerge as I stand empowered. It’s been my answer to my fear of pain and a fantastic support – fully aligned.

Try it – it’s a step into your own power zone.

If you can sit + stand up from the floor, you will live longer.

Have you noticed the very strong squatting theme round here lately? Here's (another reason) why. Squatting develops musculo-skeletal fitness, in a way that, say, walking, doesn't.

When you are strong, supple, and balanced, things like sitting down on the floor and then getting back up are easy.

And there is evidence to suggest that this particular kind of fitness decreases your risk of mortality from ALL causes! Yeah, eventually we are all gonna die, but there's nothing wrong with putting that off as long as possible.

So, could you stand up from here?
So, could you stand up from here?

According to this article:

The test was a simple assessment of the subjects' ability to sit and then rise unaided from the floor. The assessment was performed in 2002 adults of both sexes and with ages ranging from 51 to 80 years. The subjects were followed-up from the date of the baseline test until the date of death or 31 October 2011, a median follow-up of 6.3 years.

 

Over the study period 159 subjects died, a mortality rate of 7.9%. The majority of these deaths occurred in people with low test scores - indeed, only two of the deaths were in subjects who gained a composite score of 10. Analysis found that survival in each of the four categories differed with high statistical significance. These differences persisted when results were controlled for age, gender and body mass index, suggesting that the sitting-rising test score is a significant predictor of all-cause mortality; indeed, subjects in the lower score range (C1) had a 5-6 times higher risk of death than those in the reference group (C4).

 

It is well known that aerobic fitness is strongly related to survival, but our study also shows that maintaining high levels of body flexibility, muscle strength, power-to-body weight ratio and co-ordination are not only good for performing daily activities but have a favourable influence on life expectancy.

 

Yeah. Time to get squatting. And yoga-ing in general, actually.

Have a great week.

Good squatting technique

  As I said on this blog last week, squatting is awfully good for you. Done right, of course.

I've found YET another article to support this. It has a great illustration, for one:

baby-squat

Also, it quotes Kelly Starrett who you are about to watch in the below video.

One Hundred Percent of people I see in the clinic with osteochondritis, flaking-off, osteochondral defects, chondral malasia- which is a softening of articular surfaces- usually with a meniscus injury….All these things are accompanied by people who are not squatting, they are knee bending…..They can’t squat, they have never been shown, it is their coaches fault, their PE teachers fault….They’re gonna have muted hip function and lead with the knees….The best way I know how to fix them is to teach them to squat. The squat magically cures knee pain.

I know this is an exaggeration but if we can teach people how to squat correctly it carries over to reducing shear forces in landing, walking stairs, improves running mechanics and a long list of benefits for your athletes or clients.

This is the best video I've ever found to explain good squatting technique. Granted, we yogis don't add those monstrous weights to our practices, but a good squat is a good squat, and a bad one...will hurt you. The monstrous weights mean that people HAVE to keep their technique 'clean' or they will get hurt a heck of a lot faster.

I've seen way too may people who have form like this girl - including me, with my sticky-outy ass! It can be corrected though, with the right movement cues.

The opposite is also true: round your lower back and 'tucking the tailbone' when squatting can lead to all manner of nasties, including lumbar disc compression. So, stick your ass out, but STABILISE your core by setting your legs up properly.

Watch and marvel.

 

Check it out, try it out, let me know what you think.

Adrenal Fatigue & Preventing Knee Injuries.

Did you know that overtaxing your adrenals (hello modern life) can directly contribute to injuring yourself while exercising? Crappy thing that, given that exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress. Accordong to this article:

Muscle-organ correlations were discovered by Dr. Goodhart in the 1960′s. He found that there are predictable muscle imbalances when organs are in stress. In the case of the adrenal glands one of the primary muscles involved is the sartorius, a major pelvic  as well as medial knee stabilizer. (sartorius is the longest muscle in the human body, it runs down the length of the thigh.) This is why so many people including athletes injure their knees when they are under stress. There was a pre-existing imbalance from the adrenals that caused an improper or an inadequate response of the sartorius muscle. So the demand on muscle exceeded its threshold to handle it and this results in an injury.

A picture of sartorius to give you a general idea where it is:

Sartorius
Sartorius

 Image via

Adrenal fatigue is a remarkably common, and unpleasant, modern syndrome. If you are wondering whether you might be at risk, or suffering, from it, do this quiz.

I work with many clients who suffer from adrenal fatigue, and one of the first things they have to learn to do is slow down. We are always being told that exercise will help us manage our stress, but once your adrenals have been overstimulated for long enough, it becomes counterproductive to do the sorts of exercise that stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, like intense cardio, strong weight training and the like.

Nobody really wants to get a bum knee from trying to manage their stress, right?

If you are the kind of person who NEEDS to run (or exercise) in order to feel half-human, you might want to make sure that sartorial of yours is prepped beforehand and stretched afterwards.

Here's my favourite yoga pose for stretching the sartorius muscle. For more good ones, check out the yoga for runners download.

sartorius stretch

Also, if you start feeling weirdness or pain in your knees, ankles, or any other joints, it really is worth getting advice from a good physiotherapist. You might be getting joint issues because of adrenal fatigue: there are any number of other causes too. One leg longer than the other, say. Or you might need different shoes. Or be trying to move in a range of motion that's not right for your body...

Prevention, better than cure, all that stuff. You know it!

Take care of your knees, and the rest of yourself, this festive season!

Nadine