In my work, I spend a large part of my time educating or re-educating people about feeling and holding a neutral pelvis. Whether it’s in asana, bodyweight movements in the gym or Olympic or power lifting movements, the neutral pelvis is a fundamental structural position for healthy movement and a strong stable core. Although the cue to “tuck your tailbone” makes my hackles go up – it’s a blunt explanation that gets most of you there – one of my BFFs, Amber Karnes from Body Positive Yoga did this blog post awhile back and I loved it for it’s simplicity. Enjoy! And, as most of my clients will hear me say before they squat, “Brace!”
Here’s a quickie on alignment! We had a question on the Body Positive Yoga Facebook page today about what “keeping the pelvis in a neutral position” means. You probably will hear that in a yoga class and … yeah – what the heck does it mean?! I found this picture online which shows positions for someone riding a horse, but I love the depiction of a “pelvic bucket of water” as it’s a visualization I use myself.
To find a neutral pelvic position, think about your pelvis like a bowl of water. Instead of having sassy, Beyoncé-butt, booty-tootch butt where you stick your butt out and arch your low back (spilling the water forward onto your lap), bring the front hip points (hip bones) up and make space in the low back. You can even place your hands like handles on each of your hips (wrap the fingers toward the hip bones and the thumbs toward the sacrum), and move the pelvis around. Try both positions – tucking and tilting until you find neutral.
To find neutral, tuck the tailbone slightly and lift the pubic bone. Don’t tuck your tailbone so much that “water” spills out the back – just let the tailbone be heavy and move toward the heels.
Level the pelvis so your “bowl of water” doesn’t spill. This retains the natural curves in your spine. Make sense?
Go barefoot! No, seriously….do it. Take your shoes off, socks too! Maybe don’t smell your feet and definitely take the toe jam out first. This is coming from the Brute Yogi that has some serious foot issues (Anne-Marie, if you haven’t figured it out). Here’s why barefoot rocks:
- Foot and Ankle Warm-up. You have a clear path from your body and its nervous system right to what ever your foot touches. Without the shoes and socks your feet can feel everything underneath and all of the muscles have the opportunity to work in the way that they were designed to work. This travels all the way up the chain, the knees and hips will join the party and pretty soon everything will be working in harmony.
- Proprioception is in its purest form without added distractions. Shoes and socks can mask underlying structural issues as well as the ability to feel the surrounding environment.
- You will get stronger. Your squat, deadlift, presses all will improve in technique alone. If the technique improves the strength will follow. The feet are the foundation of any standing movement, strengthen those puppies and you’ll create a trend along your athletic continuum.
- Posture will improve. Basically see all of the above.
Here’s the deal –
- Safety first! Even with shoes on you wouldn’t want to drop dumbbells, bumpers, iron plates, etc on any part of your body – so be aware of your surrounds and move mindfully. Likewise, you wouldn’t step on sharp glass or nails with shoes on, so there’s little chance of you doing that without (unless of course you’re in to that).
- MRSA! Ok, so it’s a real possibility that the gym floor is gross and thus your feet will also be gross once you’ve walked around barefoot for all of 2 seconds. If you have open sores or cuts on your feet, FOR THE LOVE don’t put anyone, including yourself, in jeopardy of contracting some kind of nastiness. Otherwise it should be pretty safe as long as you wash your feet after being in the gym, which you should probably be doing anyway. Again, coming from the girl who used to get athletes foot from just looking at a bathroom floor, I’ve been nastiness free just from making sure I clean with some good ‘ole fashion soap and water.
- Take it slow. Just like the barefoot running craze, you don’t want to go naked for a marathon right out of the gate. Just do your warm-up, use an empty barbell going through your usual oly routine or squat routine or deadlift routine or whatever it is you do before you hammer out some awesome sweat induced funness in the gym. Maybe work up to adding some weight to the barbell or doing some light jogging back and forth on the gym floor. Don’t go and add your 1RM to the barbell and expect to feel amazing afterwards. There’s potential (not an absolute) that you could injure yourself if you go to heavy, decide to do an entire WOD, go for a 20 minute run or what ever craziness you think up for yourself. Your feet are likely not used to that type of loading and having a set back is worse than spending a little extra time in the gym preparing the body for work.
Reluctantly I went barefoot in the gym after much pressure from the number 1 Brute Yogi (that’s Lisa of course). The first day I knew I was converted. I just owned it, and went full on naked foot for my warm-up and haven’t looked back. It’s been over a month and I can honestly say that I’ve noticed a difference in my sessions at the gym. My feet get super dirty but they’re so nice and warm before I start lifting. I feel like it’s helped increase my over all strength as my joints and muscles feel better as I start adding the weight on the bar and put my shoes back on. It also seems as though I’m recovering faster as well. Whether or not this is due 100% to my decision to go naked footed or not, I know I can attribute at least some of this recent gym success to my feet nudity.
This is a guest post from my wife, Crossfittin’ Yogi!
This has been a question I’ve been asked a lot since since shoulder surgery and since recently moving out of the “box” and into arguably the best powerlifting/strongman gym in the area. Yesterday was no different when one of my gym friends asked me if I was still in to CrossFit. She and I met through a mutual friend and in a CrossFit class I was coaching, so this was definitely a very valid question to be asking. We’ve also been training at the same gym (not known to be a CrossFit gym although it is an affiliate) for about a year together and have also competed in a Stongman comp together. Again, valid question since I seem to be all over the map this past year with how I’ve been training. So, what’s the answer?
Occasionally – if you’re talking about the clock ridden metcons that CrossFit is known for (otherwise, what is CrossFit?).
Shoulder surgery was definitely the catalyst that motivated me to be a better athlete all together. And CrossFit has been the gateway drug I needed to introduce me to Olympic Lifting, Power Lifting, and Strongman amongst other modalities. This past year plus I’ve tried my hand at 12 weeks of a hybrid CrossFit/Strongman style programming done by a friend/fellow coach, 12 weeks of Strongman specific programming that felt a little bit more like powerlifting, an attempt to program for myself along with a local box (my wife and I tested all of the WODS that I wrote for the box for over two months), and now I’m finishing the third week of Travis Mash’s “Getting Jacked” programming. I have training/working out ADD I believe. However, I’ve learned quite a few things through this journey.
- Leave your fucking ego at the door. No, seriously. DO IT. If you’re not listening to your body and in turn doing something that you KNOW you really shouldn’t be, then WTF? Now, if you’re getting paid to do this – and I mean that you are sponsored by Reebok, Rogue, Innov8, Again Faster, Progenex etc etc etc and you DO NOT have a day job because you’re getting paid to do this – then by all means, bring that ego to the bar because you gotta make those dolla billz. Yet, I digress…we’re all adults here, and if 25 reps of something sounds asinine or an extra 10lbs on the bar makes your form go to shit or 30 more seconds of anything is going to make you puke like you were in college again (which you may still be anyway) then grow up, let the drama go, and say “oh, right, I can say no and still know that I just had a great workout despite xyz”. Now, if you’re a sandbagger and you need your ass kicked responsibly, then shut up and do one more rep…otherwise, grab some water and be ok with the fact that you know your body better than anyone else and it’s ok to do your own workout as long as you’re safe and not harming anyone else.
- Find something that you really enjoy and what you’re good at (they will likely be similar). I have found that I really like Olympic Lifting, I also happen to really like Strongman implements, and I really like gymnastic movements (like pistols, anything on the rings or pull-up bar, jumping, etc). So, what does that all mean really? I find ways to put those things in to my programming because that keeps me interested and in the gym.
- Figure out what you don’t like, or what you probably shouldn’t do. I hate pushups, they are a big challenge to me, I curse them, to me they are stupid (really they aren’t, it’s a good bodyweight movement). So, to that extent I don’t do a ton of them, although I do find ways to work that range of motion and strength because I realize that I can’t avoid it all together if I want to continue to train the way I do. Powerlifting is boring to me, it doesn’t hold my interest. I see the purpose of it, but for me it wouldn’t keep me going back to the gym day after day, so as a modality I skip it. I won’t really ever compete in powerlifting, so other than a general understanding of the modality and its usage I’m ok without it. I also know that the shape of my shoulders, structurally, isn’t designed to handle tons of overhead movements (presses, pull-ups, etc) – hence one of the reasons I had surgery, though definitely not the only reason. That being said, I don’t do a lot of arm intensive movements back to back in my daily training sessions. Unfortunately, it took shoulder surgery for me to realize this.
- CrossFit Group WODs are fun, I love CrossFit and what it’s open my eyes to. They’re fun to coach. They’re fun (and sometimes scary) to watch. It’s fun and motivating to workout with a group of people and to share in a similar experience. There’s definitely something to be said for the cardiovascular aspect of such WODs, too. Especially for me since training more in a strength bias lately, I realize the importance of keeping the heart pumping and the body moving. Big bonus, not only did CrossFit introduce me to a healthier lifestyle all together, but it also brought me to a box that I would meet, workout with, and ultimately marry the best WOD partner ever. That’s worth it’s weight in gold any day. And without CrossFit, I wouldn’t have been introduced to Olympic Lifting, Strongman, etc.
- I’ve never been stronger, and I am continuing to get stronger. Realizing now that if I stayed in a “box” I likely wouldn’t have increased my strength beyond a certain threshold due to the inherent design of most traditional CrossFit programming. I had to get out of the box and into a gym with a ton of strong ass mother fuckers to break that ceiling. I witness people squating over 600lbs, deadlifting over 700lbs, benching over 400lbs and flipping 800+lb tires on a regular basis. I enjoy the gains, and I enjoy the inspiration that these strong individuals provide. “Surround yourself with the best to be the best” is the moto of the gym, and it’s true – surround yourself with like minded people who will motivate you to be a better version of yourself and BAM that’s what will happen.
- High repetitions can be a recipe for disaster. Now, before you go and bitch at me about how you just did 100 back roll to supports and you feel amazing, I don’t care. For me (and likely most of the population) form goes to shit and injury soon follows with high repetitions, especially when the pressure of a time component is added. Now, if you’ve left your ego at the door, you might be alright because it won’t matter that it took 2 minutes longer to complete your 100 back roll to supports because you executed them all perfectly. And higher reps equal greater hypertrophic response (google it) which equal great muscular gains (I didn’t say strength because some may disagree with that, although for me it’s definitely worked), but those higher reps are executed at a manageable weight with adequate rest between sets.
- Eating food is fucking fantastic. I LOVE TO EAT. I’ve done my share of Paleo challenges and have learned how to eat healthier, feel better, stay healthier (I’m WAY less sick), cook more and make better decisions regarding the FUEL that I put in my face. Now, I am NOT Paleo, and if you are and it works for you I think that’s amazing because it really helps a lot of people. For me, cutting out dairy caused me to get too skinny and loose strength. Besides, ice cream is one of my favorite foods. I added grassfed dairy back in to my diet after my longest Paleo challenge and have had no issues. I still have a challenge when it comes to sugar, but otherwise I eat what I want, when I want, in the quantities that I feel keep me satiated and strong. It is still a fight to be ok with the 15# weight gain and the tighter clothes because of the unfortunate conditioning in my past to fit in to a specific mold, but that’s a longer post for another time.
- Training the posterior chain and doing accessory work is BRILLIANT. Prior to shoulder surgery I paid attention to the coaches without doing a ton of my own research. Then came recovery post surgery – I learned a TON and keep learning as much as possible. One of the biggest take-a-way’s was that I need to be pulling equal to, or double the amount, of any pushing movements. I’ve also taken accessory movements seriously and in turn have experienced an increase in overall strength finally pulling more than 235lb in a deadlift, for example (a spot that I was stuck at for YEARS). Anyone that takes my classes might get annoyed with the constant reminder of how important I feel pre-hab, accessory training, posterior chain activation, core engagement, etc are…but if I reach just one person so they can avoid injury or surgery then I’ve done my job and paid it forward.
- Mobility is necessary for increased strength and recovery. If yoga isn’t your thing, call it something else. But get your sweaty ass to the mat or park yourself on the carpet in front of the boob tube (that isn’t even a thing any more) and mobilize! I like yoga, I teach yoga, therefore I encourage it. But again, refer to #2, find a way to enjoy getting mobile because it really does help. I rediscovered yoga after an inconsistent at best relationship with it in the past, and discovered that I really enjoy the entire practice – both the mental aspect and the physical aspect. My strength has improved, my anxiety has decreased, my injuries are less frequent.
I’ll stop at 9. I really wanted a round 10, but 9 is my favorite number and I think my quota of smart ass comments may be depleted for the day. If you managed to read this whole thing, go check out Brute Yogi – this is my wife, Lisa’s, brain child. You might even find me in there too, just sayin.
So, I had surgery. It was unexpected, unplanned, and unwanted, but necessary if I hope to conceive. Anne-Marie and I have been trying since January only to find out that I was full of fibroids and one especially large one that matched the size of my uterus itself. These past 9 months have tested me and my will while also bringing some pretty amazing and selfless people into my life. Yes, I’ve had physical pain, but I never contributed it to anything with my lady parts since my periods were fine and never painful. Anyway, I was a candidate for a robotic myomectomy because of the size and number of fibroids. I ended up with four holes instead of the three which left my insides rattled and shredded from my ribs down and my recovery way more painful than I expected based on a previous laproscopic procedure I had had years ago. This much longer than expected forced time off and alone, still and quiet, has given me time to rest and truly reflect. That sounds so hokey and weird, but after the first 4 days or so of lying in bed drugged and unable to do much more than sleep and watch TV, I was then faced with forced time at home – not sick per say, so still able to think and feel and functional basically which over the next 7 days has really been something I realized that I truly needed.
This is my “the drugs are working” face pre-surgery. I need this much relaxation more often! LOL!
For those of you that don’t know, I work for myself as a massage therapist taking clients for bodywork and I am a Crossfit coach (but currently on a hiatus from coaching to refocus my energies on things that are more financially lucrative. it pains me to admit it, but i do need to put food in my fridge and coaching although fed my passion for fitness and helping people, it was causing me to suffer in other ways.) I’ve switched over to working privately with athletes and the general public on how to move more efficiently for their life or their sport. I also own a yoga studio and teach several asana classes.
Owning a yoga studio is a bittersweet reality – it is a business that I give most of my attention to and receive no salary from – for 7 years. It fills my heart to provide the space to the community and at the same time it strips away at my ability to provide for myself and my family. All of this leaves me hanging on the razor’s edge of a cliff of anxiety at all times hustling to fill my book, keep my classes full, and keep the doors open at the studio. That low tremor of anxiety has been so bad that yoga couldn’t even bring ease and I had to be medicated for awhile – ironic for a yogi of almost 20 years. The hum of the worry and the tension is always there and only from this forced house arrest have I been able to step away from it and really feel how bad it was and how much better it is. Even at about day 4 or 5 of this when I was starting to get my wits about me, I could feel the tension, anxiety and sick-to-my-stomach feelings rise up a bit as I thought about what was needing to be done and what wasn’t getting tended to. Thank Ganesha I have the most amazing studio manager, mother, and wife who were all there and all in in easing my mind! I would have to say to myself, out freaking loud, that it is all taken care of and I didn’t even have to think twice about it or rush into Norfolk or drive all over town to meet the needs of my clients. I had no choice but to stay put and trust my support system – and they were rock stars! Now, the sensation is tangible of that ever-present knot slowly unraveled.
So, here I am with almost 2 weeks at home, relearning new movement patterns, retraining my brain to be present, reminding myself to move slower. In relearning how to move again, I had to go back to square one on how to get out of bed, stand up, sit down (oh, the toilet), go up and down the stairs. Every single breathe I took for almost 7 days felt calculated to be sure that I didn’t cough or laugh since my diaphragm just couldn’t fully expand – even talking was a mindful and sometimes labored process. In retraining my brain, I chose to reform thought patterns and create practices that gave me some headspace. I rekindled my meditation practice and made a promise to myself to write more often. I’ve had to slow way down and take my time which may mean I work less and make less when I’m back which terrifies me, but I really have to find the balance.
All of this being said, Anne-Marie and I are also going to make a concerted effort to get back to posting on Brute Yogi WOD for you all. If you don’t have a blog of your own, let me tell you that this rodeo of writing and editing and organizing and re-reading and re-writing and then finding images, is no friggin’ joke! There are many in my life that make it look effortless and they are my heroes.
Stay tuned and Namaste Strong (see what we did there!?)
Brute Yogi Wod
A. DeadLift (Conventional) 6×3 @ 80%
B. GHR 3×5
C. Work Capacity
(*see First Round below*)
12 Box Jumps (average height)
2 Rope Climbs
Brute Yogi Mindful Pre-Wod
Find your flow state:
Don’t be caught ridin’ dirty – get rollin’…
Keep your phone with you and follow along with this warm-up routine – we guarantee you’ll get warm!
Do 10 Dead Bugs on each to fire up that core stability. Go slow and make ’em count!
Do 10 glute bridges
Do 10 Body Weight Single Leg Deadlifts on each leg
A. DeadLift: Set-up is everything! Set up the SAME WAY every time. Here’s a little clip from Kelly Starrett worth watching on the set-up. How do I breathe?? Check this video out for our suggestion on where/when to breathe. Warm-up = 10 @ bar, 8 @ 40-50%, 6 @ 50-60%, 4 @ 60-70%, 2 @ 70-75% (if needed). As you can see we feel that it is VERY important to do warm-up sets and really prepare physically by loading slowly to avoid injury.
B. Glute Ham Raises: FANTASTIC way to improve pulling power in the deadlift by strengthening the hamstrings and torso overall. Some of our favorite bloggers/podcasters over at Barbell Shrugged have a great instructional how to here. These can be done at the end of your workout, or after the strength portion. You definitely want to be warm before you do these and very honest about form and capabilities – no hamstrings getting pulled here!
C. Before performing the metcon warm up each movement with a few reps. Choose a box height that is an average height for most of your work outs. Step ups, jump up and step down are both acceptable. Remember to open the hips at the top of each rep and maintain control over each repetition. If rope climbs are not available or accessible substitute 6 as close to parallel ring rows as possible or 3 strict pull-ups AND 6 knees to elbows, knee ups, or roll-ups.
- First round: In an effort to load the body and neurological system for the work-out try this – perform the row at a consistent pace, not all out; do 6 step-ups each leg on the box and perform one of the modifications above for your rope climbs.
- Stay consistent throughout all 4 rounds using the transitions between each movement as your break.
Brute Yogi Integration: