Keeping a Neutral Pelvis – what does that mean?

Keeping a Neutral Pelvis – what does that mean?

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. 

A pencil drawing of an equestrian rider with the pelvis shown in three positions. The pelvis is illustrated as a bucket of water. First, the lower back is arched with the water spilling forward. Second, the bucket is neutral and the spine retains its natural curves. Third, the pelvis is tucked, the back flattened, and water spills out the back.

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?

Yo’, do you still CrossFit?

Yo’, do you still CrossFit?

This is a guest post from my wife, Crossfittin’ Yogi!

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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.

 

Headspace

Headspace

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!

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!?)

 

 

 

On being “Brute”

On being “Brute”

Hey, folks.  I know, I know – I have totally fallen behind on this whole blog thing!  It is a lot harder than I thought to think some thoughts and then organize them into simple words that others can read and understand.  The other bloggers in my life, like my introspective and eloquent wife, #xfitinyogi and an unlikely buddy to a lesbian yogi like myself, Vonmunchausen, make it all look so easy!

And, actually, the thinking of the thoughts part is really easy – the hard part is that it usually happens when I am shut up in a quiet room working on a very still and probably sleeping client (which relaxes me too and is hence why the thoughts flood in) or while I am driving listening to some of my favorite podcasts and then I have no way to record my thoughts because my phone is plugged into the car.  My most inspired thoughts unfortunately come to me when I have no way to record them and then when I go to sit down t0 record them, they are poof – gone!

So, I pout and I give up and then I get smacked up side the head by these creative forces around me who say, “just fucking write – write something – anything!”   A writing professional and young, spirited visionary in my life, Tara, gave me a swift kick in the ass the other day when I was lamenting about how psychologically stunted I am when it comes to sharing my thoughts with the world through the written word and that I tend to write in short phrases – single worded thoughts – and pictures like a child.  She ever so casually said, “Do it like that then! Why not?  It is you are and how you speak!”  Keep it simple, stupid!  Duh.

I’ve recently pulled my shit *almost* together to begin what my very first marketing mentor, guru of go-getting, Amber,  has been on me for years to do – create and cultivate a brand.  I think I did?!  Brute Yogi!  And, now that it is out there, I am getting a lot of questions like, “oh are you teaching yoga at Brute Strength Gym now?” “Are you the in-gym yoga teacher for them?” “Isn’t being ‘brute’ a bad thing?”  “Why would you want to be called a ‘brute’ and a ‘yogi?”  “So, you aren’t called ‘The Space Above’ anymore?”

Look, here’s the deal: I’ve been an athlete most of my life, a yogi 18 years, and have recently joined an eclectic community of warm and fuzzy (almost always grunting while covered in chalk) brutes at Brute Strength Gym.   In the 8 years I’ve been a member of the brotherhood of  Crossfit, I began to see my unique perspective being a yogi and a massage therapist and yet still feeling right at home with the muscle heads and the six packs.  Within the past several years, I’ve lost all romantic notions about yoga (not unlike this woman’s story and experience with her break-up with yoga )and realized that the best way for me to practice yoga is to share it the way I use it as a life style paradigm that anyone can integrate in their life and their flow – mala beads, flowy white pants, and references to blossoming your buttocks not necessary!

The term “Brute Yogi” just popped in my head one day and it felt right – I owe a lot to trusting my intuition .   I’ve done and am still doing my work on the yogic path, it just doesn’t quite look the way that you expect it to.  (I am saving that for another blog post – my intentions in sharing Brute Yoga.)  For now, I just want to bring the two worlds together – these two worlds that seem too opposed or that there isn’t any way to know both parts of oneself.

Anyone can benefit from this advice, right? “Good distraction frees us from emotional pain. Bad distraction gives you a mouth full of whizz.”

What is a Yogi?
/yōgē/
 A yogi is a person who practices yoga and seeks to unite the physical body and the spiritual being. This is an individual who chooses to pursue the union of individual consciousness with the ultimate consciousness of the Divine.  Through mindfulness, self-study,  a practice of controlling the breath, and understanding the physical body, a yogi learns self-control and ultimate takes ownership of their experiences and their state of mind.
Now, who wouldn’t want this and why couldn’t anyone make this their practice?  Why couldn’t a dirty, sweaty ditch digger who uses the F word to express his passion and sees beauty in his quiet moments alone on his porch with a beer learn to practice mindfulness and be given an opportunity to find some relief in his physical body without the threat of doing asana that his large, weary biceps and formidably bulky thighs will NEVER EVER be capable of mimicking – even if he keeps practicing, “all will [not] be coming” (it is a pet peeve of mine to hear a teacher quote one of the fathers of the physical yoga practice, Sri Pattabhi Jois, “practice and all is coming” to students in their slack-jawed, dismissive, condescending yoga voice instead of using thoughtful discrimination to recognize where their students are in there hard-working everyday bodies and then taking the extra step to find ways these “normal” bodies can experience yoga.)  Deep breath…

What is a Brute?
/bro͞ot/

A wholly instinctive being who tends towards being very strong or forceful and is capable of generating a great amount of force when necessary. **On the other hand, there are also these definitions: A savagely violent person or animal.  A person who is offensive and rude.

There is a time and place for tenacity – for being a brute when undaunting force is necessary to move heavy things or to have an indomitable will in furthering a cause or to prevent a boundary from being crossed.  So, why not be a Brute Yogi?  Why not be gritty and graceful – courageous and compassionate – bold and sympathetic – an even-tempered beastly badass?  Why the fuck not?  Namaste, bitches!  Feel love and feel your power!

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