Here we have another one of my favorite people, Sandy Livsey!
If you’ve been reading along and meeting our tribe, you may have noticed that my clients do become like family to me – to Anne-Marie and I both really. Sandy is one of those people that doesn’t hold back with sharing her feelings and opinions, for better or worse, and is never stingy with how deeply she loves. She is a fighter – for her family, for her friends, for her health and for whatever it is that she is passionate about. When I first met her, I thought she was going to be a student that would test me at every turn…and she was!…but she’s proven to be one of my best teachers. She showed up in my classes ready for peace in her heart and in her body and any time she had a question or came to me with a physical road block, it gave me a chance to find ways to meet her where she was at.
Super Mom and Super Grandma!
When I ask Sandy how she feels after a class, or a workout, or a new move, I can count on her to be brutally honest which helpful when I need to know how something is working or not working. I know she will be my barometer for most anything. She’s also been such a dedicated student in yoga that she can step in when I need help with new students – showing them the ropes and making them feel welcome.
It is obvious to me that somewhere along the way Sandy made the decision to show up – to truly show up for life…for all of it. A favorite memory for me is her coming to our bachelorette party – it made my night to hang out with her! She loves her tequila and loves to celebrate life. And we love that she shares this passion for life with all of us!
Even though her back was on the fritz, she showed up anyway to cheer us on for this first adventure in yoga and SUP!
How did you meet Lisa, and how did you decide she was worth working with?
I first met Lisa, as a yoga teacher, in late September 2010. My neighbor had suggested yoga with Lisa and her assistant, Brian Dunning. I took Yoga 101 once a week for a year before deciding that I would never get better at yoga if I did not go twice a week!!! I began going on Sunday mornings and then Lisa invited me to her Yoga For Athletes class. This is a sweaty, challenging, one hour class. I convinced some other people to try the class, and I did use the phrase, “You can do anything for an hour!”. The truth is that Lisa gave me the encouragement to stick with the class and the knowledge to adjust certain things to my body issues. I loved yoga with Lisa as she was obsessed with form and function. She is hands on, makes corrections and always gives options for those of us with “issues”. My issues were being overweight, arthritic knees, and a “bad back”. Lisa has helped me through all of these issues. I never stopped Yoga 101 class; with Lisa, I continued to learn the basics for years!!! When I discovered Lisa was a massage therapist, I had my first massage ever with her! Massage was life changing for me; I would have thought it a frivolous expenditure, but it is a healthy luxury (emphasis on the healthy part!). I decided to try the strength training at Brute with Lisa because of Dolores Little. Dolores nagged me for about 2 or 3 months after she began with Lisa. I was very nervous about getting injured and being too slow. And, yes, I have worked though some injuries (once again, Lisa and I learned about my body’s limitations!) and made adjustments. And I am still too slow, but Dolores and Lisa (and some other super nice ladies) have made me feel welcome and are patient with me and my adjustments! Lisa is great to work with simply because she understands my body with all of its limitations and strengths.
What were your goals? Was she helpful at reaching them?
My goals with strength training were simply to get strong and not get hurt. I wanted to be able to do yard work, house work, and other necessary repairs/chores at my house (without constantly pulling out my back!). As a widow and a woman in my 50s, I felt the need to get strong and stay that way! Lisa has helped me continue to improve, even after surgery. I have become stronger, and, knock on wood, my body is doing great right now!
Sandy’s lovely family.
Would you recommend Lisa as a trainer, massage therapist, or yoga teacher? What makes her so special?
I would, and have, and will continue to sing my praises for Lisa for yoga, massage, and strength training. I feel all of Lisa’s knowledge of the body, combined with her life experience (and she’s still young!), have made her an excellent teacher. She really listens to you, encourages you to listen to your body, and tells you when it’s ok to push yourself. I have had other coaches (I was a competitive swimmer from age 10 -20), and I have coached swimming. Her knowledge of form and function is priceless. A good coach listens, adjusts, pushes, encourages, and helps you achieve your goals. Good coaches and teachers are a rare treasure; Lisa is a truly a treasure!
Would you recommend Lisa as a trainer, massage therapist, or yoga teacher? What makes her so special?
My favorite thing about working with Lisa at the gym is that the workout is never the same! This is also something that frustrated me at the beginning (and maybe even some now!). In my former years (decades ago) as a swimmer, I lifted weights. We did the same weight workout, 3 days a week, and the only thing that changed was when you went up in weight. I was so accustomed to judging my improvement with the same workout each time. Now, it’s more difficult to judge my progress, but I am working so much harder. Lisa’s workouts are never boring!
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?
Lisa and Tina are taking their hip mobility seriously!
Some friends called me directly on the brute yogi hotline with some very specific questions about my first ever video on releasing the hips to help soothe back pain. After I finally went live with this website (and almost threw up several times in the process) and (with anxiety that I thought would swallow me up) posted my first blog post, they scoured my site like any beloved friends would, to peek at what little information I’ve put out there so far, and found the video. They both started doing the simple mobility movements right away with high hopes of relieving their back pain and they were sold! They even wrote the sequence on their white board in their kitchen!
What really made me struck me was how they improvised props with what they had around the house – they had one yoga block, the tie for a robe, and couch cushions. I was so proud of them! They wouldn’t let anything stop them from moving in a new way to feel better!
Only got one block and two pillows
You can use anything as a yoga strap!
Their excitement was contagious! It literally makes my day to know that I’ve helped someone, especially when they get so pumped about the idea of being empowered to take care of themselves! Their one burning question though was about the “killer penguin” (my yoga buddy, Amber , gets the credit for this pet name.)
In the interest of full disclosure, this is not technically a yogasana – it is a mobility exercise and it goes by many names – the frog, the penguin, the baby maker, groin sprawl, or just simply a groin stretch. My friends decided to call it the sex pose (LOL?!) Here is a picture of another lovely friend and fellow yoga teacher, Gayle, demonstrating the killer penguin for us.
Gayle in killler penguin – dead or resting?
Get those hips down, Gayle! No-ass up poses!
Let me take a moment to describe *why* this can be such an effective hip opener for back pain relief. The adductor muscles on the inner thighs play a major role in the position and the stability of your pelvis. If there is extra tension and gripping in the groin muscles, the pelvis can tilt too far forward and put unhealthy strain on the lumbar spine, especially if you are lacking in core stability.
**Be sure you have some padding under your knees before you get going on this groin opener**
~ Start on your hands and knees.
~ Turn the feet out 90 degrees and flex them to protect the inner knee.
~ Gradually spread your knees apart keeping the knees and thighs line with the pelvis. In this first variation, the feet are apart and the ankles are in line with the knees – so that there is a 90 degree angle behind the knee.
~ While sliding your hips back to line up with the knees, keep the spine long (this isn’t Penthouse, asses down people) by either propping under the torso with blocks, pillows, a bolster, blankets, or just simply hold yourself up on your forearms.
~Now, WAIT…hold…pause…be still…be like a killer ninja penguin…breathe and await the opening…
Moving dynamically here can also be effective. In Yoga for Athletes, we like to laugh at ourselves as we awkwardly “saw the groin open” or “hump the penguin.” Basically, just carefully shift your body back and forth to change the angle and depth of the stretch in your hip socket and in the groin. As you do this, and your adductor muscles loosen up, be sure to spread your knees wider…and wider…and wider…
Now, Tina and Lisa were wondering more specifically if there were other ways to get the same release in the adductors without so much weight on the inner knees. There sure are!
Praying to the Frogs
Just simply bring the feet towards each other – then it is technically more of a yogasana (adho mukha baddha konasana) and in the movement and exercise world, this is usually called, “frog.”
Seated Butterfly – Baddha Konasana
* pressing down gently on inner thighs or using weights on the inner things* Siamese cat not required.
These versions of this groin opener aren’t quite as effective at getting to the inner groin and adductors. There is more torque placed on the femurs in the hip socket when there is a right angle at the pelvis and knee (like in the killer penguin) which creates more lengthening and stretch in the tendon attachments around the inner bowl of the pelvis. And, as a bonus, gives the femur a rotation that it rarely gets deep in the hip socket and at its gluteal attachments. But these will do if they don’t “kill” your knees as much!
Here are some versions that create that more effective torque that penguin gives (for some reason, I love that word, “torque!)
Reclined Butterfly with or without weight on the inner thighs- whoah
Supta Malasana – Squat on the wall – Dead Penguin – Baby maker?
Seated with legs in penguin position. Seated with legs in same position as “killer penguin.”
Half-Kneeling Groin Stretch – so good!
One leg up on edge of couch or chair or box in same position/angle
Flex that foot! Protect the knee and you open and torque that hip/femur!
In conclusion…not sure how to end this whirlwind of hip opening ideas being tossed your way…
There is always a way – to make changes – to ease discomfort – to open the hips. Excuses cannot be excused. A few years ago, I had a rare opportunity to work with nationally recognized yoga teacher, author, public speaker, and paraplegic (yes, a paraplegic yoga teacher!) Matthew Sanford who said, “You cannot overcome your life.” I imagine that what he meant is that there are circumstances of our lives and our physical makeup that we cannot ever change, but we have the creative will, the fortitude, and the CHOICE to work with what we were given. He cannot “overcome” his disability and he doesn’t make excuses – he finds a way to work with his physical karma, he has the courage to go for what he knows is possible for him and his physical vehicle.
So, go forth and take care of your vehicle – post any questions below and epiphanies below!