by Hope Zvara | Dec 10, 2022 | Fitness Friday
Back pain isn’t something that’s pretty to deal with and can be quite debilitating, depending on the scope of the back pain. It’s essential to try and find ways to help cope with back pain, regardless of how severe it may be.
From simple at-home tips to getting the professional help you may need, here are five tips for dealing with back pain if you experience it.
Work on maintaining good posture
Good posture is an excellent way of helping improve back pain and any potential damage that one can do to their back over time. Our posture, despite a lack of attention towards it, can be majorly influential to how much bodily pain we experience.
To work on good posture, try practicing some stretching movements and making sure you don’t stay sitting or standing for too long at a time. Maintaining good posture means being aware of lousy posture; we often forget that we put our bodies in uncomfortable and potentially damaging positions. Try to be more aware of your posture.
Use ice or heat to help with swelling or inflammation when dealing with back pain
For back pain that causes a lot of swelling or inflammation, consider using ice or heat to help with it. This is a great way to deal with the pain and to dull down some of the side effects that have occurred from the pain itself.
Using ice or heat to help with swelling will greatly help always be a temporary measure that may resolve the issue without needing to venture any further.
To help with severe back pain and pain that is causing issues where you’re having trouble resting or doing the daily chores around the home, medication may help. While it’s important not to become reliant on this medication, it can help ease the pain that many problems can cause.
Medication should be something to speak confidently to your doctor so they can prescribe the best option for you. You might manage fine most of the time and need that extra helping hand every so often. And when it comes to managing back pain consider a pain relief cream that has powerful natural ingredients that can make all the difference when it comes to fast relief.
Approach an osteopath
For those that might be struggling to get mobility and feeling as though the back problems have begun taking over control, visiting Worthing Osteopathic & Wellbeing Clinic may be worthwhile.
Having an osteopath take a closer look at the back pain can help to locate the source and to work through a series of treatments to help alleviate some of the pain. When dealing with back pain it can be hard to find the time to practice self-care, but if you don’t many find it only gets worse.
Try to remain active.
To help stay on top of managing the back pain, sometimes a bit of light exercise can help. Specific stretching exercises like yoga and pilates may also be worth trying to help with the pain. Most importantly, it’s wise to take this carefully and be gentle with exercise.
Dealing with back pain is a common problem, so remember you’re not alone. Use these tips to help manage it.
by hope | Aug 31, 2022 | Fitness Friday
Everyone knows that stress can make a huge impact on the body, and one-way people try to push their stress outward is by visiting the gym or just going out and exercising. Exercising and other forms of physical activity are needed for the body, and there is no doubt about it. However, sometimes, exercising can lead to negatives such as injuries. However, just as everyone needs to learn more about first aid, the same can be said for exercise-related first aid. So, if you’re an avid gym goer, here are some first aid tips you may want to keep in mind.
Why is it so important?
Staying fit and healthy is more than just working out.
Even if you’re just a regular customer who frequently visits the gym, you never know when you may need to help someone out. While it is true that gym staff such as personal trainers will have extensive training in first aid such as CPR, this doesn’t instantly mean that you should get the mentality of “if there are people who know, why should I?”. Personal trainers can’t be everywhere at once, and if you see the signs, then you can immediately help out.
So, once you can do it, why not? First aid is something that everyone needs to know, and who knows, you may be at the right place at the right time to immediately give help to the person that needs it.
What are some first aid tips that need to be kept in mind?
It’s true that knowledge of first aid can save thousands of people affected by emergencies. Plus, medical emergencies and accidents can happen to anyone, at any age group, regardless of how in shape they are. Here are some essential first aid tips you’ll want to remember whenever you visit the gym or even if you’re out exercising, such as in a park.
A gym can be dangerous.
While everyone should closely follow the rules of the gym and practice common sense, it’s not always the case. The gym can be dangerous as there are heavy materials, slips can happen, machines can malfunction, and so much more. This doesn’t mean that people should fear the gym. However, gym goers will need to be careful. If you see something that looks dangerous, make sure to inform the staff.
Cardio isn’t always good for your heart.
Cardio exercises such as running, jumping, climbing, or even going on the elliptical can sometimes be fatal. However, this can only be fatal if someone tries to go above and beyond their limits with pre-existing health conditions, and it’s more apparent for someone who is elderly or obese. Just make sure that you don’t push yourself over the limit. And don’t forget to get your annual physical. At a bare minimum, knowing your numbers and basic line of health can help you make better decisions moving forward.
It’s not always a person’s fault when an accident happens
Accidents happen, and some people just don’t know any better, such as form. This doesn’t immediately mean that they deserve the pain that they’re going through. Never chastise anyone for accidents; the gym is indeed a dangerous space from time to time.
It can happen to anyone.
While it’s true that the elderly are more susceptible to getting injuries, even younger folks can get injured too. Overall, anyone has the potential to get injured at a gym and need first aid. It could even happen to you!
Be wary of the heavy lifting.
Weight lifting is a significant love for the average gym goer, right? However, even lifting in the wrong form can cause permanent damage to the body. If you see someone lifting in the wrong form, maybe inform them, so they won’t hurt themselves or let the gym staff know. Staying healthy and fit doesn’t mean being the biggest lifter at the gym or the most flexible yoga person on the mat. It means knowing a balance between your own health and pursuing it.
If you want to get fit and healthy and you are short on time, check out my YouTube Channel: Hope Zvara
by hope | Feb 7, 2020 | Fitness Friday, Working With Hope
Learn Cherry Picking Warm-Up. This video is a part of our Asana Video Library
training materials for both students and teachers where the forgotten art of
simple movements is explored.
The old me, some twenty years ago felt the deep need to both impress others while simultaneously trying to share parts of myself that were wounded and needed healing for nothing more than to be free of the burdens of carrying them around daily.
Roughly ten years ago I was spun out on a journey to better understand how the body moves as I was not getting the teachings nor explanations I was looking for inside the yoga world. Constantly hearing phrases like “That’s normal”, or “It will get better with time“, and my favorite “do what feels right for you“, seemed like scapegoat responses for a lack of real understanding about how the body moves and why students were feeling the things they were.
Now don’t get upset, I’m not summarizing everyone. But in my personal experience, teacher after teacher, training after training, the why’s, and how’s were continually left out of the what’s and when’s as it pertained to teaching yoga and experiencing poses.
The art of teaching warm-ups and looking at a student and seeing where their challenges were, even if they wouldn’t share them, was something I wanted to refine even more. Why do they walk like that? Why does their shoulder hurt and ever seems to get better? How is it they can do this yoga pose, but not that one? And how do I convince students to value basic moves and sequences as that is what they also need and not just the complex poses and fast-paced moves?
More than ten years I spent studying outside the yoga world to better understand how the body moved and why. Stepping back onto the mat I had a fresh new perspective and a deep understanding of the why’s and how’s I was lacking prior. Tailoring my language and eloquently sequencing my classes to work from the ground up helped students navigate their own bodies and I began to see a shift in my students making better choices all on their own as to what they choose to do when it came to asanas.
How did this happen?
I began to connect their every day living to what they were feeling. I gave them the control to choose with real parameters to gauge their progress pose to pose. Warm-up to final asana. Connecting the dots to how and where the could be doing the very things they are learning in their everyday life.
The Cherry Picking Warm-Up and many others became a means to when they walk up from a long sleep or stretch at their desk. And by doing the very warm-ups like Cherry Picking and dozens of others on the mat, it began to give them confidence and permission to do them off the mat. Because truly, what good is yoga if you don’t carry it with you into your everyday life?
Stepping outside the yoga arena and stepped into a whole new beautiful world of functional movement. It excited me in so many new ways. Mainly because, for the very first time in my entire life, I began to understand the body, it’s parts, and how these parts move.
As a yoga teacher and movement specialist, I find it critical to incorporate basic movements no matter how unfancy they are in your classes. The whole idea of a warm-up is to “warm-up” the body for more detailed movements. And having taught tens of thousands of students over the last nearly twenty years I have noticed a common thread of students lacking the basic abilities to do everyday movements.
Benefits of incorporating warm-ups (like Cherry Picking Warm-Up) into your yoga practice:
- Walk with full range movement in their knees and ankles
- Fully reach overhead without pain
- Bend forward without rounding
- Walk with a full hip extension, not just flexion
- Rotate their torso when turning to the side
- Move their neck side to side without pain
- Walk on various surfaces with bare feet pain-free
- Squat, reach or bend freely
Watch the Cherry Picking Video Now HERE
Benefits to Practicing Cherry Picking Warm-Up:
-Melts the fascia in and around the shoulder
-Stretches the side (lateral) body
-Stretches the lower back
-Stretches the obliques and lateral hip
-Gets you breathing
-Expands the lungs
-Is a basic life movement everyone should be able to do
**BONUS** If you haven’t watched the video yet, it will take you through step by step how to work through the pose as a student and a teacher. Take note of the variety of positive cues and direct references so you and your students can get the most out of this pose.
And if you love this video on the Cherry Picking Warm-Up and want more don’t forget to check out the “How To” video on how to do High Lunge safely and effectively!
Love these teachings? Hop over to HopeZvara.com and head on inside the Mindful Movement & Yoga Online Studio
I’ve said it a million times, how you do things, even yoga asana things matters. So let’s start by honoring the need and art of warm-ups and get you reaching high and feeling great in your everyday life!
by hope | Jan 24, 2020 | Core Functional Fitness, Fitness Friday
This video was created because of my yoga former teacher training students,
may you never stop learning.
The Down Dog and Puppy Dog Blog: What You Are Missing
I never really gave much thought to Down Dog. I mean, it was a pose that I could do for the most part. Sure my shoulders were weak, and I felt a bit shaky. Overall, my Dog was down.
Well, at least I thought. I believe there is a part of your brain that stops thinking, opening itself up to learning when we think we got it. That was me in Down Dog.
As my shoulders got stronger to hold the weight of my body, I began to build patterns to get the pose done. Patterns that left me avoiding critical areas that I could most certainly be liberating via The Dog.
A few years after entering into the world of teaching yoga, I soon discovered I was missing some significant aspects of training in the asana department. I mean, I knew the basics. This pose looks like this, so let’s shove your body into that pose. Amen. (insert sarcasm)
An entirely new world opened up to me when I stepped out of the yoga world to learn more about the body. Like really learn about how the body moves, why things happen, why body parts hurt and how to unwind the body with cues and directions beyond “if it hurts don’t do it” and “honor your body.” Which are both beautiful and sound cues, but I wanted to understand? I wanted my students to understand so that they and I could take back ownership over our bodies and start to truly mend injuries and issues that don’t ever seem to go away.
I took training from The Gray’s Institute. From Katy Bowman, Leslee Bender, Anatomy Trains, and got my hands on all I could find from the teachings of Dr. Stewart McGill, to name a few.
I first started to apply these concepts to my practice and saw a remarkable difference — less pain in my shoulders and lower back. The longstanding stability issues in my pelvis began to improve, and for the first time, I truly understood where the core was and how to access it.
There was a time I would walk around the room while teaching and see a student’s shoulders what I now know as “internally rotated.” I’d attempt to grab onto his (or her) upper arms and roll them out. And when they didn’t even move a millimeter, I’d walk away pretending like that was how it was supposed to be. If you are a teacher you can relate. I wanted to help; I saw the issue but didn’t know exactly how to adjust the pose or how to “fix” it. Like why didn’t that work? Why didn’t they move? What was I missing?
A lot of this video is to explain that. One’s shoulders are acting immobile and how to begin to correct this.
The day I was introduced to Puppy Dog in a new way, my entire teachings revolving around Down Dog and shoulder issues changed.
All-day long we sit, we are internally rotated at the shoulder, collapsed in the chest, and limited in mobility between the shoulder and the rib cage. So no wonder when we come to yoga and pop up into Down Dog with little notice and warm-up, we are in my mind (we could be) doing more harm than good.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW VIDEO
It is my observation that Down Dog and Puppy Dog’s focus is NOT the hamstrings as they often take over the pose. Using cues to press their heels down (which is fine and dandy) and walk their Dog as the first cue in the pose. The focus, first and foremost, is the spine and shoulders, hamstrings, and calves.
Downward Dog is us upside down. And we should approach it in such away.
If your hips are tight before a hippie pose, we work them. The same should be valid for the shoulders.
Meet Puppy Dog Pose. Puppy Dog is not a fancy pose and most often looked at as a modification or lesser variation. But do not be fooled, my friend. Puppy Dog will expose everything Down Dog lets you avoid.
Puppy Dog assertively guides your shoulders and arms into their proper position- external rotation. It’s that fantastic stretch across the upper back and gives you back that full range of motion a little bit by little bit that Down Dog has been allowing you to skip over for all these years.
Puppy Dog gives you that broadening, lift, and support we struggle to find in Down Dog. And when our Down Dog’s spine looks like a macaroni noodle releasing the hamstrings and bending the knees is the action step we want to cue. See, when the arms are at full extension, and the legs everything is pulled to its max and the spine gets caught in the middle. You end up with a rounded back, tucked pelvis and shoulder issues waiting to arise. Oh snap! I didn’t even mention proper leg rotation. GAME CHANGER!
As you will find out in this video, by releasing some of the tension and adequately positioning the shoulders, you get an entirely different experience. One that in my mind is wayyyyyy better than the stuff I was experiencing earlier.
Stiffness, not your issue? Watch the video and find out how to build stability by doing Down Facing Dog and Puppy Dog the right way.
But honestly, whether you watch this video or not. The Benefits of Down Dog and Puppy Dog are out of this world amazing!
Benefits of Down Dog and Puppy Dog:
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and mild depression
- Energizes the body
- Stretches the shoulders, hamstrings, calves, arches, and hands
- Strengthens the arms and legs
- Helps reduce the symptoms of menopause
- Helps prevent osteoporosis
- Improves digestion
- Relieves headache, insomnia, back pain, and fatigue
- Therapeutic for high blood pressure, asthma, flat feet, sciatica, sinusitis
- Tones the arms and legs
- Opens the chest
- Tones the arms
- Tones the core
- Releases the spine and back
- Builds strength in hands, wrists, shoulders
Check out Hope’s other blog: 5 Things You Should be Doing to Help Back Pain
Join Hope’s Online Community: Mindful Movement & Yoga Studio
Subscribe to Hope’s YouTube Channel at https://www.youtube.com/hopezvara
by hope | Dec 13, 2019 | Fitness Friday
It’s almost the New Year! Time to get up off that chair and get your booty moving again. No more excuses – it’s time to build a better booty!
You can feel the difference with just one quick move. Your New Year’s resolution to exercise more does not have to include extreme, super-quick jumpy moves or flailing body parts. The key to effective exercise is awareness. In order to cultivate awareness, one has to start to move and feel at the same time.
Are you an active person who loves to play? This is a great move to help improve activities like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and many other activities that require real lower-body stability and strength. This move is both challenging and mindfully controlled; speed will not win here.
Brush up on your pelvic floor and deep-core awareness (pelvic-core). This zone is the key to all exercise and all movement.
To give you a very short tutorial: While working on a deep pelvic floor contraction and deep transversus (our deepest torso/core muscle), imagine you have to go to the bathroom and you’re holding it in. At the same time, coughing. Feel your entire core contract as you stay contracted in the pelvic floor.
Build a Better Booty and Backside
Clamp a mini exercise ball or weighted ball tightly between the calf hamstring on one side.
Keeping a neutral pelvis (front hip bones are parallel with the wall you are facing), slowly hinge into yourself.
Bend the knees slightly to sink down into a Chair Pose on one foot. Use a hand against a wall to keep your balance, if needed. Align the knees to meet, and face the hips and torso to square yourself forward. Try using your hands at the top of your pelvis to see if you are level or not.
Inhale in Chair Pose and as you exhale, contract your pelvic-core, raise the ball leg forward while lifting the opposite arm up. Be mindful when you lift the leg forward to go only as high as you can without collapsing your torso or tucking your tailbone forward.
As you exhale, work to feel the base leg’s gluteus maximus contract as well. It’s important that the pelvic floor contract first and then the glutes, or all you are doing is death-squeezing the gluteus maximus.
Focus on lifting directly upward through the crown of the head. With a lack of gluteus stability and pelvic floor and inner core support, you will notice that you want to lean back.
Inhale and return back to a one-legged Chair Pose, working to bring the legs parallel with each other and work to keep the floating foot flexed.
Continue to move mindfully and slowly. There is no need to speed through this movement. When you do, the core muscles can easily be overlooked.
Try using a mini ball to start: focus on stability first and then increase to a weighted ball of 2 to 8 pounds.
Repeat this series up to 10 times on each side and then go back to the weaker side and revisit it for another possible 10 rounds. Working a 2-to-1 ratio allows the weaker tissues and side to catch up to the more dominant side. You can find more exercises to work these areas as a member of my Mindful Movement Online Studio – only $9.99/month.
Looking for More Pose Breakdowns? Check Out These Articles!
How To Get The Most Out Of Plank Pose
Save Savasana: The Final Pose of Yoga is the Most Important
How to do Pigeon the Right Way
When Dancer Pose Doesn’t Dance: Unlocking the Front Body
4 Quick Effective Yoga Poses To Do While Flying
by hope | Nov 15, 2019 | Fitness Friday
If you are a yogi, then downward-facing dog is probably a staple posture in your practice (you may have never heard of puppy dog).
But as a yoga teacher for over a decade, I have discovered that not all down dogs are created equal. Many people, in all actuality, are simply too restricted in the upper body (shoulder girdle) to safely and properly practice this mighty pose. For those of us who are not so stiff, we are so loosey-goosey that we lack true stability to hold ourselves properly.
Several years ago, I wasin a training with Gary Kraftsow (creator of Viniyoga Therapy). He stated quite bluntly,
If you never do another down dog again in your yoga practice, you will survive just fine.”
He unknowingly stemmed my interest in this mysterious pose, and I soon began my quest to understand more.
Here’s the Quick Scoop.
Most of our daily postures, habits, and routines ask us to round our bodies forward in a kyphotic manner. This leaves many of us locked in a very hunched position. We allow minimal mobility in our scapulae, which essentially allow our actual shoulders to move. Add tight hamstrings and a lack of good core awareness, and you’ve got yourself the hunchback of downward-facing dog.
It is unfortunate that many repeatedly force themselves into this posture. They find any pinhole of flexibility they can grasp and milk it for all its worth. Because that is what they think they should be doing.
So what is a teacher to do?
The answer: Introduce her students to their new best friend — puppy dog. Puppy dog allows students to face the true restriction in their scapulae and surrounding muscles. In puppy dog, students are not able to sag into the underarm or bow outward in the elbows. The deltoids and adjoining muscles are too tight to move otherwise.
As for the hamstrings and rounded lower back… It’s now time to calm the ego and learn that bending your knees is actually a better option for both the hamstrings and lower back muscles. Plus, it will take the stress out of the shoulders (in down dog too).
Here’s How to do it:
- Grab a yoga block and turn it to look like a rectangle on the floor in front of you.
- Position yourself on all fours (hands and knees) in front of the block.
- Frame the block with the palm of your hand on each side of the block, palms facing inward.
- Step back into forearm plank and find pelvic neutral, drawing actively on your pelvic-core (bathroom muscles + deep core muscles). Be mindful not to sag in the belly or push the booty to the sky.
- With a broad upper back and a long neck, press evenly through the forearms from your elbow to the pinky finger.
- Exhale deeply and float the hips up and back as you take a small step in hinging the body into a triangle like position.
- Continue to press evenly through the forearms and inward on the block. Imagine you are ready to kick up into a forearm balance (basically push away from the floor, not to collapse into the upper body).
- If you notice the back very rounded, bend the knees to help gain length in the spine again. Even if the knees are bent, you can still press the heels and get a nice calf stretch.
- Finally, where the body is hinged (the hip fold), deeply contract the belly and pelvic floor muscles. Imagine they are drawing you back toward the wall. Your shoulders should not have to do all the work; utilize your core for that.
- Work five to ten breaths and then release to sit on the heels.
Incorporating puppy dog may take some getting used to, but the long term benefit for your practice, shoulder health, and progression to other poses will be priceless.
Have any questions, or want to learn how to use puppy dog in your practice? Join the Mindful Movement PREMIUM Online Studio for unlimited access to all my yoga classes, PLUS live classes, online community, and my entire Asana Video Library, breaking down poses (Just like this one!)
This post was originally published in Nature’s Pathway Magazine.