It has been Grease week here at the FitzGordon house. I saw the original production on Broadway when I was just a little older than my daughter and then saw the movie repeatedly at the Georgetown movie theater when it first came out. It is simply awesome sharing these things that I love with my kids.
My kids haven’t made an appearance in a video for a while so here they are in their five and eight year old glory. This variation is padangusthasana is a favorite of mine to teach. The first stage is hard enough but the wrinkle of using no help from the hand of the standing leg makes it even more difficult. This pose works gluteus medius and the tensor fasciae latae of the outer hip.
- Separate the feet three or four inches apart and bow forward.
- Grasp the big toes with the first two fingers of the same hand.
- Place the left thumb on the floor in front of the left big toe and put the right thumb onto the right big toe.
- Lift your right leg sideways and up off of the floor about a foot. Don’t let the leg move backwards at all.
- Once the leg is lifted sideways, internally rotate the right leg.
- Do both sides.
Padangusthasana Variation Part 2
- Separate the feet three or four inches apart and bow forward.
- Grasp the big toes with the first two fingers of the same hand.
- In this variation place both thumbs on the toes.
- Try to take the right leg out to the side and internally rotate the leg.
- Do your best not to use the fingers of the left hand. It is easy to put the left thumb on the big toe and simply use the first to fingers to ground the balance. Try lifting the two fingers and toe of the standing leg off of the floor as you take the lifting leg out to the side.
This pose works for me on a number of levels—the forward bend, the standing balance, the work in gluteus medius and the tensor fasciae latae. Lots of good stuff going on.
Improving posture and changing the way you walk isn’t that hard if you have some simple images to work with. Changing habits is little more than repetition.
Perform a different pattern often enough and it becomes habit. When developing our initial movement patterns as babies there is not a great distinction made between good patterns and bad patterns—we simply imitate what is before us— and as a result many of us develop bad habits.
Our patterns and habits often change in the course of life due to many different factors(injury, illness, work), but not often for the better.
Improving posture is really nothing more than incorporating and fostering some new complimentary patterns that will become healthy habits.
Here is an easy tip for Improving Posture:
Clothing is designed to fit and hang in a certain fashion. If your pants or shirt has a side seam the odds are that it was meant to hang perpendicular to the floor. When it comes to improving posture it doesn’t much simpler than this— if the seam of your pants is at a right angle to the floor your posture has likely improved.
Look at the way you stand from the side and the odds are that the seams of your pants veer up and forward from the ankle to the pelvis .I particularly love the picture on the left. Hyperextended knee and thighs thrust forward. The measuring tape tells the story.
Get your thighs back and line up the seam of your pants perpendicular to the floor and you can be on your way towards improving your posture.
It can’t hurt to put a blanket under the front of your knee when asking it to support the weight of the body. The patella, or kneecap, a small bone at the front of the knee joint, protects the knee to a degree but you don’t need to put the body on top of it during your yoga practice.
The patella is the largest of the sesamoid bones—roundish bones embedded within tendons. They are usually found in the hand, knee and foot where a tendon passes over a joint. The patella is embedded in the tendon of the quadriceps muscle which functions mostly as an extensor of the knee. The patella aids in the execution of this action because it increases the leverage that the quadriceps can exert on the femur, or thigh, bone.
The patella articulates with the femur, which has a groove that the kneecap slides within. The ends of the femur and the underside of the patella are covered with cartilage that helps the bones glide smoothly over each other.
There are no hard fast rules about putting blankets under the knee. I didn’t do it for the first ten years that I practiced, even with knee problems.
But there are plenty of students I see working on hands and knees, or doing lunges with tight hips and hamstrings, not to mention cores that could use a little help. I think these folks would all be well served by practicing with a blanket under the knees.
There are numerous options when it comes time to strengthen gluteus medius (with more coming in the next couple of days). One of the problems with all of the options is that it is easy to perform the exercises incorrectly because muscles other than gluteus medius are often recruited to fulfill a request from the brain to complete an action.
The brain issues a directive transmitted by the nervous system and carried out by the muscles as they move the bones. The problem with this is the brain doesn’t always control which muscle carries out the mission. The strongest or most dominant muscle in an area will usually take up the challenge which is a breeding ground for imbalance.
When it comes to gluteus medius and stabilizing the pelvis in the poses above (my son Reggie’s directorial debut. He clearly likes a tight frame), if gluteus medius works correctly there will be no movement in the hips when the leg moves. This is an essential action I am trying to teach in so many different parts of the body. The hip should only move with the leg if and when we want it to and the same thing goes for the shoulder and arm.
Strengthen Gluteus Medius
- Lie on your back with the knees bent and the feet flat to the floor.
- Lift your hips gently into bridge pose maintaining a small arch in you lower back.
- Without shifting the pelvis or taking one hip higher than the other, lift one knee into your chest and then if you can straighten the leg up towards the ceiling. The pelvis shouldn’t move.
- Do both side and then return to bridge for the second stage of the pose.
- In the second stage of the exercise extend the lower leg out keeping the thighs level as you go.
I am reading the Kieth Richards autobiography which is a hoot. It is a breezy read full of animus towards Mick Jagger that comes out over and over again.
The Rolling Stones between 1968 & 1972 might be the best sustained period in Rock n Roll music. Beggars Banquest, Let It Bleed, Sticky FIngers and Exile on Mainstreet–it doesn’t get much better than that.
The Video is from a live show in 1971.
Here is the Weekend Mashup for March 1st: Articles from the past week that didn’t warrant a post of their own.
Let’s start with some killer moves.
And continue with some silly Fun. Reactions from a Haunted House
I love RIchard Freeman. Yoga Ruins Your Life
Elliot Krane on the Mystery of Chronic Pain
Some interesting charts about food. What’s Wrong With The Modern Diet?
Doctors change their minds. Eating Fat Is Good For You
Karl Baden photgraphed himself every day for 23 years. Enjoy.
The gluteus medius muscle has a number of different functions. It acts as an abductor of the hip which means it helps to pull the leg away from the body. Also when the hip is flexed it works as an external rotator. As I wrote a couple weeks ago many antomy books also ascribe internal rotation to its anterior or front portion.
The gluteus medius has another essential function which is to stabilize the pelvis when we are walking and running. It is called upon to stabilize the pelvis when the pelvis is in a neutral position and we are on one leg. Gluteus medius weakness hampers successful walking patterns.
The picture below is an excellent graphic showing how weakness in the right gluteus medius will cause the left hip to lower when standing on the opposite leg.
In teaching yoga I have spent years watching the effects of a weak gluteus medius during standing balances such as Tree Pose. Some students do tree and their pelvis remains level through both sides of the pose, but for many students standing on one leg causes the opposite hip to fly up high in the air.
Today’s exercises take me back to the first days of physical therapy that I underwent when I was recovering from a number of knee surgeries. I am going to post a series of gluteus medius exercises over the next week but I wanted to start with the basics.
Strengthen Gluteus Medius Weakness: The Clamshell
- Lie on your side.
- Bend the legs to approximately 90 degrees making sure one knee is lying directly above the other.
- Your heels should be lined up with your back.
- Lift the top knee leg upwards while keeping your feet connected.
- Return the leg to the starting position.
- Do a set of ten on each side.
Strengthen Gluteus Medius Weakness Side-Lying Leg Raise
- Lie on your right side with your left leg straight and your right leg bent slightly forward with your right heel in line with the back of the pelvis.
- You can have your head on a pillow or use the right hand under your head for support. Your left hand can rest upon your upper hip.
- Your hips and shoulders should be stacked directly on top of one another with the head aligned with the spine.
- Raise the left leg off of the right leg. Keep the leg straight and the foot flexed. THe lifting leg is the only thing that should move. Do not shift the pelvis or shoulders.
- The leg should raise straight up, no higher than 45 degrees, with no external rotation.
What to do with your big butt muscle, gluteus maximus, during the yoga practice is a source of endless confusion for students and teachers alike. While I am big on saying relax your butt it isn’t really relaxing—it is an issue of whether it is working correctly or not.
When I teach people posture I say that the gluteus maximus should be completely relaxed when we are standing as it has no role to play when we are up on two feet. But in yoga class it has something to do in almost every pose—I just think it is often doing to wrong something.
Using bridge pose as a guide to know what the gluteus maximus should be doing in backbends can be very helpful. One of my essential instructions is that there should never be any thrust in a backbend. If you are using thrust to get into bridge, or wheel, or any variation thereof, you are most likely using the gluteus maximus incorrectly.
The gluteus maximus, like the hamstring, is an extensor muscle that runs down the leg. The gluteus maximus is one of the muscles that brought us up to standing from all fours. The downward pull of this big butt muscles brought the pelvis to it neutral upright position and allowed the spine to come to vertical.
Most people come to bridge by tucking the pelvis under and lifted the hips up. This tends to make gluteus maximus grip up towards the belly rather than extend down the leg. I often teach bridge with a block between the thighs and instruct that the feet should stay still and grounded and the inner thighs should remain connected to the block which wants to move down towards the floor rather than up towards the ceiling.
The fairly standard (incorrect) use of the butt in bridge forces the hips up by gripping gluteus maximus which takes us to the outside of the feet and pulls the inner thighs away from the block. When the gluteus maximus is doing its thing correctly in this pose, the feet don’t move and the inner thighs stay connected to the block.
If you want to feel what the gluteus maximus should do in bridge come into the pose and isometrically (which means that the feet won’t move) drag the feet energetically towards the hips. You should feel both the gluteus maximus and the hamstring extending in the direction of the feet.
Don’t worry too much about right and wrong but do the pose repeatedly to see what your habits are as you move into bridge. Get to know how you use these all important muscles and you might find that you need to change your approach a little bit.
It seems like forever since I was here last, meditating on the vestibular system and how it effects balance. How it interacts with vision, blablabla. Since then I got pneumonia and spent almost a week in the hospital, during which (of course) the medical staff found something else wrong with me. The something-else-wrong is definitely a bummer, but not as bad as the other thing they thought might be wrong with me when I was admitted into the hospital. Well, here I am (at home!!!! oh, so glad to be back home!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), dragging around a wearable defibrillator I call Henry and wondering how happy-as-a-clam Sharon got from January to waning February in such a dramatic fashion.
Symbolic of how this last month has been going: just after I was rescued from MedLand and was able to sink into the wonderful comfort of my own bed my birthday happened (Valentine’s Day: somehow that also seems symbolic to me, though I’m not sure why). My wonderful husband Stephen ordered my favorite chocolates, truffles, from Li-Lac, along with a few things he likes. The box arrived in time, but minus my truffles. Can this be anything but a sign, or at least an indicator.
But I digress. Here I am, with my hands on my ribcage feeling my heart, in its familiar rhythm, under the defib vest. ¿Qué pasa? I can only hope this too shall pass (and it probably will) and I’ll be back in yoga class someday (Henry makes that impossible right now — he doesn’t exactly work out as a prop!), trying to distinguish my right from my left. Just like always. (I’ve already figured out how to sneak in handstands: while Henry takes his shower break I run to my mat and do some quick ones — life is good.
At least the hospital gave me plenty of time to lie around in one psoas release or another, and even some supported backbends.