Chest Unlocking

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, some talk about the heart. As kids we express our emotions much more freely with less of a filter, then we typically do as adults. As a child, If we were excited to see someone, we would just run and jump into their arms. If we were upset, anyone within earshot would hear it. As adults we are taught to control our emotions, which is important to avoid flying off the handle, and function in society. However, this restraint can sometimes be over compensated, and then we have difficulty expressing how we truly feel.

happy pup2Our 7 month old puppy, Wiley, actually reminds me of this restraint as he patiently tries to become friends with our 10 year old cat, Azul. Azul will actually sit next to Wiley if he is calm. It takes so much self control for that little guy not to leap, lick and nudge Azul. Wiley has learned in the past Azul just runs away if he pounces. So now they sit close together with Wiley’s tail going 90 beats per minute wanting so much to play with Azul, and Azul just sitting there contently. It seems they have reached a compromise for now, but not long enough to be photographed yet.


As adults we do the same restraining with our emotions and excitement, holding in our fears and worries. Our chest tightens, shoulders slump forward and our breathing becomes more shallow and sometimes we are so unaware of this change. And, unfortunately overtime this position becomes normal and accepted. This is all exacerbated by our sitting postures of driving and computer work.

One way to reverse all this, and release the pent up emotions is with a simple chest opening sequence. Disclaimer, Yoga has so many benefits but practice at your own risk. Be gentle, if it is painful stop. If you have any questions contact me.

supta baddha konasanaStart to slow the mind, and allow gravity and props to gently open the chest, deepen the breath and relax tension in the muscles with Supta Baddha Konasana. Fold a blanket long ways and align it so when you lie down your spine will fall in the middle. supta buddha setp up Make a long loop with a strap and lasso yourself placing the back of the loop around your Sacrum (the flat part of your low back). Then place the other end of the loop around your feet. Sit in front of the folded blanket, gently tuck your sacrum (to avoid over arching) as you lie back. Slide the shoulder blades down your back to open the chest, make sure you neck is comfortable and then allow gravity to do the rest.

cobraCobra is a great way to strengthen the muscles along the spine, as well as warm up and begin to open the chest. The danger here is pushing to hard through the hands, and aggressively lifting too high before you are ready. A good way to prevent this is to focus on the legs, try to glue all 10 toe nails into the round as well as lift up on the knee caps igniting the front of the thigh.

clasped hands stretchStanding with your hands clasped behind your back is a great way to open the chest. If you have a tight chest or shoulders clasp your hands around a strap, shirt or belt instead. Begin in Tadasana, or Mountain pose keeping the legs active, draw the tail bone subtly towards the ground maintaining the normal curve of the low back. Then from there clasp your hands on your low back maintaining the above, extend your arms, drawing the shoulder blades down your back. Avoid letting the front of your arm bone come forward, or extending too far and arching through your low back.

puppy bridge

Bridge pose does so much. A strap can help prevent the knees from coming to wide. Again avoid over arching, instead create more space in the spine by drawing your tailbone towards your heels slightly. Avoid over gripping.

wide leg forward bend with strapThese 2 Wide Leg Forward Folds are a progression to the standing clasped hands. The important thing is to maintain the same foundation as standing clasped hands but with wide legs. It is important to bend through the hips and not through the low back, as well as keep the thighs engaged. Same as before a strap or shirt is always an option.

wall wide leg forward foldkauai down dogDownward Dog is always a great strengthener and if you avoid clasping through the shoulder joint it is a great way to subtly open the chest as well as the back of the legs. One variation to focus a little more on chest and shoulders and ease out the hamstrings is to lift the heels while sill keeping the front of the thigh active.

wiley childs pose

 Wind things down with a supported Child’s Pose. Place your forehead on a bolster, blanket or block. Here I am using the same fold as the first pose in the sequence. Have your knees wide enough for your ribs to graze them as you come forward onto your prop. Inhale lift the head, create length in the spine. Exhale draw your hips toward your heels. If you have tight quadriceps or hips then you may want to place a bolster or blanket on your calves to elevate the hips.

Start Now with Gaiam TV

Why wait for the New Year to start your “resolutions”? I understand this is a busy and chaotic time of year. I’m going to put a friendly, little bug in your ear, reminding you it is better to get started now.

Why? When I rush around, and do not take care of myself as I should, I end up making poor decisions. For example, poor food choices lead me to feel sluggish, heavy and anxious, putting my health at risk. Or, I end up making impulse gift purchases, which will not serve those I care about the way I would truly desire.

This then leads to a cycle of stress, sleepless nights, difficulty taking care of myself, and generally feeling overwhelmed.

How about a positive change instead? Let’s end 2012 on a good note, and start 2013 on an even better one.

How? Use the resources and tools available to us.

Gaiam TV just launched their online streaming site. I love their well rounded mix of holistic content. Depending on what mood I’m in, I can practice energizing Yoga, challenging Pilates, motivational speakers and videos, and learn even more about nutrition and food.

Check out there inspirational site. Right now they are offering a 10 day free trial.

Learn how to open your heart with Kathryn Budig’s Aim True video.

If you want to take your flexibility to the next level, and keep your hamstrings and hipflexors in balance then practice your splits safely. You can also enter into strengthening arm balance poses with a Rodney Lee and Colleen Saidman video. These definitely keep me motivated as I continue to progress….

Let’s change our days and evenings by watching TV the active way. If you need more inspiration go to their site, or if you have Twitter or Instagram view their #activeandwell hashtag for more pictures, and follow me on twitter or Instagram.

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own.

Yoga A Day

For 31 days I have been posting pictures of Asanas on Instagram (Berryhappybodies) and FB with Grow Soul Beautiful’s Yoga A Day Challenge, and yesterday it came to an end. I’m so glad I participated in all 31 days of this challenge.

I have learned some cool concepts as a bonus to participating over the past month. I have proven to myself I can finish what I start. Sometimes this is a difficult concept for me. As well as, I learned to appreciate my body. I had a fear, of posting pictures. Maybe, I’m too overly critical, but I always focused on what could be improved in my body or the pose, instead of appreciating the beauty in the whole picture. This challenge helped me to successfully emerge from my Yoga Picture Closet.

For a good percentage of the shots, a timer was used. However, most of the beach shots where taken by my husband. Who knew we could work as a Photographer/Yogi team? That was some fun bonding time ;). Thank you Sean!!

Not to mention all the talented and Inspirational Yogis I have met. It truly was a lot of fun. And, I’m continuing to learn and evolve Physical Therapy, Massage and Yoga. Awesome combinations!!

Here are some of the top liked pictures from the challenge:

Modified Bridge Pose

One Leg Bridge Pose

Chair Pose

Full Wheel

Forward Fold


What is your favorite?

When to Push and When to Let Go

There are days, distances, asanas, stretches, workouts that you need to push though your mental barriers. And, there are days when you need to respect your limits and let go. Sometimes all this goes without saying, but sometimes we need friendly nudges.

When to push:
1. Uncomfortable stretch.
2. Muscle burn.
3. Muscle shaking.
4. Just tired and unmotivated.
5. Nervous about trying a new sport. Just go slow.

When to let go:
1. Pain. Done deal.
2. Extreme fatigue or soreness for many days in a row.
3. Any unease at a new skill, especially if you are skipping progression.
4. End of a workout or practice and you are mentally and physically exhausted. Take it from me. Leave it, come back another day.
5. Shortness of breath, chest pain, dizziness.

Listen to your body, let it tell you what you are capable at any moment.  By doing so you lower your risk of injury, and increase your ability to progress quicker in the long run.

What happens after a Lumbar Fusion?

There are many factors which can lead to requiring a Lumbar Fusion. In most cases Conservative Care, like Physical Therapy, is tried before surgical intervention. Some cases that can lead to Lumbar fusion are: spinal instability, continuous nerve injury, failed lami, disectomy, as well as the inability to manage severe pain.

After deciding surgery is required the next step is to decide with the surgeon on the type of surgery. The surgeon can reach the spine through either a posterior (through the back) or anterior approach. If you know the surgeon specializes in one technique, this is usually the way to go. Commonly, part of the Illiac (hip) bone is grafted for use on the spinal vertebrae to help with solidification of the components. Typically, patients complain the area of the hip is more sore than their back following surgery.

Hospital stay following the surgery can be 3- 7 days, or more, if there are complications. PT in the hospital includes learning to transfer in the bed, and rolling out of the bed in a safe manner in order to avoid disrupting the fusion. Next is sitting, and standing and then walking to a chair and around the hospital floor safely. As you heal, walks around the hospital with the therapist, will progress in length, as you can tolerate them. Before you leave the hospital you will also learn how to dress safely, take off and put on the spinal brace, and proper mechanics to move about your house when you are discharged.

After being discharged, you will not be able to drive, sit for long periods, bend, lift or twist. Remember avoid BLT. 6-10 weeks following surgery is Phase II. At this point, you should still be avoiding, BLT, and no lifting more than 10lbs.

Commonly, Physical Therapy begins 6 weeks to 3 months following surgery. PT is important to learn spinal stabilizing exercises. In both the anterior and posterior approach the spinal stabilizing muscles are retracted to gain access to the spine. It is important to strengthen these muscles for functional activities. The research is controversial on this topic but, the fusion can place additional wear and tear on the vertebrae above and below. One way to avoid that excessive movement is to perform proper mechanics and keep your spinal stabilizing muscles strong.

In phase II your walking and activity tolerance will continue to build. At PT you will continue to strengthen and lengthen any muscles that were restricted, as well as monitor you body mechanics. During this time  if you had pain down your leg it should be continuing to heal.

During phase III (12-18 weeks) you will continue increasing your activities, movement and strength. However, you will still need to avoid flexion (bending forward) and twisting.

Again, it is best to avoid this surgery in the first place because it is a long rehabilitation, and can place extra stress on the vertebrae above and below. However, if you do require surgery physical therapy can help you return back to work and your life.