Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fit Tip: Why you Need a Healthy Pelvic Floor for a Strong Core

Your pelvic floor muscles are your deepest pelvic stabilizing muscles. They are also the base of support for your entire core and therefore require a lot of strength for optimum health. Oftentimes women aren’t aware how to engage these muscles until they are taught when they’re pregnant and many men will never know. The support these muscles provide can do tremendous things for core strength, back health and making sure you don’t wet yourself when you laugh or cough. Now that’s important!

Here’s how to determine your own pelvic floor health and how to build strength of those muscles.

1. Lie on you back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Determine your neutral pelvis by rocking it back and forth and trying to stop in the middle place of ease. Your low back will be off the floor and the two bony points at the front of your pelvis (“hip bones”) should be in the same vertical plane as your pubic bone - imagine placing a dinner plate atop the front of your pelvis, it should lay completely flat. You also should ideally be able to completely release your hip flexors.
3. Lay your arms by your side and close your eyes. Deeply and internally (your pelvis will not move) focus on the following:
 drawing your pelvic bone to your tailbone
- drawing your sitz bones narrower or towards each other
- lifting up your perineum which is like a balloon lifting up towards your diaphragm 
4. Hold this for a few counts and then completely release. 

You also can think of this like an elevator, engaging (1) to lift to first floor, next layer (2) takes you to second floor, third layer (3) all the way up to fifth. The ability to engage and then completely release determines your pelvic floor health. You can think of your first effort as a snapshot of your pelvic floor health and determine for yourself if you need more strengthening because it was difficult to engage or if you need more release because that was the difficult part. You want to be able to achieve both equally.

To greater determine your strength, find the engagement of the muscles again and then try to hover your right foot an inch off the floor. Hold for a few counts, set foot down and completely release your pelvic floor. Reengage and try again with the left foot, completely release. Engage again and try to hover both feet off of the floor. This will probably be very challenging but eventually you want to have the deep pelvic floor muscles so strong that when you engage them in neutral spine you can add the weight of the legs and no movement will happen in the pelvis.

Wishing you deep engagement.

-- Jill

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

#happyfit Round Up

In the past few weeks, you have learned what it means to me to be #happyfit so this week, we bring you what it means to be #happyfit to our studio owners and students. Here is a round up of some pics posted on Facebook and Instagram!

Have a #happyfit week and don’t forget to share your pictures with us by using the hashtag!

-- Jill

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Word of the Month: #Happy

In honor of April and our word of the month, here are some things that make me #happy

10 things about life that make me #happy:

  1. Monday nights when Nico (my 12 year old daughter) makes dinner
  2. The peonies that just bloomed in my yard  #favoriteflower
  3. A cappucino
  4. That my children don’t have lice anymore
  5. All the new babies in my community – I get to see one every day!
  6. Spotify- crazy #happy
  7. Hiking with Toney (our 14 month old puppy)
  8. Good Earth market and Rustic Bakery (my two favorite places for food)
  9. A glass of wine (or a little tequila) at the end of a long day
  10.  Fresh flowers on the table

11 things about my TDM practice that make me #happy (because when writing I couldn't stop being happy)!

  1. The three minutes at the end where I can soften, breathe and be still
  2. Standing single leg lifts – I love how one exercise works to strengthen my seat, knees and spine while toning my quadriceps
  3. Kneeling seat work - my favorite of them all!
  4. The new green balls - I love how they improve my alignment while challenging my inner thigh muscles
  5. Neutral spine plank with mudslides - a combination of spinal alignment education and a core stability challenge #efficiency
  6. Spinal extension exercises – because we all need better back body strength
  7. That TDM is always a “practice” so it’s new and different with every class I take
  8. Helping students and teachers with shoulder stabilization and alignment - a practice that so many people need to feel good in their bodies
  9. The joy and passion that Dailey Method teachers have about their job
  10.  The interval class - especially when it’s over J
  11.  That I get to teach and take what I love to do almost everyday

What makes you #happy?

-- Jill

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Find Your Version of Happy and Fit #happyfit

We are inundated with messages about body image, and unfortunately most of them are not very positive. This time of year, magazine covers tell us to “get ready for bikini season” with images of bodies that have been airbrushed, cut, cropped, and distorted - images that are not real. And images that usually don’t make us feel very good about ourselves. These are intentionally focused on flaw-finding (hoping we’ll buy something to make us feel better) vs. truth-telling. TRUTH: the only way to feel happy is to practice inside-out.

So we were thrilled to hear that a survey, commissioned by The Dailey Method, revealed that 60 percent of women say improved mental well-being and stress reduction is a key fitness motivator compared to 20 percent who pursue a bikini-ready body. Additional key motivators for women include the need for increased energy (38 percent) and improved self-confidence (38 percent).

I could not be happier to hear that a large majority care more about how they feel on the inside than how they look on the outside… and I am grateful to have a community of women (and men) who are practicing together - developing and celebrating authentic understanding of what being healthy, happy and fit actually is. Notice I said "practicing" because developing healthy esteem and body image is not easy. It really all boils down to working on finding that inner happiness, no matter how you look in a bikini, or a speedo!

As a parent, it’s important for me to remember that my children are watching me and learning from me. They will notice what I eat and if I have a healthy enjoyment of food; they will notice how I talk about myself and my body; they will notice how I use practices like The Dailey Method to move, breathe and feel good; and they will learn from me that any activity can be a "moving meditation" - as long as you are focusing on what you are doing as you are doing it! They will notice how I take care of myself, my energy and how it feels to be around when I am calm, centered and content. This is what I want for my own kids, so I KNOW I have to practice it first.  

My "call to action" for all of us this spring is this: may we use our fitness routine as a way to find self-love and radiance within! Choose thoughts that build you up. Look in the mirror every day and notice something beautiful. Feel gratitude for your body and the ways it supports you in this life. Feel grateful for each breath. Give yourself more grace - nobody is perfect and perfect is BORING. Expand your comfort zone. Embrace what makes you different because that is what makes you beautiful. Be you! And most of all - be happy :).
This month please post pictures of YOU feeling healthy, happy and fit! Don't forget to use the hashtag #happyfit! Let's put some positive messages out there and share the love.  

In gratitude,

-- Jill

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fit Tip: Why we Work in Neutral Spine

Neutral is the most optimal position for our spine. In neutral spine alignment we maintain all 4 natural curvatures of the spine and allow for the greatest range of motion and capacity to absorb impact. Neutral spine creates balanced space between each vertebra so that discs are in their most stable position.

Years of bad posture and learned habits have taken most people out of their ideal alignment. I believe NS is an incredibly important part of our health; therefore, there is a strong emphasis throughout all Dailey Method classes to help people find and maintain their own optimal expression of a neutral spine.   

My teacher Maritza calls the spine 'your queen'. I love that! If you truly take care of your spine and it’s alignment, oftentimes everything else falls into line on it’s own accord. It takes much more muscular energy to hold your body out of alignment.

People often think about “neutral” pertaining mostly to the lumbar spine curves but it’s really important for shoulder and neck health that we maintain and stabilize the curves in our thoracic and cervical spines too. 

Here are two great ways to work on optimizing your own NS positioning. It’s great to do them in profile in a mirror so that you can see the 4 distinct curves (sacrum, lumber, thoracic and cervical).  Plumb line is what you’re striving for - ears, shoulders, rib cage and hips all in the same plane.

Seated Neutral Spine: Sit on the ground with your legs in front of you and knees bent slightly.  If you have tight hamstrings you may need to sit up on a blanket or folded mat.

Widen your sitz bones (or internally rotate your thigh bones in the socket) to help give you the greatest base of support and enable you to find curvature in your lumbar spine. With your hands behind your hamstrings lift up out of your hips and try to reach the crown of your head to the ceiling. Draw your shoulder blades wide on your back and ears drawn back over your shoulders. We call this position a “meditation on alignment”. 

Close your eyes and with each inhalation try to foundation sitz bones into the earth and in opposition try to touch the crown of your head to the ceiling. Envision space being created between each vertebra. With each exhalation hug muscle to bone inward and upward to support your new lengthened alignment. Hold this for 8 breaths.

Neutral Spine Plank: Start in a position on your hands and knees with hands and arms in a plank position and your knees bent directly underneath your hips. Roll through cat and cow a couple times and then let you body settle in the middle. It should be a position of ease. Curl your toes under, engage your abdominals upward and inward to support your spine positioning and lift your knees up off the ground bringing hips up to shoulder height. The back of your head should be energized towards the ceiling and your shoulder blades wide on your back. 

Focus on breathing in length from your tailbone to the crown of your head and then hug your abdominal wall up to stabilize the length. Hold this for 30 seconds, reset and then hold again for 30 seconds.

Best wishes in finding neutral for 'your queen'!

-- Jill