Thanks to everyone for using and recommending my new Core Strength for Real People video series! I’ve been so grateful for the positive feedback. One of my running buddies asked, “How should I use the videos? I’m so type A, I wanted to do them all!”
Don’t! You’re a real person! Less is more!
These are designed for you to follow along several times a week. The core routines can be standalone practices, or you can add them on to a cardio or weights workout. Here are some ideas for ways to use them:
Choose a Favorite and Perfect It
Choose a video—you can rent, buy, or subscribe—and make a point of doing it three or four times a week on nonconsecutive days. By the end of the second week, you should see good progress, since your brain and nervous system will understand the cues and actions required. By the end of the second month, your muscles will be stronger, too!
Try Them All
Or try one of the sequences, then two days later, another. The longer practices are well balanced, but switching them up will vary the challenge on your core muscles, and keep you very interested. More longer practices are in the can, and I’ll post one a month. (Sign up for my newsletter or subscribe to the series to be the first to know! When you subscribe, you’ll automatically get access to all new content.)
Mix and Match
Combine a longer practice with a short one to create a new challenge. Or try two longer ones back to back once a week. Use the videos as they suit you best, and rest when you need to. You’re a real person!
Get started today.
I’m really bursting with excitement about this one: introducing my new video series, Core Strength for Real People! This will be an ongoing series with new content appearing regularly. To get you started, there are four doable routines and three mini-practices waiting for you. Each is ready to meet you where you are—all you need is a soft surface, a real person’s body, and a sense of humor.
The videos play not only on your computer, tablet, or phone, but also on Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. You can choose a 48-hour rental ($1.99) if you want low commitment. If you adore a certain video and want to take it with you offline, you can buy any one for only $3.99. And if you want access to everything, including the upcoming videos, you can subscribe for $9.99 a month. That’s less than the price of a single yoga or Pilates class at Carrboro or Durham Yoga Companies—though I hope you’ll still come see me there.
When you sign up for a subscription from this page between now and May 31, you’ll get the first month for only $5! Click here to get started.
Here’s a piece I wrote for Yoga for Aging Athletes in reply to the Buzzfeed hunchback incident.
Let’s talk about the hunch! It’s been on my mind both over time—I have a prominently rounded, or kyphotic upper back, and have since childhood (one doctor called it “front to back scoliosis,” not what you want to hear as a teenaged girl)—and recently, as a picture of me in a yoga pose with the label HUNCHBACK caught my attention over the weekend. (Don’t worry: it was followed by a picture of me in an extension pose labeled BEGONE!; you can read the full story, and get a yoga philosophy takeaway, on my blog.)
While a round in your upper back is a normal position of your spine, it can grow more pronounced with age. This hunch is compounded by time spent with your hands on a keyboard, bike handlebars, or tennis racquet. If it’s left to progress, it can create stress in the upper back and neck and, even worse, affect your breathing.
In this and the next few posts, I’ll offer a three-part approach to warding off the hunch. Happily, the first step is to stretch your chest, and this is a relaxing thing to do.
In this video, I show how you can set up for a passive backbend using yoga props or materials you have around the house (a blanket and a book). Drape your spine against this support, close your eyes, and breathe—the first step toward unhunching is that easy! Enjoy it most days for about five minutes. It makes a nice prelude to bed, or a break in a busy day.
Join me in Carrboro (central North Carolina) June 27–July 1, as we explore the philosophy, physiology, psychology, and pedagogy of yoga for athletes. This is my signature offering, helping movement teachers, coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, and eager students learn how to bring better balance to an athletic body through yoga.
My favorite part of teaching this five-day intensive, which I also offer online and will lead at the Kripalu Center for Yoga in Health in western Massachusetts January 22–27, 2017, and at the 1440 Multiversity soon to open in Santa Cruz, California, June 18–23, 2017, is connecting with so many colleagues in one place. The group work and discussions we have benefit everyone—it’s like spending a week chatting with friends in the teachers’ lounge. The early bird discount runs through June 1. I hope to see you there!
When I woke up Sunday and glanced at the iPad, I saw that my colleague Sara sent me a link to the Buzzfeed article “27 Things That Are Too Real for People with Terrible Posture,” telling me to check out number 20 on the list. I scrolled down to see a picture of myself in cat pose, labeled HUNCHBACK. (Never mind that the source is to an aggregator site that lifted the original piece, “12-Minute Core Strength Sequence for Real People,” ran it through a garbling thesaurus, and posted it without credit or links.)
There it is, I thought. The Internet has a way of finding your deepest insecurities—for me, having poor posture feels hypocritical, which I wrote about in my Active Yogi blog years ago—and exploiting them. In terms of public humiliation, this is a pretty low-key shaming. Cat pose is supposed to bring the spine, including the upper back (hunchback!) into deep flexion. My name didn’t appear own the image; no one (except Sara) was really going to find it unless I showed it to them. I took the iPad to show my family, and texted the link to my daughters.
The girls chuckled and pointed out what I hadn’t seen on the iPad—the image was a GIF. It didn’t exist solely of HUNCHBACK. There was a second picture looped with the first—its complementary extension into cow pose. Put together, they read, HUNCHBACK BEGONE! (Set aside that I’m still not sure I’m a good model in cow pose—the hunchback isn’t quite gone.)
The Yoga Sutras tell us that all suffering comes from wrong-seeing, avidya. I was looking at only part of the picture. The next time you feel Internet-shamed, or frustrated, or hurt, consider: what is going on beyond what I can see?
Got a stage race in your future, or a distance relay? Coach Ian Torrence has some useful advice for you at iRunFar.com. I made some suggestions of three restorative yoga poses to help you unwind, unclench, and prepare for bed. Read them here.
For more on recovery, see The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery.
For a follow-along restorative yoga practice, stream or download my “Yoga for Athletes Teachers’ Lounge: Gentle and Restorative” class at YogaVibes.
If I were to make a word cloud of the language I use while teaching, some of the bigger words would be or, maybe, might, could, can, and try. I’d been thinking this was a weakness—offering students too many choices, suggesting a passivity that stands in contrast to the clear action of short, simple commands (“Inhale, lift your arms; exhale, lower them.”)
Then I met Anneke Lucas, founder of Liberation Prison Yoga. We chatted at the Liberation Prison Yoga booth at the Yoga Journal LIVE! conference in New York during the lulls in my book signing. Describing the teacher trainings LPY leads, Anneke said the teachers work carefully to avoid direct commands. Instead, the teachers use conditional language or the first person—”You might like to lift your arms,” “I lift my arms”—so that inmates can claim some agency over their practice.
This was so inspiring! And while I am certainly not drawing a parallel between prison guards and coaches, I do think the idea of conditional language giving the agency back to the practitioner is germane to my population of athletes doing yoga. Instead of receiving commands that you must follow, on the yoga mat you get to have a sense of self-efficacy, and to make choices that suit you moment to moment.
A dozen years ago, I had a teacher who said, “Everything I say is optional, just like being here is optional.” What a beautiful lesson it is that even when being somewhere is not optional, how you meet the moment is up to you.
Read more about Liberation Prison Yoga’s work here.
It was a treat to connect with the sweet students at Yoga Journal LIVE! in New York last weekend. I taught three sessions and, as promised, am writing up a postview with practice notes. (This is my preferred method, as it lets me teach to the students who are there, versus rigidly following a handout.) When page numbers are noted below, they refer to my latest book, Everyday Yoga. If you’d like to know more about my approach to teaching yoga to athletes and everyone, and the way I sequence workshops and classes, visit Sage Yoga Teacher Training, where you’ll find online courses to help you design balanced, innovative yoga practices for yourself and your students. Or come to my North Carolina yoga studios—we offer a wide range of yoga teacher trainings at the 200- and 500-hour levels, as well as continuing education. Read more here.
Core Strength for Real People
We used a few concepts as we moved through short core routines that appear in Everyday Yoga.
- Think of the core as a container: front (abs), back (back), top (diaphragm), and bottom (pelvic floor)
- Think in terms of cardinal directions—north, south, east, west—and ordinal directions—northeast, southwest, etc. Do movements in every direction.
- Think in terms of the room: looking front, up, down, left, and right
- Think in terms of stabilization and articulation
- Leg-Swing Flow (pp. 36–37). We added stabilization with rainbow arcs as one leg extended backward.
- Seated cat/cow to Dynamic Core (pp. 68–69). In the bridge, we added shifting weight on the feet, marching, and leg lifts.
- Planks and Backbends (pp. 58–59).
- Table/boats/folds (pp. 76–77). We added “listing boat” by rocking to one hip and lowering to half boat.
A More Perfect Union: Building Better Balance
Balance is a dynamic union between hard and soft, effort and ease, sthira (stiffness, stability) and sukha (sweetness, mobility). We need balance top to bottom, front to back, and left to right—and we need to find the right balance between work and rest so that we are challenged to grow but capable of adapting. We used this physical practice to explore areas of balance and imbalance in our bodies.
Next, we moved through three iterations of dancer, tree, pigeon, and eagle pose, all of which appear in Everyday Yoga.
- Standing Balance Flow (pp. 50–51)
- Dancer/Tree/Pigeon/Eagle (pp. 60–61). Instead of pigeon leg in side plank, we did lifts to bridge with a figure 4 cross of the leg.
- Reclining Twists (pp. 80–81). We included a side bow as our dancer pose variation.
Yoga for Athletic Recovery (and Tired Moms)
Nothing feels better after a full day of active asana and listening than gentle and restorative yoga! In this late-afternoon session, we rolled around on the floor in mellow poses. It’s exactly when you don’t feel like you have time for a practice like this that you need it the most. For more on the mechanics of athletic recovery, please see my book The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery. These routines appear in Everyday Yoga.
- Supported backbend
- Six Moves of the Spine, Supine, One Leg (pp. 38–39)
- Six Moves of the Spine, Prone, Bent Knee (pp. 34–35)
- Tree with side bend, hip to wall; twist to wall, raised leg against it
- “Christina’s World” (pp. 66–67)
- Reclining Twists (pp. 80–81)
Students: I look forward to seeing you again, if only online here and at Sage Yoga Teacher Training!
Next weekend, I’ll be presenting at Yoga Journal LIVE! at the Hilton Midtown in New York City. Single-class passes go on sale Monday, April 4, right here. Using the code SAGE will save you 15 percent!
Here are my offerings:
Core Strength for Real People
Friday, April 8, 5:30–7:00 p.m.
Paying a little attention to core strength most days makes everything easier: it alleviates back pain, improves your balance and posture—and yes, tones your belly. Using a simple approach to your core, you’ll learn accessible sequences to shore it up—whether you’re regaining strength postpartum, busy lifting toddlers, or spending your day driving a carpool.
A More Perfect Union: Building Better Balance
Saturday, April 9, 8:00–10:00 a.m.
We achieve yoga when we unite hard and soft, effort and ease, in happy balance. Using simple self-assessment tools, we’ll identify spots of imbalance—both in our bodies and in our lives. Then we’ll move through an asana and journaling practice designed to bring us to a new level of balance—top to bottom, left to right, front to back, inside and out. Discussion, asana, and journaling.
What to bring: A notebook or tablet.
Mostly asana with journaling.
Yoga for Athletic Recovery
Saturday, April 9, 3:30–5:30 p.m.
Learning to recover well is the secret to peak performance, because we grow stronger not during our workouts but during our recovery—the time we spend between our efforts. Athletes or anyone in need of downtime (like conference-goers and moms) will foster their recovery in this workshop, using gentle but deep hip openers and restorative poses to unwind completely. Learn ways to relax for greater efficiency in sport and in life.
What to bring: A bolster, blanket, or beach towel.
I’ll also be doing a book signing in the Yoga Market, open to everyone, on Saturday afternoon, 2:30–3:00 p.m. Please come see me!
Sign up here and use code SAGE to save 15 percent. Single-class passes go on sale Monday, April 4. I really look forward to seeing you.
Do you love cycling? Are you looking for a way to improve your cycling? Do you want a chance to learn from experts for free? Check out the Road Cycling Summit from my friends at the Cycling 360 podcast. You’ll get the chance to see me present my sessions, Yoga for Cyclists, at 3:00 pm EST on April 6, and Recovery: The Key to Performance at 12:00 pm EST on April 9. Don’t miss out!
The summit is an in-depth event that will include 18+ sessions to help you improve your game on and off the bike, presented by experts from all over the world of cycling, including my frequent Running Summit co-speaker Matt Fitzgerald (he’s a great presenter!). Most of the sessions are going to include a live Q&A portion. Don’t miss this chance to learn a bunch of great information and ask me and the other presenters the questions you want answered about cycling.
The Summit will take place April 6–10, 2016, and is totally free to attend live! Head on over to roadcyclingsummit.com to learn more and register. See you there!