It’s almost too basic for us to really focus on: we want the stabilizers to stabilize and the movers to move. We don’t want the stabilizers to be locked up tight or at the other extreme weak and unresponsive. We don’t want the movers to be doing to whole job, getting over used, tight and hurting, inflamed, torn and worse.
I think stabilizers are what many of us have been really wanting to “work on” when we give our lists of practice and outcome goals. Whether It’s neck, shoulders, back, butt, calves, wrists or even our racing thoughts that are screaming out at us. If what developed to prevent the undesirable movement of a bone or a joint is not doing that, for what ever reason, there will be a downstream effect.
So, using the above mini snippet of video from Muscle and Motion, the idea of the exercise is to strengthen the red and purple muscles- shoulder girdle muscles. To do that, we want those muscles to be fully contracting, in other words, doing the work. The tan (beige, brownish) muscles on the mannequin in this exercise (and a lot of other exercises and yoga poses) are the “stabilizers”- they should be isometrically contracted, preventing movement. In this circumstance we (and the mannequin) want the shoulder girdle to move independently of the torso. However, as you can see when the mannequin moves, it is getting a lot of movement by bending forward just a little bit and then arching it’s back and flaring it’s ribs. So, it’s working the muscles of the shoulder blades a lot less yet getting the sensation and the idea that it’s doing a lot of hard work. To top it off, because the shoulder blade muscles aren’t getting all the intended load of work, the muscles in the arms are going to end up doing more, getting tired fast and even over time inflamed or injured.
Then, years down the road, the mannequin wonders why after years of training and practicing, it’s having shoulder and / or back and/or breathing problems. After all, it’s been going to class, working out, staying committed. Or, the flip, because it had all these aches and pains and injuries, it went to yoga or the gym diligently, but the problem never resolved.
I could be that mannequin (well, except that it has the XY chromosomes, creating a “male” pelvis….). Some of you could be that mannequin, too.
So, our task is to back up, slow down, pay attention and focus on learning how to contract and then relax these stabilizer muscles, get to know the sensation of them contracted, relaxed and all the scale of degrees between the two. Our task is to focus on those sensations even though our arms are moving apart in space or pressing down into the floor.
The arms are a really only a distraction, as I like to say in class. They move easily, they are external, a sort of “hey, look over there” lure we can easily focus on. Don’t take the bait. No matter which mode of movement you are doing, the strength and mobility come from progressive stability.
Well, as we move into routine and rhythm of classes and practices, I want to reemphasize my request for your attendance at class:
Please arrive 10-15 minutes early to set up, say hi and roll out.
Just as I am emphasizing the need that you practice outside of class, I am stressing the importance of you using the foam roller, soft ball or hard ball before class begins.
One of you wonderful hearts was courageous enough to ask me why and share that you didn’t know what to do to roll out. It’s true it has been many years since I have laid out the whys and whats behind the need to do it. So, inspired by this wonderful question, I am giving you all two long excerpts from two masters of the human body, Gil Hedley and Tom Myers. I will follow up with links to Jill Miller, aka The Roll Model and her YouTube channel for you to search around for what you can do for your corporeal being which feeds your emotional being. May you enjoy treating yourself with such attentive love.
“Here’s the thing about the Fuzz: You can see it now.
As the old Bedouin proverb has it: “Water still: poison! Water moving: life!”
Jill Miller, The Roll Model, Tune Up Fitness
Roll Before You Work out? The Science Says Yes!
Vagus Voyage with Jill Miller - A myofascial self-massage for downregulation
Abdominal Self-Massage on an Inflatable Coregeous® Sponge Ball
Ajahn Chah learned that it was better to create the right environment for practice than to try to turn people who didn’t want to practice into practitioners. He had a simile. He said: “If you created a nice pasture and cows came in, they would eat the grass. If animals went into the pasture and didn’t eat the grass, then you knew they weren’t cows.” That was his way of saying that if you create a good place for practice, real practitioners will practice. Other types of people won’t practice, and there’s no point in trying to change them.
Have you noticed I have changed my monthly email format and to some extent my teaching method?
Now, my classes are only for those with a willingness to commit, a purpose, and a positive attitude.
Here were the responses I received:
I am working towards improved mobility (which decreases pain and improves range of motion and ease getting through the day). I am working towards being stronger functionally. And most fundamentally, it all starts with breathwork. I am committed to doing the work as I age and it becomes harder to retain. I am committing to daily quality movement of at least an hour with the exception of 1 rest day. I am committing to 10 minutes (to start) a day for 6 days of meditation/breathwork."
I want wants to work on overall strength & flexibility. I'm willing to come to class and work definitely, and possibly do to daily "homework."
I want to increase my flexibility - I want to touch my toes! I'd like to increase my range of motion in my neck & shoulders if that's possible.”
Continue to build on what we have been working on -building joint strength, building strength in weaker points, practicing breath and embodiment. I will continue to make class a priority and will take the lessons I learn in class into my movement during the week. “Bend knees, make a hip crease, juice those oranges!”
My goal is to improve core strength and balance.”
I want to decrease my back pain by improving my posture and ability to breath. I am willing to practice for 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week, outside of attending class weekly” as a starting point and hope to add more time and other additional types of movement and exercise if/when possible.”
I would be willing to commit to trying at least 10 minutes of yoga at home daily, or maybe finding a specific movement or two to commit to doing daily (whichever makes more sense) to build a habit, and then build on it from there.”
I am willing to commit to daily exercise based on the last class we attend to carry the lessons forward. I am thinking about moving the exercycle back inside to facilitate moving the joints better.”
I am asking this because after on month of classes, I am taking a 10 day break for my high school reunion. This means you will not have the luxury of me to direct your practice for a couple of weeks. This means that if you really want what you think you want, you will be responsible for making it happen while I am away.
So, these next couple of weeks are on you. I hope I hear fantastic stories of Sun Salutations or Pull-Aparts and Squats, of 5 minutes dedicated to “6 counts in, 6 counts out” breathing practice. I know you want it yourself and practicing during class break will be how you get it.