Monday, May 20. 2013
This week I am teaching a Yoga class that has the intention of practicing "Moving With Fear". By that, I mean moving even when you are not sure how it will go, and going where you are uncomfortable. Instead of trying to shake off the fear or the anxiety that comes with leaving the familiar, you acknowledge the uneasiness and then carry on. You breathe the fear in and out, breathe the discomfort in and out, until you acclimatize to it, and until the fear does not have a hold of you. Instead of fighting the fear, you let the fear be with you, and continue to focus on your movement practice. What we are practicing is Bravery.
Fear + humour = awkward
Moving into uncharted territory does not need to be scary, it can just be awkward. In the class I am teaching, I am purposely asking students to practice what they are not good at, and to address the ways of moving that we typically avoid. If we do this with the intention not of mastering the movement, but of getting more familiar with it, and of stimulating something in us that does not normally get stimulated, then I think everyone can relax the ego a bit and just see what happens. Taking this practice into daily life (off the mat), is what we call "having fun"!
Broadening our boundaries
We are moving in fewer and fewer patterns all the time, as we take the same route to work each day, get our favourite drink at our favourite café, and spend increasingly more time with our fingers on the keyboard. So when you come to class and I ask you to move in unfamiliar ways, know that I am trying to stimulate your muscular system, your nervous system, your coordination and organizational systems, and your emotional system so it can be as developed and capable of handling life’s unexpected turns as possible. We have the ability to be completely balanced, it just requires that we sometimes have to swing the pendulum in the totally opposite direction to get there.
This week, see if you can let yourself feel the strain and effort that comes with going into the unfamiliar. Know that YOU HAVE the strength to go there, and, well, if you don’t, the more you practice, the more the strength will come. Plus, it's fun.
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Sunday, April 28. 2013
In light of the "Connect to your Pelvic Floor" Workshop being held this Sunday May 5, I thought I would preview some of the material we were going to cover...
Earlier in the spring, Tara and I received our certification in Pfilates, a course on pelvic floor strength developed by Dr. Bruce Crawford, MD. It was really informative and empowering (particularly as a girl) and I think it's crucial that this information be shared.
Pelvic Floor health is a fitness issue. Bladder & bowel control, sexual function, and the support of the internal organs should be treated just like we would want to strengthen our knees and spine for a long, healthy life. We need to stop hiding this issue and bring it out into the fitness arena.
Check out these stats: Of Women aged 45-85:
- 33% have urinary incontinence. This can include stress incontinence, urgency, or overactive bladder syndrome (we will discuss all of these)
- 40% have prolapse
- 42% have sexual dissatisfaction
- 5-10% have anal incontinence
- 75% of Pelvic floor disorders don’t get diagnosed or treated, and yet the ability to have bladder and bowel control is the 2nd biggest factor in determining quality of life (the first is depression)
In the workshop we will look at each of these dysfunctions, their causes, the anatomy, the signs and symptoms as well as tips and exercises to help treat each of these issues.
A pelvic floor muscle (PFM) strengthening exercise program is the first line of treatment for all pelvic floor dysfunctions, and yet often women are simply told to “do your kegels” and then sent home, not sure if they are doing them right, and not sure how to incorporate them into their day.
The muscles of the Pelvic Floor have fast and slow twitch fibers, just like elsewhere in the body. As one might imagine, the fast twitch fibers create a fast contraction as well as a fast fatigue. Likewise, the slow fibers are predictably slow and are suited not for "sprinting", but for endurance. These different muscle fibers and functions can be trained with exercise, just like any other type of muscular training. Pelvic floor endurance, control, coordination, speed - these can all be trained with specific types of movement. It is these key exercises that we will cover in the workshop.
Often 6 weeks is prescribed before coming back to exercise after childbirth. Can you imagine if you had surgery for your ACL in your knee, and the doctors told you to go start physio in 6 weeks??? We know that muscles start to atrophy immediately after a trauma, and that getting back to movement asap is crucial. It is the same after childbirth with the PFM. Now, that being said, you don’t go back to full capacity – as you would not with a knee rehabilitation, either, but you do start slow and steady.
As I said at the beginning, I think it is so empowering to know that you can participate in your whole body health, and not just with the parts of the body we can see
Cant' wait to see you Sunday for more.
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Sunday, April 14. 2013
In light of the "Strengthen your Lower back workshop" I am holding this Sunday, I thought I would give everyone a little lower back primer:
If you have lower back issue or injury, it is key that you first learn how your own posture is. Are you in a neutral spine, or a posterior or anterior pelvic tilt? Is your pelvis sitting in alignment, or is it displaced anteriorly or posteriorly to your center of gravity? Is one hip higher than the other? If the pelvis is deviated in any way, this may be contributing to faulty biomechanics, and/or excessive wear and tear/deterioration of the lower spine. Once you align your bones, your muscles can at least think of firing properly, but without good bony alignment, there is no way that the right muscles will fire.
Once you are aligned, we can start to look at the muscles of support, that is, the major "core" muscles. In Pilates class we often refer to the "seatbelt" of the transverse abdominals (TA), and it is so, so, so important that these muscles know how to turn on and stay on throughout your day, while still being able to breathe fully and oxygenate the body and brain (no sucking in)!
Muscles that we speak less of are the deepest lower back muscles, the multifidus, which work to give your spine stability and mobility at the same time. These multifidus only travel a few vertebral segments, so when they fire only a small part of the spine is tensed, whereas when we use the bigger "erector spinae" that span a longer distance of the back, more of the entire back will get locked up and movement is prevented. Since we need to be able to move and feel stable in our lower back at the same time, it is really necessary that we fire the deeper multifidus first, rather than the superfical erector spinae. We can be very powerful in our surface muscles, but not very stable - so still just as prone to injury as someone who is weak everywhere.
The pelvic floor connection allows us to feel 3 dimensionally strong in the pelvis, which is the foundation of the lower back. I know it can be subtle to feel proper engagement of the pelvic floor, as well as the other deep muscles, but if we are connected we stand a better chance of keeping our lower back happy and healthy for a long ,long time. I often say that the "miracle pill exists!", and I truly think it does - in the form of lots of attention to aligning and strengthening the inner body.
For lasting lower back health, we also need to look at how to properly strengthen the muscles of the pelvis: the gluts, hip flexors , and inner thighs. Muscle imbalance can be a big contributor to uneven wear and tear and pain. We can address imbalances by isolating these muscles one by one, and then integratign them properly back into the whole.
I hope to see lots of you this sunday, as I truly have felt the miracle of health that only knowledge can bring: knowledge about how you move and how you can move better, just by taking the time to become your own healer.
Sunday, April 7. 2013
This past weekend I attended the annual Pilates on Tour Rehabilitation conference. This is my 3rd time attending it - It is one of my favorite sources of continuing education because of the rehabilitation focus. I learn a lot of movement and movement info that is not only delicious, but highly nutritious! I thought I would share some of the neat-o ideas that I gleaned from the very skilled and experienced master educators at the conference:
1. Your attitude makes the difference! It has been clinically proven that the greatest predictor of a positive outcome from any form of therapy was the cleint's own self-analysis. SO - even if you made measurable gains in strength or flexibility or mobility through your pilates classes, those fabulous outcomes are significantly LESS important than a client's own attitude towards reducing pain and feeling more functional and able to better perform life's daily tasks - this is a PROVEN fact! What does this mean?? It means that it is so important to focus on the positive, and to create reachable goals - short and long-term - so we can feel progress, so we can feel success. The feeling of success creates more success. I think one of the reasons Pilates is so successful is because it is adaptable - there are so many ways to modify an exercise so that it fits your body.
2. I took a workshop on how to improve lower back issues and here are a few thoughts:
- The center of the spinal disc - the nucleus - has no blood supply of its own, so they ONLY way it gets nutrition is through movement: through compression and decompression - like a pump, fluid and nutrition moves through the discs and keeps them youthful.
- It was reinforced for the millionth time (but it's never too much !) how important it is to train the Transverse abdominals (TA) - the "seatbelt" - because we need to recruit it for EVERY movement we do.
- all of the info reinforced what I will be talking about in the "Strengthen Your Lower Back" workshop I am holding on Sunday April 21 from 1230-230 . In the workshop we will be experiencing the deeper anatomy of the lower back so that you can understand how stability feels in YOUR body.
3. I took a workshop on fascia, the connective tissue that extends through the whole body. There is a lot of research about fascia and movement and dysfunction going on right now and here are a few things that I think are fascinating:
- The fascia is a continuous web throughout our whole body. For example, the fascia of the deep neck muscles continues into the skull to form the ventricles of the brain (mind-body connection anyone??).
- There are 10x more nerve endings in our fascia compared to muscle tissue. SO our sense of movement and our sense of our body in space comes NOT from our muscles, but primarily from this connective tissue, which previously was thought to serve no other function than to connect one muscle to another. We are not our muscles, we are a web.
- this connective tissue is remodeling throughout our life, so HOW we move and WHAT kind of movements we do for long periods throughout our day affect how we are structured. What kind of structure do you want to have? What types of movements might help to create this structure?
- Exercising the fascia: to keep this connective tissue strong, flexible, and intelligent (again, it has 10x more nerve endings than muscle - this is smart stuff!!), we need to train dynamically, with more surprises and less repetition - this is one of the main reasons we try to keep variety happening in our classes. Fascia can be surprised by working to balance on an unstable surface - like the marshmallow or roller, or by working at different speeds and different resistances - like you would get from doing a variety of workouts - like Yoga, and then Bosu, and then Kettlebars. Be prepared for MORE surprises in your classes - it's good for more than just keeping the boredom away!
A few more interesting tidbits of fitness info:
For autoimmune disorders, exercise is the ONLY proven non drug-related modality shown to be helpful.
The Quadriceps (quads) on the front of the thigh are so important for absorbing the shock in the knee joint - we need to relax a bit about having "over-developed quads". Yes we want to balance the quads in the front of the thigh with the hamstrings in the back, but if we are just concerned with the aesthetic look of big, strong quads - get over it! Your knees will thank you as time passes
We need MORE strengthening of the gluts to improve lower back pain (be prepared everybody!!)
And, of course, I learned more exercises for every little part of the body you can imagine, and some you can't.
I am looking forward to integrating all of these pearls of wisdom I learned from some of my favorite Pilates mentors with my fellow teachers at the studio and with all of my students.
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Thursday, April 4. 2013
I have been travelling to the annual Pilates Rehabilitation Conference in Phoenix for a lot of the day today, and everytime I spoke to someone about where I was going - the airport shuttle driver, the US border security, the hotel concierge - all of them spoke about how they have heard how GOOD Pilates is for them. It was so sweet to hear such praise about Pilates. It is all so true....
Pilates IS so good for you! Joseph Pilates, the method's creator, was inspired to study the body and how to make it move better AND how to teach intelligent exercise in a way that is clear and understandable and applicable. That work still goes on with just as much passion as ever!
Integration is starting our new Workshop series with the "Strengthen Your Lower Back" 2 hour session on Sunday April 21 from 12:30-2:30. I have been wanting to do these longer sessions for a while, and now have the time to plan something great.
Whenever I teach teachers how the lower back is meant to align, and how the small muscles work like a symphony to keep the spine moving fluidly and strongly, I feel like I must share this info with everyone, that we should all know this. Our bodies are brilliant, and the possibilities for self-healing are great. The exercises that we teach are meant to be taken personally - that is, how do they feel in YOUR body - it is meant to be an exploration that never ends. In this way I believe that there is a magic pill that heals, and it is our concentration and our attention.
If you have ever wanted just a little bit more time to understand how to feel all of the fine tuning of the lower back so that you can apply that to everyday movement, this workshop is for you. I speak from experience: the info I will share has saved my back as well
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Wednesday, February 20. 2013
I have been realising how much that teaching at Integration is teaching simplicity. Some of the biggest movement "errors" I see in my day come from students over-thinking, or presuming that "more is better", "bigger is better", or even that "harder is better". If any of these ideas resonate with you - I can totally relate. These sayings comprised the core of my beliefs, before I discovered Pilates, that is. I am totally serious.
I must have been taught at an early age, like so many of us, that being lazy is the cardinal sin, and that to work anything less that your maximum, is lazy.
I remember when I became more serious with dance that my teachers would speak to me about being more efficient with my movement, that I was working too hard, but by that time the :more is more" mentality was firmly rooted in every cell of my body.
It was not until I was a serious Pilates student that my outlook began to shift. I credit my pilates teachers and their insistence that I must do nothing except focus on my breath, and that I must let my body feel its weight and move with as little effort as possible before I could even start the simplest of movements. I trusted them, and began to follow their lead, and now I see the light: In order to build true strength, you must first let go of your tension. Tension is not strength. Pushing through pain is not strength.
Moving simply allows the body to move as it was meant to, and to discover its natural brilliance. The biomechanics of the body are perfect, full of levers and counterlevers, teeter-totters and spirals, so we can move more with less energy. When we expend less energy, we can move more. And we are left with even more reserve energy for those inevitable times when we really need it.
I am now applying the lesson of simplicity to my life as well. I have enjoyed having a busy life thus far, but it is definitely time for "less and more". I am going to miss having 2 studios, like having 2 children, and I am of course going to miss those clients that are not able to commute to the downtown studio, but I know that will be able to savour so much more of every moment, and that is just about one of the sweetest things there is.
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Wednesday, January 2. 2013
It is possible to feel your best, it is possible to feel fully alive, it is, it is, it is ...
There is no need for self-denial, there is no need for willpower.
There is always a need to remember how how good it feels to move, and to wake-up your vital energy.
There is always a need to resolve to listen more to your inner voice, and to listen less to the voices outside of you that tell you that you must look for happiness outside of yourself.
There is always a need to resolve to help those around you to hear their own inner voice.
Together, we can change what we see as important, but we need each other. We start within our own selves, connecting to our core, to our breath, and remembering that body, mind, and breath are one. We take our own sense of connectedness and contentment, and share, and listen, and support those around us.
Life is better when we remember that just as our body mind and spirit are one, so is our community, so is our world.
Happy New year!
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Sunday, October 28. 2012
As far as I can tell right now, the earthquake that hit off the west coast of Haida Gwaii has not had any catastrophic effects for people - and for that I am so grateful! Tomorrow, Hurricane Sandy is set to hit Eastern Canada and US, and I hope that everyone is safe as well.
At Integration, work to create a strong core, and at times that we feel vulnerable and exposed, strength is a good thing.
At Integration, we work to stay open, we especially work to open the chest, to open the heart, and at times when we worry for members of our community, having a strong, open heart is a good thing.
Of course we know that there are those who live every day in challenging situations, and who live in environments that are very volatile. These people know what a strong core is, and what open hearted compassion is, and I hope I can be as strong and as compassionate as them, especially when times are tough.
Be safe! To all those affected by Hurricane Sandy - our energy is with you.
Tuesday, October 23. 2012
This week on our facebook page, I posted a link to a documentary I enjoyed recently called "Happy". This documentary obviously struck me at the right time as it has been sticking with me for days now. It explores the idea of what happiness is, how to achieve it, how to measure it, and features a wide variety of people and societies that seem to be closer to what we call 'HAPPY'.
You can probably imagine what is revealed in the documentary: that achieving happiness has very little to do with how much money we have (once we are able to subsist on our own, our happiness level does not change whether we make $50K a year, or $50 million, but of course if we are not able to take care of our basic needs, our happiness level is very much affected). Happiness also has very little to do with how powerful, famous, or influential we are. Notwithstanding genetics, happiness is mainly affected by our relationships with friends and family, by how physically and socially active we are, by moving beyond routine and surprising ourselves, by following our passion, and by how much we serve those around us by giving back to society (ie, the more you give, the more you get).
This is not surprising, in fact, I am sure we all know this, and in fact we might even feel like there would be no benefit to seeing this documentary, or even in reading the rest of this blog, because we know this already. But if we all know this, does that mean we all are happy?
Just because we know something in our brain, does that mean we do it? We know that we should take breaks to stretch our shoulders and breathe deeply if we are working at a computer all day, but do we do it? We know that we should eat more real food and less processed food, but how much do we do that? If our head knows something, but we do not take it into our bodies and into our lives, then do we REALLY know it?
I feel like the word "knowing" is overused. If we know something, then that implies that we know it with every aspect of our being and that there is no separation between knowing and doing, that we embody this knowing. So, if we think we KNOW what it takes to be truly happy - to stop working for accumulating more in our outer world and instead to listen to our heart, but we are not doing what it takes to be happy, then do we truly know what happiness can be like?
Just like exercise, all it takes is regular practice....
Happy: The movie - Website
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Friday, September 7. 2012
The end of summer happens every year, but each year it hits me with such surprise. It is still so warm and beautiful now, even though the summer holidays of July and August are officially over. Thank you, Mother Nature, for this soft landing into September.
I hope everyone had some beautiful summer times. I hope you have some wonderful memories to savour until next June.
Surrounded by sunshine and its warmth.
Walking outside in the morning light without the thought of covering up.
The garden in the evening looking different than it did in the morning (more weeds for my part!).
Summer teaches me how to live in the present, and to savour every precious drop of it. I really do find myself fretting over what is happening later on in the day or the week, and mulling over decisions made yesterday. I am thankful for summer's immediacy: enjoy this moment, because it will not last forever. I am learning to trust in myself more and more each day; that I can relax in the heat of the sun, because I am ready for what is coming up next and do not need to anticipate it. I hope you are able to do the same. I believe it is one of life's greatest lessons: to enjoy life as much as you can. Be thankful for every positive gift you get, and even for every not-so-positive ones. It is not always easy, but it can get easier with practice. Right now you can stop and savour the moment you are in...
Please enjoy more pics of my summer in Waterton Park in southern Alberta. I was there just last week and had such a great time in the mountains camping! Go to our facebook page, check out some beautiful mountain views, and please share some of your summer's best moments...Integration's Facebook Page
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Thursday, July 19. 2012
Lets do some pilates on the spot here: If you are sitting down – how does it feel: the chair, your sitting bones, your lower back? If you are standing, how you your feet feel – in your shoes – on the ground? Taking time to notice this here can instantly create some nice changes, and let you breathe a little more deeply into your body.
Check out the amazing corn growing in my garden – it is flourishing! The benefits of being grounded are pretty clear here - yumminess is coming my way!
I was inspired to write this as this week I am teaching a lot of classes using the jumpboard, where being grounded can also really have great payoffs: you can really lift off the board the more you spread your feet and connect. Very fun.
In classes we talk a lot about feeling the “muscles underneath”. In the lower body we say, "Push from the hamstrings, the muscles in the back of your legs, to come to stand". To keep tension out of the neck and shoulders we say "Connect to the armpits, the muscles underneath the shoulders, to support your arms". When you feel this support from below, you can really lengthen up. When we feel overwhelmed, it is as though we are sinking: the shoulders lift up, the hips tense up, the spine collapses. As soon as you press down with your sitting bones your spine stretches up. As soon as you press down with your feet, you can feel the ground, you can connect back to where you are. By feeling the ground you can feel yourself.
Pilates, for me, has been a place where I can drop into myself and truly learn what grounded means and how important it is in order to do anything of meaning, and to truly lift off and fly. I hope you feel that too.
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Tuesday, July 3. 2012
For my time off last week I was able to enjoy a lot of time outside – it was perfect for me: not too hot, not too cold, not too wet, not too windy… most of the time. When the weather was just right, I reveled in it – breathed it all in.
These wild roses remind me of that time. They are at their prime for a very short time; by now their petals have surely dried out and dropped. The day before I took this picture it was very windy, the day after, rainy. It is part of what makes the good days so good. The roses enjoy their peak when they can.
When you are able to have a really great workout – enjoy! I realise that during your workout the feelings can be mixed – hopefully it’s great throughout all the good and the bad, but afterwards it is absolutely so rewarding to feel your body tired from good work. On those days that you cannot workout, when you have no time for yourself, it may help to think of those days like rainy days for the flowers: they are so necessary as part in the cycle of things. On those rainy days the flower continues to grow and bloom, it continues to be a flower. So on those days when you need to put all your energy outward, rather than in to yourself, just be where you are as fully as you can, and know that sunny days will come. You are always radiant and full of life - that is the nature of YOU - even if you don't feel it
Now that it is summertime, sticking with your fitness routine can feel like too much work and not enough play at times. When it's gorgeous outside, how can you focus inwardly when there is so much to focus outward upon? I say, absolutely enjoy our peak of heat. Remember that your body is also in its peak as well - the warmth of the season travels into our bones and allows us to soar physically. Take advantage of it when you can - feel the summer that is inside of you by moving as fully as you can, and flowering open to your own greatness. Create some great memories of what it means to be in the summer of your body - so you can remember them during those other 10 months of the year!
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Thursday, June 21. 2012
Still inspired by nature to reveal more about who we are, I must remind everyone that we are roughly 60% pure water, 40% everything else. Look at how mobile this water is (photo taken in an inlet near Tofino, BC)! Notice how it fills in any empty crack and crevice, how it spreads into spray when it hits something solid, how it's shape can change to adapt to its surroundings, how ALIVE it is! The water seems to be in a mood here...
The tides that move within us are ever changing. We are not solid, we are fluid. We can shift and change and adapt to our surroundings. If our mind is in a stormy mood, it can send ripples through our body and disrupt our natural flow. Visualise a calm, deep lake and notice if you can feel a sypmathetic response within. If ever you feel like nothing is changing, that you are stuck with your flexibility, stuck with your posture, even stuck with your mood, remember that water never stays still for long. As we move our body in class, we inspire inner shifts to occur, we awaken our natural currents to flow. As we breathe, we free up the fluidity that pools in our joints. We can adapt, we can change, we can flow...
Remember to drink lots everyday!
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Monday, June 18. 2012
And now for a different kind of anatomy lesson! The multitude of layers that we see in this peony are reflective of the multitude of layers of muscle and tissue we have in our bodies. As you are finding your core connection, it can hit you at deeper layers, or more superficial. It can feel very strong, as though every part of your body is engaged, or subtle, as though there is a small connection within and everything else can relax. All of this is very good. It is so great to feel how you can engage your body to different degrees, and likewise to feel it relax in different degrees. When you get a massage, you can feel how first the outer body relaxes, and then the next layer, then the next. In this photo you can almost see how the flower can breathe, and how the wind helps to open its petals, how with the warming of the sun the flower is encouraged to be more open. We can be this way if we practice - moving through your workout helps to open up the parts of your body that you forgot were there, and helps you feel the breath in ever deeper layers of your muscles.
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Tuesday, June 12. 2012
Our topic of late has been all about barefoot running and how to do it safely. I am sure you could have guessed where this is going, but here we are back again at the core muscles- my favorite! As you can see, there are no sexy six pack muscles here - those are much more superficial muscles and will not help you do barefoot running safely at all. These are the deep core muscles that hold the body up against gravity. I call them the "core cylinder" : the pelvic floor muscles (PFM) are at the bottom of the cylinder, the transverse abdominals (TA) are around the circumference of the cylinder, the multifidus are the deep back muscles close into the spine, and the diaphragm is at the top. All of these muscles work to keep the body feeling light and lengthened .
Imagine the pelvic floor muscles are like an elevator at the base of the pelvis, gently and steadily lifting up into the body. Next imagine the transverse abdominals are like a corset gently hugging in (the laces not too tight!) - you could also imagine the Spanx body tunic, which basically fulfills the function of the TA! Next imagine alongside either side of the spine are 2 straws that are gently sucking up, creating length throughout the whole spine - the action of the multifidus. The imagine you can breath fully while keeping these muscles engaged, so the diaphragm can get a full workout. You have just felt your core cylinder light up!
Feel what happens when these muscles relax - the body drops back into a compressed state, and the feeling of lightness leaves the body. Now, although it is very good at times to let the muscles relax and let the body give into gravity - it certainly is not if you intend to go out running without shoes! Or stand for any length of time, or sit at a computer for hours on end, or really do anything that requires support for the spine, hips, and knees.
These muscles can engage in varying degrees. Think of a volume switch: if you are sitting for a long time, you could recruit all these muscles at a level 3 - so they can have endurance to stay active for a while. If you are running, engage these muscles at a level 8 - and start off with shorter runs so you can build up the stamina in all the leg muscles that we looked at in the previous entry AND these new ones. Always make sure you can breathe fully, so the diaphragm is able to stay pliant and supple.
You can practice this anytime, anywhere - all you need is a few moments and your most undivided attention.
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