Yoga For Insomnia ~ Tips To Get You Started

Yoga For Insomnia

Yoga For InsomniaNot sleeping so great? I feel for you, I really do. Insomnia is what brought me to meditation and then yoga many years ago.  You can read more about that here and listen to my Facebook Live talk if you are interested to hear my story.

Insomnia is a very common complaint with almost half of adults experiencing symptoms on a few nights a week. It is more prevalent in women and older adults but anyone can be affected. (www.sleepoz.org.au)

Just as exercise and nutrition are essential for optimal wellness, so is sleep. As a yoga therapist, I often observe that there is a direct relationship between the quality of a person’s sleep and the quality of their waking life.

Insomnia can have complex and far reaching effects into the overall health and wellbeing of a person.  This often includes people close to them and communities at large. Many turn to pharmaceuticals to combat the problem but this is rarely a long term solution.

How Yoga Can Help With Sleep

Yoga can be a fantastic way of dealing with insomnia over the long term. It provides an excellent opportunity to relieve stress, improve self-awareness. The practices have more effect over time with minimal adverse side effects.

Most importantly guidance is required with what techniques to practice when or you could end up making the situation worse.  Yes, yoga could make your insomnia worse!  For example, having a really strong, stimulating or energising practice in the late evening.  Although this might be great for waking you up in the morning, it is not so great later. So, you might ensure your yoga teacher/therapist is confident to prescribe techniques therapeutically in order to get the best outcome.

There is a growing evidence base of research supporting the effectiveness of yoga in treating insomnia. We go through some of this in our yoga for insomnia workshops. Many techniques have been shown to be effective.  These include asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), concentration techniques, meditation and awareness exercises.

Yoga is an active therapy, this means you have to be ready and willing to make change for it to work! So, here is my action plan for incorporating yoga into your lifestyle to help ease insomnia.

Yoga For Insomnia – Action Plan

  1. As a starting point, follow good sleep hygiene practices see here
  2. Find a yoga teacher who has classes near to where you live and start attending regularly, if you need help looking, let us know! Regular practice will give the greatest benefit.
  3. Keep a sleep diary for a week so you and your  yoga teacher can analyze it for any patterns
  4. See a yoga therapist who can help you get to the root of the problem and then prescribe something that is tailored to you as an individual.
  5. Come along to one of our workshops which will arm you with a heap of yogic tools to use to help combat insomnia (and there is cake & chai!)

At Charleyoga, we aim to educate and empower you with yogic tools that are easy to learn an practice.  Some you can use regularly as a preventative measure.   Other techniques are perfect to use in place of spending hours tossing and turning in bed. They can be extremely effective if you are willing to commit to an “active” therapy. Yoga is not a passive form of therapy so requires a willingness to make change and become more self-aware (mindful).

It’s always beneficial to get live training and to build up a working, experiential knowledge of yoga by joining a class.  You could start by watching this recording of a talk I did on Yoga for Insomnia here.  I’ve been been offering insomnia workshops and yoga classes Perth clients with sleeping issues have had successful outcomes with for many years. Contact us today for more details, or go ahead and book into a class.

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

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A Lesson In Balance From The 3 Legged Dog

Yoga to improve balanceWhilst sitting on a beach in Thailand last year, I became quite mesmerized with watching this dog go about its day.  I noticed a group of dogs all running together, playing and nipping at each other. At first I didn’t realise why but this particular dog kept sitting down to rest.  As the group moved further towards me I then realised that the dog had only three legs!

It was such a poignant moment, I felt sad for the dog at first. However, I quickly realised that the dog seemed pretty much like all the other dogs apart from this missing limb.  I couldn’t resist taking a photo of this amazing creature.  I thought how cool this was and discovered that a dog can very easily get by on 3 limbs.

With a little research I found out that one recommendation is to ensure your furry friend has ample rests when needed.  Makes sense why the dog was sitting more often!  This is important so that premature wear and tear injuries or arthritis don’t form in the remaining joints.  I’m sure that a 2 legged dog mightn’t get on in life quite as well as a 3 legged one for obvious reasons! Exercise and maintaining a healthy weight was also seen as important.  However, the tip that stood out the most to me was to let a 3 legged dog be a dog!

If a three legged dog is kept from doing all the things that dogs love to do, she will have lived an unfulfilled life.” (1)

We can replace the “dog” in this sentence with “person/people” and it still makes sense!  YOU are a person, your injuries and restrictions may mean you have to modify but it shouldn’t stop you from being a person.  People do yoga, any people, you included!

The Idea Of Yoga To Improve Balance

There are so many people I speak to daily who think they have “imperfect” bodies.   This could be due to missing or broken limbs, nerve damage, arthritis, age, illness or injuries.   My belief is there is no perfect body, only the perfect body for you!

Look at the leg sitting in slightly toward the centre, bowing inwards allowing the dog to balance.   It also appears that there is quite a bit more muscle developed on one side.   No, it doesn’t look the same as the other dogs but does that really matter?  If we tried to change it to balance or “align” the dog, it would fall over and wouldn’t be able to do what dogs do!

In our yoga practice we can take a lesson from this.  Parts of our body mightn’t do exactly what we would like them to.  Nevertheless, trying to force a knee to be straight or a twist to be equal on each side will rarely be helpful or achieve anything.   If anything, I would say it is more likely to cause an injury.  If you’ve come to yoga to improve balance, chances are you will change your whole idea of that along the way.

Yoga To Improve Balance – Lessons To Learn

The main lessons from this tale (or should that be tail, he he!):

  • Rest when needed and respect where your body cannot go
  • Keep moving, take care of your body, it can do many awesome things
  • Be perfect in your imperfection, drop the striving for this ever elusive balance
  • Keep doing the things you love and live that fulfilled life!

Charley Hickey

 

 

About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK HERE

References:

  1. https://shibashake.com/dog/three-legged-dog-care-tripod-dog-care

My Mum The Accidental Muse

Family Yoga Perth MumLooking at this picture you may think you already know what I’m going to write.  Perhaps something like –  “My mother was a yogi from a very young age.  She moves calmly through her day with ease and grace and is such an inspiration to me and taught me all I know.”

Well, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth!  She did teach me a heck of a lot though, that’s for sure! Without realising it, my Mum was the catalyst for me starting yoga and an accidental muse as is the case with most good muses so I hear!

Family Yoga

You see, my slightly crazy and amazing Mum (think Dad may have been involved somewhere too?) decided to have 5 children.   She then unofficially adopted another and if that wasn’t already enough, ran a family day care from our family home.  Among all the hectic craziness of our loving home, I found I craved peace and quiet.  I also had difficulty sleeping as there always seemed to be someone up and about. This is what brought me to yoga at age 11, suffering from insomnia. I used to stress out about the noise, mess & busyness of our home but quickly realised that it wasn’t going to go away.

Yoga For Stress Relief

As a self confessed person of action and an avid reader, I took to researching the problem myself. I was delighted to discover the joy of finding a place of internal quiet and peace through meditation, breath work and eventually the whole package in yoga.  So, you see, I really do have my Mum and the whole of my family to thank including my late Dad and siblings Renee, Lisette, Melissa, Nick & Kerry. I really don’t mean to sound like our home environment was horrible, quite the opposite in fact.

So, when you come to along to my yoga classes, we don’t have a fancy, freshly decorated and peaceful studio dedicated to our yoga practice (although that would be nice!).  We run classes in spaces where there are often other things going on outside of our control.  This often comes with little disturbances that might intrude on our practice momentarily. However, I see these as useful opportunities to find that place of internal peace and practice for real!

Anyone can find calm in a quiet, comfortable space but does that really sound like your day to day life?

Charley Hickey

 

 

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About Charleyoga & Charley Hickey

Author: Charley Hickey C-IAYT is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

Yoga And Insomnia Talk With Charley Hickey C-IAYT

yoga and insomnia Charley HickeyI hope you enjoy watching this talk I did live on Facebook last month.  Hear me chat about yoga and insomnia, my own experiences of insomnia and how yoga helped me.  I also cover some of the current research into yoga and insomnia. There are a few questions that the audience asks towards the end which you can follow in the comments.

Trouble Sleeping?

Have you ever had trouble sleeping? I hear you!  Over half the population suffer from insomnia at some point in their life and that includes me.  At the age of 11 insomnia hit me full force and it was intense! With constant nights spent tossing and turning whilst stressing about the daylight hours fast approaching.  The fatigue, anxiety and fear which accompanies insomnia are all too familiar to me.  It was by pure luck that I discovered meditation and yoga and got myself back on track.  My hope it is that others watching will be inspired to try yoga.  Yoga really has a clever way of bypassing the cycle of fear, anxiety and fatigue that insomnia creates.  I think yoga and insomnia are the perfect partners so have a listen to find out why.

Tune into one of my other talks coming up soon which you can find on my Facebook page.   Facebook.com/charleyoga

 

Charley Hickey

 

 

 

FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK HERE

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross, Bateman & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

I Feel So Happy To Be Back In My Body

Yoga Therapy Fremantle

A Thank You Note From A Yoga Therapy Client

I just had to share this lovely thank you note from one of my private yoga therapy clients.  It  reminded me that writing thank you notes is really important as it absolutely made my day to receive this.  Yoga therapy is an emerging field so it’s nice to share when others have had successful experiences to help raise the profile of this profession.  I have a few more testimonials for yoga therapy fremantle from clients if you search under the “testimonials” category on this BLOG.  You can read more about private yoga therapy sessions and how they might help you here.  Yoga therapy is quite different to attending a general yoga class and provides the client with a tailored practice to suit  individuals needs.

Yoga Therapy Fremantle Testimonial

“Just writing a thank you note, which I am happy for you to use as a testimonial. I came to see you a couple of years ago, after being seriously ill for several years. I was feeling fragile, feeble and fearful. It was hard for me to know what was going to be possible for my ageing body in the ‘new normal’ post illness.

Your guidance and professional care was the most perfect thing I could have received. Just wanted to let you know that now – two years or more down the track I am doing aerial yoga, and eight dance classes a week: even performing at the Crown with far younger dancers than me. I feel so happy to be ‘back in my body’. It has it’s limitations, but only real ones.

Thanks to you I learned to explore my limits, carefully and courageously. Rather than shrinking and turning into a prematurely aged person, I have a fantastically full and enjoyable life. Thank you for your part in getting that re-started.” – Liana

Charley Hickey

Hot & Bothered? Try Sheetali Pranayama Yoga Breathing.

Hot & Bothered_ Try Sheetali PranayamaAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

I’d like to thank the lovely lady in one of my classes who jokingly calls hot flushes/flashes “power surges”!  This comment caused many giggles amongst my students and knowing looks between those that may have suffered from this at some point.  It’s often beneficial when we can label something fairly unpleasant in a way that normalises it and turns it into a bit of a joke.  Power surge sounds like it’s almost empowering for the person experiencing it rather than it being an unpleasant hot feeling that the sufferer has no control over.   It turned out to be a timely comment since the day was a very hot and muggy one in Perth.  It seemed like a great opportunity to practice Sheetali Pranayama which is a cooling breathing technique.  Sheetal means cold or soothing which describes the breath perfectly and I love how that fits with taking charge and being proactive during a process we have little control over.

How it works

I often describe Sheetali Pranayama as personalised evaporative air-conditioning for the body!  A more scientific explanation is that we are also drawing the breath through a small gap restricting its passage so that the air loses energy in the form of heat on the way into the body. We are also passing the air over the tongue which is moist and therefore cools the breath down further.

Benefits of Sheetali Pranayama

  • Cools body temperature,
  • Beneficial for fever and hot flushes
  • Calms the mind
  • Helps relieve insomnia
  • Stress buster

It can be contraindicated if you have asthma, a cold or other respiratory problems as the coolness of the breath can be irritating to the chest so keep that in mind.  If you aren’t sure, then please ask for the guidance of your yoga teacher before practicing.

Sheetali Pranayama Technique

Sheetali Pranayama can be practiced in any position where the spine is upright, ie sitting in a chair, seated yoga posture or lying down.   Sitting is preferable when initially learning as you will stay more alert.  If you cannot roll the tongue, it’s no problem; you can still practice by placing the tongue just behind the back of the teeth and draw the breath through the teeth and over the tongue instead (Sheetkari Pranayama)

  • Sit or lie comfortably
  • Roll the tongue or place tongue just behind the teeth with lips parted slightly
  • Draw the breath slowly in over the tongue feeling its cooling effect
  • Relax the mouth
  • Breathe out slowly and smoothly through both nostrils
  • Repeat for as many rounds as you feel comfortable with, you could start with 10 rounds.

Stay cool and let me know if it worked for you : )

Charley Hickey

 

Can Yoga Therapy Help Cancer Survivors?

Yoga Therapy Cancer SurvivorsAuthor: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

You can read a bit more about yoga therapy and how it differs from general group yoga classes here

People seek out yoga therapy for all kinds of reasons, that’s true.  However, I’m sure other yoga therapists would agree that cancer is a common one.  We see people in all stages including first diagnosis, during treatment and afterwards.  It’s important to seek out a suitably qualified yoga therapist or yoga teacher.  Preferably one who has additional training or experience dealing with clients going through cancer.  A search on the Australian Association of Yoga Therapists or Yoga Australia website is a good starting point.  If a teacher has been recommended to you, you could simply ask for their experience and training in the area of cancer wellness.  Good yoga therapists do not at all mind these types of questions, in fact, I’d say we expect it!

I am very fortunate that one of my mentor’s during my yoga therapy studies was locally based Naturopath, Yoga Therapist & Teacher Trainer, Chandrika Gibson ND MWell (Owner at Surya Health www.suryahealth.com.au ) .  I would class her as Perth’s leading expert on merging the fields of yoga and cancer wellness.  She works tirelessly in each of these fields whilst also finding time to train yoga therapists through the Living Yoga Therapy Program (www.livingyogatherapy.com)

I feel confident that it’s possible for those diagnosed with cancer to practice yoga at any stage of their diagnosis.  For many, private yoga therapy sessions are best to begin with.  This helps to assess which practices might be suitable.  This can then be adapted as treatment progresses or symptoms change.  For others an initial consultation can be useful to assess their ability to join in at a group class.  Group classes are often possible and have the added benefit of sangha; a community of like-minded individuals, even if they don’t all have cancer.

Here is a first hand account kindly provided by one of my lovely yoga therapy clients Liana.   Her story is one of moving on after her cancer treatment and how yoga therapy helped her to do that.

Yoga Therapy – A Cancer Survivors Story

“I came to yoga therapy after two years of heavy treatment for two different conditions, including breast cancer. The treatment had left me cured, but weak and with a host of physical problems.

Previously I had done many years of yoga and wished to come back to a practice. A yoga therapist is both skilled in yoga and also trained in the assessing of individual’s health needs: this sounded like the perfect option for me.

Yoga therapy was something I actively sought out as it met my current needs. I have also had great assistance from both mainstream and alternative therapies.

I wished to have an accurate assessment of what I could safely accomplish in my current state of health. I was looking for a gentle, safe practice I could begin at home. The practice that was designed for me was exactly right and very beneficial.

The biggest gain from my yoga therapy session was a renewed trust in my body and how to safely extend my physical activities.”

Thanks so much to Liana for allowing us to share her experiences. I hope it encourages others who are in a similar situation to give yoga or yoga therapy a try.

Charley Hickey

What Is Yoga Nidra And Why Should You Practice It?

Yoga Nidra

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

What is Yoga Nidra?

Yoga Nidra is often referred to as “yogic sleep”.  This can be a little misleading as the idea is not to actually sleep but to enter a state where you can emerge feeling refreshed as you would from sleep.

It’s a much better alternative to taking naps, especially if you are an insomniac (I speak from experience!).  Naps aren’t all bad but if you’re trying to get into a healthy sleep routine then it can be counterproductive to nap during the day when you should be awake.

How to Practice Yoga Nidra

You can use yoga nidra instead and if you’ve ever been to a yoga class, chances are you’ve already practiced it.  Usually you will lie in Shavasana (corpse pose) on your back with the legs extended and arms relaxed by your sides or a supported version if you suffer from pain in a particular area of your body.  Please ask your teacher for guidance on this one.

The teacher will then systematically guide you to different parts of the body one at a time.  You simply bring each part into your awareness as it is mentioned and move onto the next when prompted.  An audio download or cd can be used to practice at home.  The idea is that once confidence is built, guidance is no longer needed and you can practice it on your own.  Yoga nidra induces a relaxed state said to be similar to alpha sleep (stage 1 & 2 of the sleep cycle).

Research & Yoga Nidra

Research has found that Yoga Nidra has been shown to improve stress and anxiety levels and helps in building up the coping ability.  As yoga nidra relaxes the physical as well as the mental stresses, it relaxes the whole central nervous system (Kumar, 2008).  This means that it illicits the relaxation response or parasympathetic nervous system which relaxes the body and aids sleep.

It really is a fantastic practice to learn and master.  It’s a practice I often use myself on those nights where my mind is racing and I’m having trouble quietening it down.

References

Kumar, K. (2008).  A study on the impact on stress and anxiety through Yoga nidra.  Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 7(3), 401-404.

 

If you live in the southern suburbs of Perth and are keen to try out some yoga nidra, we often practice in class.  We are located in Applecross, Fremantle & Bateman & you can view our timetable here

 

How Do I Find My Elusive Toes In My Yoga Practice?

Author: Charley Hickey is a practicing yoga therapist and senior yoga teacher who runs group and private yoga classes in Applecross & Fremantle, Perth.  She also runs specialised yoga workshops for yoga students & yoga teachers.

A common question I get asked by students when they have been coming to class for a little while is “When will I be able to touch my toes?”.  I often hear it too from students enquiring about classes.  They are worried about coming to yoga because they can’t  touch their toes.  It concerns me that somewhere along the line; this has become a perceived standalone measure of fitness, flexibility and/or health when it really isn’t.

I think it’s something that has been propagated by toe touching as a common assessment tool.  As yoga therapists (and many other modalities too), when we are assessing, we are rarely measuring against a pre-determined bench mark .  So touching the toes doesn’t mean we’ve completed the assessment well or reached the highest standard.  The measurement is used simply to assess a person now compared to later after we’ve done some practice.  That change can then help us to see if what we are doing is working along with other measures.

I will often ask a client to bend forwards as if to touch their toes for several reasons.  Those reasons are rarely to see if they can actually touch them!  One reason is I like to see how you move when you do a forward bend.  Another is to work out whether it appears that your restriction is in a particular area.  Or to find out if you have any pain or discomfort and where that pain might be.   It’s actually more about how it feels then how it looks.   Soo please, take the pressure off yourself to touch your toes!  If it doesn’t happen EVER then that is fine!  If it does happen for you and you’ve made a change in your body somewhere along the line and that’s what you wanted then that is great too!

What you could do instead is ask yourself some much more constructive questions like:

  •  “Why do I want to touch my toes?” (This one could lead to quite a depth of self inquiry!)
  • “Can I already feel a stretch?”
  • “Where is it pulling exactly?”
  • “If I bend my knees a little, is that easier?”
  • “That feels tighter today than last week, I wonder why that is?”

This curious attitude of self enquiry is what yoga is all about, much more so than touching your toes. Most of us can’t touch our toes right away before warming up .   The picture on the right is a much truer representation of how most of us look trying to forward fold.  Focus instead on how it feels, you really can’t go wrong then!

If you’re in the “not able to touch my toes” category, you are most welcome in our classes!  You can learn more about our classes in Applecross, Fremantle and Bateman here and make a booking here.  If you don’t live nearby, we know lots of  yoga teachers to refer you onto, just email us here and we’ll try to help you!

Flexibility, Mobility & Stability ~ What’s the difference?

Today instead of writing my own blog,  I am sharing a great article published on www.fix.com as it explains what the difference is between flexibility, mobility and stability in your yoga practice.  It also goes on to explain how Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) using foam roller (or balls) is beneficial and this is a topic close to my heart as I love it and use it in a yoga therapy setting one on one with clients as well as running regular workshops on the topic (read more on our foam roller workshops here >>).  I often talk to students about their knee pain as it is a common problem I see and an old teacher of mine explained it like this,  “The knee is very often the innocent victim, caught between the hip and the ankle”.   For example as you  can see from the pictures below, if the hips isn’t as mobile as it could be, the knee may suffer and become unstable as a result and so on.  As a yoga therapist, I usually refer clients with knee pain on to a physiotherapist if they haven’t already been so that I know what I’m dealing with as diagnosis is outside of a yoga therapist’s scope of practice.  Enjoy the read, I certainly did! Ps: If you’d like to practice some of the movements illustrated, I’d suggest checking in with someone who can show you how to do them safely, particularly if you have current pain or injury :)
Charley Hickey

Flexibility, Mobility, and Stability

What’s the Difference and Why Are They Important?
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Kellie started her career as a fitness writer in 2009 with a blog. That has led to co-authoring a women’s strength training book called Strong Curves. She currently attends graduate school at The George Washington University and lives with her husband and two children.

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People most often talk about joints in relation to pain. Generally, we focus on one joint at a time. However, it’s important to think of all the bones, muscle, and connective tissue around each joint as an integrated system that relies on the health of other joints. Ankle joints connect to the knee joints. Knee joints connect to the hip joints. In other words, if a single joint does not work properly, the joints above and below it can be affected.

Flexibility

Flexibility is the absolute range of motion in a joint or system of joints, and the length of muscle that crosses the joint involved.1 It directly correlates with range of motion and mobility, but does not directly correlate with strength, balance, and coordination. Range of motion is the distance and direction the joint can move, while mobility is the ability to move without restriction.

Mobility

Though flexibility and mobility sound similar, they are not interchangeable. Mobility within a joint is the degree to which the area where two bones meet (known as an articulation) is allowed to move before restricted by the surrounding tissue such as tendons, muscle, and ligaments.2 Think of mobility as the range of uninhibited motion around the joint.

A good level of mobility allows a person to perform movements without restriction, while a person with good flexibility may not have the strength, coordination, or balance to execute the same movement. Good flexibility does not always denote good mobility.3

Stability

Mobility relates to movement while stability relates to control. Stability is defined as the ability to maintain control of joint movement or position by coordinating actions of surrounding tissues and the neuromuscular system.4 Joint stability depends largely on the shape, size, and arrangement of the articular surfaces (the surfaces on joints and cartilage where the bone makes contact with another bone), the surrounding ligaments, and the tone of the surrounding muscle. Injuries including ligament tears and sprains can often lead to stability issues in the joint.

Connecting the Movement Dots

Though maintaining flexibility is important, flexibility alone cannot prevent or heal injuries. A person can be very flexible, but lack mobility or stability within a joint. Rather than consider one more important than the other, think of flexibility and mobility as equal partners in creating sound movement patterns.

Gray Cook, physical therapist and author of Movement: Functional Movement Systems: Screening, Assessment, and Corrective Strategies, suggests we view the body on a joint-by-joint basis to create the best movement patterns.5 When viewing Cook’s approach from the top down, we can see how joints can stack on top of each other, alternating from stability to mobility.

Although our fingers and toes play a large role in movement since they have multiple joints, we’ll focus on the larger joints here.

Movement relationships from joint to joint play an integral role in overall activity. If the ankle does not bend and flex, it can inhibit the natural gate, the ability to squat fully or properly, and the ability of the knee to stabilize.6

Knee instability can lead to valgus collapse during squatting and hip hinging movements. It can prevent a good rebound during lateral or jumping movements. Lack of hip mobility can prevent twisting, bending, squatting, and hinging.

Not only can limitations within each joint affect how that joint functions, but also how joints above and below work as well. Poor hip mobility can cause low back pain or knee dysfunction. Lack of ankle mobility can cause knee pain. When a mobile joint becomes immobile (like the ankle) it can cause a stable joint to become instable (like the knee).

Though most joints are either stable or mobile, Mike Boyle, CSCS, explains in his book Advances in Functional Training: Training Techniques for Coaches, Personal Trainers, and Athletes, that the hip joint can be both stable and mobile. This means that it can also be unstable and immobile. This happens because the hips are multi-planar movers, meaning they flex and extend, perform abduction and adduction, and internally rotate and externally rotate.

The hips are at the core of the body and responsible for many different daily and athletic movement patterns. When something goes awry in the hips, it may affect the low back or knee. Often the low back or knee is treated rather than the hips, which can create a cycle of more hip immobility and less spine and/or knee stability. Rather than taking a single joint approach to creating healthier movement, look at the joints as a whole unit and work to connect the dots.

Improve Your Mobility, Stability, and Flexibility

Daily mobility and activation drills plus stretching keep the body primed and ready to take on any challenge.

SMR Exercises

Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) uses various objects such as foam rollers, lacrosse balls, tennis balls, and PVC (to name just a few) to help massage away restrictions found in normal soft-tissue.7

Mobility Exercises

Mobility drills are a great way to improve movement within joints that get a little sticky. Mobility exercises differ from static stretching in that they take joints and tissue through a series of movements to increase range of motion. Not everyone needs mobility work in all joints, but many people benefit from daily mobility drills. If you feel stiff, limited, or sore, then work on mobility in that joint, as well as the joints above and below it. For example, if the lower back or lumbar spine feels stiff, work on hip and thoracic spine mobility.

Activation Drills

Activation drills help the body learn to use the right muscles at the right time, which increases muscular strength around the joints and impacts the mobility or stability of that joint. Many activation exercises involve the core and the glutes since they make up the base of the trunk and help support hip and spine stability and mobility.

Flexibility Stretches

Stretching not only feels good but can also improve the range of motion within a joint. Save stretching for after a good warm up or workout rather than before.

When Things are Loose: Hypermobility and Joint Laxity

Often referred to as being double-jointed, hypermobility is excess range of motion within a joint. This allows some people to get into positions other people find impossible. Certain athletes, including gymnasts and dancers, benefit from hypermobile joints; most often it’s a benign condition.

However, symptoms such as clicking, pain and stiffness, dislocation, and recurring injuries need to be addressed. Hypermobility can be a sign of weakened collagen (the glue-like substance that holds the body together).

Mobility and stability unlock better human movement. Flexibility can benefit movement by increasing the range of motion within a joint. Working to improve movement in as little as 10 minutes a day can lead to healthier joints, less pain, and decreased risk of injury.

Sources:

  1. http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/the-importance-and-purpose-of-flexibility
  2. http://www.acefitness.org/blog/1189/stability-and-mobility
  3. Crockford, J. (n.d.). Improve Your Stability and Mobility with These Functional Exercises. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  4. http://boneandspine.com/joint-stability-injury/
  5. http://www.amazon.com/Movement-Functional-Assessment-Corrective-Strategies/dp/1931046727
  6. Boyle, M. (2010, November 11). THE JOINT-BY-JOINT APPROACH. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  7. http://breakingmuscle.com/mobility-recovery/what-is-a-foam-roller-how-do-i-use-it-and-why-does-it-hurt