Jen from Fusion Pilates Asheville gives some tips on a simple way to open the hips.`
In our last post we examined the Upper Crossed Syndrome: Tight chest and back of the neck and weak upper back and front of the neck. The Lower Crossed Syndrome which we will examine in this article goes hand in hand with the Upper Crossed Syndrome. When our upper body is out of whack, the lower body is going to have to compensate and vice versa. When we give into gravity and hang down and forward our pelvis will tilt. In a seated position, typically the pelvis rolls under, flattening the lumbar curve and creating a very weak, compromised position in the lower back. And when standing the pelvis usually tilts forward creating gripping in the lower back and a letting go of the abdominals. In either scenario this causes us to lose the optimal height of our spine and the upper body collapses. This puts a great deal of pressure on the muscles of the lower back and tension into the front of the hips ( hip flexors).
In the Lower Crossed Syndrome the gluteals and abdominals are weak and the lower back and hip flexors are tight. Below are some release sequences for you to practice everyday to slowly start to organize and balance your connective tissue. Remember to only stay in one spot no more than a minute and a half. Hold pinpointed pressure or add a very small rocking or flossing action on the ball.
1. Side Hip Release
You need a mat, 2 pillows ( one for under the head and one for between the legs) and a regular sized tennis ball. Side lie on the mat and place the pillows. Place the ball under the bottom hip at the side seam of the pant in the meat and not on a bone. You are looking for a spot of intense sensation. After 2 or 3 breath cycles the spot should soften and you should feel as if you can absorb the ball into the pelvis. Add the flossing motion. Before moving to the opposite side, turn onto the back and sense the difference between the 2 sides.
2. Front of the Hip Release
You will need a mat and 2 regular sized tennis balls. Lie on your belly and place a ball under each hip crease. Fold the hands with the elbows out to the sides and place the forehead on the hands.Take a few inhales and exhales to land on the balls ( get heavy). Staying heavy on the balls throughout start to add a small tilt of the pelvis. Inhale and send the tail to the ceiling. Exhale and send the tail between the legs. As you go back and forth start to pay attention to the upper body and keeping it heavy. After 10 to 20 reps of the slow rocking take the balls out, lie on the belly and sense the difference. Sit back into child’s pose and breath into the back of the body while allowing the head to rest on the floor.
Let’s face it. As much as we try, our bodies take the “path of least resistance.” And a lot of times we don’t even realize it until it is to late. Have you ever noticed that on a lot of days driving home from work you have to lower the setting of your rear view mirror? In the morning you were much taller but through the work day the shoulders rounded forward, the chest caved in, upper back rounded and the belly just surrendered.
This “path of least resistance” is our bodies naturally giving into gravity. There are times when we want to give in to it but if it is happening in a consistent, habitual manner then trouble can be ahead. Instead of using our tissue activation to support our joints, we start to hang and sit into our connective tissue ( fascia, tendons, ligaments). And just certain workhorse muscles are on constant overtime and other muscles are on a constant vacation. The most common occurrence of this is the lower back being super rigid because one has no abdominal activation to speak of.
Any of us that have had an injury like a broken foot or a badly sprained knee know all about how the body loves to compensate and how that can lead to a lot of mucked up stuff in the body and imbalances galore! Everything in the body is connected and when one thing changes everything else will too weather that be for the good , bad or the ugly.
A typical pose that a lot of us sit into day in and day out is a typical desk worker’s posture. And these days all of us are desk workers because we are slaves to our computers and our smartphones. We are pulled forward and down because we are unable to counter gravity. Our shoulders are rounded forward and the chest collapses and to bring our eyes to the horizon our neck must extend into a forward head posture. This is typically called Upper Crossed Syndrome. The chest and back of the neck are very tight and the upper back and front of the neck are weak.
To start to slowly change the organization of your connective tissue in the upper body try the below simple release sequences everyday. Only stay in one spot no more than a minute and a half. Hold pinpointed pressure or add a very small rocking or flossing action on the ball.
- Chest Release
You need a yoga block and a regular sized tennis ball. Place the yoga block on the wall and the tennis ball on the yoga block. Place the front of your right chest (below the collar bone and close to the front of your shoulder) on the ball. Steady the block with your left hand and the ball with your right fingertips until you have the feet and legs in the right position and you feel secure. You can hold pinpointed pressure or the flossing motion. Be sure to ask yourself where you can let go and effort less. The typical suspects for tension are the face, jaw, shoulders, pelvis, hands and feet. Before doing the opposite side, take inventory of what feels different.
2. Back of the Neck Release
You need a mat and a Great Dane Tennis Ball. Lie on the floor. Knees can be bent and feet on the floor or put a support under the knees and lengthen the legs. Place the oversized tennis ball at the occiput and balance. Give the weight of the head to the ball. Secure the ball with the right fingertips and turn your head to the right so that you land on the right mastoid process ( the nobby on the right side of the occiput). Hold pinpointed pressure and/or the flossing motion. Very important to soften the face, jaw and tongue. Come back to the center and before moving to the opposite side notice what feels different.
One of the most common mucked up postures we take on is shoulders shoved back, chest forward and front ribs splayed. This creates a habitually overextended thoracic spine and an increased lordotic ( lower back) curve. This destroys the birthright convex curve of our thoracic spine and the just right concave curve of the lumbar. This organization changes pressures within the body and we lose the intended shock absorption that the natural curves of the spine accommodate us with.
I think we have all been told “Stand up tall. You are slumping.” It is pretty much imprinted in our brains. When we present our best selves to the world we want to be our fullest and bravest self and this posture usually does the trick. However, it is a shortening of the spine because we are closing off the back of our body.We take the easiest way to look like we are standing tall and shove our shoulder blades together to try to bring our chest forward. The shoulder girdle, however, is suppose to translate and take cues from the spine and not the other way around.
In this posture the spinal muscles and the Internal Oblique abdominals are tight and the External Oblique abdominals, Transverse abdominals and Rectus are weak. A less known muscle, the Transverse Thoracis muscle also gets very weak. This structure lies on the inside of the thoracic ribcage. Its fibers attach to the lower borders and inner surfaces of the coastal cartilages of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th ribs. The lowest fibers of this muscle are horizontal in their direction, and are continuous with those of the Transverse abdominals ( our core abdominals). Strengthening this structure inside the ribcage helps to synchronize all the tissues of the ab wall and create a balanced ribcage. It eliminates the splaying forward of the ribs and the overextended thoracic spine.
Below is an easy sequence to get you started.
Supine Rib Stands:
You need a mat, a pillow and a yoga block.
With a yoga block or half foam roller between the hands, send the long arms over the head ( shoulder flexion) without lifting the mid back ribs off the floor.
At first, most will have to have an inclined pillow and knees will be bent and feet flat on the floor. After one strengthens this area, the incline can be reduced or eliminated and the legs can be long on the floor.`