Junk Food Movement, Featured Blog by WGY Instructor, Lori Robbins

Junk Food: Something you eat that provides short-term satisfaction at the expense of long-term health.
Junk Movement: A way of moving that provides short-term fitness benefits at the expense of long-term health.

Katy Bowman (Footnote 1)
Creator of Restorative Exercise™

We all accept that some foods are nutritious and some are not. But, if all you eat is spinach 3x a day you have not achieved a balanced diet.

A balanced movement diet is similar. Just like only eating spinach, if you sit in a chair most of the day, you have not achieved a balanced body.

Movement, just like food, provides the mechanical requirement for human tissues to thrive. Moving invigorates our tissues, cells and bones. It also hydrates and removes waste. It provides the essential vitamins for a healthy body.

You respond: “I exercise 4x a week! so I must have a balanced body, right?” But exercise is a subset of movement.

Exercise usually involves small quantities of high intensity repetitive movements in the joints. Most exercise overuses a few joints while the rest of the body is dormant.

“What are you training for?” writes Kristine Rudolph (Footnote 2). “Is your training relevant and appropriate to the “sport” for which you are training?” If you lift weights at the gym, then you are training to lift weights at the gym. If you swim, you are training to swim, etc., etc.

“One of the reasons people feel the need to stretch tight areas is because they don’t spend very much time in positions that lengthen these parts. You can keep searching for the “perfect exercise program” or you can just change how you move all day long. Think about it.” Katy Bowman, Restorative Exercise™

I propose a new paradigm: Training for all day movement.

Restorative Exercise™ is a biomechanical movement program created by Katy Bowman. Her teachings and books provide a model of preventive and corrective exercises with emphasis on body alignment for optimal benefit from movement.

Restorative Exercise™ advocates walking as the most basic yet nourishing movement snack for the human body.

Walking is a comprehensive and complex movement that contributes to whole body wellness. If you walk well you can recruit the muscles that build glute and hamstring strength, retain flexible and strong feet, and provide pelvic health.

Walking can also provide cardio and circulation, waste removal, and bone building impact.

“Chew your food” is a common saying. Most of us have also heard advice like, “Stand up straight,” but we rarely get detailed instructions. Since we do not hunt and gather but rather sit and type, many of us have forgotten or never learned how to move well.

Often we mimic our parents’ improper movement patterns and end up with the same aches and pains they had. To add to this, the basic sequence of heel strike, roll to toe and push off may have been compromised by a lifetime of shoe wearing and other cultural factors.

Now that we are Adults, learning how to walk in alignment can take a long time. Changing your gait pattern is difficult but worth the effort to reap the benefits of health.

“The opposite of Sedentary is not exercise. The opposite of Sedentary is Movement. The more you move the less Sedentary you are. The End.” Jenni Rawlings (Footnote 3).

To start your path to better health, check out Lori Robbins’ walking workshop, Build A Butt – How Gait Affects Your Glutes, on June 13th from 1pm to 3pm, at Willow Glen Yoga.

lori Crescent Pose

Footnote 1: www.Restorativeextercise.com
Footnote 2: http://kristinerudolph.com/what-are-you-training-for-2/
Footnote 3: www.jennirawlings.com

What is a Hip Opener? (Part 2), Featured Blog by Guest Instructor, Robert Brook, of Alignment Lab

A hip opener is a posture meant to increase a particular range of motion (ROM) or multiple ranges of motion in the hip joint.  The most important aspect of such a posture is that the hip be targeted and that the force applied to the hip to create the opening not be diverted into the lower back or the knee.  Hip extension is one ROM of the hip that often gets neglected because of the ease with which many of us use the joints in the lower spine to do motions that would otherwise be done from the hip.  Working on hip extension is therefore extremely helpful and important not only for health and function of the hips but also for the lower back.

Improving hip extension will help prepare the body for backbends as well as help to support healthy gait mechanics. The simplest way to work on hip extension is from a prone position.

  1. Lie face down on the floor and find a comfortable position for you head, perhaps resting your forehead on a blanket or on your forearm.
  2. Check and see if the pubic bone and the frontal most aspect of the 2 ilium (the A.S.I.S. or anterior superior iliac spine) are resting on the floor.
  3. If the pubic bone doesn’t easily rest on the floor, try placing a folded blanket just above it on the 2 A.S.I.S.. The idea is to tilt the pelvis back a bit to bring the pubic bone in contact with the floor (see figure below).  If the 2 A.S.I.S. are not able to rest on the floor when the pubic bone is in contact with the floor the blanket support will offer something for the 2 A.S.I.S. to rest against. Whatever the case, getting the pubic bone in contact with the floor is crucial.hip opener 2 figure 1 small
  4. Once you have it down, then lift your right leg off the floor while keeping the knee straight. Make sure the pubic bone stays in contact with the floor. This is hip extension (see figure below).hip opener 2 figure 2
  5. Hold the position for a few seconds, making sure that the pelvis doesn’t roll to one side when the leg is lifted.
  6. Lower the right leg and try it with the left leg.
  7. If you feel pain in your back and/or on either side of the sacrum (on the back of the pelvis) when doing hip extension as described above, try pushing the pubic bone down into the floor with moderate force and then lifting the leg again. If this doesn’t at least reduce if not resolve the pain then suspend working on hip extension this way and move on to the next option (shown in next section).
  8. If you can lift each leg with your pubic bone remaining in contact with the floor and without pain in your back, then try doing this in front of a mirror so you can see how much hip extension you actually have. How high does the leg lift before your pubic bone starts to lift as well? 6 inches? 10 inches? 1 inch? See what you’ve got currently so you have a baseline from with to assess progress.
  9. Repeat this method of extending the hip 3-4 times on each leg, feeling the muscles in the back of the hip and thigh working to lift the leg. Continue to keep the knee straight and the pubic bone in contact with the floor. If your low back starts to hurt as you’re holding the leg up, decrease the height of the leg until the pain goes away and continue. As long as you’re not experiencing back pain, begin increasing the time of hold to 20-30 seconds. Then rest a few breaths and come up.

If your back hurts when you try the above, no matter how high or low you lift the leg, then try the following instead.

  1. Come to your hands and knees with your fingers and thumbs spread, your wrists directly over your hands and your knees directly under your hips. If your knee caps are sensitive to pressure, have your knees on a blanket for more cushion.
  2. Allow the pelvis to rotate forward and your back to arch as much as is comfortable. Try not to actively arch the back but let the arch happen by relaxing the abdomen toward the floor (see figure below).hip opener 2 figure 3
  3. Then, using your abdominal muscles, lift your lower front ribs up away from the floor and pull them in toward the spine until you feel the middle of your spine round out slightly. Be careful not to tuck your pelvis when you do this. You can use a mirror to get feedback. You should see a clearly concave lumbar spine and a clearly convex thoracic spine.
  4. If upon looking at your image in the mirror you find it’s hard to tell where the lumbar ends and the thoracic begins, continue to lift the lower ribs up and in toward the spine until you can begin to see the junction of lumbar and thoracic. Then lift up the portion of the thoracic spine in between the shoulder blades by pushing your palms into the floor with your arms held straight. Try to feel the rhomboids, the muscles that connect your shoulder blades to your spine, becoming longer and more active (see figure below).hip opener 2 figure 4
  5. Now push down through your left knee until your left hip engages and your right knee begins to lift off the floor. Be conscious of lifting the right knee up by using the left hip and not by using the muscles in your lower back.
  6. Once the right knee is lifted, stretch the leg out behind you until the knee is straight.
  7. Keeping the left hip active and the right knee straight, gradually lift your right thigh toward the ceiling (see figure below). Avoid arching your back and dropping your lower ribs toward the floor. Also be sure to keep the upper thoracic spine lifted and the shoulder blades wide.hip opener 2 figure 5
  8. Hold the leg up for 10-15 seconds, then lower the leg and repeat on the opposite leg. Repeat each side 3 times.

This is also hip extension and this version will typically work for everyone and is particularly helpful for those whose hip extension is limited. The exception is anyone who cannot bear weight on their hands this way. If this includes you, then seek help from an experienced teacher to work on your hip extension.  There are many postures that can be used to increase hip extension in addition to the above.  In Part 3, I will discuss another of my favorites!


Robert Brook  is co-founder of Alignment Lab where he specializes in using Yoga, Ayurveda and Restorative Exercise™ as therapeutic tools to address a variety of health challenges.  Look for his “Get Hip to Your Hips” workshop at Willow Glen Yoga on Saturday, June 6, from 1-4 pm.

Check out Robert’s website at www.alignmentlab.net.