30-Day Yoga Experience

This is a brief overview of my recent 30 day Yoga experience. We would love to hear what experiences you have made! Why a 30 day Yoga experience? I used to work in a typical 9 to 5 office job in London. My typical day would start in a rush to catch my bus and then squeeze myself on the overcrowded and hot underground to commute to the office located in always busy central London. My colleagues and I would then sit on our desks for hours with a maximum of an hour break which we might use for a little walk around the office blocks – or not. I would often feel imbalanced after such a day – mentally tired and stressed while physically stiff and restless. Going to the gym and movement practice in the morning helped against the stiffness but didn’t really benefit me mentally. The busy local gym actually stressed me out even more. In Summer long walks, movement and meditation in the park were a great balance to the busy office day. However, in Winter this was no real option as parks were closed before I would leave the office. I needed to tackle this feeling of imbalance and remembered the positive effect of some Yoga lessons I had attended when I was a teenager. These were great thanks to a wonderful teacher who taught me about Yoga meditation, breathing, as well as basic poses and ways to stabilise my body (sometimes activating the right point can make a huge difference). Yoga is ideal to find your personal balance as the practice aims to go...

Is a warm-up ‘just a warm-up’ ? A quick guide to team warm-ups for sports performance

Traditionally, team warm-ups for training or competition have been a means to an end, a jog and a stretch. However, great coaches now value this 20 to 30 minute block as an opportunity to enhance movement competency and reinforce excellence, as well as the necessary neuromuscular preparation for the proceeding activities. In Athletic Development, Vern Gambetta emphasises the point that the warm-up sets the tempo for the session: It is an integral, not separate part of the workout. As a strength and conditioning coach, there is nothing you will do more than conduct warm-ups, and these should all be taken as coaching moments to be taken advantage of. As an athlete, every warm-up should be a self-assessment; how do your joints and muscles feel during different movements at varying intensities? Kelvin Giles notes that the relatively short period of 20 minutes can see over 200 ‘movements’ taking place, developing the fundamental movements by connecting from fingernail to toenail. So, over time you can progress the challenge by increasing the complexity of the movement puzzles laid out for the athletes to mechanically solve. A bodyweight squat can turn into a squat with a trunk rotation; then a combination of a prisoner squat to a duck walk, or a drop squat to drop lunge. The possibilities are endless, and the more you hear your athletes tell you that the warm-up is weird, the better. Crawling, rotating, hinging, hoping, pushing, lunging, squatting, and mixing them all together. It also makes things fun and interesting. When you introduce a movement sequence that is new to the athlete, you will witness an immediate surge...

We all want our athletes strong…but what is strong?

Strength is a great way to bulletproof against injuries in sport. Get your athletes stronger and you help them develop resiliency and robustness. This make intuitive sense (stronger= less likely to break), and research indeed seems to back this up. But is there more to this equation than just “get them strong”? I am definitely in the camp of keeping training systems simple, and always a bit suspicious about the motives behind making things sound complicated. But as the saying goes; Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. The early-2000’s brought in the functional training era of Strength and Conditioning, where athlete’s followed a physical therapy model and spent all their time getting ‘functional’ and forgot to get strong. A training program with 20 different exercises, unstable surfaces, cable machines, and focusing really really hard on getting the TA and multifidus firing. Then in the late-2000’s the pendulum swung towards the opposite extreme; lifting heavy weights and getting strong. Training programs had little variety, and focused on the Power lifts and a few sets of plank. This is what most of my physical preparation for hurling looked like when I was in college, along with some Olympic lifts. I focused on the numbers and on how much weight I could shift off the ground, off my chest, pull up, or squat with on my back. I definitely got stronger, but the harder I trained in the gym the more I broke down on the field. The extra strength and size may have been somewhat useful but my balance and coordination was poor, and I wasn’t very explosive....

Saturday Movement

Here is a little movement session that I did today. Having not trained in a while, the aim of this low-intensity session was to just re-connect with the body and get going again. My current training goals are primarily to get back to pain free movement, working through hip and shoulder issues; so mobility training has been the main focus of my recent efforts. As well as working on the soft core, or inner unit as Paul Chek calls it. I actually spent longer on the Prep part of the session, around 35 mins, working on mobility and control: The squat hip rotations are from Ido Portal’s Squat Clinic. I used 6 adjustable Smart Hurdles for the over-unders, which my hips are really enjoying. Working on range of motion and control. I have been dropping in the Jefferson Curl every now and again to load the spine in flexion. I used a barbell @ 30kg, standing on a plyo box. Great stretch in the hamstrings too. Inspired by Gymnastic Bodies’ Coach Sommers who is a big fan of this movement. I used a broom with a 2.5kg plate in the middle, lying prone on the floor. Rolling Patterns are some of the foundational movements of the FMS corrective system for the soft core, described as a low threshold strategy that depicts asymmetries and deficiencies in a primitive pattern. I focused on not forcing the movement and not letting the lower body contribute to the roll. The Cossack Flow is an FRC movement. It was challenging to keep the movement fluid and really challenged my hip mobility. I chose four bodyweight strengthening/core movements and spent about 25 minutes rotating through them in...

What’s the Hot Fuss with Bikram Yoga?

Yoga has always piqued my interest as a potentially useful tool to help unwind years of unyielding stiffness and poor mobility. Although modern yoga is not a complete movement practice, any method of training that has survived for thousands of years and is used by many of the world’s best movers has something going for it in my book. The use of heat for the purpose of improving health is also centuries old, with a strong tradition of Sauna in the Nordic countries and Germany. Rhonda Patrick, a PhD in biomedical science, is a strong proponent of hyperthermic conditioning (sauna) for improved endurance, increasing muscle mass and formation of new brain cells, amongst other things. In this report she cites 37 studies to back up her claims that sauna is good for us. With these things in mind, and with the increasing popularity of Bikram yoga, Sara and I decided to give it a go last week. Of course, it is usually unfair and impossible to judge a particular method after only one attempt. So, this blog is in no way a definitive judgement of Bikram yoga, rather, my thoughts after the first experience. Read on to find out if it was also my last.   The Script As we took our place in 40 degree room, with the instructor standing on her podium at the top of the room, it didn’t take long to realize that the whole session was an ad-verbatim recital of a Bikram yoga script. It turns out that the script is standardized and instructors are told not to deviate from it, which made me feel like we were...

Making Joints Function Nice with Andreo Spina

  This past weekend I had the good fortune to attend the Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) workshop in Toronto. Functional Range Conditioning, as described on the website, is a system of training which simultaneously expands and strengthens range of motion across articulations, while teaching the nervous system how to incorporate said ranges into functional movement patterning. Andreo Spina is the creator and head instructor of FRC, as well as the Functional Range Release and Functional Anatomic Palpation Systems which are geared towards manual therapists. His background is as a Sports Specialist Chiropractor with a post-graduate fellowship in Sport Sciences. I first came across Dr. Spina’s work online as I was looking for answers that would help me improve my mobility and resolve chronic injuries. The first thing that struck me on podcast interviews and YouTube videos was his way of articulating complex topics in a way that made intuative sense, often calling out common misconceptions that are assumed to be true in the movement and rehabilitative industry. It was appealing to hear someone talk about the myths that are perpetuated by coaches and therapists, especially in relation to certain methods that didn’t make intuitive sense to me but that I had accepted on the assumption that those who are at the forefront know what they are talking about! More on some of those later. The second thing that stands out about Dr. Spina is that he can move. Certainly not an armchair preacher when it comes to graceful movement and mobility! It probably wasn’t too much of a leap of faith to imagine that if more people could move better in...