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Shoulder, Neck, & Upper Back Yoga Therapy

 

Yoga is a draw for many people who are looking to work past physical and emotional limitations. At times though, Yoga classes may not address specific needs of the individual. Thus, a more targeted and refined class may be needed; Yoga Therapy could be the answer. Research evidence shows it helps improve imbalances in the body and emotional centers. As a highly trained Yoga Therapist, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Personal Trainer, Michael Kuang leads this mini series of Yoga Therapy classes to help with specific chronic injuries and health conditions.

Our first series covers the topic of Upper Back, Shoulders, & Neck. This area of the body has seen an increase of injuries due to our constant posture of working with laptops and cell phones. We have become a society hunched over our devices and this has created imbalances in our upper body. This class is designed to help with postural issues as well as any injuries in the areas.

 

These intimate and detailed classes allow only 6 participants and consist of 3 classes in each series.*

Participants are asked to commit to all 3 classes in order to get the most benefit from the program.

Each participant must go thru an intake and assessment before the classes start, so that Michael will have a chance to get to know them and plan sessions that will be appropriate for everyone in the group.

 

Cost is $150 per person for each 3 part series.

All Classes held at Red Pearl Yoga

904 North Flagler Drive

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

*Refunds or credits will not be issued for any missed classes.   Please contact Michael directly with any questions regarding the program at SyphonFitness@gmail.com

 

Register HERE!

Yoga Therapy and Low Back Pain

Yoga Therapy and Low Back Pain

 

 

Written By Michael Kuang CPT, CES, RYT 500

Low back pain is one of the most common issues which people visit their doctors for and according to the Global Burden of Disease in 2010 it is the leading cause for disability worldwide. It’s so common, that it’s estimated 80% of the population will experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetime. Muscle Strain or Ligament Sprain can cause issues of the lower back. A strain is when the muscle is over-stretched and tears, while a sprain is when the ligaments become over-stretched. These can occur when a person lifts a heavy object, twists while lifting, a sudden movement perhaps a fall or when playing sports, and poor posture over time. Strains and sprains may only hurt for a few days, then the pain should subside. Common red flags indicating severe trauma to the low back would be incontinence of either the bladder or bowel system. This would require immediate medical attention. Some other common causes for low back pain are herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, stenosis, spondylolisthesis, and deformities like scoliosis. These would fall under the chronic low back pain category as the pain would last 3 months or more.

Using Yoga Therapy with general low back pain is very effective. Specific poses are done to relieve areas around the lower back that can cause low back pain. An assessment is done to distinguish what areas of the body is imbalanced. Then you can put together a proper protocol that includes flexibility, range of motion, and strength on the areas needed.

Working with the hips will most likely be the target of flexibility. In this day and age most people are sedentary, and the hips tighten as a result. Having tight hips affects the spine depending on how the muscles of the hips pull the spine. For instance, if you notice the lumbar spine going into over extension or hyper-lorodosis. The hips will most likely be in an anterior tilt due to tight hip flexor muscles. The psoas muscle being the main contributor of pulling the hip forward and down. The psoas is connected to the spine starting from T12 and L1 thru L5 on both sides of the spine, it passes thru the pelvic region and inserts into the top of the femur. When it is tight, the muscle pulls the spine anteriorly causing the hyper-lordosis and anterior tilt of the pelvis. To stretch the muscle, the femur must be in extension and the spine must be neutral. Yoga poses such as Anjaneyasana and Virabadrasana 1 can help with the flexibility of the front of the hip.

When the lumbar becomes too rounded, it is called hypo-lorodosis or flat back. This is when the lumbar curve loses its shape and starts to move posteriorly. When this happens the most likely cause is tight overactive hamstrings. The hamstrings originate at the ischial tuberosity, which is the sit bones of the pelvis area. The tight hamstrings pull the hips downward into a posterior tilt and over time the spine starts to move in to the flattened position. This decreases the mobility of the spine as well as weakens the spinal column. Hamstring stretches will be important in this case. The femur will need to be in a flexed position at the hip with the spine in a neutral position. Yoga poses such as Supta Padangusthasana can help to open up the back of the legs. Gentle restorative backbends can also help to create some space in the lumbar to help the spine find its lordotic curve.

Tension in the external rotator muscles of the hip can cause issues on the spine as well. When the Piriformis muscle (main external rotator) is tight. The hip gets pulled into external rotation, which can push the pelvis forward and compresses the sacroiliac joint and shortens the lumbar spine. Tension can also cause symptoms similar to sciatic pain, since the piriformis muscle runs over the sciatic nerve. When the piriformis is tight it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve causing tingling and numbness down the legs. This condition is called “piriformis syndrome”. Stretching of the piriformis muscle will be important to alleviate issues of the low back and sciatic nerve. Yoga poses like Supine Modified Pigeon, is a great way to stretch the muscle without having to strain the rest of the body.

In addition to tight external rotators, the hip abductor muscles are generally overworked and tight. This prevents the hips from going into internal rotation comfortably, which can cause similar effects of the spine as to having tight external rotators. Having full range of motion in the hips allows the spine to stay in a comfortable position. Yoga Poses such as Parivrtta Supta Padangusthasana can help to open up and release tension in Glut Medius, TFL, and IT Band as well as the external rotators.

After releasing tension in the areas needed, strengthening the hips is important to help balance the body. The muscles that usually need strength is the adductors and internal rotators. The exact opposite muscles of the ones we worked to stretch and lengthen.  These muscles will help to bring the femur into a neutral position and allows for movement in the hips. Once the movement is available in the hips, the spine will start to regain its mobility and strength.

To help support the spine, the abdominals need to be strengthened as well to help keep the spine from losing its integrity. The abdominals help to keep the spine supported so that it does not go into too much flexion, extension, as well as twists in quick and sudden movements. Learning to engage the abdominals will allow for the body to protect the spine. Yoga poses that help to work the hips and abdominals are Plank, Dandasana with a strap, Tadasana with a block between the legs, and wall squat with block between the legs. These all help to strengthen the inner thighs and brings awareness to the abdominals.


The work done should be consistent, as the body will respond better to frequency and repetition. Yoga has been researched to help overcome back pain. Yoga helps to bring awareness to the body and address what is imbalanced. The breath work is also what sets Yoga apart from any other modality. Breathing is essential to allowing the body to heal, as it helps to trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System. It is only in this state that the body is able to truly heal.


Michael Kuang is a Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist thru NASM. A Yoga Therapist Student in a program accredited by the IAYT. He has been in the movement industry about 10 years and is the owner of Syphon Fitness.

University of Miami Study of Yoga

In November of 2015, I participated in a study at the University of Miami’s Laboratory of Neuromuscular Research and Active Aging. View video of UM Study of Sun Salutation B. I went in on 3 separate mornings while fasted from the night before. Every day I was hooked up to Electromyography Sensors (Measures Electrical Activity of the Muscles) on my (Middle Deltoid, Lateral Tricep, Middle Trapezius, Pectoralis Major, Thoracic Erector Spinae, External Oblique, Vastus Medialis, and Medial Gastrocnemius), VO2 Sensor mask (Measures Oxygen Consumption), and a Heart Rate Monitor (Measures Heart’s Beats Per Minute).

My first day’s task was to run on the treadmill starting at 4 mph for 5 minutes, and then up to 6.5 mph with an increase of incline every 2 minutes. I ran for about 10 minutes at that pace till it was hard for me to breathe in the mask. Then a 5 minute cool down back at 4 mph.

My second day’s task was to perform Sun Salutations B (Surya Namaskara B) at a slow speed (shown in video above). The sequence was for about 8 minutes without stopping.

My third day’s task was to perform Sun Saluations B (Surya Namaskara B) at a fast pace. The sequence again was for about 8 minutes without stopping.

I just received my results from all three days, see Michael Kuang UM Personal Performance Report.

My VO2 Max which is the maximum Oxygen Consumption Level I can achieve was at 44.5 which is about 65%  and in Good range.

The Calories Burned during the fast pace was at 80.1 and slow pace at 64.16

The Muscle Activity for fast pace vs. slow pace was the most interesting. The Middle Trapezius, Middle Deltoid, and Vastus Medialis was used pretty equally at both speeds, 40%, 5%, and 10% respectively.

The biggest difference was with the Erector Spinae going from 29% at fast pace down to almost 8% at slow pace. Which shows the Erector Spinae is more supportive during the fast movement. Another interesting factor for slow pace, the results show the Pectoralis Major and the External Oblique engaging more. For Pectoralis Major, 21% at fast to 30% at slow. External Oblique 28% fast to 36% slow.

Which when looking at the whole picture, the Erector Spinae will activate to stabilize the spine when the body is moving fast. When moving at a slow pace the Erector Spinae decreases activity and allows the Pectoralis Major and External Oblique to activate higher to support the spine.

The muscle used at the highest level was the Gastrocnemius, working at 45% at fast pace to 49% at slow pace.

Overall the experience was great and I had fun being a part of the test.

Breathing 101

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We all know that breathing is a natural function of the human body, but what do we really know about the breath besides the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body? I didn’t really know much about breathing till I took up my Yoga practice, and this was years after I’d been active with physical activity. What I’ve learned about the breath changed my life! It gave me a way to release stress and help me perform and function better during any type of physical movement. We all breathe without much thought, it is a part of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which functions 24/7 naturally. But we should really consider learning how to breath in certain situations.

I’m not going to bore you with the Science behind breathing, but HERE is a great article if you choose to indulge.

Now as I’ve learned to move and breathe at the same time, I’ve noticed a significant amount of change. The power I have in my body when using the breath and how much more control I have overall. We typically only breathe into a small space within our lungs, which is fine for resting activities. When we start to move the body however, we need to tap into a deeper breath. Which is called Diaphragm Breathing. Now this type of breathing increases the oxygen intake which is needed for higher level of performance. When performed properly the breath also helps with the way the body moves.

For instance-folding forwards with your legs straight. Try this with two different ways of breathing. First, take an inhale as you fold and see how far you can fold forward. Second, exhale completely as you fold forward. Do you notice any difference? You should feel the deeper body position on the exhale.

All of the Yoga Asanas are cued with the breath because as we contract the body we should exhale and as we expand we should inhale. Same goes with lifting weights, as we want to exhale as we contract a muscle and inhale as we extend the muscle. When we get into higher intensity activities like running, cultivating a deep breathe is important. Try running with shallow fast breaths and also running with deep slow breaths. You’ll notice the slower deep breathe gives you better performance and stamina.

I’ve noticed how little control most people have with their breaths. Fortunately, it is something that can be learned to really bring in a different aspect to your life and performance level.

Happy breathing!

Stronger Foundations, Better Results


 

The basis of my personal training business focuses on these 4 words…Stronger Foundations, Better Results. This approach gives everyone an advantage of finding out their weaknesses and strengths. Then is able to work to bring the two spectrums into balance. I always think about our bodies as a house. We wouldn’t want to build on a weak and poor foundation, so why would we do that with our bodies?

As a society, the majority of us spends 8+ hours in a seated position. This causes all different types of postural imbalances; tight and overactive hip flexors, weak abdominals, overactive and tight back, weak gluts, and rounded shoulders. This is just to name some of the major issues I see working with different people. Now anyone with these types of major postural imbalances need to apply corrective exercise techniques to bring their bodies back into alignment. Otherwise, the risk of injury is much higher. If they are not addressed, repetitive stresses can cause a breakdown of the body and eventually start to affect other parts of the body. For example tight hips can lead to knee injury because of the lack of hip joint range of motion.

The technique is used with high level athletes to insure that they have long sustainable careers. Injuries do happen, but decreasing the chances is important if anyone wants to continue being active in their life.

For any questions, please contact me. I’m always happy to offer a free consultation to give you a better understanding and insight.

5 Tips to Stay Healthy

We all have a busy life that constantly pulls us in different directions. We may not have the time and motivation to workout or even have the time to cook a proper meal for ourselves. This is a challenge even for me, I spend hours a week helping others with their health goals and some weeks that equates to my own lack of motivation. Here are 5 tips that I’d like to share from my own experiences that can hopefully help you.

1. Discipline, Discipline, Discipline

It will be a constant struggle without this. Most people look for the “what’s in it for me right now”, while we should look at the big picture and see what we want as a whole. Consistent good behavior will give you consistent good results. It’s not easy, but look deep within and you can usually find the answer. Take smaller steps if the obstacle seems too big, those small steps will eventually lead to become a habit and eventually a lifestyle.

2. Resist temptations

There will always be something tempting you to veer off the track. The constant struggle is resisting what you know will sabotage your goal. Don’t let yourself fall into those traps. Distance yourself from those things for awhile, and see how you feel.  You may find that you are stronger than you thought.

3. Don’t let peer pressure overcome you

You’re doing well, but you have people around you always pushing you to do things you don’t want to. Well to me those are people you probably shouldn’t have around you all the time. Again, take a step back if you can and see the bigger picture. If you can’t get away, then at least stand up for yourself and give yourself the respect you deserve. No one is going to take care of you, except yourself.

4. Find a balance

Moderation is the key, you can’t be perfect 100% of the time. So allow yourself a day to binge a bit. This gives you a psychological boost, and can save you from sabotaging everything. I’ve struggled for years trying to find the right balance, and sometimes it ebbs and flows differently from what I’d set out to do. Just stay consistent and find the perfect balance.

5. Set time aside for yourself

Mark it in your calendar or set an alarm, do whatever you need to do but give yourself the time that you need. You’ll thank yourself for it later. Pick an activity and time of the day that works well for you and pursue that to no end. If it doesn’t inspire you then you won’t continue with it. Make it a lifestyle, make it who you are.

How To Not Pack The Pounds On Your Next Vacation

 

Article By Cole Millen

Whether you are cutting calories for weight loss or just becoming more health-conscious, one of the hardest things to do is keep yourself healthy while you’re on a vacation. Healthy living starts with a healthy diet, and it can be a struggle to stay on top of the dining practices you have developed at home with a regular schedule. Although traveling changes your options and introduces an abundance of unhealthier choices to pick from, it is very possible to still maintain a healthy diet and choose the best foods available for you and your family with a little bit of planning ahead.

When flying, it is best to eat prior to your flight. By eating a healthy meal before you arrive at the airport, you are less likely to indulge in many of the unhealthy, fast food options available at most airports. If you have a connecting flight and are unable to get by with just your pre-flight meal, it is a good idea to walk around the airport once you arrive to determine what your healthiest option might be. Look for fresh fruit and salads or veggie-packed options over more greasy, fried meats and oily dishes. Another option is to pack some healthier snacks, like chocolate-free trail mixes and pretzels, at home and bring them with you to tide you over.

If you’ll be staying in a hotel on your vacation, saying no to the minibar is step number one in avoiding sudden snack urges. If you must have in-room snack options during your vacation, swing by a health food store to get a variety of healthy snacks and maybe even some fresh fruits and vegetables for your room. If you want to go the room service route for meals, try speaking to the kitchen staff about what health-conscious options are available; many hotels will happily accommodate guests and may even have more ideas for healthy meals than you had expected. Even when ordering standard menu items from the kitchen, consider substitutions; low-fat, grilled skinless chicken breasts are a healthier substitute for fried chicken options, for example.

It is also good to use Google during your trip planning stage to identify healthy friendly hotels and areas in your destination city. Many websites feature user reviews and traveler opinions. I personally use a great site that I found a few months back called Gogobot. I was looking through a list of reviews for Las Vegas hotels and was able to find information regarding restaurants, hotels, even things to do. This made it ever so easy to plan out my vacation to ensure a healthy week. Also for ease of use, try your browser’s search feature to locate keywords like “eating healthy” and “health foods” to find relevant healthy eating vacation tips.

Breakfast is one of the easiest meals that you can introduce healthier foods into your traveling diet. Whether you’re receiving continental breakfast at your hotel or dining out, load up on fiber filled fruits, low fat yogurts for healthy protein, and complex carbohydrates like oatmeal.

When dining out on your next vacation, be sure to make good restaurant decisions to ensure you can meet your dietary needs while satisfying your taste buds. Avoiding all you can eat buffets and search out salad bars and menus with plenty of fish options. An easy rule of thumb when traveling is that restaurants with mascots are generally bad news for good health decisions. No matter what you eat, consider baked, broiled, grilled, roasted, and steamed options, all of which are generally healthier than the fried, battered, smothered, and bottomless alternatives. Try to identify low-fat menu options and work with your waiter to find the perfect healthy option.

Staying healthy while on a vacation does not have to be difficult. While it does take time to do effective research and to be intentional about what to eat, it is worth it. The body feels great while on vacation and is relaxed when it is time to go home.

The Stretching Debate-Should You or Not?

Saw this article today about static stretching prior to working out or playing sports.

http://peakcontrol.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/to-stretch-or-not-prior-to-exercise-a-systematic-review-of-the-effects-of-acute-static-stretching-on-maximal-muscle-performance/

There have been debate about this for some time now, and I think this article is pretty accurate. My normal warmup would include foam rolling and a little bit of static stretching followed by some dynamic stretching. I believe that any type of stretching is not as effective without foam rolling first. I have become a big believer of the foam roll and apply it every day, workout or not. I get all of my clients to do foam rolling and have made believers with them as well. Especially those who have had major injuries and/or surgery.

So in my opinion, do some light stretching.  But, I wouldn’t do it until after foam rolling.

Tomato and Asparagus Salad

This is a good fresh tasting salad that’s low in calories!

Ingredients:

1 lb. fresh asparagus, trimmed
8 cups romaine lettuce, torn
1/3 cup low fat Italian salad dressing
12 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp parmesan cheese, shredded

Instructions:

Cook asparagus in boiling water 5-6 minutes or until crisp tender; plunge in ice water to cool and stop cooking. Divide lettuce between 6 plates, arrange asparagus and tomatoes on top and drizzle with Italian dressing. Sprinkle with cheese and chill 1 hour before serving.

Makes: 6 Servings
Serving Size: 12 Servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

Calories 57
Fat (g) 2
Saturated Fat (g) 1
Cholesterol (mg) 0
Sodium (mg) 147
Carbohydrate (g) 7
Fiber (g) 3
Protein (g) 4
Calcium (mg) 0