View the 2021 Online Training Schedule

Learn More

Most Popular Articles

Month: February 2021

Best Fitness Apps and Streaming Platforms to Get Fit From Home

By Perri O. Blumberg for Men’s Journal.

YouTube fitness videos were great and all when we thought this whole novel coronavirus thing would stay, well, novel. But nearly a year into this, we’re still doing majority of our workouts at home. Like it or not, the uptick in new smart home gym equipment is reshaping how we look at fitness and could decimate the gym industry. If you’ve been stuck in a workout rut, we want you to sweat it—specifically with one of these stellar fitness apps and fitness platforms will snap you out of your funk and actually have you excited to throw on a sweatband and get to work. From VR experiences to a workout fit for a firefighter, we’ve got something for everyone. Read on and catch your breath…while you still can.

So your best friend wrote a novel during quarantine? Big deal—you’re getting in the best shape of your life from the comfort of home with this bevy of fitness apps.

Best Fitness Apps and Streaming Platforms to Get Fit From Home

 

1. FlexIt

Your muscles don’t have to atrophy like your social life, folks. Hook up with virtual personal trainers from 3,000 gyms across the country, including Blink, Gold’s, Physique 57, and more. (You don’t need to be a member of any studio to use the platform.) You’ll train with a trainer over video in a customized workout tailored to your goals. Take the Trainer Matching Quiz and get on the road to better health, whether you’re looking to improve flexibility, rehab an injury, lose weight, or improve overall fitness.

[From $30 for 30-minute session; flexit.fit]

Learn More

2. FightCamp
FightCamp

Take classes from pro boxers and NASM-certified trainers with on-demand workouts like Full Body Boxing and Full Body Kicking. There’s even a versus mode so you can challenge yourself or others from prior workouts to beat your personal record. To get set up you’ll need the FightCamp Personal or FightCamp Tribe package, which comprises a bag, quick wraps, mat, pair of gloves, and punch trackers that measure your speed, strength, and stamina throughout each cathartic jab and hook. FYI: The free-standing bag is 67 inches tall and 24 inches at its widest once assembled, so make sure you’ve got adequate space.

[From $430-$1,219 for equipment plus $39/month membership fee; joinfightcamp.com]

Learn More

3. Alo Moves
Alo Moves

A diverse group of instructors guide you through a carefully curated collection of on-demand yoga, fitness, and mindfulness classes (try a sound bath if you’re in a slump or yoga nidra for restorative sleep) located in studio or naturals settings (we like Alo in the Wild Hawaii). With thousands of classes to choose from, use the handy filter to search by class duration, intensity, style, and more. Or, heed our sage counsel and treat your weary limbs to Yoga for Hikers with the talented Nicole Tsong or Quick HIIT if your quarantine sweats are getting tight.

[$20/month or $199/year; alomoves.com]

Learn More

4. Future Fit
Future Fit

If one-on-one virtual personal training is for you, join the Future Fit program, which pairs you with a fitness coach who creates custom training plans each week based on goals, available equipment, and time constraints, communicating via text message and video. To keep you accountable, Future sends you an Apple Watch so you and your coach can keep tabs on your progress. For a sample of the fun that’s in store, a recent week for one user consisted of Push Focus (three-position isometric hold pushups, lunge knee drives, scissors, T pushups, triceps dips, squat jumps, high plank, etc.) on Monday and Pull Focus (feet elevated pushups, hip lifts, pendulum legs, high side plank, pushups, etc.) on Wednesday.

[$150/month; future.co]

Learn More

5. Supernatural
Supernatural

This virtual reality fitness program is otherworldly (okay, not really, but man do Machu Picchu and Iceland boast some serious views) and makes torching calories fun, all the while tailoring your sessions to your ability level and desired intensity. It’s available exclusively on the Oculus Quest and Quest 2 headsets, with a mobile Companion App for iPhone and Android to track your progress. Explore the workouts library, connect with others, and pair with an optional heart-rate monitor. Workouts run the gamut but our two favorites are Quick Hits, which last two-to-three songs in length and can be completed in under 10 minutes, and the Meditation/Stretching options for a release at the end of a tough day.

[$19/month or $179/year; getsupernatural.com]

Learn More

6. NEOU
NEOU

They had us at LIMITLESS, a three-week program with Andrew Mariani, where all you need is dumbbells and a willingness to break a sweat. These days, after winter gluttony, we’re also fans of The Biggest Loser’s Bob Harper’s Weight Loss Starter Pack and kids’ workouts to keep the little ones entertained. Overall, NEOU lets you choose from live-streaming and on-demand classes from 100+ studios and instructors in categories like bootcamp, yoga, cycling, and nutrition. With something for all fitness levels, this is a great choice if you share your digs with a couch potato or triathlete, and need a service that caters to you both.

[$12.99/month or $59/year; neoufitness.com]

Learn More

7. Row House GO
Row House GO

There’s no low-impact workout quite like rowing. Easy on your hips, knees, and low back, while delivering superb cardiovascular benefits, BYO rowing machine and get to work on building your endurance and muscles from wherever you are. Bonus: When lockdowns are behind us and your group books a lake house, you’ll be MVP for lakefront activities.

[$19.99/month; therowhouse.com]

Learn More

8. iFit
NordicTrack iFit Global Workout Mt Fuji

Suffering from waning motivation and workout monotony? You’d be amazed what some dog sled action in Alaska or a spin around Bermuda can do for your spirit, even if you’re only staring at them on an HD flat screen in your basement. Explore a sprawling library of instructor-led studio classes and global training videos shot on location in 50+ countries (we’re talking hikes on Mt. Kilimanjaro, cycling the Swiss Alps, or rowing the Zambezi river) with iFit’s immersive, interactive app. It powers NordicTrackProForm, and Freemotion bikes, treadmills, and more cardio equipment. Even better, iFit-enabled machines can automatically adjust incline, resistance, and more, allowing you to focus on your burning calves instead of futzing with manual adjustments. When you want to mix things up, don’t miss the collection of off-equipment workout categories like bootcamp, boxing, HIIT, yoga, Pilates, and mindfulness. P.S. If you don’t have IFit-enabled equipment, but seek a globetrotter’s escape, prop your phone or tablet on your own equipment and follow along. Glacier National Park Climb Series we’re coming for ya.

[$15/month for individual plan, $39/month for up to five users on family plan, or $396/year; ifit.com]

Learn More

9. Life Time Digital
Life Time Digital

Choose from 1,000+ live-streaming classes a week, running the gamut from cardio to yoga. (Not to be missed: Life Time’s CEO Bahram Akradi, frequently teaches cycle classes). For something more personalized, you can also take virtual 1:1 training. Got an Apple Watch? The app also features Apple Fitness+ programs. Our top class picks: Upper RX and XTREME. We’ll spare you the grueling details, so you don’t chicken out.

[$15/month; lifetime.com]

Learn More

10. Centr
Centr

The newly launched Centr Fusion program from Chris Hemsworth’s fitness app merges high-octane workouts with mindful components to give your training a more holistic touch. The six-week progressive program has five unique 25- to 30-minute workouts that get harder week after week to help you grow stronger. Each week comprises three workout styles: BoxHIIT, Strength, and Power Flow. You don’t need a fancy home gym either—just a mat and dumbbells. This is great if you struggle with meditating, as it encourages you to take a moment post-workout to recalibrate and, yes, center yourself.

[Free 7-day trial, $29.99; centr.com]

Learn More

11. Zygo
Zygo

Got a pool? Don’t limit yourself strictly to floating and sipping beer; try this waterproof headset and accompanying app of on-demand water-based workouts. Billed as “The Peloton of the Pool,” there are 100 on-demand workouts paired with music; you can also stream your own tunes, podcasts, and audiobooks Some classes that piqued our interest include the 20-Minute Arm Intervals (a.k.a. “Angry Arms”) and Recovery Swims. For serious swimmers, live coaching is a separate capability that can be utilized by, say, a coach or personal trainer by working as a walkie-talkie. P.S. Yep, the headset works in a lake or ocean, too. Simply rinse off the headset after swimming in salt water.

[$299; shopzygo.com]

Learn More

12. Tonal Mobile App 
Tonal Mobile App

Fans of the wall-mounted Tonal home gym can now take that experience when they’re away from home with its Mobile Workouts beta, available for Apple’s iOs (including the Apple Watch) or Android. Tonal members who have completed a digital weight assessment can access all off-Tonal Guided Workouts ranging from Core Strength and Recovery to Mobility and Kickboxing, and more. For type-As who can’t bear to see their 100-day workout streak ruined, rest assured all workouts get logged to your profile. Got 18 minutes? Six-Pack Attack, here we come.

[$3,740 plus $49/month for membership with unlimited membership accounts; tonal.com]

Learn More

13. FitFighter
FitFighter

Embrace your childhood dream of being a firefighter with this stellar strength-and-conditioning system founded by CEO and Iraq War Veteran Sarah Apgar. It was originally designed for the fire service and centered on the patent-pending Steelhose free weights and an accompanying iOS app for Apple devices. Made in America from real firehose and steel shot, the accessory works as a dumbbell, kettlebell, sandbag, med ball, and sledgehammer—all in one. Pick either from an on-demand library of workouts or tune in for live-streamed workouts. A portion of FitFighter profits go to the Stephen Siller Tunnels to Towers Foundation, which honors firefighter Stephen Siller who died saving others on September 11, 2001.

[$150 for the Steelhose and a year of training or $65 for 5lb or 15lb set, $85 for 25lb set, and $10 a month or $100 a year for training; 30-day free trial available; fitfighter.com]

Learn More

14. UA Performance Academy
UA Performance AcademyYes, UA as in that UA. Hone your body’s greatest asset, your brain, with Under Armour’s digital hub. You’ll discover mental strength training knowledge, exercises, and tools used by the world’s top athletes; take audio and/or visual programming across Visualizing Success, Building Optimism, and Calming Your Mind. Rooted in scientific research, this program is inspired by world champions and elite athletes so you, too, can enhance your mental fortitude and wellness on and off the proverbial court.

[Free; underarmour.com]

Learn More

15. Academy of Self Defense
Academy of Self Defense

We’ve all got pent-up steam to blow off these days. With Academy of Self Defense’s program, hone your skills at Krav Maga, the military self-defense and fighting method developed for the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli security forces virtually. Or, try Muay Thai, bootcamp classes, and combo/all-around fighter fitness options. All classes are taught by professional trainers who will have you feeling like you can star in your own martial arts flick in no time.

[$19/month for a specific class subscription or $39/month for extensive, on-demand access; two-week free trial available; academyselfdefense.com]

Learn More

16. Yoga Medicine OnlineYoga Medicine Online

If you’re looking for something geared toward supporting your well-being, we’re all for these yoga classes coupled with purposefully curated wellness programs. They make use of research-based techniques with a therapeutic focus led by celebrated yogi Tiffany Cruikshank and other talented instructors. Two classes we keep coming back to—Strength & Resilience: Whole-Body and Lung Capacity & Longevity.

[$39/month; yogamedicine.com]

Learn More

6 Yoga Poses for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Fighters

By Jeff Tomko for Reebok.

The unlikely marriage of the combat martial art and tranquil breath-focused activity can help you boost fitness while strengthening mind and body.

Whether you’re a black belt with loads of experience or a white belt learning how to defend from a kimura, if you practice Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ), you know how this South American form of martial arts provides the ultimate full-body strength and conditioning workout. 
 
But while practicing holds and submissions enhances your fitness (and soaks your combat gear in sweat), a piece to the fitness puzzle is missing—the flexibility and breath control needed to pull off some of the practice’s toughest holds. That’s where yoga comes in. Getting on the yoga mat can help improve strength, balance and flexibility, while also helping reduce back pain—a common experience for those who practice BJJ. Experts affirm that yoga also reduces stress, improves heart health, increases energy levels and helps you sleep better at night.
 
If you’re new to yoga, you might wonder how it’s any different than the stretching you do after your workout. “Stretching is simply holding a position for whatever body part you’re working at the time,” says Sarah Draht, a competitive BJJ black belt and lead yoga instructor for yogaforbjj.net, a yoga app created for BJJ practitioners. “In yoga, we craft a set of carefully articulated poses into a flow.” Here’s how it works.
 

Go With the Flow

If you’re training for a specific sport several days a week, time for other activities becomes scarce. But even just 10 minutes of yoga each day goes a long way to improving flexibility and posture. “Frequency really trumps quantity in this regard,” says Jenni Tarma, a Yoga Medicine® therapeutic specialist and teacher for Yoga Medicine Online.
 
Still, BJJ black-belt instructor and movement specialist James O’Conner advises not to expect instant results. “It’s common sense—two weeks of yoga won’t change things” if you’ve spent the last 20 years training in a totally different way, O’Conner says. “It’s a process you need to commit to, like all daily habits that help you improve.” If you’re looking for a way to use yoga to enhance your jiu-jitsu training, start with these six moves.
 
1. Plough Pose (Halasana)
Why it helps: “When your opponent has you in some sort of spinal twist where your legs are pinned one way and your shoulders another, your diaphragm’s a bit compromised, making it hard to breathe,” says Draht. “The plough pose teaches you to be comfortable in uncomfortable positions and having the ability to breathe there.”
 
How to do it: Lie on your back. Raise your legs over your head, rolling onto your upper back as you try touching your feet to the floor. Stretch your arms toward your glutes, keeping them parallel with the floor. Take several deep and full breaths as you hold the position for 30 seconds.
 
Hero Pose (Virasana)
Why it helps: When playing in closed guard (your opponent is laying on his back), your first goal is to maintain posture as your opponent tries to break free. This means dropping your glutes as close to the mat as possible, which is almost identical to this move. 
 
How to do it: Kneel on the floor, big toes slightly angled toward each other. Press the tops of your feet into the floor. Bend your knees and lower your glutes to the floor, attempting to sit between your feet, not on top of them. Squeeze your shoulders back; place hands on hips. Hold for 60 seconds. 
 
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Why it helps: “Cobras are incredibly important in the maintenance of spinal health,” Draht says. “Our back is constantly rounded (in forward flexion) in jiu-jitsu, so it is very important to balance that.” 
 
How to do it: Lie on your stomach. Prop yourself up on your forearms, elbows under shoulders.  Spread legs hip-width apart. Using your back muscles, raise your head and sternum towards the ceiling, pressing the tops of your feet or training shoe laces into the mat and straightening your arms. Hold pose for 30 seconds. 
 
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)
Why it helps: “This move requires flexion, extension, adduction, abduction and internal and external rotation,” says Tarma. It helps improve everything from hip escapes to getting your opponent to tap out from completing a triangle. 
 
How to do it: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor. Reach your arms toward your feet. Pressing your feet and arms into the floor, exhale while raising your hips toward the ceiling. Hold for 60 seconds.
 
Plank to Pushup Pose (Chaturanga)
Why it helps: “This move resembles trying to pass an opponent’s guard,” Conner says. “When you place your hand on their knee, you begin looking at your elbow position. If it matches, it’s the strongest position your arm can be in, making it virtually unbreakable. It also makes you safer in that position.”
 
How to do it: Start in an extended plank pose, shoulders slightly in front of hands. Engaging your core and quads, lean forward with your sternum so that shoulders are well in front of hands. Bend your elbows and lower yourself to the floor, keeping body in one straight line. Lower until your body nearly touches floor, then return to start.
 
Lotus Pose (Padmasana)
Why it helps: “The lotus stretches the outside of the hips—an area that is commonly tight,” Draht says. “This stretch will decrease injuries and increase your range of motion, fluidity and flexibility.”
 
How to do it: Sit on the floor with legs stretched in front of you. Bend right knee and take hold of your right foot; place it on top of left thigh. Bend left knee, take left foot and place it on top of right thigh. Keeping your spine straight, place hands on your knees, palms facing ceiling. Breathe in and out deeply 10 times. 

Four Simple Stretches for Back Pain

By Sarah Munn for Weight Watchers.

Many of us suffer from back pain, and if you’re working from in a less-than-ergonomic setting, you may be dealing with it more often than you used to. But fret not, there are some gentle movements you can try to alleviate those aches and pains.

“Given the hours many of us are spending inside, often hunched over our computers, it’s probably not surprising that back pain is a common complaint,” says Rachel Land, a Yoga Medicine® therapeutic specialist and teacher for Yoga Medicine Online.

“While you might think that rest is the best remedy for your back pain, the muscles either side of the spine can become tight or tender from holding us in the same position hour after hour, and actually benefit from movement and activation,” she says.

Here are some of Land’s favorite moves to reintroduce circulation and hydration to the hardworking tissues around the spine.

Moves to Alleviate Those Back Aches


Child’s Pose

“[This] is the perfect place to start, creating gentle traction down the length of the spine without challenging its patterns too quickly,” Land says. “Start on hands and knees. Bring your big toes toward each other, then lean your hips back toward your heels and allow your forehead to sink toward the floor. Take four or five deep breaths here, using your breath to create subtle movement in your low back.”

Cat and Cow

This move is a great way to introduce gentle movement to the spine. “From child’s pose, rise back up to hands and knees. Lift your chin and tailbone as you breathe in, lengthening your front body from throat to pubic bone. Tuck your chin and tail as you exhale, scooping your belly to round your back and spread your shoulder blades. Repeat this flow a few times with the cadence of your breath, mobilizing the full length of your spine.”

Bird Dog

This move “rekindles muscular support and stability for the spine,” Land says. “From cat and cow, come to a neutral spine tabletop position. Use the muscles that surround your waist to draw in, like you’ve put on a wide belt or corset. Keeping your hips and shoulders level, reach your right leg back behind you and your left arm out in front of you. Notice how your core muscles engage to keep you steady, and how your back muscles engage to help you lift the arm and leg higher. Take a breath or two here, keeping the sides of your neck long, then slowly return the hand and knee to the floor to swap sides. Do three to five rounds on each side before returning to all fours.”

Low Cobra

Last, but not least, this move resets your posture. “From all fours, lower to the floor to lie prone with your hands by your side ribs. Squeeze your shoulder blades toward your spine so that your collarbones broaden. Point your feet and separate your legs to about hip-width. Press your pubic bone forward, as if drawing it closer to your low ribs. Maintain that lower core engagement as you activate the muscles either side of your spine to slowly lift your forehead, chest and shoulders off the floor. Keep the back of your neck long and keep your hands light on the floor. Take a slow breath here, then lower back down to prone to repeat three or four more times. When you are done, press back to child’s pose to finish where you started.”

Do’s and Don’ts

Although movement can help with back pain, it’s still important to be careful when exercising with it.

Don’t Overdo It

“While gentle movement and muscle activation can refresh tissues tired from holding the same position for hours, this is probably not the time for intense exercise,” Land says. “Avoid contact sports, activities that involve heavy lifting, fast movement or deep twists.”

Do Keep It Short and Sweet

She says it’s also important to prioritize frequency over duration: “Find a brief and accessible movement routine, like the one above, that feels good for you, and repeat it at least once a day (ideally more often) to give your hard-working back a break.”

Do Be Patient

“Your back pain probably developed over time, so it may take a little time to show marked improvement,” Land says.

Do Listen to Your Body

“Leave out any movements or positions that create irritation, and rest when you need to,” Land says.

And as for any signs that your back pain may be more serious than just some strained muscles, Land shares this advice:

“The pain of tired or tight muscles will usually feel dull or will improve after some movement or a good night’s sleep. Seek medical advice if your pain persists, or if the sensation you feel is sharp or electrical, if it radiates down your leg, or is accompanied by numbness, tingling, weakness, swelling, fever or difficulty walking. Seek urgent attention if you experience any loss of bladder or bowel control.”

What Is Fascia Manipulation?

By Vanessa Caceres for U.S. News and World Report.

Fascia often can get injured. Here’s how it’s treated and who treats it.

You know about your muscles and bones, but do you know about fascia? Fascia is connective tissue that covers everything in your body, including your muscles, bones and nerves. It’s made up primarily of collagen (a type of protein in skin and connective tissues), and it has multiple layers: superficial, deep and visceral.

“Fascia helps to hold everything together and provides a smooth pathway for tissue to slide and glide,” says Sara Mikulsky, a physical therapist, certified personal trainer and owner of Wellness Physical Therapy in New York.

Normal fascia is easily flexible and helps your body move properly. However, fascia also can get injured or torn. This can happen by:

  • A sports-related injury.During an injury, you may damage a muscle and the surrounding fascia. Or, you may just damage the fascia itself. A 2019 meta-analysis of studies of athletic-related strains in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine found that only 12.7% were actual muscle injuries, while 32.1% were fascia-related injuries (the rest were tendon strains).
  • Having scleroderma. This rare autoimmune disease can harden the skin and connective tissues, affecting mobility.
  • Improper body positioning.Say that you worked for a long time in an office with an ergonomically correct chair and with a laptop positioned at the right height and eye level. Then, you had to start working from home for a long time period, where you were cramped in the kitchen, using a laptop mouse that doesn’t quite fit right and sitting in a kitchen chair instead of an office chair. “Your fascia can get sticky and tight, and you may feel some kind of pain,” says Denise Smith, a certified manual physical therapist, certified running technique specialist and owner of Smith Physical Therapy and Running Academy in Crystal Lake, Illinois.
  • Misuse or overuse.This can happen from improper movement or form, leading to a fascia injury. One common misuse injury is called plantar fasciitis, which affects the plantar fascia on the bottom of the foot.
  • A sedentary lifestyle.Fascia works best with regular movement. If you’re sitting most of the time without stretching or physical activity, you’re more likely to have tight fascia.

Once an ignored area, there’s an increased interest now in the role of fascia among bodywork providers, says acupuncturist and yoga teacher Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of the educational training system Yoga Medicine and a teacher with Yoga Medicine Online in Kirkland, Washington.

What Is Fascia Manipulation?

When you have pain or tightness in the body, you may seek help to treat it from a doctor, physical therapist or other bodywork professional. A trained professional can help pinpoint the cause of your pain.

As part of that work, you may have fascia manipulation, which refers to hands-on techniques that aim to improve the movement and the flexibility of the fascia, says physical therapist Diana Garrett, an outpatient rehabilitation supervisor at Providence Saint John’s Health Center’s Performance Therapy Center in Santa Monica, California.

There are different approaches to fascia manipulation, but they generally all have the same goal of improving movement and reducing pain. Some of those approaches include:

  • Cupping. This is an ancient Chinese approach that creates suction on the skin with the use of cups. The practice is said to increase blood flow and stretch fascia. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was famously photographed with cupping marks on his back and arms at the 2016 Olympics.
  • Myofascial release. This technique applies pressure on the fascia to help get rid of pain.
  • Rolfing. This is a form of deep-tissue massage that aims to reorganize the fascia.

There is also a fascia treatment approach from Italy called Fascial Manipulation, researched by the Fascial Manipulation Association.

Practitioners who treat fascia may include:

  • Acupuncture doctors: these are specialists in an ancient Chinese approach that reworks the body’s qi, or energy. Acupuncture doctors don’t specialize in fascia manipulation but usually are aware of how fascia works.
  • Chiropractors
  • Massage therapists
  • Physical therapists

Before having fascia work done, your bodywork provider should ask first about your other health conditions. Fascia work is not recommended if you’re using blood-thinning medications because the fascia manipulation can potentially release dangerous blood clots in your body, Mikulsky says. You also should avoid fascia work if you have an open wound in the treatment area or you have weak bones or fractures.

During a treatment, the provider will assess any possible movement limitations associated with the fascia, Garrett says. Then, they will use their hands or special instruments to apply pressure to the fascia. This may take place for a few seconds or a few minutes depending on the extent of the injury and the type of injury. The provider also may use other approaches to treat the body, such as massage.

Sometimes, fascia manipulation can be uncomfortable or painful, especially if the fascia tension is deep and requires a lot of pressure, Mikulsky says. You may notice a decrease in pain and an increase in mobility after just one treatment. Other times, it takes several treatments depending on the injury itself.

Some side effects of fascia manipulation can include:

  • Bruising
  • Sensitivity
  • Soreness
  • Swelling

These side effects may last a few days, but they don’t happen in everyone. During that time, you also should start to notice a difference in mobility and pain in the area that was treated.

Is Fascia Manipulation Effective?

It’s hard to make a blanket statement about the effectiveness of fascial treatment because there are many approaches to it. A 2015 review of myofascial release clinical trials in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies reported that results were mixed but that there was encouraging evidence for its effectiveness. A 2017 trial published in the journal Spine that focused on nonspecific low back pain found that myofascial release helped reduce pain and disability.

Some people find fascia manipulation helps their pain and mobility. To be most effective, fascia manipulation should be supplemented with education on properly moving the body, muscle strengthening, flexibility exercises and better education on improving the posture, Garrett says.

Fascia Therapy at Home

It’s also possible to do some fascia work on your own, provided there’s not an injury that needs professional treatment. Some ways to take better care of fascia include:

  • Using foam rollers.These rollers are commonly used now in sports, fitness and for self-myofascial release. There are videos online to explain how to use foam rollers, but it’s always best to ask a trained provider, such as a physical therapist, for more guidance, Smith says. That way, you find out how to use a foam roller for your specific body concerns. You also can use a tennis ball for fascia release.
  • Yoga.The stretches held in yoga help keep the fascia flexible, Cruikshank says.
  • Gentle massage.Massage performed by a partner can keep fascia healthy. “It helps keep the tissues moving,” Smith says.

If you have a specific injury or significant pain, see a health care provider experienced with fascia therapy instead of going the do-it-yourself route, Cruikshank cautions. You don’t want to end up self-treating something and making it worse.

Finding a Provider Who Offers Fascia Work

There are a few tips to keep in mind if you want to find a provider who treats fascia:

  1. Read their bios and qualifications.See if they mention fascia experience and training, Cruikshank advises. If they don’t, ask them about their background treating fascia and their approach.
  2. Don’t be afraid to try a different modality. One approach to fascia manipulation may work well for you while another approach may not. If you have the flexibility through your insurance or can afford it, try different approaches to find the one that fits best. “It can be like trying on shoes,” Cruikshank says.
  3. Ask friends and family for recommendations. Find out about physical therapists or other bodywork providers who most effectively helped their patients’ injury or pain, Smith advises.

Take Control of Your Fear

By Kylie Rook Harris for Thrive Global.

Learn to befriend sensation.

The uncertainty and instability over the past year has created a lot of fear, anxiety and worry around the world.

These emotions are all part of the Sympathetic Nervous System: the flight or fight response. Sympathetic is from the Greek words sym & pathos meaning “with emotion.” (Sympathy, 2021)

Emotions are geared towards mobilizing us into action. This part of the nervous system is all about doing, acting and thinking.

The Parasympathetic Nervous System, on the other hand, is about bringing us back to homeostasis. It is the rest, digest and healing functions of the body and is about sensing our body from the inside out. This inner sense of our body is called interoception (Interoception, 2021).  Better interoception equates to better self-regulation. This is the part of the nervous system that is more about being and presence.

The amygdala, an almond sized structure in our limbic brain, is responsible for our fear response. It, along with the hippocampus, stores our emotions, and fears. It is constantly taking in and storing information from what we see on TV, hear from our friends and witness on social media. So we can become more fearful based on what we are witnessing not just from what we experience first-hand.

The more time spent in the Sympathetic Nervous System response, the more the amygdala grows in size. This can result in us becoming more fearful and anxious. The prefrontal cortex which helps us contextualize and rationalize the situation is no longer able to maintain control. We panic, overreact and catastrophize. Dan Siegal describes it as flipping our lid (Siegel, n.d.).

To master our fear and anxiety, we need to become more in touch with the sensations in our body which then allows us to self-regulate. The insula is the structure in the brain responsible for sensing our body from the inside. It sits beside the amygdala. Practices that help us develop our interoception increase the size of the insula and decrease the amygdala and our fear response.

There are over 100 million receptors within the fascial network sending more information to the brain than our other 5 senses. (Lesondak, 2017).  We need to become better at listening to these messages to master fear and anxiety.

Here are three simple techniques that help to bring more sensory awareness to your body, and assist with self-regulation.

1. Face Massage

Use your fingertips to massage up your forehead to the hairline. Move nice and slowly with firm pressure. Next, trace the contours of your eye sockets with your fingertips. Then trace around your cheekbones and the contours of your jawline. Repeat each of these 5 times slowly and then finish with tracing lightly around your lips with your fingertip.

Spend a few moments observing the sensations in your face.

This simple face massage helps to stimulate ruffini receptors in your fascia that help to calm you down as well as bringing more sensory awareness to your face enhancing interoception. 

2. Bounce and Shake

Animals and children are very good at self-regulation. You will often see them bouncing and shaking especially after they experience a fright or something that stimulates their sympathetic nervous system response.

You can start by simply pulsing at the knees creating a sense of bounce almost as if you are on a trampoline. If you feel like adding more bounce you can allow the heels to lift or even the whole foot to lift. Let your arms swing naturally or if you like you can shake them above your head as you bounce to shake off more energy. 

Do it for a few minutes or until it feels like enough.

Then pause to check in. You might feel a tingling sensation, vibration, the beating of your heart and your breath. Spend a few moments noticing sensation throughout the entire body until you feel your heartbeat and breath return to normal.

3. Feeling Line Meditation with the Breath

Sit comfortably with your spine tall. Notice the sensation of your breath as it moves in through the nostrils all the way down into the chest and back out again. Notice the rise and the fall of the chest and the belly with the breath. Spend a few moments just noticing the breath in this way.

Bring your awareness to the feeling line of the body. This is where we often sense emotions first.  It runs from the back of the throat all the way down to the pit of the belly (Gawler & Bedson, 2010).

As you watch your breath notice any sensations along that line. Notice what your breath is like.

Then mentally ask yourself, “how am I feeling today?” and notice if anything changes along that line. Do you feel a restriction, or butterflies, tightening, compression or expansion? Whatever is present, stay with it whilst you stay connected to your breath. Observing sensation without judgement. Observing your breath.

The key to mastering fear and anxiety is being able to be present with the sensation and with our breath. This gives us the opportunity and tools to self-regulate and come back into balance. 

References:

  1. Gawler, I., & Bedson, P. (2010). Meditation, An In Depth Guide (1st ed.). Penguin.
  2. Interoception. (2021, Jan 29). Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb 15, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interoception
  3. Lesondak, D. (2017). Fascia. What it is and Why It Matters. (1st ed.). Handspring Publishing.
  4. Siegel, D. (n.d.). Minding the Brain. PsycheAlive. Retrieved Feb 15, 2021, from https://www.psychalive.org/minding-the-brain-by-daniel-siegel-m-d-2/
  5. Sympathy. (2021, Feb 12). Wikipedia. Retrieved Feb 15, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sympathy#:~:text=The%20word%20sympathy%20is%20made,refers%20to%20feeling%20or%20emotion.

Everything You Need to Know Training with Diastasis Recti

By Bethann Mayer for Stylist Magazine.

Lifting heavy has so many benefits: we feel stronger, we move easier and we’re more functionally fit – meaning that we have both better balance and flexibility. But sometimes, strength training can go too far, and one injury worth keeping an eye out for is a condition called “diastasis recti”.

While it’s more common post-childbirth, it’s something that can happen to those of us who lift heavy or do lots of core work. Diastasis recti is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis (or six-pack) muscle, which can leave the midline looking soft rather than tight – regardless of exercise or diet. “The midline tissue can become stressed if it’s being put under a lot of pressure,” says Emily Gilliland, a Surrey-based health personal trainer who specialises in working with pregnant and postnatal women.

Of course, this issue isn’t necessarily an aesthetic one. Many of us work out to feel good, not to look a certain way, and this issue can impact how well we move going forward. “A lot of people talk about it being a cosmetic thing, but it’s so much more than that,” says Dr Leah Deutsch, an obstetric doctor and prenatal yoga teacher with Yoga Medicine®. “It’s a functional issue.”

It’s worth flagging that diastasis recti isn’t the same thing as a hernia, although both can be caused by lifting too much, too soon. Hernias happen when an internal part of the body pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall (usually between your chest and hips), often resulting in a lump in the abdomen or groin. Diastasis recti, on the other hand, is a separation of the muscles in the abdomen area.

Poor posture, constipation, lower back pain, and pelvic floor dysfunction are all potential side effects of the injury – so if you’re experiencing any of those symptoms after a few months of intense strength training (or after giving birth), it’s worth getting professionally checked out. If you do have diastasis, there are ways to gradually reduce the gap and get back to doing the exercises that make you feel powerful, but it requires planning and expert guidance.

Here are six tips for building back stronger after a core trauma:

Do: Get the Right Diagnosis

You can do a really simple check to see whether you have diastasis or not:

  • Lie on your back
  • Press two fingers into your stomach below and above the belly button, lifting your head off the ground (as if you’re doing a mini-crunch)

People with diastasis recti tend to have a gap between their ab muscles that’s more than two finger-widths apart. If you feel a gap and you’ve been experiencing lower back pain or pelvic floor and pee problems, talk to your GP. If you’ve recently had a baby, bring up the issue during your six-week postnatal review.

“Some GPs may be better at (diagnosing) this than others,” Dr. Deutsch says. “If you feel that you haven’t been checked properly, a women’s health physiotherapist is a really good place to go for a comprehensive diagnosis.” A physio will be able to assess your pelvic floor, back and posture to rule out any other possible issues.

Do: Breathe Deeply

People often think that building strong stomach muscles is done through a protein-rich diet and core-focussed exercise, but breathing is the foundational block for fixing diastasis recti. “There’s a breathing pattern we want to practice,” Emily explains. “On your inhale, allow the air to fill you up. On the exhale, make sure that the pelvic floor and the core work together, pulling up from the pelvic floor.” This breathing pattern engages the abdominals without placing them under too much pressure and is best practiced every day – not just when you’re in a yoga class.

Conscious breathing has many benefits that go beyond repairing muscles but if you can’t stand the thought of concentrating on breathing alone, go for other mindful practices that incorporate breathing. As Dr Deutsch says: “Doing yoga can be great for tuning into and having awareness of the breath.”

Don’t: Put Too Much Pressure on Your Abs

You may be eager to work your mid-line but with this kind of injury, you need to avoid doing ab workouts for a while. “Don’t have a go at anything that will put undue pressure on the abs to start with,” Emily says. “When you do things like crunches and sit-ups, you are squashing the front part of the abdominal wall and that can encourage it to dome. We don’t want that.”

Anyone with diastasis should also avoid doing full planks. When you’re able to begin working these types of exercises back into your routine will depend on the speed of your recovery and that’s something you’ll need to discuss with a physiotherapist. You want to resume core workouts when you’re confident that your stomach is strong enough to deal with them.

Do: Lower Body Exercises

Our core muscles are key for controlling just about every part of our bodies, but they’re particularly important for lower body movement. Working on your glutes, lower back, quads and hamstrings is the perfect way to work the core without putting too much pressure on an already stressed area. “What people often don’t know is that by doing glute work, you’re stabilising your pelvis,” says Sam Hull, a PT specialising in pre-and postnatal wellbeing and fitness.

Your pelvis sits at the base of your core and stabilising it will help you to do more effective core work in the future. A stable pelvis also helps to improve your posture and reduce back pain – win, win! So, what lower body exercises work that deep core?

Squats (12 reps x 3)

Standing with feet shoulder-width apart, bend the knees as if you’re about to sit in a chair. When your quads are parallel to the floor, hold the position and come back to standing – squeezing your glutes when you get there. Go down for a count of three and come up for a count of one.

Clams (15 reps each side)

Lie on your right side. Bend your right elbow and rest your head on your hand. Stack your legs on top of each other, bending your knees to be at a 45° angle. Keeping your heels together and without moving the pelvis or lower leg, raise your upper knee. Pull the belly button towards your spine, Squeeze your glutes, close your knees and then switch sides.

Toe Taps (15 reps each side)

Lie on your back with your lower back flat on the floor. Bring the legs up to a 90° angle and one leg at a time, extend to tap the floor with your toes – keeping the back flat on the floor. Return to the tabletop position and repeat on the other side.

Do: Engage the Core Every Day

Most of us are busy (even when we’re working from home) so it’s unrealistic to assume that anyone has the time to do 50 clams a day and half an hour of breathing practice. However, there are plenty of ways to activate your core activation without adding yet another thing to your to-do list. Emily suggests turning everyday activities into opportunities for core activation, like picking up your dog and squatting with it, breathing as you have a shower or doing a few toe taps when first getting into bed.

Don’t: Go Too Hard, Too Soon

When exercise plays a big part in your life, waiting for injuries to heal can be torturous – you want to get back to training ASAP. As with other kinds of issues, diastasis doesn’t heal immediately and it can take a while before you start to move as you once did. Whatever you do get going, don’t rush back into lifting heavy and smashing out the core workouts. Trust in the process, take it easy and talk to a physio about a recovery plan. “It’s about working with your own body,” Leah says. “If you are feeling pain or seeing doming when you exercise, it may be that you are not ready. It’s about building gradually.”

Take a Deep Breath in, Now Release, and Find Inner Peace With These 100 Yoga Quotes!

By Kelsey Pelzer for Parade.

Especially during this pandemic, many of us are looking for ways to exercise, combat stress, and get into a healthy, positive mindset. Fortunately, yoga is a productive way to meet these needs—whether it’s in a socially distanced class or your very own living room! And you can start breathing a sigh of relief—we have the 100 best yoga quotes for all yogis and newbies alike!

Yoga is the go-to workout choice for many, as it emphasizes the harmony between your body and mind through stretching, breathing, and introspection. Besides an exercise in general, it also has roots as a practice of spirituality, which helps individuals feel their connection to others and to the universe as a whole.

Others who enjoy yoga may not know what it means to balance their chakras, and simply look at it as an ideal workout. After all, yoga can be used to improve back pain and posture, as well as help with weight loss and coordination. There are even a wide variety of classes and methods available, such as Vinyasa, Power, Hatha, Aerial, Restorative, “Kindness yoga,” and more.

Whether you are just thinking about starting out, prefer “Child’s Pose” or “Savasana,” or take classes regularly with ease, there is plenty to inspire you within these 100 yoga quotes from experts including Tiffany Cruikshank, founder of Yoga Medicine and Yoga Medicine Online.

Want to read all 100 quotes? Click here to view the rest of this article!

How to Fall Back to Sleep After Waking Up

By Sarah Munn for Weight Watchers.

We’ve all been there. We’ve woken up from a peaceful slumber, thanks to a nightmare, a random sound or the urge to pee, and as we try to get back to sleep, we find we just can’t. Our minds are awake and racing, and the more we try to fall back asleep, the harder it is.

But there are ways to help yourself get past this hurdle and back to dreamland. Here’s a roundup of do’s and don’ts for falling back asleep, so you’re better prepared the next time this happens to you.

Do’s and Don’ts for Falling Back Asleep


Do
  • Try leaving the room: “If one is awake after 15 minutes, it may be helpful to leave the bedroom and engage in restful activity and return to the bedroom when sleepy,” says Monisha Bhanote, MD, FCAP, a triple board-certified physician and Yoga Medicine® teacher. She suggests listening to relaxing music, writing in your journal or reading a book in low light until you feel tired again.
  • Try breathing techniques: Bhanote recommends trying guided meditation or visualization to quiet the mind, and if you’re feeling tense, progressive muscle relaxation may do the trick.
Don’t
    • Turn to screens: Bhanote says bright light, like the light from your phone, tablet or computer, will trigger your body to be awake.
    • Pour a drink: “Avoid reaching for an alcoholic beverage. Even though alcohol may initially make you feel relaxed and sleepy, studies demonstrate that it decreases quality and sleep duration.”
    • Watch the clock: Keeping your eye on the clock will actually increase stress and anxiety about going to sleep, Bhanote says, and could further prevent you from falling asleep.

A Word on Sleep Supplements

“Sleep medications are often used, but at best they produce negligible outcomes and often come with a number of side effects,” Bhanote says.

“The pineal gland, which is located deep in our brain, is responsible for producing the circadian hormone melatonin. As we age, our production of melatonin decreases.”

Many of her tips above can help increase your body’s natural production of melatonin, but you can also increase it naturally by getting some sun in the morning, exercising and eating foods that boost melatonin production such as tart cherries, goji berries, asparagus, pomegranate, olives, broccoli, walnuts, sunflower seeds and flax seeds.

“As for essential oils,” Bhanote says, “some studies have shown benefit in improving sleep quality and providing relief from disrupted sleep. The most frequently studied oil is lavender. Another consideration is lemon balm, which has been used both as a tea, capsule or essential oil.”

But, she says, as with any medication, essential oil or supplement, you should be cautious and discuss usage with your health-care provider.

Bonus Sleep Hygiene Tips

“Behavioral interventions can be effective in managing sleep issues,” Bhanote says. “This may include getting into bed with the intention to sleep only when sleepy, using the bed and bedroom [only] for sleep and sexual activity, keeping the same wake time irrespective of hours of sleep, and avoiding napping until sleep is regular.”

You may also want to consider limiting your caffeine intake to the earlier part of the day and no later than 2 o’clock, she says. “Caffeine can stay in our body for variable amounts of time and everyone metabolizes it differently. Studies have also shown that caffeine can interfere with melatonin production.”

Pilates vs. Yoga: Which One Is Right for You?

By Elizabeth Millard for Beachbody On Demand.

When it comes to recommendations for low-impact, no-equipment workouts that focus on full-body results, Pilates and yoga often make the list.

But although they share some attributes, they’re not the same.

Here’s a breakdown of Pilates vs. yoga, as well as some essential information to keep in mind when you’re deciding on your next workout.

Pilates vs. Yoga: Similarities

While specific workouts differ, there are several similarities between Pilates and yoga.

The biggest is that they are both intended to be mind-body practices, so you’re not zoning out and going through the motions.

How you focus your attention is just as important as the way you’re moving.

Pilates

Pilates was developed just after World War I by German physical trainer Joseph Pilates, who wanted to help injured veterans regain mobility.

He incorporated some yoga principles and folded in knowledge from his background in self-defense training, gymnastics, strength training, and dance.

“The apparatus and mat were designed to work as a unified system of movement,” says Pilates instructor Sarah Cook, co-owner of Physical Culture studio in Atlanta.

“(The intention was) to help accelerate the fitness process, alignment, and integration of the body by increasing stretch, strength, stamina, and stability,” she adds.

Woman practicing Warrior Pose

Yoga

Yoga, which originated in India, has a similar focus on bringing harmony between the mind and body, she adds.

In fact, the word “yoga” means “to yoke” or “to join” in recognition of this intention.

Much like Pilates, there are constant cues about breath control, feeling more grounded and centered, and staying engaged in the movement.

You’ll also find some of the moves look similar, even if they go by different terms, adds Alexis Miller, a certified Pilates instructor, NASM CPT, and owner of The Endurance Hub.

Most notably, plank pose and shoulder bridge are heavily used in each.

Pilates vs. Yoga: Key Differences

 

Woman practicing tree pose

Areas of Focus

When comparing the two practices, some forms of yoga can have a greater focus on a spiritual element, Cook says, while Pilates is more about the physicality of the work.

“Simply put, yoga accesses the body through the meditation of the mind, while Pilates accesses the mind through the physicality of the body,” she says.

History

Pilates has also been around for a much shorter amount of time, adds Miller, and it has six specific principles:

  1. Centering
  2. Control
  3. Concentration
  4. Precision
  5. Breath
  6. Flow

At this point, yoga has adopted a range of styles, each with its own principles.

For example, you might have yin yoga in one class, where the postures are held for long periods, and power yoga in another, where each pose is only as long as one breath.

“Range of motion and objective are different as well,” Miller says.

“You’re not likely to see the degree of deep twisting and bending in Pilates versus yoga. Also, with breathing, yoga emphasizes belly breathing, while Pilates encourages posterior-lateral breathing, or breathing into the ribcage, as a way to maintain abdominal contraction and engagement to support the spine during movement,” she explains.

Lifestyle

Another big standout difference is that yoga can be a way of life for many, says Annie Woods, Pilates instructor and Yoga Medicine® instructor.

There’s a component to the practice that leads to a greater understanding of how we live our lives and who we are, she believes.

“Pilates is a mind-body connection that happens during movement, while yoga is more of an internal focus,” she says. “With that, there’s a sense of turning inward and listening to a deeper sense of self.”

Elise Joan leading Barre Blend workout

Try a Blend of Yoga and Pilates

In general, incorporating both Pilates and yoga into your workout mix can give you the benefits of each.

For example, you might incorporate yoga Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 poses into your warm-up, or throw some Pilates moves into your next strength-training session.

Or if you want a complete fitness program that includes both, you can try PiYo with Chalene Johnson. With PiYo, you’ll use your body weight to perform low-impact, high-intensity movements inspired by Pilates and yoga.

In Barre BlendElise Joan uses a fusion of ballet barre, Pilates, and cardio interval training to help you burn fat and create a lean, toned physique.

“[Pilates and yoga] can both be described as mindful movement, and each promotes healthy lifestyles,” says Woods. “Personally, I love the sisterhood between the two approaches, and I try to blend them together to create a holistic approach to how I move.”

Why Rest Is Key for Exercise Recovery

By Sarah Munn for Weight Watchers.

You’ve probably heard fitness pros talk about rest days, but what does a rest day actually look like? And why is it so important anyway?

Yoga Medicine® instructor Annie Woods has some answers.

How does sleep/rest work when it comes to exercise recovery?

Basically, rest is when your body can recover and regulate itself. It can take the time to repair your muscles, get your nervous system back in check and do all the maintenance work it can’t do when you’re awake and running around.

“Your autonomic nervous system is a major regulator for your body and when it is out of whack, nothing works quite right,” she explains. “A good balance between your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) and your parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest response) is optimal for your body’s ability to repair, strengthen and enhance.

When you’re asleep, that’s when the body can do all that enhancement work – like repairing those sore muscles from your recent workout.

“During the sleep cycle, you enter REM sleep and your body has the chance to clear the information you don’t need, then sort and process the information you do need,” she says. “When you enter the non-REM sleep, your parasympathetic [nervous system] is allowed to take over the good work of repair and regeneration throughout the body.”

A good night’s rest helps balance these nervous systems so they can carry out their work and repair muscles, organs and other cells. And in addition, they help strengthen the immune system while you’re resting, subsequently fighting inflammation throughout the body, Woods explains.

What does a proper rest day look like?

You may be wondering what a rest day looks like. Should it be a day spent on the couch? A day with gentle stretching? A walk? What counts as a rest day?

“You don’t have to be completely sedentary to achieve your body’s ideal recovery, in fact it’s quite the opposite,” explains Woods. “Gentle, healthy stresses and movements are great ways to achieve balance. If you ask a lot from your body, it’s better to do a little bit of recovery every day rather than none at all. But if you’re more interested in taking one full day to recover, think of ways you can engage the relaxation response.”

She suggests gentle movements and mindfulness techniques to elicit this response.

“Yin yoga, restorative yoga or gentle yoga, breathwork, myofascial release techniques, meditation, walking are all tools one can use to achieve this physiological change. When this occurs, the heart rate lowers, blood pressure lowers, respiratory rate lowers, and your brain alpha waves increase. The benefits of rest and sleep are exponential.”

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when it comes to rest and sleep for exercise recovery is just the fact that it’s important. Don’t skip your rest days, and don’t skimp on your sleep.

“Unfortunately, those who need the rest/repair day most are the ones who find it the most challenging to take them,” says Woods. “My clients with the ‘go-go-go’ mentality sometimes find it’s near impossible to take time to relax, focus on breath work and strengthen the brain through meditation.”

But taking rest days and getting good sleep is all part of maximizing your longevity, she explains.

“I look at the slow-down component as longevity work. We take the time to down-regulate and repair in an organized, focused manner. That healing care, in turn, will support the activities we enjoy and love throughout life.”

Join The Yoga Medicine® Community

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with
our latest trainings and resources.

Yoga Medicine
Scroll to Top

Find Out More