Unlocking the power of flexion and training spinal mobility

Unlocking the power of flexion and training spinal mobility

Over several years of movement screening, I’ve noticed a common pattern with nearly every (but not all) dancer: Missing spinal flexion, meaning, being unable to round your back (note that I’m referring primarily to the aspiring/pre-professional, college level, or competition dancers, which is also the world I come from).

The most relevant example of spinal flexion from the dance world is the Graham contraction, as pictured to the right (complete with contraction hands!) —> Check out the position of her lumbar spine. That’s some nice looking flexion!

In particular, it is quite common to see difficulty flexing from the lower back (lumbar spine).

Check out these forward bends. Can you see what’s missing?

Sam MSF
sam k 5

MSF

And here is my particularly un-FLEX-able spine…

Can you see the chunks of spine that aren’t rounding, but remain completely straight? Ideally, we would like to see a uniform, round curve of the spine, whether you’re able to touch the floor or not.

Because of the coveted spinal extension dancers train for (backbends like Svetlana), if flexion is not also trained (or it is avoided), it can become forgotten and denied.

But you can get it back! And don’t worry, training flexion will not affect your ability to back-bend, in fact, it will probably enhance it.

Consider that you need to experience both ends of the spectrum flexion and extension, to increase your total range of motion and have a happy body with happy joints and unlimited potential for movement.

Flexion and extension are two sides of the same coin, but there is a third side of the coin which is the world of unlimited movement possibilities that opens up when you can see this.

Spinal Mobility

Much of the teachings and literature on how to train the spine and “core” (ugh that word I hate!) is dedicated to stability– Keeping things still, preventing movement, bracing, controlling, tightening, engaging, etc.

What if we flipped that upside down. What if having the ability to move to both ends of the spectrum with your spine- flex and extend equally (in the sagittal plane), you wouldn’t need to try so hard to stabilize because your body would have the information it needs to react according to the given situation.

Take a lawyer in a trial, for example. Imagine if the lawyer hadn’t read the chapter of the lawyering text book that he needed for this particular case. He would have to stop time, read the chapter, and then proceed with caution, thinking his way through it very carefully (and probably quite stressfully), and it would be anything but effortless. If this lawyer had had the opportunity to explore the missing territory before the case, things would flow much more easier, with less thought and tension.

Your spine is craving to read the chapter of the book on flexion.

Think of spinal mobility as a prerequisite for stability.

Stability is a result of mobility. Stability is an illusion created by perpetual motion. Just look at the world around us, and one can see that complete stillness is impossible. Should we be training our bodies to deny the inherent behavior of the natural world?

Your spine has 33 joints which move through 3 planes of movement. Would you agree that our spines were designed for movement? Put another way, do you think your spine has 33 joints because it was designed to be rigid?

What else in life is made of many small parts that, as a whole, compose something that was designed for movement?.

Does a bicycle chain come to mind?

A bicycle chain is made of many small links. Each link needs to have full mobility to articulate with its two neighbouring “joints” in both directions, and if even one link in the chain gets jammed, you’ll notice. To get the chain links unstuck you can manipulate the stuck links and restore movement and bike function. Sounds like a spine to me.

I was amazed at how much more effortlessly I could ride my bicycle after I mobilized a stuck link in the chain (I lied, I got a friend to do it for me because I’m useless with tools and bikes).

Just as with a human body, we can a bicycle faster and, with increased speed, we seem to feel the stuck link in the chain less, and happily ignore it- “I’ll deal with it later”. It is also easy to ignore to chunks of vertebrae that don’t move, go faster, and dissociate from it instead of taking the time to address it.

What a spine in need of segmental mobility really wants is for you to slow down, feel the missing movement, and claim it back (more on how to do that a bit further down).

Also consider the verbiage many dance teachers and personal trainers are drawn towards when speaking about the alignment and use of the spine:

On the left, words we use that limit potential movement by asking dancers to contract muscles, and on the right, words we can consider using to encourage dancers to move, allow muscles to lengthen, and explore new ranges of motion. A different perspective on "core training" for some folks, perhaps.

On the left, words we use that limit potential movement by asking dancers to contract muscles, and on the right, words we can consider using to encourage dancers to move, allow muscles to lengthen, and explore new ranges of motion. A different perspective on “core training” for some folks, perhaps.

Why is spinal flexion important?

Just to clarify, because there are people who will say that flexion is bad (just like there are people who say ankle pronation, knee valgus, and hip internal rotation are bad).

Flexion, when missing from a movement in which your spine should flex is not ideal. However, if flexion is present in a movement in which it shouldn’t happen, or it happens too soon or too fast, this is something to be aware of.

In fact, in 4 out of 5 phases of gait, your spine needs to flex. If “you need flexion to walk like a proper human” isn’t enough incentive, here are some other reasons to claim this important movement back:

Movement potential towards both ends of the spectrum= More range of motion into backbends. Give your body somewhere to back-bend from and it will back-bend further, more effortlessly. You can’t go much farther south if you’re already in Antarctica.

Having full flexion= Easier time finding “neutral spine”. For some dancers, just getting to neutral takes a maximum effort flexion. I am a good example of this (in fact, max effort lumbar flexion doesn’t even get me to neutral… Working on it).

More centered center of mass= Happy muscles and joints. Being stuck more extended (shifts your center of mass forward) or the inability to flex (which shifts your center of mass back) makes it more difficult to access that whole world of movement opportunities that exists behind you, not to mention can make your calves feel pretty tight from being forward on your toes all the time.

More reactive core= Less thinking, more effortless movement. If you can access both ends of the spectrum, metaphorically, you’ve read the whole spine book. You don’t need to stop to think about bracing or engaging your core, your body knows what to do and will do it reflexively without you having to brain your way through it.

How to improve spinal mobility and flexion?

1) Honestly evaluate your static position as well as your ability to actively flex and extend. Do a toe touch (as in the photos above), and do a back bend. Which feels like you move farther or is more comfortable? Take a photo or get a friend to give you some feedback on this. Also appraise where your weight sits on your feet (centered, more back, or more forward? More on one foot that the other?)

2) Take ownership of the long, full exhalation. Exhalation drives lumbar and thoracic flexion. Own the exhalation. Find opportunities to exhale two or three times as long as you inhale and feel the position it brings you into (hopefully one that is rounded, ribs depressed). Exhaling also helps to calm your nervous system and reduce chronic stress-related muscle tone (which is often the situation of the spinal erector muscles, making it even more difficult to flex forward).

3) “Unstick” the parts of your spine you notice don’t flex well. Mobilize the bicycle chain. My 2 favourite exercises right now for newbies to spinal mobility, shown below, both involve lying supine. The floor helps to feel which parts of your spine have trouble flexing down into it. You will also be using a long exhalation to encourage more movement into flexion. Try these two out:

Supine spinal mobility: Explore flexion and extension (Credit to Gary Ward and Anatomy in Motion):

In this drill you are simply arching and rounding your lumbar and thoracic spine, coordinating the flexion into the floor with a nice long exhalation. Use this time to explore whether there are chunks of vertebrae that move in one piece, or whether you can articulate them all individually. Go slowly and feel what’s happening, and what’s missing.

Take some time to luxuriate in the flexion and take a few long exhalations there if you find it difficult to round into the floor with any parts of your thoracic and lumbar spine.

Note that you should allow your skull and neck to move naturally (as you arch your back off the floor you should feel your chin slide down towards your chest, and as you round into the floor you should feel your chin lift to the sky).

Also, welcome to my kitchen floor! My favourite place to spend my exciting Friday nights…

90/90 hip lift (credit to Postural Restoration Institute)

Focus on maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt (tucked under tailbone), and rounding your lower back with ribcage depression. I like to visualize my spine as a hammock, sinking towards the floor. Attempt to exhale 3 times as long as you inhale with a pause at the end of each exhalation. Use a balloon, too. It’s lots of fun. If you’re a member of the Dance Stronger training program you’ll recognize this exercise from the breathing module.

Now, recheck how your forward and backwards bend feel. Is anything different? Have you claimed back any movement potential? Does your weight feel more even in the center of your feet?

Don’t expect instant miraculous changes or a quick fix,  but it is incredible how consistent, deep practice towards more balanced spinal mobility can make a difference in the way you feel, both in terms of pain relief, performance, and feeling more grounded on your feet. Try these two drills before dancing as part of your warm-up and see if anything feels different (and let me know what you find!).

 

Injury of the Month- 6 Things to do When Your SI Joint Feels Funky

Injury of the Month- 6 Things to do When Your SI Joint Feels Funky

A little while back, Bizz Varty wrote an awesome two-part article for me on the topic of the sacroiliac joint- That fun little joint where your sacrum and ilium meet.

Though it’s a topic that’s already been given some deserved attention, I feel as if it’s time to touch on it again (though I’m no SI joint whisperer, like Bizz claims to be). And if you’re reading this, Bizz, I’m still waiting for my magical SIJ adjustment ;).

There are a couple of reasons that I’m dedicating another post to the SIJ:

1)      Bizz’s original SI joint article continues to be one of the most popular ones on my site. I’ve even had some readers email me out of the blue asking what they can do about their SI joint issues after having read Bizz’s SIJ saga. Clearly, this is something people want to know more about, and who am I to deny the people what they want??

2)       I recently took an online seminar, presented by Rick Kaselj, and learned a bunch of cool stuff about SIJ pain, and exercises to eliminate said pain. I’ll be quoting a lot fun facts I learned from his presentation. Rick is a super smart guy, an I can honestly say I wouldn’t know half of what I know today if it weren’t for him and the great information he makes available to industry professionals like myself.

3)      My SIJ has been bothering me for about a month now, and I know exactly why, and I’m going to share it with you, and what I’m doing to help it.

4)      All the dancers I’ve worked with recently seem to have at least one funky SIJ. And it’s usually their right one.

So here we go! Here’s to hoping I can live up to Bizz’s glory. I’ve got some big shoes to fill. She did a really good job outlining the anatomy stuff in her article, so I’m not going to re-hash it all. And if you haven’t read it yet, CLICK HERE and then HERE. Seriously, it’s about time.

As I mentioned, I have been dealing with a bit of a cranky SI joint lately. I have a couple of educated guesses as to why:

1)      I have been training harder and heavier than usual.

2)      I have been sitting at my computer more than usual.

3)      I have been paying less attention to my pelvic alignment.

4)      I have stopped doing nearly all extra core training.

5)      I’m probably more stressed than I realize.

6)      I am a woman.

In case you didn’t know, women are more susceptible to SIJ pain than men. This is because of that thing called child birth. Remember that thing? The ligaments that stabilize the SIJ are more lax in women so that we can do that child birth thing one day. Less stability= more susceptibility to getting hurt.

Women also naturally have a higher degree of anterior pelvic tilt than men, which puts more stress on the SI joint. This is why paying close attention to alignment and doing an appropriate amount of core training is essential for us ladies, and especially dancer ladies.

Why is SI joint pain and dysfunction such a big deal?

Well, it hurts, so that sucks. But our SIJ’s have a pretty important role- To transfer force from the upper extremities to the lower extremities. And the reverse. Force transfer is important for any kind of athlete. Also if you like having fun, playing sports, or tipping cows.

What does SI joint pain/dysfunction usually feel like?

SIJ pain is usually lumped in the broad category of “lower back pain”, and can be characterized by a radiating pain around the lower back and bum area.

Bizz mentions a couple of cool assessments you can do on yourself to determine whether or not your low back pain is coming from the SIJ, so I won’t get too into that. Also, if you have lower back pain, your first move should be to see a professional about it to determine a proper rehabilitation program. That said, one assessment I generally do when working with someone is a little Thai Yoga Massage move called the “hip hop”.

 

This is Albert (Krishna), one of my Thai Massage teachers, teaching at the Sivananda Yoga Center here in Toronto.

Those Thai were trying really hard to mainstream when they named that one… But anyway, this particular Thai Massage stretch not only feels awesome (because it wiggles the SIJ around), but based on how much movement I can get in the person’s  SI joint, I can tell how jammed and unstable it is, and which side is more affected than the other.

In dancers, I’ve noticed that the right side is generally less stable, with less movement and more pain. In my experience, dancers also tend to have more external rotation in their right hip. This is because in dance classes we end up practicing things more on the right side than the left, and so we develop more turnout on the right side, which causes the right piriformis to get super tight, pull on the SIJ, and cause pain.

This leads me to…

What Causes SI Joint Pain?

In Rick’s seminar (who, by the way, knows way too much about every injury), he listed that the SIJ is most commonly injured by:

1)      Trauma

2)      Pregnancy/child birth

3)      Overuse

4)      Repetitive movement

5)      Leg length discrepancy

For dancers, and other super active people, the most probable causes are muscle imbalances created by overuse and repetitive movement. I would also add prolonged poor positioning, or shifty alignment, to that list, but this can be lumped under repetitive movement.

The most common muscles associated with SIJ pain are glute med and max, piriformis, quadratus lumborum and biceps femoris. These muscles stabilize the SIJ. When stability is compromised due to an increase of stress on the joint, they tighten up to try to add more stability.

What Can You do About Your SI Joint Pain?

First, stop doing the things that make it hurt, go see a specialist, and get some rest. And then you can start doing some of these things:

1)      Find neutral spine. Find it and start walking around in it all day every day. I cannot stress how important alignment is if you like not being in pain all the time! Being in the proper alignment will take stress off the SI joint and strengthen the muscles which stabilize it. Start now. Find neutral spine and use it as often as you can. How?

I like to find neutral spine by using a little trick I stole from Dr. Stuart McGIll: Bend forward about 45 degrees and put your fingers on your low back erectors. They should feel hard and activated*. Begin to bring your back into an upright position, but stop when you feel your lower back muscles first relax. This is neutral for YOUR spine. Now hold onto that position with your pelvis and bring your ribcage back over it if you feel like you’re leaning way forward.

Sam is so awesome for always being my “exercise model”.

I tend to always be in too much anterior pelvic tilt (sway back posture), so being in a neutral pelvic alignment is important for me if I want to be pain-free and happy. Which I do. This trick worked wonders for me and taught me how to properly engage my core, glutes and hammies.

 After you’ve mastered finding neutral spine (read, have become obsessive compulsive about using it all freakin’ time), strengthen it! Learn to deadlift with perfect form, and start deadlifing everything from now on.

There is no more “pick up from the ground”. There is only deadlift.

2)      Get some core stability. Specifically, learn to activate the transverse abdominus and the deep pelvic floor muscles. Not only do you need strength and endurance in your core, but a little fine motor control don’t hurt either. Your core muscles stabilize your SIJ. More stability is good!

Stable joint=no pain

Unstable joint= pain

Mike Robertson, from Indiana Fitness and Sports Training,  wrote an article called Core Training For Smart Folks, which you should now go check out. If you’re smart…

3)      Learn proper hip extension. Get a friend to check  out your hip extension skillz by doing a simple single leg hip bridge. If you notice that there is significant arching in your lower back, and your chest is rising to your chin, and your bum is still squishy, then you are doing hip extension from all the wrong places.

4)      Self Massage. Most of us can’t afford to get weekly massage therapy. Luckily, you can still get a good amount of benefit from self massage You may need to do some self-massage on your problem areas 3 times a day at first, and then reduce the frequency until you’re just maintaining whenever you feel a flare up.

I forget who I heard it from first, but I like the saying, “Doing self massage between massage appointments is like brushing your teeth between seeing the dentist.”

My favourite items to self-massage with**:

Lacrosse ball:

Great for hitting the piriformis, glute med and max, lower back, and QL area. If that’s too intense, use a tennis ball, or a less dense rubber ball from the dollar store.

Foam roller:

Use it for the above if using a lacrosse ball is too intense. Also for your IT bands and upper back. I’ve never tried it, but I hear you make your own roller out of various other hard objects wrapped in other various softer coverings. Try wrapping an unopened soda bottle, one of those Nalgene bottles, filled with water and frozen, or some PVC piping wrapped with bubble wrap or that non-stick rubbery stuff you put under tablecloths.***

5)      Static and dynamic stretches. Perform dynamic stretches for the culprit muscle(s) before you do any kind of moving for the day, and static stretches after you’re done your day’s work.

Dancers be careful with your hamstring stretching! Many people have tight hamstrings as a result of SI joint pain, but dancers actually have pretty darn flexible hamstrings, and seem to be obsessed with stretching them. In my experience, dancers can benefit a lot more from strengthening the hamstrings than stretching them more, as they are one of the more common dance injuries. One that is close to my heart, so to speak.

6)      Improve thoracic mobility. If you only move from one point in your spine (probably the lower part), then all the stress will accumulate at that point. If you can learn to move from multiple points on your spine, the stress will be more evenly distributed.

And that’s all she wrote.

For more on exercises and strategies for developing strength and changing the way you move, check out my resource, Dance Stronger. 

*Yes I realize I just used the words ‘hard’ and ‘erectors’, almost in the same sentence. Sue me.

**Sue me, again…

*** If anyone tries to make their own foam roller, I want to see a picture of it! Success or fail.

 

The SI Joint Whisperer Tells All (Part 1)

The SI Joint Whisperer Tells All (Part 1)

Today I am pleased to share with you a guest post by a fellow dancer, pilates and yoga instructor, performer, and self proclaimed SI joint whisperer, Bizz Varty. When she contacted me to write something for the blog I was thrilled, and I had no idea how much shit was going on down in my SI joint until she pointed out to me how common it is for that pesky guy down there to be jammed and angry.

Without further adieu, here’s part one of Bizz’s epic tale of the mysterious little bugger that is the sacro-iliac.

The SI Joint Whisperer Tells All (and encourages you to loosen the f#$% up!)

By Bizz Varty

Part 1

The sacro-iliac is quite possibly the most mysterious and misunderstood joint among dancers. As a dancer and a yoga teacher, when I hang around with my dancer friends, I spend a lot of time releasing stuck, jammed and pinched sacrums (they call me the SI joint whisperer). As delightfully satisfying as a recently-released SI joint can feel, (note from Monika- BEST. FEELING. EVER.) I have realized that constantly putting it back where it came from is like using a cup to catch water from a leaking bucket just so you can pour it back into the bucket – that is, rather inefficient. This realization plus my own lengthy history of pain in the posterior hip and spine have led me on a search for long-term solutions in the form of alignment, conditioning and neuromuscular re-patterning.

An injury back in high school began my long journey to understanding my SI joint. I was dancing every night as well as playing soccer, and woke one morning with a pain in my back/hip, a pain that eventually moved into my knee.

For weeks I felt I’d ‘lost my bounce’, because jumping sent a ricochet of pain all the way from my toes to my neck along my right side. Being young and stubborn, I did not seek medical attention or even apply an ice pack. Instead, I just tried to dance it off. Though the intense pain eventually went away, my right hip and knee were never the same. Fifth position and attitude derriere caused pinches and twinges in my back and I constantly had an incredibly tight IT band.

But I continued to dance anyway (See Monika’s article “The Problem with Dancers Today” for more on this).

For three years I was held hostage by the twinges, aches and pains that seemed to move around to a different part my body every week. Then, in my second year at York, a ballet teacher suggested that maybe one of my legs was longer than the other. Intrigued, I went to a physiotherapist who said that they were, in fact, the same length, but my SI joint was stuck on the right side.

That first SI adjustment changed my life – for a few weeks anyway. Not knowing that this was something I would eventually become very passionate (ok, maybe a little obsessed) about, my early efforts to maintain this new and wonderful SI joint balance were half-assed at best. Going to physio each week became more like going for an SI release every week. That is, until my PT got fed up and showed me how to release it myself. Then, she began teaching me how to activate my deep core muscles, which blew my stubborn dancer’s mind.

In the 6 or 7 years since, the amount of attention I’ve paid to the problem has varied in relation to the wide assortment of injuries and misalignments I encountered. I would try to dance (or swim, do yoga or even walk) with my SIJ locked. Then, I would have to spend several days dealing with the after-effects only to have it happen again the very next week.

I learned the hard way that the best offense is a good defence, and began addressing my SIJ with daily re-patterning work about a year ago.The improvement has been magical.

Certain activities (especially if done when tired or distracted) will still throw my SIJ off, but now that I know the symptoms (non-specific pain in my knee and IT band) and the solutions (I live for pelvic smile and seated fourth release!) I no longer suffer daily from the repercussions of poor patterning.

My method may not be the simplest, but I find it very effective, as do many of my students. Stabilizing your SIJ, especially if you are a dancer who expects your body to maintain a large range of motion, should be a daily practice. Tight muscles will pull the SI out of alignment, and the body’s compensatory efforts will keep it stuck there.

If you have SI joint issues, chances are good that they are supported by years of well-intentioned but inefficient movement patterns. (Note from Monika- I agree… the road to dance injury is paved with the best of intentions).

I don’t say that to discourage you, I say it to help you understand that you can’t half-ass this if you want it to work. Trust me on this one, I’ve lived through the drama and made it to the other side. A happy SI joint will improve your movement in a million little ways that you can’t even imagine until you’ve experienced it. It takes some time and effort to find what works for you, and to figure out how your body tells you that it needs attention, but it is SO worth it!

Anatomy: What is the SI joint and how does it work?

The Sacro-Iliac joint is in fact two joints – one on each side of your sacrum where it meets the back of your pelvis – specifically, the inner edges of the ilium. You can find these spots by looking for the dimples at the back of your pelvis (just above the crease between your cheeks). The bump you will feel near each dimple is your PSIS or Posterior Superior Iliac Spine – anatomy-speak for “the bony bump at top of the back of your Ilium.” The SIJs are weight bearing joints that provide shock absorption for your spine and distribute the weight of your upper body onto your pelvis and into your legs and feet.

There is some misinformation out there that states that the SI joints do not move, but in a healthy body this isn’t true. To be fair, the SIJs are not designed for a large range of motion as they are stabilized by many deep ligaments. Especially in the type of loose-jointed (which is to say, long-ligamented) bodies that dancers tend to have the bones do move in relation to one another, and when they do they cause widespread (though usually subtle) shifts in overall alignment. Rather than a ball and socket joint like the hip and shoulder, or a hinge joint like the elbow and knee, the SIJ is a gliding joint, more like those found in the spine, where two relatively flat articular surfaces slide against one another. (You can find out lots more nerdy pelvic anatomy stuff on Wikipedia if you’re interested!).

So, if your loose ligaments aren’t holding the SI joints stable, what is? That would be your deep core muscles, namely the transverse abdominus, multifidus, piriformis and ilio-psoas. But there are a number (some say as many as 35) of other muscles that have a connection with the SIJs including the gluteus maximus and minimus, erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, quadratus lumborum (QL), hamstrings, quadriceps and tensor fascia latae as well as the IT band. You would think with so many supporters the SIJs would be good and stable, however all of these muscles also have other jobs to do when the body is in motion, and when those other jobs take priority over SIJ stability, it can throw all kinds of things out of whack.

Side note: SI joint dysfunction is sometimes called “piriformis symdrome” because the piriformis in one of the primary culprits for malfunction, especially in dancers who overwork their turnout. While piriformis syndrome may well be caused or aggravated by SIJ dysfunction, it is a distinct problem that affects only a small portion of the general population. In less than 20% of bodies, the sciatic nerve runs through the middle of the piriformis muscles (instead of underneath it) and when the piriformis is overly tense it pinches the nerve, causing a radiating pain down the back of the leg. The only way to determine if you fall into that 20% is by cutting your butt open to take a look so you may never know for sure, but if you have a shooting nerve pain that starts in your buttocks, you can bet that your sciatic nerve is being irritated by your piriformis.

 

Symptoms – What do unstable SIJs feel like?

SI joint instability is a bit of a misnomer. What I see in many dancers are SI joints that have become locked into place by tight, weak muscles. In an effort to protect what is an especially loose joint in dancers, the body tenses up resulting in a joint that is in fact too stiff for its own good.

As I said before, the SI joints should move, not a lot, but just enough to transfer information from the pelvis and legs to the spine and back again. When this doesn’t happen, because the joint has locked into place in the interest of self-preservation, pain can sometimes be felt at the back of the hip near the dimples. But the body is crafty, and in a dancer’s loose body, the spine, pelvis and hips can shift subtly to work around the blockage. In cases like this, pain might not be felt at the SI joint at all. Rather, the over-stability there will cause instability in other locations – typically in the front of the hip, the low back and the knee, but sometimes all the way down to the toes and up into the neck. (For me, I don’t feel anything in my SIJ until after I notice a pain in my knee).

Usually the piriformis, and often the QL and glutes will be very tense, (Note from Monika- Yep. So. Tense.) and could even be in spasm. To make it more complex, a problem with the right SI joint could very well cause pain in the left side of the body, as the brain will just reassign whichever nearby muscle is strongest to cover for the weak ones that are busy tensing up to create more “stability” – essentially, to use the technical term, an “anatomical cluster-f#$%.”

Try this at home: If you suspect your SI joint is locked, you can get a friend to try and help you determine on which side. Standing tall with the feet parallel, have your friend stand behind you and place their hands on the SI joints, just above the dimples. Raise one knee to hip height slowly, then lower. Repeat on the other side. If your friend feels the SI joint lift upwards when you raise your knee (instead of staying still or moving down slightly) the SI joint may be locked on that side.

Causes – What makes dancers so vulnerable to SIJ cluster-f#$%s?

Most people are stronger in the outer hip and weaker in the inner thighs as a result of sitting for long hours and standing with poor posture. Dancers tend to be looser-jointed than the average population, as the dance world has a way of discouraging those less flexible folks. Add to that the dancer’s affinity for overusing the outer rotators to create more turnout as well as a penchant for general over-exertion and you’ve got a recipe for SI disaster. The SI joint was simply not designed with turnout in mind, as most mammals move most efficiently in the saggital plane. But that’s not to say that dancers and their SI joints can’t be friends. In fact, you too could very well become BFFs with your SI if you regularly practice the exercises which will be outlined in part 2.

(Note from Monika- I will post part 2 tomorrow, which is full of fun stuff to show your SIJ some love)

BONUS:

BONUS: 

Check out the free 30 Day Core Challenge. It’s a great way to get back in touch with the fundamentals of “core” (do you know what they are?), which, as you now know, is an important component in SIJ happiness. All you need to do is make time every day for a few minutes of practice for 30 days. Simple 🙂

Here’s a little about Bizz:

Bizz (Elizabeth) Varty has a passion for dance, music and mind-body fitness. While completing her Honours BFA in Dance at York University she discovered her love for dance science and kinesiology. She also studied Arts Management at Humber College and is certified as both a pilates and yoga teacher.

Bizz has studied dance for more than 20 years. She has choreographed and performed across the province including her 2009 work, the Janis Joplin-inspired piece Honey, I Know How You Feel for the BAZAAR dance festival at Toronto’s Opera House. Along with Beth Lifeso, she is co-director of Cocktail Dress Productions, who have performed at Massey Hall and The Rivoli in Toronto.

Her interest in fitness began at a young age and she has been practicing Yoga and Pilates for 15 years. Her teaching style combines the precision and efficiency of pilates and the philosophy and flow of yoga with the creative expression of her dance background. Bizz’s attention to anatomical detail and her fun, engaging instruction have earned the respect of students of all ages and backgrounds. For more info and free videos, visit www.basicfitness.wordpress.com.