June 26, 2012

Tight Calves? Tight Hamstrings? Sore feet? Roll Your Feet

Posted in Anatomy, Back, Choices, Ergonomics, Hips, Injuries, Knees, Living Vibrantly, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 1:34 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

Roll Your Feet with a Ball

Whether you struggle with tight hamstrings, suffer with plantar fasciitis, get leg cramps or just have tightness in the back of your body; try this simple trick for loosening up the entire back of the body from your heels to the top of your head.

The human body has one long, continuous line of connective tissue that runs from the sole of the foot, up around the ankle, up the leg, around the knee, up the thigh, over the sitting bone, up the back all the way to the top of the head ending just over your eyebrows. Tightness in any part of that chain can cause tension anywhere else along the back body. When you find yourself with tightness, tension or pain in any of those areas; start with loosening up the tissues on the soles of the feet and see how much better the entire body feels.

Simply roll the sole of your foot over a ball for 5 minutes daily. Use a tennis ball, a physical therapy ball, or when you’ve built up some tolerance, a golf ball. Begin by rolling the ball under the toes, then along the outside edge of the foot. Roll it around the arch area and back & forth across the heel making sure to treat all areas of the surface of the foot. Spend 2-3 minutes rolling each foot.

You’ll be amazed immediately at how good your feel!  Opening up all the tissues on the bottoms of the feet will cause your entire back body to loosen and relax; your feet will feel lively,  your leg muscles more open, you may even get a bit of relief from back pain or a headache.   Resist the urge to overdo this exercise, limit yourself to once or twice a day; but make sure to do it daily.   This is such a simple way to immediately feel better in your body; give it a try and let me know how you feel.

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Reiki Master, Yoga Instructor and General Health Zealot.  Contact her directly to schedule a session:  727-641-6941 or www.TryThaiYogaMassage.com

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March 14, 2012

Sciatica Stretch

Posted in Anatomy, Back, Hips, Injuries, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 3:43 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

If you’ve been diagnosed with sciatica, the pain that centers in the middle of the glute then runs up or down the body from the low back to the knee, you’ve probably been told that keeping the area stretched out will help lessen your pain.

The sciatic nerve as it runs through the hip is about as big around as your thumb; and it easily gets impinged by tight muscles.  Most frequently, the piriformis muscle, one of the hip extensors underneath your gluteus maximus, fanning out from your sacrum to the ball-and-socket joint of the hip, is the  culprit for muscle tightness in the hip.

Here’s the easy way to safely stretch your piriformis muscles, hopefully relieving sciatica.

  • Lie on the floor on your back.
  • Place both feet on the floor, knees point up.
  • Cross one ankle across the opposite knee just above the knee-joint.
  • Keeping your back flat on the floor, pull the crossed legs directly to your chest.
  • Hold stretch for 10 full breaths.
  • Repeat on other side.

By lying on the floor to do this stretch you neutralize and protect the low back, so if there are any disk issues or dysfunction with the sacroiliac joint; you won’t further exacerbate the problem.  In this position the focus of the stretch is squarely on the hip extensor muscles, specifically the piriformis.

Use this stretch to get yourself out of pain; and add it to your regular daily routine to keep your posterior hips open and flexible, better able to support your low back.

Suzanne Andrew is  a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master and general zealot about living vibrantly.  Contact her directly at 727-641-6941 or www.TryThaiYogaMassage.com

February 1, 2012

Back Sore in the Morning?

Posted in Anatomy, Back, Ergonomics, Hips, Injuries, Neck/Shoulders, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 11:43 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

If you wake up and find your low back sore in the morning, before getting out of bed and having a grouchy, achy day; try this!

1. Pull Your Knees to Your Chest – hold for 5 breaths, then rock from left to right 5 times in each direction.

2. Twist to Both Sides –  starting with your knees into the chest, allow your knees to drop off the the left. Widen across the arms. Hold for 5 full breaths. Repeat on right side.

3.  Sitting on the Edge of the Bed, Fold Forward – plant feet firmly on floor, sitting bones on bed, bend of knees should be touching edge of bed.  Bend the torso forward over the legs, let the arms fall towards the floor.  Hold this posture 5 full breaths.

These three simple postures should loosen all the low back and hip muscles; getting rid of any tightness or shortened muscles from sleep.  So next, just stand  up and go enjoy your day!

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master and zealot for taking charge of your own good health.  Contact her directly at: 727-641-6941 or Suzanne@TryThaiYogaMassage.com.    www.TryThaiYogaMassage.com

January 5, 2012

Rotator Cuff Stuff?

Posted in Anatomy, Ergonomics, Injuries, Living Vibrantly, Neck/Shoulders, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 11:38 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

Are you prone to rotator cuff problems?  Strains, pains, maybe some tears.  Estimates are that 25-33% of adults suffer with chronic shoulder pain; much of that due to rotator cuff strains, pains, tears.

Surrounding your shoulder-blade, the rotator cuff is composed of 4 muscles that perform the action of moving your shoulder in its ball & socket joint.  The four muscles of the rotator cuff actually stabilize your arm in the shoulder joint so that the bigger muscles of the arms can do the work. Rotator cuff injuries; from strains to tears, usually happen during strength bearing activities where the shoulder joint is a bit out of alignment while being used strongly.  Over exercising, carrying heavy objects, and repetitive overhead reaching motions are some common causes of rotator cuff problems.

The good news is that you may be able to strengthen and rehabilitate your rotator cuff problem on your own using a couple of simple yoga poses.

Below are two articles that outline the findings of Dr. Loren Fishman – a pioneer at integrating western medicine with yoga.  After a rotator cuff injury of his own, Dr. Fishman discovered that by using the forearm platform common to so many yoga poses; he was able to relieve the pain and other symptoms of his rotator cuff injury.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/02/health/02brody.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/loren-fishman-md/yoga-for-rotator-cuff-injury_b_916728.html

In a nutshell, any posture using the forearm platform (wall push-ups, forearm plank, forearm downward dog, dolphin, head stand) all can help train the subscapularis muscle of the rotator cuff to take over the strength role from supraspinatus.

So if you’re already practicing yoga; you may want to experiment with incorporating some forearm platform poses into your daily workout to see how they help your shoulder strength.  If not, find an experienced yoga teacher to guide you into the poses.

Even if you’re not currently experiencing rotator cuff problems; but you have in the past or sense an instability in your rotator cuff, try incorporating some of these postures into your routine.  Prevention may really be the best cure of all.

(the information in this blog is no substitute for proper medical care; always consult your doctor before altering your exercise routine.)

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master and zealot for taking charge of your own good health.  Contact her directly at: 727-641-6941 or Suzanne@TryThaiYogaMassage.com.    www.TryThaiYogaMassage.com

December 28, 2010

You, yes YOU, need strong rhomboids!

Posted in Anatomy, Back, Ergonomics, Injuries, Neck/Shoulders, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 7:57 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

Slouching?  Headaches?  Neck & Shoulder pain? Difficulty with deep breathing? Maybe your rhomboids need a bit of strengthening….

Many of the conditions of modern life such as hours spent in front of a computer (especially laptops), driving, holding newborns, living with chronic pain or illness,  cause overstretched, weak rhomboids along the back of the chest between the shoulder blades;  along with overly strong, shortened pectoral muscles in the front of chest.   Over time, this becomes the look of slouchy posture, and often the feel of headaches, shoulder & neck pain, shallow breathing. Even the nerves, arteries and veins can become impinged interrupting nervous and circulatory system flow.

To undo this arrangement in the body,  it is important to both deeply stretch the pectoral and front chest muscles; plus strengthen the rhomboids in the back of the body.  If you’ll take a break from your computer work or driving or writing or talking on the phone every hour and do these two simple exercises; you’ll notice a difference in how your body looks and feels quite quickly.

1. Stretch the pecs and front chest muscles by doing the Chest Expansion stretch.

  • Lengthen your spine and balance your weight evenly over both sitting bones
  • Reach behind your back, keeping arms straight, interlace finger.
  • While keeping the spine long and upright, reach your interlaced hands as far upwards as possible.  Feel the stretch in your pecs.  Hold this posture for 5 deep breaths.

2.  Strengthen your rhomboids

  • With the same long spine starting posture, relax your arms down at your sides by your hips
  • Gently but firmly squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  • Repeat 15 times in sequence with the breath; inhaling to squeeze together, exhaling to relax the shoulder blades apart.

It isn’t unusual for the mid-back to feel sore the first week or so you practice this sequence.  But keep after it, especially if you have a tendency to slouch.  In the long-run, you’ll probably experience less pain, better posture and improved shoulder range of motion – a great pay off for a few minutes of your time.

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Yoga Anatomy teacher and Small Business Coach.  Contact her directly to arrange an appointment: 727-641-6941 or  Suzanne@TryThaiYogaMassage.com

December 13, 2010

Question: What’s the best pillow to use for a good night’s sleep?

Posted in Anatomy, Ergonomics, Injuries, Living Vibrantly, Neck/Shoulders, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 3:41 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

Answer: All of them!

After a weekend spent ‘fixing’ a bunch of shoulders hurt from ‘sleeping on them funny’; it seems the question of which pillow is the best for sleeping is on a lot of people’s minds right now.   The answer really is, all of them. (or several of them, at least)  And every bed should include at least one cervical pillow!

Cervical pillows are designed with a ‘roll’ or a ‘lip’ over which your head falls; either while you’re resting on the back or the side.  When the spine is in alignment; the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, veins, arteries and other tissues are all held in their proper working positions to ensure ease and efficiency in the body.

Most often, what happens when you ‘sleep funny’ on your neck & shoulder is the shoulder rounds forward in front of your torso and gets smashed by your body weight for hours on end while sleeping.  (side sleepers do seem to have the most problems with waking up sore) The shoulder tugs on the neck, which tugs back by tightening up the muscles on the back of the neck, top of the shoulder and between the shoulder blades.   Next thing you know, you wake up with a stiff neck, a head ache, a restricted range of motion, a sore shoulder and maybe a grouchy attitude!

The reality is most people shift into a variety of positions through the night; spending time on both sides, the back, sometimes the stomach.  Each sleeping position requires a different sort of pillow or pillows.  Most people find a thin and medium firmness pillow to be the perfect level of neck support for back sleeping.  If you struggle with low back pain, a nice fluffy pillow under the knees while back sleeping may be nice for a few hours.   Stomach sleepers usually don’t use a head pillow; but maybe a roll or firm pillow under the torso.

Side sleepers are the folks who really need a fort full of pillows. First, it is important to have a structured cervical pillow that allows the neck to maintain proper alignment.  Then you’ll need a big fluffy pillow to cradle in front of the body, and perhaps a second one on which to rest your top leg.  This set up allows the spine to stay aligned, the hips and shoulders to relax into the torso instead of reaching away, and a certain amount of balance to be maintained instead of letting gravity pull the joints down.

I’m a huge fan of the memory foam cervical pillows; and consider also getting a small one specifically for travel.  No need to sacrifice a good night’s sleep every time you stay in a hotel or at the in-laws house.  Since we’re ideally spending 1/3 of our hours resting in bed; it is worth the investment to get a variety and quantity of pillows to support yourself into a great night’s sleep every night!

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Yoga Teacher and General Bloviator About Town.  To schedule your customized thai yoga bodywork session with her call: 727-641-6941 or email  SuzanneMAndrew@gmail.com.

November 16, 2010

Low Back & Front Hip Sore?

Posted in Anatomy, Back, Ergonomics, Injuries, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 1:28 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

I’ve accidentally stumbled upon a great solution for my own low back/hip pain!  Yes, this feels like a substantial discovery, at least for my own general well-being; and perhaps for yours, too.

A bit of history; I first ‘hurt’ my low back in 2004/2005 when I was spending a lot of time driving.  I come from a family of people with back problems; on both sides of the family tree, we’re people whose ‘backs go out’ or frequently have back pain.  Structurally, we’re people with out-turned feet and big bellies; a tough combination for low backs to counteract.  Give us jobs where we sit all day behind desks, or worse yet, in car seats while pressing brakes and accelerators; and we usually develop back pain.

In the last 6 years, I’ve used a daily yoga practice to manage my back pain; plus regular massage and occasional practices of The Alexander Method, Feldenkras Method and the Egoscue Method of structural realignment.  I’ve been able to keep the pain at bay; but after a long work day of yoga and massage, my low back usually hurts.  Sometimes I have trouble standing up and walking, and until I can stretch it out; I hurt.  Not that big of a deal, I’ve just been happy to have tools to solve the problem.

But while doing my morning yoga practice in the last week; I stumbled across a series of postures that has really given me a longer-lasting  kind of pain relief and a deeper level of comfort in my body.  Even after doing 14 hours of massage and yoga this weekend, by Sunday night, my low back still felt good!

So here’s the process:

You’ll need: 1 hot pack – at least 18 inches long and a yoga mat, block & strap.

Warm up by:

  • Seven Spinal Movement Warm-up
  • 2-4 rounds of Sun Salutations
  • Hip Opening Sequence
  • Seated Forward Bend
  • Hero
  • Pigeon
  • Butterfly
  • Knees to Chest
  • Happy Baby

Here’s the big pose:

Restorative, Reclining Triangle – get comfortable in this pose, using either a strap or the wall to hold your open left foot in place. Then place yoga block under your opposite, or right, hip.  If you feel pinching in your low back, the block is too tall, replace with a folded blanket.  Next wrap the hot pack around the front, right hip crease.  You want the heat sinking into all the tight structural muscles through the hip crease, upper thigh and around the front hip crest.  Reach your right arm long up over your head, creating the most length possible on the right side of your body.  Hold this posture for 3-5 minutes.  Repeat on other side.  If there is still congestion in either hip, repeat on that side.

To come out of this series:

  • Knees to chest
  • Twist left and right with knees to chest
  • Rest in corpse and realign

Dance, jump and enjoy!  Seriously, after practicing this pose twice; I’ve dramatically cut the amount of pain in my low back at the end of a workday, perhaps it will do the same for you.

There are many to this sequence of postures, so if you have any difficulties working through it on your own; schedule a customized Thai Yoga Massage session with me!

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist working with individuals, couples and classes to share the benefits of openness in the body.  Contact her directly to schedule your session at: 727-641-6941 or Suzanne@TryThaiYogaMassage.com or www.TryThaiYogaMassage.com

November 11, 2010

Right or Left? We ALL have one leg shorter than the other!

Posted in Anatomy, Choices, Ergonomics, Injuries, Living Vibrantly, Thai Yoga Massage at 1:20 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

So many clients come in to see me and while we’re discussing what hurts or isn’t working well in the body they say things like: “everything wrong in my body is on the right side”, or “all my injuries are always on the left”.  It seems many of us struggle with one side of the body bearing the brunt of the injuries, aches, pains and functional struggles.

It turns out that nearly all human beings have one femur (thigh bone) longer than the other.  It is generally considered that if the discrepancy in an average height person is more than 5 millimeters; that discrepancy can result in much more pressure being applied to one side of the body.  If one femur is remarkably shorter than the other; that leg will take more weight with each step.  Further, the muscles on the short leg will probably have to slightly twist with each step to make up the height difference.  Traveling up the body, in the side with the shorter femur the hip will probably rotate in during standing/walking activities; and rest lower and further forward while sitting.  Which, as we continue up the body, can result in the shoulder  getting more strain by subtly reaching further forward to compensate.  Then if the side with the shorter femur is also your dominant hand side, add in more stress through the shoulder, upper torso, arm, neck and head.

If the femur height discrepancy is small; your body will probably compensate easily through your whole life, and you may never even become aware of any differences between sides.  But if you’re part of the 30% of the population who has a significant discrepancy; you may regularly struggle with injuries, aches and pains on that short (stronger, more twisted) side.

So what to do?

First, simply become aware of your own body.  If you’ve had a series of injuries all on the same side; or chronic pain in several joints on the same side, or you notice you’re much stronger on one side of your body; you may have a significant femur length discrepancy.  You can’t change the structure of your bones; but you can change the muscles and support tissue.

Second, balance your activities.  Spend some time reviewing your daily activities such as how you carry your bag, how you use your computer, which leg gives you strength when exercising; and begin  to introduce more balance to your daily activities.  Switch arms/hands for your bag, your mouse or touch pad, holding a phone.

Third, stretch the the sore side more.  During your stretch routine, perhaps stretch the short/tight/sore side twice as long as the opposite side. 

Fourth, strengthen the long/comfortable side more.  Shift your weight more to this side while standing, let this be your power side when exercising, consider some strength training targeted more at this side.

Finally, if  you continue to experience chronic, on-going pain or lack of functionality; consider getting your femurs measured by a professional. (your chiropractor or osteopath is a good professional to consult)  Generally,  the prescription is a lift in the shoe or a lift under one sitting bone at the desk chair; plus the balance, stretching and strengthening outlined above.

Everything we practice together at Try Thai Yoga Massage is about creating more balance and harmony in every part of your body and every layer of your being.  If you constantly struggle with pains, aches and injuries on one side of your body; there are solutions!

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage therapist specializing in helping people create balance, openness and vitality in every corner of their lives.  Schedule your next session now! SuzanneMAndrew@gmail.com or www.TryThaiYogaMassage.com . 727-641-6941

September 16, 2010

Introducing Thai Herbal Compresses

Posted in Injuries, Thai Yoga Massage at 5:30 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

As of September 2010, I’ve started integrating use of Thai Herbal Compresses into some of my massage sessions.

I first experienced receiving a massage with the Thai Herbal Compresses while in Colorado on vacation over the summer; and the compresses were such a wonderful addition to the massage, I wanted to offer them to my massage clients.

First a little background; use of  the Thai Herbal Compresses for healing goes back at least 5,000 years.  Traditionally the Thai people would seek medical attention at the temples; healers would stretch and massage, breathe and apply natural herbal compresses to treat illnesses and ailments.  The compresses are a ball of herbs wound tightly in a muslin cloth tied at the top.  Typically the compresses include ginger, lemongrass, cinnamon, turmeric, curcumin and camphor; all natural anti-inflammatory herbs.  In centuries past, the compresses were actually used as medical treatment for injured soldiers returning from battle; today they’re used as an aromatherapeutic, moist-heat, anti-inflammatory compress applied topically.

When you add the therapeutic effects of the Thai Herbal Compresses to your already therapeutic massage or Thai Yoga session; the benefits are enormous.  Clients I’ve used them on report being able to relax deeper and more quickly; even while I’ve been working on deep muscular systems.   They report a quicker release to knots and trigger point areas within the body; and they’ve all enjoyed the soothing aroma of the compresses.

I’m imagining they’re going to be wildly popular in the winter.  I can see using them to help keep clients warm when it is cold out, adding eucalyptus oil to the steam bath to help clear sinuses, and using them to massage more clients stomachs.  We carry so much tension on the front side of our torsos; and yet most of us are not comfortable having our stomachs massaged.  The Thai Herbal Compresses may be just the ticket for relaxing and releasing abdominal tension.

Here’s the link to an article about the compresses:  http://ezinearticles.com/?History-of-the-Thai-Herbal-Compress&id=970492

So the next time you’re scheduled to come in and see me for massage or Thai Yoga; request the Thai Herbal Compresses be added into your session; and join a 5,000 year old tradition of health & wellness!

  Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist  and new fan of the Thai Herbal Compresses. Contact her directly to arrange your next massage or yoga session in St. Petersburg, Florida: Suzanne@TryThaiYogaMassage.com

June 22, 2010

Relax and Release Your Psoas

Posted in Anatomy, Back, Injuries, Living Vibrantly, Thai Yoga Massage, Yoga at 2:12 pm by SuzanneMAndrew

The infamous psoas muscle (So – As) is one of the hardest working muscles in the body, and is sneaky about refusing to relax.  Think of  your psoas as the quintessential ‘type A’ personality muscle.  After doing the heavy lifting of being the primary flexor of your hips; the psoas lifts your leg all day long as you walk, run, move forward; the psoas does not naturally relax.  When you sit, due to its location connecting the thigh to  the low back, the psoas does not stretch out and relax, it shortens.

Your psoas runs from the top of the femur to the lumbar vertebrae of your lowback; running right through the pelvic bowl. A tight psoas can increase lordodic curve (swayback) potentially causing pain and stress in the body.   That critical juncture where the spine meets the pelvis, around L5/S1; can be thrown off kilter when the psoas is tight, potentially causing all sorts of back pain and problems.

A relaxed psoas can help your low back feel healthy; however, it can be a bit tricky to get the psoas to release.  Here’s a quick way to relax the psoas:

  • Lay on your back on the floor
  • Bend your knees at 90 degree angles, feet flat on the floor, knees pointing towards the ceiling.
  • Keep the knees pressing together while walking the feet horizontally apart, wider than your hips, this should result in about a 2 foot wide space between your feet.
  • Press one knee down down towards  the floor against the opposite inner thigh while that leg falls out to the side; keep the soles of the feet on the floor.
  • Press down with your hand on the front hip crest to stabilize the upper thigh into the pelvis.
  • Take 5-10 deep breaths.
  • You will probably feel a deep, deep stretch in an area so tight the stretch may feel like scratching an itch.
  • Repeat on side two.

So as you stretch out either after a work out or at the end of your work day, be sure to spend some time stretching out relaxing your psoas; your hips, thighs and low back will thank you!

Suzanne Andrew is a Thai Yoga Massage Therapist, Anatomy Teacher and Business Consultant with a chronically tight psoas herself.  Call or email today to schedule your personalized Thai Yoga Massage session! 727-641-6941 or Suzanne@TryThaiYogaMassage.com

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