A Little Introduction...
Hello! Nice to meet you all. I’m Lauren Hopps, founder and owner of Yoke Fitness. I’m honored to be a guest blogger at Christianson Chiropractic—and I’m very excited to share with you a few thoughts about an important concept, and one of my personal mottos: pelvis awareness! Have you ever sat in a squashy couch and had trouble getting up again? Ever tried standing on one foot and felt surprisingly wobbly? Tried doing a push-up and felt it more in your back then in your chest muscles? You might also love a little pelvis awareness!
Before I circle around to the main topic, I’ll introduce myself—and give you an idea of why I’d need a motto like this. As I mentioned, I own and operate Yoke Fitness, a new yoga and barre fitness studio on West 7th in St. Paul. My one-room studio is all about empowering people to feel healthy through the complementary practices of yoga and barre fitness, so alignment and movement are what I do for a living.
Beyond Yoke, I also grew up dancing, played a whole slew of sports in high school, have 600 hours of yoga teacher training hours under my belt, and have been teaching yoga for nearly 8 years. Yoga is where I met Ali. I was leading a teacher training at CorePower Yoga, and Ali signed up to learn. She was a dedicated student and yogi, with lots of talent for teaching. I’m excited to now be working with her as a business owner!
Yoga teacher training introduced me to Ali, and also gave me the opportunity to observe and learn about a lot of the concepts in this blog.
What Teaching Has Taught Me
When teaching yoga, and training others to teach too, you observe and focus a lot on anatomy. There’s so much to learn about the way one’s own body moves, and you get to see it all from a totally new perspective when you need to relay your experiences to a student. While leading teacher training or group classes, we give verbal cues to help give students an idea of what shape they should take with their bodies. Most people don’t immediately think of their pelvis, but keeping in it mind as one moves, can help with balancing on your hands or feet, getting out of that squashy couch, and working your chest muscles in a push-up. Not to mention have more success doing some of the ‘tricks’ that appear in a yoga class.
I understand how easy it is to forget about one’s pelvis when you’re in the midst of lots of big movements. Being totally honest, when I was dancing and competing in sports, I really didn’t think about my pelvis at all. I was mostly focused on how high I could kick, or how fiercely I could point my toes, or how fast I could be so I could smoke the defense on my way to the soccer ball. I knew I had a pelvis, obviously; but it was just another part of my body, like my nose or my elbow. Not something I needed to keep in mind as I moved, for any reason.
What about core?
But during my own yoga teacher training, one of my lead teachers presented the concept that “all movement stems from the core.” When we discussed this more as a group, she shared with us the idea that as you move any part of your body, the muscles attached to your middle—think abdominal muscles, muscles attached to your spine, and supporting muscles that help you twist or bend sideways—also play a supporting, or potentially driving, role in moving whichever body part you’ve chosen.
In some ways, this concept made sense to me right away: in order to pull one foot up toward my chest from standing, my abdominal muscles and hip flexor muscles (which are commonly thought of as your “core”) would have contract. Yes! But when I thought of things like standing with my arms by my side and touching my nose, I had a harder time seeing how my core muscles made that happen. It seemed to me like it was my arm and chest muscles doing that work.
Now, I’m not as well trained in anatomy or bio-mechanics as Ali is, so maybe she can elaborate on how your core muscles help you touch your nose. But whether you know all the anatomical science behind it or not, your core muscles are vitally important and contribute to a lot of movement. When taking yoga or barre classes, I know that if I let abdominal, gluteal, or spinal muscles go to sleep (or avoid contraction), I feel the effects in my whole body: I’m less stable; I don’t feel as much ‘burn’ in the active muscles; my posture suffers. Activation of those same core muscles, on the flip side, helps me move smoothly, keep my balance more easily, and gets me working so much harder—all while minimizing impact on my joints.
Core Activation through Pelvis Awareness
Once I got that idea of ‘movement originating from the core’ marinating in my mind, it started to evolve for me. Since your core muscles connect your top half to your bottom half, it’s easy to see that logically they’re going to dictate a lot about one’s ability to move. But how, exactly, do they do that?
To start, all muscles do the work of pulling one bone toward another; none of them push bones away from one another. If your muscles are pulling little finger bones, you need little muscles to do that work. So naturally, if your muscles are pulling big bones, like your thigh bones—or your hip (pelvis) bones—you will need big muscles to do that work.
In my mind too then, what the big bones and muscles are doing seems pretty crucial to any movement. Those big muscles, can help pull the heaviest bones into position so that the work of balancing is made simpler for your hands or for your feet. The muscles in your hands and feet have a lot of dexterity and help you balance in any position. However, forgetting about the position or engagement of the big bones and muscles makes a lot more work for your little hands and feet. Essentially, if your big bones and muscles aren’t working for you to stay upright, they’re working against you.
Think of it like the big poles and little stakes used to set up a tent. Your pelvis is a big pole, and your hands and feet are the stakes. You need the stakes to keep the tent spread out and roomy on the inside, but if the big poles in the middle aren’t firmly grounded and vertical the tent will fall over no matter how tightly the stakes are planted.
All About the Pelvis
Your biggest bones are inside of and attached to your pelvis. Remember seeing illustrations of skeletons in science textbooks? Your pelvic bones look sort of like big elephant ears. Relative to each of your ribs, or the bones in your hands, they are huge! Then, your leg bones are connected to your pelvic bones; and your pelvic bones are connected to your spine bones. (I think there’s a song similar to that last sentence.) Now, spine bones aren’t the biggest—but as they’re your back bones, they dictate a lot about your posture and the distribution of your body weight over your foundation. The tilt of your pelvis, then, has a direct impact on the shape of your spine.
This can start to get technical and challenging to imagine, but stick with me. We’re almost done! Try this: put your hands on your hips, and then tilt one hip down like you’re a stubborn teen, or like you’re sick of waiting in a long line somewhere. When your hips tilt like that, your spine and your legs both shift to compensate. One knee is often bent, and the other absorbs a lot of your body weight. It also has to shift to one side, so that your body can still be centered over the foot that’s taking your weight. Your spine also adjusts: the bones pull closer where your hip is tilted up, and spread out on the other side. Think of pinching a slinky on one side, so that the other side starts to flare out and separate. Your spine is doing the same thing in a much smaller way—all based on a tilt in your hips.
I could talk about pelvis awareness for hours at a time. I feel like we’re just scratching the surface! Where those big bones are in space, and how you’re using your muscles to hold them that way, has a dramatic impact on posture, balance, and your ability to move efficiently. Keeping your pelvis and the attached muscles in mind can help you balance on one foot in a yoga practice; it can also help keep you safe while lifting and carrying your groceries or your little ones, and identify the source of your back soreness after long periods of standing or sitting.
If this topic lights your fire, I’d love to do more exploration with you in a class at Yoke Fitness. We’re a welcoming and growing community of fitness practitioners—which makes our studio the perfect place to explore concepts like pelvis awareness. Yoke Fitness is a place for you to come as you are, leave your make-up and fancy fitness clothes at home, breathe, move and celebrate building a healthy life with other people like you. Feel free to reach out to me with more questions about yoga, barre, or movement in general! Contact me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks again to Ali and Christianson chiropractic for letting me guest blog; I had a great time and I hope you did too!
Remember to come to Ali & Lauren’s joint yoga class on Sat Feb 17th @ 10:30 am!!! See you there!