Butt Stuff

Yep.  Are you like Troy Barnes?  Do you love Butt Stuff?   Well then you’re in luck!  We covered Butt Stuff this week.  And by “Butt Stuff” I mean all that meat that covers your backside.  Did you know that there are actually 3 different gluteal muscles that make up “the glutes”?  Yes! It’s true.

The gluteus maximus is the big boy, as the name implies.  It runs from the lateral edge of your sacrum all the way out to your femur (the long bone in the top of your leg).  The top part of the muscle merges into the IT band on the outside of the leg, and the lower portion attaches to the back of your femur.  But underneath that are two more glute muscles!  The gluteus medius lies underneath the maximus, and underneath THAT lies yet another muscle – the gluteus minimus.  Please see my quick sketch below to get an idea of how these muscles lie in relation to each other.  And yes, I forgot the “l” in gluteus minimus and had to go back in and squeeze it in later. Thank you, Tim, for the .388mm pens. 🙂

Underneath all of these layers are the deep rotators of the hip, but I’ll have to save those for another blog post, or this will get too massively long, and I have a test to study for!  And a bike ride and brunch to do!

So, your glutes.  Why are they important?  Well, glute max is the largest muscle in the body and can be up to 2 to 3 inches thick! Consequently, it can have a huge impact on postural distortions.  The glute group can cause pelvic extension (a “tucked” tail), pelvic projection (where the hips are thrust forward of the feet and knees), a pelvic tilt (where one side of the pelvis is higher than the other), external rotation of the femur (“duck feet”), and low back pain.  These muscles can also mimic sciatic pain – sending trigger point referrals into the buttocks and down the back and side of the leg.

Issues with the glutes are quite common, considering we are supposed to use them to MOVE all day long, but we generally just use them to SIT all day long instead. As a result, many people have difficulties activating their “sleepy” glutes.  This became really evident to me when I took a Yoga Tune Up® workshop where we went through the following guided practice:

  1. Lay on the floor, legs straight out (aka savasana).
  2. Try to squeeze your right butt check.  Try the left. Do you know notice any difference in power/contraction?  How far did your hips lift off the floor with each squeeze?
  3. Take a massage therapy ball (a Yoga Tune Up ball, a tennis ball, etc.) and place it under the thickest part of just the right butt cheek.
  4. Contract the right butt cheek for 20 seconds, as you release the contraction, the ball will sink deeper into the glutes.  Repeat 2-3 times, sinking deeper each time.
  5. You can rock your body slowly side to side over the ball.
  6. Without sitting up, reach under your glute and remove the ball.
  7. Let your awareness settle back into the glutes.  Does the right side feel any different than the left?  Any changes in temperature?  sensation?
  8. Contract the right butt cheek. Then the left.
  9. Do you notice any difference in power/activation/sensation in the right side?

If you were like me, you were like, “OMG.  My right side has so much more power now!!!”  You just woke up your butt!!

The YTU balls are great for increasing proprioception and awareness of these muscles, and with regular use, you can keep these muscles active and reduce the chronic tension that is held there.  At the Center for Neurosomatic Studies, we are trained to treat this group of muscles VERY specifically.  In addition to treating the muscle belly (which is what you contact with the balls), we get into the attachments and different layers of tissue, and we can even get into that trough on the medial aspect of the greater trochanter.  The combination of self-massage and bodywork is super helpful for this powerhouse.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.  If you try the exercise described above, let me know how it feels for you.  I personally store a lot of tension in my glutes, so when I get them treated or I roll them out, I feel super relaxed and down-regulated afterwards.  Good luck waking up your butt!

 

 

The Delightful, Dynamic, totally Dope Diaphragm

In last week’s post, I mentioned that the psoas shares attachments to the diaphragm, so I figured we might as well delve into the diaphragm next.  Please note my extensive use of alliteration within this post, as alliteration is amazingly awesome.

I should start by saying, in this post I will be discussing the RESPIRATORY diaphragm, as there are a few different diaphragms in the body.  The respiratory diaphragm, as the name implies, is related to respiration (aka breathing). It is your primary breathing muscle. Or at  least it should be.  For a variety of reasons we can end up constantly using accessory muscles like the neck and shoulder muscles for breathing. This can lead to chronic neck/shoulder tension, head-forward posture, and an amped up nervous system.  But I digress.  Man, this topic is hard to write about without octopusing off into a tangent!!

The diaphragm is a large, domed-shaped muscle that sits inside your ribcage – think of a parachute tucked up under your ribcage.  This muscle separates your heart/lungs from the rest of viscera (liver, stomach, intestines, etc.).  It forms a seal around your ribcage that enables the pressure changes that inflate and deflate the lungs with each breath.  At rest (meaning the muscle is not contracted), the diaphragm is in parachute mode – domed up inside the chest.  When you inhale, it actually flattens and moves DOWN, pulling air into the lungs, and pushing down on the viscera below.  If you want to understand this concept better, you can watch this video (and learn how to make a working lung/diaphragm model yourself!).

We take about 23,000 breaths a day.  With each breath, the diaphragm (which shares connections to the pericardium which contains the heart), massages the heart above it and the organs below it, keeping everything nice and mobile and moving stuff like blood and lymph through the body.  So you can see why I say the diaphragm is delightful, dynamic, and dope!  Such a helpful muscle!

But like any muscle, it can become dysfunctional due to misuse, disuse, overuse, and abuse (to borrow some language from Jill Miller). When this happens, your posture can be affected, breathing issues can arise (asthma, COPD), and your sympathetic nervous system (flight/flight/freeze) can become ramped up, causing anxiety and panic attacks.

But there is good news!!  Even though this muscle seems inaccessible, all tucked up under the bony cage of our ribs, it can actually be treated with manual therapy.  At the Center for Neurosomatic therapy, we learn how to work with the patient’s breath to get our thumbs up under the rib cage and treat this muscle.  And, yes, that is as uncomfortable as it sounds.  BUT, it is SUPER effective.  Each time I’ve done this treatment, the patient notices IMMEDIATE improvements in his/her breath.

If you don’t have access to a neurosomatic therapist’s thumbs, you can do some self care on your own diaphragm.  As with anything, Awareness is Step #1:

Take a moment, close your eyes, and see if you can tell where you feel your breath happening in your body……………………………………..

Done?  Ok.  Where did you feel it?  Did you feel it up in your neck?  Your shoulders?  Did you feel your ribs expand?  Did you feel your belly move at all?

If you feel all your breath up in your shoulders and neck, try focusing on pulling that breath down lower in the body.  You can use the Yoga Tune Up® Coregeous ball to help.  Check out the video here from one my Instagram Idols – the Movement Maestro.

I hope this helped you understand the darling, dependable, damn-brilliancy of the respiratory diaphragm.  Give it some love today – we think we have it rough if we have to work 50 hours a week. It works 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

Have a fabulous Sunday, and let me know in the comments if you have any questions!

Hlo Out!

 

 

Psoas – The “Hidden Prankster”

My final term at the Center for Neurosomatic Studies began week before last.  We’ve only had 2 weeks of school and already we’ve covered tons of interesting stuff in Advanced Technique class.  I finally know the official protocols for the diaphragm, illiacus, superficial paraspinals, quadratus lumborum, deep spinal rotators, deep costal muscles, and, wait for it….THE PSOAS, aka, the “Hidden Prankster” according to Janet Travell who literally wrote the book on trigger points.

All of these muscles can be implicated in the number one reason people miss work – BACK PAIN.  But the psoas is in a world of its own.  Because of its placement in the the body, it can contribute to almost every distortion imaginable.

The psoas lies on the anterior surface  (the front) of the transverse processes (the horizontal parts of the vertebrae) and bodies of lumbar vertebrae and attaches to the lesser trochanter of the femur (a little bump of bone on the inside of your thigh).  It’s basically this huge strap of muscle that runs deep along your lumbar spine, behind all your guts (aka viscera) that connects your torso to your legs.  When you sit all day, it gets shorter, and shorter and shorter and ramps up its pranksteriness to a 10.

Because of its length, placement, and connections in the body, it can contribute to spinal flexion, extension, and rotation; hip flexion, extension and tilt; torso tilt, and pain in the abdomen and back.  It also shares attachments with the diaphragm, so it can contribute to breathing dysfunctions, which can lead to to a whole host of other ailments like anxiety, depression, head forward posture, neck pain, etc.

It’s a tricky muscle to treat effectively, however, because it is deeeeeep within the body.  We learned a technique to kind of swim down through the viscera to the back of the abdomen.  As you can imagine, this is not a FUN muscle to have treated.  But it can make a world of difference!!

If you can’t find a neurosomatic therapist, or if you don’t want to fly to Florida and visit me, there are lots of exercises you can do to help stretch out the psoas.  Katy Bowman, my favorite biomechanist, describes an easy psoas stretch here, and Jill Miller shares a creative way to use Yoga Tune Up® balls to get into this area here.

All this is to say, I’m so glad I finally learned the official protocol for this little prankster!