Good Shoes and Yoga

There’s no body part that works harder than the feet. They are tasked with propelling us from place to place, transporting the load of the body, traversing uneven surfaces, and sometimes completing a “look” with stylish footwear. They are an integral part of the overall function of the body. This is why injuries to the  feet have such an impact on our overall health. There are so many structures in our wonderful, and wonderous, feet that there are many things that can go wrong. Rather than go into each malady in detail we will focus on how to keep the feet happy and healthy, and how yoga fits into this.

    • 3 way heel raises
    • Virabhadrasana 1 Lunge
    • Parsvottanasana
    • Prasarita Podottanasana
    • Lift toes and balance on heels
    • Tree Pose
    • Squat
    • utkatasana
    • Eagle Pose
    • calf stretch
    • Ankle rotation
    • cycling

And last but certainly not least, you should wear good, supportive shoes. Also consider getting inserts for your shoes if they don’t offer good support. This is particularly true when you need to walk, run or hike a distance, or if you spend a lot of time on your feet for your occupation.

Are Your Muscles Plastic or Elastic?

Fun fact…..muscles and other soft tissue have different ranges of stretch. There is an elastic stretch or a plastic stretch. An elastic stretch is when the tissue stretches, but then returns to its original length. This is similar to a rubber band stretching and contracting. In a plastic stretch the muscle, or other tissue, remodels and takes on new shape or length. This is important because to make a real difference for tight muscles you need to hold a stretch long enough to help that muscle find permanent lengthening.

This is also true of connective tissue, such as fascia. Fascia is a weblike tissue that surrounds each muscle fiber and the muscle as a whole. Sometimes when we feel stiff and tight it helps to bring pliability to the fascia. This is where stretching can really help. Since fascia surrounds muscle, stretching the muscles also stretches fascia. Unfortunately, many people stretch briefly before or after a workout and some rarely stretch at all. If you’re wondering why your muscles are tight even though you’re stretching, perhaps it’s time to slow down and hold your stretches longer. It is also important to stretch regularly. A weekly yoga class is great, but in between you should still stretch daily to provide the suppleness you may be seeking.

In order to reach the plastic phase of  a stretch, you should stretch for ninety seconds or more. This can happen in one long stretch or can be broken up into two or three stretches, i.e. repeating a thirty second stretch three times. To get even more benefit, try incorporating breath. First, slow your breath. Then come into a stretch and set a thirty second timer. While you’re in the stretch count your breath cycles (a breath cycle includes an inhale and exhale). Then you’ll know how many of your breath cycles are in a thirty second time block. Now you can count breaths, instead of using a timer, when you stretch. In addition to getting a good stretch, this practice is very relaxing and can lower blood pressure and heart rate.

In answer to the title question, “Are your muscles plastic or elastic?” The simple and technical answer is that they are neither. Your muscles are of course made up of muscle fibers and fascia, which have the ability to stretch into a plastic or elastic range. A more philosophical answer may be that your muscles may now be elastic, but  aspire to be plastic. Thus, remodeling into a more efficient or desirable length and shape.

For a personalized sequence for back pain, contact me at Find more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy on my website at or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie

A Tour of the Core

As a society we are core obsessed. If a workout has the word “core” in it, it’s supposed to be good for us.  Apparently we should seek out such workouts because if “core” is involved we will become stronger, healthier and more attractive. I must admit that when I first hear the word core uttered, it was  shrouded in mystery and sounded difficult, perhaps even threatening. So what’s the big deal about core workouts? What’s all this hype about, and does it have to be difficult to be a good workout? Let’s unveil some of the mystery behind the core musculature.

For our purposes we’ll talk about two types of muscles; postural muscles and phasic muscles. Postural muscles help you maintain posture and keep you upright against the force of gravity. They support your frame and help with endurance, balance, and strength. Postural muscles are also called core muscles. They are deep within the body (at the core).

Phasic muscles allow you to move quickly and efficiently. They are the “doers.” To pick up a cup, kick a ball or stand up from a chair, phasic muscles are the first to volunteer for the task. The phasic muscles help you perform a task, but the postural muscles help you to maintain it. Sometimes the phasic muscles will try to do the job of the postural muscles. Unfortunately, since they are not built for endurance they often wear themselves out and get hurt. This is why it’s so important to strengthen the core muscles. Injuries often arise because phasic muscles are not strong enough to repeatedly perform a task that requires the support of core/postural muscles. The core muscles really “have the back” of the phasic muscles. If the phasic muscles are not quite strong enough (and this happens even with body builders) the core muscles step in to help out. So the core muscles must pitch in to help, or havoc ensues.

The core workouts that we hear about often focus on the deep abdominal muscles, which are important muscles to support our backs. However, postural muscles also include muscles in the neck, chest, hips and legs. Therefore, it’s important to try to strengthen the full range of core muscles in the body.  Several common yoga postures can help strengthen the core muscles, particularly if you hold them for 30 seconds or so. Here are a few examples.

  • Vasisthasana (Side Plank) engages the obliques, quadratus lumborum (the “hip hiker” muscle in the low back/hip area), and spinal extensors as they work against gravity to maintain the pose.
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose) is a good supportive pose that works many of the hip and leg muscles as they hold the spine up.
  • Utkatasana (Chair Pose) is a vigorous and powerful pose known for increasing strength in the quads and gluteus muscles. It also works the spinal extensor muscles as you reach your arms overhead.
  • Vrksasana (Tree Pose) like many balance poses, standing on one leg can work the hip, leg and deep abdominal muscles. Try to keep the hip of the standing leg from drooping as it’s important to keep the quadratus lumborum muscle strong to reduce injury to the back.

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at You can also join me for one of my classes. See my offerings on my schedule page.

For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie


Samskaras and Pain

Pain is an interesting word. We all know that pain means we hurt. Sometimes the reason we hurt is obvious….an injury for example. Other times the source of pain is not apparent. But how does pain develop? Pain can occur when there’s tissue damage….i.e. a broken limb. It is also true that pain can be severe even when there is no tissue damage. Pain is the brain’s response to trauma. This response can take place even if the area has healed.

Physiologically this works through neural pathways. The brain receive a signal from muscles and other organs. If the message is that there may be danger (think touching a hot surface) the brain sends it’s own painful signal via the nerves to pull away quick. All this happens in seconds. This is an important response that is designed to protect the body from injury.

This response can become a habitual one that occurs even when the danger passes. So the brain interprets a signal that previously was associated with danger, and it sends a signal of pain to protect from tissue damage. It seems a little screwed up, right? However, if the brain did not respond to touching a hot surface with pain, you may leave your hand on a hot surface and suffer 3rd degree burns. The problem occurs when the brain gets into the habit of sending pain signals when there is no danger to the body.

There is a yogic term for these habitual patterns. It is a samskara…a  learned response or pattern of behavior. Samskara can refer to emotional, social or physical behavior. The physical aspect of a samskara is the learned response of the nervous system to some sort of action or stimulus. Sometimes this happens quickly. A good example is practicing a balance pose. The first side often feels more shaky than the second side. Sometimes there’s a physical reason for this, such as strength differences between the two lower limbs. However, it is often a samskara. The brain and nervous system has already learned what to do from practicing the posture on the first side. Therefore side number 2 seems easier.

Samskaras can also contribute to chronic pain. The neural pathway signals for pain to occur in response to danger. Sometimes something occurs that has indicated danger in the past. Even though there is no current danger (i.e. no tissue damage) the brain still signals the nerves to respond with pain. This can  become a vicious circle because pain can increase stress which can make nerves more sensitive and thus more susceptible to pain.

It’s important to note that there is no one size fits all approach to reprogramming your samskaras or your pain. The first step should always be to visit your doctor, physical therapist or other healthcare practitioner. In addition to medical care it is useful to reduce stress levels and shift your focus away from the pain. Yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices can help to resolve painful samskaras.

If you’d like a personalized sequence or an individual session focused on your health goals, please drop me a line at You can also join me for one of my classes. See my offerings on my schedule page.

For more tips on pain relief and injury prevention through yoga and physical therapy, sign up for my newsletter here, or follow me on social media on FaceBook @yogalorie, Instagram Wellness_with_Lorie, or LinkedIn yogalorie