Terre Pruitt's Blog

In the realm of health, wellness, fitness, and the like, or whatever inspires me.

  • I teach Nia, yoga and stretch!

    Nia: Thurs at 9 am

    Yin Yoga: Mons at 11:30 am

    Gentle Yoga: Tues at 10:30 am and Thurs at 6:00 pm

    Stretch: Thurs at 10:30 am

    Please see my website for details! I sub for the City of San Jose and the YMCA so check my website for dates and times!

    I am also available for private Nia / yoga / Personal Training!

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Posts Tagged ‘thigh muscles’

Review The Plank Form

Posted by terrepruitt on March 12, 2013

Let’s do a little form check on our planks.  We are doing our month of daily planks (and beyond?) on our elbows/forearms.  Let’s review how we are doing them.

–Rest on elbows and forearms
–Upper arm bones come straight down, so elbows should be directly under the shoulders
–Elbows are shoulder width apart, elbows are directly under the shoulders
–Shoulder blades are pulled down (putting them in your back pockets)
–Face is facing down, eyes looking at the earth (assisting with proper head alignment)
–Head is in line with shoulders, hips, knees, and feet
–The entire spine is straight
–Hips are not bowing up or sagging down (part of the “alignment” is that they are doing neither)
–Muscles are squeezing and active; abdominals, glutes, qudriceps
–Rest on the toes, heels off the ground
–Feet are in open stance, which is hip JOINT width apart*

*As with many exercises there are variations and modifications, but for this plank challenge we are keeping our feet in open stance.  (For an “open stance” reminder, click here)  With the feet in open stance it encourages the hips to stay in alignment.  Also in open stance your bones are in alignment with your joints.

Try doing the plank with your feet apart (like in “A” stance) and you might notice how much “easier” it is for the hips to start to sag down.

If you are still learning and really want to focus on form, doing the plank on your knees is always another option.  If you are doing the plank on your knees the stance is the same.  The knees are straight out from your hip joints just as if you were standing in open stance.  Your feet are also in “open stance”.

Be very conscious of your arm bones.  You want to make certain they are perpendicular to the floor.  Don’t allow your toes to push you forward.  Check to see that your shoulders are directly over your elbows.  An idea that might help with this is to press back with your heels.  Your heels are in the air but imagine the bottoms of your heels are reaching out to press against something.  This also helps with activating your thigh muscles, while on your toes.  If you are doing the modified plank on your knees you can still press with your heels you just would not be using your thigh muscles to help.

As with all exercise remember to breathe.  How you breathe is up to you, if panting helps you, then pant, if slow inhales and fast exhales help you, then do that.  Breathe however it is best for you, but don’t hold your breath.  Your muscles need oxygen so give it to them.

Remember to keep your form every time and through out the duration of your plank.  If your form starts to “suffer” then stop.  No use doing a minute of “planking” if your bum is high in the air or your hips are on the ground. Let’s make sure we are doing quality over quantity.  So every time you plank, review your form!

Do you have any questions?  Is this clear for you?

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Muscles Used In Nia During Yoga-like Sequence

Posted by terrepruitt on March 15, 2012

While Nia is not yoga nor is it a yoga class we do borrow from Yoga.  We borrow some of the ideas and sometimes some of the poses. In one of the Nia routines we do the Warrior II (Virabhadrasana II).  We do it both static where we just rest into it and we move in it, we bend our bent leg more and sink into it and come up.  Then we do the Extended Side Angle Pose (Utthita Parsvakonasana), then a version of the lunge, which depending upon your body could be a variation of the Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana), or the High Lunge (Utthita Ashva Sanchalanasana), or the Warrior I (Virabhadrasana I) – all without the backbend.  Then we straighten our leg into the Pyramid Pose/Intense Stretch Pose (Parsvottanasana).  With these poses we are using a lot of muscles.  The muscles can be challenged in strength, stability, and/or flexibility.  It all depends are your body at that moment.

When we do the Warrior II pose in this Nia routine the arms are extended out to the sides, opposite from each other, the hips, torso, chest, and shoulders are facing the mirror/front, while one of the legs is bent at a 90 degree angle and the foot is in line with the arm.  The other leg is straight and the foot is slightly turned with the toes pointed toward the body and the heel pointed away.  Of course participants have the option of having the foot at a right angle, but for this dance it is led with a slight angle.  Even with that slight variation it is working the glutes (all of them), the thigh muscles:  inner, outer, hamstrings, and the quadriceps, and your calf muscles.  And for some, like me, who have a habit of scrunching the shoulders, it works the rhomboids while holding up the arms and keeping the shoulder blades down and pulled back.  This is true for many yoga poses, that is why it is so great for encouraging straight posture.

Then for our Extended Side Angle Pose the arm, on the same side as the bent leg, is lowered, forearm to the thigh, the opposite arm is raised towards the sky and extended to a position that puts the arm next to the ear.  There are options to stay in this modified Extended Side Angle or to move to another modification by removing the forearm from the thigh and placing that hand on the earth next to the inside arch of the foot.  With this pose the primary work is in the bent leg.  It is another pose that works the hamstrings and thigh muscles.  Through the back of the straight leg and all along that side of the body there is a wonderful stretch, which is greater and more wonderful the better the body is as keeping the shoulder blades down and the back straight (not leaning forward).

We then move into a lunge with many options.  As with all movements in Nia the responsibility falls on the participant to decide what it is their body is able to do and needs to do at that moment.  We start off by placing the hands on the ground and straightening the foot on the leg that was straight in the Extended Side Angle Pose to be parallel with the foot on the bent leg.  Then gently bring the back leg down resting the knee on the ground.  As I said, many options so many places to go from here.  One can stay here in Low Lunge (Anjaneyasana), or do a moving lunge by moving up and down, or go to High Lunge (Utthita Ashva Sanchalanasana), or come into an extended Warrior Pose I (Virabhadrasana I) with the arms up but with a parallel back foot and a straight back.  Here the body receives the benefit of a lunge no matter which one the body does.  If doing the extended Warrior Pose I like pose, the glutes and thigh of the bent leg are getting a great deal of work, while the straight leg’s foot parallel to the other foot results in a slight change in the muscles being worked and stretched than with the angled foot position of a traditional Warrior I.  The inner thigh gets less work while the work and stretch shifts almost entirely to the back of the leg, the hamstrings and calf.  The arms extended up in the extended Warrior Pose I allows for work in the spinal extensors, deltoids, lats, and traps . . . . basically a lot of muscles in the back, including the ones that keep your shoulders down.  With the crown of the head reaching towards the sky abs get a stretch too.

Moving from whichever lunge was done to the pyramid where the bent leg is straightened and the crown of the head is reaching over the leg while back is straight and chest is on or close to the straight leg.  Of course, variations are offered and participants do what is right for their body to remain in the sensation of Joy.   With this pose the sensation experienced is a great stretch.  The leg to which the head/chest is close to get the largest stretch in the back.  If the body is active with the leg and working to keep the knee cap up then the quadriceps will be engaged.  The spine gets a nice stretch because the crown of the head is being reach over and down.  The back leg might also feel a stretch in the hamstrings if the body is like many people’s and has tight hamstrings.

This is a small yoga-like sequence that we do as part of the cool down cycle of one of the Nia routines.  Again, since Nia is not a Yoga class there are many options and variations that are offered that might not be part of a yoga class teaching strictly yoga.  With all classes whether it be Nia, Yoga, Zumba, Jazzercise, whatever, the goal should be to give your body what it needs at that time.  Bodies are constantly changing so the needs do too.  The idea is not to force the body into a pose, but to allow the muscles and bones to sink into the pose, finding strength and flexibility along with openness in the joints and that constant sensation of Joy.  This is a little review of movements that are Yoga or are very similar to Yoga, to explain some of the muscles we use in Nia.

Can you see how Nia can improve strength, stability, and flexibility?

Posted in Muscles, Nia | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »