Category

Yoga

Stuck at your desk? Try these stretches!

Try these 4 stretches if you find yourself stuck at your desk for hours at a time, hunched over? Try these 4 stretches to open up the chest and relieve some of your upper back pain.

Thoracic stretch against the wall:

Place your hands on a flat wall, move back and bend your knees slightly. Gently push your head through your hands until you feel a stretch. Repeat 5-10 times, slow and controlled movements.

Pec Minor stretch:

Raise your arm forward against the wall above your head. Turn the body away in the opposite direction to feel the stretch.

You can do this dynamically and hold it for 10 seconds at a time, or you can hold it for 60 seconds and then switch sides.

Pec Major stretch (2x insertions)

1: Stand in front of the wall, with your arm horizontal. Turn the body away in the opposite direction to feel the stretch.
Hold the position for the prescribed time of around 45-60 seconds.

2: Stand with the arm raised to the side of a door or wall at an angle of 90 degrees, with the elbow bent.
Step forward and turn away from the wall to stretch the chest and front of the shoulder.
Hold the position for a prescribed time of 45-60 seconds.

To book some therapy time with Carolyn  click here

For vanity or mental resilience, its yes to handstands!

Even if you cannot get into your beloved gym at CrossFit London, you should always be building regular handstand practice into your life.

Whether it’s a free-standing handstand, a headstand, or a dish shape, you can be working towards inverted cool, effective moves!

We have drills and skills units in our facebook group and our trainers publish lots of handy technique videos like this one

To be utterly truthful, we don’t actually care if you get a free-standing handstand. If you do it’s because you have listend to our expert coaching and have put in loads of daily work. Not everyone can.

However, for us, the simple act of getting you comfortable with being upside down, or partially inverted can have remarkable physical and mental health benefits! It strengthens your core, makes you work on your shoulder mobility, and builds your wrists.

The training itself is the secret!

From a mental health point of you, if you are frightened by inversion, our progressive drills will help you manage that fear. This can really help with your general stress inoculation. If you’ve beaten this fear, maybe stressors at work won’t be as bad. If you can lead your body, by progressive drills and practice, to get upside down, maybe you can effectively lead your team at work to do a bit better!

It sounds weird but the pillars of mental resilience are

  • SELF-BELIEF – confidence in your own abilities and judgment
  • POSITIVE AFFECT – the ability to interact with life in a positive way
  • EMOTIONAL CONTROL – the ability to understand and express your emotions
  • MENTAL CONTROL – the ability to control thinking, attention, concentration, focus, self-awareness, reflexivity, problem-solving
  • SENSE OF PURPOSE – the motivation that drives you forward
  • COPING – adaptability, natural coping strategies you have learned through coping in a previously stressful situation
  • SOCIAL SUPPORT – the social network you have and the ways you use it

This mirrors exactly the process by which you nail the handstand and the way at which Crossfit Londons training makes you a more effective operator in the competitive London jobs market.  When learning a handstand, a wandering mind, emotional tantrums, no sense of purpose, negative thinking stop you from learning. By learning with progressive drills  you lever in social support and start developing coping skills.

Nothing builds coping skills like handstand practice.

 

If you want help releasing the better you,  get in contact!

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The L-sit will calm you down!

Whilst everyone likes a rippling physique, there  are exercises that are simply good for you, sometimes, for reasons that are not immediately obvious.

The L sit can have an impact on your stress levels. It was recently established that there is a connection between your core, your brain, your adrenal glands and thus the release of the stress hormone cortisol. It’s only been tested on Monkeys, but it’s very interesting.

Classically it was thought that most of the body systems worked top down. You think it, and the brain sends out the memo.

Basically, the primary cortex portion of your brain (or M1 for short) contains a map of your entire body including regions like your legs, arms, face, and your core. 

To everybody’s surprise, boffins have discovered a large number of neurons in the M1 that controlled the adrenal medulla. Plus, most of these neurons were located in the axial muscle region of the M1. Stated plainly: “Well, lo and behold, core muscles have an impact on stress,” says Peter Strick, PhD, a professor and chair of the department of neurobiology at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. 

“One clear implication of this organization is that the sympathetic responses which occur during activities such as exercise, the performance of demanding cognitive tasks, and the experience of emotions are generated by neural activity from the same cortical areas that are responsible for these behaviors.” (The mind–body problem: Circuits that link the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla)

This isn’t that much of a surprise although as the mind body connection has been fairly known, or boringly worked to death, depending on your perspective. What we are beginning to see is the pathways for a body mind connection.

How you treat  your body has a direct impact on your emotions .

The psychologists, hippies and new age weirdos had always talked about this connection. I went to a charity fire walk in Liverpool Street, London several years ago, and we were made to power pose (stand there, legs astride, “being powerful”) to prepare us for the  rigours of the fire walk to come. Without such preparations, we would clearly have died.

Whilst power posing per se isn’t at all guaranteed (other studies found it to be utter tosh), its enough to understand  that:

  “specific multisynaptic circuits exist to link movement, cognition, and affect to the function of the adrenal medulla. This circuitry may mediate the effects of internal states like chronic stress and depression on organ function and, thus, provide a concrete neural substrate for some psychosomatic illness”.

All of which is a long winded rambling way of saying, do the L sit! ‘Cause your core sort of chats to your stress bits. Like”.

It’s OK.  I hang around with some really trashy people and have picked up some filthy phrasing habits.

To own the L sit, here are the stages! It’s vaguely abusive in places 

Stage 1. Notice the burger you are scoffing

Stage 2 put the burger down

The abusive thought behind stage 1 & 2 really is unnecessary. You can get good strong abs and still eat crap, you probably won’t be able to see them though. Although eating crap per se is bad for you.

Stage 3 grab the edge of the health and safety checked chair and push your ass off the seat, Notice how your bum is behind your hands. Find a balance. Practice for a few weeks (less if its easy)

Stage 4  Build on stage 3 , then stick one of your legs in front of you.Yikes. It’s hard for some, not so for others. You are lucky or you are not. Practice this and stage 5 together. One leg, then the other. Feel free to cry. Everyone likes people who can express emotional  weakness

Stage 5, is the other leg!

Stage 6. Hurrah, both legs out “purleez”

Stage 1-6  can be almost instant or its 6 weeks worth of work.

Then you can do it on the floor with paralletts

Then you start your disgusting journey to 2 minutes!

You’ll love the abs you get, the core control, and of course you’ll be calm and stress free!

Bug your Crossfit london  trainer and they will get you L sitting, like you were born to it. It will soon become easy ( this is a lie: it will always suck. If you have Abs of steel, we will  just put weight on your feet to me it awful again)

Thanks to  the PDF  The L Sit on Andrewstemler.com

The sketches are from is.tatsuo@gmail.com

Calisthenics and the 90/90 balloon drill

Inevitably the issue of breathing had to come up in our experimental Calisthenics class. Breathing can influence so may aspects of performance, that it’s worth becoming familiar with some of the more  popular breathing drills and concepts.

Increasingly you will see on cutting edged fitness blogs, the 90/90 breathing drill. As a cutting edge fitness class we looked at this skill last night.

The original 90/90 hip lift breathing drill was, to my knowledge, properly discussed by Boyle et al, ( 2010).

90/90 breathing was designed, so they say,  to optimise breathing and enhance posture and core stability. The idea being this would improve improve function and/or decrease pain (Boyle et al., 2010).

Here is a handy dandy “How to do it” guide

 

  1. Lie on your back,  feet flat on the wall, knees and hips bent at a 90- degree angle.
  2. Place a 4-6 inch ball between your knees.
  3. Place your right arm above your head and a balloon in your left hand.
  4. Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth, performing a pelvic tilt so that your tailbone is raised slightly off the mat. Keep your back flat on the mat. Do not press your feet flat into the wall instead dig down with your heels. You should feel your hamstrings “engage”
  5. Breath in through your nose and slowly blow out into the balloon.
  6. Pause three seconds with your tongue on the roof of your mouth.
  7. Without pinching the neck of the balloon and keeping your tongue on the roof of your mouth, take another breath in through your nose (the first few times you do this is slightly tricky).
  8. Slowly blow out  into the balloon again.
  9. Do not strain your neck or cheeks .
  10. The original instructions say “After the fourth breath in, pinch the balloon neck and remove it from your mouth.Let the air out of the balloon”. Frankly, i just open my mouth and let it fly around the room ( I have a pile of balloons to hand so I don’t have to move to get another one. My girlfriend says this is  annoying.
  11. Relax and repeat the sequence 4 more times.

You can checkout more materials at the Postural Rehabilitation Organisation

The 90/90 rests on a concept  called the zone of apposition (ZOA) of the diaphragm, which is the part of the muscle shaped like a dome.  In simple terms “MORE DOME GOOD”

If the ZOA is decreased the ability of the diaphragm to inhale sufficient air in a correct way is diminished.  This affects the diaphragms ability to build up  intra abdominal pressure.  If the ZOA is decreased The transversus abdominis activation also decreases with a smaller ZOA (Boyle et al, 2010), which again affects lumbar stabilisation ability .

The set up of 90/90 , allegedly aligns the pelvic floor and diaphragm in parallel. This combats any upper and lower cross syndromes, and lumbar extension. This results in  the core muscles being fired which increases the ZOA and adds to core stability. As an exercise in the obvious,  dysfunctional breathing and physical activity  takes up the main breathing muscles and throws the load on to smaller muscles and makes life harder. However, according to Lukas  (2018) there is little evidence in terms of studies to support this, although it sounds like a reasonable assumption. However, the Lukas study does seem to caste doubt on 90/90 as core stabilisation method

“Taken together, the 90/90 breathing seems rather ineffective as a general core activation for a normal workout.” (Lukas , 2018 page 35). but checkout these drills by Buteyko and these other breathing drills

I think some attention to basic breathing drills is probably useful, but its more relevant if you obviously have a breathing disfunction.

Why not practice on the tube (not with the balloon, obviously).

 

References

Alverdes, Lukas  (2018) .Short-term effects of 90/90 breathing with ball and balloon on core stability. Halmstad University

Boyle, K. L., Olinick, J., & Lewis, C. (2010). The value of blowing up a balloon. North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT, 5(3), 179.

 

COME & CHECK US OUT

The free shoulder flexibility course

Are you worried about your shoulder flexibility? Well, you are in good company! Many people are in the same boat. Too much hunching over computers and way, way too much texting means your chest is tight, your back is weak and your shoulder “don’t look pretty”.

At Crossfit London, we have years of teaching the Olympic Lifts and Adult Gymnastics to normal members of  the public, so we have developed  (and , to be frank, stolen) all the tricks to help you get a better shoulder position.

Whilst we cannot reproduce, in a single blog post, all of our sneaky shoulder flexibility developing drills and skills ( you have to jump into our classes or get a fabulous personal training session) here are some great drills to begin with.

Its our gift to you

Enjoy

Shoulder warm up

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jP02Bf7WBU&t=54s

Dislocations

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=si9uzGEiCic&t=18s

Shoulder stretch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1yLWpWSgAaE

Strength

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=REjV2alcRcY

If you find your progress isn’t as great as you had hoped for, or you want help before you start, and on going support,  do book in for a PT, get  a session with one of our therapists or check out our mobility and flexibility classes

Crossfit London is based in Bethnal Green London E2. It was the first ever Crossfit facility in the UK, and remains the biggest Crossfit Gym in London, Its facilities are both gorgeous and stunning

I'm too inflexible to try Yoga or a flexibility class!


“I’m too inflexible to try Yoga / a flexibility class.”
It sounds backwards doesn’t it. Surely that’s why you need to come to a class?
But I get this statement a lot.
And yes, with good reason. If you can’t touch your toes isn’t a splits class going to be out of your depth? Or a bridge class knowing your tight shoulders?
Fortunately not. This is where scaling bears it’s fruit.
Crossfitters reading this will know scaling well. You do a workout with 100 pullups but know that with your max 4 reps completing in several minutes is an impossibility.
So you scale. Make it easier so it’s something you CAN do.
Those who are willing, will find a way.
Luckily fhe same works in flexibility.
Lets take the bridge as an example. A mean fear when your shoulders force nothing less than a 90 degree bend in your elbows. While your hear practically sweeps the dust off the floor.
So we scale:
1. Firstly you will need a partner. For sole traders out there, a chair can work depending on the shape, but a breathing obstacle works better and can be recruited with a suitable dose of chocolate.

2. Warm up suitably and do some preparatory stretches of your shoulders (find some examples in our flexibility class)


3. Start your bridge position lying on the floor, heels tucked to your backside withe feet on the floor
 
4. Your partner stands facing you with feet at your shoulders either side of your head
5. They then walk out at a 45 degree angle from your shoulders, starting 1 foot away
6. You grab hold of their ankles, elbows pointing up

7. Your partner supports underneath your shoulders, while you push off your hands and feet into a bridge
8. If unable to lock out your arms, bring your head to your chest and lower down, have your partner walk out a bit more from your shoulders then try again

9. Stretch out your back after you finish
10. Scaling like this you can hold and work on a proper locked out bridge, and work towards doing it solo
 
Come to the flexibility class for a full breakdown of this and more shoulder stretches.
Or  if you’re keen to get flexible quicker or prevent pains and injuries, try a 1-1 by booking a free session here:

https://10to8.com/book/qwzphv-free/191921/

Progressive Muscle Relaxation – Next Level Chillin'

On Tuesday it’s Halloween, all hallows eve. A time during which the gate between the world of the living and the dead is wide open – allegedly. In any case, we’re going to take this opportunity to spend a good amount of time in savasana, the corpse pose, to let the physical body rest and quieten down the mind.
In other words, we’ll be throwing a few restorative shapes, before I take you through a progressive muscle relaxation. PMR is an excellent way to not only improve awareness of your physical body in space (aka, proprioception) by targetting individual muscles, or muscle groups, but also to sharpen your focus by drawing your attention to a specific body part for a brief moment in time, and linking that to your breath – sound familiar?
Following on from last week, let me reiterate just how important it is that you allow yourself sufficient capacity to recover from your training in the gym. Physical exercise is a stressor on your system, even more so when performed at high intensity.
As we grind through those workouts day in, day out, we tend to forget how to breathe properly (remember 17.5, anyone? Dark times), and this can ultimately lead to, or contribute to, muscle tension and muscle spasms (abmat sit-ups for reps, need I say more?)
Yoga for CrossFit
Proper breathing is an often under-estimated tool you can use to aid your performance. As with everything else, it’s something that you improve through regular practice – all it takes is a little conscious effort.
It’s a fundamental part of the practice of yoga, and next week we’ll be drawing on this specifically to aid your recovery and general relaxation.
As it is starting to get a bit nippy now, please bring adequate clothing and layers, as we will be horizontal for a good part of the class. Take a pair of warm socks, perhaps even a thin blanket and/or an eye mask, if you have one.
Click here to book in, see you bright and early on Tuesday!
Yoga for CrossFit

7am roll call – Time to get upside down!

Working out at the gym puts stress on your system. In order to get the most out of your training regime, you need to make adequate provisions for recovery – eating, sleeping etc. – no rocket science here, and you know this already anyway! The focus in this week’s Yoga for Athletes class will be on inversions. That’s not just handstands, headstands and so on by the way. An inversion is any posture whereby the head is lower than the heart. An excellent way to calm down the CNS, and of course to build strength in the arms and shoulders, as well as to hone those ninja skills.
We’ll be practising a restorative form of pranayama (‘control of breath’) to begin with, before exploring different progressions of the traditional yogi headstand (sirsasana) as well as the forearm stand (pincha mayurasana). If there mere thought of that makes you feel a little queasy – fear not! We will be building up to these big poses safely and with plenty of wall space to support. If you’re a HSPU ninja, come along to mix it up a little, get those rhomboids to work and add to your gymnastics ninja repertoire. If you’re working on building strength to hold yourself upside down – this class is for you, to get used to holding your weight over your shoulders in a way that is stable. Change of perspective and a bit of added zen, how’s that for a good start to the day? Click here to book, see ya there!

Yoga for Sports

Standard post-workout state. If you train hard, you gotta let your system recover!

Locust or Superman?

Now that is a good question! Depends on whether you ask a yogi or a CrossFitter! In any case, it’s one of the shapes we’ll be getting into during Tuesday’s practice. In this week’s class, we’re going to focus on mobilising the spine by getting into all sorts of twists, so be prepared to wring out those obliques – because we all love a bit of extra-curricular accessory work, right? Thought so ?
Then, we’ve got a couple backbends to release the lower back, a few shoulder and wrist mobilisers as well as a sun salutation flow to make sure you’re awake and ready to rule the day by the time we wrap up.
Gonna be a good crew, please book in here if you would like to join! Tuesday rise & shine/flex my friends! See you there, meanwhile I hope you all took today as an opportunity to take that fitness outside into the sunshine!
Yoga for Cyclists

The Sun Salutation – How is it going to benefit your training?

If you’ve done yoga before, you will have practiced it, and if you haven’t, you may well have heard of it – the sun salutation, or surya namaskar, by its Sanskrit name. The sun salutation is a foundational sequence of roughly a dozen asanas (yoga postures), performed in the same order and usually at the beginning of a yoga practice. There are different variations, e.g. the classical sun salutation, surya namaskar A & B – you’ll be coming across them all in my classes. Now, let’s look at why you should integrate them into your programme to complement your training at the gym.

  1. No equipment needed

The sun salutation is a type of bodyweight exercise and you can do it anywhere. I like to take my practice outside whenever possible, making the most of London’s many green spaces. You’ll have the choreography down in no time, meaning you’ll bust out those downward facing dogs and baby cobras without even thinking about what comes when before you know it.

Downward-facing dog

Downward-facing Dog

  1. It makes for a great warm-up, cool-down or a full-on workout in its own right

It all depends on how you pace it, and how many rounds you complete. In vinyasa flow yoga, the style in which I teach, it’s the rhythm of your breath that leads you from one posture to the next, meaning you – or on occasion I, if you practice with me in class – set the pace. It’s a great way to warm up before a workout, and to bring that heart rate down when you’re hanging out of your arse after a savage metcon.

  1. It mobilises the spine

The practice of yoga asana aims to move the spine in all directions by means of forward folds, backbends and twists. The sun salutation incorporates a number of poses that repeatedly flex and extend the spine, particularly the lumbar. This promotes spinal disc health as the biochemical process controlling disc hydration is stimulated through on and off pressure. The spinal discs already have very poor blood supply – now add to that gravity from walking upright, general lack of movement due to a sedentary lifestyle for many of us, natural degeneration through ageing, as well as compression under load from weightlifting and you have…less than ideal conditions for your discs to stay happy and healthy!

Bhujangasana - Cobra

Bhujangasana – Cobra

  1. It makes for happy hammies

Struggling to keep a neutral spine when deadlifting? Tight hamstrings are a common plight, and not only among athletes. There’s three of these muscles – they originate at the sitting bone, and the back of the femur (that’s your thigh bone) respectively. Tightness in this area may cause the pelvis to tuck under, and therefore compromise the integrity of the spine in CrossFit movements such as the deadlift. As with everything, consistency is key, and I guarantee you that you will be able to touch your toes no matter how impossible that may seem at this point in time – incidentally it’s one of the most frequent reasons I hear people give for not coming to class. No more excuses now, get yourself on the mat or the gym floor and start stretching!

Uttanasana - Forward fold

Uttanasana – Standing Forward Fold

  1. It helps you get to that next ninja level

The sun salutation engages approximately 140 muscles in the body, using nothing but your own bodyweight. How’s that for a well-rounded workout? Mindful movement helps cultivate proprioception, i.e. the awareness of whereabouts in space your various body parts are, and controlling that – aka ninja skills. If you’re struggling with certain movements such as the push-up, try a chaturanga dandasana variation I’ll be teaching you, whereby you’ll learn how to gradually lower yourself down towards the ground from plank, eventually hovering a couple inches above the floor.
I’m running a weekly yoga class on Tuesday mornings, 7-8am at Gales Gardens, starting Tuesday Oct 10th. Suitable for all levels, complete beginners most welcome! Click here to book in, and feel free to email me at christine[at]crossfitlondonuk.com if you have any questions.
Click here if you missed last week’s post on who I am, and what you can expect from my classes.