Typically when we use fitness equipment, it is to make a movement more difficult than replicating with body weight only. We use additional weight to make the load heavier to lift. We use a BOSU to mimic an unstable surface, which is more difficult to balance upon than the stable earth. I know you get the point. But sometimes a tool can help make the exercise harder by actually making the movement easier.
Usually when you are exercising, you are not able to pinpoint only one fitness component that you wish to train; instead, multiple components interact and mix with each other to enhance or prohibit your performance. There are two aspects that can hold you back in your performance: balance and it's influence on range of motion. Typically, if you have limited balance, it directly interferes with your range of motion because you are constantly striving for a secure position; you don't trust yourself to not fall if you are not steady so you shorten your stride to better stabilize your body. With a shortened range of motion, you are unable to get the full benefit of certain exercises.
For example, think of the bird dog exercise : A participant is on his or her hands and knees and stretch opposite hand and foot away from the center of the body while lifting those opposing limbs to the height of the torso. If the participant struggles with balance, they are going to be unable to stabilize in this position for a long period of time. To keep themselves balanced, they are going to decrease the range of motion and not lift the opposing limbs to the torso height.
My mom is AHmazing. She's an incredibly strong female who has been through hell and back. I won't go into her details now because that is not my story to tell, but you have to know some of her back story; In 1991, she was paralyzed from the waist down for unknown reasons. My mom fought her way back to walking after months spent in her condition. She struggled through physical therapy to regain her ability to walk, but never fully regained the range of motion in her lower body. Over the last 2 1/2 decades, she has persevered in her constant battle, but not without a struggle; she will tell you that she has bad days, she will "swing" her leg instead of bending her knee, and she will be in pain, but she never gives up moving forward. My mom also has no idea I am writing this post about her.
In the last few years as her pain has gotten worse, she started looking for alternative methods to help her body. She began physical therapy again and saw huge improvements in her balance, strength, and range of motion. I remember seeing her for the first time after 6-weeks of PT and holding back tears when I saw her bend her knee to walk. She would do her workouts at home, with my dad timing her. In February, she retired and made the switch from physical therapy (she still does her exercises at home) to yoga. She has found a home at 229 Yoga (thank you, Nadine) where she now attends a few yoga classes a week. While my mom is my hero, Nadine is certainly gaining momentum to become second in that line.
Over the past year of visiting with her (She's in Georgia, I am in Utah. That's not an easy commute), I have mentioned to her that I really want to get her a pair of EQualizers, because I think they could really help with her exercises; I don't know why, but I never followed through on that. Shame on me, I know. Finally, she came to visit me in April and I walked her through her typical "Nadine-style" yoga class with my EQualizers. She took home a pair on the plane when she left.
My mom, like many others, has an issue with balance. Her struggle with balance results in shortening her range of motion in certain yoga positions in order to be more stable. She has the strength in her legs to hold positions, but she doesn't have the range of motion required to feel the stretch benefit of certain poses. During her yoga class, Nadine allows her to use a chair (again, thank you Nadine), but sometimes a chair is not a great solution to her issue. With the EQ, she is able to stabilize herself while using the EQ as a counterbalance, assistance and contact point tool. While she is stable and supported, she can increase her range of motion, moving deeper into positions she once thought impossible.
In other poses, she doesn't have the strength to move at a quick pace from one body alignment to anther because her balance is a hindrance, such as Warrior 1 into Warrior 2. But with the EQualizer in front of her, she is able to push against the steel to steady herself. With the EQualizer, my mom is able to make modifications that allow her to feel more stable, increase her range of motion, and thus better her performance.
I had already taken these photos to send to her (so she could always have a reference point during her practice at home) when I decided that I shouldn't just share these poses with her, but with you guys as well. Below are just some of the poses I see as beneficial not just to my AHmazing mom, but to my own practice as well. I hope you too can use some of these movements for your own practice or your clients.
Warrior 1 transitioning into Warrior 2 was a big issue for my mom, so I wanted to create an easier way for her to feel comfortable in this movement.
Start with the EQ in front, so that the participant can put their weight into the EQ as the straighten the back leg. Rotate the back leg while both hands are still on the EQ. Let go with the now back hand. Make sure your participants feel balanced before lifting the other hand. If they do not feel secure, don't lift the hand and focus instead on dropping the pelvic bone straight down.
I love this elevated child's pose, simply because it goes above and beyond a typical child's pose in terms of stretching the entire back as well as involving the insertion area of the chest. Plus it makes moving to a kneeling position much easier welcome compared to a child's pose on the floor. The transition between this elevated child's pose and camel is easier on the entire body.
Sun Gazer Warrior. Hello hip flexor. This pose takes a lot of flexibility and strength, but doesn't always give the same effect when the range of motion is short. So, lets allow our clients to use the EQ to the open side as they sink lower into this position. Of course, this position can be achieved with the knee on the ground, slightly bent (as shown) or fully extended.
In this pose, typically we ask our clients to hold their leg, but what do they grab first? The knee. Not always the best solution. Or they have to bend their knee so much to even hold the leg that it is not an effective stretch. Not only does the EQ extend our arms, but it also puts weight into the stretch, helping our clients deepen the range of motion. For more bang, slightly tilt the foot over the opposite shoulder while pushing down through the glutes.
I am so proud of my mom for always striving to be better, stronger, and more mobile. And now, she's so proud of herself, too. She's feeling improvements in her yoga practice and says she feels more confident in her poses.
Love you, Momma. I hope these photos jog your memory and help you in your classes. I can't wait to practice with you again this summer!