Yoga and Mobility: How to Stay Mobile for Life

Clara Hayes

After teaching our first ever Intro to Vinyasa workshop here at Soul Strong this month, I’ve got one thing on my mind: sustainability. As a yoga instructor, I want to provide the tools for students to not only find a practice that sustains their mind/body/soul, but also a practice that is sustainable. How is this different, you may ask?

Think of it this way: chocolate may sustain your mind/body/soul, but may not be a sustainable substance for you to live off of all on its own (though I wish I could do so without nutrient deficiencies!). Just as a high intensity vinyasa practice where you’re sweating your ass off from the first minute you walk into class may be just what you’d like to do, but jumping into a vinyasa without a warmup could cause injury (not sustainable!).

It’s all about BALANCE. After this theme came to light in the workshop, I went to a personal training session with one of our awesome yoga instructors, Todd Cline. How did we start the session? With a warm-up full of mobility work. And still later in the workout, what did I wish I could be doing? Lift heavy things too fast, do more reps than needed, exhaust a muscle that didn’t need exhausting.

Luckily, I had the instruction I needed to pace myself (I highly recommend scheduling a session with Todd to reach your fitness goals! Check out his Instagram here: @todd_cline). In a day and age where it can be so hard to slow down, we must ask ourselves: what is the purpose of what I’m doing with my body? If I truly want longevity in my life & practice, how can I practice more purposeful, mindful movement?

This brought me to interviewing our incredible instructor, Andi Lozano. You may remember Andi’s Beginner’s Yoga workshop earlier this year, or follow her on Instagram @themobileathlete. Andi is not only extremely knowledgeable about anatomy, mobility drills & yoga, but she’s also a crossfitter. And she manages to live this active lifestyle with one motto: mobile for life!

I look up to Andi for practicing integrity in everything she does, from her mindful, specific teaching to her own movement practice. So, once I knew that slowing down & warming up is where it’s at, I got the scoop as to WHY. Here’s what Andi had to say…

For those of us that don’t know, what exactly are mobility exercises and how’d you come to be passionate about them?

Andi: I started doing mobility work when I was in my yoga teacher training. I had just started implementing strength training into my lifestyle, so I was in a constant state of soreness. It was a weird transition, because poses I used to love were usually unattainable in my practice because I was so damn sore. I thought, “This is why athletes hate yoga. Instructors are asking them to do things they are physically incapable of doing. What can I do to change this?”

So I dove head first into anatomy, and I started to take note of what muscles I was using in my workouts and what poses/stretches I could do to alleviate soreness. From there, I considered, “How could I turn this into a dynamic movement, and how can I convince someone that they need to do this?”  Wa-lah! The Mobile Athlete was born. I am passionate about teaching ”non-yogi” humans about the mind-body connection, the nervous system and how it plays a role in mobility, and all of humanity to learn how to stay mobile for life.

Can you tell us a little about the importance of mobility work & how one can incorporate it into their yoga practice?

Simple. Mobility is a combination of strength in joints/connective tissue and flexibility of the muscles. For example, if you constantly complain that your hips are tight and you stretch the mess out of them in pigeon pose, lizard, or yogi squat, you sure as hell better be doing equal work to STRENGTHEN those muscles. Constantly focusing on stretching and the flexibility of your body could actually be causing muscle weakness. Simple alignment adjustments I often teach are:

  • Hip alignment in lunge: the back hip pulls slightly forward as the front hip pulls gently backwards, like squaring your hips towards the front of the room without forcing it

  • Pressing out of the shoulder in side plank: spread those fingers and lift from the hips so you aren’t dumping into the scapula (shoulder blade)

  • Shoulders pulling down and back any time you have an extension of the arms overhead: get those shoulders out of your ears!

  • Keep your low belly pulling in and slightly tucking your tailbone: this helps to lessen the hyperextension in the low back and strengthens the core

What are some of your top tips for yogis to prevent injury?

Your ego is not your amigo. This is something I tell my students often, and a hard lesson I had to learn myself. It’s very easy to think you can “go deeper,” even when you have no business doing so. Don’t take another vinyasa just because it’s offered in a class; what is your body telling you? In fact, anything and everything offered in a yoga class is simply a suggestion. You know your body best.

Also, do some core work and stop rolling your eyes about it. Your core is your trunk and your center. A misconception in yoga is rooting down through the feet, but if you find that you are wibbly wobbly in standing poses, try pulling your low belly to spine and watch yourself feel more stable. A strong core translates throughout the rest of your body.

Give us a sneak peek. What does a typical warm up for you look like at the start of your home practice?

I almost exclusively start my practice the same way everyday.

  • Cervical spine mobility: neck rolls, chin to sky/chin to chest, chin to clavicle, stretching side to side by bringing the ear towards the shoulder

  • Child’s pose spinal rolls: starting in a child’s pose with toes tucked under, crawl your fingertips really far forward. Lead with the back of your heart as you inhale to pull forward to a modified upward dog, keeping the knees down and toes tucked

  • Cat/cow: regular and scapular focused

  • Thread the needle: starting in a table top position, make this dynamic by inhaling your arm to the sky and exhale to thread it through your body. Repeat 5 times and settle in

Best advice in protecting the wrists? I hear so many students say they need to strengthen their wrists! How do we do that?

Wrists are tricky because they are very delicate and should be treated with extreme care. Everyday tasks in our lives make their delicacy even more evident. The way you type on a keyboard, scroll through Instagram on your phone, or even doing healthy things like chopping up vegetables, all contribute to the health of your wrists.

A big cause for injury is not pressing through your palms evenly in downward dog or plank. You want to have the weight of your body evenly distributed to all four corners of the hand and press, press, press HARD! So much so that middle of your palm is slightly elevated.

  • Cat/cow with the base of the palm lifted

  • Namaskar (prayer hands) and reverse namaskar (prayer hands behind your back)

  • Wrist Durability: turn your fingers as far in towards your body and take a deep breath, then turn your fingers away from your body and take another deep breath. Repeat about 10 times each way.

  • Reach your hand straight out in front of you. Grab your fingertips with the opposite hand and pull them in towards your body

I offer a lot of mobility exercises through my Instagram account, @themobileathlete. Give it a follow and feel free to shoot me a DM with any questions you might have. I’m here as a resource for you to help you stay mobile for life!

For more resources on mobility & wrist health, check out the following resources:

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