How to Diagnose (and Fix) Your Body's Imbalances
When it comes to our health and fitness routines, finding balance (whether in our workouts or in our diets) is top of mind. But something we pay little attention to is how our bodies can slowly but surely shift out of balance just from reacting to daily events. Whether it's tensing your back when you're stressed, hunching your shoulders at your desk while you work, or even subconsciously adjusting the way you walk because of an injury, these little things can all cause your body to fall out of its natural alignment. Although these dysfunctions may start to feel "normal" to you, they can prevent your muscles from functioning as they're intended to.
It's also a big problem for fitness lovers since working out can make these imbalances even stronger by unintentionally perpetuating bad form or movement patterns, explains Ruthie Fraser, a yoga instructor, and Structural Integration practitioner, who helps clients restore their natural body alignment through bodywork and movement practices out of her Brooklyn-based studio.
For those unfamiliar with the idea of Structural Integration, it's a practice that helps a person regain flexibility, stability, efficiency, and resilience in the body, Fraser explains. It's also the concept behind her new book, Stack Your Bones: 100 Simple Lessons for Realigning Your Body and Moving with Ease. It provides lessons and exercises to help you tackle the imbalances-which will help you relieve any pain or tension, so you can ultimately reach your fitness goals. (FYI, here are eight essential exercises to correct common body imbalances.)
Here, Fraser shares five mini exercises adapted from her book. You can do them at home to help you tackle your imbalances by establishing healthy movement patterns. (You can also check out the Stack Your Bones Yoga App for therapeutic sequences that help you improve your alignment.)
1. Explore the distribution of weight in your feet.
Feel how your weight drops through your feet. Do you have more weight on the outer edges of your feet? Do you have more weight on the inner edges of your feet? Do you have more weight on your heels or the balls of your feet? Is one foot different from the other? Play with creating an even distribution of weight through your feet, and remember to lift and spread your toes to exercise your arches.
2. Explore the range of motion of your pelvis-and its resting position.
While standing, sitting, or on hands and knees, play with some gentle movements of your pelvis. Feel your pelvis change its position relative to surrounding body parts. Play with the full range of motion of your pelvis. Then, explore a neutral, centered pelvis position. If you feel that your pelvis tends to be pulled in one direction or another by tightness in your body tissues, create a movement routine that helps to open and release those areas.
3. Explore the range of motion of your shoulders-and their resting position.
Lift your shoulders up toward your ears, then move them forward, back, down, and up again. Circle your shoulders and feel the outer edges of your range of motion. Then, play with finding a position of the shoulders that feels centered. Don't push them down or force a position. Relax. If you feel that your shoulders tend to be pulled in one direction or another by tightness in your body tissues, create a movement routine that helps to open and release those areas.
4. Cultivate a head-tail connection.
Create an energetic connection between your head and your tailbone. This will encourage fluid movement through your whole spine, from top to bottom. Many people are very strong but they lack the ability to undulate the spine multi-directionally. Come to your hands and knees, and play with some free-form spinal undulations. Let your trunk move in directions you don't normally move. When you stand again, feel your head stack right over your tail.
5. Focus on what's challenging for you.
Sometimes people tell me that they don't practice yoga because they aren't flexible enough. But being inflexible is the perfect reason to do yoga. If you aren't flexible, focus on flexibility training. If you are weak in the deepest core muscles of your body, focus on strengthening those. Cultivate your weakest link. That's how you will find balance.