How Sleep Impacts Injuries

  By Sarah Westgreen at Tuck Sleep

When you don’t sleep enough, you’re not at the top of your game. Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to injuries — and make it more difficult to recover from existing injuries.

Sleep and Injury Prevention

Sleep deprivation makes physical and mental activities more difficult to complete, as your cognitive and motor skills are diminished. When you’re short on sleep, your muscles don’t respond as quickly as they would if you were well-rested, and your concentration and attention suffer. Sleep deprivation can affect your balance and motor skills. A lack of sleep can lead to injuries, as you aren’t physically or mentally prepared to perform at your best.

According to a recent study of adolescent athletes, when athletes slept enough each night (eight or more hours), they had a 68 percent lower risk of injury than sleep-deprived athletes. The decreased likelihood of injury was significantly associated with the number of hours of sleep per night. Rest was a greater factor than how many sports the athletes played, whether the athletes played year-round, and the trend toward athletes specializing in a particular sport.

💤💤💤 and Injury Recovery

Skeletal muscles can regenerate after a muscular injury, but your body needs support to do so. Sleep is an integral part of the process of regeneration, and when you’re sleep-deprived, your ability to repair and regenerate muscle tissue is weakened.

A recent study suggests that sleep has a permissive role in damaged muscle tissue regeneration and that sleep loss impairs recovery from muscular injuries. Subjects who were sleep-deprived showed lower indications of muscle repair and indicated deficits during recovery.

Injury Rehabilitation and Prevention

Sleep is one of the most effective tools for supporting athletic wellness. When you get enough sleep, you’re less likely to become injured during athletic activity, and you support better recovery from existing injuries. Athletes should always get the recommended amount of sleep each night: generally, adults need about seven hours of sleep. However, during intense training or recovery periods, up to 10 hours of shuteye may be beneficial. Adolescents typically need about nine to 10 hours of rest every night.

Use these tips to maximize your recovery and reduce the likelihood of sports injuries with sleep:

  • Prioritize Your Rest – Sleep is a more significant factor in preventing injuries than the number of practice hours. Don’t sacrifice sleep for training. Plan ahead and make sure you have enough time each night to get the sleep you need. Figure out what time you need to wake up in the morning, and count backward to determine your bedtime.

  • Mattress Meeting Your Needs – Choosing a mattress that supports your preferred sleeping position can help you sleep better and feel better when you wake up. With the right bed, you’ll be well supported and take the pressure off of pain points on your body. Some mattresses offer features that may reduce inflammation and aid muscle recovery.

  • Avoid Late Night Exercise – Exercise is generally beneficial for sleep, but when you exercise late at night, you may feel too energized to get to sleep. It’s best if you finish activities at least a few hours before bedtime.

  • Practice Healthy Habits – Good sleep hygiene can help you make the most of your sleep hours. Maintain a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine, and make your bedroom a healthy sleep environment that’s cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable. Avoid pitfalls that can interfere with quality sleep, such as late-night caffeine, eating heavy meals before bed, and using electronic screens in bed.

Tuck Sleep is a community devoted to improving sleep hygiene, health, and wellness through the creation and dissemination of comprehensive, unbiased, free web-based resources. Tuck has been featured on NPR, Lifehacker, Radiolab and is referenced by many colleges/universities and organizations across the web.

Avoid Sports Injuries With 1 Simple Question

I flipped a giant tire today during my Spartan workout.  Flipped, as in singular.  One.  Uno.  Eins.  Once was enough. I’m allergic to sports injuries.

I didn’t need to flip it a second or a third time for both the physical therapist and the athlete in me to know the risk of an injury with this exercise was way too high.  I had plenty of other safer leg and low back strengthening exercises in my daily workout routine.  Checking my ego at the door while keeping my body injury-free was a much smarter plan than trying to keep pace with the impressively tough athletes I workout with, many of which are half my age.

“Fun”-ctional Fitness?

I quickly dropped my butt low and aggressively dug my fingers under the black beast as it angrily tried to anchor itself to the humid Florida asphalt. I hadn’t flipped a 400 lbs tire in about 15 years but I was ready!  Under the eager watch of my Spartan Race buddies, I pried the rubber behemoth from its nest with a loud groan and awkwardly wrestled it upward.  My low back creaked, my hips moaned and my knees griped as the round monster slowly rose to its tread.  As I thrust the dominated creature onto it’s back as it moaned a hollow “thud”, I convincingly announced: “….last #*@% time I’ll do THAT!”

Painful Hindsight

How many times have you injured yourself only to regretfully say: “What was I thinking?”  It’s a frustrating predicament and, as we age and hopefully we get wiser, it’s a situation we eagerly try to avoid.

Avoiding Sports Injuries Start With One Question

My solution: Before engaging in a new exercise, activity or event I ask myself one powerful question:

“Is the RISK worth the REWARD?”

It’s that simple.  Only you can answer the question because only you have to live with the outcome.  For me, the reward of flipping a tire was minimal because the risk of an injury was at way too high of a cost.  It was an easy answer for me.

Reward Outweigh Your Risk of a Sports Injury?

Looking back at previous injuries in your life, how would you have answered the Risk – Reward question prior to the injury?  With some overuse injuries or freak accidents there is no way to predict something in your body was going to tweak, pop or tear.  But more times than not, we do have an opportunity to alter our path to the doctor’s office.

Ask the Question

By no means am I trying to divert any of us away from cross training workouts to avoid all risk.  Lord knows most couches in today’s society have reached their seating capacity!  My message is to think before you blindly jump into new exercises or workouts to help reduce your risk of an injury.  Asking yourself the powerful Risk – Reward question before you start will help you avoid careless injuries as you gain strength and conditioning while you enhance your health.

Smart Exercises

Maximizing the long-term benefits of your workouts starts with avoiding sports injuries.  As you increase the volume of your workout routines, it’s wise to substitute lower risk activities for higher risk exercises such as tire flipping.

Here are some smarter alternatives for athletes interested in reducing the risk of more aggressive exercises:

   Higher Risk     >>     Lower Risk

Tire Flipping   >>   Body Squats, Kettle Bell Swings, Med Ball Wall Throws

Box Jumps   >>   Lunges, Burpees, Star Jumps, One-Legged Box Squats

Dead Lifts   >>   Wall Sits, Dumbbell Cleans, Bear Crawls

Hanging Knee Tucks   >>   Crunches, Leg Flutters, Med Ball Throws

The Bottom Line

Asking yourself the question “Is the RISK worth the REWARD?” before major changes in your workout and your life can help you avoid sports injuries and heartache.  It’s a simple way to help you to stay in the game of life by saving you pain, $$, stress, downtime and sleep.   MDR

Thanks for sharing this blog with active friends like you!

Taking the Brakes Off For Great Health

I’m in Atlanta preparing for our last preseason game against the Falcons. We’re just ending our press-season training camp which includes living in the hotel away from our families for about five weeks,  17 hour workdays and up to 90 players on our roster.

I went for a great run this morning with one of my coworkers Brandon Roth. As I finish my 7 mile run and watched the sunrise, I was overwhelmed with the reality of how truly fortunate I am to be able to run like I do. Just as I entered my hotel room, I received a phone call from a colleague and friend. When I told him I just got back from a run you could hear a sigh of disappointment on his end of the phone. He shared with me his recent extensive orthopedic issues and difficulties he’s been going through over the last two and half months.

He’s an avid runner with a very impressive running resume’. As I listened to his story I couldn’t help but reflect upon my thoughts 10 minutes earlier of how blessed I am to be as active as I am. I turned 50 years old this year and I’m committed to staying very active for as long as I’m alive.

Knowing What You Have

Like the old quote:  “You never know you have until it’s gone“, it’s never been more true than when we’re talking about our health.  When our health worsens and life’s daily activities becomes painful and/or difficult to perform, that’s when we truly appreciate our bodies.

Why do we take our bodies, our health and our fitness for granted?

We, myself included, are guilty of doing so.  When we do, it’s a grave mistake. If you don’t believe that just ask anyone you know who’s in chronic pain “What would give to be pain-free?”  After asking such a question listen to what they say and look into their eyes. Their dismay and frustration will be obvious.

Taking Care of Business

There are a few things we all need to do if we want to enhance our health and preserve an active lifestyle.  Both of these are very important to me and I hope they are a high priority for you as well.

Take the Brakes Off –  Stop limiting yourself because of your age, your schedule or your health. It can be as simple as thinking like a 15-year-old in setting a goal that is grand. “Take the brakes off” of your mind and your body and have some fun with it!

Count Your Blessings –  Look yourself in the eyes (not your belly or figure) in the mirror and realize what you have. From your health to your family to your friends to the quality of your lifestyle, you probably have more than 95% of all the people in this world. It’s time to do something to protect those gifts by making them better.

Learn to Move, Then Move –  Stop waiting for a great reason to be more active. Joining a gym or simply getting out for walk 1 to 3 times a day can change your body and your life. It doesn’t have to be a fitness plan, sometimes it’s simply the act of moving and moving some more. Stop making a complicated and just move.

Stretch Something –  Flexibility may not be as sexy as lifting heavy weights or running a three-hour marathon. As we age our muscles and tendons tighten and it’s our job to keep them loose. Stretching tight areas, be it your hamstrings or your hips or your shoulders or your ankles will make you feel better and allow you to move with much less effort.

Set Three Activity Goals –  Set three goals to accomplish in the next three months that involves some type of physical activity. Doesn’t matter what they are or how difficult they may be, just do it.

Find A Healthy Mentor –  Why reinvent the wheel when you have smart and healthy people around you doing what you want to do? Find a friend or coworker who seems to understand what to eat and what to do to stay healthy. Asking for help and support is all you need to do. You may  not be able to do everything they do but having them as a mentor will help you improve your diet, your workout routine and, most importantly, your compliance with both of these.

In closing… Today is the best day we all need to truly appreciate what we have and to take daily steps to showing our gratefulness by improving both our bodies and our minds for whatever tomorrow brings us!

Upcoming Sports Medicine Tips!

Sports medicine logo 27I stopped by Home Depot on the way home from work last night.  This time of the year in the NFL, I have to do most of my home project shopping at night.  I ran into a friend of mine who was in obvious pain.  He had low back pain that was hurting him 24/7.  He asked for my help to decrease his lumbar pain.

I showed with him 2 quick sports medicine tips while standing in the “Electrical Supply” section of Home Depot.  The first tip was to increase his pain-free low back range of motion and the second low back technique is specifically designed to decrease his lumbar pain.  Bill’s pain quickly decreased “a ton” and he gratefully thank me.  It’s always very satisfying to me to help those in pain regain their lives back!

My friend Bill called me early the next morning enthusiastically bragging about how much better he felt.  This is the best part of my job, when I see someone healthy and happy after being so debilitated.  All it took was about 5 minutes of my time to share simple sports medicine techniques that my staff and I use each and every day with our NFL players.

“I knew you were good at what you do, Mike” he said respectfully, “but I was truly amazed how simple your techniques were and how quickly I felt 70% better”.  He went on to say: “You need to tell more people about your physical therapy tricks like I did last night to help them to get better like that” he said snapping his fingers.

I receive about 3-5 sports medicine questions a day from friends, coworkers, friends of friends,…etc via phone, in person, text or email.  I view it as an honor that so many trust my medical opinion and I love helping their efforts to be healthy again.  It takes little time yet the rewards for both sides of the problem are huge.  That’s always been my motivation to create and build

What Am I Going to Do About It?

My friend was right.  I need to expand my Personal Mission Statement: To Enhance the Health of Others by going SMALL.

Starting today, I will be Tweeting and posting on my FaceBook page short and effective sports medicine tips.  These Tweets will obviously be 140 characters or less so they will be simple and to the point to help you get back to being an athlete again ASAP.  I’m excited to share with you quick weekly #SportsMedTip that are designed in the MikeRyanFitness manner:  They are easy to understand,  simple to apply & provide fast result!

I Need Your Help

My goal is to positive influence 2,000,000 people by the end of 2013.  If you like my sports medicine posts and you think they can help others, please take a couple of minutes to share them with others.  By doing so, you’re helping me to help others.

Please keep the questions and comments coming.  The feedback from you the moms and the dads, the athletes young and old, the runners and the basketball players,…etc that help me to provide you the type of sports medicine advice to keep you in the game.

Thank you!     MDR

Paying the Price for Fitness

When someone has the opportunity to spend time in an NFL athletic training room, they usually come away saying the same thing: “I never realized how hard these guys work to stay in shape!”  They see the players’ dedication to the maintenance of injuries just to stay healthy enough to play the game of football.  Like almost every professions, there’s much more work going on behind the scenes than anyone can see from the vantage point of the fans.

Be it the multimillionaire professional athlete or the weekend warrior, my theory is simple:

There’s a price for fitness & it’s always a winning investment!

Staying on Top of the Maintenance

Professional athletes have had to work extremely hard to get to where they are.  Overcoming fierce competition, weathering critical scouting hurdles and managing injuries are common-place to simply get a shot to taste the NFL life.  For those who are talented enough to play at this leve of the sport, it’s the injuries that pose the most challenges obstacle for the gifted athletes.

I have a great deal of respect for my Jaguars’ players for their dedication, sweat and tears to get better every day.  90% of them aren’t on the injury report but that doesn’t mean they don’t have extra work to do to address physical issues to be at their best.  They come in to see our athletic trainers for assistance with sports medicine needs such as decreasing pain, increasing muscle mobility, improving core strength, increasing flexibility and accelerating their recovery.

It’s common for professional athletes to spend 3-4 hours per day “paying the price for fitness” with maintenance work!  They realize the importance of investing in their health for today and tomorrow.

How much of an effort are YOU putting into your health?

Take Home Points

You may not be signing a multi-million dollar professional contract anytime soon but if you want to significantly enhance the likelihood of being healthy and active when you’re in your 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, NOW is the time to develop a physical maintenance plan.

Here are some tips to help you invest in your body and mind for a healthy tomorrow:

Do Something – “Paralysis by Analysis” is a common problem with those looking for the “perfect” workout plan or the dream diet.  Getting out and moving while eating very little fat and sweets and drinking more water will enhance the health of all of us quickly and safely.

Lengthen What’s Tight – Stretching will improve posture, increase blood flow, decrease pain and promote the body’s natural endorphins.  Find where you’re tight and simply stretch it….that’s an overly simplified statement but I’m sure you understand the concept.

Only the Strong Survive….to Live Better – Nowhere in my medical journals can I find a statement that says: “weakening your body will help you live longer”.  We all need stronger muscles, bones, tendons and joints.  Adding exercise that improves our overall strength at any age is a good….no, a GREAT thing.

Ice What Hurts – – You know my thoughts on ice:  It’s our best friend.  Sure it hurts for a few minutes but it can help decrease real pain for hours.  Toughen up and ice the joints and soft tissue that’s limiting your lifestyle.

Ask for Help – Google “health tips” and you get 1.12 billion links.  Don’t try to figure it all out on your own.  Seek the assistance of those who can help you get healthy for the long run.  It will prove to be time and money spent wisely.

Make 2012 the year when you turned your health around by taking an active role in determining the path of your health.  It’s your body and it’s the only one you’ll get.  If you know more about your iPhone, wardrobe and FaceBook page than you do your own body, it’s time to change your priorities! MikeRyanFitness is here to help make it easy and fun for you.

Key to Olympics & NFL Training Camp Success: Rapid Recovery

I received great questions on from Carl in Texas and Maria’ in France related to how world-class athletes recovery so effectively.  Recovery is one of my favorite sports medicine topics.

I was talking to our defensive back Aaron Ross a couple of days ago at our Jaguars’ practice about his speedster wife and Olympian Sanya Richards-Ross.  He was bragging about her, for very good reason, and how she was racing against the best runners in the world almost every day for over a week.  Although the final races get all the hype, each event has preliminary heats that need to be successfully completed for an athlete to qualify for the “big events” in the Olympics.

It got me to thinking how similar that schedule is for high-level athletes in the NFL, in college and on courts around the world.  Lots of preparing, training, competing, recovering and repeating it all over again.  All it takes is to look at the hectic race swimming schedule of Olympic phenom Missy Franklin to appreciate why the recovery is so important for athletes focussed on performing at a very high level while avoiding injuries.

In an NFL training camp, the 90 players on each roster will practice twice a day for as much as 4 hours per day in extreme heat wearing full football gear, lift weights 3-4 days per week, attend 3-4 hours of classroom meetings per day, study their playbook 3 hours per night and spend 3-4 hours per day warming-up and recovering.  I have a huge amount of respect for these players and their dedication to the game of football!

Sports Medicine Applied

Bigger, faster and strong is the goal for most of us.  Elite athletes recognize that sports medicine techniques emphasize the RECOVERY to make it all happen faster.  Recovery is not as sexy as running up a mountain or lifting 300 lbs but its necessary for successful athletes at any age.

Recovery in the NFL

I’d like to show you how NFL athletes recover so quickly and effectively.  These are some of the tools commonly used by elite athletes to maximize their recovery:

  • Cryotherapy – Cold whirlpools, ice baths, ice massage and ice bags to decrease pain and inflammation.
  • Rollers – To loosen the body and extremities.
  • Elevation – Raising the legs after a workout to promote blood flow out of the legs and speed the recovery process.
  • Contrast Baths/Showers – Alternating hot & cold baths or showers to flush the body’s waste products from the muscles.
  • Compression – To maintain tissue temperature while minimizing extremity bloating and blood pooling.
  • Flexibility Exercises – To lengthen the body’s muscles and enhance one’s blood flow.
  • Manual Therapy – Soft tissue mobilization, massage, myofascial techniques and biomechanical therapy.
  • Cardio Exercise – To improve increase muscle temperature and blood flow while enhancing the ridding of the body’s waste products.

In Closing

If you only remember one thing, it’s recovery is a simple process that every athlete should implement to stay healthy.  It doesn’t require expensive equipment or time-consuming efforts.  Make it part of your routine and you’ll be feeling like a champ!

Foot Orthotics – Are They Worth the $?

I’m often asked about orthotics and the questions usually involve two basic issues:

     1.  Do orthotics really work?

     2. Why are orthotics so expensive?

I find it ironic that most people asking these questions own orthotics.  If they are wearing orthotics and they have to ask if they work, it must mean the orthotics are not doing their job.  No one seems to ask such questions about contact lenses or glasses.  If they’re wearing contacts and they question their effectiveness, the contacts probably aren’t the right lenses for that person.

Orthotics are no different.

As for the price, in many cases I think orthotics are grossly over-priced.  Sure there is tons of science and detail installed into a properly fitted pair of orthotics but there is little reason why someone needs to charged $600 for any shoe insert that isn’t covered in gold and diamonds!

I’m a fan of orthotics if fitted properly….for the right reasons and for the right price.  Approximately 40% of my athletes presently wear orthotics.  I owe a great deal of my knowledge about the lower kinetic chain and orthotics to David Tiberio, professor and friend from one of my alma maters, the University of Connecticut.  He’s a brilliant physical therapist and I appreciate him sharing his amazing insight with me over the past 25+ years.

What is an orthotic?

An orthotic is a specifically designed shoe insert which is custom-made to correct a biomechanical abnormality by correcting the poor alignment and enhancing the body’s ability to move.

How Do Orthotics Work?

As I tell my pro football players: “Orthotics bring the ground up to the foot.”  The foot is the base of support of the entire body and it starts the movement pattern when the foot is in contact with the ground during standing, walking or running.

If you were to put a smaller wheel on the front left side of your car, the car will still be driveable and get you to where you want to go.  It will be slower, it will be harder to drive, other parts of the car will be stressed more, the other tires will wear-out faster and the appearance of your car will change.  Poor foot alignment is no different.

To get that car alignment corrected without changing the tire, it can be done two ways.  1.  The car can be driven without the front left tire ever touching the road – not likely to happen or  2. The road can be brought up to the tire as if that tire was now riding on the curb.  This is a simple example of how an orthotic functions.

The Benefits of Orthotics

There are many reasons why orthotics are used.  Those reasons include leg length discrepancy, plantar fasciitis, heel pain, ankle sprains, tendonitis, arch pain, shin splints, foot pain, stress fractures, low back pain, muscle pain/injury, neuromas, bursitis, and sciatica. The influence of an orthotic, as with the base of support of any structure, can reach from the bottom to the top of that structure.

There is much discussion related to the best manner to create the orthotic and it goes well beyond the scope of this sports medicine blog posting.  Weight bearing status, casting, laser, standing, sitting, laying prone, hard orthotics, half-length, orthotic material, where to stabilize the arch,…etc. are just some of the factors related to orthotics.

The Truth About “Perfect Alignment”

The mechanics of the human body are amazing and a big reason why I love doing what I do as an athletic trainer and physical therapist in the NFL.  Every joint in the body has a three-dimensional movement pattern.  Unlike the hinges on your door that moves in only one plane of motion, the human body joints have what is called accessory movements.  These are subtle movements of a joint are necessary for full range of motions to occur.

I like to restore “proper alignment” because there is no such thing as “perfect alignment”.  This normal three-dimensional movement means that an orthotic must bring the ground up to the foot to allow for this normal movement pattern to happen naturally.  In other words, orthotics allow the body to do its job by moving naturally without pain.

I tell my players that the only time they will have bilateral symmetry on the football field is during the National Anthem.  It’s true.  Think about it: the field is never level and they are always changing direction throughout the game.

The A Factor

As for the athletes (A) themselves, one leg is usually longer than the other, injuries change joint motions over the years, flexibilities vary from side to side, the wear pattern of the shoe alters the mechanics of the foot, muscle weakness alters the running sequence and their joint laxity/arthritis changes how that athlete moves.

In other words, the athlete himself isn’t moving the same on both sides of the body.  With this being said, the theory of an orthotic is to help balance the manner in which an athlete moves on both sides of their body.

Back to Orthotics….

Now that we got all the kinesiology and body mechanics out-of-the-way, let’s get back to the orthotics themselves.  I emphasize to my athletes that a properly fitted pair of orthotics should fit like your favorite pair of blue jeans.  They “just fit right”.  No two pair of favorite jeans are the same.  The same is true for orthotics.  A well-fitted orthotic should have no hot spots, no pressure points, no uneasy feeling when they are worn and the athlete should almost forget that they are there.

Think about it this way:  if your orthotics are doing their job properly, the foot and the entire body above it is positioned to do its job.  Those previously noted movements can now happen with ease.  It’s like tucking that napkin under the leg of the wobbly table.  Now the table is both level and stable to do its job of being a table.

Getting the proper orthotic to meet your needs is the key.  The most important factor related to the orthotic is what YOU, the athlete, feel and think.  Speak up and give your medical team the necessary feedback to adjust your orthotics so they “just fit right”.  Don’t forget that it’s your feet and your money!


Flexibility Tips: Warrior Poses for the Warrior Athlete


80% of us will have back pain at some point in our lives. How do you get to be that lucky 20%?  Or at least keep the pain minimal and have a quick and complete recovery if you do succumb to an aching back? Eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight are all good ways to keep your connective tissue healthy but what more can you do to protect your spine?

Get Flexible

Try adding yoga to your weekly routine. Yoga is a great complement to cardiovascular workouts like running, biking, hiking or swimming. Those activities are all great for your heart and lungs and are wonderful ways to improve circulation, regulate blood sugar, and metabolize fatty acids but they also make your muscles tight. Cardiovascular activities require repetition of small movements of the arms, legs and torso. Athletes have notoriously tight hip flexors, hamstrings, even tight abdominal muscles, all of which can contribute to back problems. Yoga will help to improve flexibility of these muscles. It also helps reduce stiffness of the joints and to restore full mobility of the hips and spine.

Get Strong

Another benefit of yoga is that it can strengthen muscles that do not get used during our every day, forward-moving activities. It can bring attention to muscles you didn’t even know you had. The yogis of yore realized that the core muscles, (including the transversus abdominis, the pelvic floor muscles and the longus coli in the neck), are critical to our well-being long before the phyisos from Australia published papers demonstrating their correlation to back and neck pain. The yogis called these core areas, “bandhas” and taught that they were locks for the energy that flows through our centers. Doing planks and balance poses, performing warrior postures with perfect alignment are all wonderful ways to strengthen your core and keep your spine strong.

Go With the Flow

Cardiovascular activities that raise the heart rate enough to make you sweat shift blood flow away from the center of the body in order to pump more blood to the large muscles of the legs.  Yoga shifts the blood flow back toward the center. Stretching exercises make a difference.  Many yoga postures allow blood and lymph to flow more easily to the spine and can bring nutrients toward and waste products away from the cells that make up the lower back muscles, ligaments, cartilage, fascia, and intervertebral disks.

Just Breath

Many people have breathing patterns that are not really normal. They may be shallow breathers, chest breathers or may fail to use their diaphragm at all. This can contribute to undue stress and stiffness of the ribcage, the shoulder girdle and the spine. A good yoga lesson will include breathing techniques that optimize use of the diaphragm while reducing unnecessary tension in other muscles that attach to the ribcage. Learning to breath properly has all kinds of benefits, not the least of which is prevention of musculoskeletal pain in the torso.

Don’t Skip the Savasana!

Healthy, busy, goal-oriented people may be tempted to skip out on Savasana, or copse pose.  This is when you simply lie on your back at the end of class. But this pose, along with other restorative postures are an essential part of a yoga practice. Restorative postures enhance the blood flow effects described above. And they teach you how to relax. The benefits of such conscious relaxation include decreased markers of stress such as lowered heart rate and blood pressure, better digestion, and improved sleep. Restorative yoga postures are especially useful if one is feeling run down, after a high-intensity workout or competition, during a woman’s menstrual period or during periods of high stress from work or school.

Get Started

Find a teacher in your area who covers all the basics of yoga for athletes. Classes should emphasize healthy range of motion of the spine in all directions: flexion and extension as well as rotation and side bending. It should teach mindfulness of posture and breathing patterns and it should teach core muscle strength and relaxation. The class should allow ample time to hold postures in order to really learn the alignment and to maximize muscle endurance and flexibility. If you prefer to try yoga out in the comfort and privacy of your own home, there are many podcasts and DVDs that offer good instruction for beginners. Try for an array of DVDs from highly qualified teachers.

More information about yoga and back pain, restorative yoga, breathing practices and various yoga postures can be found on my blog, The Pragmatic Yogi.

by guest blogger Lisa B. Minn, Physical Therapist/Yoga Instructor