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Natural Awakenings Milwaukee Magazine

10 Tips for a Functional Body

Jun 29, 2012 11:24AM ● By Hope Zvara

Most people come to fitness training and movement, such as yoga, in order to benefit their bodies and their lives. Yet, many are unknowingly practicing movements that are inefficient or even detrimental to their goals and health. Here are 10 tips to prevent pain and physical dysfunction and build a functional body.

Get off the floor.

Lying flat on the back to work the core triggers only about 10 percent of the transversus abdominus, the core-most muscle. Think about how to translate floor exercises into standing exercises. Look at what the movement is trying to achieve and morph it into a more bodyfriendly version.

Shed the shoes.

Shoes can isolate a person’s feet and keep them from noticing signs of misalignment, such as pronation, supination or bunions. Tread wear on the soles of the shoes can reveal dysfunction, as well. Overly supportive shoes compensate for and cover up dysfunction, but do not heal it. Training in such shoes might work around the issues, instead of bringing them to light.

Learn neutral.

It’s important to understand that a neutral position is not natural for many people, and proper body placement often must be relearned with the guidance of someone trained in alignment. Proper neutral alignment involves attention to the relationship between the feet, pelvis, rib cage, shoulders and head.

Do exercises and asanas that expose imbalances.

Finding what is imbalanced is necessary for enabling proper alignment and movement. Identify where movement becomes stuck and focus on un-sticking that area.

Use a 2:1 ratio.

By working both sides equally, the weaker side will never catch up. Instead, double up on the weaker side, so it receives the extra strengthening it needs.

Work in all three planes of movement.

Movement in every direction is the only way to address the different needs of the body. Practice poses that move along the sagittal plane (left and right), the frontal plane (front and back) and the transverse plane (above and below).

Look at what a movement is trying to accomplish.

Ask, “What is the purpose of this asana or exercise, and is it right for my body?” If not, determine how the concept could be adjusted for your individual body type.

Identify the source of the pain.

Pain may not originate where it is felt. Sciatica, knee, neck or other pain may be referred— that is, their source is located somewhere other than where it hurts. Notice what is limited and what might be overused.

Learn motor control.

Between postures, be patient and aware. Is there a smooth, graceful transition from one posture to the next? Control begins by shifting awareness to the present and noticing the fine details that happen during the transition.

Think about the reason for practicing.

This is not to create doubt, but to check in and see if body, mind, spirit and life are benefiting. Whatever you do should help you to increase wholeness and wellness.

Hope Zvara is the creator of Core Functional Fitness, director of HOPE School of Yoga and owner of Copper Tree Yoga Studio & Wellness Center, 1364 E. Sumner St., Hartford. For more information, call 262-670-6688 or visit