Yoga for Neck and Shoulder Mobility

Give your neck and shoulders a tune-up with this sequence that combines stability and opening to help you move better. Whether you skate, climb, run, or sit at a desk and type–or some combination of those–there’s something in here to help your upper body feel less grumpy.

yogastrong derbystrong challenge: day 10

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L-Shaped Forearm Stand

Props: none

  1. Start on forearms and knees with feet against the wall, hips stacked above knees, and shoulders stacked above elbows.
  2. Lift knees off the floor to come up to dolphin, with toes tucked under so that soles of feet press against the wall.
  3. Step feet onto the wall at hip-height, so that when you straighten your legs they are parallel to the floor. Your hips will come directly above your shoulders–or slightly past–which might feel a little terrifying.
  4. Hold for several steady breaths and then lower your feet and knees to the floor.

Alternative: Keep your knees down and work in dolphin prep, or come up to dolphin.

Badass challenge: Lift one foot away from the wall–or both!

– – – – –

I’m almost 50 years old, and I thought joint pain was inevitable with age and 7 years of skating. Turns out, it’s not. – Seven, Oklahoma Victory Dolls

NEW Flat Mat Minimum Skills

Looking for something to help your derby hips (and the rest of your body!)? Flat Mat Minimum Skills gives you a way to learn yoga and work on rocking your WFTDA minimum skills at the same time! It starts January 4, so you can have fun over the holidays and then crush your 2016 goals.

Flat Mat Regionals

Want your body to move better so that your muscles and joints don’t feel so abused? If you already know a little yoga, Flat Mat Regionals is your jam. With four weeks of yoga sequences designed specifically for roller derby, your grumpy knees and hips will be ready to roll again starting January 4.

yogastrong derbystrong challenge: day 9

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Triceps Tap Planks

Props: none

  1. Start in forearm plank.
  2. Exhale and tap left knee toward left triceps. Inhale and step left foot back.
  3. Repeat on the right side, then alternate 5-10 times.

Alternative: Have knees on the floor.

Badass challenge: Start in plank, and bend elbows for a push-up as you tap knee toward them. Press back up to plank as you inhale.

– – – – –

Flat Mat Regionals is the best yoga “class” I’ve ever taken–I could feel changes in a matter of a few days. Your body needs this, dammit! – Alpha Ginger, Ringleader Roller Girls

NEW Flat Mat Minimum Skills

Looking for something to help your derby hips (and the rest of your body!)? Flat Mat Minimum Skills gives you a way to learn yoga and work on rocking your WFTDA minimum skills at the same time! It starts January 4, so you can have fun over the holidays and then crush your 2016 goals.

Flat Mat Regionals

Want your body to move better so that your muscles and joints don’t feel so abused? If you already know a little yoga, Flat Mat Regionals is your jam. With four weeks of yoga sequences designed specifically for roller derby, your grumpy knees and hips will be ready to roll again starting January 4.

yogastrong derbystrong challenge: day 8

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Dolphin Push-ups

Props: none

  1. Start in dolphin..
  2. Inhale and glide forward as of you wanted to kiss the floor in front of you. (Hell, maybe you do!)
  3. Exhale and press back up. Repeat as many times as you can!

Alternative: Keep knees on the floor and do the same movement with upper body.

Badass challenge: Lift one leg before doing the push-up.

– – – – –

Kickit teaches yoga sequences that will both relieve and strengthen your body for derby – it’s a great way to cross train! – Sock Rae Blue, Carolina Rollergirls

NEW Flat Mat Minimum Skills

Looking for something to help your derby hips (and the rest of your body!)? Flat Mat Minimum Skills gives you a way to learn yoga and work on rocking your WFTDA minimum skills at the same time! It starts January 4, so you can have fun over the holidays and then crush your 2016 goals.

Flat Mat Regionals

Want your body to move better so that your muscles and joints don’t feel so abused? If you already know a little yoga, Flat Mat Regionals is your jam. With four weeks of yoga sequences designed specifically for roller derby, your grumpy knees and hips will be ready to roll again starting January 4.

yogastrong derbystrong challenge: day 7

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Dolphin

Props: two blocks or books (optional)

  1. Start on forearms and knees, and give your upper arms a hug to find shoulder-width apart. Place your hands back down and interlace your fingers.
  2. Press down with hands and forearms and take a few rounds of cow/cat (arch and round your spine). Try to feel the muscles below your armpits working as you round.
  3. From cat pose (rounded spine), tuck your toes and lift knees off the floor for dolphin.

Alternative: Keep knees on the floor and only work upper back and shoulders, OR lift knees but step feet wider apart and keep knees bent.

Badass challenge: Have palms flat on the floor with forearms shoulder-width apart. Alternately lift legs.

– – – – –

Flat Mat Regionals is like having a yoga teacher with derby experience living in your inbox. – Sock Rae Blue, Carolina Rollergirls

NEW Flat Mat Minimum Skills

Looking for something to help your derby hips (and the rest of your body!)? Flat Mat Minimum Skills gives you a way to learn yoga and work on rocking your WFTDA minimum skills at the same time! It starts January 4, so you can have fun over the holidays and then crush your 2016 goals.

Flat Mat Regionals

Want your body to move better so that your muscles and joints don’t feel so abused? If you already know a little yoga, Flat Mat Regionals is your jam. With four weeks of yoga sequences designed specifically for roller derby, your grumpy knees and hips will be ready to roll again starting January 4.

yogastrong derbystrong challenge: day 2

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Hybrid Forearm Plank

Props: none

    1. Set up on forearms and knees, and give your upper arms a hug to find shoulder-width apart. Plant your hands and forearms down.
    2. Step your feet back to plank, and lift one arm up off the floor. You’ll be twisting from your midsection up; your toes will stay tucked under on the floor.
    3. Inhale while lifting your left arm, and exhale while lowering it back down.
    4. Alternate left and right hands for 30-60 seconds.

Alternative: Lower your knees to the floor as you do this.

Badass challenge: Move as slowly as possible, and hold for a couple breaths with each arm lifted!

– – – – –

I’m almost 50 years old, and I thought joint pain was inevitable with age and 7 years of skating. Turns out, it’s not. – Seven, Oklahoma Victory Dolls

NEW Flat Mat Minimum Skills

Looking for something to help your derby hips (and the rest of your body!)? Flat Mat Minimum Skills gives you a way to learn yoga and work on rocking your WFTDA minimum skills at the same time! It starts January 4, so you can have fun over the holidays and then crush your 2016 goals.

Flat Mat Regionals

Want your body to move better so that your muscles and joints don’t feel so abused? If you already know a little yoga, Flat Mat Regionals is your jam. With four weeks of yoga sequences designed specifically for roller derby, your grumpy knees and hips will be ready to roll again starting January 4.

yogastrong derbystrong challenge: day 1

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Sliding Plank

Props: a non-carpeted floor, socks or hand towels

    1. Put socks on your hands or hand towels under your hands.
    2. Exhale and stabilize your midsection and then begin to move your hands.
    3. Inhale while sliding your left hand forward, and exhale while sliding it back. Your hips don’t wobble as you move your hands!
    4. Alternate left and right hands for 30-60 seconds.

Alternative: Lower your knees to the floor as you do this.

Badass challenge: After you finish the arm movements, come to downward facing dog and hold with the socks still on!

Perfect Your Plank

Every year at RollerCon, plank pops up in at least half of the classes I teach–and the rest are focused on stretching. If you’re doing plank correctly (read: safely), it’s a seriously awesome way to build strength throughout your whole body. And when you’re starting, even holding it for a couple of breaths is plenty to get you on the right track. And if plank feels pretty familiar, you might find that these tips make it harder again, like some of my RollerCon students did.

Why Do Plank?

If done properly, plank strengthens pretty much everything in your body. Seriously, everything: hands, wrists, arms, shoulders, chest, back, abs, butt, legs. Plank means business.

When you set up your shoulders well in plank, it’ll prepare you for bracing on the track. Also, being able to hold plank with good form–and continue breathing in it–also means that you’re learning how to keep a stable core, which is critical for everything you do while skating.

Last but not least, a solid plank is going to help you banish some of that low back pain. Because who needs that?

How to Set Up Your Plank When You’re Getting Started

When you first learned plank, you were probably told that you need to keep your body in one long line from head to heels in order to get the benefits of the shape. The problem is, if your abdominal muscles aren’t ready to support this, you’re going to end up in poor form for your shoulders and probably with a grumpy low back. And if that’s happening, you aren’t actually going to build good patterns and strength that will help your game!

An alternative to better support your lower back is to keep your hips up at shoulder height.  This will help set you up to actually strengthen your shoulders and abs in a way that will help your game, and if you’re someone who gets low back pain in plank, you’ll probably feel that start to disappear.

Flat Mat Yoga demonstrates variations on plank to build your shoulder and core strength for roller derby.

Bonus: you can do this on your knees down, too! The lift of the butt will be a little less noticeable.

Flat Mat Yoga demonstrates variations on plank to build your shoulder and core strength for roller derby.

 

How to Set Up Your Plank When You’re Feeling Stronger

Once you’re feeling super solid and strong in the variation shown above, this way will help you get even more benefit from your plank.

Lie down on the floor on your belly. Position your feet so that the tips of your toes (rather than your toenails or the soles of your feet) rest on the floor behind you. Bring your hands down next to your low ribs, so that your elbows are almost-but-not-quite stacked above your wrists.

Draw your belly button toward your spine. Press into your hands to push yourself up to plank on your knees, with the tips of your toes still on the floor.

Flat Mat Yoga demonstrates variations on plank to build your shoulder and core strength for roller derby.

From there, you can stay on your knees, or you can straighten your legs. As you straighten your legs, your toes will tuck and you’ll set yourself up for a great foot position, with your heels stacked above the balls of your feet.

Flat Mat Yoga demonstrates variations on plank to build your shoulder and core strength for roller derby.

You can also see in the two images above that the position of my spine doesn’t change when I lift my knees. If yours does, there is no shame in working plank on your knees until you build up strength. It’s better than the alternative of screwing up your low back!

What to Watch For

  • The same way you wouldn’t stand only on the heels of your feet (how weird would that feel?), don’t just drop your weight into the heels of your hands. Use all ten fingers–especially your index fingers and thumbs and the space between them–and the entirety of your palms. Similarly, in forearm plank, don’t let the weight rest only in your elbows–use your hands as well!
  • Stack your shoulders above your wrist creases as best you can. This sets you up with your hands shoulder-distance apart, and you won’t have your hands too far forward (harder on your shoulders) or too far back (increases strain on your wrists).
  • Press back through your heels as if you were pushing into a wall. In fact, try setting up with your feet against a wall to really feel that action.
  • Lift your inner thighs away from the floor.
  • Push the floor away from you so that your shoulder blades spread away from each other and the middle of your upper back lifts toward the ceiling. If your shoulder blades are squeezing toward each other, you’ll be much less stable. This form will help create stability for bracing!
  • Look at the floor several inches in front of your hands, not at the wall front of you, not down at your hands, not back at your feet.

Plank Alternatives

  • Keep your knees on the floor.
  • Do plank on your forearms rather than your hands. Forearms should be shoulder distance apart (hug your upper arms with opposite hands to find that distance), and hands can either be flat on the floor or with fingers interlaced. The latter will be a little easier on your shoulders. If you’re doing forearm plank with palms on the floor, try squeezing a yoga block in between your elbows for better shoulder activation!
  • Do plank on your forearms with your knees down, too.
  • Try plank at the wall, as I demonstrate in this old-school Flat Mat video:

  • Pick up one foot and the opposite hand while holding plank–and keep your hips level as you do that!Flat Mat Yoga demonstrates variations on plank to build your shoulder and core strength for roller derby.
  • And of course, you can practice bird-dog to build toward the plank in the above photo!

Flat Mat Yoga demonstrates variations on plank to build your shoulder and core strength for roller derby.

 – – – – –

Want to build better form off the track to be in less pain and be able to play even harder? Get more tips like this–plus sequences to strengthen, stretch, and build balance–in Flat Mat Minimum Skills, the yoga for roller derby basics program.

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