3 Way to Stand Against Endo
Yes, standup for endo awareness, but this post is actually about how you literally stand. Like, standing up, against gravity. Sh*t is harder than it looks! Because it’s so hard, I have to admit the reason I’m writing this post is a bit self-congratulatory because I’m so so so psyched about this picture my friend snapped of me while I was totally unaware at the beach with my son.
Why psyched about this picture, where I’m far away from the camera just staring at my son who may or may not be inhaling water? Because my hips are FINALLY lining up with my ankles!!!! It’s proof I’m no longer a forward leaner!!!! This deserved a party. Or, at least a blog post. And yes, my son was okay.
I myself used to be as crooked as a … hmmm, what’s crooked?? Let’s say witches hat since Halloween is right around the corner. Here’s a photo montage of super- flattering-I-didn’t-know-someone-was-taking-a-picture-of-me pics - when my pelvis lived 6 inches in front of my body at all times. I was always forward leaning, belly popping, back arching, neck gaping. I often “got” frozen shoulder, my ankles were stiff as rocks, my IT bands in pain, my hips locked, my feet atrophied so much they were immobile (head of turf-toe? I had that too). All of these things stemmed from a lifetime of sitting AND THEREFORE not being able to stand up straight - and thus my body froze trying as hard as it possible could to hold me up against gravity:
Did you know this can directly affect the level of pelvic pain you have, regardless of endo?
Which is exactly why you should care - because a straight-stander gets all the benefits of core + pelvic health: proper core function (rather than dysfunction), no ligament strain, no improper muscle tension, ability to breathe correctly. All of this leads to a nice, relaxed body, a cruzing pelvic floor (that doesn’t have you clenching the ba-jesus out of her), and a pelvis that is feeling the luscious blood flow that comes without you arching your lower back (you may call it Sway Back) and clenching your quads to keep upright. (If you want to learn even more about all of this remember to check out all my alignment pages HERE).
So check in. Do you also stand like any of these pictures? Have your most un-judgy friend snap a pic of you standing profile (with no shoes!) and draw a 90 degrees line from hip to floor. Does it line up? If not, you need to know that standing like this will hurt your pelvic health, from the ability of nutrients to get it to the ability of toxins to get out to the ability of your glutes + hamstrings to properly fire which will very negative impact your pelvic floor function. All of these things will directly affect the pain in your pelvis. Directly, not indirectly. Which is why standing up straight is muy importante for you, dear endo reader.
Problem… sh*t is hard. So here are three tips to get you in tip top standing shape today!!! And remember, if Mrs. Crooked over here can do it, so too can you.
Start with your calves
You wouldn’t have thought the humble calf would have so much impact on your forward leaning status, would you? Hah, surprise! The calf is VERY important, because your “Toe bone connected to the foot bone, Foot bone connected to the heel bone..." Remember that song? Yah, we're all connected, from toe to head :) Which is why it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that your calf tension may be directly contributing to your pelvic pain.
See, tight calves are attached to your hamstrings, which attach to the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula) as well as to the pelvis. That means tight calves cause the hamstring muscles to get short and tight. And these shortened hamstring muscles are pulling and tucking on the pelvis, forcing it out of neutral position (posterior pelvic tilt). In turn, this tension pulls on the pelvic floor muscles causing the pelvic floor muscle to adjust and shorten.
That's why we REALLY need to be starting here. Yes lengthening hamstrings too, but without the calf lengthening the hamstrings will stay chronically shortened. This may ring true for all you yogies striving for elongated hamstrings to no avail - cuz of yo’ calves.
What to do is create a better calf. That means stretching and strengthening, since you can’t do one without the other if you’re going to create a correctly working muscle. Remember, a tight muscle is also an atrophied muscle, so wherever you’re “tight” you’re also weak.
To stretch, the best thing to do is a simple calf stretch, here on a half dome but you can use a stair, stacked books, rolled yoga matt, seriously whatever. The trick is, you want your hips stacked over your ankle for this, rather than in a forward leaning pattern. Here is a beginner example:
Second, you want to strengthen. How? Easy calf raises. Yah, so easy you could stand up while you read this (since I know on Google analytics most of you are reading this on your phones) and do 10 on the spot. The trick here is no. ankle. flopping. I want strong ankles with your strong calves, so you’ll probably find you need to hold on to a wall (or Jason Mamoa if he’s near) while you do this.
PS Extra credit tip: throw away all your positive heeled shoes including your Nike's or Reeboks and only buy zero-drop (no heels) shoes from now on. I like Altras, Xero, and Lems.
2) Release your kneecaps
If you’re a forward leaner you may be totally unknowingly forcing yourself in this position out of your subconscious’ fear of falling over. How? By clenching your quads! Honestly, this will only apply to 50% of you, and the other half is not going to understand why this is hard at all. But everyone should test first:
Stand up, legs straight, and now wiggle your kneecaps. Easy? Ok great! Can’t do? Feel like they’re locked? Yes, red on
If you can’t lift your kneecaps the issue really is you can’t LOWER your kneecaps (they’re already being pulled up by your quads). An advanced forward-leaning ninja often encounters this problem, and means your quads are jerking your knees all day long! Ouch! The only reason why your kneecaps are “up” is your mind, so you have to retrain your brain to remember it’s safe to let them go :)
To learn to release, stand against a wall, and place your feet about 18 inches away so you’re truly relying on the wall to hold your weight. Now wiggle ‘em. See, easy!! Now move your feet closer to the wall and do again, with every success moving closer until you can stand and do it without the wall
3) Work on your kyphosis
If you have kyphosis you’re going to have to stop hiding it in order to start correctly engaging your core - and you need to correctly engage your core in order to stand up straight. But if you stand up straight with kyphosis and walk out the door you will look like a flopped over pancake - so you’ll never leave the house standing properly until you address it.
What’s kyphosis? It’s when your upper back has cuuuuuuurved itself ‘round from a lifetime of sitting/typing/desk-ing/iPhoning/or -as I know now - breastfeeding. Most all of us have it, and you may carry it around like this guys texting in the parking lot…
or hide it, as most all of us do, like this.
If you’re in the second category, you’d be called a rib thruster, as I was a rib-thruster extraordinaire. Could have won gold medals! So it’s really scary when you lower your ribs and see your kyphosis is pretty bad. Alas, you will need to address this in order to engage your core correctly to hold up your very heavy torso. See, it’s your core rather than your lower back that should hold your torso, which may now make sense why your lower back hurts (and you probably don’t have “sway back”, more likely you’re a forward leaner + kyphosis hider).
To start addressing the kyphosis, I want to you stop hiding it by hinging your spine (see picture of my hinged sway back!) and instead imagine your upper spine, the part that’s rounded, is unfurling like a fern. This is how you should be lifting your head rather than hinging your back.
Ok, take that imagery and let’s play surfer! Go ahead and lie face down, flat on your tummy - for fun imagine you’re on a surfboard. Put your hand lightly under your shoulders (but do not use them!) and now lift your head and shoulders up as far as you can using just your back muscles - no thrusting your ribs and arching your spine. Check out these pics below I took of my friends paddling. I used a green arrow to point to their boobs, not because I’m a pervert, but to show you they should be on the ground as you lift your head and chest. If you find your boobs are hovering right off the floor, you’re either rib-thrusting OR pushing with your hands. Either way, stop that!
Now, boobs on ground (no matter how big they are) and without pushing with your hands, how far can you lift your head, shoulders, and upper chest? Maybe you could only lift your forehead and chin. How long could you hold it? Maybe only 5 seconds. Good, now double that time every few days, and work to unfurl your whole upper chest over time.
Note that these are only 3 basic things to try in the face of a lot of reasons you may not yet be able to stand up straight without looking like the tin-man. That’s okay though!! These are 3 great places to start.
Now, note that there are, like, 200 more things you may need to do to stand up straight, but alas, this is a humble blog post - so start here young stand-up jedis, and if there’s interest abounds perhaps I’ll write another few steps in a month or two.
Cheers to pelvic health and proper posture!