Monthly Archives: November 2016

Pregnancy and a Stable Pelvis

By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kinesiology, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Pregnancy. For many women, the delight of finding out that a little one (or more) is growing inside is enough to send them floating a few feet off the ground. Then, the reality of actually growing a baby (or more) begins to settle in. The hormonal changes, cravings, aversions, acute sensitivities . . . they are all quite awe-inspiring in how they influence and respond to the being(s) growing within.

If you have been following me for awhile it won’t be a surprise that I have had and still have such an immense wonder at my own body growing, changing, and shifting; how I respond to the ever changing needs of my physical structure; and how those relate and are impacted by my emotional and mental state.

I’ve had a certain advantage moving into this first pregnancy. Not only do I have my degree in Kinesiology, and experience with yoga and its therapeutic applications, I’ve taught dozens and dozens of pregnant yogis at various stages of wellbeing.  Both of my sisters have had multiples (one sister had twins, another had triplets) and I am an identical twin myself. It was only 14 years ago that I witnessed my sisters’ ever expanding journey, and was in the room with my oldest sister during the delivery. There were also the stories from my mom and her friends at how she managed all the way to a full term, 40 week twin pregnancy.

So I entered into this with eyes open, realizing that my small stature would need all the stability, suppleness and strength to support the ever changing dynamics of my physical structure. Now that I am at 20 weeks, half baked as they like to say, this blog post is about sharing a sampling of what I have done to support my structure, enabling me to keep moving well and feeling good.

Napping: I have always liked a good 15-20 minute nap mid afternoon once or twice a week. These days, I am relishing in my naps – they range from 15-30 minutes, and are starting to increase in regularity and frequency. They are a boon to a clearer mind and better function overall.

Breathing: I want to stay as connected to my pelvic floor, belly and diaphragm as long as I can, and I spend a lot of time being aware of and working with full body breathing. I incorporate this awareness into all of what I do. Donna Farhi’s Book The Breathing Book is a great resource.

Rib Cage and Inner Hip Massage: Early on I could tell the babies liked to be left. One in particular likes to hang in the lower left quadrant of my torso (and we saw his head there on our last ultrasound), which can lead to a feeling of tightness. With regular self – massage, I have been able to soften the tissue throughout my torso which has helped the wee boy to shift more right, and for me to be more at ease overall whether sitting, standing or sleeping.


The photo above shows me with my fingers gently under my ribs. The photo below shows my fingers on the inside of my hip bone. If you decide to explore this, be gentle as you use your fingers, and be sure to “let the tissue let you in”. Don’t force and allow your breath to be super easy. Eyes soft, and jaw relaxed.



Side Bend over a Rolled Felt Pad: I place the felt pad so that I side bend and my shoulder touches the floor. I then breathe into my side ribs, being mindful of not increasing the volume of breath, rather directing the breath to that area of my rib cage. You may be wondering what this has to do with a stable pelvis. Here is one reason, which I will expand on in a future blog post – with a more supple and less braced rib cage there is less compensation and I manage and absorb the load more efficiently. The muscles around my hips (and everywhere else) are able to do their assigned job). I will share more about the felt pad in next week’s blog post.



“Yoga Wheel” or On the Ball Extension: I find this to be a lovely experience through the torso. In the photo below you will see me on my homemade “Yoga Wheel”. An exercise ball works too. To do this well, and safely, you need to be sure to have enough pelvic stability, hip extension and spinal extension. You also need strength through your glutes. If you feel really tight through the front of your body, it may not be a suitable movement for you.  Easy breathing, soft jaw and smooth movement are three important keys here.




Squat: I will either lower from standing legs wide into a squat without pushing out with my hands, or I will scoot onto a bolster and sit with legs wide. I can access my breath and pelvic floor really nicely here, and also train my glutes to function well (as opposed to pushing my legs back with my arms). Be mindful of your feet – as you set yourself up be sure to feel the following 3 points on the floor – the center of the heel, the ball of the foot and base of the pinky toe.



Regular Yoga, Stability, Mobility, Weight, Cardio Workouts: I attend a weekly group prenatal yoga class that focuses on quite a bit of strength work, and I couple this with my own yoga session along with very specific weight/stability/mobility training and gentle elliptical or walking.  I was running up to becoming pregnant and suddenly felt the intuitive need to stop. I switched to cycling, and around week 13 my belly was limiting the movement of my legs – which is why I switched to more walking and elliptical.

These are just a sampling of what I have been working with to help my body absorb the load of my growing babies, belly, and the dynamic shifts that come with that. This will change as I continue to grow and the load of my developing babies grows and shifts.

In March, I will be hosting the Female Core and Pelvic Floor Online Conference with expert speakers who will be discussing the pelvic floor and many of its nuances  pre-pregnancy, during pregnancy, post pregnancy and beyond. For details, please visit –



Awareness and Getting Out of Pain

By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kinesiology, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist

Some short and sweet key thoughts for getting out of pain:13606784_1292076707471834_8347182743612104062_n

Pain is a “normal” physiological process, but it doesn’t have to be a normal way of living: Pain is an attempt to get your attention. If it is ignored, it persists. The longer it persists, the more normal it feels. The more normal it feels, the less able you are to recognize that there is actually another form of normal – one that consists of less pain and more ease. And so it continues.

Awareness: If you really want to get out of pain, you will need to grow awareness. If you don’t have awareness, then it won’t matter really, what you do. Exercises – whether they are movements, breathing techniques, meditation, etc. become just that – exercises – external things that you to do yourself, instead of something that really serves all of you, and that makes a difference.

Your body doesn’t lie: We can say all sorts of things to ourselves, the body though . . . it doesn’t lie. When it is relaxed, it is relaxed. If it compensates in a movement, it is compensating. Change the input and your body will change. Provide the input that your body actually needs and and the speed of change will blow your mind.

It all begins with Awareness: You can’t change what you aren’t aware of. Plain and simple. If you have the patience to grow and integrate your awareness, your world will transform. Very quickly.

Compelling isn’t it?

Retiring Yoga Poses?

By Susi Hately, BSc. Kinesiology, C-IAYT Yoga Therapist warrior-2-muscles

One of the more common conversations I am having with yoga teachers is about “retiring poses”. There seems to be a growing belief that there are just some yoga poses that no longer work and it is time to shelve them for good.

I have to admit it does make me (sigh) with a bit of sadness, which is accompanied by a touch of resignation “well if that is the way someone wants to practice . . . . .”, followed by “wait a second . . . if they understand movement, load transfer and overall structural integrity they may very likely bring those old favourites back to their practice. They just need to learn how to move better, and move more functionally”.

Yes, change is possible.

Tissue can change. Neurodynamics can change. How forces and load move through your body can change. No matter your age. Yup – whether you are 15, 25, 35, 40, 50, 60, and beyond!

Is there a catch? Yes!

You have to shift your thinking.

Most 200 and 500 hour programs focus on two primary components when training teachers how to teach yoga poses.

  • Alignment Maps
  • Stretch Sensation

The alignment map addresses the “form” or the end pose. The stretch sensation addresses the “what you should feel if you are in the pose correctly”.

While this approach works for the vast number of yoga practitioners, it is also an approach that is leading to many injuries. Mostly because neither alignment maps nor stretch sensation are accurate measures of whether the pose is being completed correctly or appropriately for the function of the person who is doing the pose. Neither actually indicates the “how” of getting into the pose.

Let’s look at an example.

Stepping wide from Tadasana, into the prep for Warrior 2. When looking at the lower body, the end form focuses on the position of the feet and what angle they should be at. As a result, the practitioner focuses on the feet. What is missed is the movement is actually at the hips, specifically how the femur is moving in the acetabulum of the pelvis (abduction to step wide and then rotation). As a result, the hip mobility/stability components of this position are completely bypassed. The movement happens more passively, with less awareness, which increases the likelihood to take abduction too wide, land up with a pelvis compensating for the too wide stance, which often leads to an anterior tilt. To then “balance” this now anteriorly tilted pelvis, the student or teacher will then adjust the pelvis into a posterior tilt.

Compensation ontop of compensation. It happens so frequently, and so often it is because of focusing on the end form of a pose (the alignment map) and not focusing on the body part that is actually doing the movement (the femur in the acetabulum of the pelvis). As a result, not only does the practitioner increase the possibility of stepping too wide for their available range of motion, function, and stability, they miss the opportunity to increase mobility of the hips, or what is commonly called “hip opening”. After awhile they wonder why they are developing knee pain, SI joint pain, back pain and why they haven’t progressed any further into their poses. Because of the increasing pain, they make the decision to retire Warrior 2.

Please don’t assume that I am against retiring poses. Where I do want to shed the light is on a very specific “missing piece”. If the practitioner simply moves in the range that is available they won’t step too far, they will reduce the possibility for compensating with an anterior tilt, which will eliminate the need to tuck the pelvis or lengthen the tailbone. They will become more mobile, the hips will become more supple, more stable and Warrior 2 will become alive rather than being lesson in frustration and karmic annoyance.

If alignment maps aren’t an accurate measure then what about the stretch sensation? The difficulty with relying on stretch sensation as a measurement of doing a pose correctly is the sensation is a subjective experience. As well, if someone were to tell any of us to create a stretch sensation anywhere in our bodies, we’d be able to do in one of a thousand ways and many of those ways are compensatory. Ultimately, as awesome as juicy stretches feel, they simply aren’t measure of doing a pose correctly.

Here is a short story from a recent I Love Anatomy online training, which highlights the gains made by simply moving with less reliance on stretch sensation and alignment maps:

“I have been obsessing with Vira 1 right along with Tree…. and come to the conclusion that I’ve been lengthening my tailbone because I’m not connecting my ribs and my pelvis. When I do, while at the same time focusing on rotating my femur in my pelvis to the full extent it’s capable of, I don’t feel the need either to tuck tail or “knit ribs in,” something else I always do–probably because somebody told me to way back when. Lightbulb, lightbulb, lightbulb.”

Here is a Bumper Sticker to consider over the next couple of weeks. When I work with yoga practitioners who have retired poses or are contemplating retiring poses, we always find a series of compensatory strategies, and poor movement patterns. As they become aware of these patterns and learn to move better, those patterns resolve, and they gain better structural integrity, greater suppleness, stability and strength. Their resignation fades and they become inspired again. And yes, they no longer have to retire those yoga poses.

Change is possible. For everyone – including you.

Have a great time on your mat.