Lately many of you dear readers have been sending me your questions about modifications for my workouts due to either injury, chronic pain, or need for a more beginner-friendly workout. It is for you, and for the many others in the same boat (either now or later – remember injury, fatigue, and other health challenges will affect us all at one time or another) that I offer up these 4 great modifications.
We will look at the 4 in a moment – applicable for knee pain, pregnancy (unless your belly hits the floor), fatigue, beginners – and many other specific situations. While these are only 4, they will provide an excellent launch pad to beginning to understand how to effectively exercise.
Meeting our bodies where they are, right now – rather than expecting them and pushing them to be in a state they are not – is intelligent exercise and enlightened living. Proper technique is personal – it is based on what your body can comfortably do, and it will change for you personally over time.
MY PERSONAL HISTORY
I received the great honor of earning my black belt in Yang Family Style Tai Chi, including tai chi sword (think Crouching Tiger, HIdden Dragon, without the flying) and the 6-foot bo staff (think Kung Fu Panda – and when I was 8 months pregnant I literally felt like him!) – back in 2007. At that time I was extremely flexible and could do many awesome moves close to the ground in deep crouches with high kicks. Flash forward to 2010 – my pregnant body did NOT want to do that. For the 10 months I grew my little Miss Z in my belly, my body loved gentle exercise and extremely modest stretching. All of a sudden my awesome moves were WAY different – gentle, round, fluid, and high off the ground with very low kicks. Still highly effective in promoting great health (and I believe they would still do me strong in battle) – but very different than the movements I built my pride on before.
For another year or so after I gave birth, I kept my crouches high and my kicks low – my core muscles just weren’t ready yet to support me the way I was used to without baby and I wasn’t willing to mess up my back trying to boost my ego. (And not many people need an ego boost as much as a first year Mama – I’ll tell you that – all that crying and poop and spit-up and sleep deprivation can seem somewhat ungratifying at times). Eventually, my muscle tone came back, and my flexibility and strength is now restored to pre-baby levels.
OK – ENOUGH ABOUT ME… LET’S GET BACK TO YOU!
Here are 4 great modifications for you. Feel free to leave comments about any other moves you’ve been wanting to try below – I will address them and help you to find modifications for those too. The following 4 moves are great for warming up, easing in to working out, and for focussing on engaging your core muscles – and remember – they are great even at the gentlest level.
IRON BROOM – MODIFIED VERSION
In a previous post I explained how to shift from side to side to build the core muscles with this iron broom exercise. You can also simply ease into one side, then ease into the other side. By staying up high like this you actively engage all of the muscles of the core without jeopardizing the health of your knees and low-back.
BOAT POSE – MODIFIED AND SUPPORTED
Boat pose is a great abdominal muscle strengthener. This modified and supported boat pose works the same muscle groups with a gentler touch. For very new beginners, follow the pose as pictured below. Begin with your feet on the ground and gently lift the knees up into the air and slowly back down. Just moving into and out of this pose with the hands on the ground to support you will benefit your body as you teach those deep muscles to fire and build connection.
PUSH-UPS – KNEES DOWN
Push-ups are a great upper-body strengthener, as well as an all-around great warm-up and workout tool. For some of us, they can be challenging on the wrists and low-back. If this sounds like you, or if push-ups don’t work for any other reason, modify them by putting your knees down. Still a great strength-builder!
SQUATS – MODIFIED
Squats! Deep squats can be challenging on the knees, low back…even the upper back and shoulders for some. That’s why I love these modified squats. Keep the action high off the ground and focus on feeling your abdominal muscles engage. These are still a powerful tool without demanding more than you can give.
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This post is featured in the blog link-up Party Wave Wednesday and Thank Your Body Thursday.
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