We have a problem, bendy babes and bros- a flexion problem. We are spending WAY too much time in flexion without counterbalancing and stabilizing. Don’t think this applies to you? I didn’t… it couldn’t possibly. I’m known for aggressive heart-opening, or so I thought. An honest assessment, however, still revealed a whole shit ton of unbalanced forward folding, perhaps even something like five times more. Some version of a forward fold is generally considered the epitome of a “good” stretch. I know when I’d be stuck at a desk for a while, the first thing I would do when I stood up to move around is pop right down into uttanasana. Little did I truly understand that while that spinal decompression felt temporarily good, what I was actually doing was overstretching the tissue along the back of my body and compressing the tissue in the front. This, in combination with inevitably inadequate glute and back strengthening, is the perfect recipe for all kinds of issues. These could include back pain from loose and unstable tissue along the back of the body and a pelvic tilt caused by tight hip flexors pulling it forward. Those same tight hip flexors turn into a line of fascia that continue all the way up the side of the neck and then around the back of the head, potentially setting you up for the dreaded “text neck,” and even tension headaches.
BUT YOGA IS GOOD FOR YOU! I WON’T STOP! YOU CAN’T MAKE ME!
I know this resistance all too well. I’ve heard people in the fascia world talking about this issue and was immediately put off by the fact that their conclusion was that yoga is now bad for you, and people shouldn’t do it. I have good news, too. Yoga is still good for you, and you shouldn’t stop. We should, as a collective, learn to do yoga smarter, and with consideration for the modern body and lifestyle. Think about it- yogis in India 6,000 years ago weren’t driving in cars or sitting at computer desks or texting. Even the most active lifestyles still include a lot more of these activities than what those guys were doing, guaranteed. Our lives and bodies have evolved. It’s time for our yoga to evolve, as well.
Enter MERGE: The Practice. My yoga teacher, Crystal Palermo (who also introduced me to Fascial Stretch Therapy), and one of my FST instructors and movement/body reading prodigy, Eric Toher, got married and (as I’m SURE Taylor will indicate in her version of this post) “had a certification baby.” Merge is a movement practice and set of principles grounded in an anatomical perspective focused on fascia (you can read more about fascia in my previous blog post about FST). It teaches us how to move smarter and more efficiently to create balance in the body, as opposed to only stretching or only strengthening. The movements feel good and familiar to the body. In fact, my go-to move after sitting for a while now has already evolved into a Merge-centric standing backbend with glute engagement and a quick pass through a fold, and it actually leaves my body feeling much better than my previous habit of just chilling in that uttanasana. Merge is versatile, in that it can be used by itself or easily integrated into any yoga or fitness class, and even as “homework” for my FST clients to supplement their stretching sessions. The difference is so profound and immediate that all of our clients and students who have taken classes or gotten FST since our certification are beyond thrilled. Feedback includes feeling “balanced” and “stable”… which sounds a little underwhelming, but when one has those feelings after realizing that they were lacking, it’s really a beautiful thing.
Merge is very much about re-remembering what should be intuitive ways of moving our body that we’ve gotten away from. In my classes (and my personal practice), I very much think of it as “earning” my flexion. Any fold is counterbalanced beforehand with an opening, glute/back engaging move so as not to go into a deficit. In fact, I actually make an effort to spend more time in opening movements than in folding movements. Making up for lost time, I suppose.
How can you get in on the action? To start, all of our classes at The Studieaux have been Merge-ified. We are also adding classes and events with a Merge-specific focus both by itself and with yoga flows. We chatted with Crystal and Eric about Merge on our Studieaux Life Podcast , which you can find on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, or right on our website. I’ll drop a link at the end, just for funsies. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for some free Merge routines coming soon, and check out our Studieaux Life online streaming service for tons of Merge content coming your way. Want to get certified? If you’re feeling the call, I’d highly recommend it. Check out mergethepractice.com. Also feel free to reach out to us on any of our platforms with any questions. We’re more than happy to chat! Merge truly is going to change the way we think about movement. Til next time, Studieaux Fam.