Back to Life

Tips for Regaining Healthy Hips and Backs
Written by Colleen Ann McNally

When Bob Dylan wrote, “May you have a strong foundation when the winds of changes shift,” I doubt he was referring to six-pack abs and toned glutes. But living out the acts of courage, standing upright and being strong for the years ahead, as described in his feel-good tune “Forever Young,” are a lot easier when our bodies aren’t physically suffering from common culprits like weak hips and backs.

Think back to a younger you that ran around playgrounds at recess, didn’t hesitate to hang from the monkey bars and could cartwheel on a whim. We consulted two of Milton’s fitness experts to get the skinny on why we lose these abilities over time, how to get your swift feet back and keep your inner tune grooving, rather than crying out in pain.

untitled shoot-071-EditGet Om It
As familiar as a 1970s Dylan song, you’ve also likely heard how yoga can be an easy fix from ailments that aren’t necessarily a medical condition. Paired with proven results, that old adage is catching on considering the millions of American practicing today and the number of studios popping up across the Northside.

In her corner of the universe, certified professional yoga therapist and educator Kim Saunders teaches her fair share of aspiring yogis. After two years as the director of the yoga program for the City of Milton, she is now aglow as proud coowner of Lift Yoga, Alpharetta’s first yoga and barre studio. In her classes, Saunders combines a unique blend of styles with both mind and body aspects to help students achieve more than just flexibility — regulars see improvement in strength, balance and overall well being.

She also hears students complain about tight muscles, particularly glutes, hips, hamstrings as well as instability in the sacroiliac (SI) joint. So, what leads to the inner gripes and grumbling?

“It can happen to anyone, whether sedentary or an athlete,” Saunders said. As far as causes, it may be structural in the way a body is shaped — like scoliosis or formation of the SI joint — or muscular.

Seemingly simple daily movements, from picking up a case of water bottles or unloading the dishwasher, to spending extended periods of time behind a desk or the wheel of a car cumulatively affect your health.

“Hamstring muscles and the iliopsoas muscles are shortened from too much sitting and this causes strain on the lower back,” she added.

Even the most athletic among us aren’t exempt from tightness, despite how rigorous the cardio routine or how many steps the Fitbit counted. “Any weight-bearing sport or exercise that involves running, jumping or rapid, dynamic movements produces tension on the lower back,” Saunders explained. “Repetitive patterns without proper stretching [of] these tight muscles can result in injury.”

untitled shoot-155Preventing the Pain
Yikes. So how can we alleviate the hurting? Or, better yet, prevent it all together? The simple answer: creating a strong core.

“It’s about teaching people to use their legs and glutes along with [their] core, especially when bending and picking things up,” Saunders schooled. “Many people come to standing using their low back muscles rather than creating effort in legs and core.”

Ultimately, Saunders advises treatment depending on where the problem occurs. “Twists can be effective if done very slowly and using core engagement,” she said, adding, “Simple backbends such as sphinx or cobra will help to strengthen back muscles if lack of tone is [the] problem or complaint.”

Pigeon is another option for a deeper stretch into glutes and hips, as well as for relief from SI issues, although it can be challenging for newbies.

Speaking of beginners, all the talk of snakes and birds may sound like a zoo. In reality, the studio is a very calm and welcoming place to those at all levels of their practice. For those particularly seeking respite from nagging pain, consider one of Lift Yoga’s gentle and restorative classes (also called yin yoga) that move very slowly and generally hold each pose 3 to 5 minutes.

Long holds allow muscles and connective tissue to unwind and release tension. Regardless of which class you try, remember to communicate any concerns to the instructor so they can help offer modifications. For more serious issues, Saunders suggests a private session with a yoga therapist to meet individual needs and practice a sequence of poses created just for you. You’ll leave feeling uplifted, just as the studio’s name suggests.

Yoga-2898-EditThe Core Comeback
Maybe the sheer fabrics flowing from the ceiling and a workout done barefoot is not your style. If exercise to you equals running shoes, then lace them up and race to Core Physique, a sweat lover’s haven tucked off Atlanta Highway in Alpharetta.

Among the marked track lines on the ground, suspension training bands and memo boards with scribbled “Thanks” and “You Rock!” from clients, owner Kolleen Riddick and her team of five certified trainers offer a unique approach to fitness.

One of only 20 Trigger Point Therapy master trainers in the country, Riddick works with NFL athletes to Milton High School’s football team and everyone in between to restore range of motion and maximize performance while decreasing risk for injury.

“I love to move and I love to teach people how to move,” Riddick said. “I don’t care what size, what shape or what your background is, I just want you to enjoy moving.”

At Core Physique, Riddick offers a Saturday morning group fitness class open to the community and reiterated Saunders’ sentiments on the importance of a strong core.

“What you really need to understand is that as we sit more, our body and our muscles start to lay tissue and we lose mobility and flexibility,” Riddick explained. “When we go to work out, [our bodies] find the path of least resistance.”

In other words, if you try to squat, your body is going to do a squat — but it isn’t necessarily able to do it properly. Over time, repeating the improper formation causes the body to break down because the muscles are being used differently than how they were designed to move.

“[For] a lot of people, their biomechanics are just off. Their hips are locked up, their glutes are weak, their quads are too strong and we have to make that shift,” she added.

To get started on a correct path, Riddick recommends a Functional Movement Screening (FMS) to determine one’s baseline. Then Core Physique’s trainers can customize workouts — perhaps retrain the body to properly squat with use of suspension bands, then gradually intensify the movement to add kettle bells.

From there, may the sky be the limit. Or, to borrow the words of Dylan, “may you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung, and may you stay forever young.”


Lift Yoga Studio
501 South Main Street, Suite 101

Core Physique
6225 Atlanta Highway,
Suite 111