The TODAY Show featured one of the most celebrated fitness experts in the United States, Jill Miller, whose exercise philosophy is rooted in her own trial and error to wellness.
Miller’s path to enlightenment came through many obstacles, including overcoming bulimia, to become one of the most respected and called upon experts in anti-aging posture practice, pain management and her signature Yoga Tune Up® courses taught at Equinox fitness clubs across the country.
Miller educated the masses on the Today Show (April 29, 2013) on the curse of the modern age: The “C slump,” where gravity sucks you down and compromises your core muscles and your spine, causing everything from pain to incontinence as it ages your body before its time.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Miller’s approach is a high energy saturation of information presented in interesting and easy to follow snippets of physiology and anatomy that empower anyone in her audience to instantly improve their overall wellness.
Ban the Slump!
Our bodies like to take the easy way out. Gravity is irresistible at times, and it takes awareness and strength to maintain an organized upright posture, especially if your job involves sitting at a desk all day or other repetitive tasks.
Miller says, “What people tend to not realize is that poor posture creates multiple distortions throughout the ribcage. This may not sound like much, but these bony changes are disrupting vital systems of the body such as breathing and digestion. Your long-term slumping or leaning literally reforms the bones of the ribcage and spine, thus creating your own scoliosis. The imbalanced rib cage and spinal vertebrae then shift the line of pull on the most central muscle of the human body, the respiratory diaphragm.”
“The diaphragm is your primary breathing muscle and when it becomes loaded with its own trigger points, stiffness, or weakness, it can create a host of physiological dysfunctions. The diaphragm is directly linked to the stress response and the emotional centers in the brain. Hence, improper breathing accelerates sympathetic overwhelm in the nervous system.”
“Structurally, the diaphragm is also in direct contact with the connective tissues of the heart and aorta. Any distortions of the diaphragm over time can affect pressures on the heart and aorta, impacting their function. The diaphragm is also penetrated by the esophagus, so slumpy posture can weaken the esophageal junction creating gapping of the sphincter within the esophagus. This, in turn, can lead to back flow of food, also known as acid reflux.”
People who experience stress, heart problems, acid reflux, and other chronic disorders tend not to attribute them to bad posture. Back pain is an easier one to track to posture, but bad posture creates a host of total body dysfunction. Long-term, the effects of bad posture and not dealing with it, is pain, surgery, limited mobility, and a shortened life span.
Miller says, “Your posture follows you around like a shadow. You have to shine light on it in order to make better alignment choices. People think about exercising their bodies, toning their butt or shrinking their belly, but if you do not exercise within good postural alignment, you will actually degrade the structures you’re trying to improve. Your tissues function best when they aren’t irritated by the daily grind of being ‘ground down’ by lack of attention in how you carry yourself.”
Most peoples bodies are littered with blind spots, parts of you in overuse, underuse or misuse. The term “proprioception” or body sense is an often overlooked topic in physical fitness that Miller educates people about. The specialized nerve endings (proprioceptors) are peppered throughout your body, found in deep joint capsules, surrounding muscles, in multiple fascial layers within muscles, and in the fatty tissues of the body underneath the skin.
Miller says, “Improving our body’s sense of itself helps us to make better positional choices no matter what task we tackle. When your proprioceptors are not firing correctly, you become poorly coordinated AND injury prone. Most people know their way around the streets of their own city better than they know the map of their own body. This is a teachable skill. All of the various fitness programs I’ve created, including my entire Yoga Tune Up® format, are built around proprioception – as this is the foundation of self-care. Whether you’re an elite athlete, yogi, just starting a movement program, or have a chronic neurological disease – understanding how to map your own body so you can find and heal body blind spots is critical to good posture, and more importantly, to a long, healthy life.”
Stacking Body Parts
Ideally, when sitting, your brain and skull are directly above your heart, and the bottom of your ribcage is aimed down towards the pelvis like a periscope targeting upon a bony funnel (the pelvis). Both of your knees are hip distance apart pointing forward and your feet are fully on the floor (or on a slightly raised footrest). Your eyes and head are looking straight ahead.
In the real world, we know you cannot be in this position 100% of the time, however Miller urges everyone to stop and think about every position you place yourself in. She says, “Your spine is actually a wave form, with two outward curves and two inward curves. The low back and neck are the inward curves and the sacrum and ribcage are outward curves. These curves must be maintained with some amount of tension (or better put, respect) throughout the day.”
Miller adds, “Give yourself 10 complete breaths several times a day to help re-firm your upright posture. Whether you are sitting or standing, attempt to breathe completely into the ribcage and abdomen by ballooning both areas of the torso in all directions without lifting the shoulders. The abdomen will need to have a bit of tension in order to sleeve the waveform of the backbones while breathing fully. Then, go through a quick checklist… eyes looking forward with head above heart and lower rib cage pulled in towards hips. If sitting, both feet firmly planted on the floor; if standing, is my weight evenly distributed and my feet pointing forward? Just learning and being conscious of this simple checklist is a great way to start maintaining proper posture.”
Jill Miller is the co-founder of Tune Up Fitness Worldwide and creator of the corrective exercise format Yoga Tune Up®. With more than 25 years of study in fitness, yoga therapy and anatomy, she is a pioneer in forging relevant links between the worlds of fitness, yoga, massage, and pain-management. Miller has presented case studies at the Fascia Congress and the International Symposium of Yoga Therapists and is a regular at International fitness conferences such as IDEAWorld, Can-Fit-Pro, ECA, Inner Idea, Empower, and Yoga Journal.
Her specialized Yoga Tune Up® teaching team can be found at variety of yoga and fitness facilities including Equinox, multiple CrossFit Boxes, YogaWorks, Crunch, and hospital-based training facilities worldwide. Miller and her products have been featured in Shape, Fitness, Whole Living,Self, Prevention, Yoga Journal, and Women’s Running, and seen on The Today Show, Fox News, ABC News; she is also a Contributing Expert at GaiamLife. Jill’s critically acclaimed DVDs and self-care therapy products include Coregeous®, Yoga Tune Up® At Home Program, the Yoga Tune Up®Quickfix Rx Series, the Pranamaya produced Yoga Link series, and Gaiam’s Yoga