Podcast Ep.8 – Kit Laughlin – Stretching & Flexibility

In this fascinating 90min interview, Kit Laughlin talks about his experience in the field of Stretching & Flexibility.

Kit has written 3 books, travels the world teaching workshops, and at age 64 his knowledge of the body is extensive. Of particular interest was his explanation of the mind-body connection as it relates to flexibility.

This interview is not to be missed by Yogis, Gymnasts, Dancers, Pole Dancers, Handbalancers, and Acrobats of all kinds.

You can find more information about Kit at his website stretchtherapy.net

For more podcast episodes, and handstand tutorials, visit acrolibrary.com


Kit developed Stretch Therapy over the last 30 years and he presents workshops world-wide in these techniques.

Kit has written three best-selling books about Stretch Therapy, Overcome Neck & Back Pain (for injury rehabilitation, now in its 4th Edition), Stretching & Flexibility (for performance enhancement, well being, and injury prevention, now in its 2nd edition), and Stretching & Pregnancy, 2nd edition (intended for prepartum and postpartum women), and numerous DVDs, videos and many articles.

Kit teaches Stretch Therapy to practitioners of Chiropractic and Osteopathy, Physiotherapy, medicine, Yoga, Pilates and Massage Therapy and to people everywhere who want to rehabilitate or avoid injury, enhance performance or maximise wellbeing, in Australia and around the world.

He was awarded a Master of Letters degree by the Science Faculty of the Australian National University in Canberra (1992) and was granted an Australian Postgraduate Research Award (1993–96) for Ph.D. research, where back pain was the main case study. This research led directly to his first book, Overcome Neck & Back Pain.


What is Stretch Therapy?

Stretch Therapy (ST) is a comprehensive system that includes stretching, fascial remodelling, strengthening, neural re-patterning, and relaxation. The goals are grace and ease, and this is experienced as enhanced awareness and elegance in movement.

Applications of the ST approach span rehabilitation of specific physical problems, through development of more efficient alignment and movement patterns, all the way to improvement of elite athletic performance. Everyone will find themselves somewhere on this continuum!

We say that ST is a safe, yet extremely efficient, way to improve your flexibility, but that’s only a convenient way to open the dialogue. As one starts to work with the body, new needs will be uncovered and you will find yourself pulling on one of the many strands of the ST approach. Everyone’s path is unique, and our approaches reflect this reality.

ST is practised by thousands of people worldwide, and is suitable for everyone, regardless of age or fitness level.

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Handstand one-arm conditioning 

This is a circuit of exercises that I have been drilling recently.

I like to pick a small number of moves and spend an entire training session only working on those. I often pick two or three things and spend 2 hours drilling them. We can’t master everything at once. The ability to choose something and just work on that is a sign of patience.

There is no end to the number of exercises we could be doing, and if your mind is always preocupied with everything you’re not practising, you’ll find it hard to focus on practising anything at all.

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” – Bruce Lee

We can always get better advise, guidance & exercises from new teachers, but dedication, focus, patience, persistence, commitment, consistency, routine, ritual, are going to be the governing factors that make the biggest difference in the long run.

I have not mastered the one-arm handstand yet, but this videos gives you a glimpse of my current training approach and attitude.

Check out my other blog posts for more tutorials.

Additional stretching exercises will help increase the shoulder mobility and make all Handstands easier. acrolibrary.com/easyflexibility

Additional gymnastic conditioning such as GMB will help overall movement ability acrolibrary.com/gmb

A free 20 minute handstand tutorial is available from the homepage acrolibrary.com

Resistance bands, parallettes and other bodyweight fitness equipment can be found at Rubber Banditz acrolibrary.com/rubberbanditz

Ben Lowrey Handstand Classes (Bristol U.K.) + national workshops can be found here acrolibrary.com/class

Posted in Acrobatics, Circus, Handstands Tagged with: , , , ,

Handstand Press explained

The more forward bend flexibility you have, the less you will need to lean your bodyweight over your hands, and so the less shoulder strength you will need.

Start with your legs in a medium wide stance, slowly lean into your hands and go up onto your tip toes. This helps get your bum up and your bodweight over your hands.

The only way a handstand can happen is when the centre of gravity is over the hands. If you cannot get your bodyweight over your hands there’s no way your legs can lift. The failure of the lift is often mis-diagnosed as a lack of core strength but it really comes down to insufficient shoulder strength to support the bodyweight as the centre of gravity leans forward over the hands.

The less forward bend you have, the more you have to lean forward over your hands, and the more shoulder strength will be required to resist your bodyweight.

Another important factor is the hip flexibility. If your legs can float up sideways through a wide splits, this will require less planche forward and less shoulder strength.

Flexibility – not strength – is the limiting factor for most people.

Note: everyone’s body is different. People have different leg:arm ratios and so the mechanics are different for all of us. Some people find some moves easier than others.

If you find something difficult or impossible it doesn’t necessarily mean you are lacking effort or will power, it’s important to remember it’s just mechanics, forces, centres of gravity. You can improve your mechanics by increasing flexibility and the strength of muscles but that’s all it boils down to.

You can find Yogi Ranta​ classes & Retreats here (Bristol, United Kingdom)
Ranta Devi Averāte​
www.yogiranta.com

Ben Lowrey​’s Handstand Classes, Workshops and Special Events here (Bristol, United Kingdom)
acrolibrary.com/class

If you would like to attend the Luxury Strength & Inversions workshop at Cadbury Club & Spa near Bristol, United Kingdom, click here acrolibrary.com/strength-inversions

 

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10 ways to build Handstand confidence using the wall

This video tutorial will take you on a journey from beginner to improver.

1. People who are building their handstand confidence from scratch should aim to just get one foot to touch the wall. There is no need to stay upside down, a jump and a touch is all you need to begin with. This is the first step in building confidence.

2. Once you can consistently get a foot or toe to touch the wall, the next step is to bring the 2nd leg up to the wall. The first leg can stay bent as a stabiliser. You are now in a handstand.


Endurance

3. Once you feel comfortable upside down, you can straighten both legs and begin to build your shoulder endurance and body alignment. Aim to stay upside down for 30 seconds. Push as hard as you can so your shoulders are enguaged and stable, squeeze you abs, glutes, and legs. Video yourself on your smartphone, aim to be as straight as possible.


4. Now that you have confidence, strength, alignment, & body-tension, the next step is to begin balancing. Bring one foot away from the wall at a time, keep swapping legs in a slow controlled manner. Legs are straight, toes are point. Use very slow controlled transitions.


5. Eventually you will find yourself balancing with neither feet touching the wall. Try to bring your feet together so that the big toes are touching.

Note: Balance is much easier when there’s a lot of body tension. Push the ground away from you as hard as you can, this engages the shoulders which creates a stable base. Relaxed shoulders are hard to balance. Enguage the legs in the same way. The body should be like a rigid plank and the balance should only be controlled by the fingers.


If you would like to attend the Luxury Strength & Inversions workshop at Cadbury Club & Spa near Bristol, United Kingdom, Click here for more info.

6. Now that you’ve practised one way, it’s time to turn round and practise facing the wall. This ensures you don’t get into bad habits of letting your back bend. Walk your feet up the wall and carefully walk your hands to the wall so that your nose touches the wall. Getting your hip bones and nose to the wall helps teach your body straight alignment. Aim for 30 seconds of endurance. This will build strong stable shoulders over time.


7. The next thing to do is practise alternating legs. You’ll need your hands a bit further away from the wall. Make sure you feel confident to twist out safely, or use a crash mat, or work with a friend who can spot you.


8. Once your legs are swapping in a smooth controlled manner, your final challenge is to bring both feet together. This may take weeks, months, or years. The improvements in Shoulder strength and stability do not happen instatly. Be realistic, this is a very difficult skill and gymnasts, acrobats, and yogis, spend years slowly improving their handbalance.


9. Stretch your shoulders open. Kick up to the wall, let your feet touch the wall first before transistioning your bum to the wall. The closer your hands are to the wall the easier this is. Over time you can increase the stretch by having your hands further away.

10. Finally, face the other direction and walk your feet up. This is an inverted downward dog or pike, this will stretch your forward fold whilst also building your Handstand strength. Pulse backwards and forwards, this stretches and also strengthens the shoulders and will contribute to a more stable and controlled handstand.


You can find more info about Ben Lowrey’s handstand classes, workshops and special events here.

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Handstand Shoulder Angles Explained

The quest for a straight Handstand can be a mystery at first.

It’s important to remember that the mechanics of the handstand are very simple. There is realy only 3 factors.

1. The shoulder angle.

2. The curvature or straightness of the spine.

3. The hip angle.

It’s also important to remember that if you go too far one way, the rest of the body will have to go the other way to maintain balance, this happens in all directions. For example if your shoulders and chest creep too far forward or extend too far back, the rest of the body (back, hips, legs) will be forced to change shape to compensate.

The main reason people have a banana back at first is not because their spine can’t straighten, it’s because the back  bend is a counterbalance for the shoulder position – in an attempt to send bodyweight in the other direct – as you will see in this video.

If you would like to attend the Luxury Strength and Inversions workshop at Cadbury Spa near Bristol – click here for more info.


In this first example, the shoulders are too open, the chest is pushed too far through the arms, the bum is sticking out the other way to compensate, and the hips are piking in order to counter balance the bum.


This is corrected by letting the shoulders come forward more over the hands which removes the need for the arch, and puts the arms in straight alignment with the spine. Then the hips can follow suit and straighten into alignment. (this will involve squeezing the glutes so the tail bone goes under and the hip bones thrust forward)


The other scenario with shoulders too open is that the whole body is in one big arch. This is a cool move if done deliberately, but if you’re trying to master your straight Handstand – then – again – let your shoulders come forward over your hands, this will mean the legs no longer need to compensate and they will be free to come into straight alignment over the hands.


The other scenario – and the most common – is where the shoulders won’t open into straight alignment with the spine, this tips the torso back the other way, and then the back and legs have to arch over the head to compensate. This is trickier to correct because it’s a result of not enough flexibility as apposed to too much, and so stretching will be needed in order to increase the range of motion at the shoulders.


Anybody who does find themselves in this position can correct it by pushing the ground away from them as hard as they can. This will have the effect of opening the shoulders into a straighter alignment with the spine but stretching will be needed aswell.

Wrapping the shoulders around the armpits is also a way of bringing the chest into alignment and enguaging pecs to stabilise the shoulders.

Something else to bare in mind is position is sometimes dictated by limits in strength… but that is a subject for another article!

Check out my other blog posts for more tutorials.

Additional stretching exercises will help increase the shoulder mobility and make all Handstands easier. acrolibrary.com/easyflexibility

Additional gymnastic conditioning such as GMB will help overall movement ability acrolibrary.com/gmb

A free 20 minute handstand tutorial is available from the homepage acrolibrary.com

Resistance bands, parallettes and other bodyweight fitness equipment can be found at Rubber Banditz acrolibrary.com/rubberbanditz

Ben Lowrey Handstand Classes (Bristol U.K.) + national workshops can be found here acrolibrary.com/class

Posted in Handstands, Yoga Tagged with: , , , , ,

Six Handstand transitions for Yoga – Downward Dog to Forward Fold

It feels great to float from downward dog to forward fold whilst practising Yoga, which is why I created this short video to give you some exercises to work on.

As with most movements – a combination of strength and flexibility is required. If you have less of one, you will need more of the other to make up the difference.

People with great shoulder mobility and forward fold will be able to position their weight nicely over their hands without relying so much on strength, and people with very strong shoulders will be able to use brute force to support their bodyweight without relying so much on form or alignment. 

Any time your arms leave the vertical position and lean forward (planching forward) then shoulder strength will be required to support that lean.

Check out my other blog posts for more tutorials and articles. 

Additional stretching exercises will help increase the shoulder mobility and make all Handstands easier. acrolibrary.com/easyflexibility

Additional gymnastic conditioning such as GMB will help overall movement ability acrolibrary.com/gmb

A free 20 minute handstand tutorial is available from the homepage acrolibrary.com

Resistance bands, parallettes and other bodyweight fitness equipment can be found at Rubber Banditz acrolibrary.com/rubberbanditz

Ben Lowrey Handstand Classes (Bristol U.K.) + national workshops can be found here acrolibrary.com/class

Posted in Blog Article, Handstands, Yoga Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tucked Handstand. Bum out? – or not 

A tucked handstand is easier in some ways because the bodyweight is lower and so it’s easier to balance. 

People with good shoulder mobility will find it easier to stick their bum out because open shoulders are a part of the overall back bend. 

People with restricted shoulder mobility will find that their closed shoulders spoil the back bend and so they’ll find it difficult to stick their bum out and balance in a tucked handstand. 

If they are strong enough, they will be able to lean forward and support their bodyweight but it will feel like a struggle, if they are not strong enough then the tuck simple won’t be possible.

These people will find a regular straight Handstand easier to balance, but it won’t be entirely straight because the closed shoulders will cause a slight back bend to compensate, but it will feel easier than the tuck. 


When the arms are vertical to the ground the bodyweight can rest on the arms with very little effort.

Whenever your arms are leaning forward you are then relying on shoulder strength to support your bodyweight. Plus the sensation of leaning forward into the wrists may feel uncomfortable unless you have good wrist mobility.

Your body will adapt to handstanding the more you practise it. 

Additional stretching exercises will help increase the shoulder mobility and make all Handstands easier. acrolibrary.com/easyflexibility

Additional gymnastic conditioning such as GMB will help overall movement ability acrolibrary.com/gmb

A free 20 minute handstand tutorial is available from the homepage acrolibrary.com

Resistance bands, parallettes and other bodyweight fitness equipment can be found at Rubber Banditz acrolibrary.com/rubberbanditz

Ben Lowrey Handstand Classes (Bristol U.K.) + national workshops can be found here acrolibrary.com/class


Posted in Handstands, Yoga Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to do Forearm Stand in 10 easy steps. Video Tutorial. 

Would you like more confidence in your forearm Stand? Do you get nervous or opt-out of Forearm Stand when you get to the Inversion part of your Yoga class? If so… this short video could be helpful for you!


Be sure to check out the Luxury Strength + Inversions Worlshop + Spa on 11th March. 

1) I highly recommend you practise near a wall. You could ask a friend to spot you but the wall is very reliable and always available!

2) Don’t be in any rush. It’s ok to just get comfortable with your weight in your forearms at first (like a downward dog but in forearms, bum in the air, legs straight), and then practise lifting one leg at a time off the floor. (practise both sides). 

3) Once you feel comfortable lifting legs, then start to hop. Keep the legs nice and straight and toes pointed. Hop from one foot to another.

4) Eventually it will feel natural to hop all the way up so that one or both feet touches the wall. It’s ok to have both legs together or stay in splits, either is fine.

5) Get comfortable just staying in the Inversion, breath, find some calm and stillness. This will help your Strength, endurance, and mental focus. 

6) Once you feel confident in the Inversion try bending your knees so the tips of your toes slide down the wall closer to your head and to the ground. This is a Scorpion pose. 

7) Once you are comfortable looking between your hands (at the wall), try tucking your head through so you’re now looking towards your bellbutton. This will help stretch your shoulders and triceps open which is useful for all inversions including handstand. Be sure to push your chest through away from your hands as far as you. This will feel like a nice stretch. 

8) You are now ready to move away from the wall. (It’s ok to have a friend spot you). If you fall to far whilst practising  just lift one elbow and it will twist you out sideways so you can land on your feet like a cat without any problems.

9) Repeat the same steps you did against the wall by lifting one leg at a time, then start to hop from one foot to the other until you eventually find some balance in splits. (Splits is easier than having feet together.)

10) Once you are confident balancing without a wall or a spotter, try bending both knees in splits (sometimes called Stag, or Attitude, legs are split front and back but knees are bent.) let one leg fall back so the knee bends and the foot comes towards your head, let the knee of your other leg tuck towards your tummy, keep your feet and toes pointed. Now the extra step is to tuck your head through so your looking towards your belly button!

NOW YOU ARE A SHOWSTOPPER!

thanks for reading this article.

Feel welcome to attend my handstand and Inversion classes in Bristol United Kingdom, or check out the free 20 minute video tutorial on Acrolibrary.com 

Ben Lowrey

Posted in Yoga Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why do Pole Dancers love learning Handstands?

Handstands are addictive… really addictive. In some ways they are the holy grail of party tricks, the trophy move.

For a start, they can not be blagged or faked, there’s no easy version.. the handstand is either happening.. or it’s not.


Just like any accomplishment, handstands are gratifying because they are an outward demonstration of the huge amounts of patience + persistence + dedication + consistency that were required to accomplish them.

“Is it all about core strength?”

No. It’s true that learning to engage the core muscles will help your body be tense which will help the stability of the handstand. But really this amounts to nothing more than squeezing your abs and your bum and pushing really hard through your shoulders.

The whole body needs to be under tension. That means hips, legs, feet, glutes, shoulders, abs, there’s nothing particularly special about the core.

“What’s the secret to being able to handstand?”

In a nutshell: Squeeze everything and push as hard as you can.

The slightly longer answer is:

1) A confident + controlled entry.

2) Alignment

3) Body tension

4) Shoulder strength + stability

5) Balance

(If you haven’t seen my free 20 minute handstand tutorial video, anybody who is on my workshop newsletter can view it. acrolibrary.com/workshopnewsletter)



There’s 2 types of people who find handstand easier:

1) Really strong people, and 2) really flexible people.. but the flexible people find it easiest.

Check out these resistance bands which can be used to progress Strength + Flexibility


Handstands can be perfectly inserted into a Pole or Yoga routine.

Pole dancers love to transition on and off of the pole via handstand. It demonstrates another dimension of strength + control + body mastery beyond just being on the pole. A solid handstand can give you an edge over other competitors in a competition, or make you stand out when performing.

Yoga people love handstands because it is a great challenge to incorporate into one’s own practise and is a bench mark of body mastery, strength, control, and balance.

Flexibility is the most common limiting factor… not strength. 

If you have enough shoulder mobility to get your arms straight in the air with your arms + spine straight in one continuous line, you will find handstand easier.

If you shoulders do not open that far, it requires a lot of strength to hold your bodyweight without that straight alignment. Some people ARE strong enough to do that (think buff weight lifters, crossfiters) but they fatigue quickly. On the other hand, super flexible people can easily position and align themselves without needing much strength.

On the other hand, people with more strength have more leeway to dip and save the handstand than a weaker person.

If you would like to book a 90 minute handstand workshop for your Pole, Fitness, or Yoga studio, please get in touch.

Ben Lowrey

Bristol, United Kingdom

07747571426

I hope to see you soon, either in my weekly Bristol classes, or at a Workshop near you.

acrolibrary.com/class

acrolibrary.com/workshop

benlowrey@me.com

Posted in Acrobatics, Blog Article, Circus, Handstands Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Podcast Ep.7 – Hannah Finn – Contortionist – Flexibility Explained

Website: contortiongirl.com

Facebook: contortioncoach

Instagram: Hannah Finn

Workshops: BookWhen

Hannah Finn has been doing contortion and other circus arts  for eleven years.  She came into circus arts with a strong background in acting and theater and brought that into her circus discipline. She started out doing circus in Los Angeles at Le Studio (now Le Petit Cirque), at a young age . She has trained and performed all types of circus acts including hand to hand, duo trapeze, duo contortion, and contortion on the trapeze, but her main specialty is contortion.  Shortly after she began doing circus, the world renowned ‘Steben twins’ ( Cirque du Soleils “O” and “Saltimbanco”), took a notice in her, and saw her passion, dedication and talent shine through. The Steben twins took Hannah on as their protégé and began to train her further in trapeze and contortion, becoming her mentors, and long time trainers. While training with the Steben twins Hannah began performing for various shows, and corporate events all over the Los Angeles area, and expanded into other parts of the United States. As she became more esteemed, Hannah got selected to attend the extremely prestigious summer program at Ecole Nationale De Cirque, in Montreal. After coming home from the program she continued performing and extended her presence internationally,  teaching and performing all over the world. Hannah is known for her professionalism, experience in the industry, high level skill set, and an ability to adapt to any event. Her acting background allows Hannah to fit her routines to the emotional needs of any event.

Hannah continued to perfect her art of contortion but at the same time, decided to combine her passion for circus with a University level education (something that no one in the United States had ever done before, to this extent). She graduated from the University of Redlands in December of 2015 with a Bachelors Degree in: Creating and Producing Emotive Works of Contemporary Circus and Theater. By being a part of the Johnston program at the University of Redlands,  Hannah was able to create an interdisciplinary education pulling from different fields of study to explore the multi faceted world of building a show from the ground up, and everything that entails. The details of her study included learning the  business side of creating her own performance company, the theory and psychological side of translating emotion through the body by using circus arts and other expressive movement, the behind the scenes theatrical side of directing, stage managing, lighting design and producing, and continuing to improve her skill level in circus arts. Hannah was also able to alter her courses to infuse circus into her studies.  All of this makes Hannah a key asset for circus companies by knowing not only how to direct,stage manage, and light for theater but also how to do it for the circus world, and what that demands.  In both her behind the scenes, and performing endeavors Hannah stands out with her unique outlook on circus arts, unique movement style, and capabilities as a highly skilled contortionist, director,and creator.

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Philosophy

What makes Hannah Finn so special is her unique performance style, capabilities and philosophy.  Hannah’s acts are derived from raw emotions that we all experience, sometimes a story, or sometimes just a feeling.  Hannah graduated with a Bachelors degree from the University of Redlands where she spent her time at school studying the intense and mystifying connection between the moving performer and audience member; what makes the audience feel emotion, and how to deliver that through the body.  With her studies to back up her passion to inspire emotion in others; Hannah is able to deliver these emotions to the audience in such a real way that it stirs intense affect in them.  Hannah hopes to create a circus company that explores this deep subconscious understanding between movement and emotion and how it connects with the audience.  To achieve this she has specialized in such topics as dance therapy, movement theory, Jungian psychology, affect theory in terms of performance and much more.  She plans to use circus, dance and theater along with a variety of multimedia apparati to achieve her goal of creating shows all around the world.  Hannah stands out with her integration of the moving body and the mind, innovative ideas and creations.

 

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Hannah Finn contortionist you may also like_

Directing/Producing

EVOL: University of Redlands Circus Collective

In April of 2014 Hannah created the Circus Collective, a performance collective at the University of Redlands.  This collective is one of the only student run circus performance clubs at a University, in the United States.  In October of 2013 Hannah auditioned students from her University and chose the ones that had potential.  With these students she created a schedule, training regimen, and eventually a show.  Hannah trained these students for four hours a day everyday for months until she achieved her goal of producing and directing her first circus show. Not only did Hannah direct and produce the show, but she also choreographed, stage managed and starred in it.  The show beautifully articulated the many different ways that love can be expressed. She used her studies on emotion and movement,  costuming, lighting, sound and more to achieve this feat. The show was the first of many that Hannah hopes to create.  If you would like see the show, contact Hannah through the contact form.

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Shadow: Circomedia Spring Project

Hannah created her second piece at Circomedia in Bristol, England. She was given the task of creating an act and wanted to expand her experience as a director.  As in her last show, Hannah chose two performers and coached them in emotional exercises as well as worked on choreography. She dedicated an extreme amount of time and effort into her project, delving deep into research and development and utilizing her studies at University, in the performance. She used psychological movement cues to help the audience understand the story and connect with it. This act was a dance and physical theater piece about oppression of the self, specifically in the way of self deprecating body shaming. Hannah drew from influences such as “Strange Fruit” choreographed by Pearl Primus and Cafe Muller choreographed by Pina Bausch.  Hannah directed, stage managed, and designed the lighting for this performance. She also used LED technology in the performers costume to emphasize the emotions being felt in different body parts.

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Website: contortiongirl.com

Facebook: contortioncoach

Instagram: Hannah Finn

Workshops: BookWhen

Hannah Finn contortionist you may also like_

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