HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

HEALTHY HAMSTRINGS

FACILITATED STRETCH TECHNIQUE

 Hamstrings

 

Hip And Hamstring Flexibility

Why Is Hip Mobility Important?

Tight hamstrings are a common complaint. This may be because it’s one of the most noticeable things to show up in our yoga practice and in our daily lives. How many times have you heard someone say, “I can’t even touch my toes anymore!” Or maybe you have said this yourself. Now, touching our toes does not define our worth; the awareness of this limitation and tension in this area of the body simply provides opportunities for us to investigate. Too often, this investigation leads to repeatedly stretching the area in order to lengthen and hopefully release the tightness. However, continuously stretching hamstrings will not likely provide us with the flexibility we desire and may actually cause further tension, pain, or injury to hamstrings and other areas in our bodies. In order to increase flexibility while maintaining the health of the muscles, we must incorporate a technique called facilitated stretching.

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HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

WHAT EXACTLY IS MUSCLE TIGHTNESS?

First, let’s discuss why muscles become tight. Muscle tightness results from an increase in tension through active or passive mechanisms. Passively, muscles can become shortened through postural adaptation — think sitting, or walking in high heels all day — or through injury and scarring. Actively, muscles can become shorter due to spasm or contraction. Regardless of the cause, tightness limits range of motion and may create a muscle imbalance.

Page, Phil. “Current concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation.” International journal of sports physical therapy vol. 7,1 (2012)

What is facilitated stretching, and how can we utilize it to increase flexibility in our hamstrings?  

What Is a Facilitated Stretch?

This occurs when we activate, or contract, the same muscle(s) we are stretching.  There are two types of muscle contractions — isotonic and isometric: “An isotonic contraction is a voluntary muscle contraction that causes movement … An isometric contraction is a voluntary contraction in which no movement occurs.”

Charland, Jeff & McAtee, Robert E., Facilitated Stretching Fourth Edition, 2014

The latter is the action we adopt in a facilitated stretch. Knowing this is important because it is how we maintain the health and integrity of the muscle. If we don’t engage our muscles, eventually they might lose their ability to contract. Losing this ability can lead to imbalances in our bodies; when these imbalances are significant, we can experience a decrease in range of motion. This decrease can lead to injury or chronic pain.

 

 

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IMPLEMENT FACILITATED STRETCHING

How can we cultivate this in our practice?

One of the best ways to incorporate facilitated stretching into our practice is to go slowly and to utilize props that will support the process. In the video below, Matt demonstrates the use of a facilitated stretch in forward fold, using a chair. He breaks it down into 4 digestible actions.

Four Actions to Utilize Facilitated Stretch in Forward Fold

  1. Lean forward into the big toes.
  2. Press the back of the hamstrings apart.
  3. Move the sit bones up to the sky (will pull up on the hamstring and start to straighten the knees).
  4. Move the sit bones down toward the heels, but don’t move your pelvis.

 

STRATEGY FOR HEALTHY HAMSTRING FLEXIBILITY

You may also enjoy the original blog paired with this video, “Avoid the Yoga Butt”

Suggested Immersion: Hips and Hamstrings: 12-Class Immersion

WHAT IS PNF?

Facilitating these actions may also be referred to as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF).  

“Multiple studies have shown that PNF stretching is superior to traditional static stretching in terms of improving active and passive range of motion. It can be used to supplement daily, static stretching and has been shown to help athletes improve performance and make speedy gains in range of motion. Not only does it increase flexibility, but it can also improve muscular strength. What’s more, PNF stretching is believed to repair the microscopic damage that typically follows a high-intensity workout.”

Wicke J, Gainey K, and Figueroa M. A comparison of self-administered proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation to static stretching on range of motion and flexibility. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2014; 28(1): 168–172.

Sharman MJ, Cresswell AG, Riek S. Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching: Mechanisms and clinical implications. Sports Medicine. 2006; 36(11): 929-39.

All that being said, it’s important to also consider the amount of activation we utilize. It’s recommended that we only engage roughly between 15% – 20%. We want to stay on the side of a more conservative amount of force so as not to channel too much force to the joints, thus minimizing injury.   

To more fully understand this, click here for Matt’s 12-class immersion

Hips & Hamstrings, which took place in June 2021. To help you explore and uncover the strength in your own body, Matt’s new 12-class immersion, Strength, starts in October. Sign up today for lifetime access.

Written by Trish Curling

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HIPS AND HAMSTRINGS IMMERSION

  • Increase range of motion of your hips and hamstrings
  • Learn techniques such as facilitated stretching
  • Release stress patterns, discomfort, or pain in your hips, back, and knees
  • Twelve 75-minute classes, all levels appropriate
  • Learn postures: Pigeon, Lizard Variations, Lotus, Eagle, Hanuman, Fire Log, Seated Straddle Splits, and more!
  • Lifetime unlimited access to all

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Side Angle Self Adjustment for Hip Strength

SELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE 

ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINS

SIDE ANGLE

SELF ADJUSTMENT IN SIDE ANGLE POSE — ACTIVATE YOUR GLUTES FOR GREATER GAINS

Glute gains! Who doesn’t want those, right? When we think about glute gains though, our minds may go directly to the aesthetic appearance, when in reality, what we really need is the health and strength of that group of muscles (gluteus minimus, medius, and maximus) in order to have functional strength, balance, and endurance. We have the ability to create this reality within our bodies by way of adjustments and focused muscle activation in our physical yoga practice.  

When we think about adjustments in a yoga context, it can be quite a lengthy discussion with many layers. Receiving adjustments from our yoga teachers can be a wonderfully supportive experience, while for some, it may be the complete opposite. There may be an aversion to touch for many reasons; no matter what the reasons are, they are to be 100% respected.  

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The Power of Self Adjustments

Now, we happen to be in a time where so many of us are still not practicing in studios or in person with our private teachers. We are participating in virtual classes more than ever. If you weren’t utilizing self adjustments before, this unique time provides an opportunity to incorporate them. This can be a transformative addition to your physical practice, whether in the studio or at home.  Self adjustments offer more than you may think they do. They can be a really great way to connect with our own bodies. When we maintain awareness of the breath and connect with the specific action in the self adjustment, we can truly transform the experience we are having on the mat.

Incorporating adjustments is more than just placing our bodies into a specific alignment. Taking gradual steps through the process helps us to feel safe, therefore helping us to progress.

3 STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE SETTING UP YOUR SELF ADJUSTMENT

  1. Pay attention to your breath, maintain a rhythm that sends a signal to your brain that you are safe and that you are ready to sync the next action with your breath.
  2. Find stability first.  If you need additional support in the posture, then gather the props you may need. Utilizing blocks, a chair, and/or a wall may be just the thing that helps you to find the sensation or connection to the muscle activation.  
  3. Go for it! Perform the self adjustment. First, find the appropriate alignment in your body and then apply the action/contraction in the muscle with your own assist.

In today’s video, we can see Matt take all of these steps for glute activation in Side Angle Pose. In his preparation for the posture, he has set himself up on a chair, making himself more stable, and then he presses the knee of the front leg out into his bicep in order to turn on the abductors and gluteus muscles. He adds the action of pressing down through the heel in the front foot to turn on the gluteus maximus. These actions completely change the experience in the posture.

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WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS?

The 3 Main Benefits of Self Adjustments

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With better proprioception (body awareness), we have a better chance of activating our targeted muscles. In the example of Side Angle from the video, the act of pressing into the bicep provides feedback into the brain and body to activate the abductors. We can understand the sensation of this activation so much more. This feedback shows us how to come back to this activation with more confidence whenever we revisit this posture in our practice. The act of that isometric contraction in the targeted muscles builds integrity and strength in the muscles and surrounding tissues. With more strength, we find an opportunity to increase more active range of motion. With better active range of motion, we in turn unleash our access to new postures. We can truly see that self adjustments provide so much more than stacking bones and joints. We are changing our experience on the mat and in our bodies as a whole.

If you want to develop more strength in your yoga practice, check out Matt’s October 2021 Immersion, titled “Strength  

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Ways Yoga Can Help You Transform Your Life

Yoga is an ancient practice that historians attribute to Indus Valley civilization. Regardless of its origins, it’s becoming increasingly popular today. It’s not only a retreat from our chaotic lifestyles, but also brings with it many great health benefits. This blog post will highlight some of the ways in which Yoga can transform your life.

Weight Loss

Obesity is one of the biggest concerns in the United States as we find more and more people falling victim to it. Apart from damaging your body image, obesity is also responsible for many serious health issues. While there are many diet plans and workout routines that claim to help you lose weight, yoga’s ability to do so is often underestimated. Research shows that yoga can facilitate weight loss by making you a more mindful eater. This automatically translates into better control of certain cravings which can also help you achieve the calorie deficit you’ve been looking for.

Fitness

Yoga can help you lose weight and keep it from coming back. In other words, this spiritual art of stretching relaxes your mind and body and can help tone your muscles. According to research, young adults who engaged in yoga for at least 30 minutes every week for four years experienced slower weight gain than those who didn’t.

The same research also reveals that yoga practitioners have balanced lower body mass indexes (BMIs) . Researchers carefully studied a small group of sedentary individuals who had never engaged in yoga or any similar practices before. These participants then practiced yoga at least twice a week for around 3 hours, and the results showed a significant improvement in their fitness and strength levels.

Cardiovascular Health

Apart from keeping you in shape, there are many purported health benefits as well of yoga.  Studies show that elevated mind and body connection can help lower blood pressure and restore “baroreceptor sensitivity.” Stats also suggest that people who practice yoga regularly are able to maintain better lipid profiles and overall heart health.

It’s because of these benefits that many doctors have start including yoga in their cardiac rehabilitation programs.

Reach out to TheYogiMatt for best advice and yoga practices.

Matt Giordano, TheYogiMatt, is a world renowned yoga teacher, and the creator & founder of the global school called Chromatic Yoga.  He is most known for his skillful ability to guide students into postures to awaken their full potential. Matt provides top level teacher trainings in both the 200 and 300 Hour formats.  Visit www.theyogimatt.com to learn more about online classes, immersions and teacher trainings.

Samadhi

SAMADHI

Dissolving into the state of oneness.

Samadhi

Samadhi

Samadhi is the experience we have when the mind realizes the totality of itself – that it is one part of an infinitely grander whole. Using an analogy from one of my teachers, Alan Finger – Consiousness is like the ocean. When the ocean swells and crashes upon the shore, drops of water fly up in the air. These drops are still the ocean separated by time and space. We are those drops in relationship to the bigger more expansive ocean of consciousness. For brief moments in time, we arise and take shape in the form of this body, collecting unique experiences in our mind and forming beliefs and identities. In meditation, the mind has the opportunity to realize this and come back to the awareness of all that is. In those moments when the mind returns to the understanding that it is simply a drop that is a part of the ocean, there is a feeling of indescribable goodness that overwhelms our being. Yogis call this Samadhi.

How Do We Reach Samadhi?

Samadhi is the result of your Sadhana (yogic practices). For the past month, I have been offering you teachings out of the yoga sutras, weaving them through the live classes, and sharing them here on this blog. We’ve discussed  “Abhyasa and Vairagya” and “Burning Samskara” amongst many others. Why are these practices necessary to experiencing Samadhi? Samadhi is the state of being when the intellect or budhi lets go of duality and releases into the realization that it is one with all things. The intellect is incredible it allows us to understand life on the physical plane, dividing, defining, and systematically looking for like and unlike in everything. The Intellect’s ability to separate is incredible. We have spent our entire lives training the intellect and therefore have become really good at separation. Unity or Oneness requires that the intellect surrenders to the reality that it is one of many tools. This requires that our identity or ego surrenders to the fullness of reality that we are unique individuals, part of the magnificent power of nature, not separate, but a thread woven into the fabric of something much grander. The Ego gets scared of the idea that it is not most important, so you have to remind it that this means it is not less than, it is actually far more than it thinks, it is a manifestation of the vast ocean of Awareness.

Maybe you want to experience the state of oneness with the universe and are ready to jump in but where to start? The Yoga Sutras are a guide map to this, but if you are going to practice one thing only, it should be Self Reflection, Swadyaya. You can practice Self Reflection in your asana (physical practice) by observing the sensations of your body before, during, and after each posture. You can do this through Pranayama, observation of the vital energy that pulses through your system. There are endless practices of Self Awareness. Start with the live classes from the Month of March and join me for the asana and meditation practices throughout the month of April. I am committed to sharing dharma talks to inspire self-awareness in order to support the dissolution of the intellect and merging into the state of oneness. We will be doing this together with the support of the global community to give us power and strength.

OneNess

In a time when everyone is feeling separateness, moving inward to the state of oneness is more important than ever. Underneath the layers of intellect and ego that disconnects us from the whole exists One undivided consciousness that permeates all things. It is always there, omnipresent, and it pervades all aspects of our being. The only thing standing in our way of experiencing it is the need to hold up the illusion that we have created of truth – the need to know in order to feel safe. Instead find comfort in the unknown, vast potential that is at the core of your being. Thanks for tapping in with me. Enjoy your practice!

 

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BEST STARTER PACKAGE

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JOURNEY TO BLISS

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  • 4 GUIDED MEDITATIONS
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KING PIGEON & HANUMAN

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  • 12 PEAK POSTURES
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JOURNEY TO THE HEART

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  • 12 PEAK POSTURES
  • 12 YOGA SUTRA THEMES
  • SALE Price:$128

BACK, NECK & SHOULDERS

  • 12 YOGA CLASSES
  • 4 GUIDED MEDITATIONS
  • LIVETIME ACCCESS TO ALL
  • 12 PEAK POSTURES
  • 12 YOGA SUTRA THEMES
  • SALE Price:$128

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Bow Pose: Where to Breathe in a Backbend

Bow Pose: Where to Breathe in a Backbend

BOW POSE—WHERE TO BREATHE  YOGA ANATOMY • BIOMECHANICS • TECHNIQUEBOW POSEThe Challenge of breathing in backbendsEver feel short of breath in a backbend? You aren't the only one. Where to breathe in a backbend is a popular question, and rightfully so. If you look at...

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side plank variations

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King Cobra Pose Tutorial

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Wild Thing Shoulder Alignment

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deeper twists and spinal mobility with the fire line

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DEEPER TWISTS INCREASE SPINAL MOBILITY WITH THE FIRE LINEDEEPER TWISTSDEEPER TWISTS & SPINAL MOBILITY: "FIRE LINE"Do you correlate strength with twisting postures in your yoga practice, or is it flexibility that comes to mind first?  There’s no doubt that both...

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Samskaras and Neuroplasticity

Burning Samskaras

Dissolve Thought, Emotion, and Behavioral Patterns

Does your family put your spiritual practice to the test? 

Have you been making leaps and bounds through your yoga or meditation practice – feeling better day to day, learning to take a breath in the challenging moments, and ultimately living life more freely from a place of joy? The Yoga practice helps us move in that direction, and then we go back home for a holiday gathering with our family and suddenly we are right back where we started. Why is that? What is it about family, caretakers, or being in the home we grew up in that pulls us back into our old patterns of thought, emotions, or behaviors? According to the yoga tradition, it’s because of Samskaras.

What ARE Samskaras?

A samskara is often translated as the groove or pattern of the mind and directly relates or corresponds with our actions or behavior. Samskaras begin forming at the very moment we step into our bodies. Our parents, or the ones who raise us, largely play a major role in the forming of our Samskaras. When we were children our lens of perception was colored for us; we were taught to see the world the way our parents, teachers, and society saw it. At some point in our journey, we woke up and began to self-reflect, recognizing that perhaps the lens we’ve been looking through is not the truth. Let’s look at this lens of perception as a window. The window has a lifetime of dirt and grime, and the yoga, meditation, and self-inquiry practice help to clean the window little by little, allowing us to see life more clearly so we can experience it as it is rather than as we believe it to be.

The analogy I use in the video below is another way of understanding Samskaras. I explain that Samskaras create grooves in the mind like the groove of a river in a mountain side. The river carves out the earth little by little through repetition and time and eventually becomes powerful. Our mind  (thoughts, emotions, beliefs, perception) is exactly like the river. Starting when we are young, the mind begins to look for like and unlike experiences and collecting them as beliefs and perception. This helps us to determine safe and unsafe situations, and forms our communication: “When I cry, caretaker brings me food,” or perhaps “when I cry, no one responds.” Through repetition, these observations become our perception or the grooves of our mind. We may then form the opinion that it is good or bad or effective or ineffective to express ourselves a certain way. We form beliefs about others and the world we live in.

Now that you have begun your yoga practice, you have likely begun the process of burning away your Samskaras. How do you know? If you are behaving differently: more patient, kind, respectful, loving, emotionally stable or vulnerable, light-hearted, joyful, etc. Burning Samskaras or old patterns allows us to live in the now, where the magic of life exists, and the world feels exciting and new again.

WHY DOES BEING AROUND FAMILY MAKE ME FEEL LIKE I HAVE NOT GOTTEN ANYWHERE?

Because the vast majority of Samskaras were formed at a very young age, they have had a lifetime to get stronger. Like the river that has been digging its way into the earth, the longer it has been flowing, the deeper the groove. The samskaras that were formed as a child are triggered by experiences that are closest to the ones that formed them in the first place – typically your parents, siblings, or caretakers. Or you might be most triggered by people in your life that most resemble them which could be your boss, teacher, in-laws, friend, etc. You may have been working on yourself for quite some time, burning away the outer layers, only to show up at a family gathering or holiday dinner and notice your blood boiling, ready to argue, run away or just plain give up. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you think you are enlightened, visit your family.” How perfect that statement is as a reminder that yoga is a practice, not a one-time product purchase to solve your issues. We need to continuously stoke the fire of transformation to experience freedom from our Samskaras.

Burning Samskaras

Burning Samskaras is recognized in modern psychology as Neuroplasticity – our brain’s capacity to change our neurological patterning. While much of our childhood patterns are formed without our awareness, it is awareness that allows us to burn what no longer serves us. Awareness is also what allows us to choose how we want to feel, act, think, and exist in this world. Awareness is a state of being that floods our conscious mind when we are present in the here and now. Have you ever watched yourself think a thought, or witnessed the sensations of your body, or decided to take a breath instead of reacting? The part of you that is aware of thoughts, emotions, and actions is awareness–and awareness is something you can strengthen just like a muscle. How do you strengthen it? The 4 main practices are Yoga, Meditation, Breath Work (pranayama), and Self-Inquiry. Self-Inquiry is also the result of the first three practices, as it is our “awareness” that creates the inquiry. Self-inquiry is the process of asking yourself questions, observing your thoughts, emotions, and behavioral patterns, and reflecting upon your actions and reactions. Through repetition, your awareness builds strength and awareness slowly burns away old patterns. Literally, the brain forms new neurological “wiring” which changes the way we act or react in any given situation.

Anchoring

There is much that is beyond our control such as life circumstances and outcomes of our actions, but what we do have control of is the inner landscape of our mind and our actions. That might seem like a large task, and it does take time and routine practice of yoga and meditation (see Elements of Mastery for both), however, there is one thing you can do right now to help you maintain your ground when you step back into the all too familiar family dinner or holiday celebration. 

“Create an Anchor” This is what I call having an intention, but I use the imagery of an anchor so when the seas get rough, you hold tight to the ocean floor and stay deeply grounded in your intention. The questions to form your intention are

  1. How do you want to feel?
  2. How do you want to act? 

Anchor yourself into the answers to these questions by asking yourself how you want to feel/act the moment you start to feel your blood boil under the surface of your skin or when you just want to run or hide. When you notice yourself falling back into your old patterns, hold tight to your anchor and do not let go. You may need to excuse yourself and take a few breaths or do a quick sun salutation, and that is ok! Be compassionate, the river is incredibly strong but you are indeed stronger.

Elements of Mastery

The most in-depth online yoga immersion offered by Matt Giordano. This immersion contains several full-length workshops focusing on how the body relates to nature’s elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, & Space. In addition to deepening your physical practice, you will learn anatomy, adjustments, and the approach to Mastery!

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Continue Learning

Bow Pose: Where to Breathe in a Backbend

Bow Pose: Where to Breathe in a Backbend

BOW POSE—WHERE TO BREATHE  YOGA ANATOMY • BIOMECHANICS • TECHNIQUEBOW POSEThe Challenge of breathing in backbendsEver feel short of breath in a backbend? You aren't the only one. Where to breathe in a backbend is a popular question, and rightfully so. If you look at...

read more
side plank variations

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Side Plank Variations VASHISTASANA • MODIFICATIONS • TUTORIALSIDE PLANKExtended Side plank variations  [Click Below to listen to the Audio Version of "Extended Side Plank"]There are definitely more ways than one to access a yoga posture. Not only that, but Matt is...

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King Cobra Pose Tutorial

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KING COBRA POSE  YOGA ANATOMY • BIOMECHANICS • TECHNIQUEKING COBRA5 Key Actions to Decompress Your Spine in King Cobra PoseNot all that glitters is gold, and without the right approach, this glorious backbend may not be a shining example of spinal health. King Cobra...

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Wild Thing Shoulder Alignment

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WILD THING SHOULDER ALIGNMENT ANATOMY • BIOMECHANICS • TECHNIQUEShoulder AlignmentWILD THING SHOULDER ALIGNMENTWhat is the correct shoulder alignment for the pose we call Wild Thing? To answer this, we would first have to define the guidelines for "right" and "wrong."...

read more
hyperextension of the knee in pyramid pose

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read more
deeper twists and spinal mobility with the fire line

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