Dana Santas is the yoga/movement expert for CNN and CNN Health, and the creator of Radius Yoga Conditioning which helps athletes move, breathe and focus better to enhance performance and decrease injury.
Nicknamed the “Mobility Maker,” over the last ten+ years, Dana’s worked with more than 35 teams and hundreds of athletes. She’s the Radius Yoga trainer for many teams in MLB, NHL, NFL and the NBA, including the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Orlando Magic and Tampa Bay Lightning; she’s also a private yoga trainer for dozens of individual professional and Olympic athletes, including PGA, LPGA and WTA pros.
We talk a lot about the breath, how the diaphragm is the king of the core, functional mobility, the prevalence of conjecture in yoga education, and a fresh take on #YogaEveryDamnDay.
- Dana got the nickname mobility maker from working with athletes because she’s more than a yoga teacher. She’s a difference maker who helps people gain greater functional mobility.
- Mobility is stable and functional range of motion. Flexibility tends to not have stability or functionality associated with it. An NFL lineman doesn’t need to have the flexibility of a Rockette.
- Everyone thinks they need to stretch their hamstrings. But the reality is most of the time the hamstrings are inhibited. It’s not the hamstrings fault.
- She may be brought in to help a team “stretch their hamstrings” but what she really does is fix their pelvises, get them out of a locked anterior tilt, get their hip flexors and glutes to be more functional, and quiet overactive back extensors. This is what helps them regain ROM.
- “If I’m going to tell people that breathing a certain way is going to help them relax then I better damn well know that that’s the truth. There’s too much conjecture out there in yoga. I love the aspects of yoga that I can stand behind and say I know this works because I’ve experienced this and I can also break it down into research and specifics.”
- The ABCs of Radius Yoga – Alignment, Breath, Core and how that has evolved over time
- “Alignment is about the kinetic chains firing so that I can reduce dysfunction. Muscles have to be aligned properly in order for that to happen.”
- If you can get a kinetic chain to fire properly you can immediately get rid of tension and create mobility.
- Core is about your diaphragm more than anything else and the muscles of the core that facilitate proper action of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is the king of the core.
- You cannot be mobile if you don’t breathe with the right biomechanics because your ribcage position will be off.
- A soon as you throw your ribcage position off then you’re misaligned and then you’ll be using accessory breathing muscles that weren’t supposed to be used in that way. And it creates tension that some well- intentioned person is going to think needs to be stretched out.
- Athletes and proprioception – When you have athletes who have developed compensation patterns (all athletes have developed compensation patterns) perhaps it’s a rotation of their pelvis that they’ve lived with all of their life. Neutral for them is from a rotated standpoint so the feedback they’re getting from their joints comes from a position they’ve perceived as neutral and it actually isn’t. Then you put them in neutral, then it will seem like their proprioception is really off because that’s not their neutral.
- Her speech to athletes when getting them to work on their breathing: “If you’ve never thought about your breathing then you’re missing out because you could train 4-8 hours a day and you could train functionally the right way and make sure you’re doing it with perfect alignment. But if you breathe poorly, you’re doing that 24/7 so which will have a greater impact on your stability/mobility?”
- “The diaphragm isn’t just a breathing muscle, it’s a core muscle. The diaphragm doesn’t just attach to your ribcage, it attaches to your lumbar spine and it runs through your psoas. So if your diaphragm is dysfunctional, it will impact all of those areas. So I’ll ask does anyone have low back pain? Any hip flexor issues? Well your breathing has a lot to do with that.”
- There’s an epidemic of chronic over-breathing which is rampant in yoga as well.
- There’s all of this focus on inhaling when the focus really needs to be on exhaling. The problem is that with all these big inhalations and never fully exhaling we’re not allowing CO2 to rise enough for the oxygen exchange to take place.
- “When you say take a deep breath it means take all of this air in and it’s usually a chest breath. But for me it means functionally exhale. You need to get all of the air out before you can take the air in.”
- “I have a problem with the term belly breathing. We have to start giving people more credit. When it comes to breathing I want people to understand. There’s too much out there that’s so erroneous. The more knowledge we can get about our bodies, the more empowered we can be. We should not know more about the apps on our iphone than our diaphragm.”
- how Eric Cressey rocked her world when he introduced her to PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) concepts
- She explains the PRI left AIC (anterior interior chain) Right BC (brachial chain) pattern which basically states that all human beings are asymmetrical and are all predisposed to have rotational patterns in the body.
- She sees the Left AIC Right BC pattern 10 times out of 10
- The diaphragm has a thicker attachment to our lumbar spine on the right than it does on the left. Lungs are asymetrical and the diaphragm is asymmetrical.
- #YogaEveryDamnDay…the push for the daily physical practice of asana. There’s a tendency for yogis to think that yoga is all encompasing and that it’s all you need to be fit for strength and flexibility. She’s not doing poses every damn day. But she is practicing her yoga every damn day. It’s about integrating an awareness of movement and breathing into our lives on a daily basis. It’s not about what we do at a yoga studio. She encourages people to check in with their bodies every damn day. “It doesn’t mean that I’m posting some picture on social media of me doing some elaborate yoga pose. It’s awareness of breathing and movement and that’s also an awareness of ourselves.”
Some articles she’s written for Eric Cressey:
BodyTeaser: PEACE PAUSE
[The body teasers are a play on brain teasers. The goal is to play, experiment, get us thinking about how we move and ultimately improve how we move (and breathe).]
- Inhale for 7 count (or something comfortable for you)
- Exhale for 7 count
- Hold the breath out. Pause and spell out PEACE (or count to 5) in your mind
- Repeat 3-5 times then return to regular breathing
This can also be used to help with sleep. It trains functional diaphragm use and gets the blood chemistry to work properly.
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