All posts by Back to Life Physical Therapy

The Neck Class w/ Iris Warchall, PT, DPT

The Neck Class: 4-week class series on Thursdays
Description: Designed for current and former patients. Deepen and/or refresh your knowledge of how to move in your daily life without strain to your neck and spine. Improve your technique with your home exercise program.
Instructor: Iris Warchall, PT, DPT has a particular interest in the relationship between shoulder and neck, hip, low back, and pelvic floor function and dysfunction. She joined Back to Life to help people with pain gain control of their symptoms and return to the activities they love.
Dates: Offered monthly
Time: Thursdays 8:30-9:30 AM
Price: $200 total for 4-week series
Location: 403 49th Street, Oakland, CA 94609
For more information please call 415.538.7878 or email

Yoga for hip, low back & pelvic pain

Yoga for the Pelvic Floor: 4-week series

Description:  Each three-part workshop is designed to help people with pain or tension in the pelvis, hips or back. Pain and tension can result from trauma or chronic holding patterns. Trauma can include chronic poor posture, surgeries, difficult labor, sexual abuse or other strains. Pelvic trauma or tension can contribute to incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse. This workshop includes a brief anatomy lecture and discussion, breathing techniques and yoga poses done with particular attention to gently relax the muscles of the pelvis, hip and back. Handouts will be provided to help support your practice of what you will learn.

Instructor: Leslie Howard is an Oakland area based yoga teacher, specializing in all things pelvic. Her own struggles with healing her pelvis led her to intense study of the anatomy, physiology, cultural messaging, history and energetics of this rich place. Her teaching is informed by over 3000 hours of yoga study with senior Iyengar teachers. She is featured in the documentary, Yoga Woman. She leads workshops and trainings nationally and has led two successful studies

Dates: September 25th,  October 2nd, 9th, 16th w/ Leslie Howard

Time: 6:00-7:30 PM

Price: $120 for 3-week series

Location: 403 49th Street, Oakland, CA 94609

To enroll please call 415.538.7878 or email

Learn more here:

Please note: No Make-ups, refunds or prorated fees for any class

Mindful Pilates Series with Anya Taylor

Mindful Pilates Series: 4-Week Series on Wednesdays

Description: In this Pilates class we will perform a series of exercises that will increase your awareness of your pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles, while strengthening your overall body.  All skill levels are welcome.

Anya will also be offering 1 individual session + 4 classes for those who would like to see her for a private session before starting classes. This is a great opportunity for individuals who are new or returning to Pilates to gain knowledge about their personal limits.

Instructor: Anya Taylor has been a Pilates instructor and bodyworker in Oakland for over 15 years. She works with men and women with all levels of physical condition and has a particular interest in working with women who suffer from pelvic floor pain and dysfunction. She has a private studio and practice in the Temescal district of Oakland.

Dates: September 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th

Time: 8:30-9:30AM

Price: $120 (4-class series) or $210 (4 class series + 1 private session)

Location: 403 49th Street, Oakland, CA 94609

To enroll please call 415.538.7878 or email

For private session only, contact: Anya Taylor at or 510-387-7682


Back (& Hip, Pelvis, & SI) Class with Janette Cariad

The Back (and Hip, Pelvis, and SI) Class: 4-week class series on Fridays
Description: Designed for current and former patients. Deepen and/or refresh your knowledge of how to move in your daily life without strain to your back, hips, sacroiliac joints, and/or pelvic floor. Improve your technique with your home exercise program.

Instructor: Janette Cariad, PT , CLT, LANA, specializes in Orthopedic, Pelvic and Lymphedema Physical Therapy. With over 30 years of experience, she has a passion for helping her clients find personalized solutions to resolve pain issues, changes in bowel and bladder function, and lymphedema.
Dates: Monthly
Time: Fridays from 1:00-2:00 PM
Price: $200 total for 4-week series
Location: 403 49th Street, Oakland, CA 94609
For more information please call 415.538.7878 or email

Optimal Form and Fitness class w/ Clarice O’Reilly-Cummins, PT

Optimal Form & Fitness Exercise Class

Description: These Form and Fitness classes focus on core activation and co-contraction of stabilizing musculature about the hips and shoulder complex and strengthening in various postures.  Learn how to stop overusing your neck and shoulder musculature to free you from pain and tension. We will use foam rollers, Swiss balls, exercise bands, weights, and balance discs in the class but you will come away with the proficiency to use your own body weight to work all the core stabilizing muscles for challenging exercises to do on your own. You will be taught how to exercise safely and effectively so that you can participate in any type of fitness program without fear of injury.  You will feel more flexile balancedcoordinated and strong so you can go out and do the things you love!

Instructor: Clarice O’Reilly-Cummins is a Physical Therapist who is an independent practitioner with many years of experience. Her passion is to help her clients develop efficient core strength and balance so they can do what they love pain-free.

Dates: Tuesdays and Thursdays on-going

Time: Tuesdays 8:45-10:00am, 10:15-11:30am* and beginning September 19 from 6:30-7:45pm.

Price: $20 per class or 10 classes for $180

Location: 403 49th Street, Oakland, CA 94609

Contact: Clarice O’Reilly-Cummins, PT, at


*On Tuesdays, the 8:45 am class is faster paced with less individual cueing for those who have been coming for a while. The slightly slower pace of the 10:15 am class allows for more one on one instruction which is helpful for newer clients and those with any type of restrictions or injuries so we can determine if you are overusing or compensating with different muscle groups. The Thursday class is designed for beginners or those who want a slower class or more individual attention.

Upcoming Classes

Upcoming Classes at 403 49th Street (@ Shafter Ave):

Tai Chi with Ranzhi (Ella) Xue:                                                                                                                                       Saturdays 9:30-11:00 AM | May 27th, June 3rd, 10th and 17th

The Back (and Hip, Pelvis, and SI) Class with Jessica Manley:                                                                Fridays 12:30-1:30 PM | June 2nd, 9th, 16th, 23rd

Prenatal and Postpartum Class with Iris Warchall:                                                                                        Tuesdays 12:00-1:30 PM | June 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th

Yoga for the Pelvic Floor with Leslie Howard:                                                                                                    Mondays 6:00-7:30 PM | June 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th

Pelvic Floor Pilates Class with Anya Taylor:                                                                                                     Thursdays 9:15-10:15 AM | July 6th, 13th, 20th, 27th

Optimal Form & Fitness Exercise Class with Clarice O’ Reilly-Cummins:                                            Tuesdays 8:45-10:00 AM & 10:15-11:30 AM | Ongoing
Contact: Clarice O’Reilly-Cummins, PT, at

To enroll: Call 415.538.7878 or E-mail

For more information on classes see newsletter:

Hip Flexor Stretches

Hip Flexors are the muscles in the fronts of our hips. They help us flex (bend) our hip. This allows us to bring our knee toward our head as we do when we lift our leg to climb stairs, to put on your sox (or pants or skirt) or to swing our leg forward for walking or running.

If you need to stretch your hip flexors, it is important to do so safely. It is very easy to mistakenly stretch the wrong part(s)… like our lower back.

Grasp your foot with one hand while holding on to a stable surface with your other hand. Pull your abdominal muscles inward and gently pull your thigh back to about even with your torso. If you pull your leg backward too far, you will likely stretch your back or your hip joint.

The image on the left below shows safe technique. The image on the right shows an unsafe stretch with the back arching (stretching) more than the hip flexor muscles.

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In the images below we see the same stretch shown above, this time from the front. The image on the left is the same  great hip flexor stretch shown above. This image shows that it is important to keep your legs fairly close together. The image on the right shows improper technique. It is important not to let the leg you are stretching drift out away from your midline (right).

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Here is another great way to stretch your hip flexors:

With this stretch the idea is to pull your tummy in and tuck your buttocks under. Your back will be flat or there will still be a small arch in your lower back. Do not allow your back to round backward. The correct technique is shown in the image on the left. Be careful not to shift your weight too far forward while in this position. The incorrect technique is shown on the right.  In the incorrect stretch, you may be stretching your lower back or putting your hip joint in a stressful position.

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It is important to be gentle!

Hamstring Stretch!

Hamstring Stretch!

The Hamstring muscle group is located on the back of the thigh. These muscles are  responsible for extension of the hip and flexion of the knee. They are very strong and especially important for walking, running, bending and climbing stairs.


In order to stretch your hamstring you will want to find a surface that is between 2-7 inches off the ground. The stiffer your hamstrings, the lower the surface you will use. Next, lift one leg  and rest your heel on this surface. Stand erect with a little arch in your lower back and your knees straight. You may already feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. If so, just hold this position. If no stretch yet, then lean forward slightly from your hip joints. But keep your spine in a neutral position. This will allow you to isolate your Hamstring muscles and ensure that the hamstrings are the only muscles being stretched.


 Many times people can feel a hamstring stretch in positions when they are also stretching their back. This can be problematic because it becomes impossible to tell when the flexibility in your hamstring ends and the flexibility in your back begins.  To avoid this problem try to stay away from the following stretching positions:

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Again, keeping your spine in a neutral position is key!

Be gentle!

4 easy steps to a Serratus Anterior exercise

–4 easy steps to a Serratus Anterior exercise–

These are your Serratus Anterior muscles. They are mainly a Scapular stabilizer but they are also involved in the protraction and rotation of the Scapula.  Below is a guide to a Serratus Anterior exercise that you may be able to perform at home.


Step 1: When doing this exercise you will want to start in a neutral position.  As you can see from the picture below– your head, back, and hips should all be in line with one another. Your arms should be extended in front of you- forming a 90 degree angle with the rest of your body.


Step 2: Keep your body in exactly this alignment as you press your body AWAY from the wall. The arms and shoulder blades will stay still, only the rest of your body will move. Your head, back and hips should still be in line. You can note the difference in this picture:


Step 3: Allow yourself to come back to a neutral position- still maintaining your line and 90 degree angle.


Step 4: Then, allow your body to come in towards the wall. Do not bend your elbows. Keep the same alignment of the rest of your body!


As always, be gentle and listen to your body!

Avoid Calf Stretch Pitfalls

What Not To Do:

Calf Stretch

Now that you’ve seen our blog on what a good calf stretch should look like, here are a few common mistakes (calf stretch pitfalls) to look out for:

  1. Be careful not to place your foot too far away from the wall, like soimg_2978
  2. Maintain a normal arch in your foot.  Avoid becoming “flat footed” like the picture shows.  This will ensure that you’re stretching your calf and not inadvertently stretching your foot. img_2977
  3. Keep your foot pointed directly at the wall instead of letting it drift to the side. This picture is another great example of what NOT to do.  fullsizerender

Now you have all the knowledge you need to do a proper calf stretch while avoiding the most common mistakes!