The Complexity of Rotation

The Complexity of Rotation
The vestibular system, is part of the sensory system that provides the leading contribution to movement, sense of balance and spatial orientation. Together with the cochlea, a part of the auditory system, it constitutes the labyrinth of the inner ear, situated in the vestibulum in the inner ear. As our movements consist of rotations and translations, the vestibular system comprises two components: the semicircular canal system, which indicate rotational movements; and the otoliths, which indicate linear accelerations. The vestibular system sends signals primarily to the neural structures that control our eye movements, and to the muscles that keep us upright . The projections to the former provide the anatomical basis of the vestibulo-ocular reflex, which is required for clear vision; and the projections to the muscles that control our posture are necessary to keep us upright. In order to determine the effect of figure skating on the functional plasticity of the vestibular system, scientists quantified vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) in figure skaters. Vestibular stimulation consisted of three cycles of sinusoidal rotation (0.025 Hz, +/-60 degrees /s) and two velocity steps of 60 degrees /s (acceleration 60 degrees /s(2)). The studies have shown Quantitative alterations in vestibular-ocular reflex parameters resulting from vestibular habituation induced by repeated unusual stimulations when practicing figure skating. Figure skaters, for example, can spin for long periods without showing past-pointing or postrotatory nystagmus. The more the skater practices rotation the more developed the senses become. Imagine rotating a triple jump at high speeds with the velocity of traveling across the ice for takeoff and then in a split second knowing the exact moment to stop rotation and check out for landing, on a sliver of steel edge only millimeters wide. The split second complexity of decision making in that moment of check out is staggering. This is why a skater falls over and over before finally landing the jump consistently. Every bit of additional rotation training will help speed up this process. Projection Pathways The vestibular nuclei on either sides of the brain stem exchange signals regarding movement and body position. These signals are sent down the following projection pathways.

To the Cerebellum. Signals sent to the cerebellum are relayed back as muscle movements of the head, eyes, and posture.

To Nuclei of Nerves III, IV, and VI. Signals sent to these nerves cause the vestibule-ocular reflex. They allow for the eyes to fix on a moving object while staying in focus.

To the Reticular Formation. Signals sent to the reticular formation signal the new posture the body has taken on and how to adjust circulation and breathing due to body position.

To the Spinal Cord. Signals sent to the spinal cord allow quick reflex reactions to both the limbs and trunk to regain balance.

To the Thalamus. Signals sent to the thalamus allow for head and body motor control as well as being conscious of body position. Experience from the vestibular system is called equilibrioception. It is mainly used for the sense of balance and for spatial orientation.

When the vestibular system is stimulated without any other inputs, one experiences a sense of self motion. For example, a person in complete darkness and sitting in a chair will feel that he or she has turned to the left if the chair is turned to the left. A person in an elevator, with essentially constant visual input, will feel she is descending as the elevator starts to descend. Trained skaters can close their eyes while performing elements and still know exactly where they are and when to come out of rotation.  Some skaters feel more comfortable with their eyes shut on elements, it adds to the senses of feeling where you are spatially.  So as you can see, although skating appears very effortless, there are an amazing amount of complexities taking place in the body and mind.

Notes Wikipedia, Eur J Appl Physiol. 2008 Dec;104(6):1031-7. Epub 2008 Aug 30

About the author
Rosie Tovi is a Hall of Fame Figure Skating Champion and coach/consultant to Olympic figure skaters.

Yoga's Magic for Figure Skaters

Rosie training in ballet

Rosie training in gymnastics

Yoga’s Magic for Figure Skaters
As a young competitive skater I was immersed in off ice training from ballet to gymnastics. Every day I was in an off-ice class of some sort after my skating practice but I never experienced yoga. It was not until very recently that I discovered the incredible benefits of yoga.

Skating is a test of the mind, the body and the spirit. The day in day out rigors of training, falling thousands of times to learn new triple jumps, stepping out into an arena filled to the ceiling with an audience waiting for your performance, as you stand there alone on the cold surface with butterflies in the stomach and a heart beating way too fast. Somehow in these moments we must calm the mind and be able to perform physically. This is exactly what yoga trains so well.


Yoga is a focus of the mind and the spirit during physically demanding asanas (poses). The poses demand an amazing amount of physicality and balance even though they look rather tame. During a simple pose you can feel your heart rate go up and the sweat start to form, to stay in the pose you have to focus your breathing and intent on the quality of the position. The balance poses seem to be created just for skaters, the nuances of the grip in the foot muscles are reminiscent to me of the edge control we needed on school figures. With the removal of school figures from skating we also lost the understanding of edge control which affects every area of quality skating.

Rosie in a classic spiral position

In addition to the obvious strengthening benefits for skaters you then have the aspect of stretching. The poses go in to some very deep stretches which are integral for skaters. If you want a beautiful Bielmann spin and spirals on the ice you must be able to stretch with ease into those positions.


Breathing is crucial for skaters. I remember as a competitor I used to actually hold my breath frequently during my routines, I would be so focused on the jumps that I would hold my breath way before taking off and all the way through until well after the landing! I would finish the routine and be completely out of breathe and feeling physically awful. Once I finally realized I was doing this, I learned to have breathing spots in the routine, where I would have to double check and make sure I was breathing. For a long time I thought this was so weird that I had to be the only one with this problem. Well turns out most skaters do this! as a coach I saw this all the time, the skater never realizes they are holding their breath until you skate along side them in the routing during practice and keep telling them to breathe. Yoga brings the breathing process during difficult poses into your muscle memory, you are trained to breathe through those difficult athletic moments and to bring your breath deeply into the muscles. Wow after my first class I actually felt euphoric because the breath was so deep and I was breathing into places I had never felt before, the teacher explained the breathing we were doing (pranayama – extension of the life force) was delivering a big amount of oxygen to the brain.

Quieting the Mind
Many top skaters have said numerous times: your mind can play tricks on you when you are under stress. In competition as the skater is waiting to start the routine and during the routine there are thoughts every which way in the mind, when you are nervous before a competition your mind can really come up with some whackey stuff! Yoga stops the chatter and clears the mind, it is a meditative process that athletes can truly benefit from, in fact this can make or break a skater.

The discipline and depth of yoga is an essential component for skaters that will also benefit all areas of life. Yoga should be at the top of the off-ice training list. There are many styles of yoga, starting out with a simple Hatha yoga class is a great way to get going.

Yoga will keep you happy and healthy!

About the author
Rosie Tovi is a Hall of Fame Figure Skating Champion and coach/consultant to Olympic figure skaters.










Rosie’s Power Cookies Packed with fiber, protein and energy

Ingredients: 1/2 cup softened butter – 1/2 cup apple butter – 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar – 1/2 cup granulated sugar – 2 eggs – 1 tsp. vanilla – 1 1/2 cups flour (or flour replacement Vege Fuel) – 1 tsp baking soda – 1 tsp. cinnamon – 1/2 tsp. salt – 3 cups oats (uncooked – any variety) – 1 cup chocolate chips – makes 4 dozen

Preparation: Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butters and sugars until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla – beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, salt  and cinnamon – mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and oats – mix well. Drop by rounded tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool one minute on cookie sheet – remove to wire rack. Cool completely and store tightly covered.

The flour used in the recipe can be replaced in part of fully by Twinlab® Vege Fuel®, a versatile, highly digestible protein powder containing Supro®, 100% isolated soy (all-vegetable) protein. Vege Fuel contains a superior quality protein source that is low fat and cholesterol free, and contains no artificial flavors. This makes the recipe a protein packed energy booster. The product is available online, at health food stores or GNC. (I found the lowest online price here)

Feel free to add nuts or replace choco chips with raisins, experiment with ingredients because there is no going wrong with these power packed treats.  Agave or coconut nectar can be used as a low-glycemic partial or whole sugar replacement in the recipe. The apple butter can be used in a larger amount equal to how much you wish to replace the butter.

I use mainly organic ingredients in this recipe to be sure to avoid GMO’s (genetically modified organisms). Vege Fuel is a non GMO product. If you are not familiar with the danger of GMO foods learn more here. 75 percent of the food in supermarkets is genetically modified without being labeled as such.

I created this recipe many years ago for my students while coaching at the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, NY. What many people don’t know is that figure skaters have a big struggle with weight. The amount of muscle required to be a successful jumper is significant while at the same time the skater is supposed to look lithe and ballerina like, this is a paradox. So I thought why not make recipes that deliver power and are delicious, the cookies were a huge hit with my students. Dr. Michael Colgan the author of Optimum Sports Nutrition was the inspiration, he changed my life by teaching me to never diet, rather put the body in balance with foods that are power packed with nutrition. Once my body was balanced I learned to listen to what I felt like eating. Since doing this my weight has never changed, there is no struggle and there shouldn’t be. I avoid all GMO foods, it is impossible for people to lose or maintain weight loss without having the nutrition the body requires. Dr. Colgan writes that America is the heaviest country and people are literally starving because they are not getting what is needed. Recent studies have shown that eating GMO foods make you fat. As part of a long-term project studying the health effects of GM foods, researchers from Norway fed food containing GM corn to one group of rats and food containing non-GM corn to another group. Over the course of 90 days, the rats on the GM-corn diet grew fatter and consumed more food than the rats on the non-GM diet. The researchers also noticed that rats got fatter when they ate fish that had been raised on GM corn. Research from the nonprofit Organic Center has found that nutrient levels in modern crops are anywhere from 10 to 25 percent lower than they were 50 years ago, likely because the crops are bred for higher yields, as many genetically modified crops are. As nutrient levels go down, we have to eat more to get the recommended levels of nutrients we need, which leads to overeating and not feeling fully satisfied.

About the author – Rosie Tovi is a Hall of Fame Figure Skating Champion and coach/consultant to Olympic figure skaters.