Back Stories

Back stories, we've all got a few. Most of us have had a sore back at some stage in our lives.  There are lots of possible reasons why but it generally comes down to how we do the same things over and over every day. Our habits play out in how our body feels.

Over the last few weeks we've explored the common habit of standing and moving with the pelvis pushed out over the front of the feet. This stresses many things (we've looked at feet, knees and hips) but it also takes it's toll on the spine. We end up with a tucked tail and ribs thrust forward - causing compression and tension from lower to upper back. You might feel it in your SI joints, you might feel it in your neck and/or shoulders - it is going to show up in different ways for different people.

 There are many muscles involved in any alignment issue but the psoas has more attachment points than any other muscle in the body. Here you can see how the psoas (the red area) connects the legs to the lumbar vertebrae, and the bottom rib. So a tightly contracted psoas is potentially impacting the legs, the low, mid and upper back and even the shoulders and neck.

There are many muscles involved in any alignment issue but the psoas has more attachment points than any other muscle in the body. Here you can see how the psoas (the red area) connects the legs to the lumbar vertebrae, and the bottom rib. So a tightly contracted psoas is potentially impacting the legs, the low, mid and upper back and even the shoulders and neck.

So if we work towards reversing these habits then we can move out of pain and into optimal function. Imagine cell regeneration and waste removal working wonderfully well because of how you move. We can get there with some regular, focused consideration.

 That's me in the middle in Amsterdam being told to push my butt back!

That's me in the middle in Amsterdam being told to push my butt back!

It helps to factor in that many of us carry more tension on one side of the body than the other. This asymmetry means extra compression on different parts of the spine. Your disc issues will often come down to the way that you stand, sit and carry yourself when you walk. Watch yourself - do you tend to slump into one hip frequently? Do you always cross the same leg over when you sit? Do you always carry things on the same arm? This is imbalance in action. Then consider where you feel discomfort in your body and things might start to become clearer.

It's at this point that we are going to add more cross lateral work to our mix. This challenging work helps to recalibrate any imbalances. Anytime a limb crosses over the mid-line of the body our ingrained habits will start to question "hang on, where am I in space right now?" This natural function can get a bit disconnected over time. Take heart, it comes back remarkably quickly.  Take your time and work on slowing the movements down and smoothing them out. This stimulus of the mind to muscle connection is so wonderful for your brain health too.

Bolstering Bonus
We are doing a lot of bolstering this term. What a wonderful way to take care of yourself physically and mentally with a range of supported poses. Last week we looked at what point the backs of our legs left the ground when lying back (a key indicator of psoas tension). Here is a great clip from Susan McLaughlin (Physical Therapist and Restorative Exercise Specialist™) showing you how to bolster yourself well. Wonderful for your back health (and lots of other great benefits too).

Here is James Knight teaching the Hip Lift and Lower exercise that we did in class today. I love this one as a tool for tension release of the whole back, but also as a way to notice where you may have imbalance. Becoming aware of those tendencies is the first step to healing them.

Daily Maintenance Week 5:

(We are slowly working our way through the Restorative Exercise handout given out in Week 1)

Calf Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day (if you don't have a 1/2 dome you can use a rolled up hand towel or something similar) - refer to handout

Foot Stretch - 30 seconds to one minute each side, at least twice a day - if the top of your foot is very tight you can try the chair version - refer to handout

Knee Cap Release - Start with straight legs and try to lift and lower your knee caps. Find a wall to lean against if you are having difficulty standing. Start off with the feet about 30cm away. Once you've achieved the Knee Cap Release here move a little closer. 30 seconds to one minute - or any time you find yourself standing around - you know the drill!

Monster Walk - Are you ready!? With or without resistance band. Feet are straight, hip width apart. If using the band keep tension on it. Your weight is in your heels. Start at one end of your mat, hips forward and move sideways - one step at a time. Go up and down your mat around 4 times.

Double Calf Stretch - Do you sit much of the day? Wear heels? Stand with your pelvis tucked because you were taught that was the proper way? However your pelvis has become tucked, the double calf stretch is a great way to see if your pelvis can even move! Place your hands on the seat of a kitchen/desk chair. Line up the outside edges of your feet and straighten your legs all the way. Your weight should be back in your heels and all your toes lift-able. See if you can lift your tailbone up to the ceiling without bending your knees.

Alignment Snacks