Thai Yoga Massage: Back walking

I’m a huge fan of Ashiatsu massage, where they walk on you while the therapist holds on to bars mounted to the ceiling. Its one reason I love Thai Yoga Massage too. There are so many opportunities to be creative. I use a walker for back walking, which is stable but kind of creaky. I know of therapists in SE Asia that balance without holding on to anything. Ahem, my weight fluctuates a lot and I’m currently at 194 pounds. That might be a bit too much for someone. One-footed pressure works super well too and I do it all the time, especially for legs and calves.

No Response

I was in a meeting with a colleague yesterday. I guess you could say we are Old School military guys. We are only a few years apart in age and we’ve been down some of the same paths in life. We got to talking about recent interactions with researchers.

One thing about me is I dislike having unread emails, texts, social media replies, or unanswered phone calls in my queue. Those things add up really fast in our busy world. I don’t even like having a stack of mail. I try to wade through all of it as fast as possible. Efficiency experts talk about touching any correspondence only once. Don’t file it away to deal with later. Touch it once and be done with it. If it needs to get tossed in the trash, toss it. But don’t let it sit there. If you let it pile up, it becomes a mountain and you’ll completely demotivate yourself from climbing the mountain. It all gets to be too much.

So my colleague is going to be out of country and asked that I let him know of any changes to our projects. He said he’s having trouble with a lot of the new guys he works with. They never update him and don’t respond to emails. Wow, I know that only too well.

I wonder if it is that I was in an era where if you didn’t answer the phone (a landline, not cell phone), you missed the call. We didn’t even have answering machines for the longest time. And there wasn’t caller ID. Those are things I come to depend on today. But I learned long ago to be responsive and efficient.

I wonder if the newer generations are overloaded. They were raised in an era where the firehose of information has always been on full blast. So their way of coping is to just not think about it. The result is, I don’t get responses to emails or texts. I don’t get a response from yoga teachers who I offered to sub for them. So I don’t know if I’m subbing for them or not. I don’t get responses the days before a business trip where we are to fly out of town. So I just run with the plan I offered and hope they read it. If they would just respond to communications, all would be a lot less stressful.

In CrossFit, we have workouts called Chippers. A chipper is a list of exercises that are done for however many reps. You do the first exercise, then move to the next. One example is the Filthy Fifty. Its like 8 or 10 exercises done for 50 reps each. If you try to wrap your ahead around the entire WOD and how long its going to take, you freak out. So you don’t think about it. Instead, you "Chip" away at it one exercise at a time. Finish that exercise and go to the next. In the end, you’ve chipped away at the mountain.

Dave Ramsey is a financial adviser who uses a similar concept for debt reduction. You chip away at debt until it becomes more manageable and then goes away. The idea is the opposite of what most people do. If I have 10 debts, then work on the smallest first. Pay it off completely. Then take the money you were putting into that smallest debt into the next smallest. This accelerates the rate at which you get rid of debt. In the end, you just have one larger debt to get rid of. But you use all that new capital to eat quickly away at the big debt. When you get rid of debt, then you put that money that you’ve been using for the debt into savings. Then don’t touch it. Eventually when your car breaks down, your furnace goes out, whatever, you can pay with cash and not credit. Never get into debt again. And by all means, don’t turn your savings into a vacation fund. That’s not why its there.

This is true with communications as well. If you list of all the contacts you need to make, then quickly make the easy ones first. Do it and get it off your list. But once you’ve completed all those contacts, then stay on top of them. Only touch them once. Don’t wait to respond. Just contact them right away. Answer the email. Answer the text. Then you won’t have a "debt" of responses. You are free and clear of anything hanging over your head. It is so mentally releasing to know that nothing is outstanding.

Communicate effectively and efficiently. Only touch your mail once. That’s the key.

I don’t give advice anymore

Well, I give critiques all the time as a yoga teacher. When I was a new yoga teacher, I would give unsolicited advice to people that I saw online as well. Whew was that a stupid move. When I think about it, I would never just walk up to some random person in a gym and say, hey buddy, you’re doing it wrong! That advice never goes over very well.

Yes, I want people to be safe. Yes, I want them to function better in life. But if they are not asking you for help, then I don’t offer. In a yoga class, yeah I’m the teacher. I am supposed to instruct. But out on the street, I’m just any old Joe Blow who needs to mind his own business. Who am I to say something?

Yet I see people critique form all the time. The YouTube comments, Instagram advice, and Facebook critics are all ready to yap their gums. I’d say maybe 1 or 2% of the people will respond positively to advice when not asking people for it. The rest are going to tell you to take a hike.

The only place I say things is in places where I have a qualified voice to speak and a position of authority. When I was a yoga teacher for a local health club, the marketing person would ask me to provide a paragraph to describe a class or workshop I was teaching. Then, they would supply an image. The problem is, they don’t know yoga. A lot of clothing companies, especially back in the day, would place a model into a yogic pose when the model often didn’t do yoga. The alignment, drishti, hand placement, everything was wrong. If you look at Ardha Matsyendrasana on Instagram, nearly half of the yogis turn the wrong way (like in the picture above). Their warrior poses look awful. It just doesn’t work. So in this case, I’d say something.

To be honest, I don’t like having people tell me what to do either. I was in the Army for a long time and had enough of getting yelled at (even though I was a yeller myself as an Infantry Drill Instructor). But if you go to a yoga class or a CrossFit session, the teacher has the authority. You go there to get useful instruction. And that’s what I provide in those settings.

I was just listening to a podcast which spurred on these thoughts. They are super qualified to instruct people, but they don’t offer it when its not their place. Everyone should know their boundaries. Even when I take a yoga class, I don’t critique the yogi next to me unless it appears extremely unsafe. But I almost never see that so I don’t say anything. I’m just another yogi.

Stay in your own lane people!

Its not Tendonitis

The poor little tendons always get a bad rap. Then people want to mash on them when its not their fault.

I’ve told this story before. When you get tightening in your muscles, resulting in trigger points, the muscle shortens and stays shortened. That’s the answer. You don’t have to read further.

But if you insist, muscles stretch much further than a tendon ever could. A tendon only stretches to 2-5% of its length, which is not very far. A tendon’s function is to attach a muscle to a bone. Its function is not to stretch. It needs to be very firm and solid to the bone.

But we tend to want to rub all over it and blame it for our woes. Yeah, sometimes you feel pain in the tendon. So we call it inflammation of the tendon, or "tendonitis". When really it doesn’t have much to do with the tendon at all. Its the muscle that is shortened that is pulling with all its might against the tendon. Then, when we try to function by walking, squatting, or whatever we do, we feel it in the tendon. When the problem is a muscle that has shortened and seized into that position.

If you work out the trigger point through massage, heat, and stretching, then the tendon pain will go away. Its as simple as that. It can be released in a single massage session or may take some extra work to release. But I promise you it will release and you won’t have pain in your tendon anymore.

Click on the "Book Now" button on my Facebook page to find healing. Thai Yoga Massage was made for this. Not only do I use focused pressure at the trigger point, but I also stretch it to get the muscle fibers gliding properly again. Come see me!!

Thai Yoga sequence

Much like teaching yoga, I have a basic sequence I follow for Thai yoga massage, but I find a lot of tangents along the way. It all depends on what a client’s body is telling me. Each has a very different story.

Not long ago, I found myself working 3 things at once. I often do 2 things at once. As an outsider, you might say that not having a single focal point dilutes the effect. But I strongly beg to differ.

The key is proprioception. If someone has a significant issue, say like a hip flexor. When you begin to manipulate that area, your brain often yells “CAUTION!!” and tends to seize or ward against pressure. Its the way it protects itself. If a muscle you are working on contracts, it nullifies what you are doing. But, if you can put pressure on an antagonist or even unrelated area, your brain doesn’t know how to handle it. It confuses it into releasing the place you want to work. Thai yoga massage was made for this distraction.

So, I was working the ilioicostalis, the psoas, and gluteus maximus all at once. I didn’t mean for it to happen, it just happened. Its so cool that the Thai Yoga asanas set us up for these situations. You just let it all flow together. It is such an effective way to treat pain.

Fallacies: IT band syndrome

Here we go again! The first few websites I read are totally wrong!!

A friend of mine just posted about having IT band syndrome. Having experienced this and know of the serious pain it causes, I was curious as to what the "experts" say you should do to treat it and what they say the causes are. Let me clear this up.

What NOT to do (that the experts say to do):

1. Take a Foam Roller directly to where you feel pain. NO, please Heavens NO!!! Connective tissue like the IT band is literally hard as a rock. For one thing, you are rolling in the wrong place. Secondly, rolling probably does more harm than good. But mostly it does nothing to the IT band.

2. Ice it. OMG NO!!! If you want to continue to feel pain and never let it heal, apply ice. The whole RICE fallacy has been disproved by the person who invented it. Ice slows the healing, just like it slows the movement of molasses through a tube. What do you do if you want to move molasses through a tube? Heat it up. Then it flows freely. All of your nourishing red blood cells and healing white blood cells are increased in circulation by heat. The rest of RICE is wrong too. Please don’t rest it. Instead, move it. And certainly don’t compress it. Its the friction across your bony surfaces that’s making your feel pain in the first place. Why do you want to create more friction by compressing it? Not very smart!

3. Stretch it. Haha, the experts are idiots!! First of all, a tendon stretches at maximum 3-5% of its length. The force that it takes to stretch a tendon is pretty extreme anyway. And why do you want to try to stretch a tendon in the first place? The tendon isn’t the problem. What does stretch are muscles. You see this standing, leg cross over, and lean to one side business that the experts describe and diagram? If your physical therapist tells you to do that, laugh over your shoulder while running away from him or her. You are not attacking the real problem.

OK, enough ridicule of the websites. Lets talk about something serious. Muscles contract and lengthen. Through a cascade of processes, muscles shorten (in the end) due to calcium deposited where actin and myosin fibrils unite. That’s what causes the contraction to take place. This in turn shortens the muscle. Potassium is an end product that aids the release of contraction. Sometimes, the brain will tell the body to dump calcium to shore up a structural issue and the muscle seizes either in a cramp, or a more semi-permanent contraction. The brain is saying "26.2 miles? Nope, I’m not doing it anymore. I’m going to stop this right now!!" This contraction essentially shortens the muscle. You can feel its effects when a whole bundle of muscles shorten and stay contracted. It is a taut fiber along the entire length. This taut fiber is continuously tugging on the tendons where they are attached. And that tugging of the tendon may causes downstream problems and pain.

So IT band syndrome is really taut fibers of muscle pulling excessively, probably in opposite directions creating pain just above the outer knee. Rolling, stretching, icing, or any other voodoo you do to an IT band does nothing. You have to deal with the taut fibers that are attached to either side of this upper tendon. And, as a matter of fact, the gluteus maximus, the largest and strongest muscle in our body attaches to the IT band. On the other side is another extremely strong muscle called the Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL). When one side goes bad, the other often does too. And both end up pulling on the IT band. Quit blaming the poor IT band and abusing it with a foam roller. Its not the IT band’s fault. Its the fault of those huge muscles at the top.

My best suggestion to you for IT band pain is to deal with the source of the problem. First of all, of you figure out how to palpate your own body, you can easily find taut fibers. Nearly all of us have taut fibers in our forearm muscles and in our neck. If you start to lightly find these fibers with your fingertips, you can figure out where the problem is. Go to the belly of the muscle, usually at the center or at the meatiest part, and don’t roll along its length (like you do with a foam roller). Instead, move across the fibers. Either roll your implement, like a lacrosse ball, massage stick, or a hardened metal bar across the fibers at the belly. Don’t be afraid to go hard at it. A gentle massage will do nothing to it. If you think about a powerlifter who squats 1,000 pounds, most of which comes from the gluteus maximus, those fibers are really dense and hard. You have to give a lot of pressure to open them up.

So what are my DO’s? Do the opposite of what the websites say:

1. MASSAGE BUTT & HIP FLEXORS. Get after the taut fibers of the gluteus maximus and the TFL. Massage really hard into those muscles. Maybe even use a TENS unit or electrical accupressure pen. That will allow those contracted trigger points to release so you can lengthen your muscles again. The release of the taut fibers means that it releases the pull on your IT band as well.

2. HEAT IT!! Yes, there is a reason we go to Hot Yoga and not Cold Yoga. Imagine that. You go to cold yoga and end up pulling and tearing every muscle in your body. That’s not a good scenario. You got to Hot Yoga to allow your body to lengthen more than it usually does. Heat is what you want, not cold. RICE is wrong!!

3. STRETCH IT! This also means, no Rest (part of RICE). Instead move and stretch the appropriate parts. Don’t stretch the IT band because it can hardly be stretched anyway. Instead, stretch the glutes and hip flexors. Pigeon pose, deep lunges, lizard pose: these all stretch the glutes. For the TFL, Warrior I (for the back leg), any bow pose (upward bow, bow [dhanurasana]), and any other pose that puts your hips into extension. Don’t rest or ice it. Instead, move it and heat it up. That’s what heals.

Lastly, because of the first few websites that popped up about IT band syndrome, always question what they say. For some reason, they all get this wrong. Learn to think for yourself. Our bodies are not magic. Well, they are, but that’s another blog post. We can figure out these problems for ourselves. All it takes is a little self-education and common sense.