Several of my instructors from Thai Yoga Massage school came to it from a place of pain. Back pain is so crippling for many in our population. If you’ve had it, you know what I mean. It totally undermines your quality of life. When I was giving Thai massage to my instructors or when colleagues were talking about do’s and don’ts when giving to them, they told me to NOT do certain poses. Most of it stemmed from back pain problems.
The pose pictured above is cobra. If you did a vector analysis, from my friends who took kinesiology or body mechanics, you’d see the greatest force in this pose is directly in the lower lumbar spine. Yes, its great for opening shoulders, chest, and anterior chain too, but the crux of the problem is with the back. So we were told not to do this to our instructors. And, in essence, I don’t do it to clients anymore for this very reason. There is a twisted lift that I don’t do anymore for similar reasons. Its just too much on the back.
Instead of cobra, I would use the variation seen above. Its much easier on the back and the client can feel the goodness of the heart opening. Its a much safer and more effective pose. You have the added advantage of walking the back making it very luxurious. A good therapist can find the best poses that are most effective for you. The sexy, picture-worthy poses that you see are not always the best poses for our bodies.
Another pose is full locust pose. It is also somewhat dangerous to perform on someone with a bad back. For those who CAN do it, its a very deep and soulful stretch. I think there is a lot of value in it. But there are too many precautions to do it safely. Instead, I do a half locust (pictured below).
However, I couldn’t find a good picture of how I exactly do it. To me, the target muscles for this pose are the hip flexors including rectus femoris, and deep into the psoas and illiacus. So to guard from dumping pressure into the lower back, I keep the hip firmly planted with my hand directly on the glutes and I don’t let the hip rise. Any hip rise can result in back pain. But its a really good stretch and super effective as a resolving stretch following treatment.
Whether you are a Thai Yoga Massage therapist, a yoga teacher, or personal trainer, you need to think hard about what is most effective for your clients. Is what you are doing just fluff? Or is there a strategy for embracing a complex situation? Hopefully, you find someone who is keenly aware of the human body and knows how to treat it properly. We really have to think for ourselves when we work with clients.
TRUE STORY: In one of my first excruciating lower back episodes, I was sent to a physical therapist. Without touching me or resolving my issues, he had me sit in a chair folded forward over a couple pillows. He told me to rest, no exercise or anything, for 2 weeks and do this forward fold 3 times a day for 10 minutes each. I walked out of his office and across the street to a different physical therapist. This therapist did Manual Release Therapy and my pain started to subside right away. Then, she had me do a few exercises of cross-body, antagonistic muscle engagements. Again, more opening. And she told me to keep moving with walking, yoga, and other exercises she prescribed. It was a tale of two treatments. One that was totally ineffective. Another that was completely miraculous. Don’t go for window dressing. Go for results!