I used to do this pose, but not everybody likes it. To me, it is super amazing on the lower quadratus lumborum (QL). Really amazing for tractioning open the back too.
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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!
In Thai yoga massage, side position is the place where most of my therapy happens. Its no more important than other positions, but I find it crucial to accessing muscles and moving a body through range of motion. The Thai yoga massage school I attended embraces this idea too. There are so many possibilities in side position.
However, when I went to Thailand and received from traditional therapists, we didn’t go into side position even once. It was all supine, prone, and seated. My school often said that people in different parts of the globe need different things. If a culture is seated on the floor a lot, or in a squatted position, and has different kinds of activities for work and play, then they will have different needs. Whereas, in the West, we sit in office chairs, cars, and recliners for a majority of our days. Our hips flexors become tight along with psoas and TFL. Back muscles become very deconditioned. So for those of us in the West, side position becomes even more important for those specific muscles.
Besides back and hip flexors, shoulders are a real problem for Westerners. Much of it comes down to scapular mobility. Once our shoulder blades becomes immobile, a host of other symptoms arise. And yes, side position is the best place to work on shoulders. So I end up doing it a lot.
In Thai Yoga Massage, no session is ever the same. We have a sequence that we follow, but its just the blueprint for what we need to do. Many variations depending on the needs of the client arise in a session. Its good to communicate not only pains that are felt, but also the lifestyle. Much can be found by our daily habits in life and family history. Its all about coaching the body to become more open and ready to live a happy life.
Imagine when you are 40, 50, or 60 years old and you sit down and think about what you’ve squandered in life.
Yes, you may have seen wondrous things you may never see again. You’ve seen sunsets on distant oceans. You’ve experienced the best parties anyone could ever experience. You’ve lived and loved a good life at an early age.
Yet now, you sit down to think. You wonder why you are eating Ramen noodles every day for lunch, alone, in the dump of an apartment that should be condemned.
The element I was thinking of the most the past few days is disability insurance. I mean, many people don’t carry life insurance or even car insurance. Yes, while you are healthy, you can work construction, stocking shelves at Walmart, and maybe even thrive in the fitness industry. You may be living off your health and youthful good looks. But what happens when you get old, you can’t control your weight as easily, and your face wrinkles? What happens when you herniate a disk or your knee blows out? What happens to that job where you need to use your body or good looks? It vanishes. Then what are you going to do?
This is where socialistic ideas create a false fantasy. It makes you think a safety net is there when it really isn’t. If you think the government is going to save you, the reality is that government can’t even save itself. When politicians offer "free" stuff all the time, it makes you think that you can squander all that you have because you are going to be safe. Its not true!
Yes, many think its an old school idea to have a pension, a mortgage, and a successful marriage where you can cover each other with life insurance should something happen. But guess what all of this provides:
-a roof over your head when your mortgage is paid off.
-a consistent income not dependent on the government.
-a backup support system of home care and family who cares for you.
Newer generations today don’t see it this way. They live from paycheck to paycheck and blame rich people for their woes. They don’t get married. They go to college just to delay the inevitable. Instead of being frugal and going to a school in their own town, they have to go to Bali or Switzerland. They don’t really want to be an adult yet. Then they are hampered with mountains of debt that maybe they get out from under by the age of 35. Many don’t. They save money and then blow it on extravagant vacations. Then they wonder why they are in such debt.
Somehow the idea of safety and financial security is a past-time. The government is always there to help them out. They are living the dream. When, in a decade or two, they’ll realize where they’ve gone wrong. I’ll probably be there to say I told you so. But I’ll try to not say anything because you don’t kick a person when they are down. I really feel sorry for people.