Newsletter no. 8 – Thursday 12 August, 2021
This is the web-based version of Stretch Therapy Newsletter no. 8
The first class in a Beginners ST course covers the Daily VI (1). This is comprised of four spinal movements – flexion, extension, lateral flexion, and rotation – plus a lunge movement for hip flexors/quadriceps, and an exercise for piriformis. These exercises are relatively gentle and do not use the Contract–Relax technique. The focus is on gentle mobilisation, to discharge the tension accumulated in normal daily life. For most people, we have found, there is little to no post-session muscular soreness, and this is why the sequence can be practiced daily.
Maintaining spinal mobility is essential for health, particularly as you age. Lateral flexion (side bending) and rotation are left–right movements – as you explore these movements, notice if there are any asymmetries in these spinal movements in your body. If there are, next time when you practice, start with the tighter side, move to the looser side, then repeat for the tighter side – over time, this approach will redress the asymmetry. This way, the tighter side gets double the amount of work, and over time gets closer and closer to the range of movement of the looser side. The effect in the body is a significantly enhanced sensation of ease and freedom of movement.
From a recent newsletter about lying relaxation practice (2), Kit wrote:
I believe there is no more direct path to self knowledge than learning how to relax, really relax, as a deeply lived physical and mental experience, and no practise will have a greater benefit for you, and the people around you, then devoting yourself to this one – daily – for a month, or for three months if you really want to change. Most definitely you'll be a different person if you practice daily for three months.
1) Those reading here who have been involved with ST for a while will know that, originally, it was the Daily V – four spinal movements plus a piriformis exercise. Hip flexors, we now feel, need daily attention, thus now it is the Daily VI 🐱
2) This newsletter includes links to 'Setup instructions for beginners to guided relaxation', and two guided relaxations for you to use.
Spinal movements follow-along class, 17 minutes
Let Olivia take you through exercises that work spinal flexion, extension, rotation, and lateral flexion, in a gently paced follow-along class. Shot on a workshop in Brisbane, Australia, this program features shots of the attendees following her instructions; this is the closest thing to being there!
This is the program to start with if you have not done our work before. In just over 15 minutes, you will be moving and feeling better.
A note: the focus is on moving the spine in four planes; this video covers four exercises, however any exercises that cover the spinal movements can be used to build your own, personal daily spinal movements.
Seated hip for piriformis
The exercise in this video is done seated on a chair, which is good if you have difficulty getting onto the floor. Pelvic positioning is outlined in detail in this video – please pay close attention to the cues for positioning your pelvis.
Because so many people spend a significant amount of time sitting (computers, desks, couches, and cars are the main culprits), piriformis syndrome is on the increase. Read about this on the ST Piriformis Syndrome Wiki. The insidious aspect of this common problem is that it can (in its most severe form) mimic all the neurological deficits caused by lumbar disc disease; disc herniation, for example. Piriformis syndrome is the major cause of sciatica, through the same mechanisms. In any kind of low back pain, its possible contribution needs to be ruled out; these exercises are the place to start this process. As well, and more generally, tight hamstrings are often the result of tight piriformis (and piriformis can cause tight gastrocnemius, too).
Floor relaxed lunge with heel-to-buttock
Probably the most-restricted movement in modern humans' bodies is hip extension, that is taking the leg behind the body. The reason? The muscles at the front of the hip – the hip flexors – and the front of the thigh – quadriceps – are tight. In our experience, one of the muscles in this complex – rectus femoris, which crosses both the hip and knee joints – is the tightest/most restricted; we begin there.
In the absence of other causes, one tight hip flexor, or both hip flexors being tight, are the most common source of back pain in the modern population, partly because we spend most of our life sitting, and partly because tight hip flexors guarantee an anterior pelvic tilt (so increased lumbar tension and curve). Read more about hip flexors on the ST Back Pain Relief Wiki.
A note from a student
Kalyan K., Australia