Massage & Bodywork

JANUARY | FEBRUARY 2019

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Yo u r M & B i s w o r t h 2 C E s ! G o t o w w w. a b m p . c o m / c e t o l e a r n m o r e . 71 the diaphragm itself. Of course, this also involves the neck releasing, but right now we are focused on the balance from below. A HAPPY "COBRA" "OK, if I accept the image, how is it useful?" How do we keep the cobra happy? Basically, the cobra is happy, healthy, and dynamic when it serves to: 1. Successfully stabilize the hip you are standing on, or temporarily riding over when you are walking or running 2. Release the leg that is swinging to reach forward for the next step 3. Keep the diaphragm in relationship with the pelvic fl oor muscles 4. Balance the rib cage, neck, and head in easy equipoise above the low back Points 1 and 2 concern stability in the SI joint. For simplicity's sake, we will leave that for another article—it is highly complex, even for chiropractors and physiotherapists. Let us address points 3 and 4 here. The ideal relationship between the respiratory diaphragm and the pelvic diaphragm is one over the other, as if you had one hand underneath a beach ball and the other hand on top of it (Image 4A). When we lose that relationship, we lose the power of "core," and we subject the spine to more wear and tear, and possible injury. Fashion models often drop the upper body behind the lower body, which disturbs that "hand over hand" balance between the two diaphragms (Image 4B). In that "heart- set-back" posture, the poor cobra does not function well. Part of the psoas goes into eccentric contraction, and part of it goes into concentric contraction; many other muscles and fasciae—notably the quadratus lumborum and thoracolumbar fascia—are involved in this pattern, so let us leave that one for a fuller treatment at a later time. Postural twists in the spine, often called (but I hate the word) scoliosis, will also imbalance the reciprocal relationship between pelvis and diaphragm, as will side-shifts of the ribs on the pelvis. To keep this article in bounds, let us consider two very common, not-so- functional patterns the cobra gets into in the sagittal (front-back) plane. The fi rst is when the cobra gets depressed. The psoas loses tone, the upper lumbar spine falls back, and the diaphragm—the nose of the cobra— falls in front (Image 4C). These people do not need you to poke around in their psoas; they need gentle encouragement to exercise the psoas to bring its tone up. Wading in water up to your mid-thighs is an excellent way to tone a sagging psoas. Those without access to a pool or the ocean can tie a Thera-Band to a doorknob and their ankle, and tone the psoas by fl exing the extended hip forward into mild hip fl exion, while keeping the knee extended. Gentle manual therapy to revivify the psoas can be helpful by restoring kinesthetic feeling to the psoas complex. Freeing the quadratus lumborum and lower-back fascia is a great help to them in creating the room for a strong psoas to function. But it is strengthening the psoas—the body of the cobra, so to speak—that will help lift the rib cage and head back to their supported, looking-straight-ahead position. The second is when the cobra gets too enthusiastic, too toned. When the psoas has too much tone in it, the upper lumbars are pulled forward and the diaphragm leans back, lifting the nose and exposing the "throat" of the cobra (Image 4D). These are the folks who could use a release, a relenting of the constant excess tension in the psoas. Such a relaxation will allow the rib cage to center over the pelvis, and drop the nose of the cobra back to its place of poise. What kind of work will allow this release? Different styles of work are effective with different "somato- psychologies," so we can end this foray into core by inviting you to go to a class for one- to-one transmission of a mindful approach, not a blind application of "technique." Psoas-diaphragm balance is central core technology for the upright, breathing spine. It is fi ne and dandy that we are paying attention to the transversus abdominis and its contribution to spinal stability. Now is the time to take the next step inward to be able to see the condition of, and apply corrective exercise or manual release to, our inner cobra. Thomas Myers is the author of Anatomy Trains (Elsevier, 2014) and co-author of Fascial Release for Structural Balance (North Atlantic, 2017), and over 50 video programs and webinars. Myers studied with Ida Rolf and has practiced integrative bodywork for more than 40 years. He directs Anatomy Trains, which offers certifi cation in structural integration and continuing education worldwide. For more information, visit www.anatomytrains.com. The psoas major joins the top and bottom of the body, being one of the few muscles to join the axial and appendicular skeleton (i.e., the spine and the leg). Almost any imbalance in the legs or hips will require compensation in the psoas, which often gets transferred up to the diaphragm.

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