“. . . according to the Yoga Sutra (3.1), the term [Bandha] refers to the ‘binding’ of consciousness to a particular object or locus (desha), which is the very essence of concentration.”
Georg Feuerstein

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Preventative Strategies for Lower Back Strains in Yoga: Part Two

In our last post we focused on the benefits of engaging the quadriceps in forward bends. These include reciprocal inhibition of the hamstrings and the contribution of one head of the quadriceps, the rectus femoris, to flexing the hip joint and tilting the pelvis forward. Tilting the pelvis forward helps to prevent hyper flexing of the lumbar spine through lumbar-pelvic rhythm. 

This post emphasizes the role of hip adductors and abductors in flexing the hips with a cue for co-activating these muscles. Balanced engagement of these muscles produces a stabilizing bandha about the hip joint and pelvis, while at the same time synergizing hip flexion. This contributes to femoral-pelvic rhythm, which in turn aids to prevent hyper flexing the lumbar in forward bends.

First, let’s look at the anatomy. The more anterior adductor muscles (the adductors longus and brevis) draw the femurs toward the midline, adducting them. The pectineus contributes to this action. The tensor fascia lata (TFL), on the other hand, draws the femurs away from the midline, abducting them. Thus, the TFL and adductors (and pectineus) are antagonists for these actions. These same muscles all flex the hip joint and are synergists of this action. Accordingly, co-activating this antagonist/synergist pair can be used to stabilize the hip (through opposing actions) and synergize hip flexion. 

adductors longus, brevis and pectineus - dandasana
The adductors longus and brevis and pectineus in Dandasana.

Dandasana (staff pose) is a good pose for learning this how to work with these muscles together. I begin by drawing the upper inner thighs towards one another. This activates the more anterior adductor muscles — the longus, brevis and pectineus Then, I press the calves into the mat, fixing them there, I attempt to drag the legs apart. The legs are fixed on the mat and so will not actually abduct, but this cue engages the TFL (which you can feel contract on the sides of the pelvis). Adding slight internal rotation of the thighs refines this action. The adductors and the TFL work together to synergize hip flexion, which then acts to lift the lumbar region (through lumbar-pelvic rhythm). Try each of these cues independently. Then combine both actions by gently squeezing the upper inner thighs together while attempting to draw the lower legs and heels apart. Note how the opposing actions of these muscles create a stabilizing bandha across the hip joint, while their common actions synergize hip flexion and pelvic tilt.

tensor fascia lata - dandasana
The tensor fascia lata in Dandasana.

This cue is portable to other poses like Paschimottanasana (and Uttanasana link to accessing nutation) as shown. If you can reach your feet in Paschimottanasana, then the cue for engaging the TFL becomes pressing the outer sides of the feet into the hands. If you are working in a modified version of this forward bend (as with a belt around the feet) then the cue is the same as in Dandasana. In Uttanasana, fix the feet onto the mat and attempt to drag them apart (to engage the TFL) while drawing the upper inner thighs together (to engage the adductors longus and brevis and pectineus).

co-activation in paschimottanasana
Co-activating the adductors, pectineus and tensor fascia lata in Paschimottanasana.

Combining contrasting elements produces balance and stability. Combining synergistic elements produces movement. Movement creates rhythm. Lumbar-pelvic rhythm helps to prevent hyperflexing the lumbar spine—which can aid to prevent lower back strains in yoga.

If you suffer from back pain, be sure to consult your physician to determine the cause; work under the guidance of a physician to manage your pain (see our full disclaimer here).

Thanks for stopping by! Check in next week for Part Three of this series on preventative strategies for lower back strains in yoga. Also, be sure to visit us on Facebook for your free Chakra poster and e-book.

Namaste’

Ray and Chris




16 comments:

  1. it is always a pleasure to see the presised image of our work in posture !

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    1. Thanks! We enjoy making them. Namaste' Ray

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  2. POR FAVOR, PLEASE, traduzcan sus post al español. Muchas gracias.

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    1. Hola, usted puede encontrar nuestros libros en este sitio web en español. Namaste 'Ramon

      http://www.editorialacanto.com/catalogo/yoga_salud.html

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  3. Great job, as always Ray and Chris! I find these posts to complement the 6 volumes that I am currently enjoying. I would like to see some posts or even a book regarding props and variations. There are so many variations that would enhaance our practice!
    Thanks again,

    Nikos

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    1. Thanks Nikos! We're working on some material related to your suggestion--will keep you posted. Namaste'~Ray

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  4. Thanks for breaking down the pose - very helpful. I look forward to your excellent posts.
    Namaste

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    1. Thanks for commenting. I find this breakdown a subtle but excellent cue for refining forward bends. Best~Ray

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  5. Anatomy is amazing! I read every one of your posts thoroughly and always find these anatomical tips and tricks to be so useful, both in my personal practice, and with my students.

    Much gratitude,
    Lisa

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    1. Thanks Lisa--glad to hear this is helping in your practice and teaching! All the Best~Ray

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  6. Thanks Ray and Chris. As always these posts are tremendously helpful. I own all of your books. (six I think). Looking forward to new publications.
    Namaste'
    Pete

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  7. I too would love to see how props affect the anatomy - your pictures are so clear and the instructions are easy to follow. Thanks for your hard work - I love getting the emails, but I also own 4 of your books and I love them!
    Sue

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  8. Thank you to Bhanda Yoga for.that source of wisdom and.in combination of artistry .

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    1. Thank you AstangaProject 2020! Much appreciate your compliment on our work. Namaste' Ray

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