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  1. Here is the link an article that came into my inbox. Apart from the absurd title (Is Multifidus the New Psoas?), it contains some interesting information on these under-discussed muscles, which are so essential for spinal stability. I have always been aware of their importance because of my interest in spinal flexibility, contortion, and backbending. However this interest does not seem to have been picked up by members of this board. Of the 4 posts mentioning multifidus on this discussion board (as found by a search), 50% are by me. At one point, I was going to post a picture of Nadya Vasina, a Ukrainian backbending contortionist standing with a naked back. This young woman is seems spends a lot of her life in a backbend with her spine and legs suspended somewhere over her head. It shows massively developed muscles in the area where the multifidus is - but I decided against it, as you cant be sure that they are not the erector spinae instead. However I can by popular demand if required (if I can find it). https://yogainternational.com/article/view/is-multifidus-the-new-psoas-fresh-insight-into-relieving-back-pain?utm_source=Yoga+International&utm_campaign=607a465834-RSS_WEEKLY_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_943c6d823b-607a465834-88663749&goal=0_943c6d823b-607a465834-88663749&mc_cid=607a465834&mc_eid=916e7e7ffa Jim.
  2. I am prompted to address this (1) because it has been in my mind for a long time, and (2) because of a recent comment (by Edd) in relation to Kit’s L3 Floor Backbend video which deals with this issue and recommends relaxation of the back muscles in backbends. In addition, many yoga instructions say to keep the back muscles relaxed in a backbend. Kit has always said to keep the back muscles relaxed. So clearly, some people think it is a good idea and therefore it must work for some people. However, I disagree strongly, at least as it relates to some others (including me). If I try a backbend and do not control it by using the back and abs muscles correctly (see more below), I tend to “crunch” the lower back. In fact, in my 20s, when I did not know anything about stretching, I damaged a facet joint in this way (shown on a much later CT scan). By keeping the muscles tight and in control, I experience a safe and comfortable bend. Some other people have also found that keeping the muscles relaxed leads to pain, which disappears when the muscles are activated. In addition, backbending contortionists use the back muscles enormously to control and support their bending. What muscles are being used? I find two types of muscle action. (1) The abs – probably via their fascial connections, which seem to tighten a girdle around the waist, which then supports the spine. (2) The spinal muscles – and these are probably the deep spinal muscles, the multifidus and rotatores. Developing conscious control of these muscles takes time but is well worth it. In contortion work, an essential component is the feeling of “lifting” and “lengthening” the spine by use of the spinal muscles when in a backbend. I am currently spending time on an exercise to particularly develop this feeling – it is like the yoga camel with arms overhead, but unsupported. Kneel up, and have a pile of yoga blocks on the floor behind you (I start with 4 high). Arch over backwards with arms overhead, remove the top block, come up, go over again, remove the next, etc, until you have removed all the blocks and touched the floor and come up (this feels better than a common similar exercise from standing, because you don’t have to worry about balance and if you cant hold the arch, you just sit back onto the floor). Repeat as many times as you can. If you manage to get the “lifting and lengthening” feel in the back muscles (most strongly in the upper lumbar/lower thoracic region) then when you are coming up out of this bend you get a lovely strong feeling as though someone has their hand behind your spine and is lifting you up. It is a strong feeling in a position in which we normally feel weak (I am currently using this exercise for an aerialist who needs to develop the use of her deep back muscles to control her backbends). Why do different people find different patterns of activation useful? I wonder if it depends on the degree of muscularity and pre-existing flexibility. Maybe an unmuscular loose lanky person like myself needs strengthening and stabilising, whereas a less flexible and more muscular person needs to get the back muscles out of the way somehow, and can push their (less flexible) spines quite safely when relaxed. Note that Iyengar says contract the buttocks when in the camel (Light on Yoga, ex 16) – we expect that this will lead to a chain of activation including the deep spinal muscles. In this context, I’d be interested to see what Craig thinks, as he is quite muscular, and also seems to have quite a flexible spine. For deeper bends (head onto feet) then I need to contract the spinal muscles in the thoracic area hard to deepen the stretch in the upper spine (I have not done this for a few years now by the way; I have lost some spinal flexibility over the years, but then I am nearly 70). Jim.
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