Imagine for a moment a tree that just takes your breath away …
Now imagine the same tree, without roots …
Without strong and connected roots, the trunk of the tree will have trouble withstanding even the slightest of winds.
Your body is a lot like the structure of the tree you just imagined:
Have you had chiropractic, physiotherapy, osteopathy, massage and more, and still your lower back pain keeps creeping back?
You know life’s less joyful when your back is always whining at you and you don’t want to keep going back to the chiropractor with that same old issue, so I’m going to share with you my story of how developing my roots helped me finally get long-term back pain relief.
You’ll learn about:
Hi, My name is Markus and I’m from Austria.
I’ve been working as a fitness professional for nearly 10 years now.
But deep down, my body didn’t feel good …
[Despite all these numbers and external movement skills, I suffered from hip, shoulder and lower back pain. And I saw the similar problems occur with my clients too]
When I had trouble finding answers to these issues with myself and my clients, I had to ask myself …
What was going wrong? Did I learn the wrong stuff? Am I a bad coach?
But all this changed when I found Benny Fergusson and the Movement Monk practice.
Since I’ve been a Movement Monk student, a major skill Benny has been teaching me is to become a more attuned, less judgemental observer of my body.
I’ve observed one contributor to lower back pain that I didn’t notice before, that was staring me right in the face all along …
As your lower back intersects with the centre of your body, it’s involved in nearly every movement that you do throughout the day, whether it be at the gym or walking down the street.
The question is:
If your lower back is stuck in a habit of overuse, it may be generating force, instead of transferring it around your body.
In my observations over the last 6 months, I noticed with myself and a lot of clients that it is very common to use the lower back to primarily generate force instead of to transfer force.
When you look at it from a physics perspective, it doesn’t make much sense that a small area like your lower back should be used to generate high amounts of force and do all your heavy lifting. Especially with such strong areas of the body like the hips being so nearby.
This video will give you a visual as to how small the lower back is in comparison to the hips.
Your lower back and the whole spine works most effectively and efficiently, and is less likely to give you the signal of pain, when you can transfer force from your feet to your hands (and vice versa), without restriction.
This principle is demonstrated so beautifully by dogs.
Notice how force flows through the body so easily. Imagine how this dogs back would move if it had weakness, or tightness around its hips.
I know you’re not a dog, but take a moment to observe the similar spinal anatomy to humans below, used in a different context.
In the case of many people I observe who regularly experience lower back pain, it is very difficult to fluidly transfer force through the body, if your hips and lower body are overly weak and flaccid, or strong and rigid.
And this isn’t just common in sedentary people.
Often the fittest and strongest people have the biggest structural imbalances around their hips.
If you’ve focused your training around strengthening big surface muscles from squats, deadlifts and lunges, and not working on your deep postural muscles around your hips and spine, it can create blockages to natural, connected movement and increase the chance that you are using your lower back to generate force during nearly every exercise!
I know what this is like …
After years of strength training, I piled muscle and strength on top of deep structural imbalances. This caused tension to build up in my lower back over time, and made me feel vulnerable when moving outside of my comfort zone.
To undo and release my lower back overuse habits, so force could flow through my body better, I practiced re-building my roots.
A body without strong roots, is akin to building your house with its foundations planted in sand.
As we’ve established so far: when your lower body roots are not well developed it can cause a chain reaction, leading to tension in your lower back and many other areas in your upper body.
Here’s a visual to help you understand this movement principle further:
To develop strong and mobile lower body roots, it’s not just as simple as doing pistol squats or lifting weights.
You need to learn to let go of the tension in your upper body and allow the weight to sink and relax into your lower body. This is when the strengthening process begins.
Here’s an example in this video:
While the types of lower body exercises you do are important, the most important factor in your progress is the level of mindful awareness you practice while you’re doing them.
However, not all exercises are created equal, which you’ll learn about at the end of this article …
Moving with a mindful intent is a great way to become aware of, and gradually release:
As you practice moving your body more mindfully, over time you learn how to more seamlessly connect your body and mind, so you can let go of tension causing habits that can pull your back out of alignment.
To be mindful is to pay attention, and be fully present, to how you’re interacting with yourself and the world around you.
You’ve got to keep one eye on your body and mind at all times.
Practicing movement without mindfulness, is like driving your car with the hand brake on … Sure you can move, but eventually something will break.
Mindful movement is a way to cultivate a space within yourself; a space that’s free of labels and judgement. A space that allows newness to fill the way you experience your body in each unfolding moment.
This sounds really easy, but for most people it can be a very hard task in the beginning.
Here’s some mindful movement tips so you can move better, without your lower back doing all the work:
Practice allowing your consciousness to permeate into every cell in your body. In time you can develop a body that has a thousand eyes.
Now combine your mindfulness practice with these movements inspired from Shaolin training and internal martial arts.
If you’ve got an overactive lower back, building a strong and mobile lower body isn’t as simple as going to the gym and doing some squats, deadlifts and lunges.
You need to go deeper than just trying to get stronger legs.
It’s important to build your strength AND flexibility.
And you can do both at the same time with the powerful practices in the next post.
They’ll help you move with the power of a tiger and the lightness of a ninja.
Here’s a quick recap of the process we shared above: