"be bold the mighty forces will come to your aid"
• Functional muscle testing as a part of yoga therapy
Those of us who love our physical yoga practice and that have been practicing for a long time have probably experienced some kind of discomfort or difficulty in the practice. This can be a low-level pain, a painful injury, an inability to physically comprehend an asana or a major setback in an asana that you could once do proficiently. The injury or setback could have come from poor technique but often is from functional problems with the structure of the body. Many of us have utilized chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, osteopathy or other healing modalities to remedy these situations.
In my experience, when a pain does not resolve quickly and seems to return with physical yoga practice or just with time, it can either be traced back to a muscle or muscle group that is not fully functioning, be it the outcome of an inappropriate practice, imbalanced life style, the result of self-sabotaging emotional stress, or unresolved personal issues. When we get only temporary relief from external healing techniques or a reoccurring injury we might need to look at the general or specific health of our organs and systems. It is possible that the basic massage we are getting does not take into account a reactive muscle, a deep fascial adhesion, and hyper-mobile joint or cranial fault.
For example, if your low back hurts after doing a back bending practice, but does not hurt after a forward bending series you might just quit doing back bending(That is probably not a good remedy for the long run). Or you might further explore specifically when the pain comes. Noticing that performing the vinyasa where you are coming up from back bending and going down into back bending is what causes the discomfort; like Kapotasana up to your knees, or Chakrasana to standing or the reverse-while Chakrasana itself, starting and finishing on your back is not a problem. Muscle testing could identify, for instance, that the lower abdominal muscles are not working well, and therefore the spine is not supported in the movement forward and up, putting stress on the posterior facet joints and the discs. Or you are not able to keep your hips from laterally rotating due to poor technique or a weak illiacus. This is basic in physical therapy, where technique is then discussed and strength- building exercises are recommended. It is not always so simple. In Applied Kinesiology it is often found that the cause of the muscle weakness is an organ that shares lymphatic pathways with that muscle or muscle group. In the case of weak abdominals, it might be small intestine dysbiosis from poor eating habits, a recent use of antibiotics or an irritated illeocecal valve (the valve between the small and large intestine). Being stuck open allows matter from the colon to move back up into the small intestine when you are prone or inverted, stressing the lymphatic’s of that organ-- lymphatic’s which are shared with the abdominal muscles. The extra load on the shared lymphatic pathways makes it difficult to remove waste accumulated from muscle metabolism, so the abdominals become weakened.
In the same low back pain, muscle testing might identify that the problem is no mulabhanda. You could be willfully engaging your pelvic diaphragm, lower abdominals and the internal intrinsic of mulabandha, but to no avail. In this case, because of injury, it could be that the proprioceptive mechanisms in the pelvic diaphragm are turning off in keeping with one of their responsibilities, to rest and protect the muscle or muscle group that is injured or being injured. These muscles could have been strained from constipation, child birth, heavy lifting, too intense a practice or some other reason. With the muscle testing revealing this weakness, a technique to stimulate the proprioceptors whether being the Golgi tendon corpuscles or the muscle spindle cells, could be applied, giving you back the use of your mulabandha anatomy. With this support, back repair rather than further injury and trauma will be more likely.
I have seen advanced practitioners that get back spasms from eka or dwipada shirshasana (one or two legs behind the head). This can be from the pulling upward of the stomach (GER gastro-esophageal reflex). This is not the same as the GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease). Once the stomach’s proximity to the diaphragm is normalized, not only can the asana be done painlessly but the digestion becomes more efficient and the breath deeper.
Knee and hip problems are very common especially in dance, running and yoga. I had a client that was the daughter of the plumber that aided me for many years. She had been in an accident that left her unable to hold a job that required squatting and/or bending. She was still going to physical therapy, chiropractic and taking medicine 2 1/2 years later. After approaching my plumber with the idea that I might be able to help, he agreed to give it a try. The muscle testing revealed muscle weakness in all the areas the Physical Therapist was trying to strengthen with exercises; subluxations that the Chiropractor was addressing; and inflammation for which the MD was prescribing medicine. The reason none of this worked was related to her intestines and fascial adhesions. Once her intestinal lymphatics were flushed, and the fascial adhesions released, the muscles became strong, the joints became stable, the inflammation subsided and she recovered completely. The recovery doesn’t happen overnight, as the body takes time to heal, but without the functional muscle testing, the 2 years would have turned into 5 or 10 instead of a couple of weeks more.
On another occasion while practicing in Nancy Gilgoff’s class on Maui, I noticed a man, having trouble jumping back from seated postures. I could see his abdominals were not working and later in the class noticed his headstand was not aligned properly. I know I shouldn’t be looking around, but it is so interesting to me. (One of my favorite ways to pass time in an airport is to watch people move and assess the possible weakness that are evident in their movement or posture.) In this case the student was placing his head too far forward and his breath was too short. In Applied Kinesiology there is a correlation between lower abdominal weakness and what is called a sagittal cranial fault or lesion (the sagittal suture splits the cranium straight down the middle, front to back). I first tested his lower abdominals to make sure it was an accurate assessment and also to share this type of yoga therapy with Nancy. In studying some cranial therapies, it came to my attention that the cranial respiration was about 6 or more seconds for extension and the same for flexion depending on what rhythm you are feeling for. So I suggested that he lengthen his inhale and do the same for the exhale, just guessing that might be helpful, as well as changed the placement of his head on the floor. As soon as he was done with headstand we re-tested the lower abdominals and they worked.
Hip problems are very common with athletic or laborious endeavors. If you find that your hips are unstable, having to be adjusted in order to cope with reoccurring pain, and you are a coffee, tea, mate or soda drinker, the instability could be due to weak Sartorius muscles. The Sartorius shares lymphatics with the adrenal glands. When the adrenal glands are compromised due to overstimulation (could be other drugs, work schedule, mothering or some other facet of life), resting the adrenal glands, supplementing with B vitamins, adrenal glandular, and or herbs like ashwaganda, could be the answer. Once the adrenals are functioning better the Sartorius will be more likely to support the hips keeping them stable during challenging movements and postures. Adrenal and pancreas problems are often associated with wrist, elbow and shoulder problems as well. I have heard that Guru Ji’s younger son Ramesh had severe wrist problems before he died, and I have seen this many times with clients that did not take care of their pancreas and adrenal glands. I have had good results with carpal tunnel syndrome even after surgery failed to correct the problem. In my experience surgery rarely gets the desired results and should be the last choice in rehabilitation. Sharat, Guru Ji’s grandson has suffered from severe back problems at times, no one is exempt. If a muscle or muscle group is low functioning do to a related organ or nutritional deficiency, it is only a matter of time before the unsupported joint or joints will degenerate causing pain and restriction in many if not all activities.
A client came to me about 15 years ago who had crushed his foot, falling off a ladder onto concrete while wearing flip flops. After reconstructive surgery he still could not put weight on his foot. The orthopedic told him to get a sedentary job. Two very painful hour and forty five minute sessions with me and he was soon hiking in the mountains doing his new job.
On another occasion one of the head nurses at UC Davis Medical hospital came to me as a last resort, already scheduled for foot surgery. He had drop foot and had been treated by the best, with no results. One and a half hours of very deep work and he was good to go, happily cancelling his surgery.
If you have an injury, find a body worker, chiropractor or yoga therapist that is equipped with the necessary skills to assess and repair the problem. Sometimes these people are hard to find. If you are a body worker yogi/ni and are interested in learning how to help people in this way please get a group together and contact me.