The Quadratus Lumborum

 

The Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle is located in the deep and posterior, lateral and inferior areas of the spine. It is the deepest muscle of the posterior abdominal wall. The muscle is flattened and has a quadrangular shape.

The QL plays an essential role in the posture and helps stabilize the spine when extending the lower back or bending to the side. It also supports the core of the body when breathing.

  1. Key factors on the QL muscles
  • Location: Between the top of the pelvis and the lowest rib
  • Origin: Medial crest
  • Insertion: Lower rib 12 and transverse process of lumbar vertebrae L1 to L4
  • Antagonists: Abdominals
  • Synergists: each other, latissimus dorsi, trapezius
  1. What are the main causes of QL pain?

The QL is one of the primary sources of lower back pain. Pain can be due to overuse, stress and strain. The most common examples are:

  • Sitting for long hours implies continuous contraction or tightening of the QL and can therefore lead to muscle fatigue. If blood flow is decreased, the muscle can become stiff and painful.
  • Poor posture when sitting or standing
  • Weak surrounding muscles. When other muscles in the back or the pelvic area are weak, the QL has to compensate and work harder to support the body. It will eventually become overworked and tense
  • Unequal leg length
  • Trauma
  • Incorrect or awkward lifting of objects
  1. How can QL pain be treated?

In some cases, depending on the severity of the pain, YOGA practise is highly recommended alone or in combination with medical treatment. Below are some recommendations:

  • Strengthening poses
Utkatasana:

QL engaged with the other back and core muscles to maintain length in upper body

Vashistasana:

QL engaged to stabilise the torso and not collapse or rotate

Santolasana:

QL engaged to stabilise the posture and offer back strength and length

Shalabhasana:

QL engaged to extend back, especially when coming up from prone position

 

  • Stretching poses
Tiryaka tadasana:

Lateral flexion with QL, gentle stretch

Balasana:

Extension of spine using QL, gentle stretch

Utthitha trikonasana:

Extension of spine + lateral flexion of spine using QL, gentle stretch

Kurmasana:

Extension of spine using QL, deep stretch

In any cases, staying healthy and aware of the sources of the pain will lead to improvement.

E.g., good standing and sitting postures, lifting heavy objects properly, sleeping in a proper position.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • STRETCHING POSES

 

Utthitha trikonasana:

Extension of spine + lateral flexion of spine using QL, gentle stretch

Kurmasana:

Extension of spine using QL, deep stretch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In any cases, staying healthy and aware of the sources of the pain will lead to improvement.

E.g., good standing and sitting postures, lifting heavy objects properly, sleeping in a proper position.

Yoga therapy for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Yoga therapy is a process of empowering individuals to progress toward improved health and well being through the application of the teachings and practices of yoga. Scientific research on the impact of yoga therapy on human health is relatively limited but tends to increase due to the rise of popularity of yoga.

The top four areas of research into Yoga therapy are: mental health disorders, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and musculoskeletal systems.

I am personally interested in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Those kids typically display poor eye contact and sitting tolerance, poor balance and awkward body posture, poor imitation skills, poor breath awareness, poor receptive skills related to spatial relationships.

Few studies have already shown the impact of yoga therapy on those children:

  • Improvements in sensory integration, attention, sensory defensiveness, and increased verbal receptivity for commands related to spatial perception(1)(2)
  • Increased concentration, focus, organisation, and relaxation after 25 yoga sessions(3)

The overwhelming feelings that a child with ASD is experiencing are manifesting as physical sensations and stress. Therefore, addressing these body reactions with regular practice of yoga postures is a great place to start.

The most kid-friendly yoga poses to support those kids are:

Position Description Benefits
Bee’s breath Sitting on the knees, the kid inhales and extends his spine with arms back.

He then exhales and lower his forehead toward the ground, buzzing like a bee all the way down

Create a moment of pause to help release tension
Cat Pose The kid inhales and looks up, letting the spine drop low.

He then exhales and tucks the chin, lifting his spine up like a cat

Release frustration, stress or anger

 

Cloud pose The kid inhales and bends his knee, and scoops the invisible clouds in front of him.

He then exhales and straighten his legs, lifting the arms above his head

Scoop all the invisible frustration in front of him. Helpful to name the feeling without having to solve it yet
Tree Pose Standing up, the kid must become tall and extend his spine. One foot rests on the other ankle or above the knee until the right balance is found. His hands can be palm-to-palm at his chest or in the air like branches.

After a few breathes, he can switch feet.

The stillness and concentration required in this pose brings rest to a frustrated mind
Child Pose Begin the position on hands and knees. The kid then sits back on his heels and brings the chest to rest on top of his thighs. Arms can be stretched out in front or tucked in by his sides.

He can then breathe deeply and rest

Wonderful calming effect on the central nervous system

Yoga is non-invasive and has no side-effects. Parents and therapists get more and more convinced about the benefit of yoga practise as complementary and alternative medicine for children with ASD.

I am confident that there is much more to explore on the value and benefits of yoga therapy for children with ASD as well as children with other special needs.

(1) Kenny M. Integrated movement therapy. [cited on 2002].

(2) Goldeberg L. Creative relaxation a yoga based program for regular and exceptional student education.Int J Yoga Ther. 2004;14:67–78

(3) Oldenberg L. Use of yoga with occupational therapy.Int J Yoga Ther. 2004;12:71–7

Mala Beads for meditation

What is the origin of mala beads?

Sometimes known as Buddhist prayer beads, mala beads are long necklace-type tools traditionally used for mantra practice and meditation. They have a deep connection to mental grounding and help opening the mind to spirituality. They are similar to other forms of prayer beads used in various religions and referred as a “rosary”.

They are originally made of Rudraksha, natural seeds found in Malaysia, Nepal, India and South East Asia. Rudraksha is believed to be the 3rd eye of Lord Shiva. Those beads have some incredible benefits on life and health. They have a major effect on the heart chakra and hence, regulates the blood pressure They also bring stability to the entire system of the human body.

Nowadays mala beads can also be made of a variety of natural gemstones or wood beads which provide specific energy properties and personal significance.

 

What are the benefits of using mala beads?

The mala beads have the power to control your stress, charge your soul, give you clarity and focus, protect you from negative energy. They also have health benefits.

 

How can you use your mala beads?

The mala beads are traditionally used to repeat a mantra (Japa) but it can also be as simple as chanting Om or recite a personal intention, accomplishment or desire. Mala beads necklaces typically have 108 beads (a sacred number which represents spiritual completion) plus a single “guru” bead to signify the beginning and end of a count cycle.

  • Seat comfortably with your spine straight, your eyes closed and hold your mala in one hand
  • Start off with three deep, clearing breaths to center and align yourself in your intention
  • Envision light surrounding your mala and say or visualize your intention
  • Starting at the guru bead, turn each bead between your thumb and middle finger, pulling it toward you as you recite your mantra
  • Travel around the mala until you once again reach the guru bead. You’ll be reciting 108 times
  •  When you reach the Guru bead, you take a pause to give thanks to your Guru or to dedicate your meditation to someone

There is no need to be religious or have a spiritual practice to wear mala beads. If meditation is not part of your practise, you can simply wear it to reconnect to your breath and to the personal intention you have set, or when seeking a calmer mind, body and spirit.

Using mala beads as cues for breathing can also help you to bring more intention and concentration to your pranayama practice.

 

How to choose your mala beads?

It is as simple as following your intuition and picking the one you are spontaneously drawn to. Once you’ve chosen a mala, you can investigate the meaning of the gemstones and intention with which the mala was designed. Surprisingly you’ll notice that the one you selected has the qualities you may be working on or trying to cultivate into your life.

The mala that you are attracted to is the one for you; it’s as simple as that. 

 

Every gemstone and crystal is said to have its own unique energy and meaning.

  • Agate is a stone bringing emotional, physical and intellectual balance
  • Citrine is the stone of life, sun and life. It corresponds to the Solar plexus Chakra and the parts of the body connected to it. It is supportive of self-confidence and renewed determination
  • Jade is a stone symbol of purity and harmony. It helps to stabilize the personality by releasing negative thoughts
  • Rose quartz is the crystal of love and peace

 

How to care for your mala?

Rudraksha, gemstones and crystals are sacred and deserved good care. They vibrate at certain frequencies and amplify the energies you send through them while drawing out negativity from your body.

In order to cleanse your mala beads you can

  • Gently wash them with natural soap and warm water
  • Bathe them in the natural light of the full moon
  • Smudge them with either sage, incense or Palo Santo

After cleansing, you might want to charge your mala beads by leaving them in the sunlight or the moonlight for few hours. The energy of the sun and moon is said to return the beads to their own pure vibration.

Besides being beautiful and energized, using a mala during meditation can help focus your mind and your breath as you move through the practice. Just give a try!

There is so much to say about the benefits that Yoga brings to my life

Exploring Yoga has been part of my new year resolutions since 2007. However, I only started practicing in 2018 when I arrived in Singapore. Coming to Asia was the perfect opportunity to achieve my goal!

Looking back, my family says I am not the same person anymore. Indeed, I feel transformed and I remember myself having said: “I just want to sweat and improve my flexibility, that’s all. I am not interested in spirituality.”

But Yoga quickly brought me a spiritual dimension and has become fundamental in my life, not only for my body but also for my mind and my soul.

Yoga has enriched me, particularly with 3 treasures that I take care of:

  1. Physical well-being

This was the most immediate benefit for me. Yoga allows to have a muscular, fit and strong body in full awareness. Working on the muscles, the bones and the internal organs are beneficial in the short and the long terms.

  1. Connection with my emotions

I cannot say that I have reached a state of perfect emotional well-being, but I am on my way. I connect with myself rather than trying to force it over and over again and prove my worth. I understand the value of closing the eyes, looking inside myself and building my confidence. I have met amazing people during my practice, people who have inspired me, models of caring and love.

In Sanskrit, Yoga means Union

Union with ourself,

Union with our body and mind,

Union with others

  1. Spiritual fulfillment

It is not about knowing how to do the more advanced positions but rather about general interpersonal skills such as awareness and care. Beyond asanas, Yoga also includes meditation, chanting and devotion. Yoga is definitely a philosophy that allows us to be a better version of ourselves to better interact with the world.

 

Like any path, there have been several stages in my practice, the most recent and most rewarding one being the Yoga Teacher Training.

I’m not sure what the next steps will be, but I enjoy the present. I feel good, I feel a lot better.

“Your body exists in the past and

your mind exists in the future.

In Yoga, they come together in the present”

                                                                                                                     B.K.S Iyengar