Day 54: Spine and Lower Body Mobility
Controlling the movement of the spine will create a ripple effect to control the whole body. From there, the legs offer many options of movement and restriction. Each articulation has its own mobility particularities that vary from person to person. We continue our exploration from the upper limbs of Day 52 for a better understanding of full body restriction.
Understanding the spine
The back is a fascinating part of the body, it holds the whole body together while moving in several directions. Understanding how the different vertebrae work together and how the different parts of the body are attached to it enables us to move the back in a safe and interesting way.
Our spine evolved into a curved shape to better handle gravitational stress. We can look at the structure of the spine as two layers. The layer toward the inside of the body which is cylindrical with the intervertebral disks is the more structural part. This is where the body will handle compression, weight-bearing and other tensile forces. The bone part is static, and the disks will change their shape to absorb compression, bending and torsion. The exterior layer of the spine is the most mobile with the prolongation of the vertebrae as the static part and lots of different ligaments allowing for movement.
The spine can do four types of movements: flexion (forward bend), extension (backbend), rotation (torsion) and lateral flexion (to the side). The 24 bones of the spine can be divided into four sections with each having different mobility.
- Cervical (neck): The most mobile part of the spine.
- Thoracic (chest): Involved in every type of movement.
- Lumbar (lower back): This is where most of the action happens for flexion and extension beyond the cervical but is quite limited in rotation.
- Sacral (butt): This one is one big block with no mobility.
Coming soon, image with the different parts of the spine
When we breathe in, we help remove some of the compression forces from the spine, which can help reach higher mobility. When the intervertebral disks expand, the bones are further from each other leaving more space for movement. You can quickly experience this by exhaling in a neutral position and then twisting your body in one direction, then try again with your lungs filled with air and see if you can twist a little further.
Average mobility of the spine (angle from a neutral position)
|Type of movement||Flexion||Extension||Axial Rotation||Lateral flexion|
Source: Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews
Lower Body Joints Mechanics and Safety
The legs can be placed and bound in many creative ways. Understanding how the different joints work helps visualize the many possibilities and explore in a safer way.
The hip bone is one of the most important pivot points of the body. It is connected with the sacrum part of the spine. Many muscles are attached to the hip bone, so when it moves, it affects the whole body. Several abdominal, back and shoulder muscles connect the upper body to the hip bone. We also have the glutes, hamstrings, lateral rotator group and some of the anterior compartments of the thighs that attach to the hip bone and connect the legs to the pelvis.
The main point of connection between the hips and the legs is with the femoral bone via the hip joint. It is the largest ball and socket joint of the body, which makes it quite sturdy. It also goes under tons of stress during our lifetime from repeated motion, so pre-existing injuries are quite common. Engaging the muscles in the abdomen and the hips when moving or pulling on the leg will help protect it during a rope session. This is especially important for hypermobile people that can be tempted into letting the leg be pulled away from the socket, which is bad for the joint in the long run.
The knee is a modified hinge joint between the femur, the tibia and the patella (kneecap). Its mobility is mostly flexion and extension but it can also rotate slightly internally and externally. The knee is the largest joint in the body, and it is also prone to injury as it absorbs a lot of the weight and shock from walking, running, jumping. Several tendons and ligaments hold together this structure of bone, cartilage and menisci. We should avoid adding lateral pressure on those tendons as it is vulnerable to shearing forces.
The ankle is actually a combination of three joints between the tibia, the fibula and the talus. It is the most commonly injured of the major joints, sprains and fractures are quite common. The ankle has limited mobility in dorsiflexion, plantarflexion and rotation, which create opportunities for restriction.
And finally the feet, a collection of 26 bones and 33 joints. Individually the joints don’t have a lot of range, but collectively they allow the feet to take many shapes. The feet and toes present many opportunities for tying, we’ll dive deeper into that topic in Week 25.
It’s an interesting contradiction that the lower body is built in such a sturdy way, but is so frequently injured. If these types of injuries aren’t very likely during bondage, it is common for participants to have pre-existing conditions that will affect mobility and have to be taken into consideration when tying. That said, if your bondage session has wrestling vibes, sprains and similar incidents are possible outcomes. Consult a medical professional for any lasting pain.
My favourite part of lower body mobility is that each part has its own mobility and is connected to each other in a way that we can create chain reactions. By understanding each part, we can exploit the natural movement and limitations to create an infinite amount of movement and restrictive positions.
Coming soon – pictures of the lower body with notes on mobility
Warming up and Stretching the Lower Body and Spine
If you’re expecting your rope session to be quite dynamic and to push your body in some ways, it is advised to warm up beforehand. Moving the muscle will activate circulation which helps prevent injury and increase mobility. Here are a few ideas of exercise to warm up the back and the lower body:
- Cat and cow pose. Take the time to breathe in to expand your spine as you move into the positions.
- Russian twists
- Hip rotations
- High knee running
- Feet to the butt running
- Ankle rotation
- Walk with different parts of the foot, front, back, inside, outside
Coming soon, pictures of warm-up
If you wish to increase your mobility in the long run, you can look into doing stretches. It is preferred to do deep stretches after an intense dynamic activity rather than before as it is important to be warmed up and temporarily weaken the targeted muscles. You can start by holding for five breaths, and as you get used to the stretches, start including the PNF principles of holding and relaxing into it for a deeper stretch.
- Backbend – camel, bow pose
- Forward bend – straight leg or butterfly pose
- Open legged lean forward, side
- Sitting twist
Coming soon – pictures of stretches
Partner stretches allow you to get even deeper in your stretches and they feel awesome after an intense rope session. We have to be careful as we help others into a stretch, listen to the body, push gently and slowly.
- Assisted forward bend
- Assisted splits
Coming soon – pictures of partner stretches
There are an infinite variety of warm-ups and stretches you can do. Look into yoga and other physical activities to find what makes your body the best. Check back on day 52 for more tips on warming up and stretching.
Lower Body Restriction and Blood Circulation
The movement of the leg muscles is an important component of blood circulation. The feet being the furthest from the heart, the arteries and the vein need a little bit of help to keep the blood flowing back. This is especially important when standing up since gravity adds an additional force to the system.
We rarely notice this in our daily life as we are walking and moving, keeping the circulation going. Except maybe when we’ve been lying down without moving for an extended period of time and suddenly stand up, it is quite common to experience dizziness or nausea. These are symptoms of circulation slowing down, the blood accumulating toxins and then being pushed back suddenly into the body. It’s unpleasant but not dangerous on its own.
In bondage, we often play with restricting movements in the leg for an extended period of time, which means the same phenomenon is likely to happen. Which can lead to nausea, fainting or panic attacks. This can be mitigated by regularly contracting the quadriceps during the tie, and resuming movement slowly whenever the leg didn’t move for an extended period of time. Tying on the floor is the safest, if you wish to tie standing up make sure there is always someone in catching distance, or have some physical anchoring in place. A great way to keep the calf muscle at work during a tie is to get the person on their tiptoes once in a while. Many fun tortuous ties can help you create this type of play, we’ll look at some of these in Week 25 and 46.
Backbending in hogties
When the person being tied is lying facedown on the ground in a hogtie, there is a point where simply pulling on the rope connecting the ankle to the upper body will not restrict them further. The knees will be flexed at the maximum, but if the spine is stacked straight with the knee, we don’t engage the mobility of the spine.
Start by lifting the knee before pulling the ankle toward the chest and observe how the spine will follow the pulling motion, bringing the feet much closer to the chest. This is much easier when on the side as you won’t have to fight gravity as much. Push the knee to the back to engage the spine.
If you want to focus the bend in the spine, you can limit the flexion mobility of the knee by tying tight wraps right above the knee joints.
Pulling the body into a deeper backbend will increase the intensity and the feeling of helplessness but also makes this tie less sustainable. Be prepared to untie quickly.
Coming soon – pictures of backbend mobility in hogties
Creating Torsion in the Spine
Twisting the body is a fun way to create restriction, get the shoulder in one direction, get the hips in the opposite direction. This is more difficult than it sounds. An important part is to get the spine straight as a starting position. This will give the maximum range of motion to twist the body into position. We’ll dive into more torsion positions on Day 166.
Coming soon – pictures of torsion
Exploring Hip mobility
Try different leg positions and observe the difference depending on the initial position movement direction
- Brings the knees to the chest
- Extend the legs in front
- Leg open on the side, rotate the leg into position
- Sitting cross-legged
- Keep the knees together, bring the knees to the chest, cross the calf and open
- Bring one leg in position first, add the second one after
- Ankles on one side
- Start sitting with the legs in front and bring them to the back
- Start kneeling and just moving the butt on side
- Pigeon pose – one leg in the front, one in the back with knees bent
- Explore the position of the front leg, more tucked toward the body, or more open with hip opening
- Explore the position of the leg in the back. Try having the calf more perpendicular to the back leg.
Coming soon, pictures of different leg positions in rope
Explore the difference in range of motion depending on how you move into position. Once you have found your favourite position, try to tie that position while keeping the angles of the joints in place. Each person is different when it comes to flexibility, observe which part of the spine and lower body has more mobility with different yoga poses.
- Measure the range of motion of your spine for flexion, extension, rotation and lateral flexion. Compare the range if you breathe in.
- Explore bending the back in different positions, lying on the belly, side or kneeling.
- Compare twisting the body with a straight spine vs bending forward
- Compare different ways to get into the same leg position. Which method felt the most natural to you?
- Try asymmetric poses, does one side feel better than the other?
- Does it feel better to move one side before the other? Move them at the same time?
Inspirations and Resources
- Warming Up for Shibari by Shibari Study
- Joint hypermobility & rope – don’t end up like me 😉 by Tieme_tothemoon