André Foisy plays guitar in Locrian and is a certified yoga instructor who teaches at Turbodog Yoga in Chicago, IL. You can find his yoga teaching schedule and more information about him on his blog. When I tour, I notice that parts of my body start to hurt once that I begin sitting in a van for extended periods and moving furniture from city to city. In my last few tours, I’ve been doing yoga to help me to feel my best. I normally suffer from low back pain and the pain gets pretty intense when I tour. Lately, I’ve been using a pose that I’m calling the Iron Monkey Pose, in honor of one of my favorite bands, to maintain a pain free back on tour and to loosen up my tight hamstrings (the muscles in the back of the thighs).
Low back pain and tight hamstrings go together like PBR and stomach cramps (at least for me). It works like this: tight hamstrings limit the range of motion in the pelvis, so the low back does the work that the legs would be doing if the hamstrings weren’t so tight. So if your low back hurts on tour, then you need to do something not only about your back, but also about your tight hamstrings. Certain things on tour make tight hamstrings and low back pain worse, such as sitting in a van for hours or by lifting amps with poor postures. Iron Monkey Pose relieves low back pain quickly and efficiently by lengthening the torso, strengthening the upper back, and opening up the hamstrings by fatiguing the quads.
The pose is easy to do when stopping to get gas, when you stop to eat dinner at Cracker Barrel, or when your van driver gets pulled over in Oklahoma because you all look the way that you do. You could even do a variation of this pose while seated in the van or chair.
Here’s how the pose works:
Iron Monkey Pose fatigues the quads, which causes a muscle release in the hamstrings. The quads are the antagonist muscle of the hamstrings. When the quads engage, then a muscle receptor in the quad sends a signal to the brain telling it that the quads are contracting and that the antagonist muscle of the quads, the hamstrings, needs to release so that the quads won’t tear.
Benefits: -Decreases bitching in the van -Reduces the desire for anti-depressants on tour as well as intoxicating substances -Releases low back tension, by lengthening spine -Strengthens quads -Releases hamstrings quickly, and safely -Enhances energy
How to work in the pose: 1) Begin by standing with the feet hip distance apart with the knees directly under the hips; 2) Activate the feet (toes are spread and off the ground); 3) Place the weight in the heels; 4) Bend the knees and stick out the butt slightly; 5) Lower the ribcage so that it’s pressed up against the thighs; 6) Clasp hands around elbows; 7) Draw the shoulder blades down the back; 8) Draw the breath into the ribcage; 9) Press arms against legs, tractioning the torso longer and away from the hips; 10) Relax the neck and let the quads smoke.
When the quads begin to quiver, then stay there and keep breathing slowly and deeply.
Variation: This pose can be executed in the van by sitting and then following steps 5-10. This variation won’t release the hamstrings, but it will lengthen the torso and strengthen the upper back.