Imagery Exercises for the Erector Spinae
1. Roll down, roll up from transversospinalis: Imagine the erector spinae muscles. Lying deep to them are the transversospinalis muscles. Flex your spine and roll down slowly, focusing on the transversospinalis muscles. Roll up again, initiating from the transversospinalis. In rolling down, imagine the spinous processes stretching away from the lower-lying transverse processes. In rolling up, imagine the spinous processes being pulled downward toward the lower-lying transverse processes. Repeat several times and notice the sensations arising from your spine and especially notice your posture. See if you can perform this exercise without moving at all as a mental simulation of movement with the previous anatomical imagery.
2. Roll down, roll up from erectors: Perform the same movement as previously, but focus on the more superficial erectors: spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis. Notice the difference in feeling between the two images.
3. Activate the deep muscles: Imagine the deep muscles of the spine, the transversospinalis muscles. Starting from an upright position, roll down the spine. As you roll up again, imagine the strength for this action residing in the deep spinal muscles while the superficial muscles remain soft and relaxed. You may imagine muscles sliding to focus your activation on the deep layers. Repeat rolling down and rolling up with this focus. Notice the improved alignment and feeling of centeredness in the spine after this imagery exercise. Also practice this as a mental simulation of movement combined with the previous image.
4. Deep and superficial multifidi (standing): Notice the state of your low back: How relaxed or tense does it feel? Move your low back by anteriorly and posteriorly rotating your pelvis. Now visualize the multifidi. Imagine that you are lifting your arms without actually doing it. Mentally simulate moving your torso. Imagine you are rapidly lifting and lowering your arms. Now lift and lower your arms actively several times and notice changes in your perception of lumbar spine movement. Has anything changed?
5. Melting the superficial layer (standing position): Place the fingertips of both hands on the multifidi just above the sacrum. See if you can find a position where the multifidi (at least the superficial layer) seem relaxed. Imagine the superficial layer is melting. It may be helpful to flex your legs and slightly rotate your pelvis to find this position. Once you have achieved some relaxation, see if you can maintain this superficial softness as you very slightly flex and extend your lumbar spine. Give it at least two minutes before you remove your fingers. You may now notice that your low back has relaxed significantly.
6. Centered action of the abdominals (sitting, standing, supine): Visualize four pairs of small spheres, or beads, on four common strings—one vertical, one horizontal, and two diagonal, all joining at the navel. As you exhale, watch the beads move toward each other and merge at the navel. As you inhale, the beads glide back to their original positions (figure 12.38).
7. Pelvis suspended from the back of the neck (standing): Imagine the front rim of the pelvis to be hanging from the back of the head on strands of muscles spiraling around to the front of the body like an apron hanging down in front and tied at the back of the neck. As the back of the head floats up, so does the front rim of the pelvis. Watch the sacrum drop as the front of the pelvis rises.
8. Water releases the muscles (standing): Imagine comfortably warm water flowing down along your spine and releasing muscular tension, melting it away wherever it can be found (figure 12.39). Be detailed about the image as you see the water flow around the transverse and spinous processes and relax the areas around all muscle insertions. Imagine also the muscles around your coccyx releasing. If you are successful in relaxing the muscles, you may feel more centered on your legs, and your shoulders will relax.
9. River down the back (supine): Imagine a river flowing down your back, expelling all muscular tension (figure 12.40). Visualize the tension points as little rocks and pieces of wood carried out with the flow. Imagine the murky water turning crystal clear. Watch the river flow down through the gutters between your spine and ribs to flush out all remaining tension.
10. Stroking the cat’s back (supine, sitting, standing): Imagine your back to be covered with fluffy fur like a cat’s back. Visualize the fur as ruffled and in disarray, and mentally stroke it from head to tail, untangling and smoothing it (figure 12.41). (Exercise adapted from Barbara Clark.)