Flying Therapeutics

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Stading to Forward Fold

Staying 5 minutes in the static position of the Forward Fold is a fantastic stretch of the spine, especially of the lumbar area that is always difficult to relax.

As beginners it's a very good practice to spend as much time as possible in this position. 

Adding one element at the time from the list on the left will allow your practice to grow and become really pleasant.

If you feel like adding some elements yourself where you feel comfortable, please, don't hesitate.

17.21 spotter mistake

In this element, the spotter keeps their center of gravity close to the receiver, and changes position to maintain this whenever the receiver moves.
The spotter’s hands should stay close to the receiver’s hips, but not actually grab them unless the receiver starts to fall. In that case, the spotter can either stop the fall and help move the receiver back to a stable position, or help lower them gently and safely to the floor.
Take special care that the receiver’s head, back and hips never hit the floor!
When the giver and receiver first start practicing, the spotter can provide small corrective adjustments as necessary to help them stay balanced. In time, this should not be required as often.
The spotter should also monitor the giver’s facial expressions…a relaxed face usually indicates good control and balance, whereas a look of panic usually indicates a need for immediate help. 

17.16 extra: base with short hamstrings

A giver with tight hamstrings might find it a problem to extend their legs fully when the receiver is atop their feet.

A short-term solution is to use a pillow to support their sacrum as shown in the video. Use a pillow that's solid enough, since a soft pillow will not provide enough stability.

In the long term, consider a stretching program that focuses on lengthening the hamstrings. This will provide more flexibility and endurance as you progress through more elements in this course.

17.17 extra: base with short hamstrings (solution 2)

If tight hamstrings do not allow you to straighten your legs, first try to use a pillow under the sacrum as described in the preceding video. If you do not have a pillow, then bend your knees and keep your feet in the same line as the receiver's hips. Hold this position as long as your strength allows. The more you bend your knees, the more strength it will take to maintain this pose.

17.15 extra: pointing and flexing

This video demonstrates how much you can adjust the angle of the receiver using your ankles and the angle of your feet. Note how the receiver's legs are behaving depending on the action of the giver's ankles.

There's no need to do this in a therapeutic situation, but using it in training can give you greater confidence in your practice.

17.20 extra: common behaviour

It is important for the receiver to keep their legs from rising upward when suspended so the giver's feet can support them properly.

The receiver can get a bit disoriented when hanging upside down and tend to lift their feet and legs up. This makes it challenging for the giver to support them properly. 

Note how the giver is using his heels and pointing his feet here. This is to compensate for the loss of contact surface with the receiver's legs.

If the receiver's legs rise higher and their knees start closing together, it is important to use your arms to support their shoulders.

This position is fairly stable, but not comfortable, so it is good to ask the receiver to bring their feet closer to the floor.

Don't release the receiver's shoulders until their weight is again properly supported by your feet.

This is a good time to check and see if the receiver is still interested in continuing the session or is ready to return to the ground.

17.18 extra: flying somebody bigger than you

This practice is good for supporting a receiver who is taller than you, since their head will tend to rest on your chest. This can create an uncomfortable position for both giver and receiver.

Note how the giver is positioning the head of the receiver here. She gently guides their head closer to her belly, where despite the head/belly contact, there's now sufficient space for the receiver's spine to extend and elongate.

Flying somebody larger than you is more challenging for even experienced practitioners, but many Forward Fold elements can still be successfully used.

17.7 still hands

This "still position" in Forward Fold is one of the best you can offer. It is calming, stable and instills confidence in both you and the receiver.

The giver's hands on the receiver's back are reassuring and make the position feel more secure, allowing you to find the most stable and balanced position.

Take your time...there should be no hurry to leave this position unless the receiver feels pain in their groin or quadiceps, or their legs start feeling numb.

Take this time to communicate with your receiver if you choose to, noting that their spine is now hanging weightless and without any pressure. The weight of their body, thanks to the gravity, is naturally extending and stretching their spine.

Be sure to maintain a soft and soothing voice. This helps reassure, relax and calm the receiver so they can benefit more from your therapeutic skills and abilities.

17.1 arms stretch

Starting from a stable forward fold position, reach for the receiver’s wrists and gently lift them out to each side to help stretch and extend their arms and shoulders. 

Maintain a soft but steady grip that avoids uncomfortably squeezing the wrist and possibly stretching or burning their skin. 

Exert enough outward force to provide an effective stretch, but not too much to make the receiver uncomfortable. Listen to the receiver’s breathing and gently apply more force while they exhale…then wait while they inhale. 

To help the receiver relax (versus fighting the stretch), occasionally swing them side-to-side slightly, then stretch them again. The video clearly shows how this is done. 

This is an active pose, so pace your own breathing and effort to avoid getting tired or tense during this element.

17.2 lumbar massage

The Forward Fold is an ideal position to release tension so commonly held in the spine.

As you start massaging alongside the spine, you will often see it relax and stretch. As such, this is a very good element to begin any therapeutic session with.

 If you feel stable in this position, slightly bend your knees to reach the lower lumbar spine with your hands. This requires more leg strength initially until you become accustomed to it.

 If you can’t bend your knees because of the receiver’s greater weight or height, simply massage as low down the back as you can reach toward their neck.

17.3 chest opener

This is the first chest opening element you can offer your receiver and should be practiced gently, as it is an invitation to help awaken their spine. 

Start by passing your hands under the arms of the receiver and placing them on their upper back. Adjust your hands to create as much contact area as possible. This avoids putting too much pressure on a single part of the arm or shoulder that could result in pain or discomfort.

Once your hands are positioned, apply a little downward pressure on the receiver’s back while keeping their elbows open. Your legs must stay strong here to provide a little upward counterbalance to the downward force you are applying to the receiver’s back. 

Note how the giver joins his hands on the receiver’s back in this video. If you are smaller than your receiver, this can be difficult to do. Don’t worry, you can still apply sufficient pressure with your hands apart.

17.4 neck stretch

It's always a good practice to ask your receiver about any injuries they may have before starting a practice. Much of the time, however, they neglect to mention long-standing and persistent problems such as neck pain. When performing this element, therefore, be sure to touch the neck carefully and delicately

To start, place all your fingertips at the border of the head and neck on the occipital bone. Then make contact with the back of their head using the full length of all your fingers.

Once you feel stable in the forward fold position, start applying light downward pressure on the receiver’s head.  Ask them if they are comfortable before exerting more force.

If you feel the receiver getting tense during this, release the pressure gently but quickly. You don't want to cause any unnecessary discomfort or pain during this element.

17.5 chop chop

This is a classic Thai Massage technique.

Use the outside edge of your hands to gently “drum” on the receiver’s back. This percussive action is enhanced by keeping a loose and relaxed hinge between your hands and wrist. 

Keep your fingers relaxed and separated. "Chop" is the sound your fingers make when they contact the receiver’s back.

To gain skill and confidence, practice this on your legs…it will help you gauge how much force you can comfortably use on a receiver.

Avoid chopping directly on the spinal vertebrae…aim instead for the fleshy area on both sides of it. If you or your receiver is uncomfortable with chopping for any reason, simply don’t do it. 

This technique relaxes the body and helps releases tension, plus helps keep the receiver’s body awake during and at the end of a session.

17.6 tap tap

Similar to “chop chop”, "tap tap" is another awakening and tension-releasing technique. Make it as soft or as intense as your receiver likes. 

Keep your hand empty and held in a more cup-like position than chop chop…this helps make the tap smoother and more relaxing.

17.7 shoulder-blades

Once you and the receiver are comfortable and feel stable in forward fold position, move your hands under the receiver’s arms. Place your hands on their back, similar to the Chest Opener. 

Instead of joining hands, however, place your hands over the sub-scapular space where the shoulder bones create a cavity. This is where you find the rotators of the arm, so massaging the short powerful muscles here can be very relaxing and pleasurable. 

Start gently until you determine how much force the receiver is comfortable with. Move your hands and fingers as if you were kneading bread. Squeeze a bit toward the spine and increase the intensity if the receiver enjoys it.

17.8 thorax swing

This element is especially enjoyable for a relaxed receiver, but may feel a little uncomfortable if they are holding tension.

Reaching as high as you can with your hands, softly push in alternately pulses on either side of the receiver. If they respond in a relaxed manner as demonstrated here, they are probably greatly enjoying this. If not, you will exert a lot of effort for little effect, in which case, it's probably better to move on to another element. 

Be sure to compensate for the swinging side-to-side movement of the receiver by alternately bracing more with your legs, otherwise they will tend to fall over in the direction you are pushing.

17.9 head between legs

This can be a very relaxing and therapeutic position that offers many different possibilities for working on the back of the receiver.

It can become uncomfortable, however, if the receiver’s skull comes into contact with your knee bones, since this hard connection can be a bit painful. To avoid this, gently push the receiver’s head far enough through your legs so you can then re-close your legs and comfortably cradle their neck instead of their skull. 

Note how the giver is moving the receiver’s body and taking her time applying thumb pressure on the back of the receiver.

17.13 shampoo

This can be a very relaxing component of the forward fold element. Although your receiver may have concerns about their hair getting disheveled a bit, chances are they won’t complain about how good this feels. 

Be sensitive about this and do it for as long as you and the receiver feel is appropriate.

17.14 cervicals

Massaging the cervical spine can be especially relaxing and therapeutic. Work gently here since the neck tends to be very sensitive to touch.  

If you feel the receiver tensing up instead of relaxing during this massage, simply move on to another element.