Monthly Archives: February 2018

A Novel Approach to Instructing Tadasana

By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kin; C-IAYT

The following clip was originally filmed in response to a question a member posted on Susi’s Studio – hence the reference to Ask Susi. Don’t mind that. Here you will learn how I view the use of Tadasana, and why I don’t see anyone’s posture as being “wrong”.

This is a longer video – 8 minutes, so grab a drink and enjoy,


Playback Quality : High

Quadratus Lumborum: The King of Compensation

By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kin, C-IAYT

In my private practice, I will often see clients who have a Quadratus Lumborum (QL) muscle that is in spasm, or is very tight. Many times, they will tell me that they are trying to retrain their QL so that it doesn’t spasm, however, they are struggling – which is why they booked with me.

Let’s dig in.

The QL connects from the pelvis to the lowest rib and to the upper four lumbar vertebrae. It performs 4 primary movements:

  •     Ipsilateral lumbar flexion or side bending – the left QL moves the left ribs to the left hip.
  •     Lumbar extension – when contracting bilaterally the QL’s move the lumbar spine into a back bend.
  •     Fixes 12th rib during forced exhalation
  •     Elevates the ilium to which it attaches – the left QL moves the ilium toward ribs on the left side.

There is one more action of the QL which you won’t find in anatomy books. I call it “The King of Compensation”!

Exploring the King of Compensation

When function goes awry in the spine and hips, it is remarkable what the QL is capable of. For example, when the erectors spinae become weak and/or when the hip rotators, hip abductors and/or hip adductors become weak or inhibited, or simply aren’t functioning as they should, the QL often kicks in with its superhero cape and stands strongly (for a moment or two), declaring that “yes, I will act as erector spinae, hip abductors, rotators and adductors”. REALLY!

This way of compensation “helps” for a short time. . . but not really because the QL is doing a job that it wasn’t designed to do. And, in short order it becomes tight, experiences reduced blood flow, develops trigger points, and may start to spasm.  Feeling uncomfortable, people will often find their way to active release, IMS, massage, manual adujstments, or specific stretching of the QL, however, while the gains are often effective and good, the solution is short term…the problem isn’t actually being solved, it is just being temporarily relieved.

What to do?

When you are working with someone who is complaining about their QL, or has been diagnosed with a QL issue, consider the following:

  1. Become curious about the person. Be mindful that you aren’t overly focused on them as a body with a QL issue.
  2. Notice if there is hip hiking – you can really see this when they are on their back and are crossing ankle to knee in preparation for “figure 4” aka “thread the needle”. As they lifted their right leg, rotated that right leg in the hip socket and placed their right ankle on the left knee was the movement pure and precise or did the pelvis shift? Often this shift is the right hip slides to the right ribs. Even a little shift is a big deal.
  3. Notice if they are flaring their ribs, or conversely, holding their ribs very firmly when twisting or back bending, or when raising their arms overhead.
  4. Is there a tendency for them to slump – whether a kyphotic slump, or a “shrinking” slump where everything is smushing downward compressing the lumbar spine and heavy into the pelvis.

Also consider what many academics and therapists are saying about the QL:

  • when femur movement in the pelvis is limited or when the abductors and/or adductors of the hips become inhibited or weak, or are not firing as they should, the QL can become overworked.
  • there is a relationship between kyphosis in sitting and a tight or overworked QL.

My over 20 years of experience has shown me how simple improvements of hip function and shoulder function create remarkable gains to allow the QL to pack its superhero cape and just “be”. If I can help someone move without being rigid and firm in the ribs, and instead assist them to move only as far as their ribs are quiet and their abdominals are not rigid, the changes are quick.  When I can help them move with an easy breath, not a overdone “belly” or forced “ujjayi” breath, the changes are even quicker still. When I can help them move a joint the way the joint is meant to move without added tension elsewhere, the changes in motor control and coordination are quicker still. From that place we can build stamina and strength.

The summary is, that while a QL issue is quite literally a pain in the back, it doesn’t have to be long lasting if we look at why the muscle wants to kick in and compensate to get a job done.

Remember my old adage, “The pain is not where the problem is.”

If you want to raise your game and become extraordinary at seeing and improving movement, consider the Therapeutic Yoga Intensive. Registration for Calgary in April and Toronto in September is now open. April has 5 spots available. You can get more details by clicking here. Not only will the Therapeutic Yoga Intensive in Calgary set the foundation for you to build a successful, effective practice, it will help you to become profitable too.

Have fun exploring,


Poor, Poor Piriformis

By Susi Hately, B.Sc. Kin, C-IAYT

Each time I am in a gross anatomy lab, I find myself looking at the piriformis muscle and feeling a little sad. It is a muscle that is blamed for so much pain and strain in the body, yet much of the blame is sorrily misplaced and sometimes unfounded. My hope with this post is to bring a new awareness to this small muscle and what it is really trying to say.

Most yogis have a sense of where the piriformis is – and many are searching for the ultimate pose or position that will bring the ultimate piriformis stretch. Their aim is to create release and openness in the pelvis. They believe that if they release their piriformis they will overcome sciatic symptoms, piriformis syndrome, or other general and profuse “butt pain.” Basically, when “butt pain” is a topic of conversation, the piriformis muscle is right there with it. And it is anything but good.

Hence my sadness. . . .

I want everyone to know that the piriformis is a victim of the neighbourhood it resides in. Its position (deep within the pelvis) and its size (very small) lends it to being compressed and unable to “breathe” (so to speak). If it had a voice, it would say to the other hip muscles, “Would ya start working, already???” It’s doing its best to control the movement of the femur in the acetabulum, playing its part in enabling a smooth flow of energy from the upper body to the lower body and back up to the upper body. But – and it’s a big but, pun intended – it can only do so much when the other muscles are not firing or simply not working together.

Yes, it is a sad sad soap opera. The rest of the body isn’t working as well as it should, the pain arrives in the butt, and voila, we have the supposed culprit. Add to this its proximity to the sciatic nerve, and the whole blame game intensifies.

The piriformis is not at fault. Say it again. The piriformis is not at fault.

The rest of the body needs more functional synergy.

So now what?

Oftentimes the tendency is to chase after the symptom and try to resolve the problem by going after the pain. We like to avoid pain, and if we can just stretch the darn piriformis, isn’t that good enough?

Maybe. But most often not.

If you have issues that have been labelled as being related to the piriformis muscle, the issue is more widespread. Stretch the piriformis all you want, but long term the communication between the piriformis, hip flexors, abductors, adductors, and spinal muscles along with the breath needs to improve. When that happens, you shift your biomechanics, you shift your tendencies and habits, and the piriformis gets new life.

So what to do?

1. Most readers of this post will have the Therapeutic Yoga for the Shoulders and Hips book and online video, and/or the DVD. This is a great resource to explore the movement of your leg bones in your pelvis and the relationship between the pelvis and the spine and between the pelvis and the feet. If you want a copy for yourself, you can find it here –

2. Scale your yoga practice back a bit so that it becomes that much less about doing the pose and more about feeling the movement of your leg bones in the pelvis. Where do you compensate when you move into Triangle, Warrior 2, or Tree pose? Have someone with a keen eye analyze your movement. Do your best to not change your alignment – rather, have the person notice what is happening in the pelvis relative to the rib cage; in the pelvis relative to the spine, and in the femurs relative to the pelvis. Take a moment to truly feel.

3. Remember that you haven’t done anything wrong; you have a coagulation of tendencies and habits that have led to dysfunctional movement. You CAN become more functional. Let your issue be the guide to improvement.

In the end, the squawking of the piriformis is just your symptom for change. It is telling you that something – other than it – isn’t working. Remember it is doing its best despite the conditions surrounding it. The “neighbourhood” is full of poor communication, and when you can get the neighborhood of tissue working more effectively together, the piriformis will feel more at ease, and so will you.

If you want to take this a step further, we have 5 spots available for the April Therapeutic Yoga Intensive.  This is a great opportunity to train your ability to see, to explore your own movement and compensatory strategies and really dig into improving your function and reducing/eliminating your pain. To register, click here.

Happy exploring,