Tutorial #3233

Short Spine Massage

15 min - Tutorial


Learn how you can work your way up to Short Spine Massage in this tutorial with Brett Howard. He starts on the Cadillac, showing exercises that are "cousins" to the full exercise. Once you can master the break downs and progressions he shares, you will be able to use these skills for the full movement.
What You'll Need: Reformer (No Box), Cadillac, Triadball

About This Video

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Nov 26, 2017
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Hi, my name is Brett Howard and today I'm going to do some break downs and progressions of the short spine massage. So the short spine massage is an exercise that you can see in many different ways. So there's the choreography of it is endless so there's no right way or wrong way to do the short spine you just have to find what variation is going to work best with the client in front of me at this moment. So what I'm going to do though is I'm going to work with Lisa Loomer and we are going to first start on actually not on the Reformer, we're going to start on the Tower or on the Cadillac with the Tower. And I like to do that because a lot of the skills that are involved in the short spine massage on the Reformer, you're going to do those skills here on the Tower but the nice part about the Cadillac is that the base does not move whereas the base of the Reformer is mobile so there's a lot more stability here.

The other thing is you're going to get a lot more feedback push pulling because of that nice solid bar and the spring pulling against that. So in terms of the central nervous system it's much easier for the client to get a grasp and to get a handle of the exercise or on the concept here, on the Cadillac. So Lisa I'm going to have you lie down. And just be careful of your head there. And your going to lie down with your collarbone, yes directly underneath there.

I'm going to have you reach back, grab ahold of the metal pulls. Now hug the midline with the elbows. I'll lift this up for you for today then you're going to bring your feet here. There we go. Now a lot of times on the Tower we do focus on the hips staying down but in this beginning position I'm okay for the pelvis to rise a little bit so you can just let the knees bend, let your ankles bend.

I always say that this is a folder, this is a folder, it's okay to let this fold. When we stretch the legs, the hips are going to go down. Good, you comfortable here? So simultaneously I want you to stretch your legs as you point your feet. Let's try it one more time.

Maybe stretch the legs and point the feet at the very end of it, sorry. So stretch the legs and point the feet and I'll hold there. Now, I'm going to really focus on the pressure here of the ball of the foot pushing into the bar. So the spring is pushing downward, the ball of the foot will be pushing upward. Push up through the ball of the foot as you curl up to the tailbone.

So it's really the tailbone that's doing the work but I need that strong position of the ball. There we go. Now, simultaneously you're going to bend the knees as you flex the feet and then bend those knees a little bit more so if she would grab a hold of her ankles here, she would be in the rolling like a ball position. Now extend the legs as you point the feet then from there start with your sternum, melt down to your spine one vertebrae at a time, sternum all the way down to tailbone. Then from there I want you to really feel the sacrum pressing in.

You're going to flex the feet then point the feet. Now simultaneously bend the knees as you flex the feet. It's okay for the pelvis to rise here. So then we're close to that rolling like a ball position again. Let's do that one more time.

So, simultaneously extend the legs and at the very end let's get to a nice point so that way we have a surface to push against. So you're going to push with the ball of the foot as you curl up through the tailbone. So there's a two way stretch there. Pushing upward, pulling downward. Then from there you're going to flex the feet as you bend the knees and come to a nice folded rounded position there, beautiful.

Simultaneously extend the legs and then point the feet. Now start with the sternum. You know this cue, kill the fish. You've got the fish all the way down one vertebra at a time. Then you're going to flex the feet, point the feet, simultaneously fold, let the knees fold, let the ankles fold and just go into that tight little position there like you're rolling like a ball.

I'm not worrying about this coming up at this moment. Okay, so I'm going to have this, I'm going to have you reach up, grab a hold of the bar and then you can take one foot off, then the other foot off and we'll ease this down together, alright. Then let's glide you from underneath there. So once I see that the client is doing a really good job with this, they're starting to master some of the skills that I know that I'm going to see later on the Reformer, then I want to transition them to do it on the Reformer. I like to talk about cousins a lot so this exercise is very similar, the Tower to the short spine, similar to things like the rollover to jackknife to a rolling stomach massage to a long spine massage.

They're very similar and a lot of it is that it's hard for the client to get their hips up. Now another thing I might do in preparation with this is I might do a little bit of a spine corrector or small barrel as well. What I would do is I would do exercises like stretch with the bar and also arm circles, things that are going to open up pec major, pec minor cause a lot of times they're a problem why a client can not get their hips to lift is because they're so tight here, their arms are so spread that they can't have any retraction of the scapula to assist in allowing the hips to go up. So if I see that the client is still very tight rounded even if the Tower is strong, I'm still going to have to do exercises to loosen up the pecs to give them a better chance of doing the short spine massage on the Reformer. Okay, so let's move to the Reformer.

Okay so, my next step is to then bring them to the Reformer. Now when I worked with Romana, she said, I don't want anyone doing the short spine if they can't get their hips up and put those straps on the feet. And so when I worked with Romana, actually the short spine didn't start down, it actually started up. So you're legs were up, you rolled down and then you extended the legs out to go up and over. Now I always thought that was interesting because I said well part of the short spine benefit is that the straps actually assist the client to get their pelvis up and over but at the same time I do understand what she was talking about because it brings in that idea of the rolling like a ball back into it.

So, I don't find it super easy to just lift the hips up, so what I like to do, and this is a really great variation for men because a lot of my men are kind of bound and not quite so flexible, so this is a great start or it could be a great modification or variation instead of doing the short spine massage but I use it as a prep a lot. So, Lisa, you're going to bend the knees into the chest and I just take this ball and I have them squeeze down on the ball like so. Now just reach back and grab the back part of the carriage. Good, you comfortable there? So, the initiation's going to be the tailbone curling up, the knees going directly to the shoulders.

So if I have her, bring her hands and her ankles if you can do that real quick, I won't let you fall. Look here, she's in the rolling like a ball position. Now you can bring her hands back down. Good and then roll back down through your spine. So lets do that again, bring the knees in.

This time I'm going to keep the hands there. She finds this position and then I give the cue, push the heels into the ball to roll down one vertebrae at a time. The action of pushing the heels into the ball, it allows the spine to curl more into a tighter ball so you're getting more a spine massage. Let's do that one more time. So roll the knees to the ears, good.

Tight rolling like a ball position, she pushes her heels into the ball to roll down through the spine. Alright, I'll take that away from you. Okay I have her now on two springs and then I almost did something really bad. (laughing) As that ball gets away from me, I always like to attach the spring, assemble the springs in the very back cause Mana was very big on that cause if you're here you're chit chatting and boom, that client's not coming back to you. So, not very good business.

So, what you're going to do is I'm going to pull these to you, because another thing Ramana didn't like, she didn't like for you to reach up because you might be able to get the leg there but when you come back down you run a great risk of pulling a hamstring muscle. So, both knees into the chest. Alright, you're going to bring one foot in here then the other foot in here. Good and then make a just tight little ball here. How's that?

Alright, so I'm going to start with just a simple frog. That's my first step. Extend the legs out, as she extends out she's pushing with the straps, she's pulling and zippering up through the abdominals finding that two way stretch. Now bend the knees back into the chest making tight little position here. Hold there, bring the hands on your ankles.

Now roll the head, neck and shoulder up, here again that's that same rolling like a ball position. Rest your head down, arms down, extend the legs out as you zipper up into opposition so you find that two way stretch. Bend the knees and come back in. Alright let's do that one more time, extend the legs out. Good and bend the knees and come back in.

While I'm doing this I'm giving cues of keeping the weight on the sacrum, keeping the tailbone down so when they come down I don't want them to curl too far in on the Reformer. Okay, let's now add on the next step which could be the same day or can be a session or two later. Alright, extend the legs out. Now, the important thing here is to maintain the weight on the sacrum and the tailbone so I don't want the tailbone to rise here. She's just gonna bring her legs back as far as she can without the tailbone rising.

Depending on the hamstring length, it's going to be different for everyone. Let's stop you right here and now what I want you to do is, it's a weird cue but I just say, stick your butt out cause everyone knows how to stick their butt out. Now bend the knees and come all the way back into that starting position. Good, now extend the legs out. Now crease in the hips and then let the legs fold til she creases, creases, folds.

She goes to where she can. There we go, and then bend the knees into the chest. Now sometimes the short spine massage, yes, it starts out at 45 degrees and you go up and over, but that's a little bit more of an advanced skill. When I'm first working with a client, I think this skill is more suitable. Okay, one more time, extend the legs out.

Now fold and crease in the hips, bring the legs as far back as you can control without taking weight off the sacrum or the tailbone and then bend the knees and come back in a position. Okay my next step is to then add on going up and over. Now, if the client needs it though, I might choose to do this before though. Bring the soles of the feet flat together and make a little prayer position. Now grab ahold of the straps.

Maybe a little bit, yes, lower. Now don't lift anything, push your fist up a little bit to, yes. Little bit higher actually, even more, right there and then bring your fist together so that way you have a lot of tension on this strap here. So push into my hand and then what you're going to do is you're going to curl the tailbone up and you're going to try not to move the carriage right to there. Then from there you can meltdown to your spine.

K, let's try that again. Curl the tailbone up, so it allows them to get into those lower abdominals. And roll back down. One more time, curl the tailbone up. And it's something very easy for them to do by themselves.

And roll the spine all the way down. Okay, now we're going to go back to what we were working on before. Extend the legs out into that frog position. So we've done this skill. Now fold up the hips, crease at the hips, weight on the tailbone goes far back as you can without the hips coming up.

Now stick the butt out, press the weight down. We've done that skill. Now we've done this skill. For right now, only the first one. Demi point, so then you can press into the ball of the foot.

Now you're on the tower, my hand is the tower bar. Push the tower bar away and roll back on that back diagonal. We've already done this skill on the Cadillac before. Then from there, bend the knees and make a tight, tight little ball and then roll like a ball all the way down to your spine. There we go.

Alright let's do that again. So this is what I'd first start with. Extend the legs out, I won't have them lift from here, that's very hard. Bring the legs back to where you can. We've done all the skills just master of skills and building on top of them.

Now, you don't need to go into demi point. Push the Tower bar away. Beautiful, she goes all the way back until the carriage comes to a close then from there bend the knees, make a tight little ball. Push into the imaginary ball that's between your bottom and your heels. Okay, now once they're getting a little bit more flexible and they're able to roll down one vertebrae at a time, they're getting that nice spine massage, I might add, change the ending of it a little bit to give them a little deeper spine massage.

So, beginnings the same, extend the legs out to where you can control. Fold and crease at the hips, go to where you can. Now push the Tower bar away, roll up to your spine one vertebrae at a time, wonderful. Now from here, you're going to bend the knees. Roll like a ball right to here, maybe a little less, right here.

Then from there she's not going to move her heels. I want you to roll your six bones away from the heels and try to get as much of your lower back on the mat as possible. So this gives a little bit deeper stretch now of the back and it's going to work a little bit and stretch the hamstrings as well. Now bend the knees, pull the heels in as you roll the rest of the way down. Let's do that once again.

Extend the legs out. Bring the legs back to where you can without the tailbone rising. When you get to that point, push the Tower bar away and roll up to your spine one vertebrae at a time reminding them where they've done these actions before. Alright, bending the knees. Now roll just to here then roll the hips away from the heels opening up the lower back and then sometimes what we would of done just safely if we know the client, we can give them a little stretch here, hold there or a little stretch here.

Okay, now pull the heels into the bottom and that's now a nice yummy stretch. You know they're almost done with that 10 pack hard. You're like, okay, let me give you a nice little stretch there, so you're going to buy 10 more. Alright, now another one that I like to do is, I shouldn't of said that because now I'm, (laughing) now they know my trick. Now extend the legs out to 45 degrees, this is a different variation.

Keep weight on the sacrum, same beginning, roll down. This one we call the prayer foot variation. Rolling up on that diagonal one vertebrae at a time bringing the carriage all the way home. Now from here, you're going to bend the knees and bring the soles of the feet flat together in a nice wide open position. Yep, open the knees a little wider, right there.

Now she's going to maintain this angle. She's going to maintain this angle and she's just going to roll down through the spine, maintaining that and that just gives a little bit more opening in the sacrum. Let's do that one more time. Extend the legs out and it doesn't have to be completely flat together, depends on where the ball of the femur fits in that acetabulum. Some people are very wide, some people a little less wide.

Now start with tailbone rolling up one vertebrae at a time bringing that carriage to a home or to a close rather. Now bend the knees as you lea, yes. Now tight little ball, roll down just a different variation. You have to be careful though with the client who has a compromised knee on that variation. Alright, so let me show one more thing.

Extend the legs out. Over time, yes, maybe they might start from here but this is not for, I would say, the general everyday client. The one I just showed is a little bit more of a short spine massage and it's going to give you a better massage. This is going to take more control and you might have to do some different skills to get up to it. What I like to do is I play operation.

I say, roll up as much as you can and I say, oop don't touch my hand and do it again. And so they start to learn how to lift up like so and roll down. Okay, and then eventually yes, we would then move on to the rest of the short spine massage but I don't feel that the majority of your clientele really needs to do that. They can, but you know, Rome wasn't built in a day. Master one thing then start to build on it.

Don't want to give all of your cards away too soon, right. And so that's the short spine massage. Hopefully this was helpful.


Brett, thank you for bringing us your deep insight into the progressions.
Love the preps, progressions and modifications. Thank you Brett.
1 person likes this.
I enjoyed the connection you make with the exercise "cousins". Great way to educate the client.
1 person likes this.
Your tutorials are awesome! Thank you.
Brett this is really great! Thanks for sharing all your wisdom. XO
Really good progression to use with client as they become more knowledgeable with the move.
you are a fabulous I love watching you teach. You edit your cues and keep them crispand to the point. thanks Brett

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