Yoga Tune Up: Tension Tune Down Series "Lower Back"

Jill Miller
Year Released: 2009

Categories: Yoga
- Audio Workout

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I’m reviewing this workout after doing it several times.

General workout breakdown: This 20-min. CD contains a program which, as Sharon describes so well, focuses on the quadratus lumborum and related muscles in your lower back, using two rubber balls to put pressure on specific points as well as roll out tension.
Jill has you begin with feeling out the points to be worked on your low back, then observing your low back on the floor in ardha savasana (half rest). The first four tracks of activity move progressively up the lower back. They begin with anterior and posterior tilt, which is designed, among other benefits, to increase your flexibility in extension (bending backwards). This alternates with gliding laterally across the muscles, adding in a drop of the buttocks and then a “bite,” or mini side bend, with the pelvis to increase the ball’s pressure into the pressure points. In the middle two positions you also have the option of adding in a mini scrub chug. The final exercise finds you propped on your elbows, with your body in a hammock-like position, mowing back and forth over the balls to release any last bit of tension. The practice ends with a moment in the starting position of half rest to note the difference in sensation.

Level: I’d recommend this to people who have enough body awareness and anatomy knowledge to feel comfortable working with audio-only media; yoga experience is a bonus. You don’t need to be particularly “advanced” in anything or have amazing flexibility or strength to do this series at all.

Music: none.

Production: clear sound.

Equipment: 2 Tension Tune Down balls (2 ½” rubber balls). It’s worth getting the ones Jill sells (or, if you can find them more easily, 2 ½” Hi-Bounce Sponge Pinky Balls, which is what my original set from Jill are) rather than using a tennis ball. Although the same size, the denser and grippier nature of the TTD balls will make the exercises just that much more effective.
You’ll also need two blocks (substitute: phone books or some other thick volumes, like those discount volumes of Shakespeare’s complete works lying around).
I’d recommend more form-fitting clothing for this series; a voluminous t-shirt or baggy pants will probably result in a lot of stopping to readjust clothing and the balls.

Space Requirements: you should be able to lie down comfortably with your feet at a wall (or something else that you can prop your blocks against that won’t move).

CD Notes: The CD has 8 tracks, with each area / exercise getting its own track. Note that the 1st track is the introduction, the 2nd is an overview of the anatomy involved, and the 8th is a simple rest or pause to absorb the effects.
The CD comes with a fold out chart with arrows pointing on images of Jill to the proper location of the balls for each track. Jill refers often to this chart, which can be awkward as you fiddle around with it, the balls, and your clothing (especially if you’ve removed your eyeglasses or contacts and dimmed the lights – and have to fight off a cat who can’t decide whether she’d rather steal the bouncy balls from you or shred the paper you’re waving around).

Comments: As with all of the TTD series, Lower Back works equally well as a stand alone practice, as a warm-up, or after your main workout or practice.

As with anything, check with a qualified medical or therapeutically trained professional if you have a serious medical condition. If you experience more than a “comfortable amount of discomfort,” Jill reminds you to stop and seek such help out.

I primarily use this to relieve mild discomfort and tension in my back that results from poor posture, too much sitting, a challenging weights workout, etc. I wouldn’t be comfortable using it with an unhealthy back, however. I mildly sprained my lower back in January (I twisted awkwardly while carrying a big pile of books), and I was excited when I saw Jill had this planned. I’m glad it didn’t come out until after my sprain had pretty much healed, however, as this probably would have been too much for my particular condition.

Jill recommends following this with Hips & Buttocks, especially if your lower back is tight as a result of issues with your sciatic nerve, sacrum, or hips. You could also pair it with Upper Back & Neck to work out knots from the base of your neck to the top of your pelvis.

Instructor Comments:
Jill’s instruction and enunciation are both clear. My only complaint is her (in my opinion) over-reliance on the accompanying chart for the position of the balls, especially when the cue for getting into the next position is to return to the previous and then move the balls a little; that said, part of the benefit of using systems like these is figuring out where these places are on your own body, which you should be able to do after a few times through.
Jill speaks with warmth, humor, and liveliness; she’s a little on the peppy side here, but well within my realm of tolerance. She uses straightforward language and down to earth images. She demonstrates an intelligent yet intuitive knowledge of anatomy, particularly muscles in motion. While she clearly respects yoga and similar systems with all of their traditions, she manages to make her yoga practice her own without making it feel like she’s being different for the sake of being different.