This is a continuation of my post on Callanetics, a popular exercise program from the 1980s. …
You wouldn’t think, to see her contort her body in her exercise videos, that Callan Pinckney had a bad back. She did. From birth:
She was born with spinal curvatures, one hip higher than the other and severely turned-in feet. She was forced to wear leg braces for seven years.
When she wrote Callanetics For Your Back, she was consulting not just research (at a time before the internet) but personal experience. She knew what could cause injuries, spasms, and chronic pain.
Hamstring stretches. Pinckney says, “many people – even those who are classified as fit – have tight hamstring muscles.” These stretches can injure those muscles as well as the lower back, especially if done with locked knees, as below, or bouncing:
Splits, lunges, deep knee bends. Can injure knees and groin.
Back bends, the cobra position in yoga, and this one, the “swimmer.” Any arching or hyperextending the back can cause injuries:
Shoulder stands, bicycling with legs in air, plough in yoga. Can you guess what you’re injuring here? (“The position crunches the more fragile vertebrae of the neck.”) Even neck rolls, when you drop the head back, can do this.
Waist circles and waist bends. Can injure lower back. A safer way to do this is to support your back by placing that lower arm on your hip, and by tipping the pelvis up, i.e. the pelvic wave.
Sit-ups. Very bad for lower back. See Callan’s video in my previous post for how to do this safely. (Lower back should be on the ground.)
Leg lifts, done lying on back or side, even seated. Injures lower back. Note her arched back in this diagram:
Leg thrusts, to back or side. Injures lower back. Again, note her arched back in this diagram. Callan’s “exercises for the hips and behind” are a LOT more effective, I can attest.
These “stay away” positions can damage muscles, nerves, discs, tendons, and ligaments. Some damage can be life-long, especially if you keep reinjuring yourself.
Something else she talks about is losing your balance. I don’t hear this much. Tilting your head back or bending over or swinging your arms and legs vigorously can increase the risk of a fall. If there’s one thing you don’t want to do, it’s fall. No falling.
“Callanetics For Your Back” is a great book. Pinckney had a real passion for and commitment to her work. She was one-of-a-kind.