Which poses are safe for the spine?

There are often many questions about Yin Yoga and specific spinal conditions. Feel free to ask your question here, or check out other posts or contribute input from your own experience.
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Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Which poses are safe for the spine?

Post by Bernie »

I recently received the following email:
  • Hi Bernie, Firstly thank you for taking the time to write this article and sharing your learnings. Much appreciated as not many yoga instructors take spine health as serious as you do.I'm interested in Dr McGill's work as well and how it applies to yoga during practice. I was hoping to get your quick advice. Because I think you're the best person and I don't know who else to ask. My wife and I practice these poses daily. But unsure if it will cause long term damage to spine Based on the way it flexes and twists. Could you bold if these are Good or Bad? And perhaps more importantly what principles should we look out for in other poses that may cause potential long term injuries?

    Plow Pose - Halasana (good / bad?)
    Headstand - Sirsasana (good / bad?)
    Shoulderstand - Sarvangasana (good / bad?)
    Uttanpadasana - Leg Raised Pose (good / bad?)
    Half Lord of the Fishes Pose - Ardha Matsyendrâsana (good / bad?)
    Intense Forward-Bending Pose - Uttanasana (good / bad?)
    Fish Pose - Matsyasana (good / bad?)
    Cobra Pose - Bhujangasana (good / bad?)

    Thank you so much and appreciate your time & advice in advanced! Peace & light, Aden

Hi Aden

You are certainly welcome, and I am glad you find value in my website and writings. Unfortunately, however, I can't give you what you are asking for. I can't tell you which postures would be good or bad for you, because I don't know you. Just as a doctor wouldn’t prescribe medicine without examining you first, I can't tell if Halasana will be good for you or not. It is bad for most people, but not for everyone. I would say it is a high risk/low reward pose (as is headstand, shoulder stand and fish pose), but this doesn't mean it is bad for you--it may be, but it may be okay too. You have a unique biology and biography and what may be good for you, may be bad for someone else, and vice versa (aspirin is benign for most people but would be dangerous for some others.)

To understand this more fully, I would invite you to read my latest book Your Body, Your Yoga. There you will learn how to pay attention to sensations to help you discover what is safe for you or not. You will also learn about the vast ranges of human variations.

Even better, seek a qualified yoga teacher, tell her your history, background and intention for your practice, let her watch your practice and she can probably guide you to select the postures that will be low risk/high rewards for you.

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