Forward bends/spine/kyphosis

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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Bernie
Posts: 1152
Joined: Sat Sep 23, 2006 2:25 am
Location: Vancouver

Forward bends/spine/kyphosis

Post by Bernie »

I was recently asked the following questions:
  • Bernie, Firstly, Thank you for all your informative books..I have them all! I just have this burning question......

    It is my understanding that one of the wonderful aspects of practicing Yin yoga is that a student has the opportunity to re-balance many of their “over-stretched “ muscles in their body. In my experience teaching this modality for over 6 years I almost always see that 90% of my students are coming into my class with their back body (except for the calves) being chronically overstretched. Even my younger students 14 year old athletes I am seeing the beginning of kyphosis. Why then would I ever do more than one or even two forward bends per class? Especially if these student are only practicing once a week with me...doesn't it make more sense for them to do many more poses in extension and twists? Particularly if they are predominately in forward flexion in their everyday life. (texting, computers....emotionally......) ...

    Thanks so much...looking forward to your response....
    With gratitude and respect, Jacquie
Hi Jacquie

This is a great question. Most people spend their days hunched over a computer or book or dinner or steering wheel. We do a lot of flexion of the spine, and not just the thoracic: also the lumbar and cervical spine is flexed for many hours a day. So, why offer any flexion postures in any yoga class?

Well, there are a couple of points to make. First and foremost: to balance all the spinal flexion, we should be doing more spinal extensions! Sphinx pose, Saddle, Supported Bridge, Heart Melting Pose (Anahatasana), Reclining over a bolster, and Seal poses are great ways to undo the constant flexion of the spine. Diana Batts, who co-teaches the Yin Yoga Teacher Trainings with me, rarely uses Butterfly pose for this reason. She starts most of her classes with Sphinx, and a long Sphinx at that.

The second point, however, is that - while we do spend a lot of time in flexion, we are not close to our maximum flexion range of motion. It is healthy to spend a little time moving the spine through its full range of motion to prevent shrink wrapping to a limited range. People will become frozen to the position they chronically adopt and lose the ability to go further. So, to keep what is our normal range of motion, there is a reason to add some flexion postures to the practice.

If you see a student who is hyperkyphotic, I would suggest having them spend much more time in Heart Melting Pose and Sphinx/Bridge than in Butterfly, but do add a little bit of flexion to their practice to make sure they keep their full range of motion. And, yes - twists and sidebends are also great.

Cheers
Bernie
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