- Hey Bernie, I hope this email finds you well. I was asked recently if the long stay with a round back in forward folds in yin yoga might trigger a bulge disc (both for a healthy spine and for an injured one). Another student who's used to internally rotating her legs to protect her lower back was concerned that allowing her feet to 'flop' outwards, especially in long held back bends, might create pinching in her lower back. I would be very grateful if you can tell me what would be your answers, as my answers to these two students were not satisfying enough for them. (I suggested that the joints and bones will gain strength and stability from the long holds).
Many thanks and gratitude for your work,Noga
You are not going to like my answer ; The answer is - it all depends! MOST people will have no problem having their backs rounded for 5 minutes or so in a Yin Yoga pose. We spend way more time with a flexed spine when we sit at desk or watch tv. And most disc damage occurs during movement of the spine when it is under load. Yin Yoga will not trigger a back problem for most people because we are not moving and the spine is not bearing a great load, however, if someone already has a bulging disc, forward folds could aggravate the problem. Their doctor or physical therapist should advise them what positions to avoid. In these cases, twists may also be contraindicated and backbends recommended, but again-the health care provider should be making the diagnosis and prescriptions, not us yoga teachers.
Where should the feet be in a pose? I don't know. I don't really care! What I care about is whether the student is getting the stress we want in the targeted areas. If she does and her feet are “flopping out,, who cares? If she isn't, then what can she do to get the desired stress? Maybe then she can play with where her feet should go. Help her find the alignment that works for her, and let her know that how she looks in the pose is irrelevant. What she feels in the pose is important. (Her worry that it “might, create pinching is speculation. Does it? If it does, don't do it! But there is no inherently dangerous about where her feet point.)