Tag Archives: Posture Benefits

Posture Clinic: Why back-bending is good for your spine.

“If you have a good spine, the gods will chase you. Nobody has psychological or emotional problems, everyone has a bad spine.” Bikram Choudhury

Ashley Hooper and Elisa Matthews back-bending photo: Bikram Yoga College of India

by Barbora Simek

Understanding why and how back-bending is beneficial for the spine is a challenge for many yoga students. For many, back-bending is an emotionally charged, challenging and often uncomfortable part of practice. However despite its discomforts back-bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of a yoga practice.

Think of all the time you spend bending forward in a day, from enjoying a coffee with a newspaper, to driving, to typing at a computer, cleaning or lounging with a friend. The reality is, we spend most of our day in an unsupported forward bend.

Internally, forward bending causes the front of vertebrae move closer together, forcing the inter-vertebral disks and spinal nerves back. Prolonged poor posture can:

  • cause or aggravate back and neck pain
  • constrict blood-flow and put pressure on vital organs and glands preventing them from functioning properly
  • has been shown to have negative effects on self-esteem and mood in studies

Ironically, when most people experience back pain or discomfort their first reaction is to bend forward, not knowing it is the cause of their discomfort. In reality back-bending is what is needed to counter-act the impact of continuous forward bending. This impulse is not easy to unlearn.

First it is important to recognize that back-bending is a natural range of motion for the spine. “Think of monkeys or children climbing in a tree who reach backward for a branch, the spine bends backward,” says Jeff Weisman a Toronto based Bikram Yoga teacher and Hellerworker.

As you bend backwards you compress the posterior part of your spinal column, pushing your disks away from the spinal nerves and decompress the front of the vertebrae. This effectively counteracts the damage of hours spent forward bending.

Those concerned and intimidated by back-bending should rest assured that the controlled environment and proper progression of the Bikram Yoga series allows for back-bends to be preformed safely. For those with limitations and injuries, remember to speak to your instructor, move slowly and listen to your body.

Physical Benefits

  • Stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and prepares the body for action.
  • Helps counteract damage of bad posture.
  • Relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow, frozen shoulder.
  • Realigns the spine.
  • Promotes proper kidney function.
  • Helps with digestive function, eliminating constipation and flatulence.

Energetic Benefits

  • Stimulates all the chackras, primarily creating opening in the fourth (heart) chackra.

Emotional Benefits

  • Helps to break through insecurity and fear.
  • Relieves stress and tedium.
  • Opening the lower back helps to free you from insecurity and taking yourself too seriously.
  • Helps to build confidence and self-esteem in children.

Tips from the Pros

Allow your exhale to lower you into your maximum depth, allow your inhale to lift you up and forward. Reverse this pattern on purpose by pulling backward more vigorously into the posture during the inhalation (taking you more fulling into the posture) and then relaxing and easing off the posture during the exhale (thereby reducing tension).- Anatomy of Hatha Yoga, Dr. H. David Coulter

“Lift your breastbone up as you go down into it, instead of jamming only the lower waistband spine.
You HAVE to have your elbows pressing IN, not bowing out before you go down.

Also, LIFT the front of the neck and shoulders and armpits before you drop down.

Then you lift UP, OUT and OVER your waistband spine so you do not get that crimping feeling.” – Mary Jarvis for All Back-bending Heals the Spine

Do not contract the gluteal muscles until you reach your maximum expression then tighten – Rajishree Choudhury (for more read this article)

The standing back-bend is regulated by locked knees – Craig Villani

Drop the head back as far as it goes. The head and arms do not need to stay together. – Bikram Choudhury

Tips for teachers

Beginners are always afraid of back-bending. Make sure to stress that the hips, stomach, legs everything must come forward. – Bikram Choudhury

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Filed under Benefits, Posture Clinic, Posture Tips, Tips and Tricks

Posture Clinic- Standing Bow

After an inspiring weekend of watching competitors with next to perfect standing bows at the International Bishnu Ghosh Cup Hatha Yoga Championships, OMB gives you a breakdown of the pose.

Standing Bow Pulling Pose

Dandyamana Dhanurasana

2009 US Champion Courtney Mace in Standing Bow photo: USA Yoga

Anatomy

Contraction of

  • Quadriceps
  • Gulteus Maximus

Extension of

  • Shoulders -Trapezius / Latisimus Dorsi
  • Groin – Sartorius / Hamstrings
  • Chest – Pectorals / Diaphram / Ribcage

Compression

  • Kidneys
  • Spine

Stimulation

  • Circulatory System
  • Digestive System
  • Reproductive System
  • Urinary System
  • Endocrine System
  • Heart

Benefits

  • Creates natural irrigation of the circulatory system – transfers blood flow from one side of the body to the other
  • Clears plaque off artery walls
  • Helps to stimulate circulation through out the body
  • Eases back pain through compression of the spine
  • Improves elasticity of the spine
  • Tones hips and buttocks
  • Trims and strengthens the thighs
  • Strengthens the ankles and knees
  • Opens the shoulder joints, helps with frozen shoulder
  • Helps alleviate carpal tunnel, arthritis, tennis elbow
  • Helps with cervical spondylosis
  • Good for prenatal recovery
  • Stretches diaphragm and ribcage improving respiration (breathing)
  • Flushes kidneys, bladder and urinary system
  • Alleviates gas, constipation and clears digestion
  • Improves balance

Energetic Benefits

  • releases shame, abandonment
  • resolves issues of self-worth, fear of betrayal
  • develops determination, patience

Posture Tips

Be sure to start with the knees touching together to ensure balance.

Keep your weight toward the front of your foot, watch that the weight does not move into the heel as you initiate your kick

Always remember that, “kicking and stretching are 50/50, equal, simultaneous.” When you increase the force of your kick you must also increase the energy of the arm stretching toward the mirror to maintain your balance.

Just as in standing head-to-knee, the standing leg is your foundation, keep the knee locked with a firm contraction of thigh.

Bikram’s dialogue says to touch the shoulder to the chin, not chin to the shoulder. Keep your chin lifted and extend the arm forward to bring the shoulder and chin together, helping to promote the proper alignment of the shoulders.

BREATHE, try to take a few focused deep breaths in the pose.

On the inhales, harness your energy and stretch the arm forward, on your exhale deploy that energy into your kick.

OMB is going to teach, posture tips from the pros to come tonight!


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Filed under About Bikram Yoga, Benefits, Posture Clinic, Tips and Tricks