yoga seeds #20 – The hip way to your back

Last week somebody told me how wonderful their body had felt after the class the previous week. They suffer from ongoing back pains and they all seemed to be gone as they woke up the next day. The current theme block I’m working on is backbends and on that specific session we had focussed intensively on stretching the front of the hip. What does the hip have to do with the back? A lot! The hips are the gateway between our core and our connection to the earth through our legs. If the trunk is not sitting how it should be on top of the legs, the spine will be thrown out of its beloved natural curves into a strenuous shape in order to keep us balanced and in relationship with the world. The ubiquity of the chair in our society, both for work and for leisure, means that our hips spent a long time flexed forward. If we don’t stretch our hip flexors to counteract this, they will be permanently pulling together the abdomen and the thighs. If the muscles cannot open this angle when we stand up, this will pull the top of the pelvis forwards. To compensate and also so that we can look ahead of us, the spine will need to curve backwards. The easier points where the spine can do this are the lower back and the neck. What a coincidence… two very usual spots for tension! Of course, back problems can have many other origins. However, if you spend a long time on a chair, do treat your back regularly to some hip low lunges (anjaneyasana) and high lunges (ashwa sanchalanasana). Your back will thank you for it!

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.

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yoga seeds #11 – Sitting up straight…

… is actually not sitting up straight at all but, rather, sitting up curvy! Our spine is happiest with its natural curves (towards the front at the lower back -lumbar lordosis-, towards the back at the ribcage -thoracic kyphosis- and towards the front at the neck -cervical lordosis-) and that’s when it’s most efficient in terms of managing loads, absorbing impact or staying still. If we’re starting to sit for longer periods to meditate or do pranayama it’s very common that our unaccustomed back muscles start to complain. First of all, make sure that the spine is in its optimal position. Sit on a folded blanket or a cushion to support the pelvis in staying upright and make it easier to drop the weight of the knees. Ground the sitbones by pressing them down and you will notice the spine waving upwards. Check your lower back with your hand to make sure it’s not curving backwards. Check that you’re not leaning forwards: the head is right above the ribcage and the ribcage right above the pelvis. Make space at the front, back and sides of the trunk. Rest your heart back onto your shoulderblades slightly. Make sure that the chin is not pulling up. Even with an optimized position, we might need to be patient as the muscles gain tone, and fatiguing them will not take us faster to our goal. Just persevere in building the position from the bottom up, finding your natural curves and rooting into the earth so that you can rise up high.

Thanks to all my students at Yoga Hub Berlin, who inspire me with their practice.