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Asana ?

Hubert2010-07-05 00:13:11 +0000 #1
Could someone recommend an asana to bend back the upper half of the spine, without bending too much the lumbar area ?
Nichole2010-07-05 00:25:29 +0000 #2
so bending through both the thoracic and cervical spine is within your search? extension of lumbar spine it OK too?

can you tell us what you've tried already that left you needing more?

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InnerAthlete2010-07-05 00:21:29 +0000 #3
It is the student, through actions, that controls the mobility, or in this case hyper-mobility of the lumbar spine. It is this way since yoga is about moving some things and stabilizing others, rather than it being about becoming supple and flexible.

And while I completely agree with Nichole's request for more feedback from you, the backbending asanas are very easily found with a google images search.

However, if you simply want "an" asana where the focus of the anatomical body is on moving the thoracic spine rather than the lumbar then you may have Bhujangasana.
Hubert2010-07-05 01:09:51 +0000 #4
I just included bhujangasana into my practice a few days ago. Having low back issues (sacralized firts vertebrae, or so I have been told by the physican I visited some years ago), I still feel discomfort in my low back doing this pose, on the right side. It is not pain, just a sensation " I should be very carful with this, perhaps I should stop"

I have extra curvature (inwards) in my lombar area, what translates into extra curvature (outwards) in the cervical spine. Because I had lumbar pain, I focused on strenghtening the abdominals, opening the hips, by streching the ilioposas and the hamstrings. I chose a few beginner level asana to achieve this, including tree pose, warrior 1, downward dog, baddha konasana, supta padanghustasana, side plank with support on the elbows and savasana. I did manage to achieve some stability and postural improvement, but this just made obvious the problem in the upper spine.

I am making good progress, but this is perhaps too much of a change, and too sudden (a rough 5-6 months), and my spine is uncomfortable with it. Namely I feel now what the ideal postion would be, and I can stand straight in a correct postion, in tree pose if I keep my awarness on this, having the tighs contracted, knees extended, chest lift up, lower back extended and lifted, pelvis horizontal (tailbone pushed towards the ground), feets well grounded, breast widened, shoulders slightly lifted and drawn back, neck in extension fo the spine. I also noticed that in this pose, if I take a deep breath, and retain it, than it naturally puts my spine into the correct position. Now only if I could retain it forever, I'd have a perfect posture.

The question is how sould I extend my asana inventory to relief the thoracic-cervical area. What I was doing: From savasana, I raise my arms, parallel to the ground, and sweep up and down, with arms bent at 90 degrees. Then with arms upward and extended, I turn my head from right to left, and vice versa, a few times, slowly. Retention of breath helps here, too. Not for long, just like 10 seconds most, as it feels right, without pressure in the throat.

I also found that "crunches"; raising the upper body with the lumbar area touching the ground, helps also, it rolls the thoracic and cervical vertebra just right.

But I feel it would be nice to bent it backwards, without straining the lower back. Oddly, in a chakrasana like position, but with support on the top of the head instead of the arms, I can do this, but it is too hard on my neck.

Chakrasana (bridge ?) puts too much effort on my already weak waist, so I dislike it for now.
InnerAthlete2010-07-05 01:55:23 +0000 #5
Hi Hubert,

I'm not trying to be standoffish or rude here. It is simply that you have a lot going on in this post and some of it, from my perspective as a teacher, feels contradictory. As I recall you are in a remote place where access to teachers is difficult. Is that correct? It is tough to keep everyone straight in my mind.

What I'd like to do is simplify this in several ways and try and get you in the process of this at the same time.

First, holding the breath is not a safe method to stabilize the physical body. Holding the breath has ramifications that I would advise avoiding for now. There may come a time for it but not now and not to maintain the pose. The stabilization should come from the enlistment of muscle fibers which result from actions you try to find in your body - gently without agression.

Second, which pose or poses do you perceive as opening or releasing the psoas? Since I do not see one in your sequence then I would work with Eka Pada Supta Virasana (one leg supine heros' pose pictured here: but do it sitting upright on the end of a bolster and avoid laying all the way back unless there is not one ounce of discomfort in doing so)

And the "B" part to this is "when you are doing crunches as you mention, are you not also shortening the psoas while contracting it"? If the answer to part b is Yes (which by the way it is) then you are tightening the psoas and not the rectus abdominus therefore not helping your lower back. Strengthening the abdominals only works for low back health when you do not enlist the psoas. It is through release in the ilio-psoas that one can begin to remedy the lower back issues - generally speaking.

Third, this thing you describe with the arms from a supine position is not clear to me. Can you post a photo or two? This would be really helpful.

Finally, Bhujangasana, when done properly should not feel crunchy in the lumbar spine at all. However when the student comes up to high, does not draw the belly forward toward the front edge of the mat, and does not lift the bottom of the belly up toward the chest, the action can go right into the lumbar. Make sure you are internally rotation the thighs such that the little toes root into the earth. Then do not come up as high and keep your mind in the thoracic spine, retaining the action there.
Hubert2010-07-05 02:16:29 +0000 #6
Thank you InnerAthlete.

My wife visits a gym where they do a so called "spine gymnastic". It is mainly for those with spine problems, but not only. Because she showed me some exercises, I think they do apply preparatory yoga poses as streching in their aerobic like routine, between the more dynamic sequences.

The crunches I do (learned from her) targets the upper abdomen, with tighs up, perpendicular to the ground, one leg put across the other tigh, hands at ears, elbows do not lift above ear level. There is very little room for motion in this, and very little strain on the posas, it "burns only the upper abdomen"

But your opinion about generic crunches is correct, they do strenghten the psoas. My bad that I did not describe the pose well enough.

The supine position is just like snow angels, without moving the legs, and having the arms bent at 90 degress, palms upwards, the plane of the arms parallel (almost touching) the ground. This is not a static position, it moves well the shoulder blades and massages the muscles in the area.

I was doing Virabadrasana 1 as a starting hip opening exercise. With psoas and upper tighs as tight as myself, it works on that level too. But after a while, I am feeling that the tension is not in the upper tigh and posas anymore, but in the hip joint itself, so I would rather not force it. (Perhaps I am too keen keeping the pelvis frontal - as I noticed in pictures, they always have the pelvis slightly rotated around a vertical axis, towards the front leg ... something descriptions advise to avoid) I am able to do the pose as it is shown or described, I guess it is time to move on further. I am right now about including a pose I know from yin yoga just as the dragons, and pigeon with the back leg extended, arms vertical, supporting the body. Both seem to work well.

I do bhujangasana not from prone position, but from downward dog. (as in sun salutation) This way the strain on the lower back is minimal. I have long arms, tight upper tighs, so I am not able to touch the ground with my legs or pelvis if I have my arms extended. If I try to raise the upper body from prone position, pushing with the arms, I simply can't avoid overarching the lower back, because the tighs and perhaps upper spine are still not mobile enough.

I think I'll avoild bhujangasana a while, and work on the upper tighs with the advised Eka Pada Supta Virasana.

Oh, and it is ok to be "rude" if that means you disagree with something or you think I am doing something wrong. Don't manage me, I am not that fragile.

I will check a chiropractician and physio anyway, and seek out the local yoga activities, because there are some, perhaps I was too swift in my opinion about them (I had the impression they just do gymmastics with a fancy name, but perhaps I am wrong)

PS./ I know my practice is still hectic. But I am not able to do a full set of asana or attend to a class with fixed program, what I would need is therapy with a personal trainer. I am afraid I won't find that in my city, and my duties prevent me for now to seek help elsewhere.

Until that, I am trying to create a minimum amount of poses just to keep me going. Oh, and I begun to be addicted to the calm what usually follows asana practice. So I am not just doing it for good health because I realise I might never get a perfect health, but the effects on other levels, too.

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