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YOGA MATTERS - Unbowed by the Bow

Dec 02, 2015

We are all familiar with the seated position. As they say, “Sitting is the new smoking.” In the seated position we contract the muscles which flex the hip and lower spine. Due to the duration of sitting we have chronically tight flexor muscles which must let go and lengthen to allow us to become erect. Not only do we have tight, contracted hip flexors but we have a tendency to roll the shoulders forward which brings the head forward as well. 

fetal position- baby.jpg

When we were babies, we held the fetal position comfortably. It takes months for a baby to learn to extend the spine, lift the head, begin to sit and then stand. The muscles of the back of the body develop slowly and as we age have difficulty holding us upright against the weight of gravity.

old lady-bad posture.jpg

Most of us feel the pull of our muscles of extension in the back of the body because those muscles are always pulling on our bones while stretched taut. The flexors in the front of the body are strong, tight and contracted and will always be able to over power the muscles of the back . 

An older person must strengthen the back muscles and release the muscles which pull us into the fetal position. As we age attention to this front to back balance is needed. If we stretch and release the front of the hip, groin, belly, chest and throat we are then able to contract more fully the muscles of the back.

In yoga we counter the forward fold (think of any sitting posture as a forward fold at the hips) with back bends both passive (relaxed) and active (using your muscles through their whole range).

I have been practicing massage and yoga for over 20 years and I am amazed at how strongly these forces work on the body. When I can open the front of my hips, belly, chest and throat while attending to keeping length in the back of the body (yes it is possible) then I have ease and stability in my spine, hips and shoulders. 


Supta Badhakonasana or a reclined and supported opening for the front of the body with the feet together and knees apart is a fabulous way to restore the front to back balance in the body by releasing and stretching the flexor muscles. 


Consider strengthening the back muscles with these postures under the care and guidance of a yoga instructor or trainer while you learn the form.

Cobra (Bhujangasana)


Locust Pose (Salabhasana)


Bridge (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana)

setu-bandhasana- bridge.jpg

Bow (Dhanurasana)


These are wonderful ways to strengthen the back muscles. One must consider deep rest and counter poses as an essential part of a balanced effort. Twists are very healing for the body both to prepare for and to help unwind any tension which might build from doing these backbends. 

Always work carefully and mindfully as you work your way up to the more intense postures which will benefit you greatly if you prepare your body. Most people take years to unwind from the ravages of the seated position. Give yourself all the time you need to come back into balance.

Kim LeDuc

Masseuse in Nanaimo


Instructing yoga at Yoga Weyr



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