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Back to the Fetal Position.

Jan 28, 2012


supta baddha konasana



I am amazed at how little I learned about my body in school. We didn’t learn the body structures or how to take care of our bodies. I have come to a personal philosophy about the pain associated with an aging body through my work as a masseuse and as a yoga instructor. I want people to understand the front to back balance in the body.
We begin in a fetal position and some of us go quite quickly back to that same position. By looking at most older persons we see that the tendency to hunch forward is very strong. When we are born, all the Flexor Muscles start out stronger than the Extensor Muscles and we take a long time to unravel and start using our muscles of extension. Because we don’t move enough through space and we tend to orient ourselves to the things that we are working on in front of our bodies, we become rounded and stooped to some degree. 
When we have pain associated with our alignment we experience the discomfort in the back of the body. Typically, we feel this misalignment in the neck and shoulders, the upper back between the shoulder blades or in the lower back and hips. Often the reason for this discomfort or pain is that the muscles of the front of the body are pulling us forward and the back muscles are fighting to pull us upright. When the back muscles try to contract they are already in a lengthened position and just end up pulling on the bones which causes us pain
The remedy for this is to stretch and loosen the strong, overly-contracted muscles of the front body to allow the Extensors at the back of the body a fighting chance. When the Flexors (SternoCleidoMastoid at the front of the neck, the Pectoralis of the chest or the Psoas at the front of the low back and through the pelvis and groin) release their holding, we are able to come into better alignment and then focus on strengthening the back muscles. 

This restful pose is my personal favorite when my back is sore and I have been doing too much forward hunching. I keep the hips open with my knees apart and my feet together and then lie back over a wedge of pillows or a bolster so that I can open my chest. I like to keep the neck neutral and spend a long time unravelling and unwinding my spine. Give yourself this time to undo the tensions of the day. Spend 10 to 20 minutes meditating on the sensations of the body and letting go of the tensions that build throughout the day. Let your shoulder blades drop around the bolster which supports your spine. Keep asking your body to release down and open.

If we can spend some time in our day with the musculature of the back of the body on slack and relaxed we will go a long way to bringing ourselves into a more ideal alignment. 

WARNING: This position is one of vulnerability. When we hurt we naturally curl into a ball and try to protect our head, throat, heart, guts and groin. Do this relaxation exercise when you are warm and safe and comfortable. Perhaps, in bed before sleep or before you get up in the morning.

We cannot expect our body to respond well if we spend our days contorted into a fetal position. Just remember to relieve pain in the back of the body we need to open up the front of the body. 


Please add a comment

Posted by Ryuji on
this often to myself trghuoh the years. I wholeheartedly agree and think I understand what you mean.I really want to simplify my life and have much "less" in materialisitc aspects and yet in many other aspects also. I know you know what I mean.Your like me in that you are comfortable with yourself on your own and off sitting in a mountain top and just "connecting" with what you feel and know. I like that. I've always been this way all my life and people always mention how "strange" they find it..I find it "strange" that they rarely take the time to get to know who they are on thier own "inside' within themselve..their too busy running the rat race which they call "life"..sigh..having no clue who they are without someone else.You sure are evolving and going trghuoh much these days..reading your post I see so much honesty and growth. I hope the same for myself one day..still working on it..many lessons for me to continue to learn.Rhi
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