• Aoife McHugh

Yoga has your Back: YTT Module 5

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

Did you know the phrase "I've got your back" is thought to have originated in World War II? As soldiers entered unknown territory they depended on those behind them to look out for them. Question: (did you read this in Beyonce's voice?) How often do you take time to watch your own back? Take a moment to check yourself: are you slouched on the couch? Are you looking down at your phone? Now imagine the screen is flashing, it is an incoming call: "Hello, this is your spine calling." Now you're sitting up tall.

In this module, we analyzed the thirty-three vital vertebrae that keep the body in line. The bodily benefits blanketed beneath these bones are bountiful. A pure powerhouse of productivity, the spine has more connections than a 90s telephone directory.

ᴀʟᴡᴀʏꜱ ʙᴀᴄᴋ ʏᴏᴜʀꜱᴇʟꜰ

There are many physical causes of back pain but some are driven from deep within. Let's look at Dobby, the endearing house elf in Harry Potter. His posture reflects his position in society. Often, we develop our posture based on self-beliefs. Others may suffer from having too much pressure and responsibility, the weight of the world is quite visibly on their shoulders. Ask yourself: what is happening emotionally? Visualise pain dissolving and breathe into uncomfortable areas.

ᴛɪʟᴛ ʏᴀ ʜᴇᴀᴅ ʙᴀᴄᴋ -ɴᴇʟʟʏ

As we examine the spine from top to tail (I quite enjoy the phrase "if he/she had a tail they'd wag it) *cue daydreaming of wildly wagging tail at airport arrivals when travel resumes*. Snap back to reality, let's talk about gravity. If your head is hanging over your shoulders and you are scrolling on our phone, this can add serious strain to your neck muscles. A thirty degree angle can add sixty pounds. Maybe Fat Joe was on to something when he sang Lean Back?

ʙʀɪɴɢ ʏᴏᴜʀ ᴄᴏʀᴇ ᴛᴏ ᴛʜᴇ ꜰᴏʀᴇ

In the U.S this back pain accounts for over 50% of sick days. So how can we protect this precious and powerful part of our body? This is where our core comes to the fore. As we move down the spine, our range of mobility declines. There is much more rotation in the upper back but the lumbar spine has a greater emphasis on sturdiness. In essence, the lower back is kind of like a linebacker, taking the hit or weight of our entire upper body. You will often hear in any workout class that it is vital to protect the lower back, we can do this by engaging our inner thighs.

As we work on the mobility of our lower back, this heightens instability, so it is also essential to engage the core. When we have tight hamstrings and work our hip flexors a lot, this can lead to compression in the spine and a number of other problems. To treat, try this trifecta: Work on your ab muscles, lift the pubic bone up and bring hips into alignment. The more we strengthen the front of the body, the greater chance we have of supporting the spine.

ɪꜰ ʏᴏᴜʀ ꜱᴘɪɴᴇ ɪꜱ ɪɴꜰʟᴇxɪʙʟʏ ꜱᴛɪꜰꜰ ᴀᴛ 30, ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ᴏʟᴅ. ɪꜰ ɪᴛ ɪꜱ ᴄᴏᴍᴘʟᴇᴛᴇʟʏ ꜰʟᴇxɪʙʟᴇ ᴀᴛ 60, ʏᴏᴜ ᴀʀᴇ ʏᴏᴜɴɢ.” ᴊᴏꜱᴇᴘʜ ᴘɪʟᴀᴛᴇꜱ.

As we grow older, we become shorter as our discs become thinner. Discs are like little donuts (I can only hear Homer Simpson's voice now) that act as cushions which connect the vertebrae. The pressure of the day compresses the spine and at night, the body reabsorbs water, filling the discs. This means that in the morning you are taller, but only until you are 35. We begin to lose this ability when we hit 30. (I'll use this as my excuse the next time someone asks me to go on a rollercoaster.)


I mean finally, if you have a curve in your upper or lower back (Hyperkyphosis/Lordosis) avoid anything that mimics the curve. If you have HyperKyphosis focus on neutralizing the upper back and creating space. Supported fish pose is great for this, it really helps to scale it back (sorry I couldn't resist!)

As I place my hand on the remarkable ridges of my spine, I marvel at this mini mountain range and all that's inside. There are a myriad of ways to keep your spinal health on track and yoga is firmly at the heart of that. So with the spine in mind, mount your mat and tell yourself "I've got your back."

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©2020 by Aoife Mchugh.