Not So Counterintuitive


We were talking in the Teacher Training in Toronto yesterday about forward flexion. Why? Why so many forward flexions? Isn’t curving your spine a bad thing to do? So many other yoga practices teach the opposite - open your chest.

This led to an interesting discussion about the reason we have a spine. Why did humans evolve to have a spine? To enable us to stand and hold ourselves upright? That might be our first thought, as if we didn’t have a spine our torso would essentially be all soft tissue and organs. But we don’t need the kind of spine we have to be upright. We have a spine that is made up of 33 bones stacked on top of one another connected by ligaments and muscles. Why 33 individual bones not one? So that our spine can flex, bend, curve and twist. And that freedom of movement is essential to life.  

The majority of our human form today evolved during the hunting and gathering era. Everything that has happened in social evolution since has happened over a short period of time by comparison. As hunters and gatherers we needed to be able to bend over to gather. We needed to be able to curve and twist to hunt.

Today, less so for sustenance, but we still need to bend and curve and twist. Try driving your car without being able to turn your neck or picking up a baby without bending your back. Try relaxing on a couch with a straight back or texting without any curve in your neck. We do very little in our day to day lives that doesn’t involve movement in the spine.

And yet of course, they way each of us moves our spines in our day to day lives isn’t necessarily optimal. Our modern lifestyle tends to be habitual so we move our spines in the same way over and over again. As a sitting civilization, we spend much of our day not moving our spines much at all. Overtime, things get stuck - blockages and restrictions develop which in turn limit our ability to move the spine when we need or want to, impacting our ability to live a productive and enjoyable life.

Forward flexions can help. They help us find the restrictions in our spine and only when we know they exist can we do something about them. Only when we know where they are can we work to dissolve them. Not quickly. Just as they didn’t develop quickly. But working slowly with the nature within to bring the spine back to a state of optimal range of motion. Not necessarily maximum but optimal.

Heidi, Kaiut Yoga