Updated: Oct 1, 2020
“The real yoga is what you can’t see.”― Bernie Clark
There is a saying that “you are young as your spine is mobile” and in order to have a mobile and healthy spine there needs to be space, length, openness, and few limitations and adhesions. In the next post we’ll talk more about the lower body and how this can also help create fluidity and ease tension in the low back and spine, but for now let’s focus on the upper spine and the areas that influence it most.
When we think about many people’s daily lives, we’re reminded of all of the forward, hunched, slouched postures many take when working at a desk, reading, writing, or being on a computer or cellphone. This forward, more hunched posture can shorten the muscles of the front upper body, causing them to become weaker or less active, while the muscles of the upper back body become strained and stressed from being overworked and overstretched. In yin yoga, we’re looking to create space to invite balance back into the different planes of the body. This isn’t to say we want to focus only on chest and front body openers because this again promotes imbalance. If we look at shapes that do the opposite of our everyday habits this can be a great way to ensure we’re unravelling the adhesions and daily physical patterns that become anatomically etched in the body.
For example, if you know you spend a lot of time with your shoulders rounded forward and upper body hunched to any degree a balancing shape would be something like a gentle Open wing. You can do this from laying on your abdomen with one arm outstretched to the side and then rolling over and lengthening your Pectoralis Major and possibly other muscles depending on the angle you take in your arm and neck. You can also do this by standing against a wall and rotating your body away from the arm that’s extended out long.
Remember, to go slow and gentle. Slow and steady wins this race because it allows your connective tissue, fascia, and muscle fibres to respond to the passive and consistent tension and stress being placed on the body in order to restructure itself in a new and healthy way.