bending over backwards

Ahead of her two-part workshop series on back bends, legendary yoga teacher Donna Farhi shares her journey with injuries from extreme back bends and how she found her way back to a pain-free spine. Learn more about how gentle back bending done with careful consideration to the spine can feel wonderful. Then, join us for Donna’s online workshops that might just revolutionise the way you approach extension.

About the time I began formal yoga instruction I also began trying to force my spine into deeper and deeper extension. To be fair, the capacity to backbend and to do so repeatedly (like the 108 drop backs from standing into Urdhva Dhanurasana that left me unable to breathe without pain the following day…) was part of a clear and consistent message that was hard to ignore. Being able to do extreme back bends garnered significant respect and seemed to correlate with whether you were considered “good at yoga”… or not.

After several years of trying to squeeze my spine into shapes it most definitely did not want to go, I developed persistent acute pain in my mid-lumbar spine.  I would later discover that I had developed a bone spur on the head of one of my lower ribs. Unable to take my thoracic spine or shoulders any deeper into extension without the help of surgery my lumbar spine was copping some serious interference. Finding my way back to a pain-free spine took years and required slowly rebuilding the strength and stability of my back.

 

What I learned along the way is that the human spine did not evolve (or have need of) the capacity to turn itself inside-out.

Doing so served no evolutionary purpose. When we consider the evolutionary purpose of the human body our structures evolved to be able to walk, run, bend forward, climb, throw, carry, and crouch to hunt and gather food, and later to farm. The amount of extension one needs in the spine to maintain erect everyday easeful posture is about the amount one needs to reach and take hold of an apple on a tree. That is, not a lot.  On the other hand, many humans are now spending the better portion of the day slumped over computers, sitting long hours in chairs and car seats, ending the day collapsed on the living room sofa. We need extension to balance these long hours of flexion and we need regular strengthening of the spinal and shoulder blade muscles to keep us from sliding down that slippery slope to becoming Mr. or Ms. Cashew.

Gentle back bending done with careful consideration to the spine can feel wonderful. Not only can extension feel invigorating physically it can pull us out of the doldrums improve breath function and help us to maintain graceful posture into our twilight years.

My next two livestream workshops at triyoga are a two-part series. The first will introduce you to some powerful developmental movement patterns that might just revolutionise the way you approach extension. The second workshop will look at structural approaches that can stabilize naturally flexible areas of the spine while focusing on mobilizing and increasing fluidity in the thoracic spine. We’ll also look at the synergistic effect opening the shoulders, releasing the deep core muscles, and simply warming the body can have on improving easeful extension.

See you there –
Donna

Click her to book a place at Donna’s online yoga workshop – backbending with ease, part I: developmental support – on Sunday, 5 July. Includes 30 day access to online recording. 

Click her to book a place at Donna’s online yoga workshop – backbending with ease, part II: structural support – on Sunday, 19 July. Includes 30 day access to online recording. 

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