Question of the month: Some yoga teachers tell you not to do forward bends between back bends and other teachers say you should do forward bends between back bends. Which one is it?

Yoga teachings differ not just between disciplines of yoga but from teacher to teacher within the same discipline.

In some disciplines of yoga, it is customary to practice back bends without countering them with forward bends, until the back bending sequence has been completed. If a student tries to practice a forward bend during a deep back bending sequence they may be reprimanded. The teacher may compare this to the action of bending a paper clip back and forth, which can snap in half if it’s bent back and forth too many times.

In other disciplines teachers are adamant that you must practice ‘counter’ poses (forward bends) during your back bending sequence. Here a teacher may compare the spine to the snake portrayed in Sanskrit texts. We should be able to fold back and forth and twist like a cat.

So who is right? The answer is…it depends.

Yes, I agree our spine is made for movement, just look at how a baby moves – no movement is inaccessible. The back and forth action is play for a baby. However, as we age some of that ‘freedom’ in our spine may have been lost and has to be coaxed back. Many of us have imbalances in our spines, some congenital, others created by habits or lifestyle. Some of these imbalances are minor and others are more serious. Some examples include, scoliosis, kyphosis, hyper lordosis, vertebral compression (which may include herniated or bulging discs). For these individuals, the spine can act more like the proverbial paper clip than the serpent.

So for all but the most ‘serpent like’ students, when I teach backbends I save the forward bends until after the back bending sequence has been completed.

About EssentialYoga Studio

Roberta Dell'Anno E-RYT 500, Certified Yoga for Scoliosis Trainer Owner EssentialYoga Studio. Roberta has been practicing yoga since 1988 and teaching yoga since 2004. She has studied extensively under master yoga teachers Patricia Walden, Manouso Manos, Zoë Stewart, Sri Arun H.S., Elise Browning Miller, and others. She completed a two year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training program with Sr. Iyengar Teacher, Peentz Dubble in June 2017 and continues her weekly studies with Sr. Iyengar Teacher, Manju Vachher. Roberta has studied yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Memorial Institute in Pune, India during June 2011, February 2014 and attended Abhijata's 2-week intensive in Pune, India, December 2016. She completed training and certification with Elise Browning Miller as a 'Yoga for Scoliosis' instructor in 2014, completed a 500 hour Hatha Yoga Certification program with AURA Wellness Center in 2005 and is registered with Yoga Alliance as a E-RYT 500. She has been a Certified Meditation Teacher since June 2007 and an Usui Reiki Practitioner since 1989. The studio provides individual & specialized privates, semi-privates, group private sessions, and yoga workshops. Roberta conducts local and out of town workshops specializing in prop use. She uses props to help students and teachers transform their backbends, twists, standing and seated postures, as well as inversions like sarvangasana (shoulderstand). She also works with individuals who have physical challenges, specifically individuals with Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, scoliosis, and amputees in private, semi-private and group sessions.​​
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