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 has been practicing yoga since 1988 and has been teaching yoga since 1994. She has trained under master yoga teachers Swami Padmananda, Patricia Walden, Manouso Manos, Father Joe Pereira, Zoë Stewart, Karin Stephan, Liz Owen and others. She continues to study with her Iyengar teachers, Patricia Walden and Peentz Dubble. Roberta has studied yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Memorial Institute in Pune, India during June 2011, February 2014 and attended Abhijata's intensive in Pune, India December 2016. Roberta is currently enrolled in Peentz Dubble's two year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training Program. Additionally, Roberta completed training and certification with Elise Browning Miller as 'Yoga for Scoliosis' instructor. She completed a 500 hour Hatha Yoga Certification program with AURA Wellness Center and is registered with Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500. She has been a Certified Meditation Teacher since June 2007 and has been an Usui Reiki Practitioner since 1989. Roberta's Personal Practice Philosophy: Health issues have changed and deepened my practice. You will see many photos of me using a variety of props. On days I don't feel well, instead of saying, "I can't practice today", Iyengar Yoga has taught me to say, "How can I practice today".
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