Why Is My Back Rounded In Forward Bends?

January 10, 2023

Transcript of: Why is my back rounded in forward bends?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. Of course, if you’ve got a question that you want me to answer, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion. I’ll answer it on video just like I’m going to do today. We love good ones! This one is from Anuj and it’s about why your back might be rounded in forward bends.

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The Question:

Hi David, Thanks for giving so much insight on yoga anatomy. I have one issue in [my] body which is clearly visible in yoga poses. For example, [when] I do downward facing dog or uttanasana or pachimottanasana, in all cases, my back is in [a] rounded shape. It is not straight. Initially I was thinking that this issue is because of tight hamstrings. But my hamstring is not tight because I am able to do supta padangusthasana with 90 degrees.

Which muscles are creating [a] problem [for] me? Some people on [the] internet are saying that this issue is because of latissimus dorsi. I wanted to show my pose but there is no option to attach an image. [DK: Sorry, we don’t have an upload option.] Please help me understand this. I will be really very thankful.

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The Answer:

Let’s start with the last part first. Latissimus dorsi? I’m totally at a loss there. I don’t have a clue how somebody could talk about your forward bending being caused by your latissimus dorsi. I’m going to call B.S. on that one! I’ve no idea how they got there. I don’t know what you’ve been reading, but if that’s what they said, that forward bend is not happening because of latissimus dorsi, stop reading that. That doesn’t make any sense.

I also want to point out here that there’s a flaw in your logic. Your deduction based on the fact that you’re able to do supta padangusthasana with your leg at 90 degrees, and that that somehow points out that it’s not your hamstrings causing problems in other places, is incorrect. It’s your hamstrings in all of these!

Restriction of one leg versus two

Ninety degrees in supta padangusthasana—here’s the thing to remember. This is kind of important. When you do downward facing dog, uttanasana, or pachimottanasana, both legs are together. That means you’re running into the resistance of the hamstrings on both legs simultaneously. When you do supta padangusthasana, your pelvis is mobile. One, because you’re doing one side. Two, because you’re on your back and your feet are not fixed to the floor. And therefore your pelvis is even more free to move.

So, chances are, if we were looking at it, we would see how your pelvis is tilted and your hips are moving or something to compensate and allow for the feeling of more flexibility in supta padangusthasana. But, if we sort of locked you into place in supta padangusthasana—you can try this with maybe your straight leg with your foot against the wall. Make sure your pelvis is grounded to the floor and then if you go to pull on it, you’ll probably find that it’s also quite restricted.

It’s probably your hamstrings

Anytime that your back and spine are rounded in forward bends—the most general way to say this is—your pelvis is not rotating over the heads of the femurs. Right? It’s being held in place and therefore you see the rounding in the spine because it’s compensating for the lack of movement at the hip joints. The most common reason for that pelvis to not rotate is because the hamstrings are tight. They attach to the sit bones and below the knee. They prevent the sit bones from pointing upward, which is the same thing as saying the pelvis tilting forward over the heads of the femurs.

The other possibility

The other possibility is that the deeper hip muscles, particularly gluteus minimus and gluteus medius, are holding tension between the femur and the pelvis. I see this a lot in runners, who also have tight hamstrings typically. But let’s just use runners because we like to pick on them here at yoganatomy. That can also create a tension between the pelvis and the femurs that prevents rotation from happening. And once again, the spine is going to round to compensate for the lack of forward folding. That results in your back being rounded in forward bends. There’s nothing in what you wrote that makes me think that the problem is not hamstrings or potentially the deep gluteals as I just described.

Give it time. Maybe practice more frequently or hold those postures for longer. I don’t know how long you’ve been practicing for, but it’s your hamstrings and/or your gluteals. I’m not sure I helped in that one Anuj. But, I hope I at least provided some insight into what’s going on. If you’ve got a question that you want me to answer, by all means, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion.