How To Work With Discomfort When Rolling On The Spine


December 1, 2020     ashtanga yoga | back pain | primary series | Your Questions


How To Work With Discomfort When Rolling On The Spine

December 1, 2020     ashtanga yoga | back pain | primary series | Your Questions

Transcript of: How to work with discomfort when rolling on the spine

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. Of course you can go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and submit your own question and we’ll get it answered here on video. This month’s question comes from Lidia and it’s about discomfort when rolling on the spine in garbha pindasana.

The Question:

Dear David,
My question is triggered by recent experience in garbha pindasana. I found rolling on my spine extremely difficult, even impossible, since my spine protrudes quite a bit when in flexion; it’s similar [to the] discomfort that I feel in the second vinyasa of supta padangusthasana or when I have to roll upward from ubhaya padangusthasana and urdhva mukha paschimottanasana.

My back seems to be overall rounded in all forward folds with the central line of the spine popping upward [DK: similar to a picture that she referred me to on Flickr]. Can you address what could be a possible cause of this protrusion and if there are particular asanas, strengthening drills, or stretches that would help to flatten the back and ultimately make rolling on the spine in garbha pindasana and similar postures possible?
Thank you for your time!

The Answer:

Really good question Lidia! It’s a little bit difficult to answer because it could be a lot of things, and based on the picture that I saw there on Flickr, I’m not sure there is a straightforward anatomical answer. Because, we have to factor in body type, genetics. Those are really important factors. So in other words, you know, if you’re naturally on the thinner side, kind of ectomorph, your spine is going to protrude more than somebody who is more like an endomorph. So, we have to factor that in. I only say that because it might not be that there are any strengthening exercises or stretches or anything that is going to simply fix that.

Building up muscles around the vertebrae

But, having said that, it is possible that if you build up the muscles around the vertebrae, that the muscles will get larger and that will reduce the distance of those vertebrae, meaning, relatively speaking, how far they stick off from the rib cage itself. I don’t know if that’s possible however. I mean, I guess it depends on the severity of it.

And you say that your spine is normally rounded, so I’m not sure exactly what that means. Are you saying when you’re standing, your lower back rounds in the opposite way that it should? So, I’m not totally clear on that. Other than that, if you were going to try to build up the muscles themselves around the spine so that, relatively, the sticking out part of the vertebrae are deeper compared to the surrounding muscles — and as far as I know, you can’t get them to go deeper, you can only get the muscles to come out further — you’d have to do strengthening exercises, something along the lines of shalabhasana. Right? That’s where you’re laying down on your stomach, lifting your body up, engaging those paraspinal muscles, and building them up. That’s really the only way that I see that you can change that difference between them.

Rolling on the side of the spine

You might try in garbha pindasana in particular, instead of rolling on the spine, roll on one side of the back on the way down and then roll up on the other side. Maybe that will mitigate some of the pressure that you’re feeling. If that doesn’t work, the other thing you can do is put a couple of blankets down while you do these postures so that when you’re rolling on the spine, you’re rolling over something softer than your yoga mat. That’s all I got.

Anybody else, if you’ve got a question, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and I’ll answer it.

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