Why Is My Spine Popping After Deep Flexion In Yoga?

March 7, 2023

Transcript of: Why is my spine popping after deep flexion in yoga?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you’ve got a question that you want me to answer, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and I’ll answer it. This is an interesting one from Kim. It’s about why your spine might be popping during flexion or twisting in yoga.

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The Question:

Recently, my spine has started popping when coming out of deep flexion [in yoga] postures like garbha pindasana and pindasana, especially as I roll out. It was happening with eka pada sirsasana, though it’s stopped there. I’m able to move fine after, but it is jarring. Any ideas what might be causing it and what I might work on to stop it from happening or whether I should worry? (Note: once in a while it happens while twisting, to the right especially).
Thanks, Kim

The Answer:

So I’m going to start with the fact that sounds in the body are normal. The spine is a very common place for popping sounds in yoga. I’m guessing you’re referring to more of that—oh, you probably won’t hear that—that sort of chiropractic adjustment, that kind of pop. You say it’s jarring which that isn’t necessarily. If it’s more like a clunking you might need to be more mindful of it. If it’s the first type, the chiropractic type of pop, or the pop that happens in your joints, there is nothing to worry about there.

I’m sure I’ve answered this before, but we’ll do it again. As we move—it’s the same thing in the knuckles for example—all of the synovial joints, we have fluid inside of them which is the lubricant. As we move, the fluid starts to, in a sense, break down. It’s not all of the fluid all at once. But, as the fluid breaks down through the movement, it starts to change state from liquid into gas. Those gaseous bubbles form and they create a pressure inside of the joint. Sometimes when you move through a deep range of motion, it’s enough pressure to break that gaseous bubble and it collapses back into fluid. That’s what that sound of the spine popping in yoga usually is. That’s the simple version of that. So if it’s just that, then there’s absolutely nothing to worry about.

When to be concerned

If it’s a repeatable clunkiness that happens at the same place every single time, then you might want to give that a little more investigation. If it’s not causing pain, then it’s probably not a problem. But, there could be tension from tissues around there that are causing something to slip. You know, there are lots of reasons for the spine popping in yoga, hence it needs more investigation. I’m not clear whether it’s happening in the exact same spot. You’re just generally saying it happens in your spine.

So, when you go into deep flexion and you stretch tissues and you change the amount of pressure in the part that’s popping in your spine, it’s not your disc. It’s the zygapophyseal joints on the sides, or the intervertebral joints on the sides, that are popping. It’s the same thing in your twist. So, by taking it all in one direction, and then bringing it back, and rolling out of it, it’s enough to pop those gaseous bubbles. That’s my guess from what I’m reading here. And twisting is just the same thing. Okay? It’s taking you to the end of range of motion at those joints. It shouldn’t be anything to worry about.

Anybody else? If you’ve got a question, send it my way to: yoganatomy.com/myquestion.