NEED LOW BACK PAIN RELIEF? OR WANT TO REDUCE THE RISK OF IT?
Have you experienced some low back pain in your life? Have you taken a look at how long you sit in a chair (or a car)? Or have you been taking yoga classes where you were told to "relax the glutes" in Cobra? Even yet, why weren't you cued to use them at all in Bridge Pose?
Some of you requested info on what my PT has recommended for my recovery from 12 years of “too much yoga (and too little stability/strength)”.
This is a little case study for you to try out.
TL;DR....my Physical Therapist recommended this type of engagement with Bridge Pose due to a hypermobile hip. Try it out as an option to your typical approach. This is not to replace the advice of a professional.
Performing a “simple” Bridge Pose with activated glutes was extremely difficult. To be real, my glutes were shaking!
Questions for us:
-Why were we told to “relax the glutes” in class?
-If the glutes are the largest muscle group, why would we intentionally not use them?
-How does this choice affect the lower back (and beyond)?
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In the “relaxed” version, I felt most of the effort from my lower-mid lumbar spine (which is probably why it’s arching so much as seen from the top of my belly).
In the “engaged” version, I noticed that the lower-mid lumbar spine area engaged with the glutes and core as one whole system moving up. To add to that I actually felt my entire spine bracing for the Bridge. You can see the movement all the way up to my shoulders and cervical spine.
ONLINE YOGA FOR BEGINNERS: LET'S LOOK AT OUR OPTIONS FOR COBRA POSE
Cobra Pose may not be intended as a "backbend", but I would like to point out that your glutes have a primary function, and that's to protect your lower back.
I always love to reference Ray Long, Author of the frequently helpful Yoga Anatomy books and owner of the DailyBandha.com website. If you want to geek out on anatomy when understanding your body in asana, you can benefit from browsing his site!
In his words:
"Let's look closer. When you deliberately soften your glutes, then the hip extension comes from the hamstrings, because your hamstrings work as synergists to the gluteus maximus for this action. So, why not just use your hamstrings to extend the hips and avoid getting scolded for using the prime movers (glutes)? Well, if you do that enough, you potentially set up a muscle imbalance that can lead to “synergistic dominance” wherein the hamstrings become the prime mover of this action. In the hip joint, this can result in abnormal kinematics and, ultimately, pain.
-Ray Long, DailyBandha.com
HOW ABOUT WE RELIEVE OUR BACKS OF THE PRESSURE?
Let's take a look at this image of me practicing 2 variations of Cobra Pose (Courtesy of my IG account)
Have you been going to a yoga class where you're asked to do the following in Cobra Pose?
🧘🏻♀️ Draw the Shoulders Back
🧘🏻♀️ Elbows hug the side body
🧘🏻♀️ Relax the Glutes
🧘🏻♀️ Press the tops of the Feet Down
Would you like to consider what the intention of that is? Would it be to decompress the lower back? Is it to open up the chest? Maybe it's to help the neck counter the constant tilting-forward action when looking down at a phone.
Now, what if you wanted to achieve a different intention within the same pose? (Yes, it's ok to think of alternatives to what you've been told, and to consider what it is YOU want to do for your mind/body/spirit)
What if you wanted to create space in your spine after a long day of standing? Or if you wanted to reduce the compression of your lower back from a traditional Cobra? What if you wanted to engage your glutes just enough to get the core to stay awake with it (because sitting all day makes the glutes sleepy)? So, try this out to make it more accessible for yourself:
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FREE PDF on Yoga Variations you can practice with Cobra Pose
(Especially if you sit or stand a lot, these moves will be wonderful for your trapezius muscles, glutes and spine)
🧘🏻♀️ Press the pelvic bone down (Not too hard, not too soft. Find that "sweet spot" that you like.
🧘🏻♀️ Lengthen the spine from the hips up to the neck (What does that do to your sense of height?)
🧘🏻♀️ Lift the rib cage off the ground (What does that do to your core and lower back?)
🧘🏻♀️ Broaden the shoulders away from each other (what does that cause your elbows to do? Do you need to widen your hand stance to stay in harmony with the shoulders?)
This is just one way to encourage the practice to serve YOU (vs the other way around). Try this out and comment with what you observe. There is no wrong answer, since every BODY is different!
What other variations do you enjoy with Cobra?
Please comment your questions and insight below 💜