For some this might be a boring anatomy post, but to those of us constantly grimacing during backbends, please read on.
If you had a mother like I did who was always telling you to ‘sit up straight!’ and ‘don’t slouch!’ then you may have developed the habit of puffing up your chest and tilting your pelvis down, pushing your front ribs forward. But an exaggerated lumbar curve can happen in many other ways. If the muscles around the hips and low spine become tight or weak, it creates an imbalance. It can be caused by bad shoes, bad posture, obesity, and a number of structural deficits in your feet.
Another common cause of this is weak core muscles. The lower abs and low back are a see-saw system of agonist and antagonist muscles, meaning they work together- when one flexes, the other releases. So if your core muscles are weakened, they will not be able to support your low back and you may compensate by sticking your duck tail out. This effects more than just yogis and athletes, my sister works on her feet all day long and suffers severe low back pain from the repetitive posture we both adopted as kids.
My experience & some tips:
Utkata Konasana/Goddess squat- I’ve never found a comfortable, natural feeling way to do this pose. Squatting when my lumbar spine is already so curved puts painful pressure on my low back. The best way I’ve found to counter this is to engage mula banda finding strength in the core, and tuck my tailbone in as much as I can.
Virabhadrasana II/Warrior II- I only noticed an issue with this during a hatha class where we were directly facing the mirrors. It shocked me how much my butt stuck out! From then on I focus on the energetic pull of my front knee open, my hips even, and my tailbone tucked.
Urdhva hastasana to Uttanasana/Coming up from forward fold– During a vinyasa class we’re constantly moving up and down, and this can lead to over-effort in your low back to pull you up and down. Just as they say ‘lift with your legs not your back,’ keeping a slight bend in the knees and space between the feet gives your low back more space and less risk of injury.
Urdhva Danurasana/Wheel pose- I picked up this tip at training and work on it constantly to prevent the crunching in my low back. Contract the adductor muscles to draw the knees toward each other (not touching, just an energetic pull as if you had a block in between them) and focus on turning the thighs inward. The movement in your hips directly intertwines with how the low back feels, so this simple action can make a big difference.