At the beginning of most yoga classes I tell everyone to stand in tadasana, mountain pose. Then I walk around and put people into my version of standing straight. Invariably this feels awkward and in fact usually looks pretty goofy at first. Once I put someone’s legs under the pelvis the upper body can move in the strangest ways. Attempting to stack the trunk on top of the legs, without tucking the pelvis, while keeping the legs under the hips, is impossible for some—and a tremendous amount of work for others.
After I put everyone into my version of tadasana I say, “go back to where you were”. And everybody leans backwards. They lean backwards into a poor backbend where the lumbar spine is compressed and the tone of the lower core is nonexistent.
And this is everyone’s idea of standing correctly.
We all need to shorten the front of the body in tadasana, at cocktail parties, and when doing backbends in yoga class. The shoulders need to move over the hips and the base of the ribcage needs to be parallel with the top of the pelvis which should be parallel to the floor.
Likewise, we all need to lengthen the back of the body. The lower back and neck tend to be short and tight while the upper back tends to round forward more than it should. This is our tendency before we ever go to a yoga class and most people simply bring their patterns from life onto the yoga mat, or any exercise we do for that matter.
A successful backbend involves lengthening the back of the spine not compressing it.
When it comes to changing the balance of the body there are a number of factors to consider. It is a lot easier to shorten the front of the body than it is to lengthen the back muscles so that always needs to be taken into consideration when designing a routine to bring balance to the body. A tight psoas, the subject of a future post, is another reason to be conscious of the choices you make if you want to work on shortening the muscles at the front of the trunk.
Tadasana is not a backbend. Stand in tadasana and feel if you are standing up straight or leaning slightly backwards. Get in touch with your idea of good posture work on getting over your self.