My mum and grandma both have a very rounded upper back. Is this inevitable for me or can it be avoided with yoga practice? Anne Belmont NSW
There are certain genetic conditions that can create kyphosis, an excessive curve in the upper back. Regardless of our DNA, we can inherit psycho-emotional body patterning from our family, too. If you are beyond your teens and not exhibiting an overly rounded back, then you’re certainly off to a good start, but it’s worth considering other factors. Certain lifestyle habits predispose us to rounding the back. Much of our daily life is about folding forward and setting us up for slouching—sitting too eat, long hours at a desk, driving and most housework duties.
Yoga is a great counterbalance to poor posture due to lack of strength, flexibility or awareness. It allows you to explore holding patterns in the body and to notice which muscles are weak and where you feel restrictions.
Regular yoga practice can certainly help counteract inherited conditions. It is certainly possible that it could help to lessen the depth of a curve but even where practice doesn’t alter the appearance, it can lessen or remove the aches and pains associated with kyphosis, freeing up the spine to allow problem-free movement.
To start to reprogram the body, an excellent daily practice is to roll a towel or blanket 8 to 12 centimetres high and place it perpendicular to your mat. Lie so the middle part of your upper back is over the roll. Stay in this position for 5 to10 minutes. In time you might progress on to using a yoga block. In both cases, ensure your neck is comfortable by using a pillow under your head.
Just like the rest of the body, a healthy spine requires strength and flexibility. Handy postures to build spinal strength are Salambhasana (Locust Pose), Virabhadrasana III (Warrior III) and Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose). Key postures to increase spinal flexibility are Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), Dhanurasana (Bow Pose) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose).
If you do have concerns about your back, it’s worth seeking advice from a physiotherapist who understands yoga or an experienced yoga teacher.
Christina Brown is the author of The Yoga Bible: The Definitive Guide to Yoga Postures. She teaches yoga in Sydney and runs teacher trainings and corporate classes. www.christinabrown.com