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Y95: Gentle Yoga For Back Tension Release And Back Strengthening

back strengthening gentle yoga tension vinyasa

In today's episode I discuss ways to release tension in the back and strengthen the back. This is a commonly UNDER trained area for many yoga students, and a commonly under emphasized aspect of yoga practice. Yoga tends to OVER emphasize pushing movements like Chaturanga and updog - which are awesome and important postures - AND it's equally important to balance them out with pulling actions like we'll do in today's class.

How did I come to this conclusion? I decided to challenge myself one summer and did vinyasa yoga classes every day for 90 days. A few weeks in I couldn't ignore that my body was not happy with this challenge. This was not a "no pain no gain" situation - this was a "yoga is about developing a relationship with and listening to your body, so hey dude, listen to your body" situation. I went to a bodyworker I trust who is also a teacher - she assessed my shoulder and asked if I'd been doing a lot of vinyasa recently. This was not the first time she'd seen this.

The issue: weak rhomboids, weak lower traps and overactive shoulders and traps. Common yoga thought would be "well, it's tight, so stretch it out to un-tighten it." This is well intentioned, and seems logical, but it's not actual how muscle works, and often makes things worse. The solution was to increase neuromuscular activation. in other words - MORE contraction, not less. More STRENGTHENING - LESS stretching.

The strengthening trains deep mind-muscle connection that allows muscles to more fully lengthen because they can more fully contract, and they are less likely to hold tension. Unfortunately, 9 out of 10 vinyasa yoga teachers are not trained to address this - and my well intended 'challenge' to evolved from the simple task of "attend 90 classes" to address deep seated muscular imbalances that 9 out 10 public yoga classes will not address - and likely aggravate.

The solution I found was a new approach to practice that you've likely heard pieces of throughout previous classes on this podcast, but it is a central focus of today's practice. As always: this is a general class and not a 1-1 session, so interpret what I offer in your own unique way - just as I do anytime I entrust a teacher to lead me.

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