Restorative Backbends to Alleviate Mechanical Stress & Back Pain

The intention of this short post is to provide a mechanically oriented breakdown of Supported Bridge and Supported Reclined Bound Angle (Supta Baddha).

Many sources (like Rec Bound Angle) use bolsters, blankets, etc to support these poses.  The versions of these poses displayed here only require 2 yoga blocks.  (You can purchase 2 foam blocks here for just 11 bucks)

Quick block height reference guide:

yoga-block-reviews.jpg

 

To make sure we’re all using the same verbage:

Mechanical stress refers to the stretch/strain deformation of ligaments.

For many, this chronic deformation strain of certain ligaments is due to bad posture and bad biomechanics, which often results in back pain.

The poses that follow are really good for back pain as they allow chronic mechanically strained ligaments to relax, recover, and regain some of their elastic potential, while antagonistic ligaments that are chronically slackened (or lack tension) are strained/brought to tension to bring about balance.

For more on stretching: What is Stretching?

Let’s get into the poses!


Supported Bridge:

Instructions:

  • Place a block under your Sacrum.  This is the flat area, right above your butt crack and below your spine.  It goes perpendicular (like a “+” sign) to the spine.
  • Start off for at least 2 minutes with a low or medium height block, then transition to a higher block.  Try to avoid too much strain in the beginning as this will only hinder the benefits.
  • Relax with your arms resting on the floor next to your body with the palms facing up
  • Breathe and relax, feel your body sink towards the ground as you relax into and over the block.

Stay in it for at least 3 minutes, at max 8 minutes.

***If you ever feel uncomfortable or your back begins to spasm here, reposition your blocks, or discontinue the pose.  You should not feel uncomfortable or pain here, please do not power through this pose. You may need to work your way gradually to spending a longer duration of time in this pose.

Counter-stretch (15-30 seconds): Roll off to the side or lift up off the blocks.  With your back flat on the ground, bring your knees into your chest.  You can stay still, slowly rock side to side, or lift your forehead to your knees for a greater sense of rounding.

Main Relaxed Ligaments: Sacrotuberous, Sacrospinous, Posterior Sacroiliac, & Iliolumbar

sacral ligaments.jpg

Main Taut Ligaments:  Anterior Longitudinal Ligament (ALL – shown in red circle)

anterior_longitudinal_ligament-14630945355223D10B8.jpg

Mechanical Benefits of Supported Bridge:

  • Restoration through balancing ligamentous tension:
    • The 4 back ligaments above are in a chronic state of tautness and tension because many of us spend most of our day sitting.  This places a lot of strain in the area and can result in low back pain and pelvic instability.
    • The Anterior Longitudinal Ligament is antagonistic to these ligaments, and is often relaxed (or lacks tension) because of sitting and flexed forward posture.
    • Chronic imbalance between the front and back of the lower spine often results in vertebral body displacement or spondylolisthesis (usually anterolisthesis of L5 on S1).
    • Idealistically both sides, the front and the back, are in an equal state of tension.
  • Better Force Production (aka easier walking, running, squatting, etc):
    • The connection of the lower body to the upper body is through the Sacrotuberous Ligament.  You can see this structurally through how it forms an “X” shape.  It’s connected to the hamstrings below and fascially connected to the opposite shoulder above.

Further reading on your butt & it’s relation to the opposite shoulder & connectivity through fascia:


Supported Reclined Bound Angle/Supta Baddha

Instructions:

  1. Take your first block, either low or medium height, anywhere above your low ribs. Perpendicular to your spine (like a “+”)
    1. This should not be uncomfortable, so take the time to find the “Goldilocks” just right spot.  You may need to have the block higher up the spine, or lower (not lower than your lowest rib though)
  2. The second block goes right underneath your head, the goal is to have your head above your heart and supported comfortably.  This is usually the next highest block to your first block.  (Ex: if you took a medium height block under your low ribs, then take a tall height block behind your head).
  3. Your feet can come together, and you can place support under the knees if you have it
    1. Variants:  You can extend your legs (Supported Fish) or bend your knees and plant your feet similar to Bridge Pose.
  4. Relax your shoulders and feel the space increase between the center of your chest and your shoulders.

Stay here for at least 5 minutes (or work up to that point) Maximum: 30 mins.

***If you ever feel uncomfortable or your back begins to spasm here, reposition your blocks, or discontinue the pose.  You should not feel uncomfortable or pain here, please do not power through this pose. You may need to work your way gradually to spending a longer duration of time in this pose.

Counter-stretch (15-30 sec): same as Bridge, round into a ball with your back on the ground

Main Relaxed Ligaments: Ligaments that attach to the backside of the ribcage.  These include the posterior rib joint capsules and ligaments that attach the backside of each rib to each other and the spine.

postthoraciclig

Main Taut Ligaments: Joint capsules of the Sterno-Clavicular Joint and Ribs along the sternum.

Mechanical Benefits of Supported Reclined Bound Angle

  • Restoration of balance between postural ligaments
    • Similar to Supported Bridge,  the front ligaments of the sternum are often relaxed or lack tension.  The ligaments in the back of the rib cage and Thoracic spine are over-stressed.
    • You can clearly see this imbalance when you look at the spine of people who are hunched over and rounded in their posture:
      • kyphosis1.jpg
      • In the kyphotic spine the back is chronically strained and the front lacks tension
  • Easier and more mechanically efficient breathing
    • The ligaments of the sternum are fascially connected to the muscles of breathing like the intercostals, diaphragm, etc
    • In that chronic position of rounded forward, breathing becomes impeded because the ribs lack mobility and decreased space in the thoracic cavity impedes the lung’s ability to expand.
    • The openness granted in the chest from this pose allows for better rib movement with the breath, and for greater lung capacity

Further reading on expanding the chest:


Final Word:

If you can spend do both of these (spend like 10 minutes of your day) in these poses, especially after work, you’ll be feeling fine in no time.

These are intended to be relaxing, so while you spend your time here just be and breathe, put on a guided meditation, or unplug for a little bit.

We spend most of our days closed off and rounded forward, here’s your chance to reverse that and mitigate some of the damage of normal every day life.

Open up and back bend away!

54474-Jim-Carrey-happy-smile-gif-g6IP.gif

You’ll be smiling and enjoying all that new space in both your mind and body

-Dr. YG

7 thoughts on “Restorative Backbends to Alleviate Mechanical Stress & Back Pain

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