Yoga Anatomy – Flexible lumbar vertebrae, good or not?

Just a little background of myself…
I started dancing and doing gymnastics at the age of 7. However, due to dislocation of the elbow thrice, I was forced to stop gymnastics as my body is not physically fit to do so. I moved on to doing Chinese dance in school and after that ballet, jazz, modern dance before moving to partner related dances like salsa and etc.
One thing in common that I learnt from both dancing and gymnastics was every move with regards to back flexibility, we engaged our lumbar vertebrae. I was not taught to inhale, open up my chest, exhale, lift the chest and continue doing so moving from cervical vertebral to thoracic vertebrae and then end with lumbar vertebrae. All I learnt was lift up and hold there using your lumbar vertebrae to create the arch on the back. I could hold for 1min, 3 mins or even 5mins in that position.
Years passed and I went on to do salsa. Similarly, I was told to arch my back as much as I can to create an arch with makes me look sexier and curvier while dancing. That became a habit and I could even walk naturally with the arch. However, I did not know the accumulation of all this “hardwork” will lead to benefits and consequences after! The benefit is that my lower back is very strong but the consequences is that I suffer from backaches every now and then.
So how do we correct the alignment then? There are several poses that can help strengthen the upper back so that we will not put too much pressure on the lumbar.
A brief introduction about the back muscles:

Muscles Strengthen Stretch
Latissimus dorsi
  • Makes up about 2/3 of the back
  • Middle back
Adho Mukha Svanasana/ Purvottanasana Child pose
Quadratus Lumborum
  • Side of the lower back
Vasisthasana (Side plank) Utthita Triconasana
Erector Spinae / Multifidus Spinae
  • Extension of the spine
  • Maintains correct curvature of the spine
Cobra (Bhujangasana) Cat pose/ Child pose

With this, I hope to get a balance of strength training and stretches on my upper back!
-Angela Bok (200hr Weekday TTC Sep 2015)

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