Take a room full of children and ask them to perform a full wheel backbend and most of them can do it easily. They might be weak in the arms and not able to push themselves up, but their little spines are so wonderfully flexible. Ask the same group to bend forward and touch their toes and you will see a little more struggle and difficulty.
Now ask group of adults of any age to do the same. This group will be able to bend forward easily, using whatever strategy they can to touch their toes, but bending backward is another story. Stiffness reigns! Ask the same group how many of them have lower back “issues” and most of them will raise their hands. Could there be a connection? Often we become resigned to being unable to move as easily as we wish. Modern life is full of flexion! We are constantly in a forward bend as we sit, drive, and recline. The expression of having to “bend over backwards” indicates that we have to go out of our way to accomplish something.
Yoga to the Rescue! In a yoga practice we take the body and bend it, squeeze it, breath into it, balance it, and generally move it into positions that are not included in modern life, where the average person is sitting for 13 hours each day. Most back injuries are due to incorrect posture and slack muscular tone from bending forward, not backward. With balanced posture, breathing and movement, we find we can slowly and gently heal our backs and return to at least some of that child-like flexibility. It helps to have the trained eye of an experienced teacher and a commitment to consistent practice, but the answers are there for us in mindful movement. Can we get back to where we once belonged?