Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Dangerous Position?

Is this a dangerous position?

I don't see it performed often; but when I do, I can't help but redirect my attention away from the person performing it. What does this position accomplish? In my experience, I have seen it popular among two groups of people: yoga enthusiasts and basketball players. The pose, called the "Yoga Plow" is popular in classes where mostly females contort their bodies (or spines I should say) to achieve a stretch in the glutes, hamstrings, posterior erectors, and deltoids.
A more thorough examination of the pose reveals more risks than benefits. The spine is made up of two curves: lordotic and kyphotic curves. The lordotic curve is begins just under the rig cage at around L1. The kyphotic curve begins right around the 12th rib and up to the cervical spine. In simple terms, the spine looks like a letter "S". Each arch is imperative to facilitate proper mechanics of the spine and movement. It is these very arches that set the human species apart from other mammals.
With this position or pose, users are essentially eliminating the spine's natural arches. Over time, repeatedly bending the arches back into a "unnatural" position will cause strain on the ligaments and facets of the joints located along the spine. Depending on the body type of the individual, this position also may compromise the comfort of the internal organs.
As I heard Stuart McGill once say (and often repeated by other strength coaches), excessive bending at the spine in compromising positions is like taking a plastic credit card and bending it. Sure the first few times it won't be a big deal, but try bending the credit card over 100 times. Eventually, you will see the 'white' crease that forms from excessive bending. A few more bends and eventually the plastic card breaks. Think of what your spine goes through over a lifetime.
There are plenty of other ways to lengthen or stretch your glutes, hamstrings, mid and lower back. Remember, just because you can do it, doesn't mean you always should.
Think of how many exercises you think are beneficial for your back, but are really detrimental. If you don't know which exercises are beneficial and what are high risk, its time for you to look into this.

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