Everett Chiropractic Center Blog

December 4, 2010

This Month’s Yoga Journal: A Caution

In the December, 2010 issue there are two items of interest.

On page 22 there is a small article entitled, “get the drift.” It offers great advice with one exception and one caution. The advice about keeping your tailbone tucked is common in Yoga and Tai chi classes. It creates a problem if you do not have a clear picture and sensory understanding of what the neutral spine posture is and how to establish it.

Neutral spine means keeping your entire spine relatively straight and in line from one end to the other. I say relatively because there are natural curves that are hopefully established and are meant to be maintained even though you may “tuck your tailbone in.” Tucking your tailbone means, essentially, flexing your lower (lumber) spine. You better know what you are doing if you are going to do that: it’s a high risk move. The low back should normally have a little bit of a curve where the spine curves forward and the butt sticks back slightly. (In the past the concern was too much curve, so the advice used to be to do the “pelvic tilt” to get the tailbone tucked back in where is should be. Later it was realized that that could and was being over done by many people – with injurious result. Thus the term “neutral spine” was born.)

It’s much better to have a daily practice where you are taught how to establish neutral spine, feel the neutral spine alignment as you move into various positions with various degrees of load (stress) and know what it feels like and what it means to move out of neutral spine. (It usually means moving into a vulnerable high-risk position. In the end you always want a small amount of curve in the lower back, not much but some.)

Though the neutral spine posture is basic and essential to standing up straight, moving from standing to sitting, and a million other moves, it isn’t often taught as such and is quite often violated. The resulting additional abnormal stresses lead to dysfunctional movement and poor core muscle stability and coordination. Have your tai chi or yoga (fitness/exercise/personal trainer, etc.) instructor go over it until you realize it’s everywhere in your day and it’s what anchors all of your daily activity, producing a healthy strong spine at the end of the day or a tired and stressed spine vulnerable to injury.

The caution is in doing the third exercise they recommend in the article to warm up before shoveling snow. They recommend bending over at the waist and reaching down to (or toward) the ground. This is full lumbar flexion. In a healthy, rested, fully functional spine, no problem. In the average common American adult’s spine, it could be asking for trouble. (Especially first thing in the morning… when some people do their snow shoveling. In theory the spinal discs have been filling with water all night and are plump and full of pressure – something to think about if you plan to stress them much.)

That leads very nicely into the second item. On page 108 there is a story about a guy. He answers questions. Here is how he answered this question: “How do you know when you’ve found the right practice?” Obviously, in a Yoga magazine the context is a person’s yoga practice, but beyond that context the question is still an excellent one. His answer is also perfect. Here it is: “If it helps me heal and empower myself, if it helps me expand my consciousness, if it helps me become a healthier, happier, more peaceful, more prosperous person, then it is the right practice for me.”

I like that. It’s a good standard no matter what your daily practice is. (I recommend you find one.)



  1. […] bend and lift properly requires movement plus correct alignment (biomechanics). The three keys are Neutral Spine, Hip Crease, and The Knee […]

    Pingback by Low Back Pain: An Once Of Prevention… « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — April 13, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  2. […] Pain Related Chinese wall squats (video clips) Bending & Lifting Chinese wall squats Neutral Spine Hip Crease/Modified Chinese Wall Squat – risk for Low Back Pain Video […]

    Pingback by Index of Chiropractic, Tai Chi and other Wellness Posts « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — August 13, 2011 @ 8:43 pm

  3. […] a one-legged stance. This means it is a balance challenge, but because you are also maintaing Neutral Spine, and not breaking the Knee Rule, there is more going on than just not falling […]

    Pingback by The Tai Chi Back Stance & Functional Rehabilitation Exercise « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — September 9, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  4. […] advice. Typical tai chi stuff. She hits the high points of what I have described here at length as Neutral Spine: the chin is down, the neck long; the lower back is curved but only just a little. The pelvis is […]

    Pingback by 8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — October 26, 2011 @ 11:30 pm

  5. […] Here are some of the issues we know about. First, it’s early morning. The body isn’t warmed up. It may be, and probably is stiff (this patient is 72 years old). Second, at night while horizontal in sleep, the discs between the vertebrae expand and fill with water (if they are healthy enough). That increases the pressure inside the disc making is even more vulnerable to damage is stressed by postural alterations. Thirdly, even if none of that were the case, you still need to know when you are not maintaining the Neutral Spine posture. […]

    Pingback by How To Prevent Back Pain: Putting on Shoes « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — January 17, 2012 @ 12:43 am

  6. […] Here I commented on that lumbar hyperflexion and the recommendations in an article in the Yoga Journal. Share this:ShareFacebookEmailTwitterStumbleUponPrintDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Leave a Comment […]

    Pingback by Yoga Risks and Rewards « Everett Chiropractic Center Blog — May 24, 2012 @ 11:45 pm

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