Why straighten your spine in stretches?
Importance of posture for flexibility
If you’ve taken a class with me you always hear me say it: “pull your tailbone to the sky and push your chest forward” when we’re in an inverted V or a forward fold, or to slightly tuck your tailbone towards your belly button “as if a string ran inside us being pulled upwards” if you’re standing straight or balancing. But why? Well, there’s a lot of good reasons, but let’s just get into what I consider the most important.
- When we hinge at our hips, our hamstrings start to extend and stretch, and tilting our tailbone upwards gives a couple of extra degrees our hamstrings have to stretch, improving their elasticity and mobility.
- It works your core and gives us proper posture outside of class. When we’re rounded over, our back muscles take over the stretch by elongating, causing your abdominal and chest muscles to contract and shorten. With so many of us sitting at a desk all day or slouched over looking at our phones, our abs and chest need all the time they can get to extend and stretch so we don’t have bad posture in our daily activities.
- You’re giving yourself room to breathe! There’s been research that keeping a straight spine can strengthen your chest muscles, and give your ribs a chance to expand to their fullest position. This is really needed when we’re holding some tough stretches.
- And finally, one of the biggest reasons we keep a straight spine (unless otherwise said!) is to prevent injury. We have 4 sections to the spine, creating an ‘S’ curve. In its neutral position, it can best support our bodies and protect the spine from any outside forces, whereas a rounded spine can put too much pressure on specific vertebrae causing injury.
Asking for a straight spine in a stretch is asking for you to go further. While we want that perfect form, we want you to listen to your body first! Discomfort and tension are fine, but any pain is a sign to stop immediately. If something is too much, always slowly and with control get out of the position that is causing pain.