Costa Rica Yoga JournalMark Goldstein

Creating Space

By Mark Goldstein

When was the last time that you said to yourself “It will feel so good to shrink things down, to compress my body, to squeeze things shut” ? Maybe you have, but I doubt it.

In retrospect, what do we all do after sitting at a desk to long, or after riding in a car or airplane seat for many hours?

Quite often we stand up, put our hands on our hips, push our hips forward and send our shoulders back and then probably make a nice long releasing sigh.

Right? This is good, this is great, this is…..wait for it….this is a backbend!

This is extending the spine, this is opening up the spaces between our vertebrae, this is creating space.

July’s pose of the month is the backbend.

Playa Yoga

There are many types of back bending poses in yoga, so there is almost always one or more that we can all include in our yoga practice. We will be focussing all this month on backbends which cause “extension” rather then “flexion” in our spines.

To explain the difference, when we bend our spines forward, as in a seated forward bend pose, our spines are in “flexion”.

When we send our hips forward and our shoulders back, then our spines are in “extension”.

In a previous article that I wrote for Quepolandia titled “ Giving in, not Giving up” we talked about the wonderful qualities of the forward bend, using it as a pose of submission, just letting go by giving in.

In that respect I would like to offer the opposite intention when we practice our “extensions”.

In a way we are taking back, rather then giving in.

Let me explain.

As I mentioned before, our instinct after sitting too long in a chair is to stand up and extend. This is due to the fact when most of us sit in a chair, we allow our lower backs to slump, to collapse, to go into an unhealthy form of flexion, and this causes all sorts of issues.

So when we are extending to correct this, we are taking that back, undoing it, reclaiming a healthy posture for our back.

Our back bends, our spinal extensions, can safely and effectively open up the spaces between our vertebrae which over time tend to compress and shut down.

What will this opening do?

It will allow much more circulation onto the area between, the disks, creating more flexibility, extra delivery of oxygen and nutrients (we need those!) and the removal of waste products.

If we focus on “traction” along with our “extension” we can also attempt to correct and alleviate problems with matters such as bulging and herniated discs. Traction is simply making something, like our spine, longer, and there are ways to combine the two.

I have pictured just a few of the many back bends available to us in our yoga practices, and will enjoy offering many more of these this month in our classes.

I encourage everyone to include backbends in their yoga practice, and hope that you will join us in a class so that we can explore them together.

I offer private classes at our retreat here in Manuel Antonio, the waterfall next to the yoga platform is running strong this time of year. I can also come to your home or guest house.

There are some classes already formed that you can sign up for, or we can create a private class for just you or a group.

Yoga can be a wonderful part of your life, and I hope that I get a chance to be a part of your practice.