Tag Archives: Jason Crandell

backbends: why and when to squeeze your glutes

locustpose1

First, let’s acknowledge that different students may benefit from slightly different actions in any given posture. So, the most accurate way to answer this question is to suggest most students will benefit from engaging their glutes in most backbends. Here’s why:

The gluteal family is composed of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. When the glutes and hamstrings engage—particularly the lower fibers of the gluteal msucles near the hamstring insertion—they extend the hip-joint. This motion initiates all backbends and helps keep the pelvis and spine congruous. Gluteal engagement also helps fire the paraspinal muscles and stabilizes the sacro-illiac joint—both of which facilitate pelvic and spinal balance in backbends.

But, let’s answer the question with a little more nuance since some backbends are enhanced by gluteal engagement and others are not. Prone backbends like Locust Pose and Cobra Pose probably don’t benefit as much from gluteal contraction because the weight of the pelvis rests on the floor during these postures. This means that you don’t need gluteal strength to lift the pelvis because it’s not moving in the posture; you also don’t need the stabilization that the glutes provide because the pelvis is supported by the floor.

In kneeling backbends like Camel Pose and supine backbends like Bridge Pose and Upward Bow Pose, gluteal engagement is more helpful. These postures produce a greater degree of spinal extension so it’s even more important that the pelvis and spine move cohesively. Engaging the glutes, particularly the lower fibers of the gluteus maximus near the hamstring insertion, will help maintain this balance rotating the pelvis slightly back over the top of the legs. This will help reduce lumbar compression—the feeling of your lower-back “crunching.” Even more, the glutes help lift the weight of the pelvis in supine backbends. If you don’t use the glutes in these postures, it’s more likely that you will unnecessarily burden less efficient muscle groups.

Some teachers and students are concerned that using the glutes will make the knees splay too far apart. This is a legitimate concern, but it’s easily managed. All you have to do in this situation is co-contract the muscles that line the inside of your thighs, the adductors. Firing the adductors while you engage the glutes will keep your thighs nice and neutral.

Excerpt from YogaGlo Article Backbends: Why and When to Squeeze Your Glutes by Jason Crandell


home practice

Establishing an independent home practice is a rite of passage for yoga practitioners. It’s the point at which you really learn to move at your own pace, listen and respond to your body, and develop greater consistency and frequency in your yoga practice. Like getting a driver’s license, practicing on your own empowers you and gives you new freedom to explore. But just like when you first get behind the wheel, that freedom can be overwhelming until you’re comfortable with the tools at hand and know how to get from one place to another.

While practicing yoga at home sounds easy enough in theory, even experienced practitioners can be uncertain about which poses to choose and how to put them together. Sequencing—which poses you practice and in what order—is one of the most nuanced and powerful tools that experienced teachers have at their disposal for teaching unique, transformative classes, and there are many ways of approaching sequencing in contemporary hatha yoga. Mastering the refined and subtle art of sequencing takes years of study, but you can learn some basic building blocks that will allow you to start putting together sequences of your own and to approach your home practice with confidence.

One way to begin creating your own at-home sequences is to familiarize yourself with a basic template that can be modified in many ways. On the following pages, you’ll find the building blocks for a well-rounded sequence made up of eight pose groups: opening poses, Sun Salutations, standing poses, inversions, backbends, twists, forward bends, and closing postures, ending with Savasana (Corpse Pose). In this basic sequence, these categories progress according to their intensity and the amount of preparation they require. Each pose—and each category of poses—prepares your body and mind for the next so that your practice feels like it has a beginning, middle, and end that flow seamlessly together. By following this methodology, you’ll create a sequence that warms you up slowly and safely, builds in intensity before peaking with challenging postures, and then slowly brings you back down to a quiet, relaxed finish.

Excerpt from Yoga Journal Article If You Build It by Jason Crandell