Working Through Tension and Accepting Compression Video
Working Through Tension and Accepting Compression

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Working Through Tension and Accepting Compression

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Bernie Clark discusses what is stopping you from stretching further. Most injuries occur after 3-5 years of yoga, when you push into compression over and over again. Know your limits and understand the difference between tension and compression.


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tatiana.cicchelli, posted on July 14, 2015

Short, sweet, and to the point but 100% clear and sage advice. Thanks Bernie, I feel like I needed to see this video today. As always, it's been enlightening :)

courtneyprior, posted on September 19, 2013

Hi @Osterhase, thank you for your comment! I've opened a ticket for you at our help desk, you will receive an e-mail shortly on how to resolve this issue.
Courtney and the MYO Team

Osterhase, posted on September 19, 2013

It says 'Stream not found'. Is it only on my computer? Because actually I get this on quite a lot of the older posts.

Lolotte, posted on April 24, 2013

Thank you so much for this very enlightning video. I am still in the "limited by tension" stage in my practice, but it's really interesting to know exactly and anatomically what I am and will be doing to my body. I really don't want to injure it.

zvonka, posted on October 24, 2012

Thank You for the elaborated answer! How to harmonize muscles and bones : )

bernieclark, posted on October 24, 2012

@zvonka Originally tension will limit our range of motion, so it is not true that all backbends will result in the spinous processes hitting. If your stomach muscles are tight you may feel a stretch there more than compression in the lower back. Eventually, however, after you work through that tensile resistance then you will be at the point where you will start to compress the spine. It is at this point that other techniques become essential, such as elongating through your core to provide as much space for the vertebrae as possible: we engage the back muscles to lengthen the spine while we move into the backbend. It is when the muscles are not engaged properly while repetitively moving the spine that problems can arise. I would not say that you should avoid every backbend: do them properly and you should be okay. What I am saying is - be mindful of how your body feels: if you feel that you are crunching into the lower back each time you go into spinal extension, then stop doing that.

What we have been talking about is yang exercise/stress of the lumbar spine: rhythmic, repetitive movements. These can be dangerous. However, in the yin style we apply a constant, long held stress to these same tissues without moving them. This traction can be healthy for the yin tissues of the body, but again you must remain sensitive to any pain here. Pain, whether in a yin or yang yoga practice, is a sign that you are doing something wrong and should stop.

If you need more information on this you may want to read my book: The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga or view Paul Grilley's dvd: Anatomy of Yoga. Cheers, Bernie

zvonka, posted on October 24, 2012

Thnx for yogic food for thought. : )
Would this means that postures like Kapotasana, drop backs or, even, very Urdhva Dhanurasana shuold be (generally) avoided cos even if one 'doesn't feel' pinch in the back, those spinous processes of a vertebras have to 'hit' somewhere?
Also, I read/heard about, here mentioned, yin pressure or action on a bone but Im still dont get it how that is not compression - but maybe there is to much questions for one post : )

vegout, posted on October 24, 2012

More videos like this from Bernie please. Excellent, practical information.

Jeannie8, posted on October 23, 2012

As practicing Yogie for 10 yrs or was determine with X Ray & MRI nerve damage On L5 of my spine. Yet I have no problem in complete forward bend or Dandasana......... first time i;ve hear about compression in Yoga practice..

stinaz, posted on October 23, 2012

Important things to note when practicing to not push yourself too hard. Listen to your body and any tension in the muscles. And when your anatomy means you're dealing with "compression" and anatomically you can't go further, STOP! Good advice here.

bernieclark, posted on October 22, 2012

Responding to the question below: "how can I know?" The first thing to pay attention to is where the sensations are. Tension is felt in the tissues on the opposite side of the movement: compression is felt in the direction of movement. For the backbend example in the video: tension would be felt in the stomach area. If the stomach muscles or fascia is tight and is preventing you from going deeper into the backbend, you'd feel it there. If you have worked through that tensile resistance and stretched/opened up - then you will start to reach compression, which would be felt in the vertebrae. Now it is important to know that you can never work through all the possible tension because when you hit compression, you can't go any deeper, so there will be some residual tension, but the key sensations to be watching for is compression and that is felt in the direction of the movement. For your question: you know you have reached compression in backbends when you feel it in the back.

telma, posted on October 21, 2012

I appreciate your injury prevention videos, Bernie. Can you do one specifically on dog ward dog including modifications. This pose has brought resulted in more neck,wrist, backpack injuries than any other. Thank you. Telma grant,PT.

rana1975, posted on October 20, 2012

Hi , I have a question : as a yogi how can I know if I'm going through tension or I just reached my compression point ?? specially in back bends its hard for me to tell . Plz advice. Thank u

artistinflight6, posted on September 1, 2014

more!! I want to know more about this phenomena. I love the way Bernie clark explains Yoga. He has a down to earth attitude which I really appreciate. He is unpretentious.

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