Why You Shouldn’t Use a Block for These Backbends

Why You Shouldn’t Use a Block for These Backbends


Adductor Muscles in Wheel

You might hear some yoga teachers instruct you to use a block in between thighs while doing backbends such as Camel Pose, Bridge Pose, or even Full Wheel. You won’t hear it from this one, though!

Here’s why: When hips are extended and you engage the inner thighs (adductors) by squeezing a block placed in between them, it causes the hips and knees to splay out due to the direction of the muscle fibers of the adductors, as shown in the image above.

The prime muscle mover in backbends are the buttocks (gluteus maximus, in particular), which are also external rotators, causing the hips and knees to move outwards, too, which we don’t want in backbends. Using a block in these poses only accentuates this (even when you try to inward spiral the thighs).

We want to use the glutes because they are the prime mover, and when you engage the buttocks, the hips will release (reciprocal inhibition), but we don’t want knees and hips to splay out. So what’s a yogi to do in these backbends???

Here’s what (no block!)!:

For Camel: tops of the feet flat. Press the tops of the feet, shins and knees into the earth and without moving them, attempt to drag them apart isometrically.  Lift your chest, draw the abdominals in, engage the buttocks and bend back, into the upper spine. Hands can support low back, or if craving more sensation, walk hands to hold inner thighs or inner edges of the feet. If holding inner thighs or inner heels, draw elbows out against an imaginary door frame to help open the chest.

For Bridge and Wheel: Feet parallel, hips distance apart and in line with sitting bones. Bring feet close enough to sitting bones that you could brush fingertips against heels. Set your arms for either Bridge or Wheel. Here are the 3 important steps.

  1. Press inner edges of the feet down
  2. Without moving the feet, attempt to drag them apart isometrically
  3. Engage the buttocks and lift up, up up!

Thank you Dr. Raymond Long for the excellent information!


Kelli Russell
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