In many flow classes, it’s common to hear the instruction to ‘roll up to standing’ from a standing forward fold. This isn’t something that’s found in traditional yoga practices. In ashtanga yoga, you always rise from a forward fold with a flat back. I also haven’t encountered it in my (admittedly limited) experience with Iyengar yoga. It seems to be an instruction that has made its way into yoga classes via dance. Although it might seem like a harmless alternative, it is something I never teach anymore, and I teach my students in teacher trainings not to teach it either.
There are many good reasons to practice back bends, but improvement in cardiovascular health may be one of the most important, and one of the most overlooked. There are several ways that a regular practice of back bends can impact your heart and lung function. The back bends don’t even have to be deep. Moderate poses such as bridge pose or locust pose would work well.
As yoga teachers, it is our job to assist people in moving their body in mindful ways that will bring overall physical and mental well-being. A big part of this responsibility entails preventing injury whenever possible. To this aim, yoga teachers use a myriad of alignment cues designed to protect the body from injury. Some of these cues are good advice. Others seem to make little sense. For example, why should one flex the ankle to protect the knee in a hip opening pose? In order to understand whether this is a useful alignment cue, we must explore the effect that hip opening poses have on the knee, and how movement at the ankle may or may not mediate this effect.