Runners should do back-bending

 Shammi Gupta of Shammi’s Yogalaya holds an M.A. in Yoga Shastra, is a certified Yogic Therapist and Naturopath, has completed an Advanced Yoga Course and holds a Diploma in Yoga Education from Mumbai University. She is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Trainer as well, and also has an MBA in Finance and HR from The University of Akron, Ohio, USA. She conducts Health Awareness Workshops for Corporates, Yogasana Workshops for Runners and Athletes, and Yoga Therapy Workshops on injury prevention and different medical issues. She teaches a combination of Classical Hatha Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, etc. She believes in imparting holistic yogic knowledge and is passionate about conducting research in the areas of sports and yoga. Among the celebrities she trains are eminent personalities from the film and television industry and corporates.


Everyone, even RUNNERS should practice backward-bending asana.

Our spine is extraordinary in its combination of rigidity and flexibility. Rigidity in the form of vertebrae and flexibility in the form of intervertebral discs that assist in the movement of the back. This duality of rigidity & flexibility can only be maintained and balanced when we do backward bends on a regular basis. It does not mean, however, that we do not need to perform forward bends. The advantage, though, is that we perform forward bend unknowingly on a regular basis.

With age, our disc starts drying up, thereby causing stiffness of the back. Yoga has long claimed that all the bending and stretching will make the backbone youthful. Science has examined such declarations and found that yoga can, in fact, counteract the deterioration of the disc that lies between the vertebrae. It is believed that any asana when performed systematically in the form of stretching, bending, twisting, brings sufficient oxygen and nutrients to the discs thereby maintaining their suppleness.

Take a minute and run your mind through your daily chores. Your day-to-day movements are predominantly forward bending. Bending forward to pick things up, sitting on the chair for hours and looking down to the desk or computer monitor which is generally not aligned with your sitting posture and yes, not to forget, the cellphone which keeps our thumbs active but at the same time our heads dropped down. These everyday practices are recipes for many health problem including back pain, cervical spondylitis etc. Even kids are not spared of this. Such activities are working our spine only in one direction thereby leading to muscular imbalance. This is undesirable and will require fixing for a healthy back.

Constant forward bending causes a collapsing effect from the waist, thereby pushing the vertebrae backward causing the discs to move back, shortening the front of the spine and straining the muscles of the back. This happens every single time we bend down for any activity. Backward bending will help align the vertebrae, thereby help maintain the muscular balance.


Athletes & Backward Bend

Some athletes like runners and cyclists keep contemplating if they need backward bending at all as their movement is forward oriented or they are running straight on the surface. We will need to review our spinal structural again here.

Intervertebral disc does the job of shock absorber. It accounts for the shape and length of the back. With increase in age, we have decreased disc lubrication, which directly affects their compressibility and expansibility. The end result is reduced flexibility and increased stiffness in our back. In case of runners, they are constantly jumping vertically from one step to the next. This movement causes the disc to compress. In order to preserve the health of the back and the spine, stretching is a must to lengthen the ligaments, which enclose the discs. This lengthening will allow the disc to align itself back in place and help maintain its natural curve.

Tight hip flexor & tight groin is a common complaint among cyclists, runners & athletes. Hip flexor and groin assist backward bend. Since these athletes mostly have tight hip flexor & groin, they find it difficult to perform backward bend compared to non-athletes. Having said that, gradual backward bend practice will stretch the hip flexors – this will not only releases the tightness from that region but also at the same time prevents injuries. Along with this, it also develops power and strength in the legs, core and back.




In spite of its initial challenges, back bending can be one of the most therapeutic parts of yoga practice. There are tremendous benefits of performing back bends. The pivotal point is to do it safely, in a systematic manner so that gradual and regular practice takes you towards a rejuvenating experience. Preparing for backbend in itself is a vast topic for discussion. For the time being, it is important to route our thought process in a positive direction and take small steps that will help us achieve the bigger goal.

To understand the difference between backward bend & back bend, different back movements and much more, check my blogs, “Back bending is not a natural movement – Why do we do it anyway – Part –I” & “Back bending is not a natural movement, Hence, the need to perform it, Part – II” at

For the rest check,

“One needs to tread the path of discomfort to experience the exhilarating calmness of back bending”.

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