Yoga for Paddling: How to Sit to Reduce Back Pain


Did you know that one of the main functions of the spine is that of shock absorber? That’s why the spine has curves, to act like a spring to absorb impact. The disks in between the bony vertebrae also play a major roll in this function.

Disks are made of squishy cartilage able to absorb impact by compressing slightly. In a healthy spine the cartilage doesn’t stay compressed, but retakes shape. When the disks get too compressed by the vertebrae it can lead to bulging disks. A bulging disk is when the disk gets so compressed that it bulges out to one side of the spine, usually hitting nerves creating pain and loss of mobility.

A major cause of bulging disks in our culture is sitting. Sitting for long periods of time, especially sitting with poor alignment starts to change the natural curvature of the spine. A healthy lumbar spine (low back) has a slight concave curve, thoracic spine (mid-back) a slight convex curve and cervical spine (neck) a slight concave curve.

Sitting for long periods of time over time can start to shift the concave curve of the low back into a convex curve. If we never do any stretches, exercises of movement to counteract the sitting and bring our spine back into alignment the vertebrae start to compress the disk and the disk starts to bulge out toward the back of the spine. Here’s a video where I explain the role of the spine as shock absorber and the roll that sitting plays. This video was taken during a Yoga for Paddling workshop I taught for the CHOTA in Knoxville, TN.

That’s why it’s so important to be aware of our posture and alignment when we’re sitting and standing. Learning about optimal alignment in the hips and the ribcage can give us practical strategies on maintaining a healthy spine, reduce the risk of injury and maintain mobility. Here’s a video with step-by-step instruction on how to sit for optimal alignment and reduce back pain.

Finally, here is a 15 minute yoga sequence for back health and mobility. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like other yoga for paddling resources check out my book Yoga for Paddling and personalized yoga coaching! If you’d like to have me teach a yoga for paddling workshop for you club or organization just get in touch!