Most humans, myself included, live our lives frontal. We walk forward, we drive forward, we look forward and we talk forward.  We all want to go forward. With all this frontal activity, we have completely ignored and weakened our back bodies.  It is seeing our fronts and backs as two equal opposites that establishes and nurtures both our physical and emotional body. Overemphasis of one inhibits our ability to be vulnerable and deepens our patterns of avoidance and insecurity.

Giving attention to our front side only, we force our backsides to become weak, over-stretched and/or tense and compressed.  So much so that there is now an epidemic of back body musculature in the 21st century.  There is one non-traumatic causes of back body atrophy, but I will say it three times for effect…


It is our posture that establishes first impressions of who we are to others. Posture conveys whether we are open, aggressive, scared, strong or insecure. How we stand is how the world sees into us and how we see the world.

poor_postureskeleton-2The first time I noticed poor posturing was in my medical practice walking into exam rooms and seeing majority of my patients hunched over sitting on the exam table with their heads inches forward over their chest, their chest and shoulders rounding down compressing their front body and all their internal organs.  All these bodies going down from texting, typing on computers and driving.  It’s not just the millennials, it’s all generations. All this hunching over causes the muscles of the spine to atrophy, the cervical and lumbar spine to flatten, the thoracic spine to overly curve (hyper-kyphosis), compression/jamming of the psoas muscle and all the thoracic (heart, lungs, thymus glands) and abdominal organs (stomach, small and large intestines, kidneys, spleen, liver, pancreas, lymph, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, prostate gland, adrenal glands, gall bladder and any other abdominal organ I am forgetting). you know that for each inch the head moves forward from the shoulders (i.e., our gravity/plumb line) our neck has to bare 10 more pounds weight? The weight of an average head is approximately 12 pounds. This increase in weight compresses the disc space, spinal nerves, blood vessels and lymph and causes imbalances in the musculature of the neck. Compression of the cervical spine leads to dysfunction in the central and peripheral nervous systems, circulatory and lymph systems causing neck pain, back pain, headaches, vertigo, TMJ, brain fog, to name a few.  Additionally,  hyper-kyphosis of the thoracic spine and flattening of the cervical spine decreases oxygenation to the end organs innervated by the thoracic and cervical spinal nerves.  Flattening of the cervical spine leads to forward head posturing compressing the posterior cervical muscles which weakens and over-stretches the anterior cervical muscles.

Poor posturing was brought to my awareness again while teaching yoga. I noticed four tadasana postures (mountain pose) that cause pathology and weakness of the back body (as described below). Not only were their tadasanas unhealthy, but this posturing directly translated into every successive posture allowing them to reinforce their bad habits.

IT’S A BALANCING ACT… as one body part moves too far in one direction another body part must compensate and move too far it the opposite direction.

The most common posturing that I see is called the Sway Back (pictures are courtesy of

  1. Collapsed inner feet arches cause a domino effect of every above structure  which is too much to address here, but will be addressed in future blogs.
  2. Knees are locked and/or hyper-extended propping the femur bone on top of the tibia forcing the menisci to bare the weight of the pelvis and upper body wearing it away.  Propping of femur bone allows the quadriceps and hamstrings to shut off.
  3. In order to balance the hyper-extension of the knees the pelvis must posteriorly tilt shifting the frontal hip points forward hyperextending the hips.  The psoas muscle tenses from hyper-extension to hold you up since quadriceps and hamstrings are shut off.
  4. Forward shift of the hips compresses/jams the sacroiliac joint while flattening and compressing the lumbar and lumbosacral spine.  To balance out the forward shift of the pelvis the thoracic spine becomes hyper-kyphotic which in turn flattens the cervical spine jutting the head forward.
  5. Hyper-kyphosis of the thoracic spine rounds the shoulder forward shortening the musculature the chest and abdominal wall muscles compressing the heart, lungs, thymus, and every abdominal organ.
  6. The internal oblique muscles become shortened and tense. The external obliques become overstretched and weakened.
  7. In order for you to be able to see forward out of your eyes you must lift the chin hyper-extending the neck. This shortens the posterior cervical muscles and over-stretches the anterior neck muscles.  Hyper-extension of the neck affects the way the occiput (head) sits on top of the cervical vertebra.  The occiput houses the cerebellum and brainstem.  I believe these are important structures ;-)!
    • Function of the cerebellum:
      • The cerebellum receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain. It regulates motor movements.  and coordinates voluntary movements such as posture, balance, coordination, and speech, resulting in smooth and balanced muscular activity.
    • Function of the brainstem:
      • The brain stem controls the flow of messages between the brain and the rest of the body. It controls basic bodily functions such as breathing, swallowing, heart rate, blood pressure, consciousness, and whether one is awake or sleepy.

I will keep the rest short, sweet and to the point as there is overlap with the sway back.

As we age and the more we sit Kyphotic-Lordotic posturing occurs:


    1. Collapsed inner feet arches cause a domino effect of every above structure.
    1. Some will Hyper-extension/lock the knees.
    1. Anterior tilt the pelvis causes hyper-lordosis the lumbar spine shortening the lower back extensor muscles.
    1. Anterior tilt of the frontal hip points weakens the abdominal musculature enabling the abdominal contents to “spill out” all the while pulling the rib cage down over-stretching and weakening the external obliques.
    1. Hyper-kyphosis of thoracic spine balances the torso compressing the anterior chest cavity shortening the chest wall muscles.
  1. Forward head position flattens to balance the hyper-kyphosis tensing the posterior neck muscles and weakening the anterior cervical muscles. This compresses the cervical spine including the CNS, PNS, circulatory and lymph systems, cerebellum and brainstem as stated above.

Poor posturing while sitting tends to cause a Flattened SpineFlat_Back 

    1. Collapsed inner feet arches cause a domino effect of every above structure.
    1. Some will hyper-extend or lock the knees.
    1. The pelvis posteriorly tucks under flattening the lumbar, thoracic, and cervical spines tensing the psoas muscle.  This compresses the SI joint and lumbar spine.
    1. The hamstrings shorten and tense because the quadriceps don’t have to do any work.
    1. The posterior tuck tenses the pelvic floor and abdominal wall musculature. The abdominal muscles tense and compress to keep the torso upright.
    1. Flattening of the lumbar spine compresses lumbar vertebrae.
    1. Flattening of the thoracic spine weakens upper back muscles.
  1. Forward head position with the flattened lumbar spine creates a hyper-lordosis of cervical spine tensing the posterior neck muscles and weakening and over-stretching the anterior cervical muscles as stated above.

Chronic sitting/couch potatoing cause the hyper-kyphotic back.Kyphotic_Back1

  1. Collapsed inner feet arches cause a domino effect of every above structure.
  2. Knees are hyper-flexed causing tense contraction of both the quadriceps and hamstrings.
  3. To the balance the hyper-flexion of the knees the pelvis maximally posteriorly tucks under flattening and compressing the lumbar spine. This causes kyphosis of the thoracic spine, hyper-lordosis of the cervical spine and a shortening of the hamstrings.
  4. Cervical hyper-lordosis shortens and tenses the posterior neck muscles and weakens the anterior neck muscles.
  5. Hyper-Kyphosis rounds the shoulders down to balance the posterior tuck of the pelvis compressing the anterior chest and abdominal cavities.  This shortening the chest and abdominal was muscles compressing the heart, lungs, thymus gland and all the abdominal organs.
  6. Forward head position flattens to balance the hyper-kyphosis tensing the posterior neck muscles and weakens and over-stretches the anterior cervical muscles compressing the cervical spine including the CNS, PNS, circulatory and lymph systems, cerebellum and brainstem as above.

Now, take a photo, NOT a selfie, of your profile standing.  A selfie won’t accurately capture your posture.  Warning: this is a 2 person photo-op job.

So, which one are you… The sway back, the kyphotic-lordotic, flattened spine, hyper-kyphotic back?

Check out what your posture should look like…Balanced-sm

  1. Feet balanced on all four corners with the inner arches lifted.
  2. knee are slightly bent or not locked or not hyper-extended.
  3. Tailbone is directed straight down toward the floor with a neutral pelvis lifting the pelvic floor while activating the lower abdominal wall muscles.
  4. Neutral pelvis allows the healthy lordotic lumbar, kyphotic thoracic and lordotic cerivcal curves.
  5. The healthy curvature of the spine keeps the head balanced over the shoulders, the shoulders over the pelvis and pelvis over the arches of the feet creating your healthy gravity/plumb line.

Weakening of back body causes fascia to lose pliability destroying its ability to protect, to be flexible, to be mobile, to stay hydrated and to provide alignment and proprioception. This is likely why we don’t even realize we are locked or hyperextend in our joints during almost all our activities of daily living and while exercising.

In yoga/ELDOA class I get a lot requests to stretch the back body, especially the hamstrings.  With all this new found knowledge, do we really want to stretch a muscles that is weak? Think about stretching a rope that is weak. It will likely tear or even break. The same goes for weak muscles.  Let’s strengthen the weaknesses.  Let’s look at our backsides so we can be strong to move forward and own our beauty and our goodness in order to heal and nurture the bad and the ugly to let go of what’s not serving us.



Next up… How our posture affects our fascia.

A special thanks to Dr. Kirsten Mackey for having my back on this blog post after it got deleted numerous times and had to be rewritten when my eyes were seeing double from staring at the computer screen for way too long…xoxo

One thought on “It’s time to check out your BACKSIDE.

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