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Bending thoracic spine - Physio advice

Luciane's picture
Last seen:
4 years 5 months ago
02/18/2018 - 4:47pm
Bending thoracic spine - Physio advice


I have chronic upper body pain (and more recently hips and knees as well). I have been using the Gokhale Method from what I have learned from the book, DVD and free materials. It is very helpful for sure but I still struggle, so I go to Physical Therapy and other professionals when I can afford.

Many physio therapists have been recommending me to rest my mid back (around bra line) on a foam roller and bend backwards. They say it is supposed to work on mobility of my spine, which is very stiff. 

My question is..is this really healthy?

I saw a video of Esther saying that she doesn't recommend this kind of thing. As far as I know so far, there is no exercise in this Method that asks for any bending on the spine unless the lumbar area. I hope I am correct on this...

How do you recommend working on mobility of spine if it seems that all the exercises asks for maintaining an erect J spine? What if , for example, I need to curve my spine during dancing? If we never work on moving the spine in different directions, how would we keep our vertebrates mobile? I feel confused about it.

Thank you for any clarification.




Monisha's picture
Last seen:
2 years 11 months ago
08/05/2009 - 2:37pm

Hi Luciane,

I'm happy to hear you've been getting starting with learning the Gokhale Method! I hope you are able to make it to a class at some point in the near future, as most students find that working with a teacher and getting hands-on guidance is the most effective way of learning this work.

We actually very much agree that back rolling is a wonderful way to mobilize the spine! However, you are correct that our perspective does not include distorting the spine very much or arching back. (There is one place that we consider it natural and healthy to bend back, and that is L5S1 – for more on this I recommend you read this post on "In Yoga: Bend Back, Don’t Swayback!": https://gokhalemethod.com/blog/62807). We encourage rolling to mobilize the spine, but when we teach rolling, we teach it without swaying back over the roller. This page actually has a short video that give an overview of recommended rolling technique: https://shop.gokhalemethod.com/products/gokhale-roller?variant=30465075921

Shearing (side to side) can also be a good way to mobilize, thought it's important to have good length (including utilizing your Inner Corset!) to do this safely.

If you have good length and baseline shape, and your back is not fragile, it's not necessarily a problem to introduce slight distortions — twisting, slightly curving the spine in dance, or otherwise moving the spine in various activities, can be well tolerated by a healthy, resilient, and elongated spine. The Gokhale Method perspective is not that any distortion is problematic, but rather that extreme distortion, rounding / arching as a baseline, or introducing these distortions when you have injury, compression, or otherwise senstive back, is risky.

I hope this helps!

Monisha White
Gokhale Method teacher; Palo Alto, CA

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