Imagine this: You see your coworker, friend, boyfriend, whoever standing and looking down at their phone. Their shoulders are slumped over, their low back curved into a C shape, and their neck hinged downward. Without thinking, you tell them, “Stand up straight!
It’s a common phrase that is associated with correcting your posture into a more healthy shape. As someone who hasn’t had the best posture in the past, my mom probably said it to me every day throughout most of my childhood and adolescence. But, when you stop and think about it, does stand up straight actually make any sense? Our spine has curves. In fact when we’re embryos, one of the first recognizable parts of the body to form is the cervical curve. Our spines have a lumbar curve, a thoracic curve, and cervical curve. So why is our standard of posture stand up straight?
Especially in today’s era that seems like it’s forcing you to sit all day whether it’s in a car or at a desk, good posture can feel like it slips further away from you each day. So if we’re constantly fighting this brand new battle to maintain new posture, maybe it’s time for a brand new way of thinking about it, too. A way that considers not only the composition of our spines, but the realities of modern life.
Enter Bowspring. Bowspring is a new style of yoga founded by Desi Springer & John Friend in 2012. The practice is founded on the idea that we should not only respect the natural curves of the spine, but we should use these curves as a source of power. In a bowspring class, you’re led to find full body engagement through each pose. Most new students feel the change in the way they hold their posture almost immediately. Rather than relying on strong abdominals and bringing the shoulders back and down, bowspring invites you to engage not only the abs, but the upper back, chest, shoulders, and even your glutes to find a strong and healthy posture. By inviting so many muscle groups to work in harmony towards the same intention a light, springy posture is achieved that promotes full-body awareness from head to toe.
Bowspring offers a lot of solutions for modern day problems and it’s easy to gloss over it because it’s such a radically different way of practicing yoga. I’ve learned personally and through watching students that if you stick with it, bowspring delivers. It can be frustrating, humbling, and really hard work but I’ve watched students reclaim range of motion, learn healthy new ways of walking, bending, and standing, and recover from long term injuries or disorders, like scoliosis.
Bowspring can be considered radically different from traditional yoga, and to be honest, sometimes it is. But, our modern lives are also radically different than they were when the standard of stand up straight was made the benchmark to measure posture, so why not explore new solutions? Bowspring is a different way of practicing yoga, with beautiful flows and striking strength that feels primal and grounding, and at least for me, it’s part of a balanced approach I take that asks me to be compassionate, accountable, and strong with each and every movement.