A Postural Critique of Bikram Yoga – Part 3

This is part three in a series. Parts one and two can be found here Bikram Part 1, and here Bikram Part 2

Many people, including me, have turned to yoga to help with poor posture. One popular form of yoga is Bikram hot yoga, which purports to offer help for poor posture. Unfortunately, doing Bikram according to the script may not help, and in some cases can actually harm, your back, neck and posture.

So, to continue my series on Bikram yoga, its limitations and how to modify it for your body, let’s move on to problem number two; tech neck (forward head posture). This is a forward curve of the neck with the chin tilted down. Forward head posture is not unique to our time (it was previously known as scholar’s neck), but with the ubiquity of desk jobs, tablet computers and cell phones it has certainly become epidemic.

Issues with tech neck include the muscles of the neck and shoulders being weakened, rounded forward, and having lost flexibility. Additionally, the muscles along the back of the neck are stretched and weakened. Many of the Bikram postures tilt the neck back, but they do so in a way that may not help these problems.

If you have head forward posture, your neck curve is flattened out, and bending the neck back, with already weakened and tight muscles in the front of the neck, can cause pinching in the discs of the cervical spine. This is not a good thing. In addition, those muscled on the back of the neck need strengthening. So, what to do?

Modify/eliminate the following postures:

  1. Pranayama breathing
  2. First back bend (after half moon)
  3. Standing forehead to knee
  4. Separate leg with forehead to knee
  5. Wind removing
  6. Cobra
  7. Locust
  8. Full locust
  9. Floor bow
  10. Rabbit
  11. Separate leg with forehead to knee
  12. The sit ups

For lumbar issues, the rule of thumb is; “Don’t forward flex the lower back.”

For tech neck, the basic rules are;

  • Do not over bend in the cervical (neck) spine, forward or back.
  • Do not hang the head back with muscles relaxed.
  • Strengthen the muscles on the back of the neck

These are the basic rules, next time, specific adaptations.