When i first got serious with my yoga practice i already had pretty good forward bending skills. Like many of my generation i had learned to associate stretching with forward bending, stretching the legs and back.
At that time i didn’t realize the importance of balancing forward and backward mobility. Even less did i realize the need to keep the spine itself supple, mobile. When i say spine i mean the whole spine from top to bottom and side to side.
A very common issue with beginning backbenders is to only bend in the lower back. For this reason one of the most common complaints for intermediate yoga students is lower back or sacral area pain.
This is often due to lack of mobility in the upper back, or thoracic spine.
Below is a wonderful demonstration of a seemingly simple exercise. If you are impatient scroll forward and watch in hypnotic amazement as this advanced Qi Gong practitioner demonstrates a remarkable degree of spinal control and suppleness.
One point that may be missed, notice when he is simply standing without moving. See the groove in his back? Look at how even and smooth it is. A sure sign of a very healthy spine! Most people’s spinal notch is uneven, often having a deep groove somewhere in the lumbar and a protruding negative groove in the thoracic region.
On a personal note, i myself found that when i finally was able to get some degree of awareness in my thoracic spine, that each morning upon awakening i naturally began to do an ‘exercise’ similar to this one. My gentle wake up.