Years ago, my dear brother asked me “will I develop chicken chest if I practice Yoga regularly”? I had no answer at that moment. Since then, I kept a sharp look out for what he meant by people with “chicken chest”.
I was fascinated by observation I have of how most Yoga practitioner have appeared to adopt a lifted chest posture after becoming a Yoga teacher. The most common instructions to counteract slouching is to teach people to “lift the chest” or “open your heart”. Such instructions are burned into almost everyone’s mind as the correct way to achieve good posture.
In Yoga class, we see people put in all their mighty strength to keep up the chicken chest which is only possible if you hold up the posture with tensions. But what Yoga practitioners do not know or choose not to know is that the action of lifting up the chest which many people think they should be doing actually shortens rather than lengthens the spine and contracts the lower back muscles rather than releases its tension.
When Yoga teacher instructs you to “Lift your chest” what hides behind the framework of false confidence is a tensed shoulders, lower back and mid back because muscular effort is continuously required to hold this stance for as long as you remember it, otherwise if you forget you will slouch again. Most people briefly adopt a stiff upright position with tension in the lower back but are quick to return to the slouching position again as soon as we shift our attention to other activities.
People are not able to maintain good position this way without continuous efforts to remind himself about it. The effect is people return to slouching position and repeatedly felt guilty about it.
A memory of myself before I come into Yoga practice captured slouching and collapsed posture with a forward rotation of ribs and backward rotation of the pelvis.
With after 2 years of stretching myself out in regular Yoga, I hold myself up in tensed posture with a backward rotation of the pelvis and forward rotation of the pelvis.
Nothing will change structurally in the shape of the spine. My upper back which is structurally bent appeared straight with the process of lifting the spine. I held my bent spine with deep internal tension in the lower back and the mid back so that I could hide my bent upper back. In term of the body awareness I became only my chest and lose contact with the rest of my whole body.
From a humble image suddenly I turned into a very important person like most Yoga teachers.
Most people including Yoga teachers are not able to give directions to the upper back because of lost of feeling to that area of the spine. And without feeling, there is no ability for direction. And when there is no movement in the upper back, there is a tendency to overload the shoulders, strain the neck and compress the lower back.
So please pay attention to that, see whether you are the group of very important “chicken chest” people like I mentioned before where your awareness of the whole shrink into that chest awareness or your chest is the receiver of breath where the whole body comes into your being like little children, where a being in straight position is naturally relax and effortless.