I recently attended a workshop with John Friend and Desi Springer as they presented their new alignment principle, the "bow spring," as the foundation for their new Sridaiva yoga. I was very excited to attend this workshop and learn from such experienced yogis. My feelings afterward are mixed.
The "bow spring" is basically an arched low back and an open chest, both of which are great medicine for our current cultural maladies - sitting and hunching forward. When sitting, our low backs and upper backs tend to round forward, hunching our shoulders and closing our chests. This poor posture is bad for the muscles of the back, which get very weak, and bad for the chest, which gets tight and closes off our energy and confidence. The "bow spring" builds strength in the muscles of the back; encourages a more proper spinal curvature which then transfers our weight more efficiently; and stretches the muscles, tissues and energy centers of the torso, particularly the solar plexus, sternum and throat. In these ways, I think the "bow spring" is a wonderful technique.
The benefits of the "bow spring" are remarkably similar to Cobra Pose. Cobra is one of the most, if not the most, important single yoga posture. It strengthens the muscles of the back, achieves a gentle backward bend and stretches the chest. (Cobra Pose also compresses the kidneys and adrenals, reducing stress. And it compresses the pelvis, releasing testosterone that increases self-esteem and confidence.) The "bow spring," like Cobra, would be an excellent alignment for one posture, or even a series of several postures. But one would not claim that Cobra Pose makes a complete physical practice. And I don't think that the "bow spring" facilitates a balanced practice either.
There are many alignments and bends possible in the spine and hips. They are two of the most mobile structures in the body. A balanced practice requires an exploration of all (or at least many) of these positions. We must bend the spine forward, backward, sideways, twist it and stretch it long. That includes the lumbar (lower) spine, for which the "bow spring" encourages only one position.
We must stretch our hips in all directions and rotate them. That is how we achieve improved strength, flexibility and energetic openness. In order to achieve its exaggerated lumbar curve, the "bow spring" requires a forward tilt of the pelvis, which in turn creates a shortened front side of the quadriceps. This will create tightness in the hip flexor area (top front of the hips), which is already a common cultural problem due to all the sitting we do.
Both John Friend and Desi Springer are tremendous yogis, experienced and advanced in their personal practices and their understanding of yoga. Desi especially is impressive to watch in her strength, flexibility and playfulness with the postures (I believe she started as a Ghosh yogi, growing up on Bikram). But I find their new method of yoga to be imbalanced and incomplete.
This journal honors my ongoing experience with the practice, study and teaching of yoga.
1) Sridaiva Yoga: Good Intention But Imbalanced
2) Understanding Chair Posture
2) Why I Don't Use Sanskrit or Say Namaste
3) The Meaningless Drudgery of Physical Yoga
5) Beyond Bikram: Why This Is a Great Time For Ghosh Yoga