Hollow Back

Last updated: December 21, 2023

What Does Hollow Back Mean?

Hollow back is a term that refers to creating extension in the lumbar spine. The lower spine has a natural curvature, but in hollow back versions of arm-balance yoga poses, that curvature is increased. These are advanced variations of inversions that can cause injury if not properly executed.

Two keys to protecting the spine in hollow back poses are counterbalancing the weight with the legs and hollowing the upper back by drawing the chest between the arms, thereby stacking the upper spine.


Yogapedia Explains Hollow Back

In addition to lengthening the spine, hollow back yoga poses strengthen the core muscles and stretch the front body, as well as strengthen the arms and shoulders.

Some examples of hollow back yoga poses are:

  • Hollow back forearm balance – This is a variation of pincha mayurasana but with one leg extended back parallel to the ground, creating the arch in the spine. The other leg is bent at the knee and drawn forward to counterbalance the weight of the first leg. The gaze is forward with the neck in a neutral position. For a fuller expression of the pose, the forward leg can be straightened, creating a forearm balance with split legs.
  • Hollow back handstand – Beginning in handstand, the legs remain straight with the feet toward the sky, but the hips drop back, creating the spinal arch. This pose is typically practiced against a wall with the hands placed about the length of the forearms from the wall and the legs running up the wall, taking pressure off the spine.
  • Hollow back wheel pose (chakrasana) – Beginning in wheel pose, the forearms are dropped to the ground and the palms pressed together in prayer position. The heels are lifted in order to drop the tailbone and create space in the lower back.

Hollow back is also a term that is sometimes used for a condition known as lumbar hyperlordosis, swayback or saddleback, which is an abnormal overextension of the spine that can often be corrected through yoga therapy. Poses that build both abdominal and back strength, and that stretch the hips and hamstrings, are beneficial. In particular, cat pose pulls the abs in while rounding the spine.

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