"Roll Up" & whAt you can say instead

"Roll your spine up and come to stand."
This phrase is not in my teaching vocabulary.
Let me explain why:

  • Rolling up the spine from a standing forward bend can be compressive to the sacroiliac (SI) joints, the intervertebral discs (that soft jelly in between each vertebrae that act as shock absorbents), or the labrum of the hips (the soft tissue around the hip socket).

  • You are asking your lumbar discs to bear the weight of your cervical/thoracic spine, rib cage, head, etc... which are all a super heavy load for the lumbar discs. Now add in the effects of gravity and your lumbar discs are being compressed with quite a tremendous force with little or no support from the core muscles.

  • This compressive damage may cause instability over time in the spine, hips and pelvis increasing the risk for "throwing your back out" or other preventable musculoskeletal injuries.

  • Rolling up is the insensitive (and lazy, in my opinion!) way to come to standing from a forward fold. Rolling up is a missed opportunity to build posterior & core strength as well as skeletal stability & body awareness.

So, why roll up to standing???  Well, I am not sure. I suppose rolling up and deeply rounding the spine might feel like a “good stretch” for some folks... but there are literally dozens of other postures/movements to stretch the back in a more safe, integrated, and intelligent way.

And here is the thing, maybe you love to roll up and your physical structure can handle it and you will never get hurt! However, from an anatomical and physiological perspective, the risks of rolling up certainly outweigh the benefits - and the minimal benefits can be found in countless other poses and movements.


Consider this - if you were going to lift a heavy box off of the floor, how would you go about arranging and engaging your body to do so safely?

Would you squat down, engage your core, and lift up with a neutral spine?

Or would you bend only at the hips and round the spine to reach the box and then just stand up?

Here are a few other options to come up from a standing forward bend to standing with engagement, strength, and integration in the body:

  • Ground through the feet, bend your knees, lower the hips, engage the back body to lengthen the spine, engage the front body to activate the core, shift weight back and down and press through the legs to stand.

“But I really want to roll up from standing!”
Okay! Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.
A few things that you can do to keep you spine safe when rolling up":

  • Ground through the feet, bend the knees, engage the core (draw the navel in, brace the corset muscles), keep the back of the pelvis wide and femurs rooting back and down, start at the sacrum and slowly roll the spine up.

Play around with these options and see what works for you! And please share!

*Wondering why the knees are bent in the forward bends? Stay tuned for more yoga asana and anatomy inquiries.  :)