Good Backs

We hear a lot about bad backs. What about good backs??!

There are some people who seem to have naturally strong backs. A few well-known ones are: Mohammed Ali,  Rudolf NureyevArtur Rubinstein and Ian Thorpe. Click the links and watch them move. How they move offers some potent clues as to what it might be like to have not just a pain-free back, but a really strong one that supports your every movement. 

What is common to all these performances is effortlessness. Mohammed Ali and Rudolph Nureyev float. Artur Rubinstein plays a demanding piano study and looks like he's doing nearly nothing. Ian Thorpe looks like he's having a swim on a lazy Sunday afternoon even when sprinting flat-out to win an Olympic medal. None of them could look or feel effortless without a strong back.

Myth 1: Those With Strong Backs are Just Lucky

No, not really :-)

  • One thing to notice about the people mentioned is that they are or were at the top of their game. They have worked hard and paid attention to get there and stay there
  • We can all learn to improve our backs. A good back, in general, is something we work for, that we earn
  • We can't greatly change the characteristics of the backs we were born with, but we can make a huge difference to the way we use our back. And changing the way we use our back has enormous consequences
  • A strong back is not something that's handed to us on a plate. It isn't difficult to work for a strong back, but it does take time and persistence.

Myth 2: A “Good Back” is an Uninjured Back

There's a popular idea that a good back is one that has not yet been injured. This view of the back is misleading and incomplete. How we use our backs is, if anything, a stronger factor in reducing back pain than correcting physical damage.

How Many People Have Back Pain?

Almost everyone, at one time or another. If you're a westerner, you've a 90% chance of having back pain at some point in your life, a 50% chance of significant pain some time this year and a 25% chance that you're in pain from your back right now. Some back pain statistics can be found here.

Wellness and Strong Backs

A good back is more than an absence of pain. It's a magnificent organ for life, energy and living, and can be positively worked for. The most important thing to know about good backs: even if your back has been injured, in almost all cases you can still have a good back. That potential is still there in the vast majority of people.
Even paralysis isn't the end of a “good back”. Here's a moving and inspiring audio interview with Matthew Sanford, a Yoga teacher who broke his spine in two places as a teenager, and teaches Yoga from a wheelchair.

Injured or not, backs are beautiful, capable, powerful structures.

The spinal column is the root of our power. We are vertebrates-- everything we are and can do is based on our spine, whether it's body movement, digestion, the functioning of our nervous system, even thinking. The spine IS our nervous system. Many cultures have understood the transformative power of work on the spine, whether it's Kundalini in Yoga, Primary Control in the Alexander Technique or a component of the Central Nervous System in Western medicine.

What does a good back feel like? Click here to find out. The answers might surprise you!

Watch these people move: Mohammed Ali,  Rudolf NureyevFred AstaireArtur Rubinstein, Ian Thorpe

"A good back is not an uninjured back-- it's a back, injured or uninjured, that you use well."

"A good back is more than an absence of pain. It's a magnificent organ for life, energy and living"

Ian Thorpe (Olympic Gold, Athens 2004, Men's 200m freestyle)

"A good back is something we work for. It's not handed to us on a plate."