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(Hyper)Lordosis, the Mother of all Distortions (Part Two)

by Joel Carbonnel(more info)

listed in bodywork, originally published in issue 236 - February 2017

This is continued from my previous Expert Column Lordosis - the Mother of all Distortions published in PH Online Issue 233, Oct 2016.

In order to avoid any potential confusion, I must stress at the start that I’ll be talking here about excessive or hyper lordosis. Normal (physiological) lordosis is one of the hallmarks of humankind, a morphological feature that was the unavoidable result of having adopted a bipedal orthograde habit with extended lower limbs. I feel the need for this little caveat, first, because The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary - [OED] defines ‘lordosis’ as an “(Abnormal) inward curvature of the spine…” which is confusing since, as far as I know, there is no word in the OED for a normal inward curvature of the spine; second, because some bodyworkers such as Joseph Pilates believed that “…the spine should be flat like a newly-born infant even throughout adult life.” This erroneous view can mislead people into doing exercises or  cultivating postural habits designed to flatten out the lower back with, obviously, harmful results.

(Hyper)Lordosis, the Mother of all Distortions (Part Two)

To the trained eye, hyper-lordosis is ubiquitous in human beings. To the untrained eye or to eyes rendered ‘myopic’ by faulty teachings, it is hyper-kyphosis (round back) which is believed to be the most common postural defect. It is understandable because bumps are easier to see than hollows. But if, as I assert, hyper-lordosis is the mother of all acquired physical distortions, and the cause of many musculo-skeletal pains, it is important to know how to correctly ‘read’ and interpret the human form. To do so, I invite you to do a little experiment to hunt out our lordoses and to discover how they spread out of their natural boundaries.

Do try this at home or even outdoors because, for this experiment, you’ll only need a wall and yourself. Once you have found your wall, lean your back against it in the most casual and comfortable way. Imagine for example that you are tired of standing up and feel like having a little support for your back while looking at your mobile phone. Even though we come in many different shapes and forms, one of the most common ways of adopting this posture, especially if you maintain it for a while, would be as follow.

You would have put your feet at some distance from the wall; the only part of your back pressing against the wall would be the apex of the kyphosis (the outward curvature of the spine) around the lower part of the shoulder blades. Your head and pelvis would be forward, away from the wall. But, as I said earlier, we are all different so there will be variations in the manner whereby you would adopt this resting position. Some of you will have the pelvis also touching the wall and the feet will be more or less close to the wall. Or, the head would be against the wall but not the pelvis. In rarer cases the head and the pelvis would be touching the wall and this position surely will be adopted by the most posture-conscious people amongst you but it will be at the expense of the ‘resting’ aspect of the position.

What has that got to do with lordosis you may ask? In the first scenario, where only the middle of the back is in contact with the wall you might think that the whole spine is uniformly rounded forward - a total kyphosis. You would be wrong. The head and pelvis are forward in relation to the few vertebrae around the lower part of the shoulder blades, but the spine above and below the point of contact with the wall are still concave backward, or, to use the technical term, lordotic. I freely admit that it is not easy to feel unless you are very kinaesthetically literate. It is informative to observe people who spontaneously adopt this posture and I encourage you to do so. But despair not because I invite you to adopt another posture, still against a wall, to reveal the predominance of the lordosis over the kyphosis. A word of caution though: although it seems, on paper, easy to achieve, you might actually have difficulty or be unable to hold this posture. It all depends on the state of your postural muscles. So, don’t force and don’t hurt yourself - you are in a no-competition zone here.

Stand against the wall, feet together, with your heels, your pelvis, the convex part of your back and your skull touching the wall. For a few of you it will be easy; for some it will be difficult; for the rest of you it will be impossible especially for the head to reach the wall. But everybody should be able to feel that only a few vertebrae (from 1 to 3 centred around the 7th thoracic vertebra) are touching the wall. Do not mistake your shoulder blades for your spine by the way. Now it is easier to realize that the lordoses are not just cervical or lumbar, but extend into the thoracic region. A good number of you will also be able to feel how deep  these lordosis are.

Imagine that the two lordoses in your back are like a bow and string mechanism - two bows (the concave regions in your spine) tauten by a string (the muscles). When you have brought your head and pelvis against the wall (or tried to), it is as if you have drawn back the bows in your spine. The lordoses are like two bows on top of each other, the kyphosis being merely the point where these ‘bows’ meet. The more tight and hypertonic are your Muscular Chains (if you don’t know what they are read some of my past columns), the deeper or the more extensive will be the lordoses and the more difficult it will be to align the three convexities of the spine (skull, mid-thoracic area and sacrum) on the same plane (in this case, the wall). In some cases, no part of the spine will touch the wall, exhibiting a total lordosis - think of the back of a classical dancer.

I hope I have convinced you of the supremacy of the lordoses. You might wonder though why my title says that they are the mother of all distortions. To whet your appetite, I would say that not only does the spine have the tendency to become excessively lordotic but it also bends sideway and axially rotates, distortions which in turn spread onto the limbs. But if you are curious to know more about this misshaping process you need to be patient and wait for my next column. In the meantime, become acquainted with your lordoses - stand against a wall.


Pilates Joseph, Return to Life. 1998. BodyMind Publishing. ISBN 0961493798. Available on Amazon.


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About Joel Carbonnel

Joel Carbonnel is unique in combining the disciplines of the Alexander Technique (STAT), the Mezieres Methode (AME), Morphopsychology (SFM), and Natural Hygiene (ISI). From this synthesis he has developed Orthomorphics which is centered around the close relationship of Use, Form and Function. He practises in London and Haywards Heath, and can be contacted on Tel: 020-8747 8583;

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