In Yoga Asana (the postures), we can work our BUTTS off to achieve a pose – or what we THINK the pose should be/ look like. We can practice for years and years, but, eventually, there comes a point – in most bodies – where we are unable to go any deeper. At this point, it is often one of two things: tension or compression.

Tension is where the tissues of the body (the fascia, ligaments, joints, muscles, and joint capsules) begin to resist being stretched and stressed and create limits to your movement, but over time this tension can usually be eased and movement can deepen further.

Compression is where the body hits the body, bone hits bone, and once you’ve hit compression, you can not go any further at this point.

Now, the beautiful thing about human variation is that ALL bodies are built differently – so as you can see in the image above, ‘Person 1’ can no longer go any deeper in their back bend as their Lumbar spine has reached compression, the vertebrae have no more room to move but they have no tension whatsoever.

Whereas ‘Person 2’ has tension in the front of their body, but their spine has more space to create a deeper back bend as their vertebrae naturally have more space to move.

NEITHER of these is better than the other and is the case for pretty much all postures, which is why it is vital to never compare your practice to another, despite your experience level.

“Some people come to yoga, and right away they’re stuck with compression. It has nothing to do with their muscles being short or tight; it’s just the shape of their bones. There are also some people who never get to compression. Their joint capsules are so loose that they just keep going, and their bones allow them to go further, but now they’re moving into a destabilized stretching of the tissues, and going further may put their joints at risk. They can go further, but they probably shouldn’t. “ – Yoga International

This is why it is important to learn about the variation of bodies in Yoga, especially as a teacher to keep students safe – sometimes no amount of deep breathing or activating the Bhandas (locking the body) is going to make someone go deeper into a pose.