Backbends can be an intimidating posture, however, like all poses there is a modification and a way to make all things possible for YOU!
The general gist of a back bend is that you are turning your typical “S” shaped spine into a “U” or depending your position an “n”. You are playing with the undulation of your spine in a backward motion.
The most critical think you can do when practicing any yoga pose is to be kind to your body! Especially when we are asking our strong yet delicate spines to preform a backbend. There is absolutely no reason so push yourself, strain, or force your body into a deep or minor bend. If you do chances are you’ll get stuck in the pose, or regret it immediately after….. be kind to your spine!
As Susi Aldous says “move with the spine in mind”. This means to be aware of how your back is feeling, how the muscles and bones and joints interact, to move in alignment, and to be sure to create space for the backbend.
She also has the great advice to “Relax first, then move”, and any yoga teacher will tell you that moving with the breath is the sweet key to success. Backbends are a challenge, but are not to be painful.
There are two types of backbends:
- Traction: when you move with gravity, like Camel pose or Wheel pose from Tadasana. This requires controlled spinal movement… there is no rushing the process of getting into one of these types of backbends.
- Contraction: when you move against gravity, like bow pose or cobra pose. These poses require strength in the back muscles to lift up against gravity.
Why trouble ourselves with backbends?
Like all poses, there are a great deal of benefits you body receives from practicing backbends:
- Release muscles and connective tissues from front body (more space for the heart)
- Strengthen muscles in the back body
- Improve posture
- Revitalizing energy flow
- Decreases your appetite
Cautions of back bends:
- “Jamming” the back by compressing lumbar spine
Please remember that yoga is meant to be fun and light hearted. It’s intention is to heal and strengthen the body, be aware of where your body is at while practicing. Happy yoking!
By Nadia Pinna