Backbending Safely Through Your Yoga Practice
Backbending is a natural range of motion for the spine. Over time the spine gets a lot more forward bending flection from everyday activities. It is important to balance all the daily forward bending with a few backbends. Backbending yoga postures can help counteract pressure from the spine. When doing these back bends safely you can experience a sense of freedom.
Practicing back bends also involves an element of courage; it is not always easy at first. A few beginner backbending yoga poses to start with are Ustrasana (camel pose) and Bhujangasana (cobra pose) it is important to be cautious when practicing these poses and follow a few guidelines.
Tips for practicing safe and compassionate backbends:
- When practicing these back bends make sure you are warmed up, move very slowly.
- Listen closely to your breath. If the breath becomes labored ease out of the pose think about lengthening and extending the spine before back bending.
- To protect your back when you are performing backbending postures you should ensure that you keep your lower back long. If you are not careful, you could damage your neck or your lower back when you are practicing these poses. These are the most flexible parts of your spine and need to be protected.
Back bends help to strengthen your back muscles, which will help protect the spine from everyday activities, sports and sitting. These poses not only stretch and strengthen the back and spine, they also open the muscles of the hips, chest, and shoulders. Expanding the chest and shoulders can help improve your breathing and relax the nervous system. To gain physical, energetic, and therapeutic effects of backbends, you don’t have to create the deepest arch. Think of creating an even arc in your spine. Stay calm and focused on the breath. You know you have found your back bend when your lower, middle, and upper back all have the same degree of sensation.
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Lie on your belly and place your hands under your shoulders spread open your fingers. Place the tops of your feet on the floor and reach back through your toes until your leg muscles engage. Slide your chest forward and up keeping your hands where they are and using your legs and lower spine to slowly lift your chest. Roll your shoulders back and lift the chest higher, while keeping the low ribs on the floor. Keep your neck neutral, don’t crank it back.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Stand on your knees and place your hands on your lower back for support to start opening your chest and shoulders. Lift your sternum and heart forward and up to the sky. Keep hands on the lower back until you are comfortable with the back bend. Reach back keeping your heart and chest lifted, one hand at a time catch heels. Bring your hips forward so they are over your knees. Let the head go back if it is comfortable in the neck, opening the throat.
Enjoy the journey of transformation through back bending. Remember your yoga practice is a life time practice. Take your time, be patient, and listen to your breath.