Bending backwards for Yoga: 7 great tips
Backbends. You may love them, fear them or avoid them. But done safely they have many benefits not limited to keeping a healthy spine. In preparation for my backbending workshop (experience of yoga necessary), I have put these tips together to help your practice blossom.
- Backbends require open quads (the muscles on the front of the thighs) and hip flexors. High and low lunges are a good warm-up, so are poses like Warrior 1 and Warrior 2 that strengthen the legs and open the hips; try incorporating them into your sun salutations.
- Its easy to over arch the lower part of the spine in backbends which can cause pinching and discomfort in the low back. To counter this, engage your core by keeping the front hip bones moving towards the bottom of your front ribs and lightly drawing your tailbone towards the back of your knees.
- Try to internally rotate your thighs – you can practice this by standing in tadasana and gripping a block between your thighs and imagine it moving back in the direction of your behind
- When doing a sequence of backbends, save counterposes such as forward bends until the end as moving back and forth continuously can place the back muscles under stress. Try neutralising the spine between backbends instead e.g. lying on your back with knees together and feet as wide as the mat, then hug yourself by wrapping your arms around your upper chest. Gentle twists are also great ways to neutralise the spine. After neutralising the spine, try some forward bends to counter pose – Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose), Upavistha Konasana (Open Angle Pose), Janu Sirsasana (Head-to-Knee Forward Bend), and Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend).
- Keep the backs of the thighs broad, try not to grip your buttocks.
- Take it slowly – never work with any pain or pinching sensation
- Imagine getting length in the front of the body before bending backwards – more of a lengthening of the front rather than a bending of the back.
Backbends are invigorating and heart-opening – have fun with them and bring some of that heart energy to yourself as your practice.