Be brave with all new starts! Happy 2016!
As a start to the new year I want to start with my favorite set of asanas and give you a few tips how to deepen your backbends with few tips to keep yourself safe.
The above image (Urdhva Dhanurasana) that you might know from Primary Series finishing sequence, is just one in hundreds of backbend asanas and all the poses have alternative options that you can explore to prepare for this or other asanas.
Why do backbends?
1. Energising and enhancing circulation – backbends are amazing circulatory system by increasing blood flow throughout the body, all the way from the head to the toes. They also excite the nervous system leading to an increase in energy levels and boost your feeling of vitality. Next time you are going for the next shot of espresso, bend back for a bit instead.
2. Keep you happy – this good side-effect happens due to the stimulation of the central nervous system, uplifts endorphins. These postures can be helpful if you’re feeling stressed.
3. Physically opening your whole body – backbends stretch the hip flexors and help open up the shoulders and chest, an area where lots of us hold tension. They build strength and power in the legs, arms and back muscles; increasing mobility and awareness of the spine.
Now then, from my experience looking at Urdhva Dhanurasana, there is so much more to this pose than a bendy back – open and strong shoulders, strong upper back, hip-flexors, strong thighs and activated core.
Poses to help your back bends?
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana/upward facing dog
(Alternative – Bhujangasana/cobra pose)
Always treat this pose as a preparation to deeper back bends. Strong shoulders, wrists under shoulders. engage your belly, lift your chest forward.
When engaging your core, you also keep your lower back safe and help to lengthen you psoas and your abdominal.
Sfinx and Seal (Yin yoga)
Use these two poses to really dig deeper to your front opening.
This pose perfectly tones the spine. People with bulging or herniated disks may find this very therapeutic. If the neck is dropped back, the thyroid will also be stimulated.
In the full Seal pose, the stomach may receive a lovely stretch, as well.
All helping to open your back for that back bend.
Dragon pose (Yin yoga)
(Alternative – high lunge)
My favorite front opener! 🙂 As a yin pose this is a deep hip and groin opener that gets right into the joint. Stretches the back leg’s hip flexors and quadriceps.
When you activate the back leg to high lunge, also engage your core and press the back hip forward. When you have tight front of hips, this will do miracles!
Swan pose (Yin yoga)/ Eka Pada Rajakapotasana
(Alternative – high lunge)
As a yin pose, it provides the quadriceps and hip flexors a nice stretch for the side that has the leg back. A moderate to strong back bend, compressing the lower back.
As an active pose – Pigeon – you can activate the back leg and lift chest forward, activating the lift up.
Also try restorative Swan pose, using blankets and pillows for support and relax for 5-7 minutes. Then switch sides.
Most of the back bend comes from your front. To go deeper to the pose or to start the journey to a wheel pose, all hip flexor openers, shoulder opening asanas are a primary tool to look for.
After all these poses, remember, any of these asanas shouldn’t hurt, pinch or feel painful. Always discuss with your teacher if you feel like you need assistance or guidance.
With back bends, before pushing up to Urdhva Dhanurasana, build up a strong base and prepare. Take courage and time. Back bends need love and intention, so take care of yourself and listen to your body.