Backbends – Safe and Challenging Path towards Self-Improvement
No Yoga without Backbends
How bendable are you? When you look back and see that you have practically transformed your body to achieve more than you thought it was capable of, you realize that you have made your entire personality more flexible as well. Don’t you just love making progress and bending a little further than you use to? The difference may be minimal, but it sure was difficult to achieve.
Backbend asanas may seem effortless when you see them performed by popular yogis, but they are really tough to perfect. They can even be painful and dangerous, so mind your ego and don’t try to push your limits further too soon.
What can Simple Backbends Do for You?
When getting into Matsyasana, Dhanurasana or Ustrasana, you are coming face to face with your own limits. Overcoming the discomfort you feel in a pose takes mental calmness, focus and a lot of patience, and those are among the most important benefits you will get from bending backwards. Don’t worry; you’ll get more!
- These postures open up your chest and improve your breathing capacity. Filling your lungs with fresh oxygen will energize the entire body and make you feel refreshed after the practice.
- The area of your shoulders and chest often suffers the consequences from stress and tension. When you are feeling stressed or deprived, your posture is “withered”. As soon as you become aware of that fact and open this area with backbends, you will start bringing the anahata chakra back to balance.
- Backbends are so strong that they work against depression, disappointment and frustration, fears, and other negative states that don’t allow you to acknowledge the love and joy you are supposed to feel.
- When you get absorbed into the pose and start breathing slowly and evenly, you are building stress resistance.
- Obviously, these asanas are good for your back. They not only improve the flexibility of the spine, but also work as pain relievers for the back and neck. After spending a day in front of the computer, a well-balanced practice that includes backbends is the best remedy against stiffness.
- How about improving your digestion? You will definitely get that by practicing backbends regularly!
- Dhanurasana and Bhujangasana are a great addition to your daily practice if you are experiencing menstrual disorders.
When to Practice Caution
Backbends need to be done correctly in order to be effective. Otherwise, they may cause unnecessary tension on the back or the neck that will make you feel uncomfortable. It is really important to watch your alignment and never get into a challenging pose if you haven’t perfected the ones you are currently practicing. When you are not properly aligned and the asana is causing pressure on your back and neck, then you are risking experiencing not only muscle spasm, but disc injuries and lower back pain as well.
If you have had back injury or you’re going through an active back pain, it would be best to stay with supported Matsyasana, which will still provide you with the benefits of a backbend without imposing any risks.
Follow your breathing and make sure it’s calm and balanced. If you go too far in a posture, your breathing patterns will warn you of that. The key to safe backbending is to know your boundaries and try to push them safely and progressively.
6 Backbends for You
1. Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
This is the safest starting point for beginners in yoga. Don’t get disappointed if you cannot get deep into the asana; even long-term practitioners have difficulties with backbends. This pose is contraindicated for practitioners with low-back and neck injuries, as well as during an active headache. Of course, it will take some stretching and preparation of few classes before you get to the point of getting into Matsyasana, but you will get there eventually. Then you can start practicing
2. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
This is a lovely, elegant asana that will easily show you what your limits are and allow you to safely work over them. You won’t launch yourself into a perfect Bhujangasana from the first attempt, but making progress and being persistent is what yoga is about.
Another safe, but beneficial backbend that will help you achieve balance at the same time is
3. Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance Pose)
When you feel confident that you can go a little further, you can start getting into these more advanced backbends:
4. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
5. Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
6. Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow Pose).
Honor the resistance. Learn from it!
The poses your body and mind oppose to are usually the ones you need the most. Instead of ditching a pose just because you cannot achieve it from the first few attempts, you should eliminate the self-imposed obstacles and work together with your body to achieve something great (unless, of course, the pose is contraindicated for a particular condition you have).
Remember: everything is up to you. Practice backbends safely and mindfully, and your spine, heart center, and entire body will be grateful for that!
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