Most yoga students HATE backbends, but desperately want to learn them.
Here’s something you might not know: most yoga teachers also HATE backbends, so often they don’t teach them very well or very often!
I tell you something else. My backbends used to be really pathetic—I mean REALLY pathetic.
I went to class every day, asked my teachers for tips, but not much was happening. In full wheel pose (urdhva danurasana), I could only get my head about an inch off the ground, and even that nearly killed me!
WHY ARE BACKBENDS SO HARD?
Backbends shouldn’t really be called “backbends”, but instead “full body bends” because they involved so much more than just your back.
All on its own, your spine has a pretty impressive range of motion, but in order to do a deep backbend, all the muscles and connective tissues that support your spine need to be long and limber.
WHY CAN’T I BACKBEND DEEPLY?
There are a dozen reasons, honestly, but since I love simplicity, let’s focus on the two big areas where people often get stuck: the tops of the legs and the shoulders.
The poses below are super powerful, intense, and potentially dangerous. Read carefully and practice
HANG MAN (a.k.a whoa!)
This is the simplest, most-powerful shoulder opening stretch I’ve ever found. Follow the instructions below carefully.
1 – Lie on your belly on the floor
2 – Wiggle over to a wall
3 – Put the crown of your head against the wall (still lying
on your belly)
4 – From here, DO NOT move your body forward or backward
5 – Reach your hands high up onto the wall (you chest will lift up)
6 – Spread your hands apart like Down Dog, drop your head, relax
7 – If you don’t feel anything, give it a minute!
8 – If your hands slip down the wall, walk them up again and relax
9 – Stay here for 2-5 minutes TOTALLY RELAXED
Note: DO NOT move closer or further away from the wall… doing so stretches a different part of your body.
RECLINING HERO (a.k.a. supta vajrasana)
Everyone I know who has an impressive backbend swears by this posture. Be safe, but if possible, hold this one for a LONG time.
1 – Kneel on the floor
2 – Knees together, feet apart, sit your bum down between
3 – If it’s too intense at this point, bring your feet together
and sit on your heals (skip remaining steps)
4 – If your bum is on the floor comfortably, lean back
5 – Elbows first, lower your back and head to the floor
6 – Grab opposite elbows over your head
7 – Relax totally for 2-5 minutes
Note: If it’s too intense to lie back and practice it sitting upright. When you lie back, if your knees start screaming, back off and take it slow! People hurt their knees in this pose every day, so don’t be a cowboy. Take it slow and take it easy.
Thanks for reading!
YOGABODY Naturals LLC
p.s. Have you seen our Karma Yoga Project? It’s a grass-roots community service program I co-founded. Have a look: http://yogabodynaturals.com/karma-yoga.php