the llama blog
practicing yoga off the mat.
Backbends. Most people either love them or hate them. I was always on the fence until now. Backhanding is hard for me, but I do enjoy the release and freedom after I finish practicing them.
We spend 80% of our days bending and rounding our spine forward sitting at our desks and driving our cars. All this rounding overstretches and weakens our backs while it tightens our chests and hearts.
Bending your body backward immediately stretches the chest, lungs and hip flexors. Backbends such as Wheel and Bow Pose increase energy and decrease depression. When these poses are performed correctly, they counter balance what we do all day long.
In my classes this summer, I chose Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel as the peak pose of season. I picked this pose and its variations because I’ve seen so many changes in my own body while focusing on backbends. My posture and back strength have improved dramatically. I have less aches and pains when we take road trips or after a day of working in the garden.
While many of us focus on increasing our range of motion to rise into a big Wheel, I’ve made most of the summer focus on strengthening our back body. Back bends require not only flexibility but also strength. From the top of the shoulders to the buttocks, this area tends to be weaker from our daily routines. Poses like Locust and Bird Dog challenge us to utilize our whole back and glutes to lift the body up.
Practicing backbends not only creates a strong, healthy back, it also strengthens your arms, wrists and abdomen. It opens the heart allowing more compassion to flow in and out. Backbends can re-energize you and bring much needed relief to the whole body and mind.
If you’re on the fence as to whether to add back bends to your home practice, I encourage you to give them a try. Your back will thank you.