Try Yoga Backbends

by Restorative Yoga Poses on April 14, 2011

Yoga Backbends:
Simple Supported Back Bend

Setu Bandhasana, Supported Bridge Pose

‘Bending back and opening the chest also unlocks the spirit within. Practicing these postures takes you along previously untravelled paths, challenging you to overcome fear and frustration, teaching you to move with ease and grace and to live with an open heart and a passion for life and love’

(J Chapmen, Yoga for Inner Strength, p164)

While many people are not comfortable or experience fear in backbends, over time they can become some of the most transformational poses. If you are a beginner yogini, start with slower and more gently backbends such as those suggested above that will help you ease into backbends and see ample rewards. If you experience any pain or discomfort in the backbend, slowly release out from the pose.

Physical Benefits of Yoga Backbends:

Backbending asanas energize, rejuvenate, and invigorate the body. They open the chest, encouraging deep inhalation, and the flow of prana (Life Force). Yoga backbends are typically dynamic poses which move to resist gravity and as such build strength. They serve to strengthen the wrists, arms, legs, buttocks and spine while increasing the flexibility of the abdomen, hips, thighs, shoulders, and chest.

By practicing yoga backbends, you will stretch and release the muscles of the chest which will increase the freely flowing circulation to the heart. Backbends also stimulate the thymus glad and are therefore reputed to help improve the function of the immune system. Furthermore, the action of a backbend stimulates the nervous system and increases the metabolism by building heat in the body.

Other benefits of yoga backbends include stimulation to the digestive system as well as a good stretch to the abdominal muscles. Backbends also stimulate the lymphatic system by transporting lymphatic fluids throughout the body to cleanse and rid the body of stagnant toxins. The kidneys and adrenals also respond to backbends and through their proper functioning, further cleansing takes place in the body.

How Yoga Backbends Can Combat Depression:

Beyond the physical benefits of yoga backbends, there are the mental and emotional benefits to be gained from these dynamic poses. For example, backbending can give you a whole new perspective on your life, quite literally, in fact! When we turn our world upside down in a backbend we change the way we see our position in life. By altering the physical position to such a degree, there is an opportunity to move blocked energy and emotional discomfort up and out of the body. In fact, by practicing yoga backbends, you can even open your Anahata (heart) Chakra located in your chest. This can increase your energy, your ability to feel compassion, and can help to counteract depression.

As the energy shifts in a backbend you can start to feel the sluggish, dull qualities of the mind shift into the a clearer, more sharp mindset. Often backbends will leave you feeling empowered and positive about life. They can help you transform your limiting thoughts about who you are and what you are capable of to realize your true potential that you weren’t able to see before. Many people report that after performing a yoga backbend they are able to expand the boundaries of their thoughts and even realize that they put those boundaries or limitations there themselves. On an emotional level, backbending can help release past traumas so be careful to practice in a nurturing and safe environment where you feel grounded and supported. After performing a backbend, try a simple forward fold like child’s pose to comfort yourself and integrate your experience in the pose into your body.

Yoga Backbends Take Time:

Always bear in mind that backbending, though healthy for our spines, should be done gradually and gently as it not a position to which we are accustomed. Throughout the day we sit with our backs rounded forward, often hunched in poor posture. To counter-act this position takes time and practice. If you are new to backbends, it is recommended to seek the advice of a yoga instructor and start slowly for both the physical and mental changes that can be quite profound for some bodies and minds.

Always Breathe In Your Backbend:

A key point to remember when practicing yoga backbends is to use the breath. Start with an inhalation to lengthen the spine and broaden the chest. On the exhale, backbend slowly and gently to release into the posture. Continue to breathe once in the pose in a relaxed, gentle manner. It is natural to feel awkward at first as your breath will be more shallow. Try not to strain and soften into the pose as gracefully as possible. Take your time with yoga backbends and you will find the rewards are well worth the effort.

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