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BACKBENDING FOR JOY


I remember back when I first started practising yoga, I found backbends to be so painful. I had spindly, weak little arms that could barely lift a grocery bag let alone my own body weight off the floor. My shoulders – particularly the rhomboid/trapezium area – were so tight and blocked; I couldn’t straighten my arms for nothing or no body.

I eventually started to work with blocks, which are a great tool for those with less flexibility in the back. Once I had built up some arm strength I could start to straighten my arms and feel an amazing release in the shoulders.

At that stage something pretty amazing started to happen. I would arrive to work after class on a Friday with this overwhelming sense of, well… joy, really! I know it sounds so lofty and a bit hippie, but I would just feel light and floaty and spontaneous. I would also feel a lot of love for the people around me, maybe for the beautiful day… anything, anyone really. I just felt happy.

Once I started my teacher training we discussed backbends a lot – anatomically and energetically.

Anatomically backbends encourage circulation to the heart and lungs – something that rarely happens. Backbends also nourish the nervous, lymphatic and digestive system, as well as the kidneys.

They also work to stretch and strengthen the quad, shoulders and chest. Whilst building energy, opening up and strengthening the wrists, arms, legs, spine.

They are pretty phenomenal poses. From even the more gentle versions like bridge pose to the more dynamic such as wheel or even full drop-backs. Working against gravity they act as an invigorator – reenergising the body and mind, refreshing the systems and reversing the forward, slumped posture that so many of us have from working on computers.

Energetically speaking, cracking the heart space wide open, tilting the head back and moving into a new perspective does profound things to our perception and awareness. Firstly, overcoming a lot of fear is a practise that is important on and off the mat. But mostly, the sensation of literally opening and releasing the body has much the same effect on stored emotions, memories and tension from the past or simple stagnant and stuck energy. I have often noticed that backbends release not only my body but help to dissipate any depressed or anxious feelings I might be carrying.

Now that I am finally at a stage where backbends are my friend (we still have fall outs though!) I am experimenting with moving into deeper backbends, such as drop backs that are testing my sense of courage, once again.

The main photo is me giving it a shot! Unassisted, the fear kicks in and my ego gets in the way – I find a way to chicken out of it. With my teacher there to hold or guide me, I can’t back off so I fully let go and drop back. I’m not placing any time limits on when I should crack this, because it’s not about the pose, it’s about the experience into it. However, I am enjoying watching myself in this experience. Seeing what comes up, what emotions rise, how I react.

If you are keen to try a few backbends, I do recommend giving these a shot at a yoga class with a teacher, and definitely ensure your body and spine is warmed up.

Here is an easy how-to to practice bridge pose at home:
    1. Lay on your back
    2. Bend the knees and bring the foot to the mat, heels close to the sit bones and stacked beneath the knees.
    3. Draw the tail bone under and tilt the front of the pelvis up – protecting the lower back.
    4. Press the palms into the mat and inhale through the nose
    1. Lift up the pelvis, starting at the tailbone, working up from the base of the spine to the base of the neck
    2. As you lift higher, inch your shoulders into each other, so you are coming up onto your shoulder blades – this allows you to get more lift through the spine.
    3. Clasp the hands together underneath your body and press the hands and arms down to the mat.
  1. Ground the energy down through the feet, keep the quads strong and active and lift the chest high, up toward the fact.
  2. Hold for 10 slow, smooth breaths and then release the hands and peel the spine down, from the base of the neck to the tail.
  3. Release the legs out straight for 10 breaths
  4. Draw the knees to the chest for 10 breaths.
Feel the joy!
Signing off with an exhale.
Pause. Listen. Live
Cx

NB/ Sorry about the crappy pictures. I don’t have alot of me in certain poses and these were taken on holidays during my morning practice – a bit rough, but you get the idea!



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