Backbending can be a very scary thing, especially when we tend to see professional contortionists on TV or very advanced yogis doing it. Naturally, we would want to do the same, however the very first attempts may feel very uncomfortable and we will most likely end up with a sore back.
This happens because we spent most of out time in a forward position, either texting on our phones, focusing on our laptops, reading books and so forth. We rarely find ourselves gazing upwards, looking at the sky or nevertheless, bending our backs.
You need to get worse before getting better – this applies here as well. It will definitely feel strange at the beginning because our bodies are not used to this type of moment, it’s completely alien. However, I want to explain here three reasons why backbending is essential in yoga and ultimately, in our lives. I am confident you will find even more benefits.
Great Posture and Healthy Spine
Growing up, I wasn’t a very sporty kid, I would always find excuses to participate in the one-hour exercise class weekly. On the other side, I was very studious, I was spending lots of time perfecting my homework, reading before bedtime and even getting involved in additional projects. All in all, a lot of time writing, long-hours behind a desktop or screen, running around following my career goals and zero time for looking after my health. From a medical point of view I was completely healthy, but you could see that my shoulders were slouching, I had no back muscles to sustain a straight spine and it didn’t look good at all. On top of that, I would occasionally receive some firm pats on my back from my parents saying ‘Keep your back straight!’ – that would make me feel horrible every single time because I knew exactly what they were talking about, but I wasn’t doing anything to fix it.
Fast-forward almost 10 years, I discovered yoga and backbends. The story changed. I acknowledged the same problem I had for more than a decade, but with different eyes. I incorporated daily workouts for my back, shoulders and core in order to build that upper-body strength – the foundation. I warm-up my body properly with yummy stretches. If you hear cracks, it’s even better. Only when the body is completely ready, I then explore deeper backbends and poses. The same way you wouldn’t go on a very long road without water, food and being rested before.
Guess what? My posture has finally corrected, my spine looks and feels healthy. I can’t say that my back is perfectly straight, but there is definitely more confidence in my own body.
Shift the Energy in Your Body
The best way to understand how the energy shifts in your body is to try a yoga class focused on backbending. Otherwise, you might think that I am a bit coo coo. We’ll give it a go.
Once your start stretching your arms, wrists, shoulders, neck and back, you will feel how your body is opening up. You might feel sore, tired, bored, energized. You will then warm up the body with a few exercises and you’elongating start breathing faster, you’ll sweat and you’d just wish this entire day to be over. Once you discover the poses which allow backbending and if you wish to explore their fullest expressions, you will notice how your spine starts to warm up more, how your neck and spine are elongating, you will get comfortable seeing the room upside down and finally, you will feel your heart and chest opening. Once you come back to the normal state, you’ll feel lighter, the swift change of perspective might cause you to see some stars for a second, but you will feel different. Different how? I hope in a better way.
You’ll understand that in order to accomplish those more advanced poses, you are willing to take it slow, to put the effort and allow yourself to feel everything. Shortly, with backbending we open up our hearts to the world, externally and internally. We allow them to really see us and there might be all sorts of emotions. We need to acknowledge them, we need to let them be – the negative thoughts can pass and we’ll aim to hold onto the positive ones to define ourselves.
Improve Your Breathing
In Yoga, each movement is paired with breathing. Every inhale and exhale are accompanied with awareness. There is a beauty in being responsible for every breath and every movement as they together awaken the body and mind.
In all honesty, you might find it harder to breathe in deeper backbends because your chest and ribs are pressing on your lungs. In the same time, if you allow yourself to breathe in a backbend, you will feel your chest opening even more, because the lungs will counteract as well. My advice is to take it easy, keep pushing to your maximum and back without hurting yourself.
Breathing will also calm your mind, help you find stability in the pose and increase your energy.
Find the balance, explore your body and don’t forget to breathe.
After reading this post, make sure to check out this incredible yoga flow from Sara! She designed the video around backbending and balance. Don’t worry, she will guide you carefully around easy backbends and all the transitions are very smooth.
What are you waiting for?
Don’t leave the backbending only for contortionists or yogis. Everybody should practice backbending every day as this way you will improve your posture, keep your spine healthy and increase the energy in your body. It is a free and accessible tool to be used in order to bring the attention back to body and breath.
Please comment below and let me know if you found this article helpful. Also, if you have any reservations or questions around backbending, I am more than happy to help you out!