Backward bending asanas are postures which turn the body out to face the world. They expand the chest and encourage inhalation and are associated with the attitude of embracing life. They are stimulating and extroverting.
On a physical level, backbends stretch the abdominal muscles and tone and strengthen the muscles controlling the spine. The spinal nerves are decompressed, benefiting the whole body, as these nerves give energy to all the other nerves, organs and muscles of the body. Backbend postures are an important component of any yoga practice, regardless of the type of Yoga one practices. There are several benefits of backbend poses. They are beneficial for the spine and opening the front of the body. They help to realign and improve the posture.
Often people spend hours hunched over the computer or doing other work. Hence, backbend poses counter this forward bending motion to keep the spine correctly aligned, preventing back pain which happens from hunching and slouching.
Backbends also increase energy and improve stamina. The movement combined with breath improves oxygenation and blood circulation which helps one to feel energized. It’s great to practice, first thing in the morning, if you are feeling sluggish.
Our body’s natural response to danger is to curl in, protecting our most vulnerable part i.e. the heart. Backbends do the very opposite action by opening us up to the world. We are exposing ourselves which takes courage, but also builds more of it. Overcoming our fears on the mat can give us courage off the mat too.
There are many backbend asanas. In general, the beginner level poses like the cobra and bridge are practiced first. Later, more difficult asanas can be attempted under the guidance of a good teacher. It’s important to progress and increase one’s flexibility slowly; going through the preparatory poses to open the shoulders and hips before going onto advanced postures.
Open your heart and release the spine! Remember that an open, fuller heart in backbends not only benefits the spine but determines our very attitude to life! So, be open to expanding and receiving much more from around you as there is so much to be soaked in!
See you next week with a bit on the twisting postures.
Neelanjana Bharadwaj – Yoga Expert