Get to Know Your Backbends
Backbends are a great way to improve posture, increase flexibility and extend your mobility. Not only are there many physical benefits to incorporating backbends into your practice, backbends can also help to decrease stress and reduce anxiety. While there are a variety of diverse backbends, understanding some of the basics of backbends is a good place to start.
Cobra is a stimulating backbend that opens the heart and lungs, and reduces stress and fatigue. While many of us tend to over compensate in our backbends by engaging more through the lower back, which is naturally more flexible, the key to Cobra is finding an even bend through the entire spine. To help create a more even Cobra, it is important to engage through the abdominals. The abdominals are important muscles for stabilization and support, and they protect the lower back. Pay attention to how your body feels in this posture, and seek a feeling of stability through your lower back to extend this posture deeper.
Upward Facing Dog
We often hear this posture cued during Sun Salutations. But what is Upward Facing Dog? Upward Facing Dog is an invigorating backbend that opens up the chest and strengthens the arms and legs in the process. Typically, you enter Up Dog on an inhalation. The movements of an inhalation- heart lifting, collarbones spreading, and your muscles expanding- are the movements we want to accentuate in Up Dog. It is important to remember that the most vulnerable parts of the body in this posture are the wrists and lower back, so take care to listen to your body when you are moving into this posture, and take any modifications you need.
If you are still working on perfecting your backbends, or in the past you have found Upward Facing Dog or Cobra uncomfortable, don't be afraid to take a modification. Baby Cobra, sometimes called Low Cobra, is a fantastic backbend that gives you all of the same benefits of Up Dog and Cobra, but can be more gentle on the body. For Baby Cobra, it is important to still ensure you are engaging through the abdominals to support the spin. Keep your elbows hugged into your sides and gently press into your hands as you lift your chest slightly.
Whatever backbend or variation you find in class, it is important to take a counter pose after. After one of the backbends highlighted above, find Downward Facing Dog, Child's Pose or Knees to Chest!”