Backbends are extremely powerful and energizing poses. They open up the heart, the chest and the shoulders. They stretch out the spine, the neck and the entire front body. They flood the body with oxygen and have the ability to quickly get you out of a funk. Backbends are also known to offer relief from fatigue, stress, anxiety and depression, to name a few.
Deep backbends can be extremely intimidating for beginners. Bridge pose or Setu Bandha Sarvangasana is a great intro pose to set you on your backbend journey. Take it slow and be mindful. Do not do this if you have any neck or shoulder injuries. Always respect your limits.
Step 1: Lie down on your mat. Extend your legs out and take a couple of deep breaths. Bend your knees and bring your feet down onto your mat. Your feet should be parallel to one another and hip-width distance apart. Relax your shoulders and release any tension you may have in your face.
Step 2: On an exhale, press your feet and hands firmly into your mat as you lift your hips up. Keep your neck long, do not bring it down towards your chest. Draw your tailbone up and be careful not to clench your bottom. No squeezed cheeks allowed!
Step 3: Keeping a firm base, start to work your shoulders underneath your body. Your shoulder blades draw in towards one another. Clasp your hands together underneath your body and straighten your arms. Press your arms firmly into your mat as you actively reach your clasped hands toward your heels. Be mindful to stay evenly on the soles of you feet and keep your knees directly stacked over your ankles. Do not let them sway in or out. Stay here and take 5-10 breaths. To release, unclasp your hands and set them down beside you, then slowly lower your hips down. Relax.
Optional Variation: Extend on leg up and hold for a 3-5 breaths. Lower the leg and extend the second leg up. Hold for the same number of breaths as the first side. Lower the leg and hold in regular Bridge pose for 3-5 breaths…Then slowly lower down and relax.
Remember to have patience with yourself and your practice. Speaking from experience, backbends can be frustrating…but they can also be very rewarding. Take your time. In the words of K. Pattabhi Jois: “Practice and all is coming”.