For beginners back bending is a source of stress.
Even though back bending is mostly what we see on social networks, ex aequo with all kind of hand stand, for many people back bending is not something that they look for.
I have read in one post that we should not use the term of “back bending” because technically we are not bending our spine but extending it… that is true. We are not supposed to fold our spine in the other way, but we are supposed to extend the front body, creating enough space.
We should be able to find the right balance between the forward fold and the back bend. Most of the time yoga classes have too many forward fold and less back bend.
Why some of us are scared about back bends?
From a pure anatomic point of view our body has been designed to move forward.
If we were supposed to move backward then our eyes will be behind our skull. Therefore all of our intentions, actions are coming from the front.
The back of our body, the posterior side is the part for which we have less connection with. First of all we never really see our back, we don’t know how it looks like.
Also considering that we spent more than 6 hours per day sitting on a chair, in the car, it all leads to weakness from our posterior side.
When we are sitting we tend to round our back, close the shoulder and bring the head forward while checking messages on the phone or working on the computer. The nervous system is having the responsibility of reorganising the posture, the more round back we will be, the more pronation and kyphosis we will create.
Therefore it will become the “normal” posture. Our nervous system is using the information that we are sending to it, if every day we tend to have that bad posture then in a way we are sending the information that it is “our normal” posture.
The anterior side of our body will then change. Ribs cage will come in, the gap between our pelvis and the ribs will become shorten because our muscles will be tightening, hips will become close.
Then others problem might rise up such as bad digestion, short breathing, pain in the shoulders, in the neck and of course in the lower back.
Constipation, frozen shoulders, lower back pain, stiff neck and also negative state of mind might occur as well…… and all of these come from a bad posture….
How to start opening?
Before going into all kind of backbend you should be prepare. If you are attending a special yoga class, you should have some sun salutation before, standing pose, twisting, balancing, seating pose and then back bend.
You can also decide to improve your backbends at home using props. If you are a beginner better to get advise from a serious teacher. If you feel comfortable then you can start putting the brick below your sacrum.
The picture below is showing a deeper backbend, do the same by keeping the knees bend and the feet on the floor.
In that posture we are opening the upper body as well by bringing the arms below the thoracic. If it not possible then just spread the arms on the side and try to relax as much as you can the front part of the body. The breathing is mandatory. Without breath there is no movement.
The goal is not to “break” the back, the goal is to open the front of the body.
Take your time, stay here as long as you can, but do not feel any pain. If you feel any discomfort in the lower back, try to breath deeply.
When you start working back bend and opening the results are coming fast. Students might cry sometimes, others can have a good laugh. It is a normal process, let it happen.
When we talk about backbending we are targeting an opening, not a collapsing of the lower back.
Shoulders are very important, without any opening in the shoulder the backbend will not be efficient, the body will then compensate with the lower back.
Ribcage has to be open, the best to open the ribcage is to breath deeply, the more you open, the more you release the tensions, the more the breathing can happen. Without any breathing nothing can happen. If you feel you are working with retention do not attempt to do anything, just sit and breath.
Learning how to release the front body in order to bring all attention to the posterior part of our body. Work the back of your leg, your gluteus, muscles from the back, reinforce all of them before going into deeper backbends. Do not attempt to do strong backbends on your own if you are a beginners.
The way we are moving is the result of our mind. The witness of our emotions is the shape of our body.
We are capable of many things, we can auto healed ourselves.
Backbends can be seen as challenging but most of it, it is an opening of ourselves, to others, to us.