Backbends aren’t Scary!
Chronically rounded shoulders and stiff spines can make backbending one of the most dreaded parts of yoga class.
However, backbends can be quite therapeutic for the spine and are actually safer than forward folds.
Learn key alignment cues and tips to backbend with ease.
Taking a supportive variation for poses like ustrasana (camel) and anuvittasana (standing backbend) is a wonderful way to lay down a solid foundation. Let’s explore anuvittasana.
- Come to stand in tadasana (mountain). Bring your big toes to touch with a slight gap between the heels so that the outer edges of the feet are parallel with the mat.
- Lift all ten toes to feel the weight shift back into the heels, all four corners of the feet grounded.
- Place your hands on your glutes as if you were sliding them down your back pockets.
- Draw your elbows towards each other and feel how this action creates a lift in the sternum.
- Keep the heart lifting to the sky and begin to walk your gaze across the ceiling.
Tip: If you have a sensitive neck, drop the chin into the chest and imagine pressing your chest towards your chin to keep the lifting quality.
Keep the Glutes in Check
Press your hands down into the glutes to create space in the low back and puff up the chest. At the same time, keep a light engagement of the glutes to prevent your hips from pushing too far forward.
Keep the weight into the heels and energetically press them apart so that the inner thighs spiral back. This counters the strength of the glutes, which work in external rotation.
Engage the Core with Visualization
Keep the core engaged to support the lower back. Imagine a drawstring between your two hip points and pull it tight.
Then, imagine a zipper between your pubic bone and navel and zip it up!
Finally, imagine another string at your low ribs, knitting together to keep the ribs from splaying.
Moving into Deeper Expressions
The supportive placement of your hands allows for ease and alignment in your backbends. It becomes a little harder to find this stability when your arms are overhead in deeper expressions.
When the arms are overhead, give extra focus to drawing the shoulders down the back, broadening the collar bones, and lifting the heart in order to maintain the buoyancy in the chest that the arm support encouraged.
Keep in mind all the cues we discussed in any variation you take and breathe away the fear of backbending.