Backbends are important and sometimes a bit scary for a reason. They’re opening and expanding the front part of our bodies and chests, which, if we sit at a desk all day, can be very tight and restricted parts of our body.
The truth is our spines are made to backbend and we can all expect huge benefits not only physically but emotionally.
Here are 3 BIG benefits of Backbends:
Release Tension. We hold a lot of tension in our shoulders, chest, and hip flexors. You see this a lot with hunched over shoulders or bad posture. Backbending opens up all of those areas, breathing life into your muscles and joints on your front side of your body. This will benefit your entire spine and total body as it will allow you to physically release that tension.
Anti-Aging. By maintaining the integrity of the natural movement of the spine, we are protecting it against damage and repetitive patterns as we age. Again, we sit with our spines in flexion a lot. Backbends not only counteract that constant position but they also strengthen the muscles of the back, supporting your spine. Moving the spine in all directions, especially extension, aids against misalignment of the spine that could lead to muscle strain or more serious conditions.
Open Your Heart. Literally, backbends open your heart space and may trigger emotional reactions. If you notice, some people that are closed off emotionally often look closed off physically. An open chest and an open heart is a vulnerable place to be and one we don’t do lightly. By incorporating backbends into your routine, you are allowing energy to flow in a way it probably doesn’t usually. It’s ok, that’s part of the work. Take it slow and feel the feelings and keep finding ways to open.
Try these tips to safely start incorporating this amazing posture into your daily routine.
Strive to Keep Length in the Lower Spine (lumbar spine) and Bend from the Upper to Middle Back (thoracic spine). To do this, begin by drawing the navel in, finding space through your spine, then focus on bending from the upper part of your back, opening at your chest.
Start Slow. There is nothing wrong with starting slow. Start with Bridge, practice it with patience and focusing on your breath. Wheel (full backbend) will come over time if you want it, but Bridge will still give you all the benefits.
For Bridge, lay on your back on your mat and bring your heels close to your seat. Feet are parallel and placed about hip distance apart. Place your arms by your side, palms facing down. Begin lifting your hips, back and chest off the flow, bringing your chest towards your chin. Focus on your knees being over your ankles and your thighs parallel to each other. If you can, try to open your shoulders by rolling each shoulder under your back slightly. For more chest opening, interlace your fingers under your back and press into the floor.
Warm-up. It is always best to warm up with hip and chest openers before jumping into backbends. Low lunge, lengthening the fronts of the thighs and hip flexors, is a good place to start. Raise your hands to the sky and find a slight bend in your back opening up the chest.