Does being bendy top your list of #fitnessgoals? A flexible spine, loose hamstrings and open hips and shoulders are a yogi’s dream. While folding into a pretzel would be AMAZING, the main reason we aim to gain flexibility is for optimal structural wellbeing. The sweet combination of strength and flexibility that yoga provides is what gives us increased agility and vitality while reducing our pain and stress.
When you think of flexibility, what yoga poses come to mind? Probably those delicious backbends! If you’re working toward full wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana), we have a few useful tips that will help improve your backbends.
How To Improve Your Backbend
First things first, be patient and pay attention to correct alignment. We don’t want you to hurt yourself. Stretch a dried up rubber band and it will surely snap. That’s kind of what your spine is like if you try to get too fancy before a proper warm up. Your warm up is key to being limber. Before you start your journey backwards be sure to ready your back, shoulders and hips. Flow through several sequences that incorporate these yoga poses:
For your shoulders
Prasarita Padottanasana or Bound Wide Legged Forward Fold engages your adductors, hamstrings and shoulders. Stand with your feet wide, toes turned slightly in. Interlace fingers behind your back and bend forward letting your straight arms stretch behind you.
For your back
Bhujangasana or Cobra Pose will strengthen your lower back and prep you for the Full Wheel Pose. Practice this gentle backbend with and without the support of your hands.
Salabhasana or Bound Locust Pose will get your lower back and shoulders in shape for the ultimate backbend. Lie on your stomach with legs straight, inner thighs rotating inward and hands interlaced behind your back. Firm the glutes and lift up in the torso and thighs (feet and knees come off the ground). Stretch your arms straight behind you. Breathe and lift higher.
For your hips
Anjaneyasana or Low Lunge will open up your hips so you can lift higher into your backbend. For this pose, one knee will come to the floor while the other knee will bend forward. Feel a comfortable stretch in the groin and lunge deeper.
For your heart
To bend backward means you must open up your chest. It’s not an intuitive posture since we’re used to hiding from heartbreak and hunching over our digital devices. To brave a backbend symbolizes your openness to expand through the heart. As you work your backbend practice, remember the beauty and symbolism of poses. To avoid hinging backward and straining your lower back, think about lifting through your chest and sending love out and up. This visual will not only keep you safe, but it will also power your pose to its full potential.
With a warmed up body and warmed up heart, experience the bliss of backbends. Rise into Full Wheel when it’s safe. Be patient and breathe… in love and in your backbends.