When your yoga teacher moves into backbends, does it spark excitement or anxiety? Backbends have so many benefits for our body, our mind, and our heart but sometimes they can stoke fear, especially if you’ve had back injuries or issues. No surprise as the Anahata or Heart Chakra is the seat of courage, love, and fear. Let’s break down the benefits and the cautions to these enlivening poses because there’s a version for you!
Physically, bending backwards strengthens your back, shoulders, and hips. Backbends improve your posture and increase mobility of your entire spine, while opening the chest, abdominals, and front of your pelvis and legs. Emotionally, these poses open your heart for more compassion and aid in letting go of fear. Mentally, backbends energize and awaken your brain, helping impart a sense of clarity and alertness.
Our world has become dominated by technology. Many of us are in front of a screen for hours at a time. The computer, the smartphone, the television. As a result, our shoulders round, our necks are tight and extend forward, and proper posture flies out the window. Not only does this wreak havoc on our spines, poor posture causes headaches and other physical imbalances. On a deeper level, by closing off our chest in this way, we impact our heart center. When we arch the spine, lift the breastbone, and press our shoulders back, we’re improving our physical posture and stimulating Anahata.
The Anahata Chakra is considered the seat of love and compassion. When you experience fear or are finding it tough to forgive someone who harmed you, you can feel emotionally blocked and experience physical pain in your heart and lungs. Imbalances in the heart chakra can manifest as heart disease, lung disease, and circulation challenges. Backbends are a great way to move blocked prana out of your system and encourage you to expand your breath and open yourself to love.
Sound good? Well, what if you, like so many others, have back and neck pain and/or limitations? You can still garner the benefits of bending backwards by approaching the poses with caution. Gentle heart-openers with modifications and props are just as effective as a full Urdhva Dhanurasna! Appropriate backbends are available for everyone so be sure to make sure you’re helping your spine, not harming it. Remember, no posture should ever be painful.
Check out this week’s classes to boost your energy, open your heart, and strengthen your spine with a focus on backbends!
Structure and Strength - Erin Wimert
Dropping Back - Bend So You Don't Break - Jessica Oldfield
Backbends - Denelle Numis
Align and Flow: Backbends as an Offering - Jack Cuneo
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