Bend It like this : Backbend


Deep, full backbends can be satisfying, exhilarating, and liberating, but they don’t always come easily. And that’s not surprising. A completely expressed backbend requires unrestricted movement of dozens of joints and proper balancing of all their movements. Even if you bend back easily, the joints of your lower back and neck most likely move more freely than the ones in your upper back, hips, and shoulders. That’s just how the body is designed. So if you’re not careful, you can end up overworking your lower back and neck and causing compression and pain. Even if you don’t have this problem, you probably still have some stiffness in your hips or shoulders (or both) and at least one chronically stuck spot in your upper back.

The solution to these difficulties is simple: props. To understand how they can help, think of a bicycle chain that has a rusty pair of links. If you grab the chain a foot or two on either side of the rusted links and try to free them by moving your hands toward each other, you won’t have much luck. The other links will wiggle, but the frozen ones won’t. If you’ve got a stuck pair of vertebrae in your upper back, you’re in a similar predicament when you try to free them by bringing your hands and feet closer to one another in Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward- Facing Bow). The stuck spot remains stuck, while other vertebrae move too much. The same principle holds true when you try to free tight hips or shoulders: Everything moves except the stuck spot.

But imagine draping the chain over a strongly braced horizontal steel rod, creating a fulcrum at the junction of the rusted links. If you grasp the chain on either side of the frozen place and pull down, chances are you’ll loosen the links. Props can help you do a similar thing in backbends. They let you apply controlled force to specific, difficult-to-isolate places and allow gravity to work in your favor. They can also help you focus your attention and hold poses longer than you could otherwise.

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