“Building a practise that creates the space necessary for fully expressed yoga back bends will change your practise and literally open new doors”
This workshop will provide you with the tools that will have you lifting into Yoga back bends with ease. We will aim at Urdhva Dhanurasana, allowing for deeper back bending and advising on modifications, making this workshop accessible to all levels.
The freedom to express a back bend can be a liberating experience, or it can feel like an impossibility. So, what stops us from experiencing a back bend fully and completely, well its many things and I hope to shed some light with this article.
to begin with let’s look at the entry into Urdhva Dhanurasana. What you will often see is lots of effort put through the arms and shoulders, this is the first mistake, and one that will make the student think they are incapable of lifting into a yoga back bend. Make some small changes by getting your student to push into the thighs, while propelling the knees away from the rest of the body, will often get lift off for the student.
Let’s now go a bit deeper into what prevents a full and expressive back bend. One of the things I am constantly reminding my students to do is make space, it’s one of the major reasons you will not get into a correctly aligned back bend. One of the most common areas that we fail to open is our lower back, instead of creating length and space in the spine, we collapse and the lower back compresses, bringing the spinous processes together. This won’t only cause the spine to compress, it usually is combined with the shoulder blades coming together and the arm pits flaring out to the sides. Also take a look at the legs and feet, what you will most likely encounter is the legs will hang, and the heels of the feet will turn away from the mid line. Now take a look at the sternum, it will probably be collapsing in between the shoulders and the heads of the shoulders will drop forward and down.
So, what’s the remedy, as I said earlier making space will take your back bends to another level. What do I mean make by making space, well this starts with Samasthiti and how we stand? Making sure we connect with the floor evenly through the soles of our feet, pressing with equal pressure through the heels and the pads of the feet will lift the arches, this lift will run through the inner thighs connecting with a space just below the navel, (Nabhi Bandha). This action will help the pelvis float in neutral, this in turn will allow the spine to follow its natural curves. The sternum will be open, and the shoulders will be relaxed. At this point don’t pull the shoulder blades together. These actions will eventually hold the body in correct neutral alignment. Fail to do this and the posture collapses and we give in to gravity. The body begins to compress, and space disappears.
Take that collapsing posture and bring it into the work place. So many of us sit at a desk, or drive to work, if our posture continues to collapse in these scenarios the Thoracic spine overly rounds and becomes fused. When we then attempt to get up into a back bend the spine is unable to open, the pecs which have become short and tight, prevent the chest from opening, the results are a lack of space and the back bend becomes impossible to hold.
Another area which causes major setbacks with yoga back bends is a failure to keep the feet and legs properly aligned. So often I see feet and knees splaying out to the side in a back-bend. In order to stretch the correct muscles to help make the space needed for a yoga back bend the legs a must be kept properly aligned. When the legs are kept hip distance apart the action stretches the quadriceps and psoas, if these muscles are not prepared correctly then a fully expressive back bend is impossible. To begin with it will give the impression we are back bending, when we are really once more compressing the spine, and losing the space needed to achieve a correctly structured back bend.