In this blog I’ll give you an overview of the health benefits of backbends in yoga. I want to share the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of backbends so you can be mindful of the subtle layers of your being as you practice. I find knowing about the whole purpose of a pose makes my practice much more fulfilling and wholesome.
I’ll be looking at why backbends can be challenging and how important it is to ensure that you are adequately warmed up and have a few options for modifications to ensure you are practising your backbends safely.
If you wish to try out these yoga postures for yourself I’ve added a link to our specific online backbend classes which you can go and try out to reap the rewards of these wonderful postures.
The Health Benefits of Backbends
Physical Benefits of Backbends
You may well be wondering what does a backbend do? How will I benefit from practising backbends in my yoga practice? How do backbends help me? Are backbends good for beginners?
Backbends are wonderful for helping to strengthen your back. Backbends are postures whereby we round the front of the body creating a distinctive and extended curve in the spine.They can be practiced by all levels of yoga experience as long as you be mindful and work at the level that feels right for you.
Let’s start at the base of the spine and work our way up. It may seem counter-intuitive to bend backwards because if you think about it we spend most of our day moving forward. Moving your spine in a backbend brings more balance to your spine and prevents rigidity. Backbends help to strengthen the muscles surrounding and supporting your spinal column allowing for greater flexibility and movement. Backbends are great for conditions such as sciatica as it increases circulation to the area whilst strengthening the lower back muscles.
We use our lumbar back so many times throughout the day and it is important to build strength in the muscles which support your lumbar back such as the lumbar multifidus and the transverse abdominus. For more on these muscles see our blog ‘How to Keep a Healthy Spine for Life’.
Emotional Benefits of Backbends
As we travel further up the spine in our backbends we begin to open and expand the digestive system, aiding your digestive processes. In this space in our bodies we hold anxiety and emotional tension. Our natural instinct is to protect this area in our body, hence when we feel scared we tend to curl ourselves up in a ball. The spine is our protector in this position.
When we practice backbends we are giving ourselves permission to breath, expand, trust and open. This expansion continues into our heart centres. Backbends allow us to open our hearts, release grief, sadness, fear and loss and expand into a space of gratitude. When practicing backbends set your intention to release and open to this and feel your heart blossoming into this new space.
The Spiritual Benefits of Backbends
Yoga postures help us to shift and release energy in our chakra centres. You can create a much deeper home yoga practice by knowing which chakra centres a specific posture is related to and set an intention to clear an issue or bring in more of what you need. I’ve given a couple of examples below to explain this in a little more detail.
As we travel up the spine we begin to open the throat centre. Our chakras are opened and there is a lovely opportunity to breathe the denser energies of your lower chakras through to your heart centre to transform into lighter and higher vibrational energies.
With postures such as the Bridge posture (Setubandasana) in our picture above the energies from the lower centres travel up the body to clear the throat centre. You may want to add the Bridge posture into your home yoga practice to help you with an issue around needing to be clear with your communication.
Postures such as the Cobra (Bhujangasana) pictured below helps us to release fears and anxieties in the solar plexus and assists us to let go of the past and move forwards towards self confidence, compassion for self and others and an inner courage in your heart centre.
Of course we need to feel safe to let go of this stuff and feel safe physically in our bodies. Backbends are well known for taking us out of our comfort zone. This in itself is useful as we can practice moving through a challenging feeling and knowing that being mindful and practicing in a way that works for you will get you through it. Here’s some tips on how to do this below.
How to do a backbend safely
Within all of our online yoga classes we always give modifications and levels to work up to for challenging postures. Backbends can challenge us both physically and emotionally. You may feel like you are going to injure yourself if you bend to far. Here’s a few tips to ensure that you feel confident and safe practising your backbends.
- Be mindful of ensuring there is no pelvic tilt when you practice backbends. When we come into a standing posture, say the Mountain Posture (Tadasana) we talk about having a slight tilt of the pelvis to ensure you can lengthen out through the spine. When we practice our backbends we do not tilt the pelvis in this way. When you practice this way you’ll be able to feel that you have greater movement and the ability to open and lengthen through your spine without causing any compression in your lower back. We want to avoid any compression in your lower spine so be mindful of this as you practice.
- Always start with the first stage of the posture. For example when I teach the Bridge pose I always start by lifting the lowest part of the back and working up to the area that feels like your limit for that day.
- Practice Ashima (non-violence). Patanjali talks about the Yamas and Niyamas in early yoga texts. These are basic guidelines for yogis of how to live a peaceful and balanced life. Ashima translates to non-violence to both others but also ourselves. When we practice yoga it is SO important to tune into your body for the day of your practice. (It is different each time) and meet yourself where you are at on that day. Practice kindness, compassion and non-violence towards yourself first and this will transfer into your life in how you treat others (and make it easier to do too).
How can I do a backbend class at home?
If you are not yet a member of our website you can try your first month for just US$1 with our Monthly Membership.
The Online Yoga Classes that include backbends that are located in our Yoga Class Library are:
- One Day Yoga And Detox Course Lesson 1
- Introduction to Soul Harmony Yoga Lesson 3
- Mindful Practice Yoga Lesson 3
- Spinal Health Course Lesson 3 & 4
- Emotional Balance and Self Care Course Lesson 4
All these classes will guide you safely and clearly through the backbend postures so you can feel comfortable exploring being out of your comfort zone!