I’ve always loved the way yoga backbends look.
But I’m not a natural backbender. Forwards? I am freakishly flexible. And then there is the whole emotional aspect that backbends bring up: opening to the new, lighting up your heart, making yourself vulnerable, yadda yadda. Blech.
For years, the forward bends just seemed a better option.
When I first went to yoga school in Chennai back in 2006, the teachers felt quite free to point out how weak my lower back was. I’ve worked on it, and on getting the pelvic position right for backbends.
So, as a non-natural backbender who can now do backbends that are fairly flashy, I feel qualified to give you a few pointers on how to get into a backbend that won’t do bad things to your shoulders, your spine, or your SI Joints.
- Start with simple backbends like Bridge Pose and Cobra (Bhujangasana, lying on your tummy), and try to do these poses every time you practice, so you can build the strength to support yourself in the deep backbends.
- Learn about how your body moves and what structural limitations you might have. This will help you back off when you are getting to your edge, so you don’t recruit flexibility from vulnerable joints like you SIJ’s.
- Practice getting your pelvis into a posterior tilt, which is the correct setup position for backbends. When your pelvis is posteriourly tilted (i.e. tilted backwards), your lower back is lengthened out so there is less pressure down there. This is A Good Thing.
- Learn to consciously relax your psoas muscles and activate your buttocks muscles to facilitate that posterior pelvic tilt.
- Be patient and gentle with yourself. Forcing and rushing are sure-fire ways to injure yourself.
- Understand that the process of working on something that challenges you is what brings the transformation. Getting into the pose? Is not really the point. And your body is different every day, just as your emotional state is. Honour that.
Happy back bending!