The Power of Backbends
Re-finding the natural healthy curves in our spine is one way in which we can return home to ourselves when life, often on a daily basis, throws us out off balance and leaves our spine far from an optimal state.
When our spine is in sitting position for many hours per day and curved towards a screen much more than ever before, our organs also get stuck in the same position and work less optimally.
Our diaphragm moves less, so breath becomes more shallow and our lower spine gets compressed. Over time we can lose the feeling of standing strong in ourselves, connected to our incredible spine; the home of our central nervous system.
When our spine is happy we can breath life in deeply, using our lungs to their full (tennis court size!) capacity and we can breathe deeply out, which releases tension and grounds us in the present moment to what is.
At the swift pace of technology our lifestyle has changed, but our bodies still have the same needs as they did before story, like and share became loaded with whole other meanings.
Remember the last time you woke up and naturally stretched your arms and yawned? This is instinctive. The intelligent body wants to counterbalance hours of not moving much by stretching to fire up the nervous system, get blood flowing and to tone up our muscles. Equally after sitting all day curved forward our body yearns for the opposite!
Hello yoga. And more specifically hello backbends. Backbends are one powerful antidote to hours in front of a computer or phone.
Backbends don’t have to be big or complicated; even lying on our on our stomach is a backbend and can counterbalance our tendency to curve our spine forward.
I always include a backbend in my own practise and when I teach. Cobra pose, bow pose, bridge pose, wheel and sphinx, yoga includes many back with good reason. As well as physical health benefits;
Back bends can lift your mood, give you energy and even help with depression.
Whenever I am feeling a bit flat (even this word ‘flat’ suggests a backbend could help!) or a bit low in energy, I lie my spine over a bolster or a stack of pillows and close my eyes for as many minutes as I have. I close my eyes, take a few deeps breath and relax into gravity, meanwhile my spine has space to fall back into a more optimal place. When I come out of the pose I generally feel calmer and more balanced both physically and mentally.
Very rarely do we lie for even five minutes in a backbend; where in modern life does that naturally happen?
For this reason I love giving the gift of backbends, restorative backbends in particular. When I teach Restorative Yin Yoga, students can experience a backbend with the use of yoga props for up to ten minutes.
Breath by breath the spine can relax into the backbend at its own pace. As tension is released from the body, the spine returns back to its curvaceously strong self and we return home to a more optimal state of being.