The Benefits of Backbending

Image from:http://www.reddit.com/r/yoga/comments/1s1uuk/asana_of_the_week_standing_backbend_aka_upward/
Image from:http://www.reddit.com/r/yoga/comments/1s1uuk/asana_of_the_week_standing_backbend_aka_upward/

There are many benefits to backbending, both physical and emotional. It’s typical to find at least one backbend in a yoga class; at least during cobra in sun salutes. When we bend in the back we strengthen the muscles along the spine and those in the lower back for sure, but there’s more to it than that.

Backbending poses can actually help you to realign the spine. As I sit writing this post right now I have one leg crossed over the other causing a slight curve in the lower part of my spine (well, not anymore- I just corrected myself). This habitual practice in itself will cause back pain over time as the spine adjusts to this way of sitting. But even the action of sitting itself causes a tightening of the hip flexor muscles which pulls at the spine. See this post for more information about how sitting affects the body. It’s typical for the spine to become misaligned with these and other actions that move our spines forward and round them. By pulling the shoulders back and arching backward – even slightly – you help to realign the spine as the vertebrae open the other way from the norm as pictured here:

For more visit: http://www.kneelsit.com/howdiscswork.html
For more visit: http://www.kneelsit.com/howdiscswork.html

But that’s not all! Backbending poses open up the chest muscles and abdominal muscles as well as the intercostal muscles that are found between ribs. During this process the heart also receives a stretch resulting in increased efficiency in pumping blood  throughout the body. At the same time the respiratory system is wide open allowing an unrestricted breath. The kidneys found  near the lower part of the back behind the diaphragm receive a squeeze in backbends causing an influx of fresh blood on the release. Fresh blood = fresh oxygen = healing.
The digestive system is also benefited by backbends. As the internal organs that are found in the abdomen are stimulated their efficiency increases helping to fight off constipation and improve digestion in general. This can also help with menstrual cramps.
Energetically, backbends open the anahata (heart) chakra, increasing our compassion and loving-kindness both for ourselves and others. It is said that these heart opening poses can also combat depression. There is a definite release of tension and an endorphin boost when practicing backbends. Remember to practice with compassion, honoring your personal limitations to prevent injury and to get the most out of these powerful poses.
I’ll post more on the actual poses soon!


8 Comments on “The Benefits of Backbending

  1. Looking forward to you continuing this important discussion! This coming from “some dude” who had/has (depends on the morning) serious back issues and not being able to bend backwards in the slightest … To doing them as much as I can during the day to put a smile on my face. 🙂

  2. I have increased the backbending in my yoga lately and have had a few days of what feels like inflammation in the middle spine. I’m guessing it is a result of the extra work/stress I am putting on my spine. Being in full wheel feels really good to me, but also a huge stretch. Any advice for continuing with care?

    • One of the most important things is to focus your bend at the tips of your shoulder blades as opposed to your lower back. If you drop your tailbone toward the back of the knees and squeeze your abs to take some of the round out of your lower back. After doing back ends to a hamstring stretch laying on your back holding onto hamstring with a straight leg. Really press the thigh into the hands to get the femur moving toward the back plane of the body. That should help to clear anything that came up during the practice. I hope that helps!

  3. Thanks Reena, will try your suggestions. I am really working heart openers in this phase of my practice so your tip about the shoulder blades makes perfect sense.

  4. Pingback: Backbending 101 | Yoga With Maheshwari

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