Saturday, August 7, 2010

Back-bending poses!

Urdhva dhanurasana photo by BeckyKP, CC License 2.0
We've been doing some backbending work these past two weeks, leading up to Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward bow pose -- first photo) in some of the classes.  The first week we practiced a few of the prone position back arches, such as Salabhasana (locust pose), Bhujangasana (cobra), Urdhva mukha svanasana (Upward facing dog pose), Dhanurasana (Bow pose), Ustrasana (camel pose). Not all classes did all of these poses!  For both weeks some of the prep work included Adho mukha svanasana (Downward facing dog pose), various arm stretches, and work over a chair (Viparita dandasana) and/or over a bolster or rolled blanket to help open the chest.

Some of you love these poses (I certainly do!), and some of you, eh...well I know you're not particularly fond of them, but you know they're good for you!  

Back-bending and back extension poses aren't easy for many of us, especially as we get older -- our shoulders and upper back get tighter and stiffer over time since there's really nothing in our "usual" daily activities that requires us to move the spine in a backbending fashion.

Urdhva mukha svanasana photo by Tarnalberry, CC license 2.0
Many of us sit at a desk, perhaps in front of a computer, for many hours a day.   Many of us drive a lot.  Or sit slumped while watching television.   Or clean the house, or carry kids around.   In these positions, unless we work on our posture, our backs slump, our shoulders round forward and up, and our chests cave in.

Backbends counteract our slumping habits.  They're just one of the different categories of yoga poses that help to keep the spine supple in all of its directions of movement, and the back and shoulders more mobile.

In backbends we create more space in the chest so that the lungs and heart can work more efficiently.   Also backbends help us feel more energetic, and give us a boost if we're feeling down -- while slumping and drooping the chest saps our physical and mental energy!

If backbending poses are difficult for you (and even if they're not!),  lie over a rolled or folded blanket 3 - 5 times a week as we sometimes do in class, to gently open the chest.   Take time to stretch your arms as we do at the beginning of class, and do more downward facing dog poses.   Your backbends won't get easier unless you regularly practice these other poses first.

You have to regularly practice to improve your difficult poses!  

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