If you want to learn how to do yoga back bends, the best thing is to sign up for a local yoga class, or private yoga instruction. Back bends are an intermediate to advanced yoga skill, which means that trying to teach yourself without a spotter present is unadvisable for beginning yoga students. If you have been practicing yoga for a considerable amount of time with a certified yoga instructor, you can use the following exercises to practice your beginning back bends at home.
Benefits of Yoga Back Bends
Back bends have several physical benefits:
- Strenghtening the spine
- Aligning the spine
- Opening the front of the chest and core
- Aiding digestion
One of the most important reasons to do back bends is that in modern life, people bend forward often, and rarely bend backwards. Since desk jobs became more common than physical labor, the problem has only worsened: not only do many people spend the majority of the day spent bent forward, but slouching over a desk or in a comfortable chair or couch has a very negative impact on back health. Back bends are one of the most sure-fire ways to combat the aching backs associated with modern life; back bends stretch, strengthen, and align the spine, counteracting all the sitting and slouching done in daily modern life.
Reaping the Benefits
Because of the multiple benefits of back bends, yogis often want to perform these poses. However, yoga back bends are quite difficult to learn, especially without the coaching of a certified instructor. For this reason, many yoga students who would like to perform back bend poses abandon the goal because it, at first, appears too difficult.
Learn How to Do Yoga Back Bends
There are some exercises that can be considered precursors to back bends, which open up the shoulders and the hips, and gently bending the back without supporting the body's weight in a bend. These postures might help you prepare for full back bend positions. Beginners trying back bends should practice the actual bends with their instructor, but you can use these exercises to learn yoga back bends at home.
- Seated Stretch: Sitting in Lotus position, ensure that your back is straight, and that your shoulders are lowered and relaxed. Clasp your hands behind your lower back, and, keeping your shoulders low, bend your back, arching so that your chest rises and you feel a stretch in your back. Take this stretch slow and easy; each week you can try to bend farther into this stretch. This back bend position is a slow way to work into the yoga back bends in which you have to support your own body weight with your arms.
- Standing Stretch: Stand with your hands grasping the back of a sturdy chair, railing, or countertop. Again, straighten your back and lower your shoulders. Slowly raise your chest, tipping your head backwards and downwards. As the stretch continues, be sure that you feel more stretch in your back than in your neck, as the goal is to bend the back. Have a family member trace the line of the curve in your back for you so that you can become aware of the depth of your back bend.
- Cobra Pose: This formal yoga pose is another back bend preparation. While many consider this pose a back bend, the reason why it can also be considered a preparatory pose for full back bends is because you can keep this back bend as shallow or as deep as you are ready for by straightening your arms to various degrees. As the weeks and months go by, the bend in your back during Cobra Pose should deepen, your hips should open, and, if you keep your shoulders low, your shoulders should also open.
- Goddess Pose: For a serious hip-opener, try this restorative yoga pose that is practiced supine. While other hip openers use the body's weight to open the hips, this pose (also called Supta Baddha Konasana) offers slow and steady results if practiced on a regular basis.
- Modified Bridge Pose: While Bridge Pose may be a difficult back bend for beginners, choosing to only go into the back bend to a certain angle can certainly serve as a preparation for more advanced yoga back bends. Because the shoulders are on the ground, with the arms under the body instead of extended behind your head, the back is not left as unsupported as it is in, for example, Wheel Pose.
Advancing to Yoga Back Bends
The following back bends are what you can work towards with the above-mentioned exercises:
Remember to take it slowly as you move on to practicing these positions, and to listen to your body. Try these poses in class with your instructor's watchful eye on you until you can perform the poses without risk of injuring yourself. Remember that in order to learn how to do yoga back bends safely, progressing slowly towards your goal is essential.