Thursday, 28 July 2016

Protecting the back in back bends

Back bends are great for increasing circulation to the spine and stimulating digestion.  They open up the chest to deeper breathing which is not only energizing but can help relieve stress. 

They are also great counter poses to our lives especially if you work at a desk, drive a car etc because they open up the shoulders.  

Do not however make the mistake of deeply bending your back before your body is ready- you should always listen to your body and 'feel' your way into the pose.  My advice for safe on back bends would be to focus on gaining flexibility in the upper, thoracic spine firstly because if the thoracic spine is rigid then the lower back will take the strain.  Try the following two poses to help create openness in the thoracic spine.

Crocodile - lie on your tummy and cup your chin with your hands. Have your elbows wide so that you are working on opening your upper spine. 

Shoulder Bridge variation - lie on your mat with your knees bent.  Inhale lift your hips. Take hold of the edges of your mat and pull on the mat to help you create more lift in the thoracic spine.  

It is also important to lengthen the spine before you bend backwards.  For back bends lying on your tummy you can wriggle your hips back before you bend or tuck the toes of your right foot and press your heel back to create space in your lower back then repeat with the left foot. 

When moving into the back bend engaging your pelvic floor, Mula Banda and your lower abdomen helps protect your lower back.  As you come up move your tail bone down, and run your nose forward before lifting.  

After the back bend make sure that you lengthen the spine.  This may be achieved with a version of Child's Pose, Swan where your bottom is on your heels and your arms stretched forward. Keep your elbows lifted and stretch from your hips to your armpits then right down to your fingertips.  A standing forward bend is also a good counter pose as the weight of the head helps lengthen the spine.  

Swan pose

For more advanced back bends such as Camel Pose practice the modified versions and see how you feel in those before attempting the full pose. Please see 'Protecting your neck in back bends' - 

Stay safe

Janet x 

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