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BACK BENDS

 

Our body’s natural response to danger is to curl in, protecting our most vulnerable organs. Backbends do the very opposite action opening us up to the world. We are exposing ourselves and that takes courage  - but also builds more of it! Overcoming our fears on the mat can give us courage off the mat too.

 

Backbends are energising and strengthening. With back bends we work and open the front body - Superficial Front Line & Deep Front Lines of myofascia, (Tension anywhere along this line can cause restrictions in other areas along the line), as well as compressing and strengthening the reverse - Superficial Back Line

Backbends can be broadly divided into these categories : 

- CONTRACTION BACKBENDS where the back muscles contract to over come gravity (Locust Pose)

- TRACTION BACKBENDS muscles in the front body contract to overcome gravity (Camel Pose)

- LEVERAGE BACKBENDS the arms and legs press against an unmovable object (floor, wall or other part of body) to stretch the front of the body. (Bow Pose)

 

Within each of these categories, the arms, humerus, may be in extension/flexion. Both require different areas of engagement or release through the shoulder girdle : Extension of the arms requires the scapula to be stabilised by the rhomboids, lower traps and serratus anterior while the pecs must release. Flexion requires the rhomboids, lats, pecs and triceps to release.

  

* As we work through each posture, remember the intricate and infinite layers of integration involved. There's no 'right way'. Here we are playing with how asanas relate to one another, how they work together to open the body, and how they build upon one another to further open and balance our bodies. 

GENERAL ALIGNMENT PRINCIPLES

  • Rotate thighs internally. You can feel this using a block in between your thighs. Apply pada bandha to accentuate this further. 

  • Never overly squeeze the buttocks, instead soften the upper fibers of your gluteus max, which in contracting will externally rotate and abduct the thighs and thereby put pressure on the SI joint at the base of the spine. 

  • Posteriorly tilt the pelvis. This action will draw more length into the lumbar spine, reducing pressure on the lower intervertebral disks and help share the backbend up the spine - bring front bony hip points toward the front ribs. 

  • Create length through the spine to allow greater spinal extension. 

  • Focus the backbend in the thoracic spine*

  • Add extension to cervical spine last or allow your neck to stay neutral.

  • Draw lower tips of shoulder blades in and up towards the heart further opening the chest. 

  • Lift the sternum up - increasing expansiveness.

  • Keep the breath steady and soft. 

 

INTEGRATION & COUNTERPOSE

  • Deep and sustained backbends are best sequenced as peak of a practice when the body is warmest and most prepared.

  • Start with active contraction or traction backbends before moving to leverage backbends. 

  • Open the quadriceps, hip flexors, inner thighs, which contribute to greater hip flexion. 

  • Open shoulders, lats, pecs and rhomboids, to prepare the shoulders for safe flexion in backbends. 

  • Open shoulders, pecs for shoulder extension

  • Use gentle twists for initial counterposing, then move into deeper forward bends, hip openers and deeper twists. 

  • Core integration after backbends will help stabilise the lower back. 

  • Backbends are energetic, so allow time to neutralise and calm afterwards, especially in the evening.  

  • In the postures encourage students to keep assessing rather than judging. Instead of going into the deepest of backbend, play our edge emphasising the heart opening qualities, staying with breath and feeling compassion to yourself. 

GENERAL CONTRAINDICATIONS

  • Back / neck issues? Depending on your issue, some poses can be helpful to free up tension but others should be avoided. Check in with your physical therapist.

  • Shoulder issues. Some poses require strength and stability in the shoulder. 

superficial front line  (SFL)

 

Connects the entire front surface of the body from the top of the feet to the side of the skull in two pieces – toes to pelvis and pelvis to head.

 

When the hip is extended as in standing, the SFL functions as one continuous line of integrated myofascia, with the overall movement function to create flexion of the trunk and hips, extension at the knee, and dorsiflexion of the foot.

 

The SFL balances the Superficial Back Line providing tensile support to lift those parts of the skeleton which extend forward of the gravity line – the pubis, rib cage, and face.​ The muscles of the SFL stand ready to defend the soft and sensitive parts that adorn the front surface of the human body, and protect the viscera of the ventral cavity.

It is a very common pattern for the SFL to be pulled down the front (slouched) and the SBL hikes up the back. This creates a imbalance between the corresponding structures in the front and the back of the body. This is the foundation for a host of future problems for the neck, the arms, breathing, or the lower back.

 
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