Backbends are one of the prettiest pose amongst other type of poses, but yet it can be challenging to keep the right alignments. Without the right alignments and simply relying on flexibility, our joints might get injured in this pose. During our teacher training we always approach the backbends a step by step to ensure the sustainability of the pose and to safely enter the body with it.
Here are the tips to work on it. One rule: do not force it! We are where we’re supposed to be. As Patabhi Jois said, 99 percent of yoga is Practice.
Start by working on your cobra. Lay flat on the floor, look back and ensure that your legs are hip-width distance apart. Then place your palms firmly on to the mat, fingertips facing forward and in line with your chest. Elbows are pressing into your ribs. Press your hips down, and feel the lengthening of your spine. Inhale, slowly press up and lift up your chest off the mat. Squeeze the elbows into your ribs. Lengthen your spine, including your neck.
Warning: the point of the pose is not to push your torso up with your arms and drop your head down. That’s unhealthy for your spine! We would like to have extension on your spine instead.
Cobra with hands off the mat
Then, with the same alignments of the Cobra. Hover your palms off the mat. Then relax your glutes. This way, you will use your back muscles and not relying on your arms to push up. Hold for five breaths, then exhale and release.
Lay flat on your tummy on the floor. Extend your arms next to your body, palms facing up. Then make sure that your legs are at hip-width distance apart. Press your hips down and feel the lengthening of your spine, especially on your lower back. Inhale, lift up your arms, open your chest and simultaneously lift up both legs balancing on your hips. Keep your shoulders back and down. Spread your fingers and toes. Try to lift up equally in between your arms and legs. Hold for five breaths, and then exhale, release.
Then, still laying on your tummy. Bend both knees and reach with your hands back and hold your ankles. Flex your feet. Making sure that your knees are still at hip-width distance apart, press your hips down. Then inhale, and kick back your legs and lift your chest and pull your arms in. Balancing on your hips, try to lift equally between the legs and the chest. If in any moment you feel knees discomfort, back off the mat and return into practicing Locust pose. Hold for five breaths and then, exhale and release.
As all backbends, we need to flex the spine to release the tension that we have been building during the extension of the spine. This will be easily done by coming into Child Pose. From being flat on your tummy, press your hands and your knees to the mat and roll back into Child Pose. Either having your knees together or apart, push your hips down gently onto your heels to have a nice relief.