General Backbend Tips
"...value progress over perfection, and patience above all."
Anyway-- here we go!
•Warm up first. Just like deep stretches, you’ll need to be nice and warm before asking your spine and your muscles to enter a backbend.
•Specifically, warm up the spine in all directions: flexion, extension, laterally and rotationally. Gradually deepen the spinal movement. Don’t forget neutral spine. Poses like Mountain can help you achieve this by lengthening the spine, gently calling on many muscles in the body to support this.
•Warm the core, and engage the deep abs. It’s optimal to have a warm core anyway, but this also prepares you mentally for how you should be engaging the abs the entire time while in a backbend to remain safe and support the spine.
•Stretch the front of the body… chest, shoulders, and hips flexors (which, don’t forget, includes the quads).
•Create a strong foundation, and depending on the pose, this could be hands, feet (or both), or even shoulders (as in bridge pose, where you want to establish a base there to avoid placing weight on the neck).
•Activation of legs and glutes.
•Abs, abs, abs! You’ll want to call on the Transverse Abdominis (TVA), which you can do by engaging the waistband area muscles and then adding in mula bandha (activation of the pelvic floor).
•Tailbone: not tucking it, but easing it to neutral. In everyday life, many of us have a tendency to let the tailbone point slightly behind us due to common muscle imbalances. To bring the spine into a neutral and safe position, you’ll need to aim the tailbone toward the floor. So to clarify, you’re not actively tucking the tailbone, because then you may be, once again, out of alignment. This also ties into what the glutes are doing. The glutes should be active but not clenched. If you clench them, you’re likely to be pushing your hips forward and possibly bringing the tailbone too far forward or the lumbar spine out of alignment.
•Try to keep the shoulders aligned and keep the neck tension-free. In other words, gently pulling the shoulder blades down the back towards your back pockets and avoid shrugging at the neck.
•Lift and extend through the chest and heart area and let this extension naturally develop. A key thing to understand about backbends is that the point is NOT to simply bend the spine, but to lengthen and extend the spine, bringing space to the spine, not compression.
•In any backbend, you don’t want strain (ever!!) in the neck or the lumbar area.
•Lastly, if it hurts, don’t do it! Yoga is meant to nourish the body, not harm it.
**PS: ask your doctor if you have back injuries (past or present), are pregnant, or have high blood pressure.
Hope this helps!
Love & Light.