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What's in a "Backbend"?

What's in a "Backbend"?

The spine is what comes to mind when you hear “backbend”.  However, anatomically, bending of the back seems a misnomer.  The back does not really bend— it actually extends!  In some schools of yoga, this is no longer referred to as a backbend, but as a back extension.


Bending or hinging from a specific joint is called flexion.  It’s when two different parts of the body are moved closer to one another and a joint is bent in the process.  Extension, its opposite, does exactly what it means.  It extends or elongates the said body part to relax the used muscles after a flexion or contraction


Some of the poses that come to mind when we say “backbend”

How to get into backbends

As the pose connotes, it requires the back to, well, bend (backwards).  It is strongly advised that we warm up the body first before attempting backbends.

In some schools of Yoga, backbends come very deep into the middle of the practice after about 20 minutes of vinyasa or when body has warmed up the different parts of the body needed to make the pose accessible and far from danger.

To begin, one may start with Sun Salutations A and B to get the blood to flow throughout the whole body.  Follow through with some cat and cow movements for spinal mobility.

Focus attention to these areas

The back isn’t the only body part that deserves attention to be able to make these poses accessible.  A good and safe backbend would require:

1) Strong quads.  The quad muscles are the largest muscle of the lower body.  These muscles will support the lower body in the execution of the pose.  A weak quad may pull on the glutes and also damage ligaments of the knees.

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2) Strong adductors.  Your adductors are muscles in the insides of the legs.  These muscles work to hold the lower body in shape  (read: avoid splaying the knees).  Work on this on your bridge pose.  Try to put on a strap around the legs above the knees, or squeeze a block in between the thighs as you lift.

3) Flexible psoas muscles.  These muscles run along the deep tissue from below your ribs to just about around your pelvis.  Imagine this is a rubber band that connects your upper body to your lower body.  You are trying to make it arch upward.  What would happen if it’s tight? You’ll immediately snap back to the upright position.

A beautiful pose to practice this on is supine virasana.  Sit in heroes’ pose and gently lie down.  This gives your quads and psoas muscles a good stretch.

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My story is our own. Where I grew up at, my aunt would feed stray cats, but she wouldn't call any one her own. No one knew about neutering/spaying animals back then. I didn't know about it too. - The cats multiplied and the effort to feed and maintain them all became a daunting task. With some of the cats, we grew closer. One of them is the litter of my cat's biological mom. They were close to humans and affectionate even. - However, my mom disapproves of having cats at home, so we just learned to be with them when they just stayed within the compound premises. - This litter gave birth to several other litters and one of them, the siblings of my cat. There were three of them. And to this beautiful black cat, I grew attached to. I stalked her mom giving birth to them and decided I would keep her. - Because I was still young then, I knew I couldn’t support her, but I promised I would do everything for her. One day, I was at school, my cousins decided to discard this litter (along with my cat). - It was a blessing that my sister saw them doing their's deed and she immediately told me about it. I cried and asked her to retrieve my cat. She was also just a little girl that time (7 yrs old) and she went outside to get next street where they dropped the kittens! - I didn't find out the condition of the other cats, but my sister said, my cat looked like it wouldn't make it, but it did! I'm so grateful for my brave sister for doing what she did for me and my cat! ❤️ - 19 years later, my cat is the most beautiful and loving companion I will ever cherish. We have gone through a lot together and it's all because ours bond is special. - Looking forward to more good years together ❤️😸 - #adoptdontshop - Day 5️⃣ of #Poses4Paws - 🐾Pose List & Prompt🐾 1. Puppy pose - General information about shelters, is there one in your community? 2. And dog variation - what is it like for older dogs in shelters? 3. Any animal pose - what are other animals that you can find at shelters & their needs? 4. Any warrior - how can you make a difference? 5. Any heart opener - share your story or one of someone you know! 6. Any infinity pose - how can we stop the cycle of animal abuse/negl

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4) Strong core.  Backbends don’t mean bending from the most mobile part of the back—the lumbar.  Strong abdominals are required to hold an arched shape so that we don’t use the flexible lumbar to make it to the pose.

Core exercises are quite infamous because it’s just so difficult.  Try doing planks (high plank or forearm plank) or if planks bother your wrists, boat pose is perfect for this—avoid rounding the back.

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120s forearm plank #planksgiving - I think the most difficult part was taming the thoughts about how I'm breathing, how long it has been, am I shaking? Etc. I was surprised I didn't bail earlier than my timer's beeps 😅 - Grateful for: 1. Times I spend with my loved ones. I may not be able to do everything I want or be everywhere I wanna go, but to be beside them is the perfect place to be ❤️ @sportyshooter 2. My cat doesn't bother if I'm tired and recovering in the morning. She would pester me until I wake up, and then that's the time she will sleep. It simply means nothing else is bothering her in terms of health, and that makes me happy. 3. I don't always say this, but I'm grateful for this spare room where I do my shenanigans and movements that satisfy my soul, and quiet meditation times that center my mind. It's too small to jump rope in, but yeah.. I still love it. This room also doubles as my cat's lounge when I'm not around 😅😂 - - - - - - - - #yogafun #igyoga #yogainspiration #yogini #yogi #yogalife #yogapose #yogafit #fitgirl #yogagirl #yogaeverydamday #yogaaddict #yogadaily #yoga #yogahomepractice #yogaph #journal #yogachallenge #igyogachallenge #yoga #keeppractising

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5.) Open shoulders and upper back.  Without properly working on opening the shoulders and the upper back, the chest would not open and the strength and support from the upper body will not fall into the right places for the pose to happen.

Patience is key

Remember that any pose isn’t made available overnight.  Practice a little bit everyday.  Even by doing the same number of poses, as long as you are intent on working towards your goal, you will eventually achieve it.  Each pose counts towards what you need it for.  Breathe and visualize your goal.  This is an example of how, even for me with tight shoulders can work on improving backbends in just a little as 7 days.

Lose what you don’t use

Just like any pose that’s not within daily range of movements (unlike forward folds or overhead extensions), backbends like splits, won’t stay accessible if you don’t work on them.

Our bodies are magnificent AIs that hold information that it gathers from your daily movement and habits or patterns.  It will then decide what’s good for you from these set of data it receives.  If you do splits everyday, then your body will think you need it and it helps you make splits accessible.  Do backbends everyday and it starts to think you need it.

I believe, this is where Ashtanga shines best.  The different progressive series brings you access to all the things the body needs (and thereby nourishes the mind)—flexibility, strength, patience.  Each day of practice compounds the achievements day by day until you realise, you are the summary of each pose you have practised.

This is true for all the yoga poses.  Practice what you need—everyday.  Define what yoga is for you: a moving meditation? an exercise? a means to achieve poses?  Only you are your limit.

Keep practising 🙏  Share with me your journey 💖