It’s hard to believe, but I was once the most non-backbendy person you can imagine. In fact, the more I tried, the less my back would bend. I would get so frustrated that I would break out in tears!
When I would go to Yoga class, I’d stare in awe at these super flexible yogis, effortlessly bending their bodies in all kinds of positions. I rationalized that it was just a matter of time; the more I’d push through and deal with the pain, the more flexible my back would become.
Boy, was I wrong!
I’ve since discovered some amazing secrets that will have you doing backbends faster than you can imagine possible!
Secret #1: The more you push, the less you bend. If you are pushing, I guarantee that you’re not breathing. You’re holding your breath. If you can’t breathe a full inhale and exhale in a backbend, then you’ve gone too far. Your practice becomes more solid and graceful when you can breathe through the bend.
I realized this secret when I noticed that the super bendy yogis looked like they were actually relaxing into the bend. Incredible!
Secret #2: The more you relax and let go in a backbend, the deeper you go. Of course, there is the technique of the specific backbend you’re doing, as not all backbends are the same. Richard Freeman, a world-renowned yogi, taught me to relax my jaw in backbends. As soon as I did that, I could feel the ease and gentleness flow through my back. I could even inhale and exhale without pushing!
Secret #3: Use props. Blocks, straps, walls, and blankets are great tools to help us do backbends. With proper instruction, they give a sense of security, allowing you to be more relaxed and focused. Even another person is a wonderful prop you can use to help give you that safe feeling of support while doing your backbend.
Secret #4: Don’t push too hard. Remember, a backbend is not something that you push into; it’s something that you ease into. So if you feel that your back hurts after a backbend, it means you’re pushing too hard. If your legs are sore and throbbing, that’s a good sign because it means you’re properly engaging your leg muscles. All backbends work the entire spine plus the legs. Strong legs lead to safe, stable backbends. Doing standing poses also helps to build strength in your legs.
Secret #5: Be vulnerable. Yoga is more than a physical exercise. It’s a deep emotional and mental exercise as well. Backbends symbolize being open and vulnerable. The deep inner trust is what creates the vulnerability that enables you to relax and let your body go into backbend position.
This secret is so vital, I can’t stress it enough. Opening up your back and heart energy is such a pure, raw, and honest position. If you can allow your body to experience a backbend, you will realize yoga in its full beauty and purity.
I hope my secrets help you enjoy the deep trust, vulnerability, and release that backbends can provide!