We spend most (if not all) of our day bent forwards in one way or another. Hunched over a computer at work, stooped over tying up little people’s shoes, huddled over nursing your baby, or arched over making supper. A backbend allows you to bring your body out of the yuckiness of all that hunching over and put it back into alignment.
I tried my first full wheel during a yoga workshop with Sadie Nardini when she was in Moose Jaw in the spring. While holding on to my partner’s ankles, I was able to push up into the backbend. It felt so good to use my body in a fashion I had never done before! I was eager to continue practicing.
Since Sadie’s workshop (6 months later), I am now able to push up into a full wheel. I can stay up for about 10 seconds and the feeling is exhilarating. I prefer to call backbends ‘heart-openers’ because that is exactly what they do - open your heart, both on a physical and emotional level. The reason backbends are known as heart-openers is because you are literally opening your heart up and out. But they are also known as such because of the feeling you get when you practice them. With your heart open like that, oftentimes emotions that you didn’t know you were feeling are able to rise to the surface and be liberated. I have found myself crying while in a backbend (or afterwards) for many reasons, happy and sad. But I always feel better after (so free), knowing I have given my body and my spirit a complete release.
Backbends are intense though! You need to approach them with caution and awareness. Be aware of where your body is right now and don’t push yourself past what is right for you. It takes a long time for your body to become flexible enough to open up into most backbends. Your mind will resist too - it knows that bending backwards isn’t how you usually use your body, and it will try to forbear your efforts. Backbends are all about trust. Trusting yourself not to push too hard (but enough to progress) and trusting your body.
There are so many different asanas in yoga that include backbends. Start slow, maybe with Bridge or Sphinx pose. As you become more flexible in your back and more confident you’ll find your body more able to release into the deeper backbends. Above all, enjoy the journey!
*Please note, I am NOT a yoga instructor. Always talk to a certified instructor before trying any new pose*