One of the main purposes and vision in Corpo Giardino – Yoga Practices is to empower you as passion driven women with different Yoga Tools, in order to create and sustain balance in your life.
One of the main resistances I observed in the past years – when it comes to step on the mat on a regular basis, move and breathe is lack of knowledge. Too many times I saw confusion, lack of direction that led to procrastination.
This is exactly why I decided to create a series of Blog Post with the focus on different functions/benefits of Yoga Positions such as Forward Bends, Twist, Side Bends, Backbend and Inversions. I want to give you basic knowledge and concrete actions to apply it immediately in your “at home” practice.
If on one side it’s essential to be guided by an expert Yoga Facilitator, on the other side I find more and more important to begin to practice independently and with freedom.
Self-Practice can be seen as a gateway for a deeper connection with yourself, your possibilities, limitations and needs. It empowers you, because it shows you where you are exactly right now, what you need and how to get there.
This Blog Post is the fourth episode and today we are going to talk about Back Bends, and how to integrate and incorporate them in your daily practice.
Function over the Form
With the synchronization of breaths and movements, we can release physical, emotional and mental blockages. In this way, Prana can be released and can move freely in the body and in our system. We can then process emotions and feelings that were stagnant, become lighter and replenish our energy.
As you can read, the goal of a Yoga Practice is not to achieve a specific body type or a specific form. When we move away from an idea or form, but shift our attention on the function instead, we tap in the intelligence of the body and sequencing.
When the function is clear, we have the power to decide when and if to integrate a specific position or not. We have the power to choose to practice the full expression or integrate modifications and variations.
Let’s dive deep into discovering the benefits of back bending on an emotional, physical, mental and energetic level.
Physical Effects and Benefits
On the physical level, when we back bend, we extend the spine, creating at the same time more space in the front side.
The following are the main benefits of back bending:
- Strengthen and invigorate our system
- They release tensions in the lower back and neck vertebras
- Open up the front side of the body, especially the chest and shoulders. After we spent a very long day at work curving the spine forward and collapsing in our chest, practicing back bend feels amazing.
- They stretch the quads and hip flexor
- Strengthen the muscle of legs and arms
- Improve awareness of the pelvis, pelvic floor area and our core
It’s extremely important to warm up before practicing back Bendings. In order to practice them in safety, we need a lot of awareness, attention and focus. If we are distracted or still cold, danger of hurting ourselves – especially in the neck and lower back area – it’s around the corner.
This is way for example, in the Ashtanga Vinyasa System, back Bendings are in the second series; they are considered “advance” and intense positions that can be practiced only when we mastered the first series based on forward folds.
When we bend on the side it essential to keep in mind:
- Warm up properly: Sun Salutations are a great way to warm up the entire body; 3 Sun Salutations A and 3 B are normally enough – but in the cold days please make sure that you practice 5 rounds each. CLICK HERE TO PRACTICE SUN SALUTATIONS WITH ME.
- Create a solid foundation #1: in the standing, seated or inverted back Bendings, make sure that your legs are solid and engaged. Rotate the thighs inward, towards the middle line and activate the glutes (not crunching, but activating them).
- Create a solid foundation #2: stabilise your Pelvis – pull the lower part of your abdominal in and up, point your seat bones and tailbone towards the floor. In this way, you can create space in the lower back without collapsing on the lower vertebras.
- Engage your core: instead of thinking to crunch your abs, imagine that you are lengthening but at the same time activating your core muscles. Move your floating ribs inward.
- What do we do with the neck? Keep your neck long, let it extend by following its natual curve. Imagine like an extension of your spine, arriving all the way up to the crown of the head.
If you keep these elements in mind, you are able to practice in safety and with awareness.
Emotional/Mental Effects and Benefits
Imagine that the physical alignment is like the foundations of your pose: when your body is safe, then you can focus on different levels or aspects of yourselves.
Again, use your Self- Practice as a gateway to get to know you better, on a deeper level.
In general, the more we focus our attention on the upper part of the body, the more we are going to open, uplift and revitalize it. The emotions and feelings connected to side bending are:
- joy, presence, openness
- energizing and revitalizing effect
- motivated and stimulated
Imagine yourself in a sad, dangerous or uncertain situation. How would your body move? Probably it would close in, especially in the most vulnerable part of ourselves: hips, belly and heart.
That’s why when we open the heart and bring the shoulder Blates together, an immediate feeling of openness and trust comes up. As we are stimulating a deep emotional part of ourselves, the heart centre, other emotions could come up.
After a sequence based on heart opening, sometimes I felt energized and other times extremly emotional and vulnerable. That’s the magic and the power of the practice: it shows you where you are exactly in that moment, to process and elaborate.
Energetic Effects and Benefits
For the Hatha Yoga Tradition, there are 5 main different Prana Vayus (winds), 5 different energies, in our body with of course different effects.
When we back bend, we stimulate 3 main Prana Vayus: Vyana, Samana, Prana and Udana.
Vyana is considered the master- Vayu, it manages and integrates the other 4 energetic winds. We can find it everywhere in our body; it regulates the nerves, blood circulation, movements and muscles.
Samana runs in a spiral way at the level of our navel and it’s connected to digestion and assimilations of food and nutrients. Anytime we back bend, we lengthen the front side of the body and the energetic wind of Samana.
Prana is an uplifting energy located in the upper body, especially lungs and heart. It’s deeply connected to the inhale, bringing more vitality and energy in our system. Connected to our immune system, function of the heart and lungs.
Udana is located in the throat and head, it transforms the energy coming from the lower part of the body. Seat of communication, it produces the tone of our voice.
On an energetic level then, Side Bends help us to center, stabilize, open and strengthen.
Your next step
#1 Practice the 30′ Yoga Flow focused on Back Bends, open your heart and uplift your energy you can find the video at the end of this blog post.
#2 Share your experience with me, using the comment section below, Facebook or with a direct email.
And of course, if you have questions, desires, needs – please reach out, I am here for you!
Enjoy your Practice and let me know how it goes :)
Photo by Franzi Meyer on Unsplash