Back bends are energizing and open the heart/emotions. They stimulate the chakras – heart chakra in particular. They help the lungs and breathing because of the expanded chest space. They stretch and strengthen the spine and abdomen muscles. Some also stretch the pelvic region, increasing blood flow and health to the gonads and entire pelvic region. Some stretch the neck, which helps the thyroid. Blood flow is increased to the thyroid, parathyroid, and adrenals. Blood circulation in the spine is increased. The spine becomes more elastic. Back pain and spinal injuries such as lumbago, sciatica, and slipped or prolapsed discs can be relieved and healed.* A healthy spine helps create a healthy nervous system. Healthy nerves lead to a sound mind and body.
Examples of backbends include:
- Setu Bandha/Bridge
- Urdhva Dhanurasana/Chakrasana/Wheel
Described below is a gentle, restorative back bend exercise to do after a stressful day at work, if you are feeling worn down, if your heart is achy and in need of nurturing, and/or if you have just been going, going, going all day and need a pick me up.
Find a bolster or fold up some blankets to make a prop that is about 5 – 8″ high, about 10″ wide and about 30″ long. Postion your legs in any comfortable way, either straight out and maybe with a pillow under the knees, or with feet together, knees bent, and a pillow under each thigh. Move the prop about a hands width away from your tail bone. Lay back resting your middle and upper back and head on the prop. If you want a more intensive back bend turn the prop sideways and lie back so your rear, shoulder, and head rest on the floor while your middle back is arched and supported on the prop.
Place arms out to the sides with palms face up. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths.
Start to pretend you are breathing the breath into your chest area, circulating it around in there, and breathing it out through the chest area. If any emotions come up, just notice and breath into them with loving kindness. After 5 – 20 minutes roll to the right off your props, gently press up to a seated position, softly blink open your eyes. Notice how you feel now, compared to when you started.
*By the way, here and throughout the site, when I mention healing benefits of yoga I am sharing the beliefs of this tradition, unless otherwise stated. I am not a doctor. Be sure to see a doctor where appropriate for any physical or psychological conditions. You can ask your doctor about yoga, breathing, meditation, etc. and get his or her approval on anything you are adding to your treatment. As a free human being, we all have the right to investigate and follow our own paths, and that includes sharing ancient traditions and ancient healing practises.