10 easy ways to find balance in backbends
Hayley Poole shares 10 top tips to find balance in backbends
Whether it’s urdvha dhanurasana (the full wheel) or just a basic spinal arch – backbends are perhaps one of the most intense practices in any yoga tradition. Here are 10 ways you can find balance in backbends such as wheels, arches and stretches, to avoid injury.
- Warm up
First and foremost, never bend your spine on a cold back, which simply means – warm up! In Ashtanga, the bends don’t start until near the end of the sequence which is where you could aim to start yours if you can.
Second, stretch your shoulders and open up those areas. The impact this will have will be immense as to how much you can bend.
Next, try to have engagement without tension in the neck area; too many people let the head fall loosely back. Even if you have to tuck your chin slightly whilst in the air, it will all help get a stronger feel.
- Go slowly
Target specific areas of the spine little by little as opposed to completely opening up the whole range of spine motion at once, especially if you have a stiff back.
- Get assistance
If you can, ask a teacher to adjust you in the movement, but make sure you speak up when it gets too much!
Work the arms independently to gain strength to get off the ground; this especially applies if you’re going for a full wheel, otherwise you’ll struggle to get off the ground.
- Root your feet
Next, root your feet and feel grounded before going completely upside down. If you have to adjust your feet whilst in the pose it can make for an uncomfortable and awkward process (but is of course entirely possible).
- Drishti point
Once your spine slowly lifts off the ground, find a fixed point to gaze at (otherwise known as a drishti point).
- Come down slowly
Number nine, come down slowly and avoid thudding the back onto the mat. Slowly, one vertebrae at a time if you can, back onto the mat breathing through as you do.
- Start small
Only lift off the ground what you can manage then rest and breathe. Never hold your breath whilst back bending otherwise excess tension can be held in the spine.