Yoga: Backbends - Part 1
Backbend postures in yoga are a great way to promote flexibility and suppleness in your back and to calm and relax your mind. This is part one of our two part series on yoga backbends for a beginner's level.
Step 1: Hero pose
This first posture is a preparation movement for back bend postures. Make sure your folded blanket is on your mat. Come down unto your mat on all fours in front of the blanket. Bring your knees together and place your feet parallel and along the sides of your blanket. Slowly lower your buttocks on to the blanket. Roll your calf muscles out from under your thighs. Make sure that your feet are as straight as possible and that all your toe nails are on the floor, if possible. Bring your hands to the inside of your heels and lift your hips slightly up while you pull your heels out. Sit down again with your spine straight and your belly drawn in. Your chest should be open and lifted and the back of your neck lengthened. Gaze forward calmly and stay there for 8-10 breaths if you can.
Interlock your fingers and turn your palms away from you. Raise the arms up and over your head extending them completely with the palms facing towards the ceiling. Hold for 5 breaths and bring the arms down. Change the interlocking of your fingers and repeat this exercise holding for 5 breaths. This pose is wonderful for stiff shoulders and upper backs.
Press your palms fully on the floor behind you and lift up your hips as far as possible to stretch your front thighs. Keep your head forward and neck relaxed. Lower your legs and buttocks back down. Repeat this twice. Come out of this position, slowly stretching each leg one at a time.
Step 2: Locust 1 and 2
Lying on your stomach extend both your legs one at a time towards your toes. Bring your feet hip width apart and your arms alongside your body with your palms turned up. Roll your shoulders back and begin to lift your chest and arms so that they are parallel with the floor. Press your sacrum and tailbone down and lift up your legs keeping them firm and straight. Stretch the legs back and the upper body forward and up even higher. Hold for 5 breaths, exhale come down and rest. Repeat the posture this time with your arms extended over your head and lift up your arms and legs at the same time. Hold again for 5 breathes. This is Locust variation 2.
Step 3: Cobra
Remain lying face down on your stomach, place your feet hip width apart and well extended. Press the tops of your feet firmly into the floor, front thighs and knees pressed back. Your palms should be on the floor below your chest, fingers spread and palms open. Roll your shoulders back and lift up your head. Press your sacrum into the floor. Inhale Raise your head, chest and middle waist. Keep your shoulders back and down away from your ears while lifting up and straighten the arms as much as you can without lifting the pubic bone. Keep the sacrum and pubic bone pressed into the floor to lengthen the lower back. Bring the head back to look up without constricting in the back of the neck. Hold for 5 breaths. Exhale and come back down to your stomach and relax for a few seconds. Then repeat once again to finish the routine.