There is something about long, bright, sunny days that make backbends feel like the perfect asana to incorporate into your summer practice. We spend many months of the year curled in on ourselves in self protection against the elements. When the sun finally comes out we naturally feel the urge to open up and reach for the sky – making us feels more in tune with nature. Backbends are energising, stimulate the nervous system, aid digestion and constipation, ease stress, tension, anxiety, fatigue and depression; and boost the immune system.
It can be hard to stay well hydrated in summer months. You can easily find you’re not ‘eliminating’ as frequently as you usually would. The digestive system works optimally when it is regularly flushed of toxins. Backbends press and stimulate the gut and help to keep everything moving along. A happy gut means a happy, healthy body and a happy, summer yogi!
Waking up the spine
This sequence starts with some gentle twists to wake the spine up, and open the space between the vertebrae. Twists gently stretch all the muscles of the spine – making it easier to move into a lovey elongated backbend. They are also good for neutralising the spine after backbends. A gentle twist is a much kinder counterpose to a backbend than a deep forward fold.
Exploring backbends in your practice
To maximise your potential ability to open in you backbends this sequence has minimal forward folds. When you take your transitional Adho Mukha Svanasana/Downward Dog keep a deep bend in your knees and look for keeping the natural curve in your lower back. Often when we reach the heel down with straight legs we bring our pelvis into a backwards tilt which flexes the lumbar spine and flattens out the curve. Similarly keep a deep bend in your knees in Uttanasana/Forward Fold and Ardha Uttanasana/Half Forward Fold.
The alignment cues below will give you tips for some of the backbends that you’ll find through the sequence. Remember to lengthen up through the spine first to find space between the vertebrae before you come into any of the backbends.
Print out the below tips, along with the sequence, and open up to summer:
In Anjaneyasana/Eight Crescent Moon find your two pointy hip bones and lift them up to lengthen before you arch back into a mini backbend with arms in cactus position.
Locust/Salabhasana is a very strengthening backbend and is one of the few asana where you are working against gravity. Try having the palms of your hands facing down to the ground and feel the shoulderblades draw together on your back – which helps to open the chest up in preparation for deeper backbends.
When you are in Wild Thing/Camatkarasana feel your backbend ripple up through your whole spine from your tailbone to the tip of your crown. Lead with your sternum and reach it up and towards the front of your mat.
When you are in Ardha Chandrasana Chapasana/Half Moon Sugarcane press your hand into your foot and your foot into your hand. Lengthen through the thigh of your lifted leg and reach your knee up and behind you. Extend through the whole spine and gently arch your head back.
For our peak pose Natarajasana/Lord of the Dance spread the sole of your standing foot. Press your foot into your hand and your hand into your foot. Broaden through the collarbones and extend your sternum forward and up. Lift your pointy hip bones up and check that they stay squared forward to the front of your mat.
Before you come into Ustrasana/Camel lift your torso out of your pelvis and lengthen up through the spine. Move into the pose by arching through your whole back starting with your lumbar all the way to your cervical spine. Lightly draw your navel to your spine to support your back like a girdle and protect you from going too far into your backbend.