Back Bends For All Skill Levels

Back bends not only leave us feeling super limber and energized, but stretching the spine with back bends also improves the spine’s flexibility, helping us retain good posture as we age.

For Super-Beginners: Want to stretch your back without doing a yoga posture? While standing or sitting, clasp your hands together at your waist behind your back and flex your arms, slightly arching your back and looking skyward.

Beginners: Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana) Cobra, a staple in “Sun Salutations” is easy on the body and super fun. To complete: Lay flat on your stomach with your hands planted next to your shoulders on either side. Push your chest forward slightly and lift your gaze to look upward, holding for 30 seconds and releasing.

Even for advanced yogi’s, cobra is an excellent back bend to counteract spine movement used during forward bending and inverted poses.

Intermediate: Camel Pose (Ushtra-asana) This pose is great for all flexibility levels, stretching the shoulder blades, arms and spine. We recommend doing it towards the end of your practice when your muscles are warmed up.

To Complete: Sit on your knees with your heels pressed against your buttocks and claves flat to the floor. Sit up so your thighs are perpendicular to your calves. Reach your arms backward one at a time, holding your right ankle with your right hand, and your left ankle with your right hand while pushing hips forward. Inhale.

Arch back slowly while inhaling, if comfortable, let your head fall backwards. Hold posture for 30 seconds and return slowly to starting position.

Advanced: Full Wheel (Urdhva Dhanurasana) Great care should be taken with the full-wheel pose. It is very easy to overestimate your ability level and flexibility, and incorrect positioning of this posture can result in injury.

To Complete: Lie flat on the floor with your hands at your side (Shavasana) and create a steady flow of breath. Bend knees and bring feet flat to the floor, as close to your buttocks as possible. Place hands flat on the floor above your shoulders (fingers facing your shoulders.) Use your hands to raise your shoulders, arch your spine and bring the top of your head to the floor, continuing on to raise your entire body into wheel pose.

Push your hips upwards. Hold pose about one minute or as long as breath is steady and the posture is comfortable. Return to Shavasana and rest.

Caution: The nature of yoga is an exploration of unique body positions that help us stretch and elongate our muscles, tissues, and spine. Learn how to practice properly at a trusted studio in your neighborhood or at home with instructional videos.

Stefanie Payne

I am a product development lead in NASA's human exploration deep space program at headquarters in Washington, DC. When I am not telling the story of human exploration in space, my focus is on writing about travel on Earth—with articles appearing in The Huffington Post, The Travel Channel, blogs for The National Geographic Society, The Wall Street Journal, BusinessInsider, IBTimes and more. ...(Read More)

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