This week’s new classes features the last of Liz Lark’s journey into backbends.
Which gave us pause for thought… why is it that we do backbends? These can be the poses which look the most impressive, you may see the latest celebrity or skinny yoga model on a beach in Dancer’s pose (Natarajasana) or wheel pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) . And it looks amazing. It does look so amazing that even I, Kat, have been known to pose on the beach in this pose. So there, my yoga selfie history is out of the bag. (If you wanted to have a look at the offending selfie, here it is:
So backbends do look amazing, very cirque de soliel (maybe not as performed by me!) but apart from showing off to our friends that we do yoga, why is it that we do backbends?!
There are spiritual, emotional and physical reasons for back bending. But as all holistic folk know, those things are all the same. The physical reason for back bending is that, performed safely and with the correct anatomical cues and of course correctly sequenced, they lengthen and strengthen the spine. A healthy spine is a healthy body. Back bending also opens up our hearts, our chests, where we can feel vulnerable and free. But backbends must be practiced without the ego of the search for the perfect yoga selfie or looking for that impressive outline. In fact, it may be useful to ditch the image of the pose entirely. The most important thing in back bending practice is to practice with love for yourself, and endless compassion. Maybe your body isn’t as open as you would like, maybe it doesn’t move like it used to, but backbends are the art of opening up to yourself, finding you wherever you are and having true compassion for yourself wherever that may be. If you have weak muscles, stiff joints and emotional reticence to backbend, just accept and try to find joy in a little arch, in a little movement but don’t go for the glory, go for finding freedom and pleasure of arching your back to the sky in your own internal journey. Use the breath to find comfort and control in your backbend. Yoga really isn’t about achieving anything accept a freedom and content within yourself. Give yourself the backbend you need, not necessarily the backbend you want!