A common sight in gymnastics and yoga classes, backbends can increase the mobility of your spine when you do them with proper form. Even if you can't achieve the ideal backbend, with your legs almost straight and your shoulders over your hands, working on this challenging pose opens your shoulders, chest and hips. One common problem in backbends is relying too heavily on an arch in the lower back. Stretches that target the upper and middle back can free up these areas, allowing them to curve in the backbend. This can make the pose safer and more comfortable by taking some of the stress out of the lower back.
Do passive backbends with a bolster. To do this stretch which loosens the area of your back around your shoulder blades, place your bolster or rolled-up blanket on your mat. Lie on your back, with your shoulder blades on top of the bolster. Let your head and shoulders sink into the floor and stretch your legs out, pushing your heels away from your head. Keeping your chin down and your neck long, stretch your arms over your head and let them rest on the floor. If your arms don't reach the floor, bend your elbows to relax your arms. Stay in the position for one minute, breathing evenly and deeply.
Practice two-legged inverted staff pose with a chair. Although getting into this stretch requires some not-so-graceful maneuvering, it's well worth the struggle as it targets the entire length of your spine. Place your chair near a wall, with the back of the chair nearest the wall. Prepare your mat by rolling it up and placing it on the floor beside your chair. Sit backwards on your chair, so that your legs go through the back of the chair. With your hands on the back of the chair for support, slide your bum as far as you can toward the wall. Reach down and grab your mat. Place it across the seat of your chair as close to your bum as possible. Lean back over your folded mat and adjust your positioning until your shoulder blades touch the front edge of the chair's seat and the bolster supports your mid back. Lengthen your legs toward the wall and stretch your arms over your head toward the floor. Once you've managed to get into position, hold the stretch for one minute, or more, breathing evenly and deeply.
Use the cobra pose to develop mobility in your spine. Lie on your stomach on your mat. Place your hands flat on the floor, beside the middle of your chest. Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button off the floor. Slowly lift your head and chest off the floor to initiate the backbend at the top of your back. Reach your breastbone up toward the wall in front of you while simultaneously lengthening your legs in the opposite direction. Deepen the backbend by straightening your elbows slowly. While you straighten your elbows, concentrate on the sensations in your back. You should feel your upper, middle and lower back working equally. Once you feel a gentle stretch, hold the position for five or 10 breaths. Then, lower your stomach, chest and head back to the floor.
- Warm up your muscles with a few minutes of light cardio before doing these stretches. You can choose to do just one of these stretches per session, or you can do two or three. If desired, you can follow these stretches with a backbend. After doing these stretches, do a stretch that requires you to bend forward to bring equilibrium to your muscles.
- While backbends offer numerous benefits, they are not safe for everyone. If you have a back injury, heart problems or high or low blood pressure, do not do backbends.
Kat Black is a professional writer currently completing her doctorate in musicology/ She has won several prestigious awards for her research, and has had extensive training in classical music and dance.