Think back on the most enjoyable yoga classes you've experienced and pinpoint why they resonated with you. Oftentimes, it comes down to the way the instructor applied a theme to the class. Themes for back-bending yoga sequences can help you open your spine while also connecting various poses with philosophical concepts. The end result can be a rich yoga experience that's unforgettable.
Why Theming Matters
In a “Yoga Journal” article, certified Anusara yoga teacher Jeanie Manchester explains why theming is such a powerful tool: “A theme has the potential to take students to the very heart of the yoga practice: to remember and to recognize our basic connection to the universe and to each other.” Presenting information in an organized manner, centered on a theme, also makes the student’s yoga practice readily accessible and helps her to process the experience.
Absorbing the Theme
Your instructor might introduce her theme at the beginning of class, using an inspirational passage, a quote or a personal anecdote. Use those first few moments of class to absorb the information, and open your heart and mind to the instructor’s cues. As she guides you through practice, be mindful of your breath, and stay present in each movement. The more you focus solely on your yoga practice, the more you'll get out of it. You'll also reduce the chance of injury as you move from pose to pose.
Types of Back Bends
A well-sequenced back bend class will begin with gentle poses that awaken the spine and prepare it for deeper poses. Anusara yoga teacher Sianna Sherman advises first establishing the basic form of the back bend by widening the inner thighs and pelvic bones while rooting the tailbone down. From there, build on the sequence with different variations of the poses. For example, you might begin practice with several rounds of Cat-Cow, standing hip openers and forward folds. These poses prepare you for such poses as Lord of the Dance and Bow.
Some instructors theme classes around a philosophical theme. For example, she might choose one of the five koshas, or “layers” of the body. Thousands of years ago, yogic sages described these koshas as a map that guides you along an inner journey, beginning with the outermost layer and moving inward toward the core of the self. Yoga practice harmonizes these layers and gets you closer to inner peace. The outermost layer is the annamaya kosha, or physical body. A back bending yoga sequence therefore could focus on awakening the spine, one aspect of the physical self.
Karen Spaeder began her editorial career at Entrepreneur magazine. True to the entrepreneurial spirit, she works at a startup digital marketing firm, blogs at karenspaeder.com, teaches yoga and runs her own organic beauty business. Spaeder holds degrees in English and certifications in yoga, karate and early childhood education.