Opening the heart with backbends

Backbends are fantastic healers for the body. ‘Open your heart’ has the potential to sound really hippy dippy, but it is actually one of the bravest things we can do:

After going through pain or trauma the body aims to protect itself by putting up barriers, both emotionally and physically, this is understandable. However it is important not to let past experiences hold power over our ability to absorb all the beauty that is offered in the present, to not let our lives be dictated by fear.

Allowing ourselves to love and be loved, feeling gratitude, trusting and not shutting out the world around us-even when we have gone through hurt-takes guts, but the satisfaction of doing these things anyway, regardless of whether we are scared is priceless.

Backbends are a fantastic tool for opening the heart and here are some more benefits:

*They strengthen the nervous system

*Allow fresh energy to flow, moving out stagnant energy which speeds up the healing process

*Mood elevating, acting as an anti-depressant pose.

*Stimulate the rhythm of the cerebrospinal fluid which in turn stimulates the kidneys, adrenal glands, liver, spleen, gallbladder, heart and endocrine system

*Strengthen the back, open the chest.


Me in Camel-I’ve always found opening in backbends no problem, but have only recently got the ┬áhang of supporting myself with my back to maintain integrity and protect myself. I find this also translates as a metaphor into my day to day life; I would pour my heart out and be very giving often at the expense of myself-as a therapist and a mother this just isn’t sustainable! So backbends teach us how to open and support ourselves simultaneously. Now when I nourish myself on a regular basis I find that I don’t become depleted, a good lesson to learn!

It is vital to protect the body in backbends and important to tuck the tailbone down in a and lift the chest up. Maintaining length in the spine when going into the backbend, holding the backbend and coming out of it are key do protecting the spine and rest of the body. It is also essential to go where it doesn’t hurt, if any pain is felt its a case of backing off until you reach a comfortable position which can be held and breathed into- the body feels much more like opening up and letting go when it feels safe.

In Forrest yoga, a backbend class will always finish off with some good old abdominals such as elbow to knee. Abs are used instead of forward bends as the action of continuously bending forward and back is thought to weaken the back rather than strengthen it. I personally have a very flexible lumbar spine in relation to the rest of my spine and in previous non-Forrest yoga classes I always left with a tweaky back after doing a backbend/forward-bend sequence. Its now amazing feeling so strong after doing a sequence with abs as this strengthens the core, counteracts the backbends and protects the back. If my back ever feels tweaky or sore in day to day life I lie down and do some abs and it always makes it feel better-winner!

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