One of the things that gets me the most fired up about my love and appreciation for Bikram Yoga, is............Backbending!
There are so many aspects to it.
For starters....I want to point out that many times when a person hurts their back and they tell me about it.....I ask how they did it, and the majority of the time, they say they did it from bending forward, not bending backwards.
I have taken anatomy, worked in a chiropractic office and I have been a massage therapist for 18 years. Here is what I have come to know about backbending, in my own words.
Here is an image of the structure of a spine, notice the bodies are on the front, with discs in between. When you forward bend, you can see how you would put pressure on the discs, and backward bending will take pressure off the discs.
When you forward bend, with the pressure on the discs, if there is weakness or less space, between the vertebae, for various reasons, this is when the discs can bulge out and put pressure on a nerve. This is why it is so important when you forward bend, to contract your abdominal muscles and why we say stomach in. It is to create a stronger core and lifts the spine to create more space between the discs, to support the forward bend better.
When you do a backward bend, you contract all the muscles along the spine. Contracting the muscles makes them stronger. The muscles in this image are important to keep strong because they hold us up. These amazing groups of muscles run from our head to our pelvis and all in between. This is why we have several different backbending postures, that targets different groups. Our cervical spinal muscles, thoracic, and lumbar. Then we also have other postures that strengthen them all at the same time!
Forward bending lengthens these muscles, think about how much forward bending we do in just our daily lives, driving, eating, sitting, etc. Forward bending makes them flexible, but if they are not strengthened as well, then it is more difficult to hold our bodies up. We need both flexibility and strength!!
These are the muscles that are the most fascinating to me. They are so small and in between each and every vertebra! These are so important to keep strong because they help to keep the space in between the discs and help to keep the pressure off the discs, which will help reduce bulging discs. If these muscles get weak, they will not hold the same structure as intended in between each disc.
One of the best ways to strengthen and contract these muscles, in my opinion, is to do backward bending!!!!
When someone hurts their back, yes, it could have something to do with one of these pulled muscles. But more often, it has to do with the discs pressing on a nerve. This is caused from less space between the vertebrae, which is caused by weak spinal muscles.
Notice this image of all different nerves. All our nerves pass threw our spine, from top to bottom. If a nerve gets pressed anywhere along the spine, not only is it extremely painful, but it also decreases the function of that nerve. These functions are everything from muscle contraction, to hormone production, to organ function.
This is why we always say, healthy spine, healthy life!!!
The main focus of our series, is on a healthy spine. We do 9 backward bending postures twice, from top to bottom and all together at the same time. We not only contract, but we bend forward to stretch these muscles as well. We twist from side to side to get that contraction and stretch as well.
I am sure you have heard us say "Now that we are on the floor, this is where the real yoga begins". The entire floor series is all about the spine. The standing series, warms up our bodies, oxygenates our cells for energy, and requires us to strengthen our focus and concentration. We start with pranayama to bring in tons of oxygen, we warm up our spine in all 4 directions, then warm up our knees and ankles, then our joints. Balance series helps us focus and get out of our heads from our day, then we warm up our hips with the next 4 postures. Now ready for the floor. Without the standing series to warm us up mentally and physically, we will not be able to go as deep in the floor postures, which is the more important part of the series, in my personal opinion!!
The great part about our postures is they are all beginner level postures, you can do as much as your flexibility allows and still get ALL the benefit! And if you have been practicing for a long time, you still get the benefit from this level of postures.
I hope this gives you some insight as to how powerfully healing our series is. Backbending is only one aspect of the healing possibilities!
If you are working through back injuries, I offer a FREE phone or zoom one hour consultation. We can get into your injury and break down how the postures can benefit you, specifically for what your injury is. Sometimes, in class or a few minutes while we are checking in the class, is not enough time to really fully understand how to approach class with an injury. I am happy to schedule the time, anytime!! This is an offering I give to all students!
Please email me email@example.com