BACKBENDS

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Happy Wednesday!

I hope you have had the chance to incorporate my favorite cues and tips for backbends into your practice! If you missed my previous newsletters, click here to find them on my website. I do my best to keep my Weekly Inspirations easily digestible so you can seamlessly use the cues and tips in classes you take or teach that same week. You will find a cool remake in the Week 1 newsletter and a beautiful song for Savasana in the one from last week.  

This week I have a 70-minute practice for you where I’ll help you find more length and stability for Camel pose. You may want to try using cordless earbuds for better sound quality in this week’s practice, although it’s not necessary. I did the class with earbuds and found it to be quite meditative! Click here to go to my website for the class.

When you go to my Digital Yoga Studio, you will notice that the videos are organized by the length of the class. All classes are now donation-based, but I am offering a 3-month unlimited special for $89. So, you can take all the classes you want, whenever you want, and not have to pay each time for the next 3 months! As always, email me with any questions!!

One inspiring cue:

Cue for Camel pose: Start in a neutral spine with your hands at your low back. As you come into the backbend, try not to let your hips come forward and think about lifting up and over an imaginary limbo stick.

This is a simple but very powerful cue, in my opinion.  If you were to bend directly back, you would go right into that imaginary stick. The goal with this cue is to think about lifting up and over that stick so you would barely touch this imaginary prop.

Why?
When you lift up and then over as you come into Camel, you help create more length through the entire spine. Most of us tend to backbend where it’s easiest to bend from and where we have the most range of motion in extension – the lumbar spine (low back) and cervical spine (neck). While this is natural, if we keep bending from the same place over and over again, and don’t work the backbend up the back into the thoracic spine, over time it is believed to wear away at the discs.

One inspiring tip:

 

I like to practice this tip as a prep for Camel pose or as a great variation for someone who doesn’t want to take their hands to their heels. Hold a block the long, horizontal way behind your head (see pic 1 below). Press your head into the block and the block into your head. Your elbows can face forward or out depending on what feels best for you. From there, lift up and out of the low back and move into gentle extension (see pic 2 below).

Pic 1:

Pic 2:

One inspiring song:

“Do Re Mi Fa Sol” by Gilad Hekselman

One inspiring quote:

“Always live with an open heart. This means being available to both the outer and inner worlds. The openness  of the heart is nothing else but the vastness of pure awareness, the eternity of the present moment.”
– Sahajananda

Good morning!  

This week I have a 34-minute flow class that will open your hips flexors and front body for a beautiful, spacious standing backbend! As always, you will still work on strengthening and stretching the entire body. Click here to go to my web site for the class. Enjoy!!

If you missed last week’s cue for Bridge pose on how to engage the glutes and why it’s important to do so, click here.

Still sending warm thoughts to my friends in the Midwest and on the East coast!!

Happy February! It’s all about hearts and backbends this month! Any kind…Cobra, Full Wheel, Bow, Bridge – they all have the qualities of heart-opening and backbending. Backbends are considered to be “heart openers” because when you come into them, you often may feel more open-hearted.

One inspiring cue:

Come into Bridge pose. Then, isometrically draw your heels towards your shoulders (they won’t actually move) and think about drawing your knees forward.

Why?
When I first started teaching and in many of the years following, I was taught in every workshop I went to NOT to squeeze the glutes in a backbend. Now that there is more research in the yoga world, we know that actively ENGAGING the glutes in a backbend can have many benefits. Let’s dig into that…

When you isometrically draw your heels towards your shoulders in Bridge pose, your hamstrings and glutes turn on, both of which help support the back. And, if you close your eyes and think about drawing your knees forward, you may feel more length in the spine, further supporting your backbend. Take a look at the picture below to better visualize the anatomy behind the cue.

Robyn Capobianco, PhD in Neurophysiology of Movement, attaches electrodes to her body to measure what muscles are really working in our yoga poses. For backbends, she says “when consciously not activating these muscles (relaxing the glutes), the back muscles have to work overtime.” We know that passively overworking the back muscles can create issues over time.

The book Science of Yoga says, “you must engage your glutes and hamstrings to extend your hips into Bridge. However, you should not do this by forcefully clenching your buttocks.” Using the cue above will help you engage without over-clenching. Also, because the action of the glutes is to extend the hips, it makes sense that you would want them engaged while in a backbend. All backbends require hip extension. Makes so much sense, right?

One inspiring tip:

 

The gluteus maximus also externally rotates the hips. Therefore, some students may find that the hips roll open when they engage the glutes in Bridge. This may create a pinching feeling in the low back. If this is the case for you or your students, try placing a block between your feet (narrow or wide depending on your build), to help keep the knees facing forward. Note: because we are all built differently, there are some people that feel better with the knees and feet slightly turned out when in the pose. In this case where it feels better for the hips to roll open a little, it’s fine to follow the natural instincts of the body.

One inspiring song:

“Put Your Records On” by Ritt Momney

One inspiring quote:

“Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows.”
– Native American Proverb

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