The intricate complexity of the spine. Our true core. The ever in flux serpent that is connected to every organ and every other part of our body.
We must must must move the spine. Strengthening and opening the spinal column is imperative to optimal health and longevity.
Heart chakra... courage....connection ...the power of backbends as a daily ritual can create great change in our lives. Moving the spine and building your flexibility within the spinal column can do a world of good. Especially if you find yourself in front of the computer often or tend to sit a lot throughout the day. Backbends are energizing and open the heart chakra. They are the perfect tool to pull out when you feel you need to re-calibrate and shift your energy. To open our hearts and tap into hidden fears and vulnerability. This is a beautiful and integral part of our practice. From here we find courage and the ability to love harder and on deeper levels than ever before.
Below I share a few simple ways to explore some heart-opening backbends...
One of the most energizing and uplifting yoga poses is the backbend. While creating more flexion in the spine you also gain strength and believe it or not – trust. The vulnerability in backbends leads to more courage. It enables you the ability to face the world with an open heart.
By doing a simple series of these backbends you can create powerful effects in the body and mind.
• To start simply stand with your feet hip distance apart and parallel to one another
• Place your hands on your lower back. Palms flat on either side of your spine
• Begin by pressing your feet firmly into the earth
• Start lifting your heart towards the sky. Taking yourself into a backbend (slowly go deeper with each round)
• Let the legs connect strongly to the earth. Imagine as if you can lift the torso up off of the hips
• Think of creating length in the spine. Slowly and with control take yourself back up to standing
• Rest + repeat
You can build on this series. Eventually leading to your arms overhead reaching to the sky. You can also practice this with your back to a wall. Playing with your distance from the wall, you can start to walk your arms (overhead) into deeper backbends. Remember breathing and moving with intention are key.
These are the ultimate moves for full-on spinal rejuvenation. This ritual requires you to close your eyes and go inward. Envisioning the spine. Moving your body like a snake.
• Start by lying on your mat face down
• Place your palms or fingertips on the mat just under your shoulders
• Gently pull your shoulder blades back in space
• Press the tops of your feet and toes into the mat
• Root down into the earth from your feet up to the hips
• Start pressing your palms/ fingertips into the mat and rising your
torso up like a cobra
• Keep your hips on the ground and lengthen your torso towards the sky
• Lift your chin up and breathe deeply here
• Slowly and with control lower yourself back down
• Repeat the same cobra pose on your fingertips
• Once at the peak of full cobra begin dropping your chin and head
• Think of rolling and rounding the spine *You can take the elbows wide
• As you round the spine all the way down, articulate every vertibrae
• Start to scoop your face as close to your mat as possible and then return
to full cobra
• You can play with the movement each round. Think of moving like a serpent.
• Allow yourself to discover tight areas within the spine and meet them with the breath – this is where major openings happen.
To connect to the heart, and in this specific ritual the back of the heart, can bring up intense emotions and breakthroughs of all kinds. Occasionally I've had students who burst into tears during this ritual and they aren't conscious as to why. This is because some undigested emotions are stored so deeply in the physical body we aren't even aware that they're still holding on. Muscles store emotions. And yoga is an incredible way to find and release them.
With this ritual you can either energize or restore depending on your feels for the day. You will need a few props. Try rolled blankets if you need to improvise.
TO ENERGIZE: Place two yoga blocks on your mat in a T-shape adjusting the height for your comfort. One block will lie comfortably between the back of your shoulder blades as you lay down. The other will act as a headrest. Ideally, you want to lay over both blocks – heart facing up – in a relaxed, restful position. You can bend the knees or stretch the legs out long. Breathe deeply here for 3–5 minutes.
TO RESTORE: Place a bolster (or tightly rolled blanket) lengthwise down your mat. Sit with the small of your back against the bolster and lay your spine down along it. With your arms down by your sides, palms facing up, stretch your legs out long. Make sure your hips are on the floor. Breathe deeply throughout this restorative pose. Try to elongate through the spine with each breath. With every round of breathing aim for a balanced inhale and exhale trying to get longer and deeper with each breath.
* The breath is your guide throughout these poses. Move with it. Take long, slow controlled breaths. If you find yourself holding the breath or straining in any way gently release and come back to the pose in your own time.