Question of the Month: I don’t like practicing backbends. How important is it that I incorporate them into my practice?

Backbends are an important part of any yoga practice. We don’t bend backwards in our daily lives; it feels much more natural to bend forward (bending to tie shoes or pick things up from the floor, etc). As we age our spines become more rigid and begin to round forward. The regular practice of backbends will free the spine from built up tension and rigidity. Backbends open the hips, strengthen and stretch the legs and lower back muscles. They help the body gain more flexibility, align the spine, and build muscle tone. Along with flexibility and muscle tone, backbends also stimulate the abdomen, kidneys, reproductive and digestive system.

B.K.S. Iyengar uses backbends to cure depression in his students and as a holistic alternative for heart patients. According to Sr. Iyengar Teacher, Father Joseph Pereira, BKS Iyengar suffered more than one heart attack 30 years ago. Rather than have heart surgery he remained in his practice room, on a setu-bandha bench, for several days to “clear blockages in his heart”. (Fr. Joe talked about this during his workshop last September in Nova Scotia.)

In the Astadala Yogamala, Volume 8. B.K.S. Iyengar discusses how backbends massage the heart in a way that running and jogging cannot. Backbends increase the amount of blood circulating to the heart muscles without irritating or making the heart pump faster, and without the tremendous movement of the body used in running or jogging.
References: Yoga for Inner Strength, J Chapmam; Astadala Yogamala, Volume 8, BKS Iyengar; Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar.

Instructional Back bending videos

Beginners: Urdhva Dhanurasana Instructional Series 1 & 2

Beginners-Intermediates: Urdhva Dhanurasana Instructional Series 3 & 4

About EssentialYoga Studio

Roberta has been practicing yoga since 1988 and has been teaching yoga since 1994. She has trained under master yoga teachers Swami Padmananda, Patricia Walden, Manouso Manos, Father Joe Pereira, Zoë Stewart, Karin Stephan, Liz Owen and others. She continues to study with her Iyengar teachers, Patricia Walden and Peentz Dubble. Roberta has studied yoga at the Ramamani Iyengar Yoga Memorial Institute in Pune, India during June 2011, February 2014 and attended Abhijata's intensive in Pune, India December 2016. Roberta is currently enrolled in Peentz Dubble's two year Iyengar Yoga Teacher Training Program. Additionally, Roberta completed training and certification with Elise Browning Miller as 'Yoga for Scoliosis' instructor. She completed a 500 hour Hatha Yoga Certification program with AURA Wellness Center and is registered with Yoga Alliance as an E-RYT 500. She has been a Certified Meditation Teacher since June 2007 and has been an Usui Reiki Practitioner since 1989. Roberta's Personal Practice Philosophy: Health issues have changed and deepened my practice. You will see many photos of me using a variety of props. On days I don't feel well, instead of saying, "I can't practice today", Iyengar Yoga has taught me to say, "How can I practice today".
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