An important part of yoga is the back-bend. It can be a bit scary at first bending back wards as we don’t often put our body in this position in our day to day activities. There are a lot of back-bending yoga poses: standing back-bends, bridge, sphinx, cat, upward facing dog, bow pose, cobra just to name a few. See some photos here
In class when it comes time to do a back-bend can you sense your anxiety rising? These are positions that we avoid in our daily lives, and so they feel unnatural and even somewhat scary. Back-bends are important to counteract our typical daily movements — sitting at a table, working at a desk, hunching over a laptop, slouching on the couch, even driving!
All that forward bending stretches and weakens our back muscles and compresses the front of the spinal vertebrae leading to poor posture which can cause back and neck pain, constrict the heart muscle and other vital organs and even lead to negative self esteem and moods. For more information see this article and this one.
Back-bending has many benefits, “they energize, refresh and invigorate the body- opening the chest, encouraging inhalation, an action associated with embracing life” (yoga.net), and “they are poses that open the heart chakra, build courage and stamina, and give us the sort of energy that propels us to reach out toward others.” (Yoga Journal).
So next time you are in yoga class, embrace the back-bend for your physical and emotional well-being.