You might be inspired by images of beautiful, slender bodies in jaw-dropping backbends. You might think, “I could never do that.” This is true whether you are dropping into a yoga class of all levels or an old-school gymnastics class. Pilates may be the best place to begin if your brain is flexible.
The spine can move in many planes. Forward bend or flexion refers to the movement you make when you lift something off the ground or tie your shoes. The opposite is back bending or extension. It involves the backward arcing or extension of the spine. This is similar to what you would do in a backward dip or a backbend. The spine also rotates and bends to one side. However, extension is the most beneficial movement for the average person.
We fight gravity daily as upright bipedal creatures. The world’s weight is literally pushing our shoulders forward, rounding out our upper backs, compressing the spines, and pressing our necks and heads forward in space. Good posture is the enemy of gravity. We cannot counter gravity without a way to keep from falling into a permanently stooped position.
Your spine can be extended to allow your internal organs to relax, your joints to expand, and your lungs full expansion. This allows for greater flow of oxygen, blood, and lymph, as well as synovial fluid.
Standing straight up and opposing gravity can offset a variety of physical ailments. Standing taller will make you more comfortable and allow you to breathe easier. All these strong arguments support back-bending. It makes sense to create a program that slowly propels you toward this vital spinal extension move.
Be aware that there are simple movements that almost everyone can do to make backbends work. Although a backbend is an excellent goal, it doesn’t mean that you have to do this all the time. You will gradually master these basic moves, and your spine will become stronger and more flexible over time.
A floor and a wall are all you will need. You will only need a carpeted floor. You can also use an exercise mat if you prefer.
To curl your pelvis, lie on your back with your feet flat and your knees bent. Reach your arms out to your sides and place your feet hip-width apart. Slowly raise your hips toward the sky. Keep your feet under your knees. Press your arms towards the floor with your chest. You will feel your upper back muscles work towards the middle of your back. Next, take 3 to 5 deep breaths. Roll down one vertebra at a time. Repeat this process 5-8 times.
This exercise may not feel easy for you right away. It could take several months before you feel confident. Allow your body’s progress to be gradual. Keep doing this move until it becomes effortless.
To build your pelvic lift, do a shoulder bridge. Start by lying on your back, with your knees bent and your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands below your hips and press your hips upwards.
Your elbows will now bear some of your weight so place your arms under your shoulders at the point where your back meets your low back. For 3 to 5 minutes, hold this position. For a total of three repetitions, release your arms and lower one vertebra each.
Do you need a modification? You can release your arms at any time during the move. Keep trying new moves until you feel comfortable with your mobility.
Stand one foot from the wall, with your legs at your hips. Take a deep breath and raise your arms towards the ceiling. Without clenching your neck, raise your arms high so that your hands touch the ceiling. Gradually reach out and touch the wall behind your back, until you can clearly see it.
Touch the wall if you can see it. Turn your back and reach towards the ground by bending over. Start by rolling your spine up, then stand straight and continue. You can do this 3 times, increasing your range of motion.
Next, what’s the next step? As you move closer to the wall, aim your flat palms at the wall. Eventually, you will be walking towards the backbend. You should be careful not to rush into something that could cause injury and put yourself in a difficult position.
Keep track of the days you perform these moves each week. Use your wall to track your back bend progress. Draw a line from your feet to the wall. Check again after a week of consistent practice. Your spine will gain more motion the further you are able to move away from the wall without having to reach the wall.