Whether you are wanting to deepen your yoga backbends AND/OR open the areas that constrict your back, this practice will help release and open all of the areas needed. Backbending requires a lot of opening in several different areas to ease the shape and comfort of the poses. In this practice we look at areas such as the shoulders, upper back, front of thigh (quads), side body and spine to help release and open them up for deeper backbending. Join me using the detailed practice guide below OR with the guided video practice http://bit.ly/YinYogaBackbends (link at bottom of the page also).
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Hold: 2-5 mins per side
Come onto your back and walk both heels over to the right, stacking the left ankle over the right (option to just keep them side by side). Keeping the hips in place, move your upper body and head over to the right as well. Take arms up overhead and grasp left wrist with right hand OR simply take hands where you feel stretch but not pain. Turn your head wherever it feels most comfortable. Take deep breaths into the left side body feeling the opening from the left foot through the left hand. To come out, release the hands to the hips and move the upper body back to center. Slowly unwind the ankles and realign the lower body to center. Relax with arms and heels wide for 1 minute. Try the second side.
Hold: 3-5 minutes per side
Come onto hands and knees. Take your right knee over towards your right hand, left leg out behind you in pigeon pose (your right heel can be under your torso). Place a bolster or blanket/towel under your hands to lift, keeping the hands in closer to the hips if possible (you could use blocks or books here too). Lengthen the spine and reach out through the crown of the head and then release the hips deeper to the floor, keeping your torso long. Avoid crunching into the lower back but imagine being lifted at a curve to lengthen and open the hips, legs and lower back. Continue onto the next pose for this side.
Hold: 3-5 minutes per side
From Swan, take the props off to the side and slowly lower your upper body down to the floor either all the way with head on floor or forearms propping your up. Reach out through the crown of your head and lengthen from the back leg through the crown then allow the body to release deeper into the pose. Breath and feel the back opening with new found space. To come out, press into the palms and lift up and back into downward facing dog for 5-8 breaths before taking Swan and Sleeping Swan on the second side.
Saddle Pose (Supta Virasana)
Hold: 2-6 minutes
Take a rolled blanket or bolster and run it down the center of your body behind you. Sit on your heels with hips about a fist distance away from the bolster (or bed pillows). Take your thumbs and gently roll the calf muscles back and outwards making way for you to sit down on the floor between your heels. If this is too much, you can take one leg at a time OR take bridge pose with hips on the bolster and upper body off (legs straight or bent knees). You can also place a block under your hips for less back pressure. Take your hands to your hips and gently lift them tucking the tailbone under slightly and lengthening the lower back. Begin to sit back and allow the bolster to support your entire upper body. Take hands up overhead and hold or rest hands along side the bolster. This pose can bring up a lot of resistance so try to really breathe into the sensations and know that this pose won't last forever! To come out, take hands along side the bolster, tuck your chin to your chest and lift slowly up. Take a 1 minute Downward Facing Dog to transition or wiggle your toes and rub your legs down for 5-8 breaths.
Melting Heart Pose (Anahatasana)
Hold: 2-5 mins
Come onto hands and knees (blanket underneath for comfort if needed). Begin to drop your belly down towards the floor keeping hips directly over knees. Start to walk your hands out in front of you (wide if that opens your shoulders more) and drop your chest and forehead to the floor (or a block). If it feels okay, you can take chin to floor - remember 2/3 of your max pose. Breathe deeply into the spine and chest (engage navel if this is too much on your lower back). To come out, engage your core and begin to lift, walking your hands back towards your knees. Take Downward Facing Dog for 5-8 breaths - bending one knee and the other.
Hold: 2-5 mins
Gently press through your feet to lift hips slightly over to the right side. Bring knees to chest and drop over to the left side, stacking the knees as much as possible. Take arms wide out from shoulders and turn head to the right. Allow gravity to pull your knees ground bound and settle your shoulders deeper. Enjoy the release of the spine, back and hips in here and breathe deeply into the space you have found. To come out, turn head to center, engage core and come back to center hugging knees in and rocking for a few breaths. Take the second side.
Hold: 5-10 minutes
Allow the heels to settle out to the corners of the mat, slide your shoulder blades underneath your body, and take your hands out to the sides, palms up. Take some deep breaths, coming back to the 3 part breath - first in the belly, then in the chest and finally the collarbones - and extend the exhale even longer. Allow yourself to sigh a few times and let it all go! Take a 6 count inhale, 6 count exhale, 6 count hold at the bottom of the exhale for 3-5 rounds. Focus on your breath. LET. IT. ALL. GO.
I have been "playing" and experimenting with yoga, aromatherapy and healthy living since my late teens - researching, testing, reading, investigating, and learning anything that would make my life - and the lives around me - better naturally.
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