Backbends are challenging and invigorating postures that open up your body and encourage overall strength and energy. Backbends appear in yoga poses of all levels of difficulty and expertise — from the simple Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog) to the more challenging Natarajasana (Lord of the Dance) and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose).
Backbends push us to open ourselves, our chest and abdominal muscles, in ways often outside our normal range of movement, and in doing so stimulate circulation, metabolism, and digestion. As the spinal column is stretched during backbends, cerebral/spinal fluids become invigorated, which can aid the immune system and clarify the mind. Backbends encourage flexibilty and openness throughout the front of our bodies — shoulders, chest, abdominals, hips, and thighs — and build muscle strength in our spine, arms, legs, buttocks, and wrists.
The spiritual benefits of backbends are many. Backbends can feel uncomfortable and frightening as we shift out of the forward bend that our bodies are used to. When we overcome this challenge we expand our physical boundaries and experience our environment from a new perspective. Backbends can be difficult for the body to become used to and maintain, and should be approached with care and awareness. As we ease into backbends we must listen to our bodies and minds and let ourselves settle deeper into the pose just as we allow our hearts to become more and more open to the world around us.