With a little practice, backbending can be one of the most therapuetic parts of yoga. Several studies show how backbends can stimulate the central nervous system, boost the immune system, helps counteract damage of bad posture by realigning the spine, relieves back pain, bronchial distress, scoliotic deformities, tennis elbow and frozen shoulder, to name a few. Aside from the tremendous physical benefits, there are also psychological and emotional benefits of backbending. They can help shift energy leaving the mind more clear and focused and they can help open the heart chakra and emotional center.
Backbends warm the system, increase energy, and invigorate us. They bring flexibility to our central axis of support and strengthen weak back muscles. Backbends counterpart the forward bending that dominates the day for many of us - sitting, driving, housework, and working at a desk. Back bends increase determination and willpower. Extending backward into the unknown helps you to confront your fears when life presents you with an unknown quantity. Backbends open the chest, do they are uplifting. Opening the chest promotes better breathing and the heart center expands to bring a joyful vitality into your life.
Yoga Master B.K.S. Iyengar recommended backbending as a cure for depression. He further advised that backbends be used as a holistic alternative for heart patients. Because backbends stretch the heart, they relieve tensions stored in the muscles and help send off natural pain-killers. They may also cure depression and boost the immune system.
Backbends are rejuvenating, strengthening, and awakening. They are most effective at opening the upper back, chest, shoulders, and front groin, and increasing spinal flexibility. Backbends release held emotional energy better than any other class of asanas. They keep the spine supple while developing strength in the back, legs, and shoulders. Backbends should not be practiced close to the time for sleep as they are heating and invigorating. They should be followed be a series of cooling poses such as twist or forward bends to allow the spine to realign.
Backbending often brings up strong emotions when you first begin to practice it more regularly and go deeper. It often does not really matter whether you are flexible or stiff in your spine if you are unfamiliar with the strength, stamina and flexibility needed for most backbending movements. It takes lots of practice before you will feel confident about integrating a full backbend sequence into your daily practice. Healthy technique and anatomical awareness is crucial to the longterm practice of backbends. Be aware that when learning how to safely bend your back you may experience rational and irrational emotions. Sometimes the most flexible people have the most troubling emotions arising when they start practicing backbends.
One of the deepest lessons in the yoga practice is about bringing the energy up the spine and cleansing the nervous system. Backbends thrust your full life force up through this central channel and burn through blockages along the way. When one of these blockages gets triggered it really does not matter whether you are doing a deep backbend or a beginner backbend because the emotional state that gets triggered is really of paramount importance. When things are difficult, scary and emotional it is hard to remain clam, breathe and think clearly.
Whether you feel anxiety, sadness, angst or physical pain when practicing backbends regularly the key is to learn how to stay with the difficult places and work through them.
"Asanas penetrate deep into each layer of the body and ultimately into the consciousness itself."