I started reading “Light on Yoga” by B.K.S. Iyengar. He is considered one of the most influential yogis of our time and is accredited with bringing yoga to the west. This book is an overwhelming wealth of knowledge and is completely intimidating for me a yogin novice.
Here’s a video of Iyengar practicing backbends in 1991.
Nan and I workshopped a backbend a couple of days ago. I’ll use Iyengar’s directions from his book to explain how to do a beginner backbend. Here I am setting up.
1. Lie flat on the back on the floor.
(I have a ball to give me a little spring.)
2. Bend and raise the elbows overhead and place the palms under the shoulders. The distance between the palms should not be wider than the shoulders and the fingers should point towards the feet.
3. Bend and raise the knees, then bring the feet nearer until they touch the hips.
4. Exhale, raise the trunk and the rest of the crown of the head on the floor. Take two breaths.
5. Now exhale lift the trunk and head arch the back so that its weight is taken on the palms and the solrd.
(I haven’t made it past the fifth step. My arms will not straighten. Hopefully by the end of the month though!)
6. Stretch the arms from the shoulders until the elbows are straightened, at the same time pulling the thigh musclrd up.
7. To get a better stretch, exhale and pull the thigh muscles still higher by lifting the heels off the floor. Extend the chest, stretch up the sacral region of the spine until the abdomen is taut as a drum and then lower the heels to the floor, maintaining the stretch of the spine.
8. Remain in this position from half a minute to a minute, with normal breathing.
9. With an exhalation, lower the body to the floor by bending the knees and the elbows.
My favorite part is reading the effects of the pose:
“It tones the spine by stretching it fully and keeps the body alert and supple. The back feels strong and full of life. It strengthens the arms and wrists and has a very soothing effect on the head. It gives one great vitality, energy and a feeling of lightness.”
I have a love/hate relationship with backbends.
Watch this inspiring video of young Iyengar doing a series of amazing yoga poses. Including the advanced technique with an incredibly long name Viparita Chakrasana Urdhva Dhanurasana.