Spring is upon us, and with it comes a desire to make changes in my life. Every year, with the arrival of spring I feel a sense of stagnation in my life, and I desperately seek ways to bring fresh energy into every aspect of my life. In my apartment, I find this fresh energy by throwing away boxes of old clothes and books. I also take the time to spring-clean my kitchen, especially the fridge. Spring marks the return of fresh herbs and fresh vegetables to my diet. Spring also brings with it extra daylight hours, and the reduced darkness gives me renewed energy to set goals and make plans for the upcoming months.
In my yoga practice, backbends feel like the perfect way to invite in change and renewed energy. Winter in a cold climate often finds us shuffling along, laden down with heavy clothing, and hunched forward. Spring is a time to peel off layers, open our hearts up and find more time to run around outside, coming out of the hunched and face-protecting posture of the chilly Canadian winter!
Consider how you feel after you have been hunched over a computer for several hours, picking weeds in your garden or cleaning out a drawer. The natural instinct afterwards is to stand up straight, reach your hands overhead and stretch upwards! This is a backbend, and this is exactly the motion that springtime backbends are cultivating.
Backbends are the perfect antidote to a long winter and have many benefits. Backbends can
release tension along the front of the body
open the heart, inviting in renewed energy and letting go of stale emotions
counteract bad posture
realign the spine to its natural curve
help with digestive function
relieve stress by stimulating the heart (fourth) chakra
open the lower back, which will provide freedom from insecurity
prevent you from taking yourself too seriously.
To safely venture into backbends in a yoga practice, consider first warming up your spine with 3-4 complete sun salutations, warming up your hips with a pose such as crescent lunge, and warming up your spine with cat/cow, revolved lunge and several easy twists.
Once warmed up, some backbends to try include
locust, baby cobra, little bridge, full wheel, camel and upward-facing bow
Remember, as always, to practice patience with yourself. Move slowly into each posture, be mindful of pain or discomfort and be intentional in your practice. Finally, respect the limitations of your own body, and do not concern yourself with what other students in the yoga class are doing or with pictures you see of backbends on the internet!
Happy Spring and Happy back bending!