Back extensions are a natural movement of the spine that is often ignored (mainly due to apprehension/fear of the unfamiliar). Think of all the forward bending you do on a daily basis. All that rounding of the spine contributes to poor posture, restricted blood flow to the organs, back and neck pain, and shallow breathing, to name a few.
The energetic practice of backbends stretches and opens up the whole front body, improves breathing, builds strength and flexibility in the spine, arms and legs, limbers the shoulders, improves posture, and alleviates back pain.
Here are our favorite asanas to build up to Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow or Wheel Pose). Stay for 9 breaths or more.
1. Cobra pose/Bhujangasana (firmly ground the feet and pelvis)
2. Puppy Pose/Uttana Shishosana (to modify, place forehead on the mat)
3. Low Lunge/Anjaneyasana (hello, hip flexors!)
4. Locust Pose/Salabhasana (strengthens the glutes, back and leg muscles)
5. Single Legged Frog Pose/Eka Pada Bhekasana (did someone order a quad stretch?)
6. Bow Pose/Dhanurasana (a great one to open the chest and shoulders)
7. Camel Pose/Ustrasana (tuck your toes to make this more accessible)
8. Bridge Pose/Setu Bandhasana (practise this for as long as necessary, to build up to the peak pose)
From Setu Bandhasana, place your palms by your shoulders, fingers pointing towards your feet. Power the legs, and on an inhale, push up into Urdhva Dhanurasana. Keep the thighs internally rotated, feet and palms parallel, and neck relaxed. Remember to breathe. Tuck the chin, bend your arms and legs, exhale and slowly release.
Distribute the bend equally throughout the spine, with the tailbone pointing towards the heels, to avoid compression in the lower back.
Engage your core muscles and pelvic floor.
Check in with your teacher if you're pregnant or have injuries.
Explore your limitations, honor them and work through them, mindfully. Enjoy!