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Backbends for Experienced Students

A stabilising and strengthening backbend session for experienced students.

Contents

Introduction

In this session, advanced-level students will go through a stabilising and straightforward backbend sequence, building into Urdhva Dhanurasana and Kapotasana with the hands back to the wall. The aim here is to end the session feeling steady, strong and focussed.

Start with Supta Virasana and then come up to Virasana forward. Uttanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana, staying a few extra breaths in each to start to settle into the practice and get a feel for where your body and mind are.

Adho Mukha Vrksasana and Pincha Mayurasana follow. Four standing poses with the back foot to the wall to keep stable and focussed, observing specific points to bring integration: Trikonasana, Virabhadrasana 1, Utkatasana and Prasarita Padottanasana.

Sirsasana to get the balancing and energising effect and to keep up our inversions. (Included here is a modified version of Sirsasana doing the preparation with a block into the upper back against the wall for those not fully inverting).

Then we move into a few preparatory backbends to engage the legs and the back of the body to lead into Urdhva Dhanurasana, our main backbend, which will be repeated 8 times in different ways.

For today the sequence includes various block heights to feel how each has an effect on the dorsal spine and brings us more freedom in the backbend overall.
We finish the backbends with two times Kapotasana, taking the hands back and walking them down the wall.

The sequence finishes with releasing and quietening poses: Uttanasana with a block, Parsva Uttanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana, Supta Padangusthasana 1 and 2, Ardha Halasana (or legs up the wall over a bolster with added block underneath) and Savasana.

View sequence

Supta Virasana
Reclining Hero Pose
Lay on your back with your legs bent, your toes pointing backward.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend
Starting in Tadasana, exhale and reach down towards your feet. Let your spine release downwards. You can bend your knees or place your hands on blocks if you lack the necessary flexibility.
Virasana Forward into Adho Mukha Svanasana
Forward Facing Hero Pose into Downward Facing Dog Pose
Back and forward transition from Virasana Forward to Adho Mukha Svanasana. Change poses on the breath, attempt to go deeper into each pose with every repetition.
Adho Mukha Vrksasana
Handstand
Open your hands into the floor and strengthen your arms as you lift your body up, one leg at a time, into an inverted balance. Use the wall for support if necessary. If pushing yourself up proves to be too difficult, you can walk your feet up the wall.
Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend
Starting in Tadasana, exhale and reach down towards your feet. Let your spine release downwards. You can bend your knees or place your hands on blocks if you lack the necessary flexibility.
Pincha Mayurasana
Feathered Peacock Pose
Spread your weight evenly across your forearms, activate your shoulders, and lengthen your spine as you lift yourself into this inverted balance. Use wall support if needed. You can also wrap a belt around your arms to keep them steady.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Utthita Trikonasana
Extended Triangle Pose
Keep the toes and kneecap of your left leg pointed forward and, keeping your spine straight and long, stretch over your leg. Place your left hand on your ankle or on a block next to your foot. Look up towards your extended right arm.
Virabhadrasana I
Warrior I Pose
Angle your back foot outward slightly and straighten your back leg. Lift from your navel up, bring your arms up, and lengthen through the crown of your head. Make sure your front knee and toes are aligned and pointing straight forward.
Utkatasana
Chair Pose
Plant your feet firmly into the floor and sit your buttocks back as if sitting into a chair. Keep your knees pointing forward. Make sure your back stays straight as you open up your chest and lift your arms up over your head.
Prasarita Padottanasana (Head Down)
Wide-Legged Forward Bend
Plant your feet as wide apart as you can. Place your hands on the floor and lengthen forward through your spine. Once you have achieved the concave spine, start to walk your hands backward to capacity, aiming to lengthen and release your spine as evenly as possible.
Salamba Sirsasana Wall Support
Headstand 1
Activate your shoulders and upper back muscles as you lift your body up into inverted balance. Use the wall for support if necessary.
Virasana Forward
Downward-Facing Hero Pose
Join your feet together under your buttocks and keep your knees far enough apart for your ribs to fit in between your legs as you fold forward. You can rest your forehead on the floor or on a block.
Adho Mukha Svanasana to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Downward Facing Dog into Upward Facing Dog
Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana. As you inhale, shift forward and push yourself up into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Lift yourself up on your extended arms and point your chest forward.
Backbends for Experienced Students
Cobra Pose
Keep your hips pressed firmly into the floor, your kneecaps pointing straight down, and your toes reaching back. Place your hands right beneath your shoulders and, activating them, lift your chest up off the floor.
Dhanurasana
Bow Pose
As you lie on your belly grab a hold of your feet from behind. Pull the feet as close to your head as possible, bending back to capacity.
Ustrasana
Camel Pose
Assume a kneeling position. Then, open your chest and shoulders as you reach back towards your feet. To decrease the intensity of the bend, lay a bolster over your ankles.
Backbends for Experienced Students
Diamond Pose
Sit in a kneeling position with the feet together right beneath the buttocks.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Shoulder Supported Bridge
Start by lying down. Press your shoulders into the floor, using them as leverage to lift your hips up to capacity. Use your hands to support your back and allow yourself to go into a deeper stretch. You can also place a block below your lumbar spine for support.
Chatushpadasana
Four-Footed Pose
Lie down with your knees bent so that your feet are close to your buttocks. Grab onto your ankles and lift your hips up above the ground. Open your chest up and breathe.
Urdhva Dhanurasana
Wheel Pose
Root yourself through your feet and hands as you lift your body up off the floor. You can walk your hands and feet towards each other to capacity.
Kapotasana
Pigeon Pose
Starting in a kneeling position with your back to the wall, walk your hands down the wall towards your feet. Bend to capacity. If you can, grab your ankles and place your head on the soles of your feet.
Uttanasana
Standing Forward Bend
Starting in Tadasana, exhale and reach down towards your feet. Let your spine release downwards. You can bend your knees or place your hands on blocks if you lack the necessary flexibility.
Parsva Uttanasana
Intense Side Stretch Pose
Fold into Uttanasana and twist by walking your hands to the side. Grab onto your ankle, push against it to go deeper into the twist.
Adho Mukha Svanasana
Downward-Facing Dog Pose
Press evenly into your hands and feet. The main aim is to elongate the back of your body and lift your hips up as high off the ground as possible without losing the stable foundation created by your hands and feet. If you lack the hamstring flexibility, bend your knees a little.
Supta Padangusthasana I
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Press your back body into the floor, point the kneecap and toes of your supine leg toward the ceiling, as you extend the other leg up over your hip. Use a belt if needed.
Supta Padangusthasana II
Reclining Hand-to-Big-Toe Pose
Lie down on your back. Point kneecap and toes on your left leg upward, as you stretch your right leg out to the side. Use a belt if necessary. Change sides.
Halasana
Plough Pose
Use support under your shoulders. Keeping your shoulders open, lift your hips up high above your head, dropping your feet down behind you. Place your hands on your back to help keep it from rounding.
Savasana
Corpse Pose
Lie down on the floor. Spread your arms and legs slightly at your side. Relax and concentrate on your breath.