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Backbends to strengthen your foundations

A backbend sequence to help build up your foundations.

Contents

Introduction

Video sequence description

This is a basic, foundation backbend sequence suitable for those who are just starting to approach the backbending asanas.

They are uplifting and the perfect antidote to computer and desk work as they help to counteract the slouched position we may assume, activate the back ribs and open the chest.

Step by step guide to the sequence

You will start this sequence by lying back in Supta Baddhakonasana to open the groins and begin to awaken the back of the body. Follow this with a gentle forward Virasana and then stand for Uttanasana to bring focus and stability to the legs whilst releasing the spine downwards.

This is followed by Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward dog pose, which now connects the arms to the legs and lengthens the spine again, more actively.

To activate the arms and connect the arms to the torso whilst giving a bit of extra blood supply to the brain, walk the feet up the wall for Handstand preparation.
Then try a full Handstand, or repeat the preparation again.

To come back into the legs, start with a standing pose, Trikonasana, familiar and grounding. Then joining the legs and feet, take the arms up for Utkatasana, stabilising the spine by working the legs and bringing integration between the upper and lower body. Repeat a few times.

Step one leg forward for Virabhadrasana 1, Warrior pose, where we have to find length through the lumbar spine even as we bend the front leg and raise the arms up. Lead with the Right leg and then repeat with the Left leg forward.

Parsvottanasana follows allowing the upper back to remain concave whilst turning the hips and holding the pose from the work in the legs. Prasarita Padottanasana brings rest to the heart, releases the spine whilst still maintaining stability through the legs.

Now you are ready for Sirsasana, Headstand, starting with a preparation to encourage the shoulders to get the required lift so that the neck remains free from compression. And then if already practising a full Headstand go up for 3-6 minutes. If not yet working with Sirsasana, repeat the preparation again.

And now for the preparatory backbends themselves. These serve to strengthen the paraspinal muscles to better support spinal length, and they teach us to observe the back of the body.

Step back into Adho Mukha Svanasana, downward Dogpose, and then lower the hips and roll the shoulders back as you move into Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, upward Dogpose. You can repeat this a few times, seeing that the legs stay straight and the kneecaps are firm and facing the floor. This keeps the alignment of the legs to better allow for a healthy curve and extension of the spine.

Follow with Dhanurasana, a backbend that is restrained by the grip of the hands to the ankles. This leads to stronger opening in the upper back and encourages good leg support for the spine.

We then come to the first proper backward extension, Ustrasana. Keep the hips forward as you arch backwards, keeping the head and neck in a comfortable stable position.
Follow with the last backbend of the sequence, Chatushpadasana.

Start with the palms placed under the heels to give support and extra lift.

If it is not possible to hold the ankles, or to have more freedom in order to do the pose a few more times, just keep your hands by the sides of the heels and repeat by lifting the buttocks up and down several times. Still keep the knees running straight, parallel to each other.

Now release and take a few breaths lying flat. Then set up for supported halasana, with shoulderstand blanket support and using a chair or bench to fully rest the legs on. Keep the legs parallel to the floor, or a bit lower, but not lifting above your hip height. After 5-6 minutes, release down and then sit in simple cross-leg and rest the forehead on the chair seat. Change the cross-leg.

And finally release everywhere in Savasana. If the back feels at all tight, you can slip a bolster under your knees to further release the back muscles and quieten the nerves.

View sequence

Supta Swastikasana
Simple Cross Legs Lying Back
Cross your legs and lie back over support or straight onto your mat.
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 head on the floor or on a block.
Tadasana
Mountain Pose
Stand up tall and straight, place your feet close together, with your heels and big toes touching. Imagine as if you are standing with your back against the wall. Extend your whole body from the heels up through the crown of your head.
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.
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.
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.
Tadasana
Mountain Pose
Stand up tall and straight, place your feet close together, with your heels and big toes touching. Imagine as if you are standing with your back against the wall. Extend your whole body from the heels up through the crown of your head.
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.
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.
Tadasana
Mountain Pose
Stand up tall and straight, place your feet close together, with your heels and big toes touching. Imagine as if you are standing with your back against the wall. Extend your whole body from the heels up through the crown of your head.
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.
Tadasana
Mountain Pose
Stand up tall and straight, place your feet close together, with your heels and big toes touching. Imagine as if you are standing with your back against the wall. Extend your whole body from the heels up through the crown of your head.
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.
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.
Parsvottanasana
Pyramid Pose
Place your feet one leg-length apart, your back foot angled out slightly. Keep your legs straight as you start to fold over your front leg, maintaining a concave spine for as far into the bend as possible.
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.
Tadasana
Mountain Pose
Stand up tall and straight, place your feet close together, with your heels and big toes touching. Imagine as if you are standing with your back against the wall. Extend your whole body from the heels up through the crown of your head.
Headstand Preparation with Blocks
Headstand Preparation
Place your forearms flat on the floor next to a wall and interlock your fingers behind the back of your skull. Keeping your head on the floor and your back straight, start to walk your feet closer toward your trunk. Straighten your back and pull your hips up to capacity. This can also be done with your feet to the wall.
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 head on the floor or on a block.
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 head 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 to strengthen your foundations
Locust Pose
Lie down on your belly. Reach your arms back and lift your legs, head, and chest up off the floor as high as possible, using your core strength. Breathe evenly.
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.
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.
Backbends to strengthen your foundations
Supported Bridge Pose with Block
As you lie down, bend your knees and plant your feet close to your buttocks. Lift your hips up evenly and place a block under your sacrum for support.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simple Cross Legs Forward
Sit with your legs crossed. Keep your sit-bones pointing down as you stretch your arms forward to capacity, lengthening your spine.
Savasana
Corpse Pose
Lie down on the floor. Spread your arms and legs slightly at your side. Relax and concentrate on your breath.