This session is based on an early backbend sequence that we used to practice with Dona Holleman, which in turn was taken from a practice Dona got from Guruji in the late 60s.
It is no longer as extensive as it was then, and I have added here some preparatory or “baby” backbends as I find them a good way to connect to the various parts of a now stiffer and older practitioner. Having said that, it is a challenging, uplifting and very satisfying practice to do.
Step by step guide to the sequence
Start in Supta Virasana to get some good length through the front of the thighs and to open the front groins. Uttanasana to open the back of the legs, and then moving in and out from Virasana forward to Adho Mukha Svanasana, doing about 8 repetitions on the breath.
Full Arm Balance with straight palms and then fingers turned out will bring us more specifically into the upper body and arms. Pincha Mayurasana, palms down and palms up to open further into the shoulders through the upper arm lift.
Today I have chosen to do a few Standing Poses with the front foot up the wall. This engages the front leg directly into the hip and pelvis, and allows for some bracing, or resistance, to work the back leg against. Trikonasana, Parsva Konasana, Virabhadrasana 1, and Prasarita Padottanasana.
Prepare now for Sirsasana and Eka Pada Sirsasana and Parsva Sirsasana. If not doing a full inversion today, take a chair and set up in Dvi Pada Viparita Dandasana, with arms through the chair and then arms extended out behind the head.
Now for the preparatory backbends: Adho Mukha to Urdhva Mukha Svanasana, bringing the connections from the first poses into these preliminary backbends. Follow with Dhanurasana, a nice stabilising asana where we have to work against gravity to get the back body to open.
Ustrasana follows and is the first backbend where we start to arch back using the legs for support and to hold from. Chatushpadasana on the breath without holding and then holding the ankles to come back to a more restrained pose, where we have to create an opening despite the resistance created.
Full Urdhva Dhanurasana, 6 times, with two different brick supports. This will help lead us into Dvi Pada Viparita Dandasana, first with bent legs and then turning around so that the feet can be braced against the wall to help straighten the legs fully.
Kapotasana, with the hands walking down the wall to find our limit, without dropping the hips.
Take a chair for Vrishikasana, using the chair against the wall and walk the feet down to find your capacity, whilst maintaining the lift of the shoulders and opening in the upper back.
We finish the session with Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 1 and 2, using blanket supports as needed to keep the hips even. And Hanumanasana with supports as needed.
To come back to quietness, physically and energetically, go to Uttanasana, Parsva Uttanasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, and Supta Padangusthasana 1 and 2.
Complete the sequence with Ardha Halasana to a chair, or Legs up the wall with bolster support. Simple cross-legs to come completely back to neutral, followed by Savasana. Notice that your mind may be clear and sharp, but still.