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Backbends with a leg and hip focus

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This sequence uses poses that work into the legs and hips to help prepare the upper back to come into the backbend poses. Backbends need leg stability as a foundation to be able to lengthen the spine and open the chest. Notice at the end how you may feel uplifted and energised, whilst still feeling quiet and clear.

Backbends with a leg and hip focus

This sequence uses poses that work into the legs and hips to help prepare the upper back to come into the backbend poses. Backbends need leg stability as a foundation to be able to lengthen the spine and open the chest. Notice at the end how you may feel uplifted and energised, whilst still feeling quiet and clear.

Set up in Supta Virasana over two blocks, with extra height if needed. If you are not yet ready for Supta Virasana, sit in Virasana upright and extend the arms up in Parvatasana.

Come up and go into Forward Virasana, and then stand for Uttanasana. Focus on opening the backs of the legs and drawing the legs up into the pelvis to release the spine down.
Adho Mukha Svanasana, using two blocks against the wall for your hands. This gives more access to the shoulders. Keep the arms firm and steady and draw them back to the waist.
Turn and step the feet up onto the blocks, with the heels first a little up the wall and then draw the heels down to the block, back of the heels down and against the wall.

Now place yourself with the back to the wall, about one foot away. Slide down for Utkatasana, keeping the back of the pelvis against the wall as you go up and down twice. This will help connect the front and back pelvis and engage the legs more.

Then step away for unsupported Utkatasana, bending down and coming up 3-4 times. The legs will start to be more in focus and this will help to support the torso and spine.

Full Arm Balance (Adho Mukha Vrksasana), walking up the wall or coming into the full pose. This will energise the mind and also help to draw the work of the arms into the shoulders and torso to give more stability.
Pincha Mayurasana, Elbow Balance: Stay in the preparation or go up against the wall, getting a good lift of the shoulders and opening into the upper back.

To complete the upper body preparation, lie back over two blocks, placed in a T shape either flat or on their sides for more height. Keep the legs active as in Tadasana, and let the firmness of the block help to lift and open the middle thoracic area.

Come up for Tadasana, standing near the front of your mat. Go through 2 cycles of: Tadasana, Uttanasana, step back into Adho Mukha Svanasana, and then step forward to Uttanasana and Tadasana.

On the second two cycles, add Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (Upward Facing Dog Pose), first going onto the balls of the feet to keep the legs steady and strong in Upward Dog Pose, and then the second time lengthen the metatarsals back for full Urdhva Mukha Svanasana. Legs straight, shoulders back.

Now come onto the floor, and do one more Urdhva Mukha Svanasana from the floor, aiming here to really keep the arms in line with the waist and to come more fully into the upper back and chest. Knees firm.

Prone on your mat, lift the legs and chest up for Salabhasana, knees straight to open the backs of the legs. Repeat twice.
Still working against the resistance of gravity, hold the ankles and lift into Dhanurasana (Bow Pose). Draw the feet back to open the backs of the knees, so you still connect the legs to the hips as you lift up.

Come up onto your knees for Ustrasana, Camel Pose. Here we will use a swinging action to lean the body back, keeping the buttocks forward, and then swing back up again. This will fully engage the support of the legs. After 3-4 times going back and forwards, place the hands on the heels and stay for a few breaths, hips forward, backs of the knees well open, chest lifted.

Lie on your back and prepare for Chatushpadasana, first without holding the ankles. Lift the hips up five times on the exhalation. We are still using the legs to support the lift of the hips.
Then hold the ankles and lift up two times, more restrained now by holding the ankles. We need to really raise the outer hips up, middle buttocks up and climb high up onto the shoulder tips. Use a belt around the ankles if it helps you get a better opening into the upper back.

To finish, take blocks for Urdhva Dhanurasana, done 5 times.
If unable to lift up, stay with Chatushpadasan.
Lift the hips up high, outer hips up, draw the backs of the thighs into the buttocks and see if you can get the arms straight, connecting them all the way to the side ribs.

To release, stand up for Uttanasana and Adho Mukha Svanasana, with a block high up between the thighs.
Then set up for Supta Padangusthasana 1 and 2. For the second variation, place the blocks on either side of the hips for support.,

Finish with a simple ‘legs up the wall’ over a folded bolster, with a half-folded blanket on top of the lower edge.

Slide back to the floor and stay a few minutes in Savasana, keeping the legs in cross leg, resting onto the bolster, buttocks on the floor. Let the breath soften and the eyes quieten.

Video stills from this sequence

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Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus
Backbends with a leg and hip focus