When Denise Keller posted a photo last week about a flutter of emotions one goes through when practicing backbends, I just simply had to pause and do a reflection myself. Just like her, I’ve been doing quite a few backbends in my yoga practice lately and am quite pleased with my progress so far – considering how some of these poses posted here once used to intimidate me.
Why are backbends important? In our everyday lives, what we don’t usually notice is that we spend most of our daily tasks in a forward folding position where we round our spine forward (think: a whole day of hunching forward infront of our PCs at work, driving or just sitting itself) and in order to have balance, we need to counteract these postures since our backs are not designed only to flex forwards. Maybe we’re thinking that the best way is to do a little exercise or stretching each day and that is also good but the best way to reverse this is as you would have guessed – do backbends.
On an emotional level, backbends in yoga are also called heart openers (if you ever hear those phrases about creating spaces in your practice 😅). As if by instinct, all these hunching and rounding of shoulders that we do everyday is to physically protect our most vulnerable part – our heart. This “rounding in” creates this barrier around the heart that may lead us to settle into patterns of distrust to ourselves, lower self-confidence and disconnection from others. To relate, this year hasn’t exactly been a pleasant one for me with some hurtful incidents during the second quarter. I can definitely say that I’ve moved on from the experience but I still feel like my heart was still protected by a wall from the betrayal and plain injustice of the incidents. Lately though, when some things aren’t turning up according to my plans/ goals, I was able to counter these negative scenarios and maintain a sunny disposition. For some it maybe a bit weird to think that doing yoga helped me on this. But you see, if our postures are affected by the state of our minds then I believe it’s also true for the other way around.
Honestly, backbends aren’t the easiest of poses (couldn’t do that last pose below some three or four months ago) and they’re some of the scariest too. But when there’s physical/ emotional pain, fear, anxiety or frustration, backbends will teach you how to stay with these difficult places and work through them. Whenever I open my heart during a yoga practice through a backbend, I feel like I’m unlocking my heart to embrace new possibilities (be it within or out of my plans) as though thrusting my full life force out there. Just last week when I was finally able to achieve the pigeon pose below, needless to say I was thrilled. It’s like there’s this whole new space that opened up in this posture that were once impossible or uncomfortably constricted for me. It was a moment of epiphany. Things maybe are not going according to my plans but I realized that life is full of possibilities and just like in physical practice, you’re gonna need to stay through the difficulty, open up your heart and draw courage and hope from within. I can drone on and on about the physical and mental benefits of backbends but I’m not an SME (subject matter expert on this so I’m citing the references below). ** Also this post has gone on too long. Some articles say that backbends also bring tears to them after the practice because of releasing suppressed emotions but so far I haven’t experienced this. How about you? 🙂