After giving massage for several years, I see that most people need quite similar things. When it comes to the upper body most of us would benefit from opening up the upper back and strengthen core. When the core is weak we also put more stress on our shoulders and slouching our back because we don’t have the integrity around the spine to keep an uplifted posture. We live most of our daily life doing things with the arms in front of us and rounding the back. To take the body in the opposite direction can be a great relief and a nice stretch for the front body. Supported backbends is a safe way, especially if you have a tender lower back. When we look at a backbend from the outside (and forward bends) you want to see an even curve along the spine. Be aware of where the stress load seem to dump in your own body. Hopefully you have a teacher helping you with this.
There are endless of creative ways to backbend with support but I will share some of my favorites. They are also a great way to access the breath more and boost your energy. When practicing these, keep your breath steady and smooth, expanding the chest in all directions. Try to relax the shoulders and jaw and have patience with the poses.
Some of these are quite mild and some deeper. I will post the mild ones first. To neutralize the back after a backbend do some sort of twist. If you are unused with backbends stick with the first two ones.
1. Rolled or folded blanket straight BELOW the shoulder blades. (bra band for girls) I start every morning with this, yum! You can also take the blanket in vertical direction along the spine and under the head.
2. Restorative backbend with two low blocks under the shoulder blades. They go all the way up to the end of shoulder and one block under head (one level higher)
3. One block (second level high) below shoulder blades, one block with same height for head. This one can also be done with palms pressing into the wall, fingers facing down to floor. Great prep for Urdhva Dhanurasana.
4. Deep backbend with two blocks (highest level) and virasana legs (or choose other leg variation). Hold the sides of the mat but just hold, don’t push or draw. You should warm up the hip flexors before doing this leg variation as well. Once in the pose, lift up the butt and release the sit bones forward.
Please share if you have any other favorites or thoughts around this.