The Gentle Path to Back Bends: Nurturing Flexibility and Strength

Embarking on the journey of back bends in yoga can be a challenging endeavour, both physically and mentally. The discomfort of postures like Camel, Cobra, or Dancer can make us hesitant to delve into the deeper layers of our practice. It’s not just a physical challenge; it’s also an exploration of our inner selves, demanding confidence and self-esteem. Sometimes, it’s easier to skip this aspect of our practice than confront the internal issues that may need examination.
But fear not, there is a way to ease into back bends gracefully. By allowing ourselves to approach these postures with gentleness and tuning into our emotions, we can incorporate back bends into our regular practice. Instead of dreading the challenge, we can cultivate a sense of joy and anticipation, making the journey more fulfilling.

Cat Posture: A Gentle Introduction:

Maintaining spine flexibility is crucial for overall mobility, whether you’re walking to the shops or running a marathon. The Cat Pose provides an opportunity to move up and down the spine, offering an invigorating and comforting experience. If traditional hands-and-knees positioning is uncomfortable due to injury or limitations, try using two chairs. Facing each other, secure both chairs, sit slightly forward on one, and position your hands on the seat of the second chair. Arch your spine with your breath, mimicking the movement on the floor. This modification not only maintains spinal flexibility but also builds strength in the arms.

Camel Posture: A Gradual Ascent:

A well-practised camel posture is a thing of beauty. However, if you find the traditional kneeling approach taxing on your knees, consider a gentler version against the wall. Sit on a block or mat with your back to the wall, ensuring your head touches it. Experiment with the distance, finding a spot that feels right. Mimic the movement from kneeling, bringing your hands together behind your back, encouraging the spine into a gentle backbend. The wall support alleviates the strain on the neck and shoulders, allowing you to focus on the back flexion and arm extension. Exiting the pose involves sliding the head up the wall, allowing the back to relax into the wall.

Sideways Half Bow Posture: A Manageable Alternative:

The full Bow Pose can be daunting for those lacking strength and flexibility. However, a sideways variation offers a more accessible option. Lie on one side, supporting the head with the hand or a block, and bend the top leg, bringing it toward the hand. If reaching the ankle is a challenge, use a belt. As you create a circle on the top side, push the ankle against the hand or belt, increasing the stretch in the arm and shoulder. This modified version provides the benefits of the stretch and breathwork without the strain on the lower back and elbows.

In your yoga journey, the key is to enjoy the process. Approaching your practice with a positive mindset can make a significant difference. By embracing alternative and gentler approaches, you can transform your inner dialogue from self-doubt to self-celebration. Remember, there are countless variations and adjustments that cater to individual bodies and circumstances. Don’t hesitate to make changes that work best for you, and let your yoga practice be a source of joy and self-discovery.

Sara Matchett – YHET Chair & Trustee


We hope you enjoyed these practices and we invite you to explore further practices in the extended article available to members under INSIGHTS in the DOWNLOADS section. Not a member? Click here to join us.

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