Before I started doing yoga I had really done many exercises that can really focus on my back. In a yoga practice there are many poses that are classified as backbends. The benefits of yoga backbends are often questioned and are they really good for your back?
Yoga backbends are great poses for your back because they neutralise the effects of slouching. They also alleviate certain backaches, improve your spine flexibility and even reduce stress. This not only strengthens your back and reduces the risk of slipped disks or any other back-related problems.
In this article, you'll learn more about the benefits of yoga backbends, including how the exercise helps:
Benefits of Yoga Backbends for Your Back
As you can see the benefits of yoga backbends go beyond your back, but let's first explore the top three advantages of mastering this position.
Slouching is not a direct result of spine or back issues but is a habit that shrinks your comfort size. As a result, many people cannot assume a proper posture despite knowing how to hold it. As you read this, pay attention to your body language. Are you hunched over? Are your shoulders ahead of your chest or pulled back?
Chances are you're slouching. The introduction of desks has trained two generations to hunch over while sitting. This translates to lousy standing posture as well because your spine starts to lose flexibility.
However, when you do yoga backbends, you're training your back to use its ability to flex backward. This makes holding a healthy posture more comfortable. As a result, when you try to beat your bad posture habit, you don't need to exert as much will power.
Get Rid of Back Pain
This needs to be prefaced with a fair warning that yoga backbends are not a magic pill that will remedy all back pain. However, a backbend can de-stress specific muscles that are stretched continuously one way. As a result, you'll notice a slight "ease" in your back muscles as you start to bend backward.
Try to arch your neck back and let your backbend while paying attention to the back muscles closest to your lats? Did you notice the degree of relaxation? If over-exerting these muscles cause back pain, you'll feel relieved after doing yoga backbends.
Increase Back Mobility
Finally, there's a benefit that doesn't get discussed because of low functional utility. Spine flexibility directly translates to back mobility. And even though you don't need to move your back relative to your body too much, just knowing that you can is rewarding. By doing yoga backbends regularly, you add to your back's ability to take on sudden movement without getting injured.
This is especially relevant if you work out with free weights. Certain exercises featuring free weights can lead to a sudden movement that impacts your spine. Many people have suffered slipped disks during deadlifts.
With yogic asanas that train your back to be less "brittle," you're less likely to be at risk working with heavier weights. That said, you should still be cautious of lifting more than is physically possible for you to hold for extended periods.
Other Benefits of Yoga Backbends
Now that you know how backbends are good for your back. Let's explore some of the other noticeable advantages of performing backbends often.
Improved Ab Definition
If you're crazy about abs, then you know the advantages of sit-ups and crunches. However, as much as you contract the abs during those exercises, the final position you assume on the opposite extreme is a flat one. In other words, there's a way in which your abs have probably never stretched: upwards.
When you perform backbends, your back might relax in certain areas, but that's only because your abs experience the required strain. By stretching out your back, you can help your ab muscles grow and get defined more rapidly.
Stress is often mistaken as a solely mental phenomenon. You're not just your brain; your entire body and its chemical makeup affect your mood. On average, we carry a lot of tension, which plays a significant role in maintaining stress.
By doing an invigorating exercise like the backbends, you let the usually tense areas like shoulders and chest open up. Also, stretching your body in a way previously alien to it will always release endorphins.
While backbends indeed work your abs, they also test the strength of your legs and, to an extent, your arms. As you start bending backward, you burden your legs with the duty to carry your weight despite it shifting off-centre. This requires more effort than is natural for our legs. So, your quads and hip flexors get thoroughly worked out.
Improve Your Breathing
You can see a pattern among the benefits of backbends: they correct the negative habits we may have developed due to our modern lifestyle. Bad posture is one such habit, but bad breathing practices are far more common. Take a large breath in and hold it. Pay attention to your body. Your stomach has likely gone in, and your chest has expanded.
This isn't efficient, even though it is how a majority of us breathe. By tucking in your stomach, you reduce your lungs' capacity to breathe. As a result, you have to breathe more often and in small quantities.
Now try the following: breathe in while expanding your stomach. You'll notice that you can breathe in much more air. This improves blood circulation but is awkward to start. When you perform a yoga backbend, you have no other option but to breathe with an expanded gut (remember, your abs are stretched out). That makes this asana perfect to increase oxygen levels in your blood.
Dos and Don't of Yoga Backbends
There are many tutorials that will teach you how to do a yoga backbend. This video by ManFlow Yoga teaches you how to do a yoga backbend as a beginner. It also shows what is missing in most yoga tutorials which are the broader best practices and precautions of doing yoga backbends:
Below are some other things that you can do to ensure you get the most out of your backbends.
Eat more protein
As mentioned earlier, your quads, arms, and abs will go through a tough time. Make sure you eat enough protein to help your muscles recover and grow. Many yoga enthusiasts are vegetarian. If you do not wish to consume meat for your protein, you can try plant-based protein powder like Orgain plant based protein.
Drink more water
Another thing you should take care of is your water intake. Your breathing rate and depth will improve, and you'll need more water to keep up with the increased metabolism. Keeping a water bottle with you can help you sip water throughout the day.
Here are some mistakes you must avoid:
Trying to do too much too soon
If you've been inspired by an image of a perfect backbend, please do not emulate it right away. You can't let your vision be independent of your ability. Backbends are a slow and deliberate process, and it takes effort, practice, and patience to get to the point of perfection.
Doing backbends with back problems
If you already have back problems like a slipped disk, don't proceed with the exercise without seeking medical advice. Back pain can be a sign that your spine is vulnerable, and therefore it might not be the best time to test its limits.
Yoga backbends are great for your back, abs, legs, and arms. They also help relieve tension in your chest and shoulders. To do yoga backbends safely, you should learn from a reliable instructor and follow along slowly. Eventually, you'll get to the perfect backbend and unlock all its benefits.