Challenge your body with different backbend movements.

The difficulty of backbends is something that draws many yogis to them, but the way they make your body feel should be the number one reason to incorporate them into your yoga flow. Some claim that backbends relieve pain, open your heart, and increase blood flow. Whether that’s true or not is up to you. You won’t know unless you try them out! To get you started, here are some of my favorite backbends.

Beginner Backbends

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Cow Pose—Bitilasana
This pose is generally performed as a dynamic pose with cat, but cow pose by itself is a great introductory backbend and can serve as a great warm-up to a backbend series. Drop your belly low and pull your gaze up to make the most of this pose.

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Cobra Pose—Bhujangasana
This is an infant of backbends, but a great way to warm your spine up in preparation for deeper backbends. Lift through your chest, and lift your hands off the floor for a moment to check that the extension is coming through your back strength, not your hands.

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Upward-facing Dog Pose— Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
Upward-facing dog might be the most common backbend due to its presence in sun-salutations, and it’s definitely one that should not be overlooked. Press up through your hands while pulling your shoulders down and away from your ears. Press through the tops of your feet to pull your lower body off the mat.

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Bridge Pose— Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
This backbend not only bends through your back, but it’s a great way to engage the muscles in your glutes, inner thighs, and lower back. To perform this pose, lift through your hips, pull your ribcage together to stop your ribs from splaying open, and roll your shoulders under your body. Try placing a block between your knees and squeezing it for more activation.

Intermediate Backbends

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Bow Pose— Dhanurasana
Mix up your backbend with the prone position. Press your feet into your hands, then pull against your feet to create tension within your body and to allow a higher lift. Try to keep your knees in line with your hips as they may want to come wider as you press your feet into your hands.

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Locust Pose—Salabhasana
Locust pose is one with many variations. Interlock your hands together behind your back, and simultaneously lift your chest and legs. Zip your legs and feet together, keeping them as close together as possible. Try lifting just your upper body or just your lower body before attempting to simultaneously lift both.

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Fish Pose— Matsyasana
Bring your hands to your sides, then press through the floor as you lift through your chest to create a bend in your back, and rest the top of your head on the floor. If you feel secure in this pose, you can lift your hands as shown.

Advanced Backbends

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Wheel Pose— Urdhva Dhanurasana
As a more advanced pose, wheel pose is generally recommended to be performed after more mild backbends. As you press through your feet and hands, focus on lifting your hips high and relaxing your neck so your gaze comes to the floor.

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Camel Pose— Ustrasana
Start with your hands on your lower back to support your spine as you pull your gaze up to the ceiling and even to the wall behind you. If you’re looking for a deeper bend, release your hands one at a time taking them to your heels.

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Pigeon Pose—Kapotasana
This is one of the most intense backbends, and should only be performed once you are proficient in other backbends. From camel pose, lower your upper body down, hinging at the knee. Lift through your chest to create space under your spine while dropping your elbows to the floor and reaching for your feet.

I hope you enjoy incorporating some of these backbends into your yoga practice. While they are amazing poses to include in your routine, be sure to always put safety first. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Good luck and stay fit!

Becca Capell
iFit Head Trainer