This advanced practice begins with standing poses and inversions to activate the torso and integrate the legs while strengthening the upper body and opening the chest and shoulders. It follows with a series of back bends over the chair to open the abdomen, hip creases, chest and shoulders while minting integration of the limbs into the spine, ending with Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose) from the floor. It ends with a short series of supported forward bends and restorative poses to widen the back and settle the energy.
This intermediate back bends practice begins with wall work to wake up the shoulders, hips and torso. It follows with standing poses to strengthen and integrate the legs arms and back while lengthening the thighs and opening the chest. Supta Virasana (Reclined Hero Pose) and Viparita Dandasana (Inverted Staff Pose) are included to deepen the opening of the front body before a floor sequence of baby back bends, using a bolster for support to encourage release of over-work in the back. The practice ends with some brief restorative work to bring the body back to balance.
This basic back-bending practice begins with simple reclined poses to soften and open the abdomen and chest. Standing poses follow to encourage the separation of legs and torso while establishing the dynamic oppositions necessary for the floor work to come. Warrior Pose 1 and lunges stretch out the fronts of the thighs and more explicitly open the hip crease. In the floor work, the opening of the chest in relationship to the widening and freeing up of the abdomen, and the lengthening of the thighs is introduced while breaking down the component parts of Dhanurasana (Bow Pose), before practice the poses on its own. A short sequence of restorative poses softens and widens the lower back in preparation for final relaxation.
The goal in this practice is to keep the back as soft and wide as possible while lengthening the sides of the torso, and especially the sides of the waist towards the head.
Keep your buttocks and lower back soft and wide as you find support from your inner thighs.
Keep your mid-back soft and wide by allowing your font ribs to drape down towards your hips.
Soften and widen the space between your shoulder blades.
Soften and widen your hip creases as you release your front thighs towards your knees and lift your abdomen towards your head.
The Warrior Poses in this practice have a back-bending element to them. In order to create support for the back body, we will be bringing the front body back into it. Consider these point as you go through the poses:
- Widen the collarbones and the chest and move them towards the back.
- Cinch in the sides of the waist as you lengthen the torso from hips to head and move them back.
- Soften and widen the lower back and the buttocks.
In addition, to open up the front of the hip, think of moving the thigh away from the abdomen and the abdomen away from the thigh, especially in the back leg of lunges and standing poses.
In the past two practices, we used the hip crease to find connection between the greater and lesser trochanters in a series of Standing poses, forward bends and twists. When it comes to back bends, it becomes useful to add in consideration of the gluteal crease.
In this practice we continue to reach through the torso as if it were a limb like the arms or legs, but our focus will be on protecting the lower back as we move into back bending poses. Consider the following points as you practice the poses:
- Widen the buttock flesh and lengthen it down the body away from the head.
- Narrow the sides of the waist and stretch them up towards the head.
- Open and widen the hip creases.
- Widen the back ribs
In this practice, we will focus on opening the hip crease by simultaneously reaching through the back leg and stretching the torso from the hips to the head, taking care not to push either the pubic bone forward or tucking the tailbone under. In this way we stand a chance of keeping the lower back wide and free, especially when it come time to do a pose such as Virabhadrasana 1 (Warrior Pose 1).
Make sure to allow the legs to be strong and supportive underneath you so that the hips, buttocks and lower back can remain soft and supple. (more…)