Have you ever heard the phrase ‘bending over backward’ when you put a lot of effort into someone or something?
Like the phrase implies, backbends are challenging. In a yoga, this challenge is both physical and mental. Backbends require physical practice to understand the limits and effort needed to build awareness and confidence.
Building Confidence Step by Step
Ustrasana, or camel pose, is an intermediate backbend that stretches the entire front of the body and strengthens the back. It challenges your ability to be vulnerable, as the entire front body is open. Explore this vulnerability by using breath to relax and explore what feels good. With a bit of patience and awareness, you can cultivate confidence and build up to camel pose with these yoga poses.
Boat pose to warm up core
Although backbends bring focus to the back, you are deeply stretching the abdominal muscles, too. Warm up your core body by coming into navasana, or boat pose, and engage the abdominals. Bring shoulder blades toward one another and build awareness by ‘opening’ your chest upward, exploring this feeling.
Setu bandhasana sarvanghasana helps prepare the lower body, especially the hips, for camel pose. It also helps open the chest, taking a step deeper from boat pose. Bridge pose can also calm the mind, calming nervous jitters before exploring a deeper backbend.
The classic bi-flow of cat and cow is an excellent way to warm up the back and open the chest. This duo is also a great place to explore your alignment and stability as your root through the palms and low body.
Low lunge with a Back Bend
Now that the back is warmed up, continue to open the hips and play with deepening the spinal extension with Anjaneyasana and a back bend. Keep your reach long as you extend the hands upward to avoid putting too much pressure on the low back.
Reverse Plank Pose
Purvottanasana lights the inner fire by requiring you to lift and open the entire front body, especially stretching the chest and shoulders.
Ustrasana with Sacral Support
It is important to prepare for camel pose by understanding limitations and creating healthy alignment. To make sure your alignment and stability are where they need to be, place your hands on the sacrum to support the lower body.
Ustrasana with Blocks
Sometimes we need a stepping stone before we have the confidence to take the leap. Place blocks on the inside of the heels to ‘lift’ the floor to you. As you reach your hands down, you can decide how far you want to move into the backend, using the blocks as support.
Once you have built the awareness for appropriate alignment, explore practicing a full camel pose. Begin with the hands on the sacrum and begin to reach the hands toward the heels, a grasping onto them. Visualize opening the chest upward, allowing shoulder blades to move up. Gaze up and keep the neck stable to avoid compressing the neck. Keep the glute muscles soft and surrender to opening the front body, observing the vulnerability this creates.
Take Your Confidence Off the Mat
It takes confidence and practice to journey into camel pose safely. As you begin to explore the pose and gain confidence, observe how this confidence affects yours practice and transfers into your everyday life. You may find that the phrase ‘bending over backward’ comes with greater ease.