Many of us spend the majority of our days sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer, rounding our spines, closing off our chests and hearts and focusing our energy in a downward direction.
A really powerful way to counter this energy-depleting lifestyle of sitting and closing off across the chest is to move the spine in the opposite direction, creating an upward and opening arc. Backbends will likely leave you feeling an awakened sense of exhilaration.
Here's a short sequence that you can do at home to get yourself good and ready for those energy increasing backbends.
Also, since so many of you were curious about my pants in the last sequence I shared, I wanted to let you know that these fun pants are also by InYo.
Move through 3-5 rounds of sun salutations to warm up the body.
With your right foot at the top of the mat and the outer edge of the front foot parallel to the outer edge of the mat, spin the back heel down so the back toes are turned slightly forward. Make sure the front knee is bent directly over the front heel. Square your hips to the front of the mat and lift your torso so that your shoulders stack over your hips. Draw the belly back and soften the front ribs in as you reach your arms up to the sky. Hold for 5 breaths and then move to the second side.
While sitting on the tripod of space between your sitting bones and your tailbone, lift your legs up to the sky. Hug the inner thighs together and spread through the toes while extending the inner ankles forward and up. Keep the heart lifting and try not to lean back. To modify, bend your knees and/or place your hands under your thighs. Hold for 5 breaths.
Lie face down on your mat. Interlace your fingers behind your back and roll the shoulders back so that the chest is wide and open. Exhale to prepare and on an inhalation lift your legs and your chest. Lift from the inner thighs, inner ankles and inner knees as you continue to lengthen your legs back behind you. The lift in the chest comes from the heart, not the chin. Keep the neck, eyes and jaw relaxed and hold for 5 breaths.
From salabasana, bend your knees, reach your arms back and hold onto the tops of your feet or your ankles. Press the shins back and lift the toes up toward the sky to lift the chest and open across the heart. Keep the collarbones wide and go up, up, up. Hold for 5 breaths, then carefully release down to your belly.
Be very careful of your knees in this pose. If your knees don’t like it, sit on your heels or on a block. If your knees are OK, sit down in between your ankle bones with all 10 toes pointing straight back behind you. Either stay lifted in the chest or recline the upper body back for supta virasana. Hold for 5-10 breaths, then slowly unwind to release the pose.
Only if it's OK with your knees, from virasana, lower your back onto your elbows and forearms. You're welcome to stay here. If you have the space, slowly continue to lower down onto your back. You can keep the arms alongside the body or reach them overhead; whatever is most comfortable for you. Hold for 5-10 breaths and then slowly and carefully come back to sitting up in between your heels or on your heels.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Lie down on your back and place your feet on the earth so that they're hip-distance apart. Make sure you can touch your heels with the tips of your middle fingers. Press your feet down and lift your hips up toward the sky. Either place a block beneath your sacrum or shimmy the shoulder blades in towards each other and interlace your fingers, extending your arms long down the mat. Keep the neck long and the throat open. Hold for 5 breaths and slowly unwind one vertebra at a time.
Set this up as you would setu bandha. Lift your hips up and then place your hands by your ears with your fingers pointing toward your shoulders. On an inhale, press into the feet and hands and lift onto the top of your head. Hug the inner elbows in toward each other and exhale to straighten the arms and lift head off of the earth. The outer edges of the body go up as the inner thighs spin down. Hold for 5 breaths and then carefully release one vertebra at a time.
Supta Bada Konasana
While resting on your back, bring the soles of your feet together and let the knees drop open to the sides. Place one hand over your heart and one hand over your belly and allow the breath to begin to slow down.
Sitting up, extend your legs long out in front of you. On an inhale reach your arms up to the sky and as you exhale bow forward, out and down. Let your hands rest where they want to, inhale lengthen the spine and exhale move deeper into the fold. Bend your knees as much as you need to here. Stay for 5 breaths, allowing each inhalation to lengthen and each exhalation to deepen.