Opening the spine in yoga
Some yoga asana practitioners consider back bends to be as challenging or even more challenging than inversions, especially as they highlight any structural weakness or existing trauma within the spine and cause pain.
The term 'back bend' is erroneous and highly misleading. What we are talking about is an extension and flexion because if you think about the shape of the spine, when it bends there is a compression on one side and an expansion on the other.
Within yoga asana, especially when doing back bends, the idea is to lengthen the spine is much as possible creating space between the vertebrae and expanding the inter-vertebral discs. Then throughout the exercise, the spine is flexed to prevent compression of the inter-vertebral discs on that side of the spine that one is flexing towards.
Back bends are designed to:
- open the body of the spine
- open the spirit to the light
The effect of back bends is open or make a person more extrovert. If this is to be done safely, the students must remain grounded in their energy. The consequences of overextending or practising back bends to excess is that they may become excessively outward without the ability to be responsible in their lives.
To ensure balance and psychological safety, students need to be grounded in standing poses and if unsure, a competent guru or teacher to take instruction from.