April 20, 2017

Backbends: More than just a Physical Practice.

On average, the human heart beats 115,000 times per day (Laskowski, 2017).

That’s 115,000 reminders that you are very much alive, reminders that your life force is cycling within, ready to take on another day. It’s 115,000 reminders that it is never too late to embrace your energy and share it with the world.

On January 1, 2014, a young woman lost her mom to suicide. As a daughter of an addict, she was used to constant worry for her mother. She had harnessed the fear of abandonment, forever closing off her heart space.

As a yoga practitioner, her personal practice suffered. She became submissive to the confines of her bed, pressing pause on the outside world. Until the day she decided to roll out her mat, climb into a child’s pose, and settle in. She began to workout in order to work into the tight spaces—wringing and rinsing the trauma she had bottled into the joints, ligaments, and tendons. Her therapy began as she linked breath with movement, flowing through the asanas (yoga poses). Gingerly extending through a side bend and into a backbend.


Ah, the sweet sensation of backbends.

Backbends will take you on a roller coaster ride of a journey. They’ll take your breath away. They’ll make your heart race. They’ll make you feel exposed and vulnerable. Sounds like a relationship, eh? Well, it is.

Backbends require the shoulders, spine, neck, chest, quadriceps, and glutes to work together in an intricate symphony of movement. They require integrity as you work to orchestrate each body part safely and strongly into a beautiful shape.

Some are genetically predisposed to backbend. Their spines are hyper-mobile and extension is effortless. For others, they want to divorce backbends. Patience, grasshopper. Let’s move beyond the physical. Backbends require an open heart, almost literally. They require an open mind. An openness to failure. An openness to become vulnerable. An openness to enjoy the process while you ease into the framework of the body.

Throughout life, we develop this habit of bottling—a method that protects us from raw emotions we attempt to banish. It’s human instinct to protect our hearts. We hunch our shoulders, bow our heads, and close the physical heart space as a defense mechanism against suffering.

The journey of a backbend is an astounding one.

Yes, it makes for a pretty picture but it delves much deeper than that. To backbend, you must release your bottled fears, anxieties, anger, and even love. You must be willing to open your heart to the universe in acceptance that not all will understand your path. To backbend requires faith, courage, and trust within yourself. They open the upper body, strengthen the spine, and fuel the heart muscle. Backbends, with each and every single breath, teach that exposing yourself is dicey but enormously worthwhile.


This yoga, this practice, it is much more than simply painting a pretty picture. It’s using your body to etch seamless movements along the paper that is the world. It’s using your breath to stamp each powerful feeling inside your beautiful body on the platform that is the earth. It’s challenging the ego and burning away the fears that cage our souls.

This yoga, it’s like making poetry come alive with your own very fingertips.



Laskowski, Edward R., M.D. “Heart Rate: What’s Normal?” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2017.

Author: Alexandra Sheth
Images: Author’s Own
Editor: Catherine Monkman

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Alexandra Sheth