Let's rewrite 'backbend' and call it what it also is, a 'front opener'
Let's talk Ustrasana, camel pose -
A wonderful front opener, usually best approached after some similar movements in your practice, I like to find this shape by the end of a class, though if you feel okay to you're able to access it any time.
The reason I call this a front opener or front expansion pose is because sometimes when we call things back bends they become unapproachable in students minds. I've taught a good lot who feel fear when coming back. I figured I would work to make you feel safe and listen to you to adapt ways I can make the action feel safer. I find the low back also is more likely to compress + crunch if we're calling it a 'back bend'. I've found with the language of front expansion we get greater lift through your front ribs, abdominals, and chest space.
Few tips for getting in + out of Ustrasana:
Come to stand on your knees, knees hip width distance apart, toes are tucked.
options: hands on your low back, fingers facing down, engage your glutes and press your hips out first + then lift your chest and lift your upper body to find front expansion. Option to have your feet relaxed here instead of toes tucked.
Option to take your hands to your heels:
The only ask here is to be aware of you twisting through your back as you're coming into the pose. I often say if you can do your best to lean evenly back and take hold of both heels at roughly the same time, this will help to avoid that potential injury.
When you're coming into a front opener or a spinal twist, there is a natural compression in your spine. We double this and risk injury if we're coming into a front opener + a twist at the same time.
Once in either of the options work to lift and press from your chest, and find lift in your front body, pelvis to jaw.
Coming out of:
Similar to how we got in, do your best, core engaged, on an inhalation, mindfully press up as even as possible. A nice queue for this is to keep your shoulders in one line.
Option for child's pose after this shape, or rabbit pose. (kneeling, taking hold of your heels, and folding your head down towards the mat).
Here I will show you which muscles are being stretched, engaged, and engaged while also stretching. We will talk contradictions, modifications, and things to watch out for.
Modification for this shape would be keeping your head lifted and gaze towards the front of your room/space.
**I was told by one of my teachers, Niki Inglis to be mindful of taking your head back in poses such as this as the muscles along the front of your neck are quite small + could have a hard time holding you head. I would be cautious of taking your head back all the way + I would opt for taking it back only here + there. It's not an every time practice for me in my front openers.
Here are the muscle groups that are engaging or 'working' during the shape.
Here are the muscle groups that are engaging while stretching (dark grey) and stretching (white).
Front expansion not always recommended for those who are pregnant
Taking head back can be a challenge for those with blood pressure issues, those with eye issues
Head coming back can result in reduced blood flow, called cervical hypertension *rare, but be aware! **I am not a doctor
A risk of getting too deep in the shape, especially more intense + needing high sensation Yoga students.
Connect with me at any time if you're curious about this or other shapes, I absolutely light up when asked asana (or any Yoga) question. More of these to come my friends.
Happy you're here!