It is logical to examine standing backward bends next because they an easy, simple, symmetrical, and natural. For beginners they are simply ai extension of standing up straight.
whole-body backward bending
Whole-body backward bending, more than any other posture, demonstrates th principle of setting priorities from distal to proximal. Try this experimen stand, lift your hands overhead, and clasp your hands and fingers togetln firmly. Press the palms together solidly, making sure that the hands do n< angle to the right or left. Now extend the forearms at the elbows. Lex them firmly. With the heels and toes together, grip the floor gently with tl feet. Tighten all the muscles of the thighs, lifting the kneecaps with tl quadriceps femori, tensing the adductors medially and the hamstrini posteriorly, and squeezing the hips together. This stabilizes the knee join and pelvis, creating a strong base. Pull your arms backward as far possible and lift your hands toward the ceiling. If all of the priorities ha been set in order, the lifting feeling in the posture can be felt progressive in the thorax, abdomen, and pelvis.
Now, with all the distal-to-proximal priorities established, you can pk your attention on the totality of the posture. Bend backward in a whot body arc, but without throwing your head back excessively. You will fee i whole-body bend as you access the core of the body. Hold your attention i the abdomen. Tissues are pulling on your torso from fingertips to toetipf-fingers to hands, hands to forearms, forearms to arms, arms to shouldei . and shoulders to chest, abdomen, and pelvis; toes to feet, feet to legs, 1< s to thighs, and thighs to pelvis and vertebral column. Notice the whole-b> tension, especially on the front side of the chest, abdomen, and thighs tl 4.19). Breathe evenly; do not come back so far that you have a desire to h< d your breath at the glottis or that you hesitate to exhale. Within th( e limits, as soon as you are settled, pull back isometrically to exercise m i strengthen the back muscles. With every breath, inhale deeply with thora. c inhalations that explore (within the limits of the posture) the fullness 'f your inspiratory capacity.
Numerous mechanisms protect you in a whole-body backward bei I. Eccentric lengthening and finally isometric contraction of the iliops« s muscles turn them into extensile ligaments, and these muscles, acting s short but powerful cables, resist excess extension at the hip joint. In I e case of the iliacus they act between the femur and the pelvis, and in t e case of the psoas they act between the femur and the lumbar region. Tl V are not alone, of course. The spiraled ischiofemoral, pubofemoral, ai 1 iliofemoral ligaments back them up on each side, keeping the head of tl '
■I STANDING POSTt'RKS 1}7
femur pulled into congruence with the hip socket as you reach your limits of hip extension.
Tensing the quadriceps femoris muscles tills the patellas and extends the knees, and this allows you to drop backward only so far. To come back further you would have to bend the knees and bring your lower body forward, but we do not want that here. In this standing whole-body backward bend we are thinking of beginning and intermediate students who should learn to protect their joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons before trying more challenging postures.
The femoris quadriceps has another action that affects the backbond more subtly As we saw in chapter 3, three of the four heads of this muscle take origin from the femur and do not have a direct effect on the pelvis, but the fourth, the rectus femoris (figs. 3.6,3.9, and 8.8-9), attaches to the ilium at the anterior inferior iliac spine. The rectus femoris is a football-kicking muscle, for which it has two roles: acting as a hip flexor for helping the iliopsoas muscle initiate the kick, and then acting with the quadriceps
Figure 4.19. Whole-body backward ben Tension at the sites indicated limit and define the bend from top to bottom.
rectus abdominis muscles psoas and iliacus muscles rectus lemons muscles quadriceps femoris tende pectoral mus patellar tenc rectus abdominis muscles psoas and iliacus muscles rectus lemons muscles quadriceps femoris tende pectoral mus patellar tenc
2_lR ANATOMY OF HATHA tOCA
femoris muscle as a whole for extending the leg at the knee joint and assislinj. complet ion of the kick. The rectus femoris acts isometrically, however, in ; standing backward bend, helping the iliopsoas muscles stabilize the pelvi and spine, and helping the rest of the quadriceps femoris stabilize the knee Without its tension the knees would bend and the top of the pelvis woul tip backward, thus pitching the trunk to a more horizontal position an< accentuating the lumbar portion of the backward bend, which is not on aim in this beginning posture.
Lifting the hands overhead and pulling the arms back as much as possib protects the upper half of the body and provides lift and traction to tl chest and abdomen. The rectus abdominis muscles resist this stretch in h ways: they provide further stability to the pelvis by way of their attachmei to the pubic bones, and they support the role of the rectus femoris muse! s in preventing acute bending in the lumbar region. What we want, and wl our efforts give us from top to bottom, is a continuous arc of tension 1 muscles, tendons, and fasciae between the fingertips and toes. And that 3 why it can rightfudy be called a whole-body backward bend.
It is important to keep your head upright in this posture and in an ■ c with the rest of the vertebral column because the head has more dens y than any other part of the body and is situated at the end of the most flexi' e part of the vertebral column. Allowing it to drop backward brings yc r attention to the neck and shifts your center of gravity to the rear so tl it you have to bend more in the lumbar region to keep your balance. J t draw the arms backward and keep the head between them if you c. 1; otherwise, keep the head in a natural line with the rest of the spine. 1 s precaution wdl also help prevent lightheadedness and fainting in th e with low blood pressure.
The effects of gravity in this bend depend on the individual. Those v >0 are strong and flexible will arc their bodies back and be aware of h w gravity is affecting them from head to toe, but those who have a hard t ie standing up straight wiU be working against gravity just trying to p H themselves upright from a bent-forward position. Even so, it will stil >e useful for them to make the effort because it will improve their flexib (y and help them balance their weight more efficiently in day-to-day life.
a relaxed standing backbend
When you are thoroughly confident with whole-body backward bends, >u are ready to deepen the bend by exploring the nuances of relaxation ii a standing backward bend. There are many poses that illustrate this princj| e, but for starters place your hands overhead without lifting them fully, a d then bend backward without tensing the muscles of the thighs (fig. 4.2 )• Notice that this posture is entirely different from the last one. Relaxing I e i.STANIHNt; POSTTKES 239
upper extremities allows more bending because the rectus abdominis muscles are under less tension, and relaxing the lower extremities takes tension off the iliopsoas and quadriceps femoris muscles, which in turn takes tension off the pelvis and the knees. The main place where stress and tension are felt is the lower back. For this reason, it is apt to call this a backbond rather than a backward bend.
A relaxed standing backbend such as this, with slightly bent knees and an arched-back lumbar region, places you more in the grip of gravity than a whole-body backward bend. But this gravitational assist is unwelcome unless you have a healthy lumber region as well as strong abdominal muscles and hip flexors. Even advanced students may find they are not comfortable holding this posture for a long time. So keep a watch on the lower back, and do not bend beyond your capacity to recover gracefully.
the role of breathing in standing backward bends
One of the secrets of successful standing backward bends is to maintain an even breathing pattern, but this cannot be taken for granted among beginners. Those who are not comfortable will tend to hold their breath after an inhalation, and this will obviously limit the time they can hold the posture. Teachers can spot at least three breathing patterns that should be avoided.
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