02 Dec Combatting Winter Energy Slumps
In backbends, we come face-to-face with the boundaries of our flexibility, patience, and equanimity. But learning to practice within our limitations, instead of struggling against them can make back bending an exercise in self-acceptance. Using the breath to control the depth and apex of a backbend offers an interesting encounter with self acceptance.
If I am feeling low and de-energised which can certainly happen with the onset of darker days and colder climes, I practice gentle back bends in conjunction with gentler still forward bending counter poses. It is this combination that gives you a boost of energy – and helps to stimulate your immune function.
In the mornings, I have my daily greens before my Yoga practice “Gorgeous Greens”
Backbends for Winter Energy Slumps
If you push too hard or skip ahead to complex backbends without first learning the simple, foundational ones, like the back bend below, you run the risk of crunching your lower back, depleting your energy, or even stirring up anxiety. In short, your backbends will not feel melodic or harmonious.
Bhujangasana – Cobra
This gentle back bend opens the heart and lungs, stimulates abdominal organs, and helps relieve stress and fatigue
Step by Step
Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders.
Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubis firmly into the floor.
On an inhalation, draw the chest upwards. Imagine your upper chest is a sail that has just caught a gust of wind. As you inhale, that sail rises, broadens, and floats with ease. Maintain a connection through your pubis to your legs. Press the tailbone toward the pubis and lift the pubis toward the navel. Narrow the hip points. Try not to harden the buttocks.
Firm the shoulder blades against the back, puffing the side ribs forward. Lift through the top of the sternum but avoid pushing the front ribs forward, which only hardens the lower back. Distribute the backbend evenly throughout the entire spine.
Hold the pose anywhere from 15 to 30 seconds, breathing easily. Release back to the floor with an exhalation.
Contraindications and Cautions
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Don’t overdo the backbend. To find the height at which you can work comfortably and avoid straining your back, take your hands off the floor for a moment, so that the height you find will be through extension
- Strengthens the spine
- Stretches chest and lungs, shoulders, and abdomen
- Stimulates abdominal organs
- Helps relieve stress and fatigue
- Opens the heart and lungs
- Soothes sciatica
- Therapeutic for asthma
Following this very gentle back bend, you can practice the pose below
Balasana = Child Pose
Step by Step
Kneel on the floor. Bring your big toes together and sit on your heels, then separate your knees about as wide as your hips.
Exhale and lay your torso down between your thighs. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of the pelvis while you lift the base of your skull away from the back of your neck.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor.
Balasana is a great resting pose, and you can stay here anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes. Beginners can also use Balasana to get a taste of a deep forward bend, where the torso rests on the thighs.
To come out of the pose, with an inhalation lift upper body from the tailbone.
Contraindications and Cautions
Modifications and Props
If you have difficulty sitting on your heels in this pose, place a thickly folded blanket between your back thighs and calves.
Balasana provides us with an excellent opportunity to breathe consciously and fully into the back of the torso.
- Gently stretches the hips, thighs, and ankles
- Calms the brain and helps relieve stress and fatigue
- Relieves back and neck pain when done with head and torso supported
Have your partner place one hand on your sacrum (fingers pointing toward the tailbone) and the other hand on your mid-back (fingers pointing toward your head). As you exhale, your partner can press gently downwards. You can help your partner regulate the pressure on your back.
To increase the length of the torso, stretch your arms forward. Lift your buttocks just slightly away from your heels. Reach the arms longer while you draw the shoulder blades down the back. Then without moving the hands, sit the buttocks down on the heels again.
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