The Benefits Of Yoga's Back-Strengthening Poses



Tue, 20 Sep 2016 - 04:24 GMT


Tue, 20 Sep 2016 - 04:24 GMT

The Yogic tradition relates the back with heart chakra and the air element, known as the anahata chakra, which is associated with the ability to embrace all that is challenging (including people and situations) with acceptance, compassion and forgiveness. An open-heart chakra also allows us to open up so we can deeply love ourselves and love others. In reverse, when the heart chakra is closed we may feel pain in the heart area and back in addition to difficulty breathing and irregular heartbeats.

by Sandra Shama Kaur

On a physical level, the back side of the body takes on a lot of tension. Our postural habits, stress and natural tendency to move mostly in the sagittal plane (forward, specifically) can all be to blame. Sitting, standing and walking make the external rotators of the hips, hamstrings, and calves tight and weak. Our lower backs tend to house discomfort from sitting, over-exaggerating the curve in the lumbar spine (hyperlordosis), and even sinking your weight into one hip while standing.

Moving up the body, the rhomboids (the muscles between the shoulder blades and spine) become weak from our tendency to round the upper back. And the upper traps (top of the shoulders and neck) are notorious for holding stress-induced tension. To top it all off, our necks have to work very hard to hold up our heads, so tension can get trapped in the base of the skull and sometimes send referral pain to other areas in the body.

All in all, our back body works really hard to hold us up every day. By focusing on the fascia, this flow can help release these common areas of tension, giving the muscles greater capacity to fire more efficiently.

On a mental-emotional level, you probably have noticed that when you are free from pain, whether in the back or in the heart, you are much more pleasant to be around, accepting of others and situations that we have little control over.

On a spiritual level, having a strong back supports us to have an open heart, which is the seat of the soul. The more open the heart chakra, the more we can dive deep into our heart center, heal old wounds, connect with our inner soul and even have the capacity to tolerate challenges and bring a healing light to all of life’s problems.

To recap, remember that back-strengthening poses work simultaneously on opening the heart chakra known as Anahtata (which literally means “unhurt, unstruck, and unbeaten”). It is located in the heart area affecting the respiratory and circulation system. The gift of this chakra is transforming air into energy of compassion.

The fourth chakra is what opens us up to all that is happening in the moment. The element associated with this chakra is the air element, because it is the air quality that allows us to be light as a feather, to be lighthearted and able to carry heaviness.

To balance this chakra, wear the color green, sing with devotion and do heartopening postures. Affirmation: “Love is the answer to everything in life, and I give and receive love effortlessly and unconditionally.”

Always remember that asanas need to be held steadily and comfortably. No pain should be experienced while holding the postures or in the hours or days that follow. In the words of Patanjali Sutra 46: “Sthirasukhamasanam’’ (II Sūtra 46): sthira = steady; sukham = comfortable; asanam = posture.

Pain Relief

Think of the word “heart,” and terms like “soft” and “open” likely come to mind. The longest journey one will travel while on this earthly plane is from the first chakra (the root, animal instincts) up to the heart chakra (our angel side), the soul. This sequence is great for pain relief and for release. You can then retrain those released muscles to lengthen and strengthen to the best of their ability. I recommend using this sequence as needed (daily for more pain or a few times a week for less), holding each trigger point area for 30–60 seconds.

Upward-Facing Dog Pose Urdhva Mukha Svanasana The Upward-Facing Dog will challenge you to lift and open your chest.

[caption id="attachment_522642" align="alignnone" width="620"]Upward Facing Dog pose Upward Facing Dog pose[/caption]

Bow Pose Dhanurasana Bend back into the shape of a bow to feel energetically locked, loaded and ready to take aim.

Bridge Pose Setu Bandha Sarvangasana The Bridge Pose can be whatever you need — energizing, rejuvenating or luxuriously restorative.

Camel Pose Ustrasana Pump up your energy by bending back into Camel Pose. Cobra Pose Bhujangasana Open the heart and roll the shoulders down to promote flexibility in the Cobra Pose.

Locust Pose Salabhasana This pose effectively preps beginners for deeper backbends, strengthening the back of the torso, legs and arms. Upward Bow (Wheel) Pose Urdhva Dhanurasana Need an energy boost? Urdhva Dhanurasana can help — and strengthen your arms, legs, abdomen and spine in the process.

[caption id="attachment_522641" align="alignnone" width="620"]Upward Bow (Wheel) pose Upward Bow (Wheel) pose[/caption]

Sandra Shama Kaur is a Kundalini yoga teacher and founder of Yalla Yoga.



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