30-Minute Vinyasa Yoga Artwork
Season 3 - Episode 8

Balanced Backbends

30 min - Practice


Maeve leads a creative backbending sequence leading to Dancer Pose and Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel Pose). You will feel strong, open, and uplifted.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block (2)

About This Video


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Hello. Welcome. I'm Maeve. We are going to start using some blocks today. If you don't have them, it's fine. Just lie on the ground.

But this is one of my favorite postures leading us into a lovely back bending sequence today. I like this setup. I like my block on the tall, long, and my second block on the medium wide. You could also go low in medium just as well. It'll just be a little less intense, and so gonna be a little bit based on how your spine feels, but also on your height. So I'm gonna let you play with that. The placement of this block is important.

Behind the shoulder blade. It's not on your back. It's most definitely not on your low back, but it's behind the tips of your shoulder blades so you can kind of rest yourself down, and then we place the second block behind the head and maybe balance the ponytail. And then we get this amazing shoulder opener here. Now your legs, you can have them bent, you could have them straight.

If you like, you can have them in badakanasana, which is what I'm going to choose. And in this position, we're just going to soften and allow for a moment to arrive on our mats in our practice with ourselves. It feels nice to you. I enjoy this personally as a way to get myself in a little deeper, a little faster. I like to count my breaths.

And I don't mean count the number of breaths, but the length of my breath So I count to it about a 6 count on my inhale, and a 6 count on my exhale. So I start to balance my breathing and create a cadence. And we're gonna do our best to stick roughly to that tempo throughout our practice. And as we remove the fluctuations in our breath, we might get lucky and remove those fluctuations of our mind. Certainly increases the odds.

Notice if you are resisting in the shoulders or and the spine, just see if you can soften a bit more if you can do so safely. Last breath here. Beautiful. So coming off the blocks can be sometimes trickier than getting on. I like to just kinda roll over to my side and rise up. Since we have the blocks, let's use them for one more thing.

Bring them to the top of your mat. Have them About as wide as your shoulders, maybe a little wider. Bring your elbows down and just drop the heart through. And then maybe push away and drop through. We'll just do that a couple more times.

With your breath. And we'll remove the blocks. If you loved that, by all means, feel free to stay with that. Otherwise, we're coming into cow and cats inhaling and exhaling. Inhaling and exhaling. Keep going like this.

So my breath was real soft in the beginning, and I sort of just automatically go into ujayi pranayam, when I start to move into cat cow. If that serves you in your practice today, wonderful. If it doesn't, don't worry. Umjayi breath is just as nice. Like, you're fogging a mirror, and that's the exhale.

But your mouth is closed, and then the inhale you draw it back. You can play with it. Sometimes it comes and goes throughout the practice, but it's always this beautiful place to return to if in fact it works for you. Neutral spine, tuck your toes, and downward facing dog. Breath in. Right footsteps outside of your right hand.

And bring your back knee down. Good. You can stay here. This is wonderful. I'm gonna suggest if it feels good taking this back foot. And if you notice, I pulled the foot in first, reached back and found my foot with my hand. Little engagement in the left glutes.

Gonna give you a nice opener on the front of your left hip. And at the same time, we're opening this right shoulder, so a little reminiscent of that sensation that we had in supported fish pose. You can lean back a little here. If it feels nice, you can move your head around a little bit. Really nice. Last breath in.

Really. Step back plank. Exhale lower to your belly. Go ahead. Locust. Shalabasana.

Palms open. Heart stretches forward. Fingers and toes reaching back. This is the like, the most beautiful way to strengthen your posterior chain, your posterior core, your back muscles. So very dynamic backbend, very dynamic. You're really working those back muscles.

You're strengthening here. Last inhale, downward facing dog. Breath in, left foot outside of your left hand, right knee down, option to bend the back leg, reach back, find your foot, little engagement here on this right hip, And you're getting this beautiful opener both in the shoulder and in the front of that right hip. Don't ignore this right arm. Nice and strong here stabilizing this right shoulder.

We're not resting in the shoulder in any way. Last inhale. You can release your foot. Bring your hands around. Step back to plank, inhale, again, lower to your belly.

Shalabasana again, downward facing dog, exhale. Breath in, with your exhale, bring your feet to your hands. Halfway, inhale, fold, exhale with power, with confidence, reach your heart forward to rise. Inhale. Enhance to your heart, exhale.

Inhale, rise up. Exhale bow forward. Just working this breath in tempo. Inhale halfway. Right foot steps back, exhale.

Crescent pose, inhale. I like my feet wide enough that I don't feel Like, I have to fight for my balance. Stretch the arms up. Bend the elbows if it feels okay, bring the thumbs behind the head. Stay for an inhale.

Exhale hands to the ground. Flank and hail. To your belly exhale. Bend both of your knees. Reach back for your fingers, but don't take your feet.

Don't take your feet. Don't take your feet. Just reach back and downward facing dog. Inhale right leg back, right foot forward. Nice and wide, so you feel stable.

Rise and hail. Bend the elbows, thumbs behind if it's okay. Lift the elbows. Release your hands down, step to the top of your mat. Halfway inhale.

Bow, exhale with confidence with strength, rise, inhale. Exhale bow forward. Halfway, inhale, Left foot steps back, exhale. Crescent. Inhale.

Ben the elbows, lifts the heart Exhale, release your hands to the floor. Breath in, lower down. Disconnected, Donna, awesome. Bend the knees, lift, down dog exhale. Inhale, left leg back. Left foot forward. Crescent.

Inhale. Ben the elbows. Lift the heart, release your hands down, step top of the mat. Halfway, inhale, bow, exhale, rise to stand, inhale. I'm hands to your heart, exhale.

Really nice. Find your center. Shifting to your left foot. Bend your right knee. Just pull your foot back toward your hip.

Good. Really working that heel toward your hip. Your hamstring should be lit up here. Really nice. Without taking your foot, reach your hands back towards your foot. And then maybe just tip forward.

Come back up. Bring your feet together. Lift your heels, bend your knees, come into a toe stand. And then lower your hips down. And Navasana.

Good. Broad in the chest. Lift the heart. Maybe the leg straight, and they might not breathe in. Bend your knees, roll down. Pause.

Arms at your side. We're gonna go palms up here. Encouraging the shoulders to really roll open, press your feet down, rise up, bridge, Now important. I don't care how wide your feet are. I don't care if they're turned open or if they're straight ahead. What I'm looking for is solid ground under your feet and that you feel your feet are pressing down equally, inner foot, outer foot, heels, and toes, And then that same sense of equanimity find it in your spine, all parts of your spine, opening equally.

Breath in. Exhale. Release down. Pull your knees in. We're gonna come into chair, so you can rock up, you can just kind of come forward. Wush. Ries. That's the sound effect it makes. Wush.

In case you were wondering what that was. Spectacular, isn't it? Good. Rise up to stand. Hands to heart. Pause. Find your center.

And we're gonna do that on the same same thing, second side. Find your center, bend your left knee. Really nice. Don't take your foot. Simply reach back as if you were going to take your foot, but you're not going to take your foot. You're going to keep pulling your heel toward your hip and maybe start to tip over a little bit.

You can kind of tap in on that hamstring and see how much it's actually working for you there. I don't want you to worry about what this looks like. We're looking for the action of the shoulders opening, the chest opening, and the action of that hamstring working. Bring your feet together. Tow stand again.

And lower down. And bridge. Same thing. Maybe lace your fingers this time and draw your shoulders directly under your body. Press the arms down.

Press the feet down. Let this feel lovely. Does it need to be super intense? Just connecting all parts of the body to work together. Last inhale, really sits, knees in.

Rock up. This time back to plank, breath in, Chattaranga or the floor. Rise, updog, or cobra, and down dog, exhale. Lifter heels and hale. Bend your knees exhale. Bring your feet to your hands.

Halfway. Inhale. Bow deeply exhale, rise to stand inhale. Hands to your heart exhale. Inhale.

Pick up your right foot. Exhale. I'll take this right hand back. I like big toe side, the inner foot, but you can take pinky side if you like. I like this because it gives me a little more opening in my shoulder. Arm up. Push your foot into your hand.

Push away. Push away. Push away. And then perhaps you start to come forward, but you don't have to force that. Inhail rise up. Toast and exhale.

Breath in. Exhale lower down. Navasana inhale, exhale, feet down, breathe in, roll down, bridge pose again, or or Adaiana, now listen, an up bow, your fingers can point toward your shoulders, but they can all point out, you can turn your fingers toward the edges of your mat. That might give, most likely, it will, but it might give your shoulders more space. So I'm gonna show that version Heels of the hands are toward the face.

Don't crowd your face. Don't crowd your shoulders. Give yourself space. Inhale. Rise up. Last inhale.

And release down. And how neat is that? Exhale rock, rock all the way through Chaturanga, inhale rise, and dog exhale. Lift your heels in hand. Bend your knees.

Look where you're going. Feet to hands. Halfway, inhale, bow, exhale, rise. Inhale. Hands to your heart, exhale. Really nice.

Pick up your left foot. I like to be very dramatic with my arm here because I feel like it's, ah, it's gonna give me more grace going into it, but also more space in my shoulders. So left foot is up gracefully take that arm back. Find your foot. Push the foot away, and then let this chest develop however it wants to.

Rise up, toe stand. Lower down. And vote. Lower down. You have a second shot here at a bow.

Bridge again. Rise. If you like stopping on the crown of the head, you're welcome to, but you don't have to if it doesn't feel good. Consider coming up into your toes, lifting the heels up. Last inhale and lower down.

Little pause. Doesn't matter if you were in bridge or up bow, your hips have to help support you up. Your glutes have to help support you up. So going back to that sensation in shalabhasan of that posterior core working. We want the same thing here, even though there's a much bigger stretch in the front of the body, we're still strengthening and using the posterior core, the posterior chain to lift ourselves up.

So one more back end if you want it, Equinimity in the pose, the whole body feeling it, I'm gonna give you a new version, Vipariti Dondasana, so I'm gonna talk you into this but it's totally optional. Hands come by your shoulders, and it comes to the crown of the head. And then you're gonna move your head toward the back of your mat toward your hands. Bring one forearm down, the second forearm down, lace your fingers and then press the forearms down. This is a ponytail crusher.

I'm just gonna be honest with you. Try not to pull the hair out of your head. You can play with the legs here To come out, crown of the head comes down, hand, hand if you want, lift up, and release. Such good work. Release your legs out.

Woo, just neutralize your spine. Feel your breath. Feel the effect that backbends have on you, not just your body, your breathing, how you feel your thought patterns, all of these things respond to Asana. If you are challenged there, don't let a pose make you feel bad. It's just a pose.

Last breath here. Really nice. Okay. So we're gonna take reclined gomacos and alegs. If this doesn't work for you, you are welcome to take ankle to me instead. Now just like I like to be dramatic in dancers, I like a little drama in this entry as well.

So I'm gonna bring my right, like, up as high as I can. I'm gonna take it a little over to the left, and then my left knee comes up. And Voila, you know, can support at the knees, at the shins, at the feet. So I find when I first enter this pose, I naturally wanna do a little crunch here because it makes it easier to get to my feet, right? But then I know that I have the space, and you may or may not, to neutralize your spine any amount, meaning that I'm not crunching my low back into the floor.

I am creating a little space between my low back and the floor because that's my neutral spine. That might not be your neutral spine. I'm just gently drawing the feet wide. Come back to your breath. If it's helpful, come back to that 6 count. We know scientifically that 6 count has a really beautiful effect on your nervous system.

This is science. I didn't just make that up. So when we switch sides, I like to imagine I'm a break dancer, and I might just take off one of these days and do back spins across the floor, even though I don't know how to do them. I'm gonna release the legs. Again, that's the sound. And then we come into the second side.

And again, ankle to knee is spectacular if this just doesn't feel good or it feels inaccessible. There's nothing wrong with you if this is inaccessible. Sometimes it's just how our bodies are made. It's not because you haven't tried hard enough. Which is why we have many alternatives to choose from.

And we take the same process. Rest in your breath, refine your position based on what feels good and what you know about your body. I'm getting a little isometric bicep work here too. So that's not the worst thing that ever happened. A little upper body work.

Last inhale, and then release your legs. Just give yourself a little squeeze here, maybe curl your shoulders up if it feels good. Really nice. You can stay here. Apanasana knees to chest, but relax the head down. Or split the knees, take your hands to your inner ankles, inner heels, and just a nice, lovely, happy baby, I like to rock a little bit side to side here, feel the floor against my back, nice little massage after all those backbends, And I'm gonna settle in the center.

Really beautiful push and pull here. So I'm pulling gently from my shoulders. My hands are just softly, softly latched onto my feet. So that I can do just that I can draw the shoulders back and can retract the shoulders. But simultaneously, I'm pressing away with my feet, with my legs.

And when I do that, my sacrum gets a little heavier, I get this nice tension relationship between the upper and lower body that gives me a little more space. Last inhale. Release the legs. And let's just take the legs straight out on the ground. You can adjust yourself however you need.

Take your hands off of your body if it's okay. Arms at your side. Palms to the sky. Come back to that sensation we had as we started class with. The shoulders softening open. To see if you can tap into that now.

About your whole body to take more weight to find more ease and allow your breath to become soft and passive and autonomic. You don't have to try to breathe. It will just happen. Please Stay here for as long as you want. Enjoy this moment. To come out of your practice, bend your knees, Roll to your right side.

Simply enjoy that moment there. And then use your hands, press down to rise up. When you're seated, bring your hands to your heart in prayer, honor the work you just did, And every time I say that, I hope you know, I'm not talking just the physical asana, the work you did to stay present, Breathe in together, bow your mind to your heart. Rise. Your eyes open gently.

Thank you for your practice today. Namaste.


Kate M
1 person likes this.
Beautiful class, beautiful instruction...! Thank you for leading us through this beautiful back-bending sequence. I feel energized and calm!
Love, love!
Sandra Židan
Thank you very much for this great practice, Maeve! I have enjoyed doing it! Namaste! 💖❤️🥰
1 person likes this.
Sandra Židan I'm glad you enjoyed the backbend practice. It's always a happy place for me and I love sharing with anyone interested! 
1 person likes this.
Kate M Kate M so glad you feel energized and calm. Imagine if we could feel that way more? Ha. Just dominating! :) Thanks for being here.

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