The Vinyasa Show Artwork
Season 2 - Episode 7

Courageous Backbends

40 min - Practice


Backbending can be about letting go into our back body, our darkside, the unknown. To do this requires mad capacity. Alexandra prepares us with a sequence of front body strengthening and opening. We continue to warm with a flowing sequence of standing postures and hip openers before eventually moving into a play with bridge and wheel pose.
What You'll Need: Mat, Block

About This Video

Jul 13, 2015
(Log In to track)


Read Full Transcript

(waves gently splashing) Hello, welcome back. Today we'll be exploring back-bends. And back-bends are a little of a symbol for courage because they really mean opening up the heart. It's about letting yourself go into what you're not really knowing. It's about letting go, back into you back-body and the back-body symbolizes the universal, what we don't know, the darker sides of us, which isn't in a bad sense.

It's in a not knowing sense, that's all, curiosity. So as we go through this back-bending sequence please be aware of your breathing. Once your breathing starts to feel compromised, not full anymore, that's a sign of you going to far. So you don't have to go so far. And also imagine you receiving the breath, letting the breath come to you and you being open to let it engage with you.

So to begin with close your eyes, settle, be ready to arrive. Be ready to arrive in your heart and for a moment maybe just, what is courage to you? What does it mean for you to trust? Is there an element of letting go? Maybe?

So as you inhale, inhale from the heart, from your energetic heart, the area under the sternum, the area in between your shoulder blades and out towards your sides, towards the front, towards the back. And as you feel ready, start rolling around, I heard this, it's like cleaning the barrel from the inside. (laughing) So start rolling around. Do one side, maybe the circles get larger. Maybe you start moving with your shoulders.

Again, it's all what you feel like doing. What you've been doing today, have you just woken up, is it after work? So depending on what you've been doing today and how your body feels, you'll be wanting to do different things. Maybe you let one arm sweep gently over. And gently come to neutral, it's like letting the circles, the movements, get smaller and smaller and quieter and quieter till you eventually come to stillness.

Just notice the effect of that short moment of movement that we've just done. Let's get up on our knees and our hands. So, get back a little on your mat because we're going to take our hands forward in this one to ana hatha asana. But before we go there, let's inhale, lift our heart up towards the sky, arch the back, exhale around the back. Let your head drop, again inhale, lift the heart.

Exhale around the back. Let's come back to neutral, inhale here, exhale, walk forward with your hands just till you feel that you can't really get any further without the hips coming further. We want the hips to stay over the knees. Let your heart drop towards the Earth, strong arms, slightly bent arms will keep your arms strong and the elbows not over arching or overstretching. Inhale, lift the navel, lift the heart up, in-between your shoulder blades, drop the head, exhale fold down again and gaze forward if you wish.

Inhale, lift the navel, lift the heart in-between the shoulder blades. Exhale, heart towards the Earth. Last time, inhale lift, exhale, come all the way down to sphinx pose, elbows under your shoulders. I like to turn my palms up, get your feet, hip-distance apart, lift the navel, lift the heart and drop a little. Just rock yourself from side-to-side, before we decide, this is the form, this is the pose, this is the posture I'm moving into just notice what works for you, what the body needs to do before moving into that pose.

Okay, now that you're ready, lift the navel, lift the heart, root down through your forearms, gaze gently forward, spread your toes. Root down through the tops of the feet as you do that you're gonna feel your quads gently activating, okay draw your sit-bones, tail bone back, lift the heart, and exhale gently fold. I turn my hands down so I can get some support doing that. We're gonna do a little shoulder opener. So take your right arm out towards the side, it's like 2 o'clock, bend the elbow gently, the heart is still on the floor.

Place your left hand to the floor and push away and going over to our side. So I enjoy to place my left foot behind the straight right leg. Some of us feel this is just enough. This will open up in the front, in the pec minor. Soften in your face, breathe into it.

Sometimes you can feel it in your biceps, it starts tingling in your fingertips, it's not dangerous. It's just if it gets uncomfortable or anything hurts release the pose, change what needs to be changed, maybe you need to bend your elbow a little bit more. And as you exhale come back on your belly. Before we do the other side, pause. Notice the effect, notice the release.

Let's do the other side, so the elbow is just slightly over the shoulder, raise your hand, your right hand in-front of your heart, pushes away, it's like the volume, either you push a lot or you push a little less. I take my right foot on the outside of the left, straight leg, some of us like to keep it on the floor and bend the knee. Depending on what feels appropriate for you. Soften in your face again, in your neck. Notice where it feels extra stiff, sometimes it's nice to just move the toes a little, move the feet.

Ahh, one more inhale here and exhale, turn back. Hands under your shoulders, pause and bring yourself up to all fours again. Let's sit down on our heels, inhale, reach your arms out. Exhale, hug yourself, lift the fingertips up towards the sky and roll, roll gently in one direction. Roll gently in the other, okay, and move into stillness.

(light exhale) Release other side. Maybe you need to help your arms, help your shoulders a little. Lift the fingertips towards the sky and turn, small circles, big circles, whatever feels appropriate for you. Since we are in the back-body, explore that back-body just a little. Move into stillness.

And release, okay, so settle into the effects of that. Let's get up on our knees, so doing back-bends, you could just do a back-bends, but if we fire up the muscles a little we do back-bends with stability, okay. So on my knees, the knees are under our hip bones, inhale, reach your arms forward, exhale, gently fold back. Inhale all the way up, hands to the back, exhale, and do your little back-bend. Inhale, hands forward, exhale back, inhale up, exhale back, inhale up again, hands forward, exhale, inhale back, hands towards your lumbar, lift up the heart.

Last time, inhale, exhale, oh, yeah. Come all the way up again, last back-bend. Inhale and exhale, hold. Inhale all the way up, sit and just (exhaling) cause that can be a little hard. So let's come up to all fours again.

We're gonna do a little, we've been doing some shoulder openers so let's try this Pincha MayÅ«rÄ쳌sana. Forearms down, I will choose to turn my hands up, maybe you choose to keep them down. Tuck in your toes, lift gently your sit bones, up towards the sky and walk forward with your feet. Some of us will keep the knees bent gently. I'm gonna try to stretch them out a little, maybe one at a time, just like in dog.

And then settle with the feet, settle with the legs. Lift the heart up through your foundation, so ground your arms, biceps drawing in towards the mid-line, soften in the head without getting the head onto the floor, just a gentle gaze forward. Okay, inhale one more time here. And start walking back, this time I'll turn my hands down and stay here. So again, a healthy back-bend is done with firing up the muscles first, lift the hips and roll.

So this maybe looks easy, but it's not, so roll to the other side, one more time, heart lifted, and come down. Back to our sphinx and this time we're just move into our form, exhale and gently drop again. Reach your arms forward, stretch your fingertips out towards your heel and come back with our arms. So this time, take your right arm under your left arm, and get your head down again, forehead to the floor or to your hand for some this is really intense, for others it doesn't really feel that much. We're all different, if this is the way you sleep then people it feels just good.

So we're stretching the outside of our shoulder. One more inhale here, exhale completely. As you lift, lift very gently. Inhale, bring your arm back. Let's just pause for a breath.

Okay, lift up, take your left arm out towards the side, forehead on the hands. And breathe, soften in the lower back. Two more inhales, as you inhale next time to lift, just very gently bring your arm back. Pause. Hands under your shoulders and come all the way up to your down dog, tuck your toes in.

Seat back, lift up, knees bent to begin with and walk yourself into your down dog. Gaze forward, take one big step, take another, place the feet hip-width apart, bend gently your knees and hang here for a little while. Inhale, straighten your back, side by long, soften the back of knees, exhale, fold. Inhale, roll up, exhale, fold. Last time, roll forward, bend the knees, hand to your hips and lift all the way up to standing.

And pause just a couple of breaths so you notice where you are in the sequence, notice where you are and in your body and arrive to this new now. Inhale, take your hands up over your head, exhale, fold down towards the Earth. Inhale, side, body elongates forward. Exhale, take your left foot back from here heel lifted, inhale, lift up to your high lunge. Exhale, stretch out the front leg.

Inhale, lift, exhale, arms down. Inhale lift, maybe a little back-bend deeper. Exhale down. One more time, inhale, lift. Hold.

So you're rooting down into your feet, your hips are stable. Lift your navel up towards your heart side, body long and your fingertips they go up towards the sky all the way down from you heels. It's a growing from inside. And reach, all toes pointing towards the long side of the mat, hands towards your hips. Inhale, lift, exhale, fold.

So let's take our left hand under our face, place the right hand on your sacrum, wobble a little so you feel the difference between being a little bit open on your left side, a little bit more open on your right. Can you get those hip stable parallel root down into both feet, the big toe side, the outer heel, lift the navel towards your heart and from your heart open up towards your right. I like this variation, keeping my hand on my sacrum, some of us enjoy lifting the arm up. Imagine you're doing a high-five with a friend and so push your hands out. And come all the way down, inhale, open, exhale, release.

Let's do the other side, inhale. Right hand under your face, left hand on the sacrum, lift the navel up towards your heart, root down into your feet, inside of the thighs, draw towards each other while the outside of the hips root down towards the outer-heels. From here, lift your heart up towards the sky, towards the left side. Your left shoulder is giving you the way. Maybe you enjoy lifting your hand, if so imagine your pressing your hand towards the wall.

There's a high-five over there. Inhale, exhale, fold, inhale, lift. Walk over towards your right foot again, lift up the back heel, come back to your crescent pose. Inhale, lift up, and let's fold for a vinyasa. Hands on each side of the foot, bring yourself to dog.

From dog lift your left foot up towards the sky, swing it all the way in-between your hands. Inhale, lift your arms up. Exhale, arms down, straighten the front leg. Inhale, lift up. Exhale, one more time.

Inhale, lift up. Exhale, arms down, straighten the front leg. Let's do it one more last time. Inhale, lift up and let's hold here, taking the back heels way back. Rooting down into your feet and as you root down into your feet can you soften a little.

It's like your being ... allowed to let go. Lift the heart up towards your fingertips, widen your arms, shoulder blades down and under. Come all the way, oop, toes pointing towards the long side of the mat, so I'll turn so you can see me. From here, inhale, hands towards the hips, lift up, exhale, fold.

Let's do that twist again. Inhale, lift the heart forward, place your left hand under your face, right hand onto your sacrum and turn gently over to one side. If you had your hand on your sacrum the last time, maybe you want to experiment with lifting your arm. If you have your arm lifted, experiment with keeping your hand on your sacrum. One more inhale.

Exhale, turn down. Elongate your spine and release. Shake your head a little, it's nice for the neck. Inhale back, replace our right fingertips under the face, the left hand on our sacrum and twist. Again, what did we do last time?

It's okay to do it differently this time. It can even be interesting. Inhale, on your exhale gaze down, let's walk over to the short side of the mat. I'm gonna do a little party switch so that I have my left foot forward. Inhale, lift up.

Exhale, fold. Again we'll go back to dog. From dog roll yourself to your plank, bend the elbows, hips down towards the Earth. Finger tips a little forward, inhale, lift up. Exhale fold, so let's take a swan and lift the navel, lift the heart, lift the feet, exhale down.

One more time, lift the navel, lift the heart, lift the face and down. Bring yourself up to dog. Walk your feet just a little. Wobble and as you're ready, when you're ready, place your knees down towards the Earth. Knees go out, big toes touching, sit-bones towards the heels and settle.

Soften in your child's pose, soften around the skin, around your heart. We're gonna be lifting up for dog. So tuck your toes in, lift up, bring your right knee over to your right wrist, placing the foot over to the left. Take back your left foot, I like to keep my back toes tucked in so I can keep that little muscular energy going on. Drawing the front leg back and the back leg towards the front, lifting the pelvis and without collapse gently lower, lift the heart.

Some of us like to grab the back leg here. If you do, press the foot back into your hand, a little slight bend elbow. Keep your heart forward, we have a tendency to want to go back here because it's a position that wants us to externally rotate the hips. Yeah, let go of that. Inhale, lift the heart up.

Exhale, lift to your dog. Let's do the other side. Left knee towards the left wrist, foot points out towards the right. Come up on your fingertips this will give you a little, again, freedom in the shoulders. You can press back gently, tuck your back toes in.

Lift up, if you feel that you've got some muscular engagement there then without out collapse, without letting go of your integrity, let your pelvis just settle down. Lifting the heart. If you feel your breathing is getting difficult then lower so you have that opening and try again. Shoulders back, shoulder blades behind the heart. Maybe lift the back leg, take a hold of it, as you've taken hold of it, turn your heart forward again.

Pressing the foot into your hand, spread the toes, softening your face. Ah, let gently the foot come down to the Earth again. And our last dog. So walking it here is nice after doing those hip openers. Gaze towards the front, bring your left foot forward and your right, that was actually my right and my left.

(laughing) Come to sitting. Let's get on our back. Ah. We'll be aiming for a full bridge. But let's just start with a half-bridge to get ourselves started.

So from here, our heels under our knees and I'm not really quite sure where that is cause I can't really see it, just get a sense of it. Usually it feels stable. Robot arms, fingertips pointing up. So when you root down into your upper arms you get this lift and your back-bends already here. So from here, a little arch in your back, keep that and lift the hips from the floor.

You're lifting from the outer hips, let the inner thighs keep going down. Or their direction is down. If you'd like, lift your toes, that's quite nice to come up. Maybe you scoop your shoulders in, keep your chin away from your chest. Some of us like to clasp our fingers along the floor.

Maybe walk in with your feet. Inhale, exhale and soften. Inhale, maybe the deepening isn't really showing. Maybe it's an inner deepening. Exhale and soften.

One more breath here. Soften in your eyes. As you release from bridge, come back up to your robot arms, raise the shoulders gently and roll down. Settle for a breathe or two. Now the option is to do the exact same pose that we just did.

If you want to go into full bridge, the sequencing is the same. So let's start with robot arms, lifting the heart, tuck in the shoulders gently, maybe you lift the heels already, here, I like to keep them down till I'm up. Lift the heart, lift the navel, the hips will help you up. If you're going for the full thing, place your hands under your shoulders, fingertips pointing down. Start by coming up, place the top of your head gently on the floor so you can just arrange your hands and lift up from the floor.

Yeah, the heart is trying to work towards what you're seeing. (laughing) in that direction. Root down into your feet, some of us have a tendency to open up and the knees go out to our side, try to keep the balance the same, inner thighs down. Soften in your breath, let the breath come to you. One more inhale.

Coming down, come up on your forehead, release, then roll it out. Ah, take a deep inhale, exhale completely. Some of us like to bring in the legs, hug in the legs right away. I like to just savor this for awhile, marinate in the back-bend. And gently sway the knees side-to-side.

Inhale up, exhale fold. Inhale up, exhale fold. Last time. Inhale up. Okay, let's bring the right leg up.

Hug the thigh, below the knee joint, soften in your shoulders. Spread your toes wide and the lower leg, the leg that's on the floor, keep the toes pointing up. The outer hip on the lift leg is gently going down. And change. Some of us like to stay here.

If it's appropriate for you, if you're lower back likes it, you can stretch out the leg. Soften in the shoulders, soften in your face. And gently fold. So either you stay in constructive rest, we're almost there, we're almost at Å?avÄ쳌sana. I like to lift the hips off the floor with a block before settling in to Å?avÄ쳌sana.

So I have a block here, we were just in pose and it's just a simple lift of the hips and you can let the block come in under your sacrum. Get comfortable there. Arms out towards the side and this is a variation of a pose called Viparītakara�i. We lift up the feet towards the sky. Take a moment to thank your feet for the sequence, thank you for holding me today.

Soften the knees, try to let go of the muscular energy and the muscular integration without collapsing. Just letting the body hold itself for you. Notice how the exhale's easier. Okay, so gently coming down, bend the knees, place the feet towards the floor again. Lift the hips and get that block over to the side.

Notice the effect once you've come down on your back, notice the effect. I get the feeling that my spine just got longer, more spacious, more room. Let your heart breathe, as you're ready reach out your legs for Å?avÄ쳌sana. Listen to your inhale, listen to your exhale. Allow that to be the only thing on your mind while the body just settles in for you.

Soften behind the eyes. So maybe you stay longer here, it is a nice pose. It really is beneficial to just lie here but if you feel like it's time to get up then again I like to roll to one side, get one leg up, roll to the other, get the other leg up. And roll over to one side. Pause.

(exhaling) And gently bring yourself to seated position, cross your legs, soften in your face, arrive at this new moment of this ending of this sequence and the beginning of something new. Bring your hands to your heart, thank you for being with me today. See you again soon.


Johanna L
2 people like this.
Deeply touched by this session. I realize that there are so many things with yoga ( I´.m new at this ) that I like and need. To shortly describe. I love the language ; "lift your heart" - this is so strong and beautiful! "freedom in your shoulders" - yes, I want that. And the open attitude; "try this if it feels better for you" , and then: the moves in it. There are "poses" that I haven't made since I was a child. They are hard But I try . It´s also interesting moving into new poses that I never have been in. I´m learning to know my own body in new ways. I like this a lot. Thank You Alexandra for this
Alexandra Kambler
We're in this together! Thank you so much for sharing Johanna! It really warms a yogini heart be take part of your journey
Tina B
1 person likes this.
Thank you so much for this beautiful practice! I'm feeling more grounded and at home in my body now I've finished. Your gentle guidance helped me connect to my body and feel more relaxed and alive all at the same time. I'm really enjoying discovering your teaching Alexandra. Looking forward to trying your other videos.
Alexandra Kambler
So happy you enjoyed it Tina !!
Janet L
1 person likes this.
wooow Alexandra Kambler just delicious.... thank your clases, Namaste
Alexandra Kambler
Thank you for connecting Janet ! So happy you enjoy the show!
1 person likes this.
I love the pace of your classes. I feel I have the freedom to explore postures in a new way. Thank you Alexandra.
Alexandra Kambler
Ali 🙏🏽
Sandra Židan
Thanks, Alexandra, for this beautiful practice from the bottom of my heart! Namaste!
Alexandra Kambler

You need to be a subscriber to post a comment.

Please Log In or Create an Account to start your free trial.

Footer Yoga Anytime Logo

Just Show Up

Over 2,900 yoga and meditation practices to bring you Home.

15-Day Free Trial