There are many benefits to practicing backbends. By bringing the spine into extension, they help improve your posture and strengthen your back muscles. Additionally, backbends also help open up the front body—they help release your quadriceps and hip flexors, stretch the abdominals, and open up the chest and shoulders.
Backbends are also particularly energizing. They squeeze your adrenal glands, and can also help stimulate and balance a variety of hormones in your body. Doing backbends in the morning can help you start your day right.
We’ve listed down 5 backbends for energy. Check them out below—and don’t forget to do a forward fold and twist to help balance out your practice!
1. Supported Heart Opener
Take two yoga blocks towards the back edge of your mat, where your head usually lays during savasana. Put one block at the highest or tallest height, and the second block at the medium height. Sit a few inches away from the blocks, then lay the back of your head on the tallest block and your upper-mid back on the lowest block. Let the backs of your shoulders relax, and let your chest open up to the sky. Soften the ribcage and lower belly.
Keep the soles of your feet on the mat, with your knees bent and pointing up to the ceiling. You can also take the soles of your feet together and open your knees out into butterfly, if you would like to open up your hips. You can also extend the feet forward, to further release the lower back.
If you do not have any yoga blocks, you can simply take a thick pillow or cushion underneath your mid to upper back and just lay down to open up the chest. Stay here for a few breaths, before rolling off your blocks and coming upright.
2. Baby Cobra
Lie down on your belly and press your hipbones down. Take your palms next to the sides of your ribs. Squeeze the elbows towards the back of the room, and pull your shoulders away from your ears. Engage your upper back muscles, and lengthen your neck towards the top of your mat. Continue to lift up through the chest. Point your toes back, engage your quadriceps, and hug the belly in.
If you would like an added challenge, hover your palms an inch away from the mat. You will instantly feel the upper back muscles wake up and engage. Stay here for 5 to 8 breaths, before releasing and resting your forehead onto the mat.
3. Upward Facing Dog
From Baby Cobra, straighten the arms. Engage the biceps as you press the palms down. Draw the shoulders back and pull the chest forward. Draw the lower belly in and keep the abs engaged. Lift the thighs away from the mat as you push the tops of your feet down.
To release the neck, you can look over the right and the left shoulder or make circles with the head. From upward facing dog, you can tuck the toes and push the hips up into downward facing dog—a forward fold that helps counterbalance this deep, stretchy backbend.
Come upright on your knees with your toes tucked onto your mat. Gently press your hands onto your sacrum, and push your hips forward. Continue to push your hips forward as you press your chest up towards the ceiling. Stay here, or reach your hands towards your ankles. If you have the space to come deeper into the pose, untuck your toes and rest the tops of your feet onto the mat.
If you have a hard time reaching for your ankles, you can rest your hands on yoga blocks (or books) instead. To exit out of the pose, simply take your hands onto your sacrum once more, tuck the chin into your chest, and roll the spine upright.
Do child’s pose as a counterpose, or perform a seated twist.
Lie down on the mat with the soles of your feet on the floor and your knees pointing up to the ceiling. Press actively onto your feet. Turn the palms down and flat on the mat, then press them firmly onto the mat. Lift your hips up towards the sky, until they come higher than your chest.
Interlace the fingers underneath your hips, press down through the fists. Lift the chest up towards the sky and draw the belly in. Lengthen the tailbone forward as you squeeze the inner thighs together. Stay here for a few breaths, before lowering the hips back towards the earth and extending your legs into savasana.
For a more restorative version of bridge pose, you can take a yoga block, pillow, or stack of cushions underneath your hips. You can stay here for a minute or two, before removing the block or pillow and releasing your hips back towards the earth.