I really wanted to share one of my favourite ways to stretch with you today. Doing back bends once a day can dramatically increase your energy, strength, get you toned and release tension in your back. They can help you see your life from a different perspective and challenge you to do things with your body that you never thought possible. They’re also surprisingly easy to do– but unfortunately all too often we do backbends incorrectly, and I am here to fix this issue.
The problem? We often stretch our back the wrong way.
There is very simple logic in this. When we work our bodies in a good way, making sure everything is setup properly, we reap the benefits. We treat our bodies well, they do us well. We treat our bodies badly, they get injured. We feel pain. When we bend through our backs with the proper alignment we can reap incredible benefits for our bodies. But unfortunately I see backbends done wrong way too often, especially in yoga classes. Most of us dump all of our weight into our lower backs because it’s the easiest place to bend from, which causes lower back pain. So I wanted to end the brutality that I’ve been seeing, dumping unnecessary stress into the lower back. Let’s take back the back bend so that we can actually enjoy it!
The solution: The Right Way to Stretch Your Back
When done properly, stretching your back has incredible benefits. Back bends can help you relieve tension in your shoulders, open up your chest, tone your upper body, reverse the negative effects of professional sitting and provide a quick energy boost to your system. Ultimately, if you have a stronger and bendier back you can decrease your risk of injury. And there are WAY too many of us with back pain, so why wouldn’t you want to prevent it?
1. Engage your core
Engaging your core (the muscles around your belly button) in a back bend helps to protect your lower back muscles. Always squeeze these muscles when you bend backwards to avoid any lower back pain in the future
2. Get your body in line the right way
Keep your knees in line with your hips, wrists always in line with your shoulders. This way you take pressure off of your joints, making your muscles do all of the work (and making them toned, too!). Especially watch that your feet are always in one straight line, parallel and hip distance. Your toes should never point out to the sides, that creates tension and pain in the lower back. If you feel like you want to bring your toes out, engage your inner thighs to help them stay in line. Backbends aren’t just about the back muscles, they require help from all of your muscles in your body!
3. Squeeze your upper back muscles
You really want to feel your upper back muscles squeezing, and even burning. When you can feel them, that means they’re working. Most of us either have no strength or no flexibility in our upper backs, and it’s about time that we start stretching our shoulders back periodically so that we can start to develop that strength and flexibility. Don’t forget to breathe through this one, too. The more you can stay where you are, squeeze your muscles and breathe, the better the back bend will get.
4. Stick your chest out
If you feel like you can’t squeeze your shoulders back, try sticking your chest out forward. This will help you to create a curve through your spine and will increase your bend. As long as you can engage your core and repeat all of the other steps above, this extra curve shouldn’t bother your lower back.
If you practice all of these steps consistently you’ll be rocking a pain free back bend with all of it’s health benefits in no time! If you want more help with bending into that upper back, check out my 5 minute beginner back bending video here or my how to series on back bends here.
Now tell me, because I would love to help…what stretches do you most struggle with?
PS– I have an awesome community going on on Facebook where I can give you extra support with this, you can join right here.