When Backwards is Good!

Common Backbend Poses as demonstrated by our most recent Fusion Yoga Teacher Graduates, descriptions below.

Embrace the Backbend for good spinal health! Backbends are energizing, hip, chest and heart openers, increase oxygen to the body, strengthen our back body, and help us focus. They are great counterposes for our Forward Bends/Flexion Spinal Movement which compress the frontal spine, as backbends compress the back side of the vertebrae.

But, all Backbends must be done carefully, not thrusting the weight of the head backwards, instead engage the front of the neck with Jalandhara Bandha. Only the upper body above the hips should lean backwards with your core and neck firmly engaged, the Mula and Uddiyana Bandhas, to protect your lower back. Bandhas are energy locks to preserve flow of prana, our vital life energy. I recommend an inhale as you initiate a backbend and fill the lungs as you open the chest. Use caution if you have any neck or back injuries/pain or pregnancy.

Common Back Bends from least intense to more advanced in each category: (Image illustrates poses with * by Fusion Yoga Teacher Graduates)

Front body facing down (Prone)

Sphinx - Salambha Bhugangasana - tops of feet and hips grounded, thighs, glutes and abdomen engaged, elbows grounded under shoulders, forearms down, fingers forward, gently lift your head and chest off the mat, shoulders back and down, chest forward, chin engaged. For less intensity, move elbows forward  

Cobra - Bhujangasana - Same as Sphinx but palms grounded under shoulders, fingertips forward, gently lift your head and chest off the mat, shoulders back and down, chest forward, chin engaged, lift hands off mat for Baby Cobra. For less intensity, hands down and more forward for shoulders.

Upward Facing Dog - Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - same preparation as Cobra but knees and thighs gently lift from the mat as you ground down more with feet and hands, Pada and Hasta Bandha

Locust - Half or Full Shalabhasana - legs extended aligned with hip, arms by sides, lift legs, arms, chest and head, hands reaching toward back, drawing shoulders back. For less intensity, hands down. 

Bow* - Half or Full* - Dhanurasana - bending knees, feet lift, hands connect with tops of feet to lift legs and upper body, draw knees and feet into center


Crescent Lunge* - Ashta Chandrasana - high lunge but upper body and arms moving backwards 

Dancer - Natarajasana - balance on one grounded leg from mountain pose, lift other foot, bend knee, same side hand connects with foot, align knees then lift foot behind you and chest upwards, other hand reaches forward, palm up

On back

Bridge* Setu Bhandha Sarvangasana - knees bent aligned with hips, feet parallel under knees, lift tail bone then each vertebra slowly to the shoulders, head stays down

Fish - Matsyasana - legs extended, palms under hips, forearms down, lift chest with head down

Wheel/Upward Facing Bow - Urdhva Dhanurasana- (advanced pose) - See Yoga Instructor for guidance and assistance if inexperienced.


Puppy/Heart Melting - Uttana Shishosana - hands walk forward of the shoulders, hips stay above knees, chest descends below the hips, elbows lifted or forearms down for less intensity.

Cow - Bitilasana - palms face down under shoulders, fingers forward, feet aligned with knees, initiate at hips as you drop the belly then chest and head lifts last.

Camel* - Ustrasana - feet, knees, hips and shoulders aligned, hands supporting lower back, upper body and head leans backward while hips stabilized.  

So many options to explore! As with all spinal movements, listen to your body, know your limits in the bend, not pushing too deeply to avoid potential injury. Then enjoy the the gift of mindfully opening your heart and body to discover the energizing possibilities and find your deepest expression and the most benefits.

Mindfully, Breathe. Move. Connect.


Fusion Owner, Registered Yoga Teacher, Reiki Master Teacher, R.N.

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