Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
After years of watching students push through their resistance and muscle their way into backbends, Annie Carpenter, a vinyasa flow teacher from Los Angeles, suggests a decidedly different approach. First, encourage soft receptivity in your front body. Then, integrate this softness with the strength of your back muscles, and enjoy a gentle opening into deeper backbends.
To help set a gentle, receptive tone for the backbending sequence on the following pages, Carpenter begins with an unexpected pose: Savasana. She suggests that you continue the quiet, self-reflective quality of Corpse Pose as you begin to lengthen and stabilize your lower back with Ardha Navasana (Half Boat Pose).
Move with the pulse of your breath throughout the sequence, and when the practice progresses to more challenging poses, engage the muscles of your back body while retaining the receptivity of your front body. Approach the full version of Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose) from a place of ease, rather than overworking, and open to this challenging backbend as if you were still in that initial Savasana.
Carpenter’s suggestions can be used as a blueprint for more difficult backbends, but she’s interested in more than getting you into a bigger pose. Her practice invites you to see, in your practice and in your life, that strength balanced with receptivity can lead to graceful new openings. Happy New Year!
Chest-Opening and Backbending Sequence
To Begin: Support new openings. Sit on a block in Virasana (Hero Pose). Take your hands in reverse prayer or interlace them behind you. Breathe deeply and slowly, looking inward. Feel your back body move inward to support the lift of your chest. Connect with all those who have come before you, who have brought you to this moment and guided you on this path.
To End: Express gratitude. Take Balasana (Child’s Pose). Enjoy the aftertaste of Cobra Pose, grateful for the blessings of new openings.