The yoga classes that I teach are power/vinyasa style with a heavy emphasis on flow. We spend the majority of the class doing standing work and then spend the last 10-25 minutes on the floor at the end of class depending on the length of the class. In an hour long class we really only have 10 minutes for hip openers, final inversion, twisting and savasana but in a 90 minute class I have a lot more time for floor work and can make sure that we hit all the major muscle groups. Typically, I fit backbends into the breaks during the standing sequence and we go all out with things like bridge, wheel, camel, bow, etc. but occasionally I like to wait until the end of the standing work and put everyone into supported backbends using blocks once I get them down to the floor.
I love supported backbends because they feel amazing. I use these backbends not only in my yoga classes but also with my training clients and CrossFitters. Once I get people into this position they pretty much melt into a puddle and I could leave them there forever.
Supported bridge (demonstrated in the two photos above) is great for releasing tension and tightness in the low back and for creating a feeling of openness and space in the lumbar area. Supported bridge is a very passive and restorative backbend so it’s very appropriate for those who experience discomfort in deeper backbends. I go over this in the video but you can control the intensity of this backbend by how high you place the block under you. The lower the block, the gentler the backbend.
I love this variation of supported backbending that focuses on upper backbending. It’s a great heart and upper thoracic opener. If everyone did this for 5 minutes at the end of every day after spending the day hunched over a computer and steering wheel we would have a lot less rounded and tight shoulders!
The beauty of these two backbends is their simplicity. You can do them anywhere and anytime with minimal equipment and they feel so amazing. Don’t have a yoga block? Use a rolled up blanket, your yoga mat, a foam roller…whatever you have on hand. I often encourage my students to take these supported options in class if they’re not feeling their backbends that day. I have a yoga private client who I’ve worked with for almost two years and I think that supported bridge is his favorite part of every session. He always asks, “Is it time for supported bridge yet?”
I made a video to talk through how to get into these two supported backbends along with instructions and options for block placement.
If you’ve never tried using a block for your backbends definitely give this a shot and then thank me! 😉 Even if you’re not a yogi these are great poses to do to help with tight backs and shoulders.
What is your favorite backbend variation in yoga?