How to Do a Yoga Backbend and 10 Poses to Help Get You There

In order to be able to do a backbend, you need total-body strength and flexibility.
Image Credit: Bonfanti Diego/Image Source/GettyImages

Learning how to perfect a backbend can be quite a wild journey, but when you're finally able to do so, it's definitely rewarding.

Advertisement

An essential component in a balanced yoga practice, backbends offer up an array of benefits that can help improve both your physical and mental wellbeing when practiced regularly, like increased energy and total-body strength and flexibility.

Advertisement

But don't worry if you aren't yet strong enough or flexible enough to do one. We've got you covered with 10 captivating and heart-opening poses to help build strength in your core, back, shoulders, chest and hips. These poses will also relieve tension, fatigue, tightness, pain and can improve posture and mobility.

Advertisement

When practiced, the following yoga poses each target all of the aforementioned areas and are great exercises to incorporate in your daily practice if you want to do a perfect backbend. Hold each pose below for 5 to 10 breaths.

Warning

Despite how beneficial these poses can be, you need to correctly prepare your body for more advanced backbends, like wheel pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana), and practice them with awareness and caution. Otherwise, you can actually cause more harm to your body that can potentially lead to serious injuries.

Always talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine or yoga practice.

1. Cat-Cow Pose (Marjaiasana Bitilasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Begin on your hands and knees.
  2. Exhale as you round your back, pull your bellybutton in toward your spine and tuck your chin toward your chest.
  3. Starting at your tailbone, release one segment of your spine at a time, relaxing through the lumbar spine, thoracic spine (mid-back) and finally, your cervical spine as you lift your chin upward into full flexion.
  4. Then reverse the motion. Be aware of what segments feel stuck. Breathe into these spaces and remember to move slowly.
  5. Continue to move between cat and cow pose, letting your body move with your breath for 5 to 10 breaths.

Related Reading

2. Reverse Plank (Purvottanasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
  1. Sit on the ground with your legs extended. Place your hands on the ground slightly behind you. Point your fingers toward your feet.
  2. Drive your heels into the ground and lift your hips up into alignment with your legs and chest. Rest on your heels and palms, fingers spread.
  3. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to hips to feet. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders.
  4. Gaze straight up toward the ceiling. Keep your chin off your chest, but make sure that your head isn’t collapsing toward the floor.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

Related Reading

3. Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
  1. Start on all fours (tabletop pose) and lower your forearms to your mat, with your arms shoulder-width apart and parallel with one another.
  2. Press into the palms of your hands and forearms.
  3. Tuck your toes and lift your hips up and back.
  4. Draw your shoulders down your spine away from your ears. Elongate your spine and extend the backs of your legs only as far as your hamstrings allow.
  5. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then bring your knees back down to the ground and return to tabletop pose.

Tip

If dolphin pose seems to be too challenging, a great alternative to this pose is the foundational pose, downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana).

4. Low Lunge With Quad Stretch (Anjaneyasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. From downward-facing dog, inhale as you raise up your right leg and step your right foot forward to the top of your mat.
  2. Lower your left knee down to your mat to get come into a low lunge. Your feet should be hip-width apart on separate tracks (they shouldn't line up front to back). Your left and right toes should both point forward.
  3. Keep your spine long by lifting your heart and extending the crown of your head away from your tailbone.
  4. Allow your hips to shift forward and down. You should feel a gentle hip flexor stretch.
  5. Breathe slowly and deeply as you reach for the back foot (feel free to use a yoga strap to assist here) and bring the sole toward your hamstring.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then repeat on the other side.

5. Wild Thing Pose (Camatkarasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
  1. Begin in a high plank, then move into a side plank by rolling onto the outer edge of your right foot and placing your right hand directly beneath your shoulder.
  2. Externally rotate your arm, allowing your elbow to face towards your feet as your reach your left arm to the sky.
  3. Lift your upper leg, bend your knee and place your foot behind you with your heel lifted.
  4. Rotate your chest upward and ground down through your foot planted in the mat.
  5. Externally rotate your raised arm with your palm facing backward and reach overhead.
  6. Extend through your side body and lifting your hips more as you engage your core.
  7. Set your gaze at your mat or look up toward the ceiling.
  8. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
  9. Release and repeat on other side.

6. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Core and Lower Body
  1. Lie face-down on the floor with your arms resting by your sides and the palms of your hands facing downward.
  2. Turn your legs in toward each other to ensure your knees point directly toward the floor.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and inhale as you lift your head, chest, arms and legs off the floor.
  4. Extend your arms and legs behind you, arms parallel to the floor.
  5. Keep your head in a neutral position as you lift up as high as possible while your pelvis and lower abdominals stabilize your body on your mat.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

7. Camel Pose (Utrasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Core
  1. Kneel with your knees hip-width apart, thighs perpendicular to the floor and hips open.
  2. Place your hands on your lower back with your elbows bent and your fingers pointed toward your glutes.
  3. Lean your shoulders and upper torso backward, opening your chest and pushing forward with your hips.
  4. As you exhale, drop back, press your pelvis upward and elongate your spine.
  5. Press your shoulder blades back and lean slightly to the right as you reach your right hand toward your right heel or yoga block.
  6. Lean slightly to the left as you reach your left hand toward your left heel. Fingers should be pointed toward your toes.
  7. Drop your head back and relax your throat.
  8. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.

8. Pigeon Pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Lower Body
  1. From downward-facing dog, lift your right foot off the floor and raise your leg toward the ceiling.
  2. Bend your right knee and bring it forward, in between your hands.
  3. Place your right leg on the floor with your knee still bent, lowering your shin and thigh to the floor.
  4. Extend your left leg behind you, hips facing forward and chest lifted.
  5. Press down into the floor with your hips and use your fingertips on the floor for balance, holding for 5 to 10 breaths.
  6. Come back into downward-facing dog before repeating with your other leg.

Related Reading

9. Cow-Face Pose (Gomukhasana)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
  1. Start in a cross-legged seated position and bring the heel of your bottom leg to the outside of your opposite hip. Use your hand to pull your other heel in toward your body so you can stack your knees (no worries if your knees don’t completely stack).
  2. Sit up tall and make sure your glutes are grounded down into your mat.
  3. Reach one arm up, bend at the elbow and touch the middle of your back.
  4. Reach the opposite arm out to the side with your thumb facing down to internally rotate your arm and bring that hand behind you to hook your fingers together. Depending on your shoulder and chest flexibility, if you’re unable to hook your fingers together, use a yoga strap or a towel to help bridge the gap between your hands.
  5. Lift your chest high while reaching your top elbow up and drawing your back elbow down towards your mat.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths, then switch sides.

10. Sage Pose (Marichyasana III)

JW Player placeholder image
Activity Yoga
Region Full Body
  1. Come to staff pose — a seated pose with your legs extended directly in front of you.
  2. Sitting up straight and grounding down through your glutes, draw your right heel back, close to the right glute.
  3. Keeping your left leg extended and active with your left foot flexed and toes pointing back toward your body, inhale as you lift your left arm to the ceiling and bring your right hand to the mat behind your right hip.
  4. Exhale and twist to the right, hooking your left elbow to the outside of your right knee.
  5. Inhale and continue to lengthen through your spine.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
  7. Release by retuning back to staff pose and repeat on other side.

How to Do a Backbend Safely

Backbends don't typically come easy for most people given that our backs aren't meant to bend backwards. However, that doesn't mean we can't or shouldn't practice backbends at all — especially since they offer a ton of benefits.

Advertisement

When incorporating backbends into your yoga practice, be sure to practice with awareness and caution. Remember to always wam up your body (especially your spine) before attempting any backbend and complement your backbends by doing cooldown poses, such as twists and hip openers.

Advertisement

As mentioned earlier, other great exercises that can help you prepare for a perfect backbend are poses that target your upper body, thighs and hips. To avoid potential injuries, be sure to avoid holding backbend poses for a long period of time (no longer than 5 to 10 breaths) and don't repeat the same backbend more than three times in a row.

Advertisement

Breathe and stretch to your comfortability, avoiding straining or forcing yourself into a backbend, and stop if you feel any pain. As always, if you have a medical concern, talk your doctor first before starting a yoga practice.

  1. Lie on your back and bend your knees so your feet are flat on the floor. Move them as close as you can to your glutes.
  2. Reach your arms up over your head and bend your elbows so your palms are flat on the ground beneath your shoulders. Point your fingers toward your feet.
  3. Pushing through your hands and feet, lift your hips up off the ground and lightly rest on the top of your head.
  4. Straighten your arms and lift your bellybutton toward the ceiling.
  5. Your feet should be parallel next to each other. Make sure your knees are aligned with your feet.
  6. Breathe and hold the pose for 5 to 10 breaths.
  7. To get out of the pose, tuck your chin into your chest to lower yourself to the floor.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Report an Issue

screenshot of the current page

Screenshot loading...