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Learn to Love Backbends With Jessamyn Stanley

Ahhh, backbends... The ultimate cure for hunched-at-your-desk-all-day posture, but where to start?  Jessamyn Stanley (@mynameisjessamyn), yoga teacher, body advocate and all around dynamo personality talks us through four supported poses to experience a truly heart-opening practice. 

You’ll need: a supportive yoga mat and two blocks. (We suggest the Manduka PRO and our Recycled Foam Blocks.)

First let’s be clear: using props isn’t a sign of weakness. They’re great tools for deepening your practice and they allow us to modify and open in places the body isn’t used to. They’re amazing for rooting down, opening the chest and back, and supporting core strength. For backbends, I have blocks next to me at all times.

Jessamyn Stanley

Begin with one block supporting the upper back between the shoulder blades. You can place it horizontally or vertically, whichever feels best for you. Let your neck relax down onto the mat, and allow your arms and knees to fall away from the center of the body. Stay here for a few breaths, allowing the heart to open. When you’re done here, remove the block.

Next we move to bridge pose with the blocks. The block will help you root down, and offer support to your core strength.

Jessamyn Stanley

Root down through the feet, start to lift the pelvis up, and slide a block underneath your sacrum. Let the shoulders rock down to the mat. Draw your knees together, aligning the knee over the ankle. Root in through the shoulders and let the backs of your arms anchor on the mat. The back of the throat melts down to the ground, the neck relaxes, and the chin starts to drift away from the heart. Ahhhhhhhhh...

To go deeper, keep the block under your sacrum and root down while lifting the left leg through the midline of the body, towards the sky, and flex your toes at the top. Stay here for a few breaths and allow the legs to drain. Switch sides and do the same with the right leg. Lift the right left towards the sky, making sure toes are flexed and stay here for a few breaths. You can even lift both legs over head at the same time, again, rooted down through the back of your arms, shoulders rolled down to the mat, neck relaxed, with the chin drifting lightly away from the chest. Come down and rest for a few breaths.

This is dope because you’re setting yourself up for the pelvic raise needed to move into back bends. Backbends require a lot of core strength, so blocks will support the core as you lead up to full back bend.

Jessamyn Stanley

The blocks under the hands in wheel pose can give you really helpful additional height. Backbends can be hard on your wrists, so this is nice to set up to work to get your head up off the ground. If you’re near a wall, it’s great to set the short side of the block up against the wall for anchoring.

Set your hands up on the block, fingertips pointed toward your heels. Rooting through the hands and feet, imagine there is a string pulling your pelvis to the sky. Lift up through the pelvis, arch the back, and anchor down through those blocks. Play around here, come down, and try the process again, arching your back and lifting your head, to work up to a full backbend. When you feel ready, remove the blocks, root down through the feet and hands and lift your core to the sky.

Remember: wherever you are today, that’s the place to be. Keep an open mind, an open heart and an open back.

Jessamyn Stanley

Jessamyn Stanley, seen above exploring backbends with the help of our AligN Yoga Strap, began practicing four years ago in her hometown of Durham, North Carolina. She now travels the world teaching yoga and inspiring others to ask “How Do I Feel?” rather than “How Do I Look?” 

One thought on “Learn to Love Backbends With Jessamyn Stanley”

  • Thank you for sharing, I feel confident that I can do it. Thanks for making it look so easy, and for saying it is okay to use props!


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