Yoga backbends promote hip flexibility and encourage thoracic spine mobility, but their benefits extend beyond the body and into the mind. “Unlike forward bends, backbends open up the heart and throat chakra, which targets communication, articulation, and speaking your truth,” says Bee Bosnak, a yoga and meditation instructor at Equinox locations in New York City.
These postures may be more difficult to move into if you sit at a desk all day or have chronic low-back pain. That said, not all backbends are Scorpion-level and there’s no need to rush into them. One trick to try: Start every backbend with a neutral spine, then proceed to a backward tilt of the pelvis. This will decompress the spine, relieving pressure in your lumbar section where many people experience aches.
Below, Bosnak demonstrates three series that start with a beginner backbend and progress into intermediate and advanced poses. “Practicing these sequences will amplify your energy, both physically and emotionally, and help you be more extroverted and open to possibility,” she says.
Choose a sequence and perform it in the morning or early afternoon, but avoid doing so at night since they’re stimulating. First, warm up and prep the spine with 5 to 7 slow breaths in Cat/Cow, Bridge, and Cobra. Then aim to hold each pose in a three-part sequence for 5 to 7 slow breaths, moving straight from one to the next. If you can’t complete the full series, practice the beginner pose a few times a week. When you can comfortably hold it for 1 minute, progress to the next.