Stretches: Pectoral and abdominal muscles, deltoids, biceps, hip flexors, quadriceps.
Strenghtens: Trapezius, serratus and rhomboids muscles, psoas, glutes.
Main Focus: Draw the shoulder blades away from the ears and down your back as you lift your heart.
Our daily lives pull us forward and cause us to hunch: sitting for hours at our desks, driving, texting, etc. From this physical and emotional space, backbends can be uncomfortable and anxiety-provoking. And yet it we gently encourage our bodies through the correct alignment and keep coming back, we discover long-forgotten space in our heart center for joy, love, and happiness.
Camel has become one of my favorite postures as of late. Having my hands on my feet gives me a sense of grounding and calm, even as I reach into tight spaces in my heart, which can feel vulnerable.
Correctly aligned back bends are critical for runners, as hunching over can create poor running biomechanics. Back bends create awareness of posture, and strengthen the postural muscles that help keep us running tall and strong. They also help stretch the front of the body, such as hip flexors, and quads.
- Kneel on the mat with your knees and feet hip-width apart and the hips over the knees. Press the toenails, feet, and shins into the mat.
- Tuck the pelvis under slightly (Michael Jackson hips!), pull the belly button to spine and lower ribs down to lengthen the lower back.
- Shimmy the shoulder blades together and away from the ears. Then place your hands on the back of the pelvic, fingers pointing down. Inhale and lift your heart, while firming the shoulder blades against your back ribs.
- Lean back while keeping the pelvis over the knees and the lower back long. Rest the hands on your heels or on blocks placed at the feet to make the posture more accessible.
- Press your hands into your heels (or blocks) with the fingers pointing back towards the toes, and lift the heart. Soften the neck and drop your head back
- Tucking the toes under or reaching for blocks placed next to the heels will make the pose a little more accessible.
- As you back bend, keep the pelvis over the knees. I find that practicing this posture with my thighs and my pelvis against the wall helps me create the body awareness I need for good alignment.