They won’t be seen often on Instagram. You can find many more backbends that are even more impressive. They may not even register as backbends if you examine their outer forms. They are often called “baby backbends”, which refers to lower backbends that are reserved for those who are unable to do the “real” ones. These poses are extremely powerful, and I have a new appreciation for them after 38 years of practicing yoga.
2016 was the year I had my first bone density test. My bones were not at risk. My mother was a strong woman with strong bones into her 80s. However, my doctor recommended that I have a bone density scan. To my dismay and surprise, my results revealed osteopenia in the lumbar spine. My doctor suggested bone-building drugs but was open to me wanting to try a more targeted calcium supplement or to modify my exercise routine. Late in 2019, I had another bone scan. I saw significant improvements in my second scan.
My improvement is not due to one thing. I have been taking daily calcium and have seen a significant increase in vitamin D3. (My D3 levels were very low when I had my first bone scan. 18 months ago, I began weekly strength training. I have also started practicing baby backbends more often.
THE CORE DOES NOT CONTAIN THE ABS
Abdominal strengthening is the most common way to stabilize the core. Although weak abdominals can lead to back pain and other postural problems, abdominal strength is only one part of the equation. These issues can also be caused by weak back muscles.
Sitting is a major part of our daily lives. Every joint in our bodies is flexed when we sit down and hunch on a device. This includes the spine, shoulders, hips, knees, ankles, knees, and hips. This can lead to the flexors, including the abdominal muscles, becoming shorter and the extensors, including the back muscles, becoming slack. When the flexors are shorter, it is more common to adopt a flexed position even when we’re not sitting. (FYI, in terms of the spine “flexion” refers to forward bending while “extension” refers to backbending.
The forces of habit and gravity combine to make the spine fix in a forward-flexed posture over time. The muscles that support an upright spine, called the spinal extensors (or spine extension), continue to weaken. They are no longer able to do their job and keep the spine vertical.
The solution is to strengthen the spinal extensors and specifically the erector Spinae. This is all you need to know. When they contract, they keep your spine straight. These muscles help maintain an upright posture. The pressure from these muscles on the spine also helps to build and strengthen the vertebrae.
BABY BACKBENDS TO STRONG BONES AND UPRIGHT POSTURE
The baby backbends seem to be the most helpful yoga pose for strengthening the spine extensors. These powerful poses can be done mainly from a prone position. These poses include Salabhasana, Bhujangasana and Ardha Bhujangasana (Half Cobra Pose). Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (Bridge Pose), can also be found in the baby backbends category, even though it is initiated from a supine posture. Baby backbends, which use the spinal extensors (either alone or with some support by the limbs) to gently extend the spine, are most commonly found in baby positions.
Salabhasana is my favorite baby backbend for a spine-strengthening and posture-supporting purpose. These poses are especially effective because they only use the back muscles to engage the spine extensors. Cobra Pose, Bridge Pose, and other backbending yoga poses require that the arms and legs support spinal extension. Sometimes, this is so great that the back muscles are almost disengaged.
HOW TO PRACTICE BABY BACKBENDS
- Grab your props: A yoga mat and a blanket folded in half.
- Place the folded blanket underneath your hipbones on the mat.
- Your arms should be extended in front of your body. Next, extend your arms outwards and clasp your fingers. Roll your shoulders away from the ground. Stretch your hands back behind you.
- Place your hips, legs, and feet on the ground. Then, lift your chest and shoulders off the floor and place your head down. Keep your head up. Keep your neck straight so your head and neck follow your thoracic spine. Reach your arms toward the heavens.
- You can take 5-10 deep breaths. Next, take 5-10 deep breaths. Relax your shoulders and back by inhaling deeply. Next, exhale to relax your lower back.
Some practitioners may find it difficult to lift the spine from the floor, particularly if their thoracic spines have become hyper-kyphotic (bent forward). These practitioners and those with severe scoliosis (lateral curves) will find Sphinx Pose or Cobra Pose, with light support from their arms, Bridge Pose, the best options for strengthening and expanding the spine.
Do not let the diminutive name fool you. Baby backbends, weight-bearing exercise, and proper nutrition can be your best allies in maintaining a strong spine, and a graceful, upright posture throughout life.