We, as a culture, need backbends. Since 1986, I have been teaching Yoga. Because of this, I am very aware of human posture. It’s incredible to me how many people, even young ones, have their thoracic spines bent forward. Slouching shoulders and forward head postures can be a problem. Yoga’s backbends provide a great solution. However, active backbends can be too stimulating and heating for evening classes. One student told me she got up at 1:00 AM to vacuum after a dynamic backbend class. There are passive backbend options, such as Salamba Ardha Bhujangasana (Supported Sphinx Pose).
WHY DOES BABENDS SUPPORT PRACTICE?
Backbends that are supported have many benefits; not only do they offer cooling properties. It isn’t easy to hold an active backbend for more than five to ten minutes. The advantage of supported backbends is that they are easy to relax into for more extended periods. This allows the body to relax and unwind slowly. This is my experience with Restorative Yoga. The benefits of Restorative Yoga are more pronounced when you allow your body to settle into a pose.
One of the supported backbends is the Supported Sphinx Pose. Salamba Matsyasana (Supported Fish Pose ) and Salamba Bandhasana (Supported Bridge Pose ) are two other options. These supported backbends can be added to your daily practice to counteract the negative effects of our forward-bent lifestyles.
SUPPORTED PHINX POSE BENEFITS
The Supported Sphinx Pose can be practiced in a prone posture, which confers additional benefits over the other two. While Supported Sphinx pose can be done passively, it can be added to your back-strengthening by alternately engaging with releasing. These benefits go beyond chest expansion.
- Stabilizes the shoulders
- Myofascial release for the abdomen
- strengthens back muscles
- The abdominal muscles can be lengthened without straining the anterior hip capsule.
- Stabilizes the sacroiliac joints (SI).
SUPPORTED PHINX POSE CAUTIONS
Supported Sphinx pose is not for everyone, even though it may seem relaxing. If you have a back injury, including Yoga Mat or a Standard Yoga Bolster.
Place your bolster on the “head” of your yoga mat.
Place your face on the mat.
Place your feet on the floor and your legs on the ground. Lift your upper body and place your pelvis on a mat.
Place your bolster so that your chest is supported. Your upper arms can rest on the bolster.
Pay attention to your head. Keep your head straight. Instead, extend your neck and bring your hioid bone toward your throat. This will allow your entire gut tube to return into your low back and provide support for your spine. If you slouch your head back, your guts will hang above your spine and can cause strain to your back. To feel the difference, alternate between putting your head back and lengthening your neck. Then draw your hyoid bones back a few more times.
If you wish, you can stay in the supported version of this pose for the whole time. Alternatively, you can do a more active practice. You can press your thighs into the ground so that your glutes squeeze together for active practice. Press and hold the position for three to five seconds, then release and repeat 10 to fifteen times. Let it go, and then return to passive pose.
You can also add more relaxation to your pose. You can rest your forehead on the bolster any time you like. Relaxing your forehead on your bolster calms the nervous systems.
For 3 to 5 minutes, you can stay in Supported Sphinx pose. Breathe deeply and relax into the pose.
Once you are ready to get out of the pose, push your bolster in front of yourself so you can lay face down on the ground. You can rest your forehead in your hands and take several deep breaths before you move up to a seated position.