Why Backbends Are So Good For You

Friday, February 7, 2020, in Fitness, Mind & Body by

Stand Up to Sitting Down All Day
There’s no bones about it. Most of us are sitting creatures. Whether it’s working at our desk, driving the car, catching public transport, enjoying dinner with friends or binging on Netflix – we spend a lot of time on our butts. Yet sitting for prolonged periods isn’t good for us.

Way back before technology transformed our lives, people spent their days crouching, squatting, kneeling, reaching and carrying. They were much more physically active and their bodies were more supple as a result.

Fast-forward to now, and our bodies are truly suffering from the sedentary lives we lead. Neck strain, shoulder pain, back problems, tight hamstrings and overly dominant hip flexors see us queuing up at the physio… yet much of this could be avoided if we didn’t sit still so much.

OK, so we can’t stand up all day. What, then?
Prolonged periods of sitting lead to poor postural biomechanics, which can in turn lead to the complaints listed above. Aside from standing up all day – which, let’s face it, isn’t practical for many of us – what can we do to counter all this sitting? What’s the antidote?

One word. Yoga.

Yoga is the original system of physiotherapy for the body. It’s all about the maintenance of the spine, which in turn gives us healthy joints and a balanced nervous system … making it a pretty good way to counterbalance all that sitting down.

Get to know the yoga backbend
The yoga backbend is one of the key moves for spinal strength. First up, let’s be clear about one thing. Apart from the most advanced practitioners, yoga backbends don’t look anything like what you’d see in a gymnastics class (‘bridge’, anyone?).

In yoga, poses that involve the bending of the back are very important for spine and posture maintenance. Think of them as ‘back strengthening’ instead of ‘back bending’ and you’ll get the idea. Strengthening the spine will support our posture, pull us to our full height and help to steer clear of postural (and seated) injuries.

Backbend sequence to try at home

The movements in the following sequence are in two parts. The first part lengthens the whole of your front body (which shortens when you’re sitting). The second part aims to evenly strengthen the muscles around the spine, as our habitual sitting and relative poor posture weakens the spine’s structural muscles.

Part 1: Lengthening and engaging the whole body

Lie on your back, with your toes touching the wall. Rest a yoga block on your front ribs, hands pressed to the sides of the block.
Keeping your legs engaged (quads lifted and toes touching the wall, lift the block slowly towards the ceiling. Once your arms are straight, engage your core and lower the block overhead to the floor.
Take long, slow conscious breaths. As your arms extend to the deepest range, press your back ribs down to the earth, shoulders away from the ears, upper back firm.

Part 2: Strengthening your spine


  • Lie on your belly, chin to the floor and palms flat on the floor by your shoulders.

  • Engage your lower body by squeezing your thighs and bottom.

  • Inhale, lift your head and chest from the floor, and then press your hand into the floor to lift up higher.

  • Keep shoulders down and push your chest forward.

  • Hold the position for 10 breaths, then gently lower, rest and repeat 3 times.

Bridge at the wall:

  • Lie on your back (note: if your lower back feels tight, prepare for bridge by hugging your knees to chest).

  • Shuffle close to the wall and tuck toes only up the wall.

  • Place a block between your thighs, and lift your whole body into bridge pose. Gently press your knees to the wall.

  • Bend your arms at the elbow, pressing them down to strengthen and engage your upper back.

  • Hold the position for 10 breaths, then gently lower, rest and repeat 3 times.

Camel at the wall:

  • Kneel with a block between your upper thighs facing the wall, with hipbones pressed against the wall.

  • Lengthen your lower back by sending your butt to the backs of the knees.

  • Lengthen your arms up the wall to the ceiling.

  • Press pelvis to the wall and at the same time move your upper back muscles into the spine.

  • Hold the position for 10 breaths, then gently lower, rest and repeat twice.

Upper back twist:

  • Lie on the floor, with your knees hugged to your chest.

  • Maintaining the tuck position, drop your knees to one side.

  • Hold for 10 breaths, and then drop to the other side for 10 breaths.

  • Once done, shavasana – take rest!

Try this sequence at home. It should only take 10 minutes each day. To extend your yoga practice, try our signature flow yoga classes at your nearest Fitness First.

At Fitness First we believe fitness is the first step to developing the energy and drive to be fearless and grab more from life – beyond the gym and your comfort zone. We want to celebrate this journey to the extraordinary, so we’ve created an online destination with all the tips, insights and know-how to help you get there. Click, share, enjoy!

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