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Backing Into Spring

Jennifer Oechsner

These glorious sunny days and warmer temperatures bring with them a sense of opening. All around us we see signs of spring; longer days, shade trees with tiny green buds and stunning cherry blossoms blooming throughout our beautiful city.  With the coming of spring my yoga practice is evolving as well. When I come to my mat I too want to open and find myself regularly practicing back bends. They feel natural and welcome in my body and I have a sense of tuning into the natural world around me. In honor of spring and this interconnection, we will be exploring back bends in my yoga classes for the month of March.  Each week we will focus on a different back bending pose to play with. We will explore how to safely prepare and execute these back bends for any level of practitioner

Back bends can present challenges for anyone. You come to a class and you see someone floating up into wheel (urdhva dhanurasana) with ease or playfully reaching  for king pigeon (eka pada rajakapotanasana) and it can be difficult not to fall into the trap of self judgement and comparison. Each time you come to your mat it is important respect where you are in your practice and work safely to progress to the next level. Regardless of your level,  even the stiffest among us can find some joy in back bends.  

For many of us, our daily activities make back bends even more challenging. We spend our days hunched over smart phones, computer screens and bicycle handlebars. We spend our weekends hiking, skiing, running, and lets face it, with more sitting.  All of these activities tighten the chest, hips, legs and back. We tighten the front of the body and in the process limit the flexibility of the back body. We spend very little time bending backward, a movement our spines were designed to make. This limitation can cause of variety of issues including low back pain, hip pain, rotator cuff issues and limited mobility of the spine.

For many of us, back bends also tap into something deeper, fear. The fear of falling back is very real.  We are afraid of what will happen if we move our body in that way. We are afraid of the opening and the sense of vulnerability  we have in these poses. Regular practice of back bends helps this fear dissipate. Not only are these poses great for the body, but they offer a deeper life training as well. Sometimes we are presented with obstacles we must overcome. Sometimes life takes us out of our comfort zone. Coming to your mat to explore postures that test your boundaries is one of the ways yoga is such an amazing training ground for life. 

Join me this month for an exploration of opening your heart, reviving your body, and stepping into the unknown.