Backbends Yoga Workshop

I had a lovely Saturday morning today.  I did a three hour yoga workshop with Catriona Mc Cormack of Yoga Ireland, in the always gorgeous Irish Holisitic Centre in Dublin City.  I love history and adore the Victorian era, so I find it amazing doing a yoga class in such a wonderful old building, looking up at the beautifully ornate original Victorian plaster work on the ceiling!

The workshop focused on back bends.  It was aimed to highlight some of the benefits of these asanas -improve posture, relieve back pain, increase energy, improve mood and enhance the ability to boost the immune system.   The workshop also focused on the fact that back bending can help shift energy leaving the mind clearer and more focused, while balancing and opening the anahata or heart chakra.

Back bending is one of my favourite series of poses in yoga as I find them so energising and boosting.  A deep back bend is so satisfying, especially for someone like me who doesn’t always have perfect posture and is fond of high heels!  I hoped that this workshop would give me some pointers on how to improve my practice in back bends.

It was a fantastic morning.  We began with some anahata or heart chakra meditation to ground and calm us.  We then moved on to a relaxing series of floor poses to warm up the body and open up our shoulders in order to prepare our bodies for the deep back bends.  It was a small class of 7 so we got a lot of individual attention and feedback.
We did all the usual back bending poses like locust (salabhasana) the cat (marjariasana), the cobra (bhujangasana), the bridge (setu bandhasana), the bow (dhanurasana), and the cow (bitilasana) before moving on to one of my favourites, the camel (ustrasana), which I Iove.
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I was given an important tip to mind my body in the postures.   I am generally flexible (except in my demon hamstrings!) so I therefore can have a tendency to go too deep in to some postures, just because I can, which could result in injury.  I will keep this in mind from now on when doing postures which I am able to reach, as I may be unintentionally damaging myself while thinking I am great for doing the pose well!  We then did matsyasana or ‘the fish’ which was a pose I had never done before.  I was recommended to do this often as I was told that my middle spine is quite tight and this would help, so it was nice to learn something new.
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The final posture we did was the full wheel pose (urdhva dhanurasna) commonly known as ‘the crab’.  I was really excited to get some advice on achieving this pose as I have never been able to get in to it as my arm strength just isn’t enough to lift my shoulders off the ground.  The teacher confirmed for me that my back is able for the posture but it’s my arm strength that is preventing me, so I will need to work on my resistance weight training and plank pose!
But much to my joy, the teacher informed me that she has a technique which will help me to get in to the wheel pose although my arms are weak.  By holding on to her ankles instead of using my hands on the ground, I was able to push off her legs to get my back up, while using yoga straps to guide my body up.  I was able to get in to the full pose this way and then steady and support my body and remain in it.  It was a really good way to learn the posture.  The teacher took the photo below of me giving it a try!
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It was such an amazing feeling to have such a complete back stretch and it was really invigorating and euphoric.  I imagine that this pose creates these feelings anyway, but being able to do this pose for the first time when I previously thought it wasn’t possible yet for me was fantastic and was the highlight of the workshop for me.  We ended with more anahata meditation and I left feeling energised, uplifted and super relaxed.

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