All that is behind us, we can not see. It is the unknown. The incertainties. That and of course various physical and anatomical factors like stiff shoulders, a weak or shortened trapezius muscle or less developed back muscles in general, make yoga backbends or »backward-stretches« - as this poses are called in Iyengar Yoga – a real challange for many yoga students and practictioners.
This week I had the pleasure to be taught a backbend-class by Senior Iyengar Yoga teacher Chantal Leroy. She taught various preparations to warm up the shoulders and to bring awareness towards the movement of the shoulder blades.
Shoulder & arm preparations such as Gomukhasana or Urdhva Baddhangulyiasana are as essential for healthy backstretches as elongating the spin, for exemple in Adho Mukha Svanasana.
When it came to Shirsasana and dropping-back Chantal grouped the class to support the following body parts: One assistant helped bringing the sacrum up of the person that was about to drop back from headstand by supporting it with his or her palm. A second assistant supported the soles of the feet of the »back-dropper« with the palm of the hands and made the »back-dropper« press into the palms with his or her soles, while Chantal herself clapped onton the shoulder blades of the student to bring them up and in while going further back and down with the legs and feet.
For me personal what made the biggest diffrence in comparaison to practicing drop-backs alone at home, was the support or imprint I got by pressing the soles of my feet into the palms of my helper and in this way coming down slowly and controlled. The resistance at the soles of my feet took away all my fear to stretch backwards and to drop back.
In one of her last classes, Geeta S. Iyengar spoke about the psychological and even therapeutical demension of yoga-backward stretches. »They teach us to overcome »abhinivesa« - the fear of death. In order to drop back – into the unkown space you need to let go of all, that holds you in this life.«
See the whole drop-back video here >>
About Chantal Leroy (German only) >>