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The backward bending series, energize, refresh and invigorate the body. Because these poses open the chest, expand the lungs and literally turn the body out to face the world, they are renowned for stimulating and extroverting the body and mind.

Backward bends are often dynamic postures which move to counter gravity and therefore require and build energy and strength, especially in the wrists, arms, legs, buttocks and spine. Bending the spine backwards stretches and releases the muscles of the chest allowing circulation to flow freely to the heart and lungs. This action activates the respiratory and circulatory systems.

During backward bends the nervous system is stimulated, building heat and vitalizing the metabolism. The lymphatic system is favourably influenced when the thymus is pressured, and also by the stretch received through the lymph nodes and glands. Meanwhile the abdominal muscles are lengthened, toning and igniting the digestive system.

Just when you thought backward bends couldn’t be more healthful, there’s more! The spinal nerves, which give energy to all the other nerves, organs and muscles in the body, are sparked and regulated to result in a clearer more positive state of being.

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Fish Pose

Matsyasana

  • Begin sitting in Lotus (Padmasana).
  • Support the body with the arms and elbows and carefully bend the body backward.
  • Lift the chest and lower the crown of the head to the floor.
  • Rest the elbows on the floor and hold the big toes with the hands.
  • Make any adjustments required to maximise the arch in the back.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly release by reversing the order of movements.
  • One round is usually sufficient.

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Cow’s face pose

Gomukhasana

  • Begin sitting in Hero’s Meditation Pose (Dhyana Veerasana) with the right leg on top.
  • Stretch the right arm up towards the ceiling, bend the right elbow and lower the right hand down the centre of the back.
  • Take the left arm out to the left side, bend the elbow and move the left arm up the centre of the back.
  • Stretch the hands towards each other aiming to clasp them behind the back.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly release the arms, straighten the legs and repeat to the left by having the left leg on top of the right and the left elbow above the head.
  • One round is usually sufficient.

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Lizzard

Utthan prishthasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the arms crossed underneath the chest and hold the upper arms with the hands.
  • Separate the feet slightly and tuck the toes under.
  • Place the chin on the floor if comfortable or have the head slightly raised and gaze forward.
  • Keep the elbows and knees firmly planted into the floor and raise the torso and buttocks so that the shoulders are above the elbows and the torso is parallel to the floor.
  • Arch the lower spine, stretch the torso back and place the chin and chest on, or as close to, the floor behind the forearms.
  • Hold for a few seconds the reverse the movement by coming through the parallel position then lowering the torso down to once again lie on the stomach with the arms crossed underneath the chest.
  • Practice up to 10 rounds.

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Bridge pose

Setu asana

  • Sit in the Seated Base Position (Prarambhik Sthiti).
  • Place the palms of the hands either sides of the body, about 30cm behind the buttocks.
  • Keep the elbows straight, point the fingers back and slightly recline the torso.
  • Keep the arms and legs straight and raise the buttocks off the floor by lifting the hips up.
  • Extend the toes towards the floor and let the head stretch comfortably back and down.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable, then release by lowering the buttocks to the floor.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Half moon pose

Ardha Chandrasana

  • Begin in Equestrian Pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
  • Once balanced, raise the hands from the floor and bring the palms together in front of the chest.
  • Keep the palms together and raise the arms up over the head.
  • Arch the arms, head and torso back slightly.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then lower the hands back in front of the chest and to the floor, returning to Equestrian Pose (Ashwa Sanchalanasana)
  • To release, roll the body weight back and smoothly centre the weight on the front foot and back knee.
  • Continue the forward and backward lunges on this side up to 10 times.
  • To release, stand on both knees then return to Thunderbolt pose (Vajrasana) and relax.
  • Practice the same amount of rounds to the other side.

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Shoulder pose

Kandharasana

  • Lie down on the back.
  • Bend the knees and place the soles of the feet on the floor with the heels as close to the buttocks as comfortable. Keep the thighs and inner feet parallel.
  • Extend the arms down towards the heels and take a hold of the ankles if possible.
  • Engage the inner feet and arms and actively press them into the floor.
  • Raise the buttocks and arch the back upwards.
  • Lift the chest and navel to bring the sternum towards the chin.
  • Clasp the hands below the pelvis and extend through the arms.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly roll the spine down onto the floor.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Bow pose

Dhanurasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the arms beside the body, legs straight and the feet together.
  • Bend the knees to bring the heels towards the buttocks.
  • Stretch the arms behind the body and take a hold of the ankles.
  • Rest the chin on the floor.
  • Tense the legs and push the feet backwards.
  • Arch the back and lift the thighs, chest and head together.
  • Allow the lower back muscles to remain passive and use the strength of the legs to lift and open the chest.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly release the legs and lower the chest and head to the floor.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Easy bow pose

Saral dhanurasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the arms beside the body, legs straight and the feet together.
  • Bend the knees to bring the heels towards the buttocks.
  • Stretch the arms behind the body and take a hold of the ankles.
  • Rest the chin on the floor.
  • Root the knees and thighs into the floor, tense the legs and push the feet backwards.
  • Keeping the arms straight, raise the head and chest from the floor.
  • Allow the lower back muscles to remain passive and use the strength of the legs to lift and open the chest.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly release the legs and lower the chest and head to the floor.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Locust pose

Shalabhasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the legs straight and the feet together.
  • Place the hands either under or beside the body with the palms facing down or fingers interlocked.
  • Rest the chin on the floor.
  • Press down through the arms, engage the lower back muscles and raise the legs from the floor.
  • Keep the legs together and actively lengthening.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly lower.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Half Locust pose

Ardha ShalabhasanaVariation

  • Begin in Reversed Corpse Pose (Advasana)
  • Rest the chin on the floor.
  • Raise the right arm and left leg simultaneously.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then lower the leg, head and arm to the floor.
  • Repeat the same movement to the other side by lifting the left arm and right leg.
  • Practice up to 10 alternating repetitions.

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Snake pose

Sarpasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the legs straight and the feet together.
  • Interlock the fingers behind the body and place the hands on top of the buttocks.
  • Rest the chin on the floor.
  • Using the back muscles raise the head, neck, shoulders and chest from the floor.
  • Push the hands behind the body to increase the lift.
  • Draw the shoulder blades together and gaze forward.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly lower the body to the floor.
  • Release the hands and turn the head to one side. Relax.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Twisting cobra

Tiryaka bhujangasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the legs separated and the feet shoulder width apart.
  • Tuck the toes under to come onto the balls of the feet.
  • Place the palms of the hands on the floor underneath the shoulders and have the fingers pointing forward.
  • Tuck the elbows in close to the body.
  • Rest the forehead on the floor and close the eyes. Relax.
  • Using the back muscles first, slowly raise the head, neck and then the shoulders from the floor.
  • Keep the pubic bone on the floor and use the arm muscles to lift the torso upwards.
  • Twist the head and upper torso to look over the left shoulder and gaze towards the right heel.
  • Hold for a few seconds then return to the centre and twist to the right side.
  • Hold for a few seconds then return to centre and lower the body to the floor.
  • Practice up to 5 rounds.

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Cobra pose

Bhujangasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the legs straight and the feet together.
  • Place the palms of the hands on the floor underneath the shoulders with the fingers pointing forward.
  • Tuck the elbows in close to the body.
  • Rest the forehead on the floor and close the eyes. Relax.
  • Using the back muscles first, slowly raise the head, neck and then the shoulders from the floor.
  • Keep the pubic bone on the floor and use the arm muscles to lift the torso upwards.
  • Lengthen and stretch the spine into a backwards curve and direct the gaze up.
  • Hold for as long as comfortable then slowly release by bending the elbows, lowering the navel, chest, shoulders and finally the forehead to the floor.
  • Practice up to 10 rounds.

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Spinx or Easy cobra pose

Saral Bhujangasana

  • Lie on the stomach with the legs straight and the feet together.
  • Place the palms of the hands on the floor shoulder width apart, in line with the forehead.
  • Slowly raise the head, shoulders and chest from the floor and bring the upper arms vertical.
  • Keeping the elbows, forearms and hands on the floor, hold for as long as comfortable then slowly release and lower the body down.
  • Practice up to 10 rounds.

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