One of the many great benefits of a regular yoga practice is a strong and supple body. Beginning with basic poses allows the body to open and gain strength in a gentle and kind way without shocking and traumatizing the nervous system. There are multiple classes of yoga postures, each of which target a respective area of the body. Backbends are good for the overall health of the body; they are more comfortable, as well as beneficial, when preceded with hip and shoulder opening poses.
Ashtangasana, named Eight Limbed Pose for the eight points of the body (feet, knees, hands, chest, and chin) touching the floor, is a backbend, shoulder and hip opener all in one.
Inhale in plank pose at the top of a push up. Exhale, set your knees onto the mat, and place your chest on the floor between your hands, chin down. This placement of chest and knees down with hips high immediately creates a backbend in the lower back. If you experience extreme discomfort there, walk your knees back until you are comfortable. Press down into your hands to feel your elbows lift and your shoulder blades draw into the back of your heart. Press down into your toes and knees to feel the inner edges of your thighs near to your groins lift and broaden. Extend through the front and back of your neck, lifting through the roof of your mouth and the crown of your head while keeping your chin resting.
To deepen, you may begin in Chaturanga Dandasana and/or lift your chin and hands from the floor in Ashtangasana. Hold for three to ten complete breaths. Transition to Cobra, Up Dog, or Child’s Pose.
Enjoy the feeling of an entire-body smile via open spine, hips, and shoulders.