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Shrink on the Mat – November 2011

November 2, 2011

Question3: We are often told that backbends are stimulating, energizing and bring about a sense of happiness, how and why is this possible?

Backbends are dynamic postures which are about moving against gravity; they require energy and courage. On a physiological level the action of stretching the front of the abdomen, thighs, hips, shoulder and chest can stretch and release the muscles of the chest, and allow numerous physical parameters to change. I will list just a few…

Circulation to move more freely to the heart and the lungs.
Thymus gland is pressurized and then released resulting in stimulation of immunity.
The nervous system is also stimulated; we build heat and stimulate the metabolism.  In addition the nervous system receives the benefits of cerebral spinal fluids, which is connected to opening the nadis, and clearing the mind.
The abdominal muscles stretch and the digestive system is stimulated.
The lymphatic system also pumps fluids, opens the chest, armpits, groin where lymph nodes are located.
The kidneys and the adrenals are squeezed which assists in further cleansing, and also release of adrenaline, hence the buzzy feeling!

So as you can gather there is a huge amount happening in the body in a backbend. And there are a number of possible reasons for that sense of happiness, the first one being the body is stimulated on every level. The next is that backbends force us to encounter our fear. It is no surprise that not every yogi enjoys backbends for that precise reason. In addition to the strength it takes, there is a certain amount of courage to shift the position of the body in the unusually opening positions of backbends. Backbends tend to more on opening the heart/anahata chakra and the manipura or abdominal chakra, relating to personal power. That is why there is an understanding in yoga that backbends teach us to open to life and love.

Although initially challenging, working at backbends over time can result in increased energy and reduced depression as well as breaking down any emotional or psychological walls. They shift energy leaving us more invigorated, focused and clear.  Finally there is a sense of personal power or triumph as we master these poses, and through them we learn to face the world from a different perspective.

Linda Kantor is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher and practitioner who has been in private practice for the past 15 years.
Have a question about yoga? Email Linda directly or
One Comment leave one →
  1. November 30, 2011 7:25 am

    Will surely recommend this site to some friends! Very interesting site and articles. Really thankful for sharing. Regards,

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