Heart Opening & Backbends

For backbends to be safe, sustainable and deep, they must begin with a strong foundation in the hips and legs, be supported by core strength in the abdomen, and merge flexibility in the spine and ribcage. Take your time building this foundation and allow your opening to happen organically.

The easiest part of the spine to bend is just under the ribcage in the low back, however hyperextending the low back will not result in the heart opening effects of a backbend, and will expose you to injury.  Keeping your low back supported with strong abdominal engagement creates the powerhouse to fuel your radiant heart.

The thoracic spine, where the ribs attach, is less mobile than either the neck or low back, just because the rib cage anchors here. Freeing the intercostal muscles of the ribs, the diaphragm and the intricate muscles of the upper torso allows for even, organic opening of your uplifted heart.  

Have you ever heard that the best way to become happy is to aim for excellence? You don’t become happy by trying to be happy. Instead, happiness is a predictable by-product of cultivating something you are passionate about. Radiant, expressive, healing backbends don’t happen by trying to bend your back. They grow out of an intelligent foundation, an strong core and offering the heart.

Things you might want to have handy: Yoga Mat, Yoga Towel or Blanket, Yoga Strap, Yoga Bolster

It is recommended to perform the warm-up before starting this routine.

Step 1: Downward Facing Dog
Duration: exhale
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

Engage your core and lower bandhas, lifting your belly up and under your ribcage
while feeling the support of your core. Firm your upper arms toward one another.

Step 2: Upward Facing Dog
Duration: inhale
Pose Review: Upward Facing Dog

Wave your spine forward by lifting strongly through your belly and sliding your heart forward between your shoulders as you roll over your toes. Maintain energy in your legs, lifting the thighs and pelvic floor to support your low back.

Step 3:

Repeat Steps 1-2
Duration: 10x

Move fluidly between Down Dog and Up Dog with the breath, building awareness as you move from your core and warming up your shoulders and neck.

Step 4: Downward Facing Dog, Variation - Forearms

Duration: exhale
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

From Downward Facing Dog, lower your elbows to the ground. You can keep your hands in front of your elbows for extra opening, or lightly intertwine your fingers. This is sometimes referred to as “Dolphin Dog” and will further open your shoulders and side bodies while strengthening your back.

Step 5: Plank, Variation - Forearms

Duration: Inhale
Pose Review: Plank Pose

Wave forward again through your core, lowering your sternum between your shoulders even as you lift your hips in line between heels and shoulders.

Step 6:

Repeat Steps 3-4
Duration: 10x

Move back and forth with the breath, building heat, strength and awareness.

Step 7: Boat Pose
Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Boat Pose

From Staff Pose, bend your knees and press your sitting bones strongly into the ground as you lift your pelvic floor and draw your belly button back and up toward your rib cage. Lift your sternum.  Extend your legs out with your toes pointed and reach your arms parallel to the floor beside your knees, palms facing in.

Step 8: Camel Pose

Duration: 5 breaths
Pose Review: Camel Pose

Come to your knees and lift your hips over your knees. You may turn your toes under for stability or place the tops of your feet on the ground. Draw your core in around your low back, engage the pelvic floor to draw your tailbone down and lift your sternum to begin your backbend. Reach your hands to your heels. Keep your neck in a comfortable position.

Step 9: Child’s Pose

Duration: 12 breaths
Pose Review: Child’s Pose

Reach your hips back and stretch your hands out in front of you, lowering your forehead to the ground. Focus on your steady, even breath.

Step 10:

Repeat Steps 6-7
Duration: 3x

Step 11: Bow Pose

Duration: 12 breaths
Pose Review: Bow Pose

Stretch your body out on the mat prone. Bend your knees and bring your feet toward your hips. Lift your heart by engaging your upper back first, then reach back and take your ankles or outside feet in your hands. Kick back into your hands and feel your entire body lift.

Step 12: Child’s Pose
Duration: until your breath stabilizes.
Pose Review: Child’s Pose

Step 13: Reclining Hero Pose

Duration: 12 breaths
Pose Review: Reclining Hero Pose

Walk your hands back until you are sitting upright and move your heels outside of your hips, allowing your hips to sink to the ground. Walk your hands behind you to support you in lengthening your spine as you strongly engage your core and begin to recline backwards. You may use a bolster or blankets to support your back when you come to your edge, or lower to the ground.

To come out, walk your hands forward and strongly engage your abdomen. If you used support in this pose, take this pose again instead of moving to Little Thunderbolt.

Step 14: Downward Facing Dog

Duration: 5-12 breaths
Pose Review: Downward Facing Dog

Lift your belly up and under your ribcage, feeling the support of your core. Firm your upper arms
toward one another and press your thighs back.  You may also rest in Child’s Pose.

Step 15: Little Thunderbolt

Duration: 3-12 breaths
Pose Review: Little Thunderbolt

Lower your knees and lift your hips over your knees. With your hands resting on your thighs, lengthen your spine and press your legs forward as you lift your sternum and reach your head back toward your feet. Once your head is on the ground you may bring your hands to your knees.

Come out by engaging your core, and rest in Child’s Pose until your breath stabilizes.

Step 16: Shoulder Stand
Duration: 5-25 breaths
Pose Review: Shoulder Stand

From a supine position, press your elbows into the ground, draw your knees in and extend your legs up and overhead. Bring your hands to your low back and support it until your breath stabilizes. Reaching up through your toes, slowly bring your hips over your shoulders until your shoulders, hips and toes are in a line perpendicular to the ground. Breathe with your chest, keeping your core muscles fully engaged.

Step 17: Plow

Duration: 5-25 breaths
Pose Review: Plow Pose

Lower your feet behind your head without lowering your hips toward your chest. Maintain long side bodies. Reach your hands behind you and bring your hand together with straight arms.

Step 18: Fish

Duration 5 breaths
Pose Review: Fish Pose

Unfurl through your core until your hips are on the ground. Bend your knees and bring your toes to the ground. Pressing your elbows into the ground, lift your heart up until you are balanced on your sitting bones and sacrum and reach the top of your head back to the ground. Reach your arms up.


Perform the relaxation sequence to complete this routine.

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