Back bends are invigorating, stimulating, and cheerful. They get the heart pumping and include inversion benefits. They work as a facelift. Back bends benefit the face by bringing a luminescence and rosiness to the skin. Back bends both require and build great strength.They alleviate lower back pain, which releases the face from pinching and wincing. Back bends strengthen the abdominal core, and therefore improve posture, contributing to a slimmer silhouette, which instantly translates to a more youthful appearance (think of the aging effects of stooped, rounded shoulders and hunched backs). Back bends tone the jaw, throat, and neck when the chin is slightly lifted toward the sternum (like a chin-up).
1. Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
This pose tones the throat and jaw and chin areas. It is a great anti-ager for the whole body because it calls upon the abdominal core muscles and strengthens the muscles and ligaments of the lower and deep back. Locust may feel difficult for you if you aren’t accustomed to working this area, but it is a great antidote to lower back pain, and it will tone the tummy. This pose improves posture, and will therefore make you look taller and leaner (instant youth).
- Lie on your belly with your forehead facing down.
- Place your hands palms-down next to your hips, and bring your big toes to touch as you point your toes and press the tops of your feet down on the floor.
- Then lift everything up off the floor except your palms—the chest, legs, and head.
- Gaze down the tip of your nose so you don’t strain your neck.
- Lift your breastbone up toward your chin. Keep your face relaxed and your eyes softly focused on the tip of your nose.
- Repeat the exercise, but this time interlace your hands behind your back in a clasp. Or, if that’s not comfortable, extend your arms forward, palms facing each other shoulder-width apart and legs about a foot apart, like a flying superhero. Hold each variation for five counts.
2. Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
A magnificent pose for strengthening and toning the back: thighs, and buttocks, this pose also provides an excellent back bend and looks very beautiful. It will carry a sense of beauty and balance into your life.
- Lift your chest toward your chin to firm the throat, neck, and chin.
- Lie on your belly and bend your knees.
- Grab your ankles, or the tops of the feet.
- Kick the feet into the hands and lift the legs, head, and chest.
- Draw the big toes and knees toward each other, unless this hurts your knees.
- Breathe in and out for five counts. Repeat once again. Smile calmly.
3. Bridge Pose (Sew Bandha Sarvangasana)
This pose strengthens the lower back and elevates the heart above the head, providing the anti-aging benefits of a mild inversion. It also tones the neck, throat, and chin and is a double-chin preventative or antidote. It will tone the gluteal muscles to give a more shapely appearance to the buttocks.
- Lie down on your back and bend the knees, pressing your feet down on the floor hip-width apart and parallel.
- Place your palms down alongside the hips. Inhale and lift the pelvis, thighs, and lower back up toward the ceiling.
- Keep your hips lifted, and walk the arms under the back toward the center of the mat.
- Interlace your fingers, and press the palms toward each other, shrugging your shoulders toward each other and pressing the chest toward the chin and the chin toward the chest.
- Press into the inner edges of your feet and your big toes, but keep the knees hip-width apart and paralleL
- Breathe deeply for five long counts. Take your hands out from under you, and slowly descend from the top of the spine to the bottom, one vertebra at a time, until you are lying down again, feet still on the floor and knees bent.
- Repeat once or twice. To go deeper, try grabbing your ankles instead of interlacing the fingers under the back, but keep your feet on the floor.
4. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
This pose lifts the heart higher as the head drops back, the upsurge of heart energy and circulation causes the face to release its customary grips of tension, resulting in a smoother, more relaxed countenance.
If you need extra support, you can do this pose with your knees and pelvis at a wall for extra support Kneel, legs hip-width apart; and tuck your toes under you. Lift your sternum up and reach back for one heel at a time. Do not drop your head completely back here, as it can hurt the neck. Lift from the center of your chest and gaze up at the ceiling or at your heart. Again, heart lifting causes a slowing down of the heart rate and allows for recirculation, helping energy to flow and giving a youthful glow. When you get more proficient, you may do this pose with your feet flat and toes pointed, away from you. This requires more lower back strength, so approach it with caution.