Backbends are elegant expressions of movement. They make us feel like gazelles floating through the savanna, free, light and delicate.
Backbends also have deeper powers and effects over our energy channels, our nervous system, our emotions and so forth.
When practicing a backbend, one first has to learn the position, direction and sequencing of spinal movement in order to experience real space and health in the physical body, so the energetic body can actually be accessed.
When doing a drop back, I usually have deep experiences in the energetic field, though there are many physical considerations to take. Because the lumbar spine is so flexible compared to the thoracic spine and even compared to hip extension, one needs to learn to put more emphasis to the extension of the hips and the dorsal spine, so it doesn’t collapse over the lumbars. To this, we need to add the fact that there is the force of gravity acting over the torso, making it naturally collapse over the lumbars, which is not the healthiest situation for the spine or to the SIJ.
There is an interesting situation with the muscles of the core. The abdominus tranversus and oblique muscles need to be engaged keeping the inner organs tight inside, creating a protective wall for the lumbar spine. The abdominus rectus needs to be active preventing the spine from falling back putting pressure over the lumbars. Though at the same time, there needs to be freedom for the ribcage to expand as much as possible, which means that the abdominus rectus and obliques, need to let go of specific tension over the ribs and sternum, so the chest can move back and away from the navel. This muscular control requires a very specific and refined proprioception which needs to be accessed with patience and consistency, otherwise, the body ends up easily building a non healthy pattern of movement which will impact on a long term the health of the spine.
Another aspect to consider is the position of the pelvis. Because the pelvis is such a big structure, when thinking on moving it, one has to be very particular, otherwise, one can affect the Sacro-illiac joint by applying forces on a direction that compromises its ligaments. Instead of thinking on pushing the pelvis forward or up, which is pretty much the same as an anterior tilt movement, one should think on lifting only the pubic bone up to create more extension on the hips, but not more pressure on the SIJ. If one thinks on pushing the pelvis up, one will end up pushing with the iliac crests up, without considering the fact that the sacrum is following the direction of the spine, tilting backwards. The deeper one goes into the backbend the more attention one has to put into this details, though the best will be to build the healthy pattern of movement from the beginning. Each person will need different amounts of effort, the baseline is to learn to pay attention to the feelings of your body. Your body will tell you where to go. If you are feeling pressure on your SIJ or your lumbars while doing a drop back, there is a clear message from your body, telling you “this is not the direction”. When your body tells you something, you should listen. Your practice should bring you health, not pain and suffering.
Then, when one build the healthy spaces and patterns of movement, the energy starts to flow and subtle experiences start to happen. This experiences will allow us to remove layers of emotional imprints from our hearts. Otherwise, the energy will just be shared but not precisely utilized, one will end up irritable and more susceptible to react emotionally throughout the day to day life. Asana is a tool, it is within us to use it to create physical and mental health, and spiritual connection.