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Backbend Basics; How to Open the Heart.

Aug 22nd, 2012
Staff Writer

One-legged king pigeonYoga postures have a wide range of categories, ranging from the twists to the bends, each with their own benefits and limitations. Some advanced maneuvers require much practice and flexibility, but few are completely out of reach for the dedicated student.

“Knowledge must be burned, hammered, and beaten like pure gold. Then one can wear it as an ornament.” The Buddhist proverb, first related in Tibetan Buddhism, describes a method useful in mental and physical life alike. “You can learn about yoga from your teachers, but it isn’t until you’ve worked with the practice, over time, that it becomes spiritual ‘gold’,” according to Maty Ezraty of YogaJournal.com.

In yoga, backbends offer a unique opportunity to stretch and open the body. “It stimulates the nervous system and opens the heart, and can leave you glowing with energy and vitality for the rest of the day,” according to Karen Macklin of YogaJournal.com. But where does the ordinary yogi begin? Mary Ezraty recommends a method she refers to as “Smart Sequencing”.

Based on this course, one-legged king pigeon pose is a great place to start, because of the pose’s versatility. Working from half pigeon, reach for the back-facing leg, not just with the hand, but with the head. The final posture has the foot, both hands, and the head in union behind the upper back. Other poses are benefited by the use of a chair, straps, or a block. These all function as tools for deeper placement in postures.

“Effort toward steadiness of mind is practice,” Patanjali of the ancient Yoga Sutra says. Holding backbend postures requires significant mental and physical focus. The worst approach to this class of movements is forceful, or competitive. The best place to practice yoga of this range is in isolation, especially at home, alone. Yogi Maty Ezraty puts it simply: “In solitude you can learn to accept where you are open and where you are closed. Experiment with the full range of sensations and emotions that arise.”

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