Last night, I taught a lovely group of people at the studio I love best, Upward Dog in Ottawa, Ontario (that's Canada, for my lovely readers around the world!). As we head into a chilly autumn and winter season, I am drawn towards backbends and heartopeners, poses that open us up to warmth and sunshine and love. But, just a note, backbends are stimulating, so it is advised to do these in the morning or daytime, not before bed! You might have difficulty sleeping after!
I set Camel as my apex pose, as shown above. In order to do this fairly intense backbend, there are a lot of body parts that need to be opened and stretched and warmed up. Lunges, salabhasana, cobra, and Warrior 1 are excellent for strengthening and opening up the front and back body, which is necessary for Camel.
The front of the legs, thighs, knees, and quads need to be warmed up, stretched, increased in flexibility, before going to Camel safely. Inverted table, quad stretches, and lunges will help with this. All of these poses also open up the chest, the neck, and the front of the shoulders.
When I brought students into Camel, I reminded them that it is a good thing to underachieve in yoga, and especially if this is a new pose or they feel stiffness in their body. It is crucial to have a long, open front body and spine. The spine should constantly be lengthening, as you begin to bring your hips forward into the bend. Hands can simply rest on the lower back, or come down to hold the heels, as shown in the photo above. When coming out of the pose, move slowly, bring the hands back up to the lower back, and thinking of that long spine, bring yourself up to a straight back.
In yoga, it is so important to follow vinyasa krama, or intelligent sequencing. In a nutshell, that simply means that you identify what parts of your body need to be warmed up and opened up and strengthened before you go into your apex pose, and choose poses to do before the apex, that will prepare you for that pose, safely. The last thing you want to do is rush into a pose before your body is ready, or you can cause injury to your body. After the apex pose, it is also important to do poses that will balance your body, bring it back into alignment, and allow your body to return to rest. After our powerful Camel, students were asked to fold forward, and gently bring themselves into Child's Pose, where they could rest and bring their spine back into alignment after the backbending.
So, this is just a brief explanation of our fun backbending class. Hearts were opened, chests were expanded, and as we ended our class, we rested our awareness at our hearts, and said the following intention together, 3 times:
May my heart be filled with lovingkindness.
May I be well.
May I be peaceful and at ease.
May I be happy.
I hope you enjoy this intention. It's so lovely, this lovingkindness meditation. May your hearts be opened and may you be filled with joy in this season.