The Challenge of breathing in backbends
Ever feel short of breath in a backbend? You aren’t the only one. Where to breathe in a backbend is a popular question, and rightfully so. If you look at the anatomy of it, the front-body (anterior) muscles are all stretched out, and the back-body (posterior) muscles are completely contracted. Without getting too technically specific, whenever we inhale, the muscles that surround the abdomen and chest stretch and expand. In a backbend, or heart opener, these muscles are already stretched to their maximum, so there is little to no room to breathe, especially in the belly/abdominal area. Over time, you can certainly increase the flexibility of your abdominals; however, you will likely also begin to deepen your backbends, which will put you right back in the same predicament of fully stretched belly muscles and no additional room for breath. On the flip side, the back muscles are completely contracted and shortened. All of the vertebrae of your spine are in extension, making it very hard to breathe in the back body with so much contraction.
ANATOMY OF THE HEART
JUNE 2022 Immersion
- Technique to expand and deepen your backbends
- Foundations and preparatory postures to set you up for success
- Anatomy education to prime the nervous system
- Themes to cultivate the appropriate mindset for heart opening
- 12 Classes: 6 focused on anatomy, 6 themed for the heart
- Unlock a wide range of postures including: Bow Pose, Camel, Full Wheel, King Dancer, King Cobra, King Pigeon, and more
- Lifetime unlimited access to all
- Attend livestream OR practice the replays any time that’s convenient for you
WHERE TO BREATHE IN BACKBENDS (ALSO KNOWN AS HEART OPENERS)
Through much experience, I have found that the best approach to breathing in heart openers is to focus on expanding the sides of the ribs outward, lifting the heart upward, and allowing the shoulders to rise and fall. In all of my heart-opening immersions, I teach the specifics and guide you step by step on how to shift your breathing from the belly to the thoracic. Belly breathing, often known as diaphragmatic breathing, is excellent, highly efficient, and calming; in heart openers, however, it tends to cause a great deal of discomfort in the low back, and more often than not, it significantly restricts mobility. I do suggest belly breathing between sets of backbends to bring the heart rate back down and to get grounded.
The easiest way to learn how to breathe into the sides of the ribs and chest is to cinch your belly in and up, which is often referred to as Uddiyana Bandha. Anatomically speaking, I am referring to two main muscle actions.
- transversus abdominis: Activate this, known as the corset muscle, by pulling your wasteline inward on all sides of the body.
- erector spinae: Lift your ribs and chest upward; don’t try to”knit the ribs,” but allow them to lift.
Maintaining these two actions, place your hands on your outer ribs. On your inhale, try to push outwards into your hands with your ribs while keeping the belly inward (a little movement will occur—that’s ok) and your middle and upper chest lifting. Doing this will force the intercostal muscles between the ribs to lengthen. That said, you’ll want to be careful and avoid massive inhales when learning this so that you do not overstretch any of these muscles. In the immersion titled Anatomy of the Heart, we go over all of these actions, and I also show these muscles to you so you can visualize how it all works.
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