Friday, April 12, 2013

The State of the Backbend, Friday April 12th 2013

These days, it seems like the only thing I really have to say about my practice is my backbending. Perhaps I should start a weekly (or maybe even twice-weekly) State of the Backbend post to record the ongoing process of my backbend practice. We'll see.

So here's how my backbending has been going this week. Over the last week or so in Kapotasana, I have been trying to lengthen and create space in my spine at the same time as I am walking my hands towards my feet. Basically, this involves landing on my hands first. Then (1) inhale, tilt the ASIS forward while at the same time lifting the stomach and ribcage. Then (2) exhale, walk a little. Then repeat steps (1) and (2) somewhere between five to ten times, until I grab my heels.

I guess you could say that from a purely mechanical perspective, this amounts to doing Kapo B first before doing Kapo A (or more precisely, doing Kapo B, then Kapo A, then Kapo B again before finally exiting the posture). Besides lengthening and creating more space in the spine, this way of getting into Kapo A also seems to cause the breath to be longer and slightly more relaxed while in Kapo A. Or perhaps spinal lengthening and the length of the breath are related.

Anyway, I won't offer too much more commentary on it. I'm just writing this post to record and register what has been going on in my backbend practice.


A few days ago, Micqui over at Ashtangi Angel wrote a blog post about the relationship between shoulder-blade alignment and backbending. In that post, she also mentions what she calls a "Lino style" drop back. I was unfamiliar with what such a dropback would look like, so I asked her to explain. Here's how she describes this way of dropping back:

" start with your hands supporting your lumbar spine, then you slowly move them down the legs, walking, walking, until you get to your calfs, so you're still holding the calfs (calves?) then you let go, rotate them medially and down you go. You end up only about a foot of the ground when walking down so it seems less scary :)"

A reader of this blog also very helpfully emailed me a video of Michael Gannon assisting a student in such a dropback (thank you!). Here is the video:

Gannon seems to be a great teacher; it is clear that there is a lot of trust between the student and him in this video. As Micqui mentions, this certainly seems like a less scary way to drop back than the usual method of dropping back from hands in prayer position. It is probably even less scary if you have a capable teacher like Michael Gannon assisting you :-) 

But I also have my reservations about this method. That last action of transferring the hands from the back of the thighs/calves to the ground involves rotating the shoulder girdle while moving the hands into a weight-bearing position. I can't help but wonder if that is healthy for the shoulders in the long run. 

Anybody have any thoughts about this?     


  1. Hi Nobel,
    I don't like backbending this way as I feel that this approach easily compresses the spine instead of lengthening it. I haven't really thought about the shoulder alignment before but you make a good point.

    1. Hi Linda,
      Yes, I suppose there is the potential for spinal compression as well. Interesting point.

  2. Hey, Nobel. Interesting video; I've never seen this approach to dropping back. I still can't get to my feet in Kapo but recently I've been practicing B first as well. Trying to practice B and then walk it in as my new strategy rather than going to straight to my elbows. I have a hunch that this will help me - we'll see. It's been a long time coming, but that's okay.

    1. Hello Kristen,
      long time coming (dirgha kala) is good. Have fun with both your practice and your reading projects :-)

  3. Why that hug at the end? That seemed strange to me. Ick.