A backbend is a movement of the spine. However, usually the hips also move into extension, creating the appearance of the body bending back more deeply.
In some postures, this action is quite simple. The back muscles engage to bend the spine backward, and the glutes engage to extend the hips. The body will either move, or if the correct muscles do not engage, it won’t. While the principles stay the same, the application of them gets more complicated when the hands grab the feet like in Bow Pose, Dhanurasana.
The instruction commonly given in Bow Pose is to “kick!” However the body has two ways of kicking. Each result in a very different outcome in the body.
The first is the kick of a soccer player kicking a ball. This is an action of the quadriceps, which engage to straighten the knee and flex the hip. To a certain extent, the action of straightening the knee is ok in Bow Pose, but flexing the hip is not.
Remember, a backbend is the spine extending, usually with the hips extending as well.
If you use your quadriceps to kick in Bow, it’s possible (and common) to move in the wrong direction. Many people end up working really hard, while unknowingly trying to flex the hips instead of extending them.
The second way the body can kick is that of a donkey. In this kick, the glutes engage to extend the hip, resulting in the foot kicking back and up; a donkey kick. This is the correct way to kick in Bow Pose.
So, the next time you are practicing Bow Pose, channel your inner donkey and not your favorite soccer player.
Scott & Ida are Yoga Acharyas (Masters of Yoga). They are the head teachers of Ghosh Yoga. This blog is about their experience with yoga practice, study and teaching.
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