There are a number of intense back bending postures in Vinyasa Krama.
- Dropping back into Purna chakrasana in the Standing sequence
- Raja kapotasana in Bow sequence
- Gandha Bherundasana in Bow sequence
- Kapotasana in Meditative the sequence
- Urdhava Dhanurasana found in the Supine sequence
- Uttanasana mayurasana in the Supine Sequence
- Viparita Dandasana in the Inverted sequence
- Vrishikasana in the Inverted sequence
If you don't feel ready for some of the more intense backbends in the other sequences and tend to skip the postures above, the Bow sequence, missing out Raja kapotasana and gandha berundasana, may be a good place to work towards them.
A light back bending practice might include any or all of the back bending subroutines below
- The hand/arm variations back stretching subroutine from Standing
- All of the Bow subroutines passing on raja kapotasana and gandha berundasana
- Ustrasana subroutine from the meditative sequence missing out kapotasana.
- The dwipaditam (desk pose) subroutine from Supine possible including urdhva danhurasana
- Possibly the one legged uttana mayurasana subroutine from Sequence Supine
I often tend to practice Bow subroutines and Meditative subroutines together, the Bow subroutines as a preparation for the Meditative sequences Kapotasana subroutine.
' Backbending' is perhaps not the best expression, rather we should think of these postures as an arching of the back, a back stretch rather than bend.
A back stretch begin in the toes and ends in the fingertips.
In the Bow sequence subroutines we stretch out through the legs feet, toes and stretch our body out of the pelvis and up through the arms.
Engaging the bandhas can support the base of the spine in all back bending postures. here's ramaswami from his Sept 2011 Newsletter
'The spinal column descends from the occipital region and we have the aajna chakra in that region and the sahasrara is in the cranial region. The tailbone is the baby of the assembly at the bottom and tucked nicely but is surrounded by heavy muscles and tissues and protected well. It has some mobility.
Since it is the root of the spine it is also known among Yogis as the Mula. Since both Hata Yoga and Kundalini Yoga are predominantly connected with the spine the mula becomes an important aspect of yoga. When one wants to work with the spine, it, the coccyx, should be firmly anchored. Let us consider the example of the fishing rod (old times). It has a flexible pole, a string and the bait. (sorry I could not think of an ahimsa example). One holds the pole at the far end and when the bait is taken, the pole bends. The fisherman will have to hold the pole firmly so that the pole can bend to the extent required, even though there will be some play or movement in the hand of the holder. Further he has to hold at the farthest point, holding a bit inside the pole reduces the leverage and the pole will not bend sufficiently.
The coccyx and sacrum (sacro-coccygeal section) are at the bottom of the backbone. The coccyx is at the very end of the spine. It represents a vestigial tail (hence the common term tailbone) and consists of three to five very small bones fused together. There is, limited movement between these bones permitted by fibrous joints and ligaments. The sacrum is a large triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity and where it is 'inserted' like a bone wedged between the two hip bones. Its upper part is connected to the last lumbar vertebra and the bottom part to the coccyx. In children it consists normally of five unfused vertebrae which begin fusing around 16 years and become completely fused around 26. It is kyphotic (curved, concavity facing forward). Even so, it is
now an established fact that the sacrum moves between the ilia by both ambulatory and respiratory motions . It would therefore point to the logic of the use of fuller breathing in vinyasa movements as in Vinyasa Krama.
So the mula or the tail bone will have to be held firmly during the spinal exercises. And the yogis used the well known technique called mulabandha which is contracting a few groups of muscles surrounding the tailbone: the perineum, rectum and the gluteal muscles. All spinal movements, the forward bend,the rounded back, the turn, the back bend, the side bend, all will be better if the mula is gripped firmly and engaged.'
NB: These are practice notes that will be tidied up and put into the new edition of my Vinyasa Yoga Practice Book along with the current sequences and subroutines. The book can be freely downloaded HERE. There is a page on Facebook HERE with all the latest sheets and updates. This book is in no way a substitute for Ramaswami's Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga.