How Do You Breathe In Backbends?


April 6, 2021     backbend | breath | technique | Your Questions

Transcript below of: How do you breathe in backbends?

Hey everybody! Welcome to this month’s question of the month. If you’ve got a question, no problem. Submit it here at yoganatomy.com/myquestion. This month’s question comes from Yasin and it’s about how to breathe in backbends.

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The Question:

He asks, “How [do I] breathe in backbending, especially in dropbacks and when coming up?”

The Answer:

Alright! Well, just throw it at me.

So Yasin, one thing is that functionally and posturally, it’s always more difficult to breathe in backbending. Because, while you’re in that kind of position, you’re stretching the ribcage out. I’m assuming you’re especially talking about inhaling. And, once you’ve stretched the ribcage out, when you inhale, as that air comes in, you’re asking the ribcage to stretch even further. So, it’s a lot of tension. Remember that tension is not just contractile, but tension is also created when we elongate tissues because they’re elastic.

So, this is very common in backbends. It’s also common in twists.

Need to work on your dropbacks?

I have a few suggestions for you. One is — and let’s start with a static backbend for a moment — when you get into the backbend and you hit that point where you can’t breathe anymore, you can do two things. You have a choice. One is — and I would start with this one, because if you’re doing dropbacks you’re a more advanced practitioner anyway — close your eyes. And then, really focus on the breath.

This brings up something. It’s possible that even though you’re breathing throughout the rest of your practice, maybe you haven’t prioritized the breath enough. I’m just guessing. I don’t know you. I haven’t seen you practice. But, maybe you need to kind of dial in the level of attention and focus that you give to the breath during the rest of the practice, so that when you get to backbends, you’re going to have more control over it.

So, the first thing is close your eyes and see if you can connect to the breath. If you can connect to it, you might be able to then take more control over it and deepen the inhale.

If it’s more of a structural or a postural position that’s really blocking it, and it’s not your focus or attention, then back out of the backbend a little bit. Just reduce the intensity of it and see if that sorts it out. So you’ve got two choices there.

For dropping back and standing up, if you haven’t had control over your breath in static backbends, you’re going to have a very hard time doing it while also moving in that shape. So usually, this is what I tell people when I’m working with students and they’re dropping back, and they’re having a hard time breathing or they end up holding their breath. Holding the breath is not good in those positions because that typically creates tension and it breaks the drop back and stand up kind of flow. So, what I tell them to do is to breathe a little bit faster, but don’t hold the breath.

So, I’m not saying breathe faster throughout your entire practice. You breathe faster to keep it moving and then over time you would slow it back down to the normal rate that you would want it at during your practice. But, by the fact that you’re asking these questions, my guess is that you’re getting by with the type of breathing you’re doing, but you need to dial in the focus a little bit more.

And, don’t forget, I have an entire online workshop just about dropbacks! It’s fantastic. It gives you lots of good information and we discuss breathing in there as well.

Okay? I hope that’s given you some food for thought and maybe even moves you forward in your dropback, standing up, and how you breathe during that.

Anybody else, if you’ve got a question, go to yoganatomy.com/myquestion and we’ll get it answered.

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