Super Sane Backbends and an Open Heart.

The Context:

I was once watching a video of Mr. Iyengar teaching a yoga class and he was speaking to (no, yelling actually) how we need to wake up every cell of our bodies. Nothing should be sleeping, he said. I am working on different ways to open my shoulder girdle in a more subtle way. I can do the gross actions and get a lot. But, I need something softer, subtler and more refined to romance the heart situation in there. Working more energetically as the impetus to create the action needed for the bend was my approach

Also, as a side note, I have a short neck and it sometimes gets cramped in backbends and I don’t get as much depth into my bend in the upper back because the neck is all scrunched. I figure, well, I would like a longer neck in my backbends. Luckily, the teacher I have been working with at the Iyengar Institute here in Brooklyn, Lara Brunn, seems to be on a similar mission in terms of neck, spine, shoulder girdle, side chest opening through subtle actions with huge results. So I am getting exactly what I asked for when I go to her classes.

This is a sequence I created using some of her instructions as focus and inspiration. What we are really trying to do is get length in the spine. Focus on taking C7, in and up specifically to create the length and the curve. Another way to access the length is to think of the front of the spine lifting and the back of the spine descending which helps you to create that laying back effect. Also the side chest goes forward and the collar bones lengthening wide. There is more but I would have to show you.

The Content:

The sequence took me roughly two hours but I go slowly. You could easily do this in less.


Shoulder work with strap – 5min *

Down dog with thumb and forefinger at the wall. **

Handstand- work on it for about 5 minutes


Surya Namaskar A 5X

Warrior Salutes variations ***



Headstand- 5 min

Pincha Mayurasana- work on it for a few minutes


Standing poses from a wide stance ****




Vira 2

Vira 1


Anjaneyasna arm variation 1 *****

Anjaneyasana arm variation 2 ******


Supta Virasana -5 min (i would also recommend a weight)

Janu Sirsasana

Ardha Matsyandrasana



Chatush padasana – 2 or 3 times. Not long, just get the upper back going

Urdvha Danurasana –umm, a lot of them

Dwi pada viparitti dandasana- a lot until diminishing returns

Drop Backs



Sarvangasana- 5 min



*this one I would have to show you. But if you know a shoulder therapeutic that helps open the upper back, do it for 5 minutes.

** face the wall and do down dog with your thumb and forefinger pressing into the wall. Keep lifting your arm bones well and strong and release your head. All the good normal legwork applies here too.

*** Riffed from the way I learned it from Christina Sell. Basically do about 8 crescent (or high) lunges but work majorly the length of your spine and moving C7 in and up, the front of the spine up, back of the spine down to create the lift and bend necessary. I pivot side to side like i learned from C.

**** When you work for the wide stance start in Tadasana in the middle of your mat and jump your feet wide. Do both sides of the pose and then jump your feet in. Jump wide for the next pose. Work like that for the transitions. Also when doing the standing poses, how much length can you get without jutting forward of back?

***** This arm variation, set the arms slightly bent and hand facing each other similar to how many drop back start. Work on the top of your shoulders even and back in space as you move your side chest forward and armpit chest up, keep widening your collar bones. Keep flowing the front of the spine up and the back part of the spine down.

****** Same deal as above but now grab the mat behind you and tug. this will help you get your side chest forward. But you don't want to get jammed in the front of the shoulder forward and the trapezius up. Work towards the opposite and you will have to create massive length in the sides of your body.

Livia ShapiroComment