“Back bending” or “heart opening” postures in yoga can make us feel very ungrounded and fearful, sometimes we even allow them to take our breath away. If you’re new to yoga everything about extending (bending) your spine seems unnatural, your entire life has been folding the spine forward so arching your back, for example: tying your shoe laces, getting into the car and actually, just picking anything up, these are all things we do on a daily basis without even thinking about. Yoga allows you to extend and strengthen your spine the opposite way, creating an arc.
Stating the obvious here but always warm the body up before moving into any spine opening asanas. Never ever allow any posture to take your breath away – I find when I’m teaching, a lot of my yogis hold their breath as they move into spine opening asanas. You should feel comfortable and maintain a steady breath as you open the spine, there may be a sense of uncertainty and that your body isn’t fully grounded but that’s where your yoga teacher should come in, physically supporting you or getting you to use props, they will then guide you into the different poses. Again another obvious piece of advice is to really listen to your body, if it hurts don’t do it!
When I use the word “grounded” it applies more than ever when opening the heart in yoga. In the beginning of your yoga journey you’ll think all the strength and flexibility is required in the back, this isn’t the case, especially as you go deeper into these poses. Strong legs are needed more than ever to support, ground and stabilise your spine as it opens – for example in wheel pose or Chakrasana, yes it’s the mobility of your spine that needs to open but it’s your legs getting you there and stabilising you once in the pose. When you start to practice dropping back into Chakrasana from standing, your legs need to be rooted and strong to give your back the support as your hands come down to the ground.
For me staying grounded is important not only when opening the heart but in life too. It’s important not to forget your roots – where you came from, even if you feel no desire to go back there. I used to be embarrassed to say I was from Huddersfield, immediately adding on “but my mum is from Manchester”, like it made me who I was. The truth is my roots are here in Huddersfield, I don’t have any desire to live here or carry my life on here – but family and friends are here, old work places and some most excellent memories. Huddersfield in a way made me who I am, it made me realise that this isn’t enough and I want to see so much more – to always pronounce my H’s, to never stare someone directly in the eye on a night out and to say “three” instead of “free”. To wrap it up, even though I can only cope with Huddersfield in short visits, it still holds so much familiarity that I can’t help but love it and be grateful for all the opportunities it has given me and to be proud of my roots.
So don’t allow your roots to hold you down but always remember them, you owe them that.
Grace from da Hudd. Xxx