Try to remember back to the day when you first attempted Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel Pose. I remember that my shoulders would barely lift off the ground and my elbows were just not willing to straighten. When I finally broke through to my first wheel that actually felt good. I wanted to squeal with excitement! In hindsight, I wish I had applied yoga props to my practice when I was learning to open up the back and heart in backbends. A full wheel requires open shoulders, armpits, heart and spine. Laying on a block and allowing the heart to open slowly, even just for a few minutes a day, will make your transition into a backbend 100 times better and safer!

Below are some props that we’ve curated to assist with opening up the back for a healthy and regular backbend practice. Backbends, we’re coming for you!


#1 Infinity Strap

infinity-strap-yoga-prop

The Infinity Strap comes in Original (cotton) and Stretch (elastic). The infinity shaped strap shows you all the infinite ways you can approach asanas using the strap to deepen and access postures that may have seemed impossible. I usually use this strap in my dancer’s pose or Natarajasana to connect the hands to the feet. The Infinity Strap is also great for stabilizing the arms in inversions such as Pinchamayurasana/Forearm Balance and Bakasana/Crow Pose.


#2 Yoga Wheel

yogadev-yoga-wheel-white-grey

You can use the yoga wheel to stretch out the ribcage and make poses more accessible OR challenging! I love lining my spine on the surface of my wheel and staying there for 20 breaths. I do it every day between work breaks. Opening your heart releases more than just the body, it reenergizes me so that you can continue on with your day. Most yoga wheels cost around $30. Our wheel of choice is the Yoga Dev yoga wheel because it comes in fun colors and includes an instructional pamphlet.


#3 Yoga Stretch Strap

yoga stretch strap optp greenMama Kuka Yogasphere

Stop fiddling around with ordinary yoga straps and start using a yoga stretch strap. Yoga stretch straps have loops that you can use to adjust how deep you want your backbend or stretch to feel. No need to fumble with the metal fasteners and trying to find the perfect length of strap. These stretch straps allow you to simply move your hand down towards the next loop to deepen the stretch or bend. Our favorites yoga stretch straps are the OPTP Yoga Stretch Strap ($16) (comes with a booklet), Mama Kuka Yogasphere loops ($30) and the Therapist’s Choice® Stretch Strap ($9).


#4 Yoga Blocks

sukha-design-yoga-block

The good ole yoga block is great for back bending. Use it in Setu Bandha Sarvanghasana/Bridge Pose under the sacrum or in Matsyasana/Fish Pose under the middle of the back to open the heart. Place it at your desired height for different back bending sensations. Blocks are inexpensive and portable. Check out the beautiful and sturdy cork blocks from Sukha Designs (2 blocks for $52).


#5 Stability Ball

Stability Ball Yoga Nathalie Babineau Griffiths

Stability balls double as a chair and are also great for people who have very tight backs. The stability ball is more forgiving than a yoga wheel and is a great place to start if the yoga wheel creates too deep of a backbend for you. Keep the ball inflated to use around the home or deflate it for travel or packing away. The stability balls range from $25-30. Our stability ball of choice is the Superior Fitness Stability Ball.


#6 Bolster

legs-up-the-wall-viparita-kirani-with-bolster

Bolsters are excellent for various types of yoga practices, especially yin and restorative. Use bolsters to gently approach a backbend. I love using a bolster under my sacrum with Viparita Kirani/Legs up the Wall Pose and Maysyasana/Fish Pose. To enhance your floor bow, place a bolster at the base of your belly for an added lift. Bolsters range from $45-100, so they are a more substantial investment, but definitely worth it if you’re a regular practitioner. Our bolster of choice is the Hugger Mugger bolster and it’s only $60!


#7 Yoga Trapeze

yoga body naturals yoga trapeze

The first time I ever tried a suspension yoga class, I felt silly and awkward going into the practice. It required me to become aware of my body’s prioperception while suspended in air and the under-development in my upper body strength. By the end of the session, I felt open and free. Hanging in a backbend without any pressure on my feet and hands felt exhilarating. Contorting and transitioning between asanas in air was an experience that I look forward to revisiting. If you have space and room in your abode, definitely invest in one of these to enhance your practice. It also doubles as a hammock for when you want to lay back and get lost in a novel. Our yoga Trapeze of choice: YOGABODY Naturals Yoga Trapeze ($89).

 


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Alex Tran

Alex has been practicing yoga since 2012. She realized the physical and mental benefits of yoga quickly and fell in love with the practice on and off the mat. She received her RYT 200 from Be Luminous Yoga, a Baptiste Inspired studio, in 2015 and began teaching yoga to foster youth and at Seattle Gym. Alex teaches a blend of styles from power vinyasa, vinyasa flow, hatha and gentle yoga. She is receptive to what her students need and tailors the class to meet their expectations and goals. Alex invites her students to explore their bodies with ahimsa (compassion) and svadhyaya (curiosity). Alex is also the Content and Community Engagement Manager for Seattle Yoga News. When Alex isn't focused on her practice and yoga education, she is spending time with her chihuahua x miniature pinscher named Bebot and traveling the world.

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