How to get the most out of yoga without injury: five of our favorite asanas with the Backbridge.
Asana #1: Anjaneyasana (Crescent Lunge)
Kneel on the highest point of the Backbridge and step your right foot forward, bending your leg at 90 degrees (your knee should be directly over your ankle). Place your hands on top of your right knee or raise your arms overhead with your biceps next to your ears. Hold this pose for several rounds of breath and repeat on the other side. Level 1 is suggested for the deepest stretch, offering cushion for the knee cap as well as increased stability, which ensures more effective posture. Adding levels decreases the depth of the lunge and the amount of opening in the hip flexor, making the stretch easier for those who need modification.
Asana #2 Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Lying face down over the Backbridge with your belly button near the highest point, place your hands in front of you and do half a push up so that your upper torso is elevated but your pelvis still has contact with the Backbridge. Look straight ahead or raise your eyes to the ceiling and hold for several breaths, then slowly lower yourself down and repeat. This stretch really works your lumbar extenders and lower back while stretching and lengthening the core (abdominals). The higher the level of the Backbridge you use, the easier the stretch will be.
Asana #3 Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle or Butterfly Pose)
Sit on the Backbridge and bring your feet in as close as possible. Place the soles of the feet together, letting the knees slowly drop open towards the mat. You can gently push down on your thighs with your elbows or on your lower legs with your forearms to increase the stretch. From here, hinge forward at the hips and grasp your feet, maintaining length in the spine. Continue to fold forward over your thighs as far as you can, eventually bringing your fore- head to the ground in front of your feet. Hold for 15-30 seconds.
Asana #4 Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of The Fishes Pose)
Sit on the Backbridge with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your knees and bring your left foot under your right leg to the outside of your right hip, laying the left leg on the mat. If this is too much for your hips, you can extend your left leg out straight along the mat in front of you. Step your right foot over the left thigh, placing it just outside of your left thigh so that the knee is pointing to the ceiling. With a straight arm, place your right hand on the Backbridge just behind your right buttock. Bending your left arm, twist your torso to the right and place the outside of your left elbow on the outside of your right knee. Inhale and lengthen your torso. Exhale and deepen the twist. Repeat for several breaths and then switch legs and twist to the opposite side.
Asana #5 Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
Move the Backbridge behind you so that you are sitting just in front of the short edge. Begin to lower your back toward the Backbridge by leaning onto your hands, then your forearms and elbows. Novice practitioners may remain here or continue reclining onto the Backbridge. The higher levels of the Backbridge will generate a more intense back bend but will create less pressure in the knees. You can rest your hands on the backs of your heels or angle them out on the sides of your torso, palms up. Stay in this pose for up to 2 minutes.
Find more yoga plus Backbridge asanas in Dr. Sinett’s book The Ultimate Backbridge Stretch Book.