Back Bends are heart openers, literally! When you expand your chest area, you are opening the heart chakra, the Anahata, is located in the middle of the chest. When we sit most of the day with hunched shoulders at our computers, we are contracting our pectoral muscles and our heart center is slammed shut. The weight of the world is on our
shoulders rounding them forward. This not only effects our muscles and we feel tight and have pain but is a sign you are protecting your heart and keeping it closed.
In yoga practice there are many back bend poses which focus on opening the heart and expanding the chest where our heart chakra resides.
In yoga, the back is your relationship to the future and your front body is your connection to the past. Resistance to or difficulty with back bending could mean a fear of moving forward into the future. A preference for forward bending might mean you are stuck in the past.
The good news is by working on your back bending will help you move forward in life and you will find relief you seek in your tight shoulders and chest.
All back bends are focus on opening the chest area but not the lower back. We always want to lengthen the lower back in back bends. We should not arch the lower back which is a common error new students make. Lengthening the lower back in back bends protects it from injury.
One remedy to open your chest is to watch one's posture while doing daily activities such as hunching at your computer, desk, lap top or phone. As you gain more awareness of your unconscious habits during a yoga class, you will gain more awareness of your unconscious habits during the day not just with your body but that will be focused on in another post.
It's also important to know how to practice back bends properly. I've included pics of common back bends with descriptions of how to perform them properly with proper modifications.
The chakras are energy centers located along our spine. There are 7 that we focus on the most. Different poses focus on opening different chakras. In back bending we focus on opening the heart chakra.
Info on Chakras from balanced-energy.com
The Human Energy Field or Aura is an energetic, multi-dimensional field that surrounds penetrates, and is the human body. It has rivers of energy called meridians that nourish every organ and cell in our bodies. These rivers are supplied by seven cone shaped, spinning vortexes of energy called chakras (pronounced "Shock-ra"). These chakras, in turn, collect energy from the Universal Energy Field that is all around us.
The heart chakra:
Located on the spine, in the area of the heart. This chakra is associated with our ability to give and receive love, to feel compassion, to reach out to others. The Asians say that this is the house of the soul as it deals with issues of the soul. It is the center of the chakras, and can balance the activities of the seven energy centers. Physically it is linked to the heart, lower lung area, circulatory system, the Thymus gland, and immune system. An important chakra for healing. When too weak, you may feel closed to others, low self-esteem, insecurity, jealousy, feeling unloved, "poor me" syndrome, and self-doubting. Overactive, you may experience the "martyr" syndrome, giving too much of oneself, overconfident, jealousy and stinginess.