This morning when I was doing backbends in my yoga practice, I was reminded of how important attitude is in doing yoga. Working the body too hard makes it feel brittle, especially on a cold winter’s morning. Being slack feels like not showing up for the event. I thought of a few attitudinal things that I could communicate when I taught my class this evening.
1. Yoga works to unite the body and the mind through involving the whole person: we are meant to focus our mind meditatively on each movement. There’s a graceful dance between mental and physical activity, with an interdependency between the two.
2. Yoga is not actually meant to be exercise, but rather a series of postures or poses held in a gentle way, sometimes for only 10-60 seconds. Poses shouldn’t be painful. Yoga encourages the individual to sensitise to his physical limits although those limits can change. Part of learning how to do the postures correctly involves paying attention to your own signals of distress, and not jumping over your body’s limits.
3. There are so many benefits flowing from yoga practice. On the physical level -enhancement of strength, flexibility, balance, agility and coordination. On the mental level – a relaxed and quiet mind and an ability to handle stress. But nothing comes from the practice unless we really give it our best, being attentive and in-the-moment.
4. With backbends, thoughtful preparation insures success.
Take a pose like this version of Cobra (Bhujangasana).
Lying face down, legs and feet straight behind you, exhale and pull your navel back up towards your spine, hollowing it away from the mat and engaging your pelvic floor, without a pelvic tilt . The lower buttocks  muscles tighten just slightly to involve your legs. Hands lift up to the level of the hipbones without changing the position of the shoulders. Bandhas are switched on, as well as Latissimus Dorsi muscles to support the spine and move the shoulders down.
When you inhale, reach your fingertips back towards your feet, moving the shoulder blades down the back, which lets your head and shoulders lift up. Neck is  long and chin is level with the ground. Take just a couple of full breaths and then inhale and relax down.
Try a few repetitions with the hands on the floor beneath your shoulders and use the bandhas. Work the shoulder blades downward with the elbows bent. Uddiyana bandha and mula bandha support the back throughout.
*Ralph Marston, Boston Bulldogs football player.