A yoga teacher who is a reader of “Yoga Suits Her” asked a very good question regarding progressing beginner-ish student through their postures when they are challenged by injuries or other restrictions.
Say, for instance, the pose you ultimately wanted to teach to students or learn yourself is the backbend Urdhva Dhanurasana (pictured above), you would start by understanding what sort of flexibility or strength is required of you. What do you need to “switch on”, where to you need to stretch, what sort of breathing will help most.
You can do this best if you start at a level where it is easier to calibrate the challenges you will face in doing more challenging postures – for instance, a “baby backbend”, like bhujangasana.
A more simple backbend lets you learn to open up an even arc-ing of your spine without having to support all of your weight. Another way to learn to work with the back extension is setu bandha, sometime called dwi pitham. Here you can comprehend the anatomical distinctions of firming the buttocks and hamstrings, stretching the front thighs, opening up the front chest, and articulating the spine.
It’s a big step to push up into a full back arch from the floor, so beginners will want to develop both the shoulder/arm strength and suppleness for this achievement. Hands supported on blocks with a belt to help hold the upper arms in are great tools for assisting the lift-off.
When doing practice or teaching, it makes sense to take the time to warm up with simpler versions of more challenging poses and do repetitions, even if you are at a level of being able to perform intermediate or advanced poses. What’s the hurry? Going along methodically to “develop” a posture means that you will be truly acquainted with your body as it presents in this moment, and less likely to injure yourself or just be going through the motions.
Like the old song goes, slow down, you want to make the music last…especially with the potential deliciousness of backbends.