A Backbending sequence with teaching notes

Posted in Teaching Yoga at 5:39 pm by tracichildress

I have written a sequence below along with teaching notes that illustrate how I would link the work to prepare the students for the back bends. I have not written the primary actions for each pose, rather the actions of focus for the poses being taught.

Virasana (to prepare feet for back bends)

  • Press tops of feet and shin bones down into floor

  • With hands cup shaped beside you, press your fingertips down into the ground. Roll your inner upper arm away from your body and

  • Lift the center of your chest up

  • Release trapezeis down the back

Parvatasana in Virasana

  • Maintain press of shins and feet, and lift arms upward. Allow the upward stretch of the arms to bring a lift to the front body and the chest


  • To teach the inward rotation of the thighs while they can see their legs.

  • Roll thighs in towards one another and press them into the floor.

  • As you do this have hands beside your hips and us the action of the legs and hands to bring a lift to the chest. Notice that when you don’t use the legs, you cannot get the chest to lift as much)

Parvatasana in Dandasana

  • Maintain the action of legs—thighs pressing into the floor– as you lift the arms up, lift the chest more and more. Notice the connection between the legs working and the chest’s ability to lift. If you do not have back problems, release your legs and try to lift—then again, activate and lift.

Adho Mukha Svasana

  • press whole hand

  • extend from hands up to hips

  • fully activate legs as you did in dandasana: move inner thighs towards wall behind you.

  • Allow center of chest to move towards floor

Step into Tadasana

Urdhva Hastasana


Virabhadrasana II (to further connect leg action to extension in front body and lift in chest & to show connection of tailbone in/down and chest up)

  • Press back foot strongly into ground and fully extend the back leg as you bend the front leg to 90 degrees.

  • Release buttocks down and lift chest up.

Virabhadrasana I (teaching the back leg inner thigh back, tailbone in/buttocks down and chest up)

  • Hands on hips

    • (from start position facing forward): press back heel into floor and move the inner thigh of the back leg toward the wall behind you.

    • Release buttocks down and lift chest towards the ceiling

    • Maintain these three points as you bend front leg.

    • When you reach 90 degrees with front leg, check these points: inner thigh of back leg back—buttocks down and chest lifted.

    • Move inner back thigh back as you lift the chest up further

  • Hands up (full pose)

    • Here, encourage students to allow upward motion of hands to lift chest and front body more—maintaining the action of back leg: inner thigh back & buttocks down. This also teaches the head back position needed for back bends


  • translate the action from above in Tadasana: dig the feet into the ground and then lift the chest without pushing thighs forward—inner thighs back

Step into Adho Mukha Svasana

Come to abdomen:

Chaturanga dandasana

  • Be on your abdomen

  • Place your hands on the ground beside your chest

  • Spread and press both hands into the floor, squeeze your elbows close into your torso

  • Tuck your toes under and move your inner legs up towards the ceiling strongly— bring dandasana and Tadasana action to legs here– this should lift the thighs slightly off the ground

  • Maintain these actions; hands pressing, toes tucked, thighs lifted, and on an exhale, lift the body an inch off the ground

  • Lower back to the ground

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana

  • Be on your abdomen

  • Place your hands on the ground beside your chest

  • Press the tops of your feet into the ground (as in Virasana)

  • Extend back through legs and lift your inner thighs towards the ceiling/ away from the ground

  • Pressing into the floor with the tops of your feet and the palms, straighten the arms and lift body off the floor, look up

  • Now again, press tops of feet and hands into the ground and lift the inner thighs and chest up towards the ceiling. Look up.

  • Come down


Recall lift of chest against back leg in Virabhadrasana I, and lift and extend similarly here.

  • Be on your abdomen

  • Bring the center of your buttocks (the tailbone) down towards the floor as you

  • Bend your legs and reach back to take your ankles

  • Exhale and lift the thighs and the chest off of the floor

  • Lift your head to look up

  • Move the chest and ankles away from one another to lift up more

  • Come down

Adho Mukha Svasana


  • Be on your abdomen

  • Bring your arms alongside your body

  • Move the center of your buttocks (tailbone) toward the ground to stabilize the pose.

  • Stretch the arms back towards the toes and the toes out beyond the body

  • Maintain this as you lift your head, and then

  • At the same time, lift your arms and legs off of the floor

  • Stretch back through your finger tips and toe tips as you reach the center of your chest (sternum) forward in opposite direction.

  • Come down


  • Come to a kneeling position. Knees hip width apart and the tops of the feet on the floor. Thighs perpendicular to the floor

  • Press the chins and tops of feet strongly into the ground.

  • Lift your chest in the opposite direction.

  • Maintain position of the thighs and bring the hands to your hips

  • Bring shoulder blades into your back, bend the upper body back without releasing thighs forward and bring your hands to your heels.

  • Again, press the feet and shins down, fully extend your arms, and lift the chest strongly up.

  • Release head back,

  • Lift head and come up.

Adho Mukha Svasana

Bharadvajasana in chair

Ardha halasana

(short) Salambha Sarvangasana


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