Backbench Practice with a similar shaped bench. This prop can be used in many ways and for a wide range of poses. Use it to release your tight back, to open up your chest and shoulders, to expand your rib cage to improve breathing, to relieve back/shoulder/neck tension after a long day on the computer, driving etc..., as a good prep for or as an alternative to a full backbend practice.
The demonstration below focuses essentially on the back with some of the poses involving the shoulders, hips and legs. The aim here is to use this prop to open the chest, stretch the back and improve flexibility.
You can increase/decrease the stretch/lift/extension of different body parts depending on how you place the narrow end of the backbench, either towards the head or the feet, also on how you place your back (upper, mid, lower or sacrum) on the apex of the backbench (see white arrows). Arms and legs variations will also alter the stretch.
The backbench can be used by itself if you prefer a sharp stretch or with additional props on top of it to create softness, height or support as demonstrated below. You may need more or less support for your own body.
BACK STRETCHES & CHEST OPENERS
Apex to chest - Chest lift, upper back + shoulders stretch.
Apex to chest - Variation: arms over head.
Apex to chest - Neck + shoulders supported.
Apex to chest - Variation: legs straight.
Apex to chest - Crown of the head to floor, sacrum resting on bench: even distribution of the backbend.
Apex to lower ribs - Crown of the head to floor, pelvis hanging creating lower back traction.
Apex to lower ribs - Variation: pelvis hanging creating lower back traction. Deeper stretch to the shoulders and lower back.
Apex to pelvis - 2 folded blankets on top of bench, crown of the head to floor + hands holding bottom bench. Deeper stretch to the shoulders + chest.
Supported Inverted Staff Pose (Viparita Dandasan), crown of the head to floor, neck supported by bolster, arms crossed over head, even distribution of the backbend, front body + shoulders stretch.
Supported Inverted Staff Pose (Viparita Dandasan), arm variation.
Supported Inverted Staff Pose (Viparita Dandasan) - Variation: 2 folded blankets to increase the lift of the chest.
The above demonstration was created to give some basic ideas of how one can use a backbench as a prop to assist in stretching the back and in opening up the chest and shoulders. The photos were taken at the Hills Yoga studio and represent some of the poses that are presented in class. The photos are not necessarily placed in sequence of practice.
Please seek guidance from a qualified teacher to gain full instructions and personal adjustments. Some of the poses may not be safe or suitable for people with degenerative joints or special health conditions.