Backbends are some of the most beneficial yoga poses. They can also be intimidating, especially for beginners. But they don’t have to be!

Here are 11 of the best backbends to try, even if you’re new to the bendy world of yoga poses.

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If you’re doing a yoga sequence, you can come into Cobra Pose by dropping your knees, chest, and chin toward the floor. If not, just start by lying down on your belly.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach with toes pointed back and hands under shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  2. Inhale and press palms into the floor as you lift your head and chest. Pull your belly in and up.
  3. Keep elbows slightly bent and hugged in close to your body.
  4. Roll shoulders back and down. Your neck should stay neutral as you gaze forward.
  5. Exhale and slowly come back to the floor.

Tips:

  • Keep your hands aligned under your shoulders. (If they’re too far from your body, it can bring your shoulders up by your ears.)
  • Keep a slight bend in your elbows and make sure they’re pointed behind you.
  • Anchor down into the floor through your pelvis and the tops of your feet.
  • Flow right into Child’s Pose if that feels natural to you.

A yoga staple, Bridge Pose is a good asana to practice before trying more advanced backbends.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent.
  2. Place feet flat and parallel on the mat.
  3. Lengthen your arms along your sides.
  4. Inhale, pressing the backs of your shoulders and the soles of your feet into the floor as you lift your hips.
  5. Hold this position for a few breaths.
  6. Come out of the pose by gently lowering your hips back down to the mat.

Tips:

  • Finding it hard to keep your hips up? Try placing a yoga block under your pelvis for extra support.
  • If your knees spread apart as you move up into the pose, try squeezing a yoga block between your thighs.

Make sure you’ve warmed up your spine with one of the moves above before attempting Bow Pose.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your chin on the mat, hands by your sides, and palms facing up.
  2. Exhaling, bend knees and bring your heels as close as you can to your butt.
  3. Grab your ankles with your hands, keeping toes pointed.
  4. As you inhale, press ankles into hands and lift head, chest, and thighs away from the mat.
  5. Roll shoulders down to open your chest.
  6. Stay in the pose for a few breaths.
  7. Come out of the pose by gently releasing your ankles and lowering head, chest, and feet back to the mat.

Tips:

  • If you’re new to this pose, you can place a folded towel under your hip bones as a cushion.
  • Having trouble reaching your ankles? Instead, just lift your chest and leave your thighs and knees on the mat.

Cat-Cow is a classic yoga combo for stretching your back, but you can also do Cow Pose all by itself.

How to do it:

  1. Start in tabletop position, with hands under shoulders and knees under hips.
  2. Keep your spine neutral and press palms and fingers into the floor.
  3. As you inhale, lift your chest toward the ceiling and sink your belly toward the mat. Lift your head to look straight ahead.
  4. Exhale, coming back to tabletop position.

Tips:

  • If your knees hurt during this pose, pad them with a folded blanket or towel.
  • If you’re feeling too much pressure on your wrists, you can support yourself on your forearms instead.

Try this pose with a folded blanket or towel under your hips so you can be extra comfy as you practice.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach with arms by your sides, palms facing the floor.
  2. Inhale as you slowly lift head, chest, and arms off the floor, keeping arms straight behind you.
  3. Lift legs off the floor, engaging your abs and glutes. (If this is too much, feel free to skip this step.)
  4. Stay in this position for up to 30 seconds.
  5. Release from the pose by lowering your body back to the floor as you take a few deep breaths.

Tips:

  • You can make this backbend more manageable by keeping your palms on the mat instead of lifting your arms.
  • Remember to keep your knees straight to avoid putting extra pressure on your lower back.

Over walking like an Egyptian? Try Sphinx Pose! This one is a mild backbend, but it can still give you a great lower back stretch.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach with elbows directly under shoulders, palms on the floor.
  2. As you inhale, lift chest off the floor, rolling shoulders down to open your chest.
  3. Press the tops of your feet into the mat as you engage your abs and lower back.
  4. Hold the pose while taking a few deep breaths.
  5. Come out of the pose by slowly releasing your belly and lowering your head and torso toward the mat.

Tips:

  • Sphinx is supposed to be a gentle lower back stretch, so don’t try to push for a deeper backbend.
  • Lift your chest only as far as it feels comfortable. As long as you can breathe smoothly while in the pose, you’re doing great!

Downward-Facing Dog may get a lot of attention, but things are looking up for this pose.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach and place your hands next to your ribs. Keep elbows tucked into your sides.
  2. Inhale as you open your chest and straighten your arms.
  3. Lift the fronts of your legs off the mat by pressing into the floor with the tops of your feet.
  4. Roll shoulders back and away from ears.
  5. Maintain the pose while taking a few deep breaths.
  6. To come out of the pose, slowly lower yourself to the floor.

Tips:

  • Remember to really pull your shoulders away from your ears to keep your spine aligned.
  • Keep your neck lengthened by looking straight forward instead of throwing your head back.

Melt your worries away with this gentle and restorative backbend.

How to do it:

  1. Start in tabletop position, and then lower down onto your elbows.
  2. Keeping hips in line with knees, straighten your arms in front of you.
  3. Place your forehead on the mat and gently sink your chest toward the mat.
  4. Take a few deep breaths as you hold the pose.
  5. To come out of this pose, lower your hips to your heels into Child’s Pose.

Tip: Use a blanket to pad your knees if you’re feeling extra pressure.

It’s officially time to stop facing the floor. Introducing the Reverse Tabletop backbend!

How to do it:

  1. Sit with feet flat on the floor, in line with your sit bones.
  2. Place hands behind you with fingers facing forward.
  3. As you inhale, lift your body up. Engage your abs and let your head relax.
  4. Check your alignment: Your chest, hips, and thighs should be parallel with the floor.
  5. Hold the position as you take a few deep breaths.
  6. To come out of the pose, slowly descend with your elbows to the floor, and then lower your chest and hips back to the mat.

Tip: If you feel any discomfort in your wrists, you can point your fingers in the opposite direction or use fists for better support.

Something seems fishy… Fish Pose is a backbend that opens up your chest and neck.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with arms alongside your body with palms down.
  2. Lift your hips and slide your hands under your glutes.
  3. As you inhale, press into your elbows and raise your chest.
  4. If you feel stable, bring the back of your head to the floor, eyes toward the ceiling.
  5. Hold this pose as you take a few deep breaths.
  6. To release the pose, press elbows down and gently lift your head.

Tip: If you feel any pressure on your neck, try lowering your chest a bit or put a blanket down to support your head.

Need some puppy love? Try Extended Puppy Pose!

How to do it:

  1. Start in tabletop position, with hips directly over knees and feet parallel and hip-width apart.
  2. Slowly walk hands forward and rest your forehead onto the mat.
  3. Stretch your spine by keeping hands pressed into the mat and pulling hips back.
  4. Breathe deeply into the stretch and hold the position.
  5. Release the pose by coming back to tabletop position.

Tip: If you’re feeling too much pressure with your forehead on the mat, place a folded blanket or towel under your head.

Wanna deepen your backbends? Here are our best tips to safely progress through these yoga poses:

  • Warm up. To get the most out of your backbends, make sure you warm up your whole body, not just your back.
  • Work on alignment. Proper alignment is crucial to move into more advanced backbends and deepen your poses. Focus on keeping your feet, hips, and hands aligned. And don’t forget to open your shoulders!
  • Engage your muscles. Keeping your core engaged helps protect your lower back from extra pressure. This allows you to safely deepen your backbends.
  • Learn to counterpose. To make progress in your backbends, it’s also important to know how to counterpose. That means pairing a backbend pose with a neutral or opposite pose to balance the spinal stretch.

Yoga backbends have many potential health benefits like improving your posture and easing back pain. If you want to incorporate them into your yoga routine, this list is a great place to start.

Just remember that safety comes first: If a pose doesn’t feel right, don’t force it. If you’re not sure your form is correct, a certified yoga instructor maybe be able to help you improve it and avoid injuries.