Backbends, Achiles Injuries & Tips

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Lena Asks:

Can I use ball to do the noodle stretch for alternative?

A: Ball is a good alternative, but sometimes exercise balls are too small and they don’t do much. If you do use an exercise ball, make sure it’s big and well inflated. If you’re using a chair, it is always a little awkward to get out of the pose, you just
have to roll out of it. Trapeze

Philip asks:

I strained my Achilles while mountain bike riding, please can you suggest stretches to help?

A: One interesting fact about Achilles injuries is that they are very tight directly to Antibiotic use, something to be mindful of. With all injuries you always have to be careful because the same stretches that will heal you can hurt you. The key thing is just to take things slowly. For the Achilles I would work on Downward Facing Dog and you have to be very careful with it, maybe to take very short stands, one legged down facing dog and I would do it every morning and you just really have to make a judgment call to see if it is helping or hurting. Downer Facing Dog, Warrior One, Warrior Two and all the Lunges. You just have to take it really slowly and easily, hope you have a quick recovery!

Manuela asks:

I have tried the Hangman but apparently I am so stiff that when my head is against the wall I cannot move my arms to the front and for sure not straight. Is there is a variation I could do?

Hangman is really great shoulder opener, you lay down on your floor with your head against the wall, you are on your belly and you stretch your arms up and you hang from your arms with your head floating. Here is the variation – you put a pillow underneath your chest to lift yourself up, you can use couple of pillows if you need to and from there you will be able to get your arms up. Then just take it slowly and start to remove the pillows. Hangman is really brutal for the first couple of weeks but as you get into it, it will get easier and easier and you find out that within a month you should be able to do it with no pillow at all.

For the Wide Dog, I am not sure if I do it right.
Where should this suppose to stretch? Should u feel anything in the legs, too?

If you are having troubles feeling the stretch in your shoulders in Wide Dog, try doing it on the edge of a bed or on the edge of a table – you will get the same effect. You really want to sink down in your shoulders.

Fredrik asks:

Flamenco:I’m using a belt in this pose. In the side stretches my knee or the muscle connections at the knee seems to get most of the stretch it is sometimes very painful, which leads to me bending my leg. Should I just try to endure (and flex my leg, which stops me from relaxing) or let go a bit of the belt?

In Flamenco you often feel funny things in your knee joint or hip but the key thing is you never want to fry your joints, you do not want to feel the pain, just make sure your knee is slightly bend, if you feel any weirdness it’s ok but not a sharp pain.

Butterfly: How far away can the feet be from the butt? I need cca 30 cm, otherwise the gravity will take me backwards. A pillow helps slightly. Any tips?

Everybody is different when doing poses, I tend to put them further out, if you had your hands in front of you it would be about 3 to 4 fists with distance away from your body, maybe even a little more if you want to rest your forehead down on your feet or down on your pillow.

Hangman: This was one of two poses that I felt really unsure of. It felt strange. Does it matter how close my hands are to each other on the wall?

There is no way around it, people moan but it is one of those most powerful poses for opening your shoulders! So Fredrik, just stick with it.

Lightning bolt: Is it ok to use pillows behind you to “land” on when you lean back, to start with?

The answer is NO, don’t use pillows, don’t use anything. Don’t lean back at all until you are ready to lean back. Don’t lay down on your back until it is very easy for you to lay down. Don’t be in a rush, don’t use pillows, don’t do it against the wall, you would hurt yourself, probably your knees or lower back. It has to be pain free.

Noodle: The other pose that made me unsure. I used a chair with two rather thick pillows, despite that my head touch the floor. Where should I place my butt on the chair?

For sure you can use pillows where should your butt be. If you feel uncomfortable on your chair use whole bunch more pillows (like 4 pillows).

Harsha asks:

I really want to improve my back flexibility. I read that the bridge or backbends require more than just the back. It involves your quads and pelvic as well. Do you have any advice on how I can strengthen my back and increase its flexibility? I am interested in contortionism.

I don’t know anything about contortionism. So to backbends – you want to do poses like the Lightning Bolt, you want to do the Hangman pose to open up your shoulders or if you are working on the Bridge which is also called a Four Wheel for sure you want to do that pose every day! You don’t want to feel any pain in your lower back but you want to hold it for as long as you can. I always teach students to work up to 3×30 second holds and even better to 3×30 breath holds. You will start to see huge differences, just sit there, 3 times, 30 seconds each to start with and then you can move to 30 breaths. Just hold it still and practice more!