Mastering the Basics: Opening Your Heart with Chair Backbends

For all the amazing benefits they provide, backbends are not that complicated.  Essentially, a good backbend requires you to do two things:


1.  Lengthen the spine, and

2. Move the spine from the back of the body to the front.

We could list the benefits of backbends for days, but here are a few of the biggies:


Your thoracic spine, or mid-spine, naturally rounds out of your body, and accordingly resists the movement of a backbend.  But it is that very movement, in that very location (centering on T5), that creates a backbend’s most beneficial openings: the physical heart, lungs, ribcage, most of the major internal organs, and, of course, your spiritual home, the heart center.  So we must train the thoracic spine to release its resistance, open up, and flow into the bliss of the backbend.

That training can require a lot of patience, awareness and effort.  Fortunately, in Purna Yoga we have many clever ways to hasten our progress towards our goal, and these beginning chair backbends are some of my personal favorites.  I say “beginning,” but that’s only because they don’t require an advanced skill set.  The opening they create is, indeed, advanced.  Since the chair creates the length in the spine necessary for the backbend, and you have complete control over the depth of the pose, these backbends are also very safe.  That’s the hallmark of Purna Yoga asana: 

Safety in Service of Effectiveness

Everything you need to know to do a great chair backbend is in the seven minute video below!