Here’s a fun little video on dropbacks that Stu Girling and I made. We shot it on my favorite beach in Goa, Ashwem, while I was there to teach at Purple Valley. Beaches are great for dropbacks. They’re beautiful, sloped, and they’re soft so if you aren’t successful you won’t concuss yourself! If you don’t happen to have a beach to practice on, feel free to use the wall, a couch or the stairs. If you’re using the stairs, make sure you’re at the bottom, not the top.
Once you’ve watched the video, you can use this as a resource when you practice your dropbacks. Enjoy!
Flexibility and strengthening exercises:
Lunges are great for opening up the front line of the body and preparing for backbends.
- Come down on one knee, with the shin and foot of the back leg resting on the floor behind you.
- Your front leg is bent at 90°, with the knee over the foot to start.
- Gently bend the front knee and allow the back leg thigh and hip to drop toward the floor.
- Keep your hips level to you maintain the stretch in the hip flexor. Don’t try and avoid the discomfort it by opening up the hip.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Use your breath to soften into the stretch.
To make this more challenging you can bring your front foot further forward and drop the thigh a little more. Don’t forget to switch sides.
Ustrasana (Camel Pose) Variation
This backbend also opens the front body, and also gives you the opportunity to work on strengthening your legs while relaxing your bum.
- Come onto both knees with your hands on your hips.
- Press the tops of your feet and toes into the ground and see if you can get the backs on your legs to engage.
- Bring the hips slightly forward past the knees.
- Gently squeeze your thighs in towards each other.
- Suck in the lower belly, below the navel.
- Use your hands to make sure your bum is soft.
Important: If you’re doing this with a friend you should only be checking your own bum.
To go a little deeper you can bring your hands to your heels. Try to lift your chest to feel more stretch and openness in the front body.
Shoulder opening – Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) variation.
- Bring your right arm up and over your head to place the palm against your middle upper back.
- Bring your left hand to the right elbow and gently press down with the left hand as you reach up with the right elbow.
- Lift your chin and slightly press your head back.
- Do this on both sides.
To really simulate a drop back, stretch both arms up. Externally rotate the arms and reach from the deltoids. Roll the thumbs out away from each other as you bring the arms up and back. Breathe into the resistance in your shoulders, and try and bring your arms up by your ears.
Putting it together:
Setting Up The Leg Pattern Of Dropping Back
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with the toes pointing forward.
- Bend the knees so that when you look down you can’t see your toes you can only see your knees.
- Keep the bum soft.
- Bring your hips forward over your knees, so when you look down you can just see your belly and hips.
- Keep pushing down through the legs as though you’re going to straighten them, but don’t fully straighten them.
- Pressing down through your heels, the back of your legs should be engaged, and your bum should be soft.
- Really suck the lower belly in to give your back support.
- Keep finding the leg pattern and bring your hands into a prayer position.
- Start to lift the elbows up away from the floor, stretching them up toward the ceiling.
- Don’t worry about going back or going deep – just focus on finding the work in this position.
- As the arms reach up you want to feel like your back ribs lift away from the hips.
- Keep finding space in the lower back.
Don’t make the mistake of pushing the chest forward!
When you push the chest forward, your lower back ribs are going to collapse down toward the sacrum and that is going to cause compression in the spine. Instead, focus on lifting the back ribs up. Use your arms to help do this.
Dropping All The Way Back
- To go deeper, straighten the arms up overhead.
- Reaching up and back, go as far back as feels comfortable.
- It is better to maintain some control over the movement so you don’t risk injuring yourself.
- Even if you go back just a couple feet onto the wall, or sofa, or stair that’s fine.
- Maybe, eventually, you choose to go all the way to the ground (or beach)!
Coming back up
- The problem with dropping back is that you need to find a way back up!
- Don’t need to come back up to standing if you don’t feel totally comfortable.
- If you are going to come back up, start by coming on to your fingertips and finding the work your legs.
- Feel the strength of the legs pressing your hips forward and up.
- If you feel comfortable and strong you can try to gently rock back and forth, pressing off the tips of the fingers to get a bit of airtime.
- And, voila! come all the way up.
Try this a couple of times to help you get the hang of it. Thanks for watching and following along! I’ll be teaching my 2-week Ashtanga Yoga retreat at Purple Valley again next year, from Mar 17 – 30, 2018. Maybe you can come?