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Standing back bends

The standing back bend is not an easy pose to get yourself into. The problem with it is that you are standing and then instead of forward bending which is natural you must reverse the bend. For forward bends the shape of the foot provides good leverage to maintain balance. The leg goes down to the foot and then the toes are some distance ahead of the leg pivot point. Any tendency to overbalance is corrected by pressure on the toes.

During a backbend the tendency to go off balance cannot be corrected easily because the toes point the wrong way. As you commence a standing back bend you must, therefore, make sure that the body is maintaining pressure on the toes by slight overbalance forward. This is the reason for pivot forward of the hips at the initial stage of the bend. It is fair to comment that the brain senses the need for forward balance and tends to tense up muscles in case of problems with this un-natural action.

It is for that reason that I never attempt to teach a standing backbend until the trainee has an exceptionally supple and therefore confident back bend. I know that others teach back bends far too early (in my opinion). I will show the effect.

Bad Training Techniques


Picture G1

This would be an often taught way of entering a back bend. First, to a bridge as Picture G1;


Picture G2

then walk the hands to the feet as picture G2;


Picture G3

then grasp the ankles as picture G3. All very difficult and every part of the way there is strain. The coach expects the girl to increase her back flexibility by tightening the bend from this position. This is a big ask.


Picture G3a

Then what comes next? The girl has a fragile hold on her ankles and little stability and not great back flexibility as picture G3a. To try to increase flexibility the coach sets the task of getting the hands up to the knees so that the bend will become tighter.


Picture G4

The poor girl has to work the hands up the legs using finger action one hand at a time as picture G4 and all the time with bent knees because her back is not that flexible.

Try standing with the knees bent and see how much work you must do to stay balanced. Now imagine that you were in a back bend with knees bent. A totally unbalanced position with a tense body. So, the inevitable happens.


Picture G5

Because of lack of progress (which is understandable) the coach determines that he will help out the student by grasping her body and holding pressure on her back. The girl now has the legs more straight because coach is taking a lot of the weight. The girl can relax because coach is holding her and will not let her fall so she can work her hands higher up the legs as picture G5.

I do not think this style is any good at all and will tell you my method later.

The totally assisted method of teaching a back bend!


Picture H1                   Picture H2                  Picture H3

This is an actual series of pictures (H1 through H3) of one method a coach uses to get the trainee contortionist into a back bend. The girl does a loose bridge and is forced into the positions. When she is pulled into the position the coach wants the girl is told to hold position and is let go!

In my opinion this is a training method that does not produce confidence and is totally incorrect. To me it is vitally important that the contortionist trainee gets there in a much more friendly manner and I will tell you all about what I shall get you to do to achieve much better and quicker results.

The back is a complex part of the body. But, not only is it complex, it has an amazing ability to bend. This is achieved by angular change between adjacent vertebrae. That angle change can be in any direction and can be considerable. It is the muscles in the back that control any angular change in vertebrae.

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