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A standing back bend showing progression in 6 pictures.


Picture G

In picture G the contortionist has pivoted forward at the hips. As she is doing this she arches the back. This keeps her weight over the feet which are providing balance.


Picture H

At picture H she has allowed the lower back to take all the bending movement as she continues the bend and she has controlled her upper back which is straight. To retain balance she has swayed forward with her hips.


Picture I

Picture I shows the upper body still straight and this is due to her control. The lower vertebrae continue to absorb the bend by increasing the angular displacement of a few vertebrae. The vertebrae that have produced the "bend" have managed considerably better than 90 degrees of angle over a very few vertebrae. The back is an amazing part of your body structure to be able to do this but it does it as you bend your fingers in extreme ways! Now, on with the next three pictures.


Picture J

Continuing with the bend she now pivots at the hips as shown in picture J and brings the head down to behind the thighs. Notice that her legs are more erect because the body weight has closed up towards the legs.


Picture K

As is often the case with a back bend picture K shows her grasping one leg just above the knee without increasing the bend that was there at picture J. Having grasped one leg she has a stable base and can now grasp the other leg and then pull her body in to the final position at Picture L.


Picture L

Things to note about picture L are that her head is well down the thighs with the shoulders about mid way between seat and knee. That means the bend has been taken by a few low back vertebrae. The original straightness of the upper back remains unchanged from the earlier pictures. Her seat is firmly against her back towards the bottom of the rib cage. Holding the legs just above the knees tends to lock the legs. Grasping below the knees would have allowed the knees to bend more easily.

This was a classic entry to a perfect back bend with the head between the thighs. You'll be able to do this in time!

Now a few different positions with comments!


Picture M

Picture M shows the head well up and the position of the shoulders against the legs is only just below the seat. The vertebrae taking the bend angle are relatively high in her back.


Picture N

Picture N is really impressive as well. The contortionist has her bend at the vertebrae in the lowest part of her back. Lower than picture M. Her shoulders are definitely lower down the leg than M.


Picture O

Picture O is interesting. Firstly the girl has a thick ribcage and while there is a bit of rib showing the girl is not too thin. But she has very little in the way of padding on her seat! The back has a wonderful bend but the lack of a seat means that it is unusual. What is more, the pose does not look as tight because she has insufficient seat to make contact with her back.

So this is the backbend. It is one of the classic contortionists positions because, while most people can bend down and touch their toes to the front, very few people can do a back bend. But, the back and its vertebrae can bend a lot. Even more than you can imagine. Several adjacent vertebrae can each achieve a considerable angular movement to give what almost seems to be a broken back appearance. Contortionists exercise to make greater the angular movement of their joints so allowing then to adopt positions that others find amazing.

Hopefully this insight and explanation will enlighten you a bit about the capacity a back has to achieve great angular movement of the vertebrae through exercise. This knowledge will, in turn, give you the confidence to relax when bending your lower vertebrae into a back bend and will allow you to bend your own vertebrae to a greater angle than you previously thought possible.

Now for another back bend. This time a different entry style.


Picture A

For her entry into the back bend (Picture A) the girl has pivoted forward at the hips. This is always a good start to retain balance. At this point I should say that a back bend should not be hurried. It should always be a movement performed with deliberation and slow movement. The back is deeply arched, and the vertebrae give great angular movement at the lower back. The head is tilted well back until the back of the head comes up against the seat. This is a locked position where there is stability.


Picture B

From this position the hip pivot is lessened progressively (Picture B) but the back kept arched. As the pivot is reduced the head slowly slides down the contour of the seat and the hip pivot slowly disappears. The bend in the back is kept as tight as possible and with this movement different vertebrae change their angular movement as the bend progresses.


Picture C

Picture C compared to A & B will show this action.


Picture D

The legs are now grasped at the knee as Picture D to give a steady base and pivot action at the hips bring the shoulders down well below the seat. The arms are then used to pull the bend in until the shoulders contact the back of the legs and the seat is against the back.


Picture E1

If the feet were reasonably apart for this bend then the head will be through the thighs as at Picture E1. In this position there is a reasonable amount of pull force on the arms and hands and another option may be preferred as follows.


Picture F1

If the feet were nearer together for the bend, from Picture D position and the subsequent hip pivot took place the arms may be clasped in front of the knees and the head is against the back of the knees as picture F. Once the hands are clasped there is no pull on the arms. (But there is more to come!!).


Picture E2

This is an alternative continuation from Picture D. From the D Picture position the hip pivot takes place and one leg only is grasped at the knee. See Picture E2.


Picture E3

Holding the one leg, the pull in brings the head outside the leg and the lower back vertebrae now have an angular movement to the side as well as to the rear as the head takes position as Picture E3. After a pause holding that position, the inside hand transfers to the other leg. The head is now taken from outside one leg across the back and pulled to outside the other leg.


Picture F

Following that, the head is returned to center as previous picture E1 or F1. This is very interesting in that the Chinese girl has pivoted at the hips to an amazing extent and her head is between her knees. The back bend is good but it is the hip socket movement that is impressive.

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