Backbends are not easy for everyone and can give nightmares to some people. Bending our body in the opposite direction can be a bit difficult as we are used to slouching and moving in a forward direction while working on the computers or swiping aimlessly through mobile phones. This has resulted in frequent back aches and spine problems.
Once your body is accustomed to backbends, your spine will thank you. Backbends are a good source of strength, flexibility, and balance and important for a complete yoga practice. Shalabhasana, also known as the locust pose is an asana in yoga for backward bending which stretches your entire back, spine, chest and makes you rejuvenated and energized. Its name is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘Salabha’ which means ‘locust’ and ‘Asana’ which means ‘posture’. The final position of this asana looks like a locust or a grasshopper.
Here are the steps to perform the asana:
Start with lying down on the stomach in Makarasana (Crocodile Pose). Relax the spine with a few breaths and connect the breathing with the movement of the spine.
Keep your feet close to each other and chin on the floor, place your hands close to your body to the side. You can support your upper thighs by placing your palms below them.
Take a deep breath and raise your legs from the waist, keeping the legs together and knees straight.
Your lower body is raised from the pelvic area. Try to maintain a balance of your body on the upper abdomen, chest and chin. Hold this position with slow breathing and try and bring your mind to the lower back.
With every inhalation raise your legs higher by keeping them straight.
The higher the body is raised off the floor and the balance is maintained only on the chest and chin, the more flexible the back and abdomen become.
Exhale slowly and bring the lower body down, relax the chin and begin to come back to Makarasana. Relax your body for a few breaths until you are ready for the next round of Shalabhasana.
Top 5 health benefits of Locust pose are listed below:
- Strengthens the core and back muscles
In locust pose, your body requires good effort to be lifted off the floor and stay there for a few breaths. It provides a great amount of strength to your core and the entire back of the body.
Shalabhasana is not only one of the best poses for strengthening the back muscles but also one of the safest. A variation of the pose is often advised for low back pain and mild sciatica in yoga and physical therapy.
It is not about lifting as high as possible, so don’t aim for the height at first. After practicing it regularly, your back will strengthen and you will be able to easily lift higher.
- Extends the spine and opens the chest
This simple backbend is useful in extending your spine and strengthens it while protecting the lumbar curve making you more flexible.
Most of the things that you do in a day which may include sitting at a desk, driving, holding a baby, cooking meals, etc. affects your spine and results in constriction of the chest. Regular practice of Shalabhasana will keep the spine in good condition and open up the chest resulting in better breathing.
- Massages abdominal organs and improves digestion
Shalabhasana strengthens the abdominal muscles and tones the abdominal organs which include kidney, liver, and spleen. The pressure applied to these areas also massages the organs. It relieves constipation, indigestion and gets the digestive processes function more optimally.
- Tones your buttocks and hamstrings
Along with the benefits of the locust pose on your core and back muscles, it is also a great way to tone your buttocks, inner thighs, and hamstrings. While lifting the legs and extending the hips in this pose, your glutes, adductors, hamstrings, and calves get activated. Shalabhasana dynamically conditions your legs and glutes. The gluteus maximus contracts and strengthens when you are on the way up, and lengthens and relaxes as you come down.
- Promotes calmness and improves focus
Locust Pose energizes your body and narrows your focus for a few breaths while making you calm and alert when you come down. You should definitely make this pose a part of your day as it will strengthen your back, improve your posture, keep your spine supple, help with digestion, and revitalize your body and mind.
Contraindications of the locust pose
The fact that this pose has various benefits, care should be taken while practicing this pose. Some of the contraindications of this pose are listed below:
- People with acute back pain or slipped disc should refrain from practicing this pose.
- People with severe sciatica may suffer as this pose tightens your entire body from the hip to the feet.
- Women with major menstruation problems or with a prolapsed uterus should avoid this pose.
- Women in their pregnancy should avoid this pose.
- People with blood pressure problems should avoid this pose as it may cause suffocation.