The eleventh pose in Surya Namaskar, is the backward bending pose or the hasta uttanasana.
• Posture: From the forward bend or the hasta padasana (10th pose), begin by lifting torso up along with the arms to upright position with the arms extended up overhead, and continue further into a backward bend. The palms face inwards towards each other or forwards, the elbows are extended as the shoulders move to end range of flexion with the arms outstretched throughout the motion. To add grace to movement, the shoulders may be circled (circumduction) to reach end position with upper arms slightly behind ears. This allows the shoulder blade to go through a motion from protraction to retraction and full arc of upward rotation to allow overhead position of upper extremities. In addition to the shoulder blade (scapula), and the shoulder joint, the less mentioned collar bone (clavicle), the breast bone (sternum), and the rib cage all contribute to this wonderful motion. The spine from the lumbar-sacral junction to the cervical vertebrae is in gentle flexion in forward bend and goes to neutral and then a gentle backward bend, with the spine in stable and elongated posture. The sacrum moves very little (or not at all) during this motion (from slight nutation to neutral and into counter-nutation). This is the key to permitting a uniform curve in the spine, both in end flexion and end extension posture and keeping the lumbar spine stress -free. (A sharp fold in the skin of the back indicates an unhealthy backward bend with excessive extension between a particular inter-vertebral joint, instead of a healthy uniform curve). Initially, the body weight shifts forward with the legs moving forward as a unit at the ankle joints as it translates the body forward, the pelvis tilts backwards with the hip joints extending in a close-chain movement and a counter-nutation of the sacrum( top of sacral bone moves backward and down).
• Muscles: In the bends it is essential to have good flexibility in the hip flexors for a backward bend (and the hamstrings for a forward bend). These allow the pelvis and sacrum to move freely releasing the stress on the spine. If these muscles are tight, it prevents movement of the pelvis and puts excessive strain either on the sacro-iliac joints, the spine, or both. As the dorsiflexors contract, translating the body forward as a unit, the calf muscles lengthen (eccentric contraction) to allow smooth and controlled movement. The quadriceps keep knee in extension and pull knee cap upwards to allow movement of leg as a unit. At the same time the hip extensors (gluteus maximus and hamstrings) contract with a resulting posterior pelvic tilt. The erector spinae and quadratus lumborum bring about spinal extension with the semispinalis (also a back extensor muscle). The gluteus medius and TFL may be engaged to allow the pelvis to open and sacrum to move easily. In this case, the adductors balance the outward torque. The shoulder girdle goes through the range of motion with the help of serratus anterior and rotator cuff muscles, which stabilize the shoulder blade and shoulder joint respectively. The prime movers like the upper, middle, and lower trapezius muscles, the deltoids, and the levators complete the arc.
• Breathing: From complete exhalation in forward bend pose, slowly inhale while breathing in and expanding the chest all around at the base, mid area, and at the upper chest using the accessory muscles of breathing and filling air into the upper lobes of the lungs. Hold breath in at end of pose.
“Om Arkaya Namaha"
“I bow to Him who is fit to be worshipped”
Ami Gandhi is a licensed physical therapist in the state of California. She is the owner of StableMovement Physical Therapy, a small boutique practice in San Jose that offers patient centered, one-on-one, hands-on physical therapy.