You can use cobra pose to strengthen your arms as well as the muscles of your back.
Use your arms in this basic yoga pose to pull your ribcage forwards and up. Pull it away from your pelvis. At the same time use your spinal erectors to bend your lumbar and thoracic spine backwards.
Because the pelvis stays on the floor, the elbows usually have to stay bent.
To enter into bujangasana (another name for cobra pose), lay down with your elbows bent and your hands just ahead of your elbows.
Lift your head and make your neck feel long by pulling your head away from your ribcage.
Without using your arms (keep them relaxed) bend your thoracic spine backwards so that your ribcage peels off of the floor. Do this slowly so that you can focus on bending backwards at each joint of your thoracic spine. (Work your way from the top of the thoracic spine to the bottom.)
To help deepen the back bend of your ribcage try moving your back ribs away from your pelvis.
If your spinal erectors are already active, lifting the ribs should be a little bit easier. (The levator costalis muscles, which lift the back of the ribs, are located beneath the spinal erectors. If the erectors are active it is relatively easy to activate the levator costalis also.)
How do you know if you are using your spinal erectors?
You'll feel them contracting up and down either side of your spine.
To make them stronger focus on increasing this contracted feeling.
Press your hands into the floor enough to support the weight of your ribcage and head. Use your arms to pull your ribcage forwards, away from your pelvis. Point your elbows back and move your shoulders down, away from your ears.
Keep your spinal erectors active, even as you use your shoulders and arms.
Adjust your hands so that you can press your palms flat to the floor while spreading your fingers at the same time.
Look forwards in cobra pose and pull your chin in, towards your chest. At the same time pull the back of your head back and up so that your neck feels long.
Keep your knees straight and the front of your pelvis on the floor.
Reach your knees back, away from your hip joints (to create space in the hip joint) and reach your toes back also.
You could also try pressing the tops of your feet into the floor. Imagine using this action to help lift the knees... just a little bit.
For extra support try to dig the inside edges of your shoulder blades into your back. Press your palms flat, into the floor and press your fingers down at the same time.
For extra charm, lift your eyebrows. (Do snakes have eyebrows? Probably not.)
Stay balanced in yoga balance poses, keep your center of gravity over your foundation. Learn how your center shifts relative to your body.
The single joint muscles at the back of the knee joint are relatively small compared to those at the front of the knee. For knee joint stability, activate the hamstrings as well as the three vastus muscles.
Key to improving balance and proprioception is the conscious control of tension. Tension can be used for both feedback and stability making it easier to stay balanced.
The following sacroiliac joint stability exercises can be used to shape the pelvis. They may also be helpful in forward bending and backbending at the hip.
These yoga pose upper back exercises make it easier to feel the upper back (and lower back) so that it is easier to control them both.
Three simple techniques for alleviating hip joint pain while doing yoga poses.
Hamstring Anatomy for yoga practitioners, focusing on backbending and forward bending of the hips with knees bent and straight.
Sitting bone pain while bending forwards may be a result of a facilitated (overactive) obturator internus or coccygeus muscle.
After a bit of a hiatus its back to stretching for beginners.
The latest installment is a mini sequence that works towards the half split inner thigh stretch with some prone twisting and outer thigh stretching followed by some recovery work with standing poses to help reactivate the inner thighs.
This set of poses is designed to show you how to activate the spinal erectors to bend the spine backwards so that you stretch the front of the torso. It also includes stretches like upright pigeon pose and upward facing dog for stretching the front of the hip (the hip flexors).
The latest stretch in the "Stretches for Beginners" series is a set of hip extensor stretches including happy baby and low lunge. Previous stretches in this series include bound angle (baddha konasana) and a pigeon pose hip stretch for the sides of the hip.
For well being is it better to be able to contract a muscle or relax it? I'd suggest that you learn to do both and just as importantly... Learn to feel when a muscle is activated and when it is relaxed.
The key to both is...
The yoga basics bundle is a collection of five yoga basics ebooks: balance basics, shoulder basics, backbend basics, hamstring basics and the hip control guide all for $52.00. (The suggested regular price is $124.95)
Consciousness is like the Captain of a ship. At times the ship it commands can be very big with lots of sailors to tell what to do, at other times the captain is sailing solo, taking care of the sails and the tiller.
This is a mini-routine that I've been using in my classes recently to teach awareness and control of the foundation in poses like
table top, high lunge, low lunge, extended cat pose, and yoga push ups (leading to chaturanga dandasana.)
This can lead to smoother and more mindful movement.
Tensegrity basics: tension doesn't just integrate the body, it can be used for proprioception and for responsiveness and quicker reactions.
What is proper yoga alignment for handstand? Why not learn to feel and control your shoulders and ribcage so that you can learn to feel when your body is best aligned.
In this video some tips for body weight squat and the one legged pistol squat with a focus on "feeling your body."
Why do a pistol squat? To improve hip strength and left/right hip balance. This may help to alleviate low back pain.
This dance of shiva video playlist includes cyclic movement combinations: F-F, B-B, F-B, B-F, CF-CF, CB-CB, CF-CB, CB-CF.
Learn how to stabilize the shoulder and hip in side plank.
This video goes over some basic body awareness exercises you can do while working towards side plank.
Back Bending Anatomy