Open your heart.
Backbends provide entry into the anahata (heart) chakra, located at the center of the chest. Anahata chakra is associated with our karmic relationships with others whom we feel have hurt us. When we bend backwards, we access our heart center and allow the experience of those relationships to come to the surface. That can be very scary, because it forces us to see that the source of negativity is within us, not in the others whom we usually feel have wronged us—we can only see things outside of us that we already have within us; nothing exists in the world except as a projection of our own minds. How we have treated others in our past creates the way others are treating us now. For that reason it is unwise to blame others for our suffering. Instead we should forgive and move forward, aligning with the power of love. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to go with love; hate is just too heavy a burden to bear.” Backbends also stimulate the thymus gland, located behind the sternum and just under the throat. The thymus plays a significant role in our immune system, which can be suppressed when we dwell in dark emotions. Stimulating that gland can help keep our immune system working effectively and contribute to better health. Our physical, psychological and spiritual health is intertwined.
One obstacle to backbending is the fear of falling—which is actually the fear of death. The fear of falling is considered instinctual and so difficult to overcome. Fear is a safety measure—it alerts us to danger and triggers physiological reactions designed to protect us. The psoas muscle, which runs from the front of the spine through the pelvis and attaches to the femur bone in the thigh, is primarily responsible for hip flexion—bending forward. Fear causes the psoas to contract, closing the front of the body and protecting the internal organs. When fear becomes habitual, as it is for most of us in our culture, the psoas loses flexibility and makes bending backward scary and very difficult. But with the intelligent, regular practice of backbends over time, the psoas lengthens, our hearts are released of negative emotions and we experience less and less fear.