I never was a backbender. When I did Urdhva Dhanurasana with the 90 year old Swami Satchitananda (a yogi who didnt talk for 30 years...) in Madras - on my second trip to India - I had a hammering headache - always directly after deeper backbends... that has been like this over many years, when I practiced Ashtanga with my teacher Rolf Naujocat in Goa - and much later in Mysore, it continued in Kapotasana and after more intensive backbending.. It took me about 5 years to do my backbends (from standing position back to Urdhva Dhanurasana and up again) - and another 5-6 again to get in a proper Kapotasana - with catching the heels - as Sharath wants to see it, before you may go on. (and as I finally reached all that - the menopause did the process back to roots) - thats the journey up and down in one or the other way.
Here I just want to tell you about my small daily routine - to not loose backbends totally again - and a trick for Dhanurasana, which
came from Liesel Goltermann from a great german yoga teacher, a student of van Lysbeth (I think the first westerner who met Pattabhi Jois) - and I met her when she was 93 - when
she gave a great workshop on Yantras and Yoga. The amazing thing is - that also she is kind of part of the lineage - and I remember the sequence she gave - that was alike
the bow sequence of Vinyasa Krama. Anyway - she gave usefull practice keys in that workshop.
So my routine in the morning for keeping openess in the chest for backbending is the following (mirroring the use of the different technics of Vinyasa Krama and BKS Iyengar etc):
In the first few Surya Namaskaras - I will stay before the upper dog in Bhujangasana for 3 breath - in a way, that I try to take the strength out of the back - as
it would be when you do the Bhujangasana posture "without support" of the hands - keeping the arms back, along the body. Every inhale I try to get a bit higher up - to finally "see the
zenith", as Sri Sribhashyam put it in words - for the "old form" of Bhujanga Asana. Then I would go to upper dog with a Jalandhara Bandha - lifting the chestbone as much as possible.
The wrist should be kind of in line with the navel (BKS Iyengar words). After lifting for some 3 or more breath (remembering Krishnamacharyas advice, that we could stay there for some
minutes) in Urdhva Mukha Svanasana - I will put the head back and then roll back to AMS. Next round of SN (Surya Namaskara) could be the same again. Lets say 3rd round I will put a block beneath
the pelvis / pubis bone (BKS Iyengar Technic) to lengthen the lumbar region and keep it relaxed, also the buttocks relaxed, bringing the chest in front of the arms while draing
shoulders back - and again keeping the navel in line with the wrists.
In a small film I tried a sequence to Dhanurasana - which surely could be better done with resting or with a Vinyasa inbetween the different postures.
The trick for Dhanurasana is -
to first lift the knees for some breath - keeping the head down on the earth and the neck relaxed -
then lift the chest keeping the chin down - (Jalandhara Bandha helps backbends - that has been an enlightening experience with Vinyasa Krama of S. Ramaswami!)
and then the last and third step - lifting the legs with an exhale more and more.
Keeping the head in Jalandhara Bandha would help to lift the chest more and give more space in the vertebra (thats an asthonishing point I learned from Vinyasa Krama, that in any posture (Backbends as well as forward-bends) with Jalandhara Bandha we will create more length in the vertebra - and therefore that also applies wonderfully for Dhanurasana and its many variations -
Try it out!?
....if you like to watch these few postures - they are here -