Ask the Yogi: Wild Energy in Backbends

Wild Energy in Backbends

Q: I have noticed that after doing a night of backbends I am filled with this sort of wild energy.  Sometimes it can make it difficult to sleep.  Some off my classmates also have the same experience.  What’s going on?More than any other pose, backbends have the potential to open up the heart, which is the center of feeling.  The heart Chakra in Sanskrit (anahata) means “unstruck sound” and is the bridge between the ‘lower’ self-centered identity and the ‘higher’ True Self.  This is a vibratory center where experience becomes integrated into wisdom through love.  When this center is ‘sounded’ or opened, even physically, one begins to intuitively experience their connection to all things.


A great leap is taken to reach and access the heart center in the energetic body.  The three chakras below the heart are more concerned with the little self and development as an individual being.  While this development is of course valuable and necessary and even beautiful, the energy at the heart center is several orders of magnitude greater than the energy that comes from functioning at the lower centers alone.  This great leap is taken from the center of power (manipura, solar plexus area – ‘jeweled city’ in Sanskrit) to begin to experience the ever-deeper true power of union and connection with life itself.  In the heart this connection or ‘yoga’ manifests through the experience of love, which is often the first time that we put the needs and happiness of another being above and beyond our own.  In this way the ‘little self’ is surrendered, at least temporarily, and no longer takes up the center of our universe so that we can begin to see and experience life from a much grander perspective than the limitations of mind and ego.

The body and mind instinctively know all this.  When we do backbends we can experience a taste of the energy, grace and vitality that is available to us when we live in a selfless manner, i.e. not identifying with our habits and (‘little-self’) defined limitations.

Most backbends take place primarily in the lumbar spine, which awakens the three lower chakras and excites their energies of security, sensuality/desire and control.  This can create the experience of ‘wild energy’ coursing through the physical/emotional body.  This energy is soon spent or can become a little frantic if not grounded.  But for a backbend to be truly evolutionary we move that energy into the thoracic spine, which, though it is fixed by the ribcage and is limited in its backward compression by downward-angled spinous processes, can still arch significantly as a whole and create a heart opening that all at once tames and surpasses the energy released by the lumbar spine.

A deep backbend is energizing and humbling at the same time, reminding us of how vulnerable and strong we are when we open to Grace.  The opening of the heart in this manner as the true center of feeling actually begins to calm the wilder energy released by the lumbar spine and transforms it into an evolutionary experience that connects us to our higher nature and the yoga of joining into all things.  To access this process we must be grounded and engage the center of presence (navel-point), making peace with our ‘lower’ being and ourselves as an individual.  We then move this awareness up to the heart center and have an authentic feeling, which leads to direct experience.  This in turn awakens the head in the correct order (not as leader of the pose but as the center of wisdom that arises from being present and authentically feeling what is in this moment so the soul gains direct experience and becomes wise).

A good yoga teacher will provide the alignment cues necessary to help you to integrate the energy released in your backbends on a physical, emotional and psycho-energetic level.  Such a teacher will understand that not only can misalignment in a backbend cause injury, it can also deepen energetic imbalances in the body that can lead to a troubling feeling of being stuck or ill-at-ease or worse.  Backbends require our respect, attention, humility, breath, presence and integration.  The moment you start using a backbend to ‘show-off’ or as a source of pride, the heart closes and the head will try to take over.  But without authentic feeling, the head can only guess at what true experience is taking place.  Authentic feelings which are always based in the NOW teach us that to access the heart as a center of love and true compassion, we must first become more vulnerable to this moment and leave the integrated but grosser vibratory forces of the three lower chakras at the gate below.Jeff Martens is a teacher, writer and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga.  All suggestions are voluntary.  Consult a qualified teacher or your physician before you embark on any practice in which you are unfamiliar.