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Safe Backbends in Your Dancing

Flexibility and Lower Body Strength are Essential

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Use this information in conjunction with your dance teacher to get a good and safe result. Back bends, like Turkish drops, are frequently and seemingly successfully learned 'on their own' by young and/or fit dancers, but the damage from improper technique will make itself known later, next week or next decade, and NEVER at a convenient time for your performance schedule or your changing body. Believe it or not, you WILL want to dance when you are sixty!

Hadia, from her article Avoiding Injury In Middle Eastern Dance - The Lower Spine: If a dancer wants to occasionally perform a backbend, the lower back can be protected by bending the knees, tightening the anterior thighs and abdominals and then lifting and opening the chest, while releasing the head.  

From Deb Rubin writing in Fuse Magazine, Summer 2011:

  1. Yoga techniques are invaluable.
  2. The lower body needs to be strong and stable.
    • Use the power of the inner thighs to support back bending; do not push the thighs forward.
    • Pull low abdominal muscles in towards the spine to lengthen the tailbone.
    • Completely stabilize the lower part of the body, the core, so that the upper back is free.
  3. The middle and upper body needs flexibility, extension and strength.
    • [The Cervical spine is the upper seven vertebrae in the neck region. They contain openings for the arteries that carry blood to the brain. The Thoracic spine is the upper 12 vertebrae in the back, attached to the ribs and breastbone. Lumbar spine is the lowest 5 vertebrate, which support the weight of the entire torso. Most causes of back pain originate in the lumbar spine.]
    • When the lower body is strong, stable, and engaged, focus on the backward extension through the Thoracic (upper back) spine, not the Lumbar spine.
    • On each inhale, lengthen the spine and back body, growing longer and taller with each breath, allowing the upper body to float up and back.
    • On each exhale, gently pull your navel into the spine to create more lower body support.
  4. Your head is an extension of your spine.
    • Keep it in alignment with the rest of your spine to prevent injury to your neck.
    • Do not lead with your eyes or the crown of your head.
    • Only go down as far as you can come up gracefully with ease and without any pain in your lower back.
    • Practice going down halfway and coming back up in a fluid and snakelike manner to strengthen and support the muscles around the spine in all the phases of the backbend.
  5. Recommended yoga asanas:

From an article by Shira on, 2011: Two types of backbends:

  1. Kneeling backbend;
  2. Standing backbend.

Backbends not recommended for people with a history of spinal surgery, knee, ankle or foot problems, or who are currently pregnant.

  • Padding recommended for knees; tops of feet; underneath you;
  • Leg warmers to cover your thighs.
  • Shira lists eleven exercises that develop the strength and flexibility needed for backbends;
  • When starting backbends, she recommends lifting your chest high and supporting yourself with hands on the floor behind you.

Naemet Mokhtar in a 1957 Egyptian movie: check out the move at 1:37 - 1:53 in which she bends backwards TO THE FLOOR and comes up again!.

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