The yoga Drop Back—the dreaded sequence that has you starting in a standing position, leaning yourself backwards, dropping onto your hands into Upward-Facing Bow Pose, and then standing back up. It is said that a certain Mr. Iyengar practiced 108 Drop Backs every Wednesday.
This particular yoga move may seem like glorified gymnastics, but it actually comes with a long list of benefits, and is something I feel all those with able backs, necks, and shoulders should work up to in their practice.
Of course, if you’re new to this, I suggest you work with an instructor to ensure proper form and safety. Here are my top five benefits of the yoga Drop Back, and, if you’re healthy and able, a tip at the end for working yourself up to it if it scares you.
1. It opens the shoulders and chest.
First off, practicing coming into Upward-Facing Bow Pose from standing opens your shoulders and chest in a way that simply pressing up into it will not.
The action of leaning your upper body backwards far enough that you can gently land your hands on the ground behind you requires and develops a deep opening throughout the entire upper body. Give it a try and see if you notice a difference in the opening you feel.
2. It opens the hips.
As you’re leaning back to open your upper body in this sequence, you’re encouraging the fronts of your hips to open and relax as well. If you’re able to hold yourself in the backward bend for a moment before releasing your hands to your mat, you’re getting one of the best hip flexor stretches I know of.
A bonus of this move is that you get to open both hips at the same time, rather than having to practice a stretch on one side and then the other.
3. It strengthens the legs.
The strength required from your legs to hold you up as you lean back to Drop Back, and the power you need to lift yourself back up to standing from your dropped back position means you’re getting a killer leg workout as you practice this sequence.
The other amazing benefit of this sequence is that you’re most likely focusing so much on your upper body that you’re getting a great strengthening workout for your lower body, without even noticing!
You’re working all your stabilizing muscles, along with the larger muscle groups as you practice your drop backs, making this routine a full-body training movement.
4. It strengthens the mind.
Because the focus and body awareness required in Drop Backs is much greater than in many other asana, practicing this sequence on a regular basis strengthens your mind and mental resolve. Keeping your mind fully engaged in your body and breath as you drop back is an excellent form of meditation.
5. It develops courage.
Dropping back takes and develops courage. It literally goes against your survival instinct to allow yourself to fall backwards, and this is one of the main reasons so many people struggle with this exercise to begin with.
By practicing this dropping back business, you’re digging deep into your courage muscles, which will translate into you feeling freer and more confident in your abilities, both on and off the mat. We could all use a little more courage, right?
A Tip for Beginners
If you’ve practiced this pose with a teacher and are clear on your form and alignment, but still struggle to do your Drop Backs on your own, my biggest tip for you is to use a wall for support.
Stand a few feet away from a wall, with your back to the wall. Next, plant your feet and bring your hands into prayer at your heart center. Inhale and reach your arms up over your head. Then, slowly and mindfully, lean backwards, reaching your hands towards the wall behind you.
Once your hands make contact, pause for a breath, turning your fingers down towards the floor. Then, as you feel comfortable, slowly walk your hands down the wall, stopping whenever you feel you’ve had enough. If you can bring your hands all the way down to the floor, do so.
Breath in your Upward-Facing Bow Pose for a breath or two. Then walk your hands back up the wall to come back to your standing position. Rest.
So what do you think? Are you excited to make yoga Drop Backs a new mainstay in your practice?