How to get nice Back Arch?


Hello! Can someone help me understand backbends? I can't seem to get a nice "C" shape (that little arch in the mid back that is so beautiful. My back more like a flat table probably due to lack of flexibility. What are the muscles I need to stretch to get the gymnastics style curve in my back? Is it even possible (I am 40!!) I would love to go from standing into a beautifully curved back bend but it just isn't happening...:( It would be great to hear from someone who knows some good safe back-bend specific exercises to develop a nice arch in the back - is it possible to develop? or do I just have to accept my straight flat back?....Thank you so much!!
Sep 21, 2011

What are  your abs like? One of the keys to having a good arch in the back is being able to release your abs so your back *can* flex. We spend so much time engaging them that it's difficult sometimes to allow them to stretch out!

Disclaimer: I am not the flexiest person in the world... but once I started thinking about what opposing muscles needed to release in order to stretch, I got much more flexy than I had been!
Sep 21, 2011 from Ohio, United States

Interesting...I've got a super strong core but maybe mentally keeping it tight after training to "use" my core. I'll have to try to release opposing muscle...thanks!
Sep 21, 2011

Try standing a few feet away from your pole, with your back to it.  Your feet should be a little wider than shoulder width apart.  Reach your arms high and grab the pole behind you above your head.  If that is too easy and you don't feel much of a stretch, walk your hands down the pole until you do.  Like polergirl said, this kind of stretch stretches your abs while your back muscles contract.  Always to an opposing stretch to stretch out your back afterwards, like a forward bend (toe touch) or child's pose. 

I actually increased my back flexibility a lot not by stretching but by working on a pole move that lets gravity do the work for you.  Can you do an elbow/forearm stand?  I practiced bending my legs and pointing them to the floor on the other side of the pole in this position.  When I first started doing this move less than a year ago, I my feet were probably at least 6'' from the floor, but now my toes can touch the floor.  This kind of move is helpful because your legs are heavy and gravity is pulling them down, increasing the curve in your back.  Be careful though - don't do what you don't feel comfortable with.  You should be very comfortable doing a forearm stand before you attempt to stretch in the position.

Sep 21, 2011 from Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

HollySatine what a great tip, working on your flexibility while in an elbow stand. I'm gonna try it tomorrow
Sep 21, 2011 from Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden

it's really tough to target the middle back! i have the same problem-- all my back flexibility is in my lower back.

middle back is less muscle flexibility and more creating space in your spine-- you want to think about elongating, not compressing... that's REALLY important! you can try laying on your back with your shoulderblades on a yoga block, reach your hands over your head, and try to pulse your hands down to the ground-- you will DEFINITELY feel that one in your mid back. if that's easy, stand the block up the tall way.

cobra on forearms is another good one-- this targets middle back more then full cobra, which is more lower back.

you can also get on your hands and knees, and drop your chest to the floor while keeping your thighs pointing straight up. you want to try to lay your stomach on your thighs while keeping your chest and chin on the floor. if you push into the ground with your hands you can get deeper into the stretch. 

forearm/handstand bridges are a good idea, but you want to really try to push your weight forward and into your hands to feel it in the middle back and chest.

a final stretch (but this one is more advanced) is to lay on your stomach with the pole at your crotch. put the tops of your feet against the pole (so toes pointing up) and reach up with your arms to grab the pole and go into a backbend-- you will be pulling your head towards your toes which are anchored on the pole. the lower you walk your hands, the more you put the stretch in the middle back. 
Sep 21, 2011 from New York, New York, United States

If your taking the lessons I have a bunch on Back Mobility. There are 11 total and we work on back flexion and extension. Starting with this one. [] I think it's important to learn to use the Multifidus when working on arching to protect the spine. This is a great exercise for learning how to "feel" this overlooked muscle group. []
Sep 21, 2011 from San Francisco, California, United States

Not too sure if you would be keen on this, but what really helped me with flexibility in my middle back was ballet. Like Amy said, you elongate. Think of being pulled by a string from the crown of your head, lifting the body and keep that feeling/thought as you reach back. Start small and work from there.
Sep 21, 2011 from San Diego, California, United States

Flexibility should definitely be pursued in an informed manner for sure, plus there are definitely ways to "fake" back flexibility.  I definitely have been reading up on flexibility to get information on how to be safe and effective because I dont want to waste my time or get hurt. I have a hypermobile shoulders, which make me look like I have more back flexibility than I actually do, and unfortunately also a pretty bendy lower back. Definitely be careful with the back flexibility because if you are stretching out your back ligaments its going to give you future back problems. One visual that I have come across that I really liked and for some reason, specifically provided a better mental picture for myself than simply saying "elongate" though its really the same thing, was the following... 

"wrap your spine around an imaginary ball, don't just bend back" this will allow you to articulate the entire length of the spine instead of just a few hinge points in your lower back.  ---Relax Into Stretch by Pavel Tsatsouline.

Sep 21, 2011 from California, United States

I think I also have that "flat table" back because my back is long but my legs are not long. That nice C shape is seen with girls having short backs long legs.
Sep 22, 2011

A good arch needs flexibility in the whole of your back.  My lower back is naturally bendy, and to an extent, having a bit of excess padding on my behind emphasises that rather, lol.  But I've discovered that my shoulders are the limiting factor to me doing a good elbowstand bridge.  Not sure I agree on the long back short legs thing: I'm all long torso and dumpy legs, but I can get a nice curve :)

Veena's Pole Press Stretch is my favourite one of her stretches for shoulders, though you can do the same thing with both hands on a table and have someone press down a little onto your upper back.

Another great stretch for shoulders that I was taught recently involves putting an arm above you so that the had is directly above your head, and leaning against a wall.  You keep your chin up, and bend at the waist so as to press your upper back and shoulder into a stretch as you bring your chest into contact with the wall.  Requires a bit of experimentation to find the best stretch, but worth some playing with.

Flexier hips will also help to make the most of your back curve.   This is something I do *not* have a talent for, so despite my flexy back, I still wouldn't be able to do a closed Scorpio, for example.

Short version of my rambling: don't forget that it's not just your back that matters here.  Shoulders, upper back, lower back, and hips all need different stretching methods, and improving any of them will help here.
Sep 22, 2011 from Manchester, England, United Kingdom

Rahel Brice is a freakishly back bendy bellydancer who has a DVD that has a yoga section dedicated to getting you bendy for bellydance.

Watch this video: []

Sep 22, 2011 from Oregon, United States

I have the dvd sensualscimitar is talking about and although I like Rachel Brice, I really don't like that DVD. I'm not into yoga and that dvd somehow managed to make yoga even more boring to me than it usually is. She goes through the movements really fast and doesn't go over how to do the poses correctly, just nemas a long name of a move that sounds like jibber jabber for a non-yogini. [] had the dvd for about a year and have only used it once..
Sep 22, 2011 from Stockholm, Stockholm, Sweden
I loved the DVD! She is using the original yoga names, not the translations. To each their own I guess.
Sep 22, 2011 from Oregon, United States
Rachel brice is forever my biggest bellydance inspiration, she was the first tribal fusion dancer I ever saw and I fell in love immediately!:) her back bemds are supernaturally serpentine!
Sep 22, 2013 from Olympia, Washington, United States
TigressV Paid Member
I love how you explain your lessons... I got myself a Bluetooth cordless head phone pop it in watch your videos a couple times then listen while I attempt the move :) you are awesome, thank you!
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