Eek. I had to jump on and quickly write briefly about this today after I heard students tell me they thought it was normal for their back to be tense or hurt when doing backbends.
No. Never. Please.
The students were new to my class so probably have not had the benefit of hearing me say a million times that your spine should feel free in a backbend. Not tense and stressed.
They will not have heard me say a million times that if your back hurts after coming out of a backbend then you were not in the pose correctly. That it is a sign of improper technique or pushing too far.
When practiced correctly you should be able to get up straight after a backbend as if nothing happened. There should be no need for counterposes.
Don't mistake me, I am not saying counterposes don't have a place. But there should be no desperate need to do them in the way they are often used, to counter the effects of a poorly executed posture.
I am not sure where it might have slipped into people's minds that it is ok for their back to feel tense in a backbend. And that this is ok and all they need to do is hug their knees to their chest or do a forward bend after to make things better.
I suspect it comes from the way people often move into poses like urdhva dhanurasana, which is to thrust their hips up as high as they can and then put their arms in place and push like crazy.
To demonstrate this concept in class today I had students place their hands on my lower back as I came up into urdhva dhanurasana. Soft. Soft. Soft. And my spine felt free and easy. My tummy muscles were firm but my spine was long and free.
I contrasted this by doing what a lot of students do, which is push their pelvis up as high as possible and asked them to feel the difference in my lower back. Hard. Tense. It felt scrunched and uncomfortable in my lower back.
Please watch the video by my first and great teacher, Paddy McGrath, who taught me (I am still learning) about the importance of spinal freedom. I am so lucky to have had such a wonderful person in my life. She saved my spine from years of scrunching and crunching.