Keep the shoulder blades down your back and focus on using the muscles of the back to lift the body, rather than just pushing the floor away with your arms and sinking into your lower back. A good way to test is take your hands off the floor—you won't curl up as high, but you will feel your back doing the work! Keep feet and pelvis pressing down into the floor to support the upper body.
If you have lower back concerns or don't feel as strong, stay low in the pose and concentrate on making an even upward curve with the back.
Gluteals help anchor the lower body as the long erector spinae muscles lining the spine assist trapezius and lattissimus dorsi in this back strengthening pose.
Often our daily habits of computer and car use leave us with a weakened back and core. This pose will safely strengthen the back and help your posture improve.
Practice this pose in a yoga class.
Sarah Court is a featured yoga and exercise columnist on Exercise.com. She teaches weekly Yoga Tune Up? and Vinyasa classes at various locations in Los Angeles, and trains yoga teachers in anatomy and in Yoga Tune Up? across the country. She's been featured in the New York Times and as one of nursingschool.net's 100 Incredible Yoga Teachers Who Blog.