Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Wheel Thing

No class for a few weeks, during the break before summer sessions. While I miss teaching, I finally get a chance to have a full yoga practice for myself. All the Householder responsiblities these days have left me unable to fit anything but the odd Down Dog or Tree into the mix. So this morning, after checking the lads into drop-in daycare (what a godsend) I went down to my room at the Y and began to work on Urdhva Danurasana (Upward-facing Bow Pose or Wheel--or a plain-ole backbend).

Wheel has not been seen on my yoga mat for more than a year. It is so completely pre-and post-natally contraindicated, that I dropped it last December. I'm not great at it, but I always enjoyed the power and opening that comes with lifting up in that position; it was missed. I've been a little hesitant to reincorporate it, tho, because my mother-of-an-infant back is completely hunched and bunched these days. So actually, as the King of All Chest Openers, it should be a good one to work on.

I started with lots of slow chest- and shoulder-openers: Hastasana (Overhead Shoulder Stretch), Garudasana (Eagle), Gomukhasana (Cow's Head), Adho Mukha Svanasana (Down Dog), Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (Up Dog) and Viparita Namaskara (Namaste to the back). A few Dandasana (Staff), Virasana (Hero) and Upvistha Konasana (Wide-legged Forward Bend) stretched out the legs. After a thigh stretch at the wall and Ustrasana (Camel), I lay on my back and hoped for the best.

To come into Wheel, I like to start on my back with knees bent, hip-distance apart, with my feet behind my buttocks and the heels of my hands a bit wider than my shoulders at about ear level. I start with a half-lift, so that I can gently (gently!) rest on the crown of my head to prepare to lift. From here, pressing into the feet and hands, I extend the arms so that the legs stay stationary and the arch comes from pressing up with the chest and down into the palms of the hands. Kind of like an upside down (upside up?) push up. It is a very strong move, that also feels very controlled. The legs basically take care of themselves.

I managed it twice for just a few breaths, but I managed it, so I was very happy and relieved when I came back down to rest. My shoulders and chest were humming with the flow of blood and the muscles felt opened and energized. The following Savasana was deep and satisfying...I guess letting go of some up that upper back tension will do that for you

So...Wheel is back on the menu. I hope to keep working on it and, ala Yoga Like Salt incrementalism, maybe even teach myself to drop-back by the end of the summer. Ah, such ambition.

I really ought to practice yoga more often!


Yoga Mama said...

I miss wheel myself. I was just feeling comfortable in it when I "poof" became pregnant. I did try it once during my pregnancy for a photo shoot - I know, I know, stupid. My back made me pay for it a few days.

I really appreciated you including your prep postures. It is nice to have a break every so often from teaching because it does invade one's personal practice, no matter how dedicated. Enjoy your "me" time!

Megan said...

Right now Christina Sell is here in town for a 3 day workshop. Tomorrow I get the privilege of having her re-explain the ins and outs of backbends. You describe getting into the Wheel much in the same manner as her. I think the biggest 'unfortunate' in yoga is watching people stress and hurt themselves over trying to rush into these more intense poses.

Marie said...

Thank you for the lovely step by step description of how you enter Wheel, as well as the asanas you used to prepare.

I've never tried Wheel, but I keep bumping across it lately. Now I think I'll make a goal to build up to it over this summer.