May 2016 Pose of the Month ~Urdhva Dhanarasana (Wheel Pose)

Our pose of the month in May, Wheel Pose, allows us to approach our practice with a sense of openness and awe. It truly requires a balance of flexibility and strength that is empowering and enticing. The physical and energetic opening of this pose makes it one of the most powerful and rewarding asanas for the whole body. Not quite ready for the full version of Wheel Pose? Not a problem at all, Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose) supported or not, as well as modified versions of Wheel Pose can safely prepare us, and provide a similar opening along the front body. Practicing dharma, each effort we make toward increasing openness and strength in our body is never wasted!


Transitioning from Bridge Pose to Wheel Pose in 2  Steps                      

From the bridge, release the arms and roll down through the spine. Now reach overhead and place the hands flat on the floor near the ears with the fingertips pointing toward the top of the shoulders. If you don’t have enough rotation in the shoulders to bring the palms flat on the floor, stop here. With the palms flat on the floor near the ears, press through the hands and roll up into the bridge pose as above. You’ll be on the back of the shoulders. Breathe and sense the distribution of your weight, and the connection between the hands, pelvis, and feet. Shift your weight toward the feet. Then press the feet to lift the pelvis and chest and bring the top of the head to the floor. Work to lift the pelvis further, pressing the sacrum into the front of the body, as in the bridge pose. You may find it easier to get the desired lift in the pelvis by coming up onto the toes. Press the hands into the floor to take the weight off the head.

 If you are comfortable here, shift your weight toward your feet again and move your shoulder blades into the body and toward the waist as you press both the hands and the feet into the floor to further lift the pelvis and straighten the arms, or at least move the arms toward being straight. Adjust the feet so they point straight forward and the thighs track directly out from the hips. Avoid splaying the knees out to the side, and keep your knees over your heels so the shins are vertical. Press the chest forward between the upper arms, while pressing down through the feet to draw the pelvis and chest away from each other, and decompress the lumbar spine and make your body round. Hold and breathe. Experience yourself expanding internally with the breath, and feel the breath moving equally into the hands and feet. Work toward an even, smooth breath—and ease and stability in the pose.

To release, reverse the steps above: lower until the top of the head touches the floor and then the back of the shoulders. Then roll down through the spine as in the bridge pose. Release the arms and rest a few breaths before drawing the knees over the torso to ease any strain in the back. Gently rock from side to side. Then come into the child’s pose or another gentle forward bend to soothe the back.

Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)

 Bridge Pose

The bridge pose is an excellent preparation and beginning stage of practice for wheel pose. Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor hip-width apart and parallel. Press your arms into the floor alongside the body. Push down through the balls of the big toes, roll the inner thighs inward, draw up through the pelvic floor, and lift the pelvis. Inhale and roll up through the spine, lifting the chest by pressing the shoulders and arms down and the shins forward. Press the spine toward the front of the body. Then to open the shoulders and upper chest, shift slightly to one side and roll to the outer edge of the opposite shoulder, drawing the shoulder blades toward the spine. Shift to that side and draw the other shoulder blade under and in, bringing your weight onto the outer edge of both shoulders. You may clasp the hands together on the floor and press the arms down. Lift the heart, and press the sternum toward the chin. Hold for a couple of minutes, stretching the shoulders and the front of the body.

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