My favorite way to get physically unstuck is to move my body through a series of heart openers. Nothing allows me to expands and believe in my own ability than a juicy backbend. Next week, we’ll talk more about the anatomy of heart opening. In the meantime, here’s some poses to start thinking about!
Kapotasana - Talk about a big yummy heart opener. If you've never encountered this posture before, think of it as a cross between a camel pose, and a forearm wheel. It is a super deep heart opener. As with any backbend, tt’s really important to NOT compromise the integrity of your lower spine. Press the ground away with forearms and shins. In that way, instead of sinking into gravity, you’re holding your body up. Start to think about the heart space, the thoracic spine, instead of the lower back, the lumbar spine. Use the yoga wheel to help establish the strength and openness needed for this posture. The wheel supports the curve of the spine; if the posture becomes overwhelming, you can slowly lower back down on the wheel. Working on mobility in your shoulders and openness in your pecs? Instead of holding on to your feet, climb your hands down the yoga wheel. It acts as a strap would in a dancer's pose.
Eka Pada Rajakapotasana - One legged King Pigeon. What a yum version of foot-to-head. Find this posture in it’s truth; Instead of rolling over to one hip, equalize and lift the pelvis away from the ground. There is a feeling of pulling in (inner thighs and abdominals) and then lifting up (torso up and away from the hips). Again, if you sink, you’ll end up collapsing in the lower spine, hurting the low back. Instead, aim the chest up and use the strength of glute and hamstring to bring the foot up to meet the head. Pictured here is a fuller expression of the posture. You can work up to this big juicy heart opener by using a strap to help the hands come close to the foot. You can also start off in the "mermaid" arm variation where the foot is hooked into the knook of the elbow.
Forearm Wheel - Are we noticing a pattern? Heart openers, while they look effortless and free, are built on a foundation of strength. If you forego the combination of open-hearted-ness and ultimately, you will get injured. What an amazing metaphor for life! Living life with an open heart takes courage. However, if you don't take the time to build the strength, emotional and mental resilience, to walk around your life with an open heart, you will end up hurt. Thank you yoga.
I enter this posture mostly from wheel, unless I happen to fall into it from forearmstand. Give yourself at least five rounds of breath in wheel, rocking the weight back and forth between hands and feet to open up hip flexors and heart. Slowly, one forearm at a time, lower the forearms to the mat.
Chinstand - I wouldn't be me if I didn't put at least one inversion on this list. Chinstand is a beautiful example of strength while maintaining an open and flexible heart. My favorite way to prep for chinstand, and you know this if you've taken class with me, is deficit pushup on the blocks. The deficit pushup is basically chinstand but with the feet on the ground instead of above your head. In the deficit pushup, yor heart travels lower than a normal chaturanga because your hands are on blocks. When this happens, the shoulders roll closer together on the back body. Establishing that strength with both feet on the ground, sets you up for success for when they are above your head.
What are your favorite ways, yoga postures or otherwise, to unstick yourself?