The wheel pose.
Opening the chest.
It fascinates me to observe how our corporal expression subtly hints at how we are feeling and how we deal with our emotions. The yoga mat translates our interior map into barriers or abilities that we encounter when we tackle each of the postures during our practice.
Asanas on their own are empty. It is up to you to fill them with meaning, overcome your limitations and strengthen your spirit. The key is in allowing yourself to stand exposed before the mirror of truth and face your practice with awareness. This will open you up to a marvellous dimension where all the asanas become imbued with value.
The wheel pose, or Urdhva Dhanurasana in Sanskrit, is one of the postures that defeats me and in which feelings and limitations that hamper me seem to flourish. It is part of the family of inverted poses since the head is positioned below the chest, and this means changing your perspective and leaving your comfort zone. I remember so many spells of fun and giggles with this posture, which I used to call the “bridge”, when I was a young girl. As a child, my comfort zone didn’t have any barriers: I followed my intuition, with confidence and amusement, fearlessly exploring the possibilities of my body.
Now, attaining a strong wheel has become a challenge that drives me to regain that freedom. Urdhva Dhanurasana is one of the hardest asanas, not only for me, but for a lot of people. There is a reason why the Mysore Ashtanga practice places it at the end of the series…
Although the whole body is involved in all yoga postures, there are three key points to accomplish the wheel: an open chest, strong arms and flexible hips. I confess that in recent times the strength in my arms is my main barrier to achieving a full wheel. This post is the first of two in which I explain how I am training and strengthening these key points. Today I will start with openness in the chest. Here goes.
Openness in the chest
We often find it uncomfortable to open ourselves up and expose ourselves to the outside because it means, somehow, making ourselves vulnerable. Our past experiences sometimes condition us negatively and we face new moments with filters imposed on us by the past, closing us in and protecting us. This hinders us from experiencing the present with a fresh and balanced perspective and stance. If I pay heed to my body’s language, I realise that my shoulders tend to roll forward and my chest sinks. I’m sure this sounds familiar to you…and I don’t only try to change this posture through my practice, but I also try to correct it during the rest of my day.
Here are three asanas, which help to work on opening the chest, such an essential part of yoga.
Prasarita Padottanasana C. I have uploaded a short video so you can see how to enter this posture.
Utthita Parsvottanasana. I practise this sequence by first rotating to the right, and then to the left. This is one of the postures that is repeated with both feet: first the right foot to the front, and then the left.
Ardha Baddha Padmottanansa. Half-bound lotus standing forward.
Lastly, here is the bridge pose, Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, and the full wheel, Urdhva Dhanurasana.
These photos highlight my weak point. My arms are my last barrier to overcome to achieve a good wheel and enjoy it. In my next yoga posts, I will tell you about the other key points.
MAYBE YOU'RE INTERESTED…
The wheel pose.