There is no Thrust in a Backbend

wheel-poseEase, ease, ease… asana practice is about ease. Especially a backbend.

But there is an issue of desire, or will, or something… that makes people do things that they shouldn’t do. Even in the pursuit of health and well being.

Too many people go into urdhva danurasana, wheel pose, before they are ready. I don’t want to be the mean yoga teacher who tells people not to do what they want to do—but it would be nice if ease were the hallmark of the yoga practice. If you can’t go into a backbend like wheel smoothly you probably shouldn’t be doing the pose. I’ve written about the actions of a number of different muscles and bones in wheel pose and backbending in general (feet, knees, butt, psoas, inner thighs, abs, lats, hamstrings). The work of all these disparate parts should add up to effortless fluidity in a backbend.

As soon as I see someone’s feet turn or move on their way up to urdhva danurasana I am concerned. You can get up into wheel this way it just isn’t the optimal approach. The movement of the feet suggests that the effort to move from the core (grounded feet) won’t get you where you want to go. If the feet move we are forced to rely way more on a thrusting action that will impact the sacroiliac joint and the lower back. Some students can get away with this for a long time but not all.

If the feet move or turn the knees will move as well—as soon as the knees are wider than the ankles sacroliliac joint becomes compressed and we lose the ability to get complete extension of the spine. The spine wants to be employed from the tail to the crown but compression of the Sacroiliac joints will disconnect the spine from any movement below the lower back.

I always go up to the top of my head before proceeding to a backbend like full wheel. This action allows me to set my elbows in a better position than if I go straight up. This move is also a great way to see if you are truly ready for this type of backbend. Try and lift the body up off the floor without moving the feet and without scraping the head along the floor on the way to the crown.

If you can do this effortlessly you are ready to move on but it is easier said than done.

The Sacrum and the Coccyx: a Cautionary Tale
Sunday Morning Music: Alan Price