Feel the Wheel
Before You Begin
Get ready for this sequence to Kapotasana (Pigeon Pose) by practicing for an hour or more to warm your muscles. Asanas that open the shoulders, stretch the thighs, tone your abdominals, and warm the spine are particularly suitable.
As an experienced student, you already know many poses that focus on these areas. Poses that I find most effective and suggest weaving into a warm-up sequence are Anjaneyasana (Crescent Moon Pose) with the arms overhead, Virabhadrasana I (Warrior I), spinal twists, Paripurna Navasana (Boat Pose), Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose), and Pincha Mayurasana (Forearm Balance). I also encourage lying over a bolster for 5 to 10 minutes to invite the back muscles to relax. Start with the bolster under the shoulders and your arms stretched overhead, then move it under the midribs with the bottom tips of the shoulder blades touching the top of the bolster. Relax your arms at shoulder height. You can recall these sensations later in the active backbends.
Of equal importance is a "warmed up" mind. When the mind is internalized and curious, it is less likely to be seduced into pinning too much importance on the final pose. I suggest sitting quietly with the eyes closed for a few minutes, focusing on your breathing.
The backbends that comprise the following sequence build up gradually: Each one is more challenging than the one before it. As you move through them, try to feel the drama of the external form as well as understand the internal flow of energy. Start by looking at the external shape of a backbend, and see how the spine arches backward (or extends) to form a circle that holds the potential of one end touching the other. There is also a subtle energetic circle, which you can think of as a wheel spinning in place. When you focus on the energetic movement of the wheel instead of just the external shape of the pose, you can truly create the sense of a circular spine. In fact, this circular energy will inform the external action, -encouraging your spinal muscles to release into a deeper, more fluid backbend. If you have a kinesthetic understanding of this wheel like -movement in the more -rudimentary backbends such as Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose), you can use it as a guide while you explore deeper ones.!--page-->