Heart Wide Open
The enormous heart-opening gesture of Wild Thing evokes a sense of freedom, levity, even ecstasy. But beneath the rapturous exterior, Wild Thing requires a strong, stable base. In fact, Anusara Yoga teacher Amy Ippoliti believes that creating a stable base is the key to opening more deeply into this backbending pose.
To that end, Ippoliti has designed this sequence to fire up the strength in your arms, which serve as your main support in Wild Thing. "This pose is a hand balance, so it's critical to tone the arms, since they are bearing so much of the weight," she says. "We have an expression in Anusara: 'strong arms, soft heart.'" Ippoliti explains that if the stability in your hands and wrists is weak, you limit your ability to support yourself adequately and move into your full range of motion.
In addition to preparing your arms to support the weight of your body, the sequence also opens the front of your legs, hips, and torso through several backbends. This provides just enough heat to encourage your chest and heart to melt into opening in the final pose. In time, as you continue to practice and move into Wild Thing from a stable, solid base, you may just get a taste of the delicious lightness and freedom that were yours to have all along.
To Begin: Open to Grace. Sit quietly and listen to your breath. Connect to the highest purpose of your practice, recognizing your potential for stability and acknowledging your innate freedom.
To Finish: Ground Down. Bathe in the warmth of your movement and rest in Balasana (Child's Pose), offering a blessing to the earth.
Restore: Rest in Savasana (Corpse Pose) for 5 to 10 minutes.
Watch: A video of this Home Practice sequence can be found online at yogajournal.com/livemag.
1. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
Come onto all fours, then lift your hips and knees and step your feet back to open your chest and hamstrings. Lift your armpits and lengthen your side body. Claw the floor with your finger pads to feel tone in your arms, which will support you in opening more freely. From your heart, stretch down to your hands, then fully up through your spine, and down your legs into the feet for 5 breaths.
2. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend), variation
Walk toward your hands, feet sitting bone-distance apart, and fold forward. Interlace your fingers behind your back and bend your elbows shoulder-width apart. Use gravity;to lengthen your armpits toward the floor. Move the head;of your arm bones and your throat toward the back plane;of your body as you reach your arms overhead. Keep your elbows bent and your legs strong. Hold for 5 breaths, release your hands, and step back to Down Dog.
3. Utthita Parsvakonasana;(Extended Side Angle Pose)
Step your right foot forward, turn your left heel down, and hug your legs in toward your midline. Extend your left arm in front of you and pull your upper arm bone into your shoulder socket. Then, from your core, turn your belly and chest up to the sky. Keep your right hand by your right foot or take your right forearm to your right thigh for more space in your torso. After 5 breaths, step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the left side.
4. Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
Lie on your stomach with your hands shoulder-width apart, elbows bent, and hands under your shoulders. Spread your fingers and claw your finger pads down, energetically dragging your hands backward as you lift your armpits. Pull the heads of your arm bones up and back, and lift your head and chest for 5 breaths. Move your shoulder blades down and in toward your heart. Root your pelvis back through your legs, and curl up through your spine. Stay for 5 breaths. Release and push back to Down Dog.
5. Ardha Bhekasana (Half Frog Pose)
Come back to your stomach, prop yourself on your forearms, and melt your heart toward the floor. Bend your right knee and reach back with your right hand to hold the inside edge of your foot. If possible, pivot your right hand so that your fingers face forward as you press your right foot down toward your outer right hip. Scoop your tailbone down. To stretch even deeper, lift off your left forearm and onto your left hand. After 5 breaths, release, switch sides, and then step back to Down Dog.
6. Anjaneyasana (Low Lunge), variation
Step your right foot forward into a Low Lunge, left knee on the floor. Twist to the right, bend your left knee, and hold the outside of your left foot with your right hand. To go deeper, take your left foot in toward your outer left hip, place your left forearm on the floor, lean back, and curl your shoulder blades in toward your heart. Root down through your legs and open up through your whole torso. Stay for 5 breaths. Step back to Down Dog and take the other side.
7. Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
Lie on your stomach, rest your forehead on the floor, and enjoy your breath. Allow the muscles on either side of your spine to settle and expand laterally. Keep that softness, then bend both knees and hold on to the tops of your feet. Root your tailbone toward the floor, keep your thighs parallel, and press your feet back. On an inhalation, lift your head, torso, and legs up into Dhanurasana. Hold for 5 breaths, release, and step back to Down Dog.
8. Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose)
Come forward into Plank, with your shoulders stacked above your wrists. Take your right hand slightly ahead of your shoulder and shift your weight onto your right hand as you stack your feet. Secure both shoulder blades onto your back, open your torso, and lift your left arm up. Hold for 5 breaths, release your left arm down, and step back to Down Dog. Repeat on the other side.
9. Wild Thing
From Down Dog, come into Vasisthasana on your right side. Step your left foot behind you, keep your right leg straight, and push your hips up away from the floor. Scoop your tailbone and use your legs to keep lifting your hips. Curl your head back, lift your left side body, and keep your left upper arm moving toward your shoulder socket. Extend your left arm over your head and curve into a rapturous backbend. Have fun. Be wild. Taste your freedom. Then release, step back to Down Dog, and switch sides.
Watch a video demonstration of this practice.