Nothing quite radiates joy like Camatkarasana (also known as Wild Thing or Flip-the-Dog). This may easily be one of my all-time favorite yoga poses. It brings an element of dance and unique expression into your practice. You can flip into it from Downward-Facing Dog (this is how I'll instruct it below) or enter it from a Side Plank. It combines the strength of our arms and sides to lift us into a backbend full of freedom and, often, love.
I'm doing a hand over the heart variation in the Robert Sturman picture above, which is another beautiful way of expressing your joy. Let yourself smile when you practice this pose. Make an offering or dedication before you practice and let this gorgeous pose be a physical manifestation of your internal dedication.
I'd recommend taking some Sun Salute As and Bs to warm up the body before entering this pose. Once you have some heat in your hips and shoulders, take the plunge and flip away! Go get it, wild thing.
Begin in Downward-Facing Dog. Make sure your palms are shoulder-width apart with fingers spreading evenly and your feet hip-width apart. Straighten and stabilize your arms by firming their upper outer edges in to broaden your upper back. This firming action will be especially important once we flip our dog and balance on one hand. Take a good 30 seconds in Downward-Facing Dog to build heat in your back and fire up your legs.
Lift your right leg up into the air and take 5 breaths with square hips and a straight leg extending through your toes. Next, externally rotate your pelvis by firming your left hip in and rotating your pelvis open toward the right side of the room. Bend your lifted leg and reach the toes as if you're trying to grab something off of the wall to the left of you. Take a few good breaths here so you can stretch your hips and psoas to prepare you for the deeper backbend. Keep both arms straight as you extend and open while keeping a lift in your lower back (engaging your core) so you don't collapse into a lower back stretch/backbend.
After a few breaths working on opening, the transition comes in. Keep reaching your externally lifted leg to the left and down toward the ground. You'll slowly pivot to the outer edge of your bottom foot just as the ball of your right foot touches down onto the ground behind you (keep in mind the closer the ball of the right foot lands toward the front of your mat, the deeper the backbend). Keep the ball of your right foot elevated as if you're wearing a high heel and spin your hips, belly and heart to face the sky. Root the entire sole of your left foot down into the ground with the leg straight. Keep pressing the bottom palm flat and drawing the top of your right upper arm in. Let your head fall back taking the gaze down. Rotate your top palm forward and extend the arm overhead reaching the palm down towards the arm (keep it in external rotation). Extend your top hand as if you were reaching toward Upward-Facing Bow Pose. Take 5 breaths here. Gaze down as you pivot back to the ball of your left foot and swing your right leg back into a one-legged Downward-Facing Dog. Take a full vinyasa to release the pose.
Kathryn Budig is jet-setting yoga teacher who teaches online at Yogaglo. She is the Contributing Yoga Expert for Women’s Health Magazine, Yogi-Foodie for MindBodyGreen, creator of Gaiam’s Aim True Yoga DVD, co-founder of Poses for Paws and is currently writing Rodale’s The Big Book of Yoga. Follow her on Twitter; Facebook; or on her website.