This deep heart opener is an advanced pose from the standpoint of both strength and flexibility. If your body is not ready for full wheel you can do camel, supported bridge pose, bridge pose, or half wheel. As always: listen to and honor your body along the way.
For many people, especially those of us who work sitting down for much of the time, tight shoulders and hip flexors can make this a real challenge which makes the journey to full wheel one that requires a lot of patience. Even in yoga class we may stretch the hamstrings but neglect to stretch the two muscles that make up the iliopsoas– the iliacus and the psoas, which work to draw the trunk and the thigh towards each other (like sitting in a chair). If these are tight you cannot back bend without feeling discomfort and pain in the lower back.
Heart openers can also be scary. Exposing your heart is a vulnerable thing to do. What do you do when you’re sad or scared? You likely hunch over, rolling the shoulders forward, caving the chest in, protecting your heart. Opening the chest and exposing your heart can cause feelings of panic, fear, and uncertainty.
Back bending brings energy up the spine cleansing the nervous system.
Back bending brings energy up the spine cleansing the nervous system. Your prana or life force is released, burning through any blockages you have. But this process can release a tidal wave of emotions that can flood you with not so happy feelings. Whether you are deep in a backbend or a beginner in a mild bend it doesn’t matter, because the emotional state that is triggered feels just as strong no matter where you are.
We usually like to back away from these overwhelming experiences, so we avoid getting deep into our backbends. To deal with the fear, we need to cultivate a calm and balanced mind. As you practice you need to breathe deeply and evenly, and try to stay a little bit longer each time. When you begin you might be unable to avoid the release of some unhappy emotions. Don’t judge yourself, but don’t shy away from the process either, allow it to happen. I dealt with a period of panic and tears on the mat constantly when I started back bending. No matter where you are on the journey I promise you it will get easier. Because back bends also release adrenaline and produce feelings of euphoria – they can and will feel good too!