You know that fun feeling of sticking a candle into the frosting on a birthday cake? After the love, thought, and effort put into baking or buying the cake, the candle on top is like an extra dose of celebration. After the love and effort put into building your solid Urdvha Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow/Wheel) foundation, raising one leg to the heavens in One Legged Upward Facing Bow pose (Eka Pada Urdvha Dhanurasana) is like that candle on top. Your soaring leg reaches up like a lit-up celebratory declaration of your magnificent, miraculous body and the joyful opportunity to live in gratitude.
Have a solid, comfortable, consistent Wheel pose practice. Extend your arms as straight as they can appropriately go and lengthen your tailbone away from your lower back, drawing your navel in to engage the low belly.
Wiggle your feet closer to mid-line for a more balanced foundation.
Bend the knee of the leg you wish to lift first into your body. Situate yourself with stability and ease, and keeping the leg hugging in toward your body (which stimulates strength in the front of the hip and thigh) reach energetically upward.
Stay vigilant that your standing foot does not turn out as you shift your weight to one leg to raise the other. Continue hugging your inner thigh magnetically toward the midline. As soon as the feet or knees splay in backbends, the backbend becomes crunched and hardened into the lower back, causing pain rather than expansive exploration.
Extend up and out through your raised foot. Fan your toes as if they were aflame.
Extend your lifted leg as much as your hips and hamstrings will let you, force-free. Eventually, the leg will extend up in a straight line from its hip, requiring tremendous hip and hamstring flexibility, as well as strength. If the hip/hamstrings are tight, the leg will fall away from the body, leaning on an angle. Stay energized to support yourself and know that over time and with consistent practice, you will open more and more.
The hip of the lifted leg will tend to want to drop. Counteract this by grounding your standing heel more firmly, drawing the shin bone of the front leg back toward your body and using your core to keep your hip energized and lifting neutrally with the grounded leg’s side.
Keeping your feet grounded and flat will intensify the backbend. Lifting your heals will aid in some extra lift.
By: Hanna Riley, Courtesy of Bala Vinyasa Yoga.