There seem to be a lot of black-and-white beliefs in life. While some of these beliefs might be true (as in “the world is round”) there are many things, like opinion, that are subject to perspective. To me, being willing to soften my personal perspective and make space for other people’s truths is a gift that I receive from my yoga practice. On my mat, through practice and a shift in perspective, I can create a new reality.
We are continuously receiving gifts like this throughout our asana practice — reforging new ideas of where body parts should and could be and how they should and could feel. Scorpion pose gifts us with one such occasion: to let our feet surf through the sky above our head, and challenge the belief that our tootsies only belong on the ground. Whether or not the arches of the feet contour sweetly against the curve of your skull doesn’t matter. It’s your willingness, playfulness and exploration that turn you into an intrepid traveler on your mat, and conversely, in your life.
Have a safe and consistent Handstand or Forearm Stand practice. Feeling comfortable in Urdvha Dhanurasana (Full Wheel pose) is also a good indicator that deeper backbends are welcome in your body.
Start learning this pose at the wall by setting up into Forearm Stand 5-8 inches away from the baseboard. Slowly enter a backbend by placing your feet on the wall. Work here, or bend one knee at a time, placing the toenails of each foot against the wall’s sturdy support.
“Melt your heart” or soften your chest down toward the earth mildly to encourage the backbend into your mid, or thoracic, spine rather than the lower back.
Look forward with your eyes, softly lengthening the chin away from the sternum to encourage more length through the chest.
Keep your abdominal muscles firm by drawing your ribs in away from your shirt.
Fan your toes and squeeze your inner big toes together even as your knees open wider to keep the legs active. Engage your hamstrings to muscularly draw the scorpion tail deeper into the expression.
In Forearm Stand, do not splay the elbows wider than shoulder width, nor allow the wrists to creep in closer than shoulder width. These actions keep you from sitting in your trapezius muscles and ask the spine to arc evenly, making for a more sustainable and enjoyable backbend!
Let your body curve into whatever degree of backbend is currently available in your body. Some bodies — no matter how much practice — may never rest toes to head due to natural structure and proportion. Some bodies will be immediately this open, and still others will progress over time. Be pleased with wherever you are, but continue to energetically and muscularly hug the two opposing ends of the body toward each other, forming a ring of energy.
By Hanna Riley, Courtesy of Bala Vinyasa Yoga.