As a child gymnast, I was raised on this pose. We called it bridge though and so when I started yoga, it was hard for me to remember that bridge was now something different. When I learned wheel my teachers had all been impressed at how my beck bent, and so when I started yoga, I assumed I would get the same responses. I did not. Although there were some who looked at my hyper mobility in awe, most just looked at my practice as child like and naïve. See my wheel used to be a low back hyper stretch with some backward hip bending, which is great if you are trying to break your back, but if you are trying to engage your entire back, get a nice stretch going, and not snap your spine, then it is important to go about finding this pose from a different angle.
You can enter this pose either from lying on your back or standing up. So I will review both. The first way I will review is from lying on your back, and the second will be from a stand.
1.Standing at the top of your mat, with your feet at shoulder distance apart to help with the balance. Inhale and bring your hands together at heart center. As you exhale slowly, tighten your core, and allow your self to bend backwards leading with the shoulders. Once you have reached parallel allow your hands to come out extended past your head. Do not forget to keep the core engaged. This helps to control the decent, which protects your wrists, low back, and hips. Allow your head to drop back a little more so that you can see the mat as you approach it. Bend the knees a little bit to help with stability and gives your body a little give when you land. Continue breathing slowly as you continue leaning back until your hands reach the mat. Once your hands are on the mat take a second to make sure they are placed in the correct spot. To check this, see if your properly positioned check to see that your arms are not far out, bring them in close to your head. Your fingers should be facing your feet and wrists should not be pinched. From here lift the chin to your chest. Dig your feet into the mat and allow your legs to press your body forward which helps to open up the chest. If you need to open more, then you may walk your feet in closer to your hands. If you do that, do not allow them to come out wider or narrower, they should stay about hips width apart on the mat. If you do not want to make this into a shoulder opener, you can also work on lifting the hips and bringing the bend into the low back instead. When you do this, the chin will stay close to the chest, but instead of digging the feet into the mat to push the upper body forward, you will have the feet helping to push the hips upwards and upper body downward. If you need to tae this deeper you may come up on your toes even.
2. Laying down is a great way to start learning the proper positioning for this pose. Lay down on the mat in your savasana. Draw the feet in about halfway up your leg and plant them where your knees were on the mat. Keep the feet hip width apart. Once you have your feet planted into the mat, take your hands and place them palm down directly next to your ears with your fingertips almost touching your shoulders. Keep your elbows high and close to the face. Keep you head on the mat for the first part and just lift the hips like you would in bridge. Once you get to the point where your shoulders are off the ground and you are now holding weight on your head is when you can begin to engage the arms and allow your hips to pull your head off the mat with your arms assisting and guiding the head with where to go. Once your hips have lifted you all the way off the ground check your head positioning. Your chin should be leaning forward into your chest. Try to play around with opening the shoulders by leaning towards the front of the room, or loosening the low back by lifting the hips higher. As you become comfortable, walk the feet in a little bit and try playing around again with the variations. Find something that works for you. When you want to come out of this, simply lower everything together so that your head touches first and your hips touch last.
Strengthens and lengthens the vertebrae
Increases elasticity and flexibility of the spine
Strengthens arms, wrists, abdomen, legs, shoulders and chest