Do you feel burnt out? Are you at the end of your creative life? Have you forgotten all of the possibilities life has to offer? Do you feel like giving up?
I often do. Yes, I Yogi Aaron, at times have felt as if the world is closing in on me.
To have the feeling that the world is closing in on you is normal.
We human beings are genetically wired to survive. Our basic instinct is to survive. Whenever this survival instinct is threatened or destabilized, we (literally) lose “it” a little. When we feel threatened, another part of our brain kicks in. The lower part of your brain takes over and you lose sight of your higher goals and life’s purpose.
Like you, I have been through this many times and I am telling you there are fast ways to recover and get out of the gutter of your survival mode. You can get out of your funk.
One of the most potent ways I know of is through *backbends.
Backbends are very potent. They enliven and wake you up!
Just think about the nature of your spine for a moment. The thoracic spine’s tendency is to hunch over. It has a posterior curve. When you begin to change the direction of this curve making it move more anterior (to the front of the body) an enormous amount of energy is released.
Or take a posture such as a handstand. While handstand is not officially a backbend, anatomically and physiologically it carries all of the same attributes as a backbend.
Now, if you are new to yoga and don’t have a relationship with backbends, do one right now and check out what I am talking about. If you are sitting, lean back over the back of the chair you are sitting in while spreading the arms to the sides. If you are standing, reach your hands in the air and then reach behind you. You do not need to go far to feel that your heart will start beating a little faster. When you do this simple back bend, you will start to feel your blood pumping through your body. You might even notice that your brain is a little more alert and you are more conscious of your breath because of the expansion in your lungs.
Backbends wake you up. They get everything in your system moving. Literally!
Backbends, like Wheel pose, increase elasticity and flexibility in the spine by lengthening and strengthening the vertebrae. Wheel pose also tends to be energizing and invigorating and can even counteract stress, anxiety and depression. Wheel pose, as well as other backbends, activate the sympathetic nervous system and the lymphatic system which improves hormone secretion within the body further improving overall health!
How To Master Wheel Pose: Step By Step Instructions
As a yoga teacher, I have often witnessed how inaccessible Wheel pose can be. Many people struggle with Urdhva Dhanurasana because they are restricted in their shoulders and are generally tight in their upper bodies. Sometimes a person just hasn’t acquired the strength to lift into the posture yet.
Fortunately, that doesn’t mean Wheel pose is out of reach, in fact, it’s closer than you think!
Get a chair, get a friend, get some help and begin to experiment and experience the best that Wheel pose has to offer!
Get a chair without a backrest on it. These are often called “yoga chairs” and are used by yogis for specific postures such as this one.
You want to set up by the wall approximately one arms’ distance away.
Now take a seat and set up the placement of your feet. Press the padding of your toes into the floor while pressing the rest of the foot into the chair.
Take a nice backbend here. With your back against the back of the chair, reach your arms over head and see if you can touch or press your finger tips into the wall.
Now is the time to see if you can go all the way to the wall.
But just a small warning: practicing this pose is a lot easier than it looks! It might look a little scary at first, but trust me, it is really easy. If you do feel fear, then grab someone to “spot” you while you do this.
Sitting with your back against the chair, and your feet in the proper position (see the pictures above), put your hands on the chair seat as depicted in the picture below.
Now start to lean back over the back of the chair. As you are doing this, fill the upper part of your chest with breath. Expand it as much as you can.
Using your hands, press your hips up while so that your shoulder blades can rest on the back of the chair. Some people might be irritated by the back of the chair pressing into their shoulder blades. Please feel free to use a blanket or towel here.
Reach your hands over your head for the wall behind you.
Although not depicted in the picture below, you can see how far you can walk your hands down the wall. Some people are so flexible that they will actually walk their hands down to the floor.
In the yoga system, we practice backbends to awaken our greater potential and gain the clarity needed to fulfill life’s purpose.
If your feeling in a slump or your mind has fallen into the gutter of gloom, get into a backbends practice. Soon you will feel alive, alert and ready to take on your day.
*There are many ways to get out of the gutter of your survival mode. Backbends are one of my favorite because of the energetic and psychological effects they can have on a person in a yoga practice. Other methods can also have an effect such as exercise in general. Moving one’s body changes your chemical balance generating more endorphens. In fact, many studies have shown that exercise is a fantastic alternative to Prozac and other anti-depressant medication.
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All photos credited to the talented Maria Hillier.