The first part of this pose (far left) LOOKS really easy, doesn’t it? As mentioned in my #1 Bikram Yoga post, all of the poses are easy as long as you breathe!
- Improves abdominal strength and spine flexibility.
- Releases stiff shoulders.
- Firms and trims the stomach and waist line.
- Aids in recovery of slipped or ruptured disc.
- Improves circulation.
- Strengthens the biceps of the thighs and calves.
- Stretches the hamstrings and invigorates the entire nervous system.
This posture has three parts corresponding to the images above.
Far-Left Image: Before bending to the right or to the left, the yogi stands with feet and knees together and arms extended above the head, interlocking all fingers except the index fingers, which point side-by-side to the ceiling. Lifting up through the spine and ribs, the yogi then stretches to the right, pulling the left side down using the strength of the right hand. The pose is repeated on the left side.
When I attempted this pose for the first time, it felt like my sides were being pulled apart. If I go to yoga feeling the least bit hungry or nauseous, this pose somehow takes that feeling away almost instantly! My waist IS trimmer and my thighs and calf muscles are more defined.
Middle Image: With arms extended above the head, the yogi stretches up out of the spine, relaxes the head toward the ceiling and eventually to the back of the room, and leans back, shifting all weight into the heals.
One word: gravity. This part of the pose is all about gravity. There is no need to force ANYTHING in this posture. I am so far away from reaching the reach of the middle image above, but I still feel the benefits and felt improvement in my flexibility after the first month of practice.
Far-Right Image: Arms extended above the head, the yogi stretches up and hinges the body forward with a flat back. Once the fingers touch the floor, the yogi bends and loosens up each knee for a few seconds. The yogi squats down and wraps the arms around the backside of the calves, gripping the heels from behind so the baby fingers touch side-by-side. Finally, the yogi pulls on the heels and locks out the knees for a deep forward-bending stretch.
This final part is a relief from the previous backward bend. My calves and thighs are stretched to the maximum, and my arms and shoulders are strengthened equally.