The backbend, aka the wheel pose or in Sanskrit as urdhva dhanurasana (URD-va don-your-AHS-ana) used to be something that came easily to me... you know, when I was 10 years old and in gymnastics class. Eighteen years later it's no surprise that this pose isn't as accessible to me! Anyone feel the same? If so, don't feel discouraged. There's no time like the present to make a change. In its fullest expression, this pose is really amazing and has lots of benefits.
How to do it: Start by laying on your back. Bend your knees, hip distance apart, with your heels as close to your sitting bones as possible. Bend your elbows and plant your hands into the mat on either side of your head with your fingers pointing towards your shoulders.
Inhale and pressing firmly into your feet and hands, lift your body and head off the floor. Imagine your body in an upside down U shape. Slightly turn the upper thighs inward and lengthen the tail bone toward the knees. Slightly turn the upper arms outward, and look down at the floor between your hands. Breathe with ease through your nose for 2-3 breaths. On an exhale, slowly lower yourself down. Rest. Go back up into the wheel pose if you like a few times. Rest in-between. When you're completely done with the wheel pose, counterpose with child's pose.
Benefits: Stretches the chest and lungs, works arms, wrists, buttocks, legs and spine. Stimulates thyroid. Great for depression, asthma, osteoporosis, and back pain. Increases energy.
Tips: When you're in the pose, be sure to push firmly into your finger tips and roots of the fingers. Avoid putting your weight in the palms, as that could hurt your wrists.
Also, be sure to counterpose only once, when you're finished with the wheel pose. Counterposing between multiple wheel poses will hurt your back!