Reverse prayer can be a good way to prepare for wheel pose.
You can practice reverse prayer position (hands behind the back with palms together) while sitting or standing, or while bending forwards and stretching the hamstrings in parsvottanasana.
This arm position can be used to help stretch your chest and the fronts of the shoulders. It's also stretches the fronts (palm side) of the wrists.
The first part of getting your arms into position behind your back is rolling the arms inwards while reaching them back (and out) at the same time.
You could think of this as "internally rotating" the arms.
If you have trouble doing this with both arms at the same time, then practice first with one arm at a time as shown below.
When you internally rotate the arm at the shoulder, the front of the arms roll inwards. This means that the back of the arms roll outwards, away from the spine.
This helps to give you room so that you can bring your hands together behind your back.
You may find that if you rotate your arms inwards enough, then when you bend your elbows your forearms move behind your back. In this case, with arms rolled inwards, your forearms will be pointing slightly backwards.
I'd suggest that if you can't get your hands behind your back, then practice internally rotating your arms. Rather than holding the internal rotation you practice rotating and then releasing in time with your breath. Focus on feeling your arms and shoulders as you practice and see if you can notice where the tight spots are. Again you may also benefit by working with one arm at a time. Do not be afraid to bend your ribcage forwards as you rotate your arms inwards.
Even if you can internally rotate your arms you may still have difficulty getting your palms together in reverse prayer.
An option, shown below is to make both hands into fists.
When doing the double fist option, you can first have the back of the hands against your back.
Then flip your fists so that the bottom of each fist faces downwards (bottom left two pictures).
Then with both hands in fists progress to one hand open (bottom right). Note that with this option, with just the right hand fisted you could try starting with both hands to the right. Then gradually move your hands to the center of your back.
One you are able to do reverse prayer comfortably, another option for increasing shoulder and wrist flexibility is to move both hands to the side with palms together.
Move both hands to the right so that your hands are to the right side of your ribcage, but behind your back (shown below). Then try the same thing to the left.
Once you can get your hands together behind your back in reverse prayer you can practice moving your shoulders and elbows back.
You can do this using any of the above hand positions. I'd suggest that again you practice doing this in sync with your breath.
As you inhale open your chest (bend you thoracic spine backwards) and at the same time move your elbows back to open the front of your shoulders. Then as you exhale relax your chest and let your elbows move forwards (first two pictures below).
As you get used to the position you can keep your chest open and your elbows back. You can also work at sliding your hands higher up your back (last picture below.)
Reverse prayer can be a good way to prepare and open the chest for wheel pose.
After a bit of a hiatus its back to stretching for beginners.
The latest installment is a mini sequence that works towards the half split inner thigh stretch with some prone twisting and outer thigh stretching followed by some recovery work with standing poses to help reactivate the inner thighs.
This set of poses is designed to show you how to activate the spinal erectors to bend the spine backwards so that you stretch the front of the torso. It also includes stretches like upright pigeon pose and upward facing dog for stretching the front of the hip (the hip flexors).
The latest stretch in the "Stretches for Beginners" series is a set of hip extensor stretches including happy baby and low lunge. Previous stretches in this series include bound angle (baddha konasana) and a pigeon pose hip stretch for the sides of the hip.
For well being is it better to be able to contract a muscle or relax it? I'd suggest that you learn to do both and just as importantly... Learn to feel when a muscle is activated and when it is relaxed.
The key to both is...
The yoga basics bundle is a collection of five yoga basics ebooks: balance basics, shoulder basics, backbend basics, hamstring basics and the hip control guide all for $52.00. (The suggested regular price is $124.95)
Consciousness is like the Captain of a ship. At times the ship it commands can be very big with lots of sailors to tell what to do, at other times the captain is sailing solo, taking care of the sails and the tiller.
This is a mini-routine that I've been using in my classes recently to teach awareness and control of the foundation in poses like
table top, high lunge, low lunge, extended cat pose, and yoga push ups (leading to chaturanga dandasana.)
This can lead to smoother and more mindful movement.
Tensegrity basics: tension doesn't just integrate the body, it can be used for proprioception and for responsiveness and quicker reactions.
What is proper yoga alignment for handstand? Why not learn to feel and control your shoulders and ribcage so that you can learn to feel when your body is best aligned.
In this video some tips for body weight squat and the one legged pistol squat with a focus on "feeling your body."
Why do a pistol squat? To improve hip strength and left/right hip balance. This may help to alleviate low back pain.
This dance of shiva video playlist includes cyclic movement combinations: F-F, B-B, F-B, B-F, CF-CF, CB-CB, CF-CB, CB-CF.
Learn how to stabilize the shoulder and hip in side plank.
This video goes over some basic body awareness exercises you can do while working towards side plank.
This Beginners Yoga Routine is from the ebook Yoga Basics 2, Muscle Control and Stability Exercises for More Flexible Hamstrings. It's designed to introduce a sequence of basic yoga poses.
Having trouble getting your heels down in downward facing dog? Here's an easy way to sink them lower included with a discussion on how to use downward dog as a preparation for wheel pose.
Simple instructions for getting into yoga tree pose and how to make both sides even while doing this yoga balancing pose.
In triangle pose work on hip stability and foot and leg control to help sink the ribcage towards the leg.
The following is a series of gentle yoga for back pain relief. The head is supported in nearly all postures allowing the muscles of the back and hip to relax in a variety of positions.
Conscious proprioception is the ability to focus awareness on discrete elements of the body. It can lead to easier learning of physical activities or simply better movement and body control.
Lots of people hate purvottanasana. Try pushing the hands forwards against the floor to make revese plank/straight bridge easier.
An overview of the sequence of ashtanga yoga poses with links to more detailed descriptions.