The key to this posture is not in how high you lift the legs, but in keeping the legs together and internally rotated to soften the buttocks and free the lumbar and sacral spine. Engage the muscles of the upper back to lift the chest and send the heart forward by pressing the shoulders down and away from the ears. There are several different arm variations for this posture. Pictured above is the most basic variation, but the work of the upper back may be intensified with this variation:
Or this one:
For those accustomed to belly breathing during practice, all variations of this pose may present a challenge. Rather than breathing into the belly and resisting the floor with the abdomen, breathe into the chest and soften the lower abdominals to allow the floor to press into the belly as the action of the diaphragm massages the abdominal organs.
Shalabasana Sequence: This backbending sequence starts small and crescendos to the glorious openness of Ustrasana (Camel Pose). Rest one cheek on the floor and breathe into the low back for a few breaths between rounds of Shalabasana. Be aware of any compression in the low back throughout the sequence, and mindfully engage the muscles of the upper back to keep the heart lifting.
- Sphinx Pose
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Shalabasana A (Locust Pose A)
- Shalabasana B (Locust Pose B)
- Shalabasana w/ Shoulder Opener (Locust Pose w/fingers interlaced behind the back)
- Dhanurasana 2x (Bow Pose)
- Ustrasana 2x (Camel Pose)
- Balasana (Child's Pose)