“Opening in the opposite way can be very challenging and be even a little fear inducing,” explains Shauna Harrison, an Under Armour-sponsored, San Francisco-based yoga and fitness instructor (who happens to also have a PhD in public health). “Energetically, backbends are heart openers…which, if you are not used to opening in this way, can make you feel emotional and vulnerable.”
Enter the TRX, a functional fitness tool you likely associate with hard-core strength training. Harrison partnered with the company to create the brand new TRX for Yoga program, which highlights how the system of straps can offer support while you’re still on your way to mastering tricky or scary poses like headstand, crow, and wheel.
Easing in is key, she says. “You can progress to a slightly deeper backbend and then into a wheel pose, all of which have you supported by the straps. This support physically helps open the body but also mentally and emotionally helps build trust in your own body to be able to practice backbends even off the straps.” (You can use it in other yogic ways, too, like to improve your stability in balance poses like Warrior III.)
Here’s how to start working on your wheel pose in 3 super-supported steps.
Building off of an idea borrowed from aerial yoga, this movement opens your hips, back and chest by unloading your body weight into the straps. First, fully extend the Suspension Trainer in single-handle mode (slip one foot cradle through the other and then loop both back through the loop above the handles, and pull it tight to lock them). Put your upper body through the straps so that the interlocking handles are resting just below your shoulder blades. Ground your feet, extend your arms, and lean back.
This progression allows you to get comfortable with your head below your heart in a backbend position. Stand facing the Suspension Trainer with the handles in both hands. Ground your feet like you did in progression one, and push your hips forward to lean your head back.
Set up exactly like you did for progression one, but this time stand a little closer to the anchor point. Gradually reach back and step forward until you are performing a backbend, letting the straps act like a hand to support your middle back.
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