My Year of Yes: If the Wheel Fits, Do It (or something like that)


Shri Yoga hosted a great seminar by Todd Norian last October, and I’d always wanted to go back. Mona, one of the owners, made several adjustments on me that I liked, even though they made me self-conscious (what? I can’t even do plank pose right?). So I thought I’d go back for my extended birthday celebration. (Note: this post written in September and not posted until now because…why blog in real time when you can blog two months later? Regardless, as my friend Amanda put it, it’s my year of parties.)
I arrived barely in time to pay and set up my mat. Someone pointed out the gorgeous bouquet of pink flowers on the counter, and Mona said, “It was my birthday yesterday.” Then she said the theme for the class was backbends.
No way. It was her birthday, too. And we were doing backbends. Nice.
I had trouble getting all the Anusara yoga corrections straight (e.g. Thighs and shins rotated in, arms up to the ears, but shoulders down…), but I liked it. Near the end of class, she told us to roll up a blanket and place it against the wall for Urdhva Dhanurasana.
OMG. Birthday wheel.
I’d been practicing with my triangle pillow, but I went along with it, palms on the ground near my head, feet planted, hips and back off the ground, but resting my head on the ground.
Mona rushed over to me and said, “Michelle, push up!”
It was the third time she’d called me Michelle. The first time, I let it pass. The second time, I said, “My name is Melissa, but that’s okay.”
This time, I said, “My name—is—MELISSA!” and pushed up into Urdhva Dhanurasana.
Hollywood moment.

Mona apologized profusely, but I didn’t care. I just did wheel pose with a blanket and a wall. I went from doing bridge poses for years to doing Urdhva on my head for years. And now, in just two weeks of refining my practice, I was @#%@#%@#ing doing Urdhva Dhanurasana.
I did it again. Feeling strong. Feeling good.
The third time, I was tired and not feeling it, but I left the class on a high.
Standard disclaimer: obviously, I’m not counseling beginners to jump into advanced poses. I’m a doctor, but I’m not your doctor. I’ve been doing yoga, on and off, for 18 years (geez). But I still stopped myself on handstand, headstand, crow, and wheel all this time.
Until now.
So much of yoga is in your head. I could have been doing Urdhva Dhanurasana for years, probably, even with my irregular practice. If I’d just dedicated myself to it. If I’d believed in myself.
My friend Genevieve wrote to me, when we first met, “Your many accomplishments me realize that I too can do anything I set my my mind to. That I have stopped myself from doing things for fear of not doing well.”
That’s what I was doing to myself with wheel. Now I don’t have to.
Best birthday present ever.

Illustration copyright 2012 by Craftyjoe/

If You Suck at Wheel Pose

I know. That’s a terrible yoga title. I should be more compassionate, more talking about modifications and opening your body, and less about judging.

And yoga has helped me so much with self-judgement and self-criticism.

I can't do wheel, and I don't care. Check me out rocking my undies. Photo by Belovodchenko Anton

“I can’t do wheel, and I don’t care. Check me out rocking my undies.” Photo by Belovodchenko Anton.

But if you want to get the job done, if you’re tired of doing Bridge pose while everyone else la-la-la opens up into full wheel, if you don’t have any injuries and just don’t know why you can’t do it, I’ve got a few tips.

The most useful video, hands down: Christina Sell doing Urdhva Dhanurasana.

She says something like, “There are some students who have the flexibility and strength to stay in the pose, but not enough strength to get off the ground.” So she sets up two bolsters on the floor and two blocks on the ground.

That’s me, I thought. But I don’t have any props.

So I pulled out my triangle pillow as a substitute.

And, with my arms shaking, I pushed up into urdhva for the first time in my life.

I felt miraculous and badass. And also a little nauseous.

So I came back down, like, two seconds later, panting but proud.

Once you get to full wheel on tiptoe, you get to rock your bra AND panties in the park. Photo by Talia22.

Once you get to full wheel on tiptoe, you get to rock your bra AND panties in the park. Score. Photo by Talia22.