Progress is inevitable if one practices on a daily basis. I was surprised today when I managed it to take my legs (both) behind my head without leaning against the sofa. The pose was weak, nevertheless a tiny step further in the right direction. I could also do eka pada sirsasana and the leg remained behind my head, my hands could both hold my stretched leg.
Daily practice of course, but also the understanding what what active stretching is helped me to progress.
In yoga we do active stretching. It's not that we simply bowing forward or hanging forward and letting the gravity do the job. We are active when we practice yoga not passive.
What is active stretching? There are always muscles that we stretch and there are the antagonists that are active. When I put my leg behind the head, the chest shall remain open, stretched if you like. The antagonists are on the back. I have strong back muscles and I have the body feeling how to engage them. Engaging my back muscles helps me to lift up the upper body and to keep the chest open. This was it what helped me and what finally allowed me to keep the leg behind the head.
Feet position: Primary has a lot of forward bending asanas. I thought that it's important to have the soles of the feet parallel to the floor. But fact is we can adjust the intensity of the stretching with the foot position. When they are pointed (recommended for hanumanasana i.e.) it's less stretching, less intensive. Sometimes it's necessary to make the practice a bit easier, when we are injured i.e. I think it's better to alter the feet position than not to engage the muscles.
Urdhva dhanurasana: Among other exercises I lifted the body up while my hands were close to a wall. I wanted to bring the chest to the wall. I was surprised that I couldn't do that. Here I've to do some body work. The upper back is still not open enough.
Especially the knowledge about the feet positon I've read in the book by Gregor Maehle.
Wow, what a beautiful bird. It seems to be easy to fly. Thank you M for this beautiful pic.