This safe and effective backbend opens the heart and lungs, regulates the thyroid and endocrine system, and strengthens the buttocks and thighs. Unlike many backbends, you can hold it for long periods without risking injury to your lower back, which is protected by the strong working of the leg muscles. You'll probably do this posture thousands of times over the course of your yoga life. But each time, you can discover something new.

Lie on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet flat on the floor near your buttocks, about hip-width apart. Your arms should be alongside your body, elbows straight and palms facing down.

Take a moment, before you start to move, to tune into your body as it is right now, as if you'd never felt it before. What unique set of sensations, of pleasure or pain, pressure, tingling, and heat, do you bring to your practice today? What speeches are ranting in your mind? What music is singing in your heart? Who are you in this moment? Tune into the rise and fall of your breath.

Let your inhalation fill your pelvis until, like a helium balloon, it begins to rise. Let your spine and belly be soft and fluid while your legs press strongly into the floor. Keep your neck relaxed and your shoulders in steady contact with the ground.

Allow your pelvis to continue to float upward over the course of several breaths. Invite the backbend up your spine, vertebra by vertebra, until your heart opens. Eventually, you can roll your shoulders under your body and clasp your hands together, keeping your lower arms and the edges of your hand in contact with the floor. Remember to keep your neck relaxed and your jaw soft.

Stay in this position and breathe for at least a minute, your relaxed but alert attention greeting every sensation, perception, thought, and emotion as it arises and passes away. Notice that your body is like a river--a shifting flow of phenomena, recreating itself moment by moment. Resist the impulse to drop from the pose the moment it becomes uncomfortable. Instead, watch the sensations arise and fade. See if you can stay in the pose for two minutes, or even three--not by clenching your jaw and forcing yourself to hold it, but by widening and softening your attention so that you can greet the strong sensations with a curious and open heart.

When you are ready to leave the pose, gently roll down on an exhalation, releasing one vertebra at a time to the floor.

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