This sequence, which draws on the wisdom of an ancient personality test known as the Enneagram (learn more about this system here), is meant to allow heart-centered humans to remain open and unguarded in the face of the unknown. Someone with a heart-centered personality typically operates in an emotive, sensitive manner. Underlying concerns with self-image and the perceptions of others might cause a heart-centered person to close up and remain in a bubble of safety, but this sequence can help reverse these habitual patterns. This series of backbending poses can help reverse these tendencies by accessing the power of the unbounded heart and the strength of the spine.
The physical and psychological effects of leaning backward may help you discover your innate capacity for fearless generosity. As you flow through these postures, remember to initiate the backbends on the inhale as way to stay grounded through the feet, then arch back more deeply on the exhale to lengthen the lower back.
Press the tops of feet into the earth to resist the forward dragging action of the arms. Lift the knees away away from the floor, and draw the navel into the spine. Pull the torso in between the arms, as you lift the chest bone and top of the head up. Glide the shoulder blades toward each others like sliding doors and extend their tips down towards the tailbone. Align the shoulders over the wrists, and gaze at the tip of the nose while keeping the neck long.
From Downward Facing Dog, step one foot forward into a Lunge in between the hands and release the back knee to the floor. Then with the back toes tucked under, move that knee further back, then point the toes and draw both feet toward one another energetically. Start by placing the hands on the front knee. Keep the right knee on top of the right ankle, tilt the pelvis forward, and lift the pubic bone upward so as to create space in the right hip crease. Open up the chest by moving the collarbones away from the sternum and press the back ribs into the chest. Extend the arms and line them up with the ears to keep the neck long. Repeat to both sides.
Kneeling on ground, anchor through the tops of the feet and the shins. Keep the pelvis in line with the knees. Move the sacrum to the front of the pelvis as you draw the tailbone down. Draw the navel into the spine, move the collar bones away from the sternum, and lean back fearlessly into the mystery of the unknown.
From Downward Facing Dog, lift one leg up and back, open that hip and bend the knee. As you draw the heel of the bent knee towards the opposite sitz bone, begin to peel the hand of that same side away from the floor. Then place the ball of the lifted foot on the ground behind you and extend the arm away from the center of the body. Lift the hip points towards the sky and draw the tailbone towards the feet. Lift out of the wrist of the standing hand, and relax into the rich curvature of the posture. Repeat to both sides.
From Side Plank, bend the top knee into a Tree Pose as you soften the bottom knee to anchor the base of that big toe down. Then, grab a hold of the top ankle and move it back in a bow variation. As you extend the ankle away from the buttocks, move the sacrum into the front of the pelvis to create space in the lower back. Draw the bottom outer hip up towards the midline as you ground through the standing foot and hand, and press the back ribs into the chest to open it up. Repeat to both sides.
Place the outer edges of the feet as high up in the hip creases as possible, so that the heels can dig into the lower belly. Anchor through the sitz bones and draw the knees towards the earth. If this not available to you, sit down by crossing one ankle on top of the other. Gently press the bottom parts of the palms right below the collar bones. As you lift the chest upward, gracefully take your head back (without compressing the neck) and allow the sun’s radiance to shine on your face.
Photos by Hailey Wist