I attended Foo's class last Thursday and it was a class with preparation poses for backbends with the peak pose being Urdhra Dharnurasana (Wheel Pose) and Eka Pada Urdhra Dhanurasana. As Urdhra Dhanurasana is my nemesis pose, I was quite apprehensive at first as it has always been a difficult pose for me with my tight shoulders and upper back.
Foo started the class with us doing three Sun Salutations A and three Sun Salutations B to warm up the body. From then on, we did poses to stretch our hamstrings, quadriceps and hip flexors, open our chest and the shoulders. And when it was time to do Urdhra Dhanurasana, I was able to hold the pose for five breaths before coming down and going up the second and third time. The preparation poses really made a difference to my pose as I dd not feel the usual tightness at my shoulders by remembering to lift the head of my arm bones back when I push up to the pose. I was able to lift up higher and stayed longer in the pose by using my legs more which have been strengthen by the preparation poses for the hamstrings and quads.
Some of the preparation poses we did were:
Standing forward bend with arms clasped at the back
Kneeling Quad Stretch
Revolved High Lunge
Handstand (to strengthen the arms)
Reclined Hero pose (keeping the knees together in this pose will help you to learn to keep your inner thighs turned in for the wheel pose)
Below is a very good video on the preparation poses for Urdhra Dhanurasana by Kat Heagberg,