My shoulders are feeling very open today after working on this yesterday:
That is, of course, Mr. Iyengar in AMS. Our focus was to get the head to the floor, something you will rarely see in most yoga classes. There were two in the class yesterday that could do it. The teacher and a very advanced student I had never seen before. She was advanced. Period. I know a lot of people struggle with those words as a label or judgement. Whatever. This woman was ADVANCED in her asana practice.
We worked on extending the back lines of the legs and arms and shoulders. If you google this pose and look at images you will see a lot that are a little backbendy as they are extending the spine with the shoulders. (A normal way to work in yoga) Isolating the extension into the thoracic spine and the shoulders is key so we warmed up with a backbend. (My favorite on the chair.)
Most students who start out a yoga practice look more like this:
Comparing the two photos you can see the student needs these two movements to make a shift in the pose to get to the lovely halfway point. The middle ground AMS:
Is that Rodney Yee? I would consider this a pretty Intermediate expression of the pose. There is equal strength, prana, and balance in the upper and lower body and nice back lines. I don’t see this very often.
Looking back at the Iyengar pose and the two other ones, notice the trunk line. My approach to teaching and practice, is to open the trunk first, then the legs, then the shoulders for the final version. The final version takes a lot of strength to work to that level of flexibility. ADS on the wall is also really good for long holds that allow you to work on the shoulder in a way that is not totally weight bearing.
I had a teacher say that urdhva dhanurasana is just reverse ADS. Lots of people push themselves into UD the pose with tight shoulders. The Iyenger AMS would be a great way to prep for a deeper expression of Wheel.