The idea of the counter pose – food for thought.

It is a common cue in Yoga classes to counter pose a back bend with a pose that contracts through the opposite side of your body.

chakrasanaA good example is Chakrasana (as pictured here).

In Chakrasana (Wheel pose) the whole back line of the body contracts, and in response the whole front line of the body releases. The spine is asked to extend and the hips rise up to meet what is available.

The thing with back bends, like Chakrasana, is that in order to practice it with ease we need to cultivate extension through the entire spine without any snags.
Snags can show up as we transition into the pose, as we stay in the pose and (more commonly) when we have come out of the pose to rest.
And this last experience is why it is important to pause before moving into a ‘counter pose’.

It is a mistake to take these messages of your body as meaning you need to quickly do something to fix the sensation. Your body is a wealth of information and is constantly communicating to you. These snags, biting, pulling and generally uncomfortable sensations are your body’s way of letting you know that you went to far, to fast.
More time needs to be taken to cultivate the necessary agility to do the pose.

Practice moving through your spine with a softness to your lumbar and cervical spine.
Remember that, together with the natural curvature of the spine, the different shape of the vertebrae through Cervical and Lumbar spine mean there is more extension available compared to the Thoracic spine.

By slowing things down and letting the Thoracic spine dictate the extension available, you can possibly eliminate all the uncomfortable sensations resulting from the junction areas jamming up when you move into extension (see picture).thoracic-spine-lumbar-spine-T12-L1

Would the counter pose still be necessary if you came out of the pose feeling light and spacious?

I do not teach students to counter pose, rather I cue them to move with ease. When they exit the pose I encourage them to pause. What is it they feel and where? If we move to fast we risk missing something important.

These sensations are bumps on the road to ease, and like this life the practice of Yoga is a journey.
Who are we, what are our strengths, our fears, our hopes and what do we want to feel and what do we not want to feel?