This week’s #pathtothepose is another common pose that beginners and intermediates work towards: wheel or urdhva dhanurasana – this pose is an amazing back bend, heart and shoulder opener, and it strengthens arms, wrists, legs, spine, butt and core!
Wheel requires a lot of warm up to open all the different parts of the body it activates and is usually the apex pose in a flow sequence, so never try it cold! In this post I’ll walk you through how I got to my wheel and if you have wheel, where you can take it next.
First and foremost, warm the eff up! Most yogi’s will warm up with a flow sequence like sun salutations. Here I demo Sun A and Sun B, most yoga flows will have at least three each to work up heat and breath. Take chair pose between each Sun B. Chaturanga Dandasana or Four-Limbed Staff Pose has the added bonus here of building upper body and core strength, two big hitters for wheel.
After you’ve warmed up its time for shoulder openers. My shoulders are really tight and I feel it most there when I’m in wheel. These are my two favourites – use a strap to slowly rotate your shoulders back, and then from tabletop rest your elbows on blocks (or anything similar you have at home) and let your heart relax down.
Next up, build up dem guns to allow you to press up into wheel. To do this we’ll revisit chaturanga in a high to low push-up, which also builds a strong core. Do three sets, with your hips and head in line, bringing your arms to a 90 degree angle. For bonus points don’t lock out your elbows like I am doing!
We’ve worked through proper warm up, shoulder openers, and upper body strength, now it’s core strength. I found my wheel was a lot easier to get into and hold after focusing on core, and a strong core will help in all areas of your life from posture to preventing back injury. Incorporate your favourite ab exercise into your practice or workout if you’re working towards wheel, mine is boat pose or bakasana. From a seat with your legs in front of you, lift your heart and with a straight spine lean back. You can keep your knees straight or bend them and tuck your low belly in. If you shake, it’s a good sign! Now you know why I chose a still shot for this 😉. What’s your favourite core workout?
Before trying wheel you need to go through some more gentle back backs to warm up your spine: cobra, locust, and floor bow. This video is sped up, take your time! In cobra, press your hands down to traction your ribs forward and up, in locust press down through your hip bones and expand your chest open, in floor bow, use the strength of your legs to draw your chest open. In all poses stay active in your core, hands, and feet.
It’s wheel time! Follow the warmup, shoulder openers, arm and core strength poses and back bends before trying this! Start with bridge pose, bend your knees so your fingers can brush your heels, take an inhale then press your hips to the sky. Stay strong in your legs. On each inhale lift your ribs closer to your chin, exhale press your hips higher. To set up for wheel bring your hands under your shoulders, if you’re not ready for full wheel press onto your head, staying active in your arms and legs. When you’re ready press through your hands to lift your hips up and work to extend your arms. Have you found wheel pose? What has worked for you? Where do you feel tight?
If you are not at wheel yet but looking for a challenge in bridge, try leg raises. Focus on lifting your hips up high, that movement will help open up your back for wheel eventually!
On the other hand if bridge is challenging, or you’re in the mood for a more restorative back bend, take supported bridge with a block placed under your sacrum. You can still feel for pressing down in your feet and lifting up through your ribs.
Have any of these tips worked for you? What do you think is holding you back from wheel? Where do you feel tight in your wheel? Let me know in the comments!