Wheel pose is a back bending pose that’s found in yoga. It’s called wheel pose because the shape of the pose looks like a wheel. It’s one of the deepest backbends in yoga and also takes some strength to get into it. A lot of confidence is needed to push into this pose, especially the first time.
When doing wheel pose in a class, a lot of warming up of the spine is needed. Warming up happens not just in one class, but also over a long period of time. This pose is typically done near the end of a class and is seldom seen in the beginning or middle of a class because of the warming up it needs.
The basics of wheel pose
Wheel pose is known as Urdhva Danurasana in Sanskrit, which means upward bow pose. The pose targets the spine, the shoulders, the chest, and the ankles. The spine is being bent and the stomach area is being stretched in this pose while the shoulders are being opened.
Although it takes some strength and spinal flexibility to get into wheel pose, it’s still a beginner level pose. With the right amount of warming up and practice, wheel pose is easily attainable. It’s mostly fear that holds a person back from pushing into this pose so with continuous practice the pose is no longer scary.
The benefits of practicing wheel pose
The biggest benefit of practicing wheel pose is that it stretches the spine and opens the chest. Stretching the spine is good for spinal health and improves spinal flexibility. Whilst broadening the chest area has been known to open the heart and allow more space in the front body for breath.
Wheel pose strengthens areas like the wrists, ankles, thighs, and shoulders. The shoulders rotate in this pose and are opened up. This opening helps with shoulder mobility and overall shoulder flexibility. Wheel pose is known to be energising, which can lift the mood of anyone who practices it. A lot of confidence can come from being able to lift into wheel pose as well.
How to do wheel pose
Step by step instructions for getting into the pose
- Begin lying down in a Svasana position with everything on the mat.
- Start to bring your feet in, hip-width distance apart, behind your glutes. The feet should be grounded into the mat and the knees should be pointing towards the ceiling.
- Lift your arms up to the ceiling and then bring the hands down and next to the ears. The fingers should be pointing towards the feet and the elbows should be pointing towards the ceiling.
- Make sure that the hands and feet are grounded into the mat at all times.
- Take a deep breath in and on the exhale push into the hands and feet as hard as you can to lift everything but the hands and feet off of the mat. Your head should be in between your arms and your feet can be pointing slightly outwards to the corners of the mat.
- Either stay here or begin to walk your feet closer to the hands to get a deeper backbend. Try and push into the feet more to get the head and chest area closer to the arms.
- Stay here for as long as is comfortable breathing deeply before slowly and gently releasing. Try not to fall out of the pose because that can hurt you. Do it slowly and with control.
Common mistakes made when doing the pose
The biggest mistake that people make when trying to do wheel pose is that they don’t push up into it immediately. They first go through a bridge pose and then push into a wheel pose. Although this method does work, it takes a lot more strength to push into wheel from bridge pose and can result in a person falling over or not being able to get into it.
Another thing people do whilst they’re in wheel pose is let their knees fall out to the side. The feet can be slightly pointed outward to the corners of the mat, but the knees should still be pointing towards the ceiling. It takes more strength to hold the pose if the knees are splaying out.
One of the best things a beginner can do when wanting to get a wheel pose is to stretch the spine as much as possible. Do gentler backbends like camel and upward facing dog to help build the flexibility needed for wheel pose. Doing side stretches and twists also helps to warm the spine up. When trying the pose for the first time don’t forget to have warmed up the spine and the shoulders efficiently.
Another thing that beginners can do is practice trying to push into wheel pose from bridge. It takes more strength, and they don’t need to actually push into it but rather practice the movements needed to push into it. Bridge pose is also a good preparatory pose for wheel pose.
This pose is a deep backbend and anyone with spinal or shoulder injuries should not be doing this pose. Similarly, if someone has pain in these areas or their back and arms then they should also avoid this pose. Don’t do a pose if it doesn’t feel good. Listen to your body and remember to back off if any pain occurs. Consult a doctor or physician before trying out any pose or doing any physical exercise.
Variations of wheel pose
A good variation of wheel pose, which is a lot easier, is bridge pose. It has the same shape and same benefits as wheel pose. It’s also a pose that helps to build the flexibility for wheel pose. Another variation is forearm wheel, which is a little bit easier to get into but is a deeper backbend. Forearm wheel can easily be accessed from bridge pose, which also makes it a good preparatory pose for wheel.