5 steps toward full wheel pose

Having goal poses to work toward can be a healthy part of your yoga practice. Whether you have your eye on a certain asana for a physical or emotional release, taking steps to achieve a special posture is exciting if you're mind and heart are in the right place. That being said, please always check with your doctor before embarking on any new yoga posture, no pose should ever be forced or uncomfortable and if you have any doubts or questions along your journey, please seek the help of a certified yoga instructor.

Now that that's out of the way, we're going to explore one of my favorite advanced postures: full wheel pose, upward facing bow or Urdhva Dhanuasana in Sanskrit. Perhaps one of the more popular goal postures, wheel has a special way of making the practitioner feel strong, open and energized. Usually thought of as a deep back-bend and heart-opener, wheel can also provide amazing wrist opening, arm strength and relief for back pain.
5 steps toward full wheel pose : wholehearter
Steps 3 (bottom) and 4 (top) of full wheel pose - Photocredit, fitsugar

If you are comfortable with poses like Camel, Bow, Bridge, Wild Thing Pose and Reverse Tabletop and if you're free from back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome and high or low blood pressure, wheel might be a wonderful pose for you to work toward. After thoroughly warming up the hips, wrists, spine and arms, here's where you might start:

1.) Lay on your back and bend the knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Tuck your feet as close to your tailbone as possible, knees together. Open your fingers wide and rest your palms on either side of your head, fingers facing toward the body and elbows toward the ceiling.

2.) Inhale deeply and on the exhale, ground into your feet, engage the abdominals and lift your hips off of the floor until your thighs are parallel to the floor (a modification of bridge pose). Try to keep your knees close together. (You might hold a block between your thighs to help.) Hold here for two deep breaths.

3.) If you're comfortable, on your next exhale, press into your hands and focus on lifting your shoulders, tipping your head back and gently resting on the back of your head. Make sure that your arms remain active (do not allow the elbows to splay out to the side) and hold this position for two deep breaths. If you feel unstable or your arms are shaking, you may want to stop here. Keep working on steps 1-3 until you feel more confident in your arm strength.

4.) Once you feel satisfied with step 3, you're ready to enter full wheel. If you're concerned that your hands will slip, please either practice with a spotter or place your wrists up against a wall before lifting up.

On an exhale, press into your hands and feet, straightening the arms and lifting your head. Press the chest up and back and be sure to keep the elbows and legs parallel. Continue to breathe deeply, holding as long as you're stable and then mindfully reversing these steps to exit the post. (Start by tucking the chin in to the chest carefully, and lowering slowly down)

5.) It is very important to balance this posture, so please be sure to practice a counter-pose for your spine, such as hugging the knees into the chest.

Keep in mind that this pose is advanced and will not come overnight. Please do not feel discouraged if you seem to plateau at step 3 or even step 1. We all start at our own beginning, but how satisfying it can be to struggle and gain strength through a challenging pose! If you'd like a bit more information, here's a great post on what NOT to do in wheel pose such as clenching your bum, lifting the heels or turning the fingers/toes...all common tendencies at first. Take your time working up to this post and enjoy the process.

Please contact me with any comments, experiences or questions.
Namaste :)