Wheel Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasnana in Sanskrit reminds me of my childhood. Maybe it’s because I did gymnastics for a short stint and that was part of the training. As an adult, I find it to be a challenging pose that requires strong flexible shoulders more so than a flexible spine. My wheel has improved over the years and I look forward to standing up and dropping back with continued practice. I love teaching this pose to beginners and witnessing the awe on their faces the first time they successfully press up. I encourage you to practice this pose to challenge yourself while perhaps channeling your inner child.
Getting into the pose: Position yourself laying on the mat with knees bent and feet hip distance apart and parallel with the outside edges of the mat. Bring your feet towards your buttocks so that fingertips brush the heels. Place your hands next to your ears with palms facing down and fingertips pointed towards shoulders. Inhale your buttocks off the ground. Continue pressing into your feet and hands as you move your hips up and shoulder blades against your back. Option to release down to the crown of your head, walk your hands back towards your feet and lift back up to increase the backbend. Other variations include lifting a leg, rocking back and forth and extending the legs out straight in front of you.
Alignment cues: It is important to keep your feet and knees parallel to the mat rather than splaying them out to the sides. This forces you to use the strength of your quadriceps and adductors as well as the opening of the hip flexors to support the pose thereby eliminating compression of the lower back which can lead to injury. Squeezing a block between your thighs can aid in proper alignment.
Strengthens the arms, wrists, legs, buttocks, abdomen and spine.
Stretches the chest and lungs.
Stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands.
Improves stamina and focus.