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Yoga 101: Open Into Wheel Pose

Some poses in yoga require courage. Others require strength. And then there’s some that require openness and vulnerability — arguably none more than Wheel Pose.

It’s the king of all backbends. Wheel Pose or Urdva Dhanurasana demands a lot. It asks a lot from your wrists, hips, spine, low back, and shoulders. The front of your body needs to be open and exposed. And the back of your body needs to be long and strong — otherwise you’ll feel compression and strain in places where you really don’t want to be messing around.

In this month’s Yoga 101, we’re focusing on the proper positioning to find freedom and openness in Wheel Pose.

Opening Into Wheel Pose

From an anatomical perspective, it’s important to note that there can be some structural limiting factors that will make Wheel inaccessible for some individuals — these things are non-negotiable — like compression in your spine and other joints (aka bone-on-bone contact). For others, tight soft tissues (muscles, tendons, and ligaments) in the body can feel very constricting as well.

But before you start cursing your body know this: even yogis naturally gifted with the mobility to get into Wheel can easily find themselves in the pose without the proper shoulder positioning or muscular engagement to support the pose safely without compromising their joints … I know because I used to be one of them.

So be patient and mindful when approaching this pose. Always work from where you are and know that this is probably the pose with the most variation in how its full expression looks from person to person.

A quick note on props: if you suspect your wrists are limiting your ability to get up into Wheel, have no fear. At the end of the video, I give a variation using blocks at the wall that might be your cup of tea. And if you find that your feet and knees keep splaying out, grab a block and squeeze it between your thighs as a reminder to keep your low body engaged and aligned.

Be sure to check out our previous Yoga 101 posts for tips to find your flow in Mountain Pose, Downward-Facing Dog, Chaturanga, Sun A, Baby Crow, the Splits, L-Pose, Handstand Drills, and Crow Pose.

Wheel pose: love it or loathe it? —Alison

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