Wheel Pose, Chakrasana, (CHAAH-kraa-suh-nuh)
chakra (wheel) + asana (pose)
Also Known as: Urdhva Dhanurasana
Pose Type: Stretching, Strengthening, Inversions, Backbend, Balancing
This intense backbend will strengthen your spine, arms, and legs, as you push off from the earth.
Wheel Pose Fundamentals
Learn to surrender and find alignment in this intense back bend. Wheel Pose is one of the most challenging back bending positions in yoga, but the benefits are well worth the effort.
One of the key things to have in mind when you’re building up to Wheel is surrender – once you let go of the idea of what the pose should ideally look like, and accept your own version of it, you will begin to find a sweet spot where it feels safe and enjoyable.
Wheel Pose is a deep backbend, so make sure you do it towards the end of the practice when you’re already warmed up. After the pose, do a countermovement like a twist or a forward bend.
The biggest physical benefit of Wheel Pose is how powerfully it counteracts bad postural habits and the effects of prolonged sitting.
The intensity of Wheel Pose makes it an effective remedy. It will stretch our spine in a different direction, and open our chest and shoulders. That won’t only bring greater balance to your body, but will also make you more aware of your posture if you practice consistently.
Wheel Pose & Energetics
The energetic benefit of this pose is hidden in its Sanskrit Name, Chakrasana. Chakra translates to “wheel”, and in this asana, it refers to the chakras.
It is believed this pose aligns all 7 chakras, allowing prana to freely flow and raise from lower to higher energy centers. This stimulation has a powerful effect both on our mental and physical health and our consciousness.
If you want to practice with this intention, take note of the emotions that come when you’re working on your Wheel Pose. Each emotion may be seen as a block or an obstacle in one of the energy centers.
Wheel Pose Benefits
- The pose works on your entire body – stretching the front of the body, including the chest, shoulders, abdomen, and quads, and strengthening the back side of the body, especially the back, glutes, and hamstrings.
- The intense stretch of the stomach tones the internal organs of the abdomen, helping to release toxins and improving their function.
- The opening of the upper body also stimulates the heart, the thyroid, and the pituitary glands.
- With consistent practice, Wheel Pose helps improve posture as it counteracts the effects of prolonged sitting.
- Refreshes energy and helps release pent-up emotions, which may be helpful when you’re dealing with sorrow, anxiety, and depression.
How To Do Wheel Pose: Step-By-Step
How To Get There:
1. Begin lying on your back. Bend your knees and bring the sole of your feet close to your hips. Keep them hip-width distance apart and press them firmly into the ground. To make sure they are close enough, reach with your fingertips and see if you can touch your heels.
2. Bend your elbows and reach back with your arms. Place the palms down on the mat next to your shoulders. Point the fingers towards your shoulders.
3. With an inhale, lift your body, and place the crown of your head on the floor. We do this only to set up for the pose – don’t manage any weight on your head.
4. Take this moment to make sure your elbows and thighs are parallel to each other.
5. Now, arch your upper back, and press firmly into the floor with your hands and feet. Lift your entire body, keeping only your hands and feet on the ground.,
6. When in the pose, make sure your feet, elbows, and knees don’t turn out. Keep them aligned.
7. Hold here, or deepen the pose by walking your feet closer to your hips, or extending the legs.
8. Once you’ve found your variation, hold the pose for several breaths. Wheel pose is also often done repeatedly, in three sets, with the last repetition being held the longest.
9. Once you’re ready to release the pose, tuck your chin, and lower slowly to the ground. Then hug your knees into your chest for a moment.
Tips And Tricks:
- Turn your thighs in to keep them active and aligned. Tuck your pelvis and engage the lower abs.
- If you have tight armpits or hips, you may not be able to enter the full backbend. In this case, try one of the modified versions we describe in the next section.
- If tight shoulders prevent you from entering the pose, try moving them slightly wider apart.
- If it’s difficult not to open your feet out when you’re in the pose, try placing a block between them and pushing into the block.
- Rotate your arms slightly out to allow your elbows to stay in line with your shoulders.
- Remember to breathe – the pose will become much easier if you take deep, slow breaths.
- When releasing the pose, always tuck your chin and begin by lowering your neck, head, and shoulders, and then lower the rest of your body.
Wheel Pose Variation:
Wheel Pose Variation: Wheel Pose Against A Wall
If tight armpits, arms, or shoulders are preventing you from extending the arms and upper body in the pose, try practicing against a wall. This variation allows you to gradually work on building both the confidence and the flexibility needed to reach Wheel Pose.
Begin standing several feet away from the wall – you will know the exact distance when you attempt the pose.
Keep your feet hip-width distance apart and reach your arms up. Lift your chest and simultaneously bend your knees and reach back with your arms to touch the wall. Allow your head to fall back. Remain here, or walk your hands down the wall to deepen the stretch. Eventually, you will be able to reach the ground.
Wheel Pose Variation: Wheel Pose With A Partner
If you are practicing with a friend – partner up! Set yourself up on the floor just like you usually would – with your knees bent. Your partner should stand behind your head with their feet close to your ears. Then, instead of pressing the floor with the palms, grab their ankles and use them as support to lift your body.
Wheel Pose Variation: Wheel Pose With A Strap
If your elbows or knees turn out when you press into the pose, you can use a strap.
If your knees or feet splay out, then wrap a strap just above the knees to keep your feet hip-width distance apart and your thighs parallel.
If your elbows move apart when you lift your body, loop a strap around your upper arms, making sure the loop is as wide as your shoulders.
Precautions & Contraindications:
Contracting the glutes too much. If you engage your glute muscles too intensely, you might hyperextend your lower back. Keep your buttocks firm, but don’t engage them as much as you can.
Splaying The Knees and Feet. The most common mistake in Wheel Pose is opening the knees to the sides, which compresses the back. If you aren’t able to keep your knees parallel, put a block between your thighs and press into it, or use a strap.
Injuries and Surgery
Avoid wheel pose if you have any chronic condition or an injury in the shoulders, back, neck, wrists, or knees. Never force your body into the pose or practice without a good warm-up, as that may lead to muscle strain and injury.
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