Wheel Pose is one of my very favorite poses. It is one of those that we find so naturally as children and yet somehow fear and fatigue and tight muscles and lack of power allows it to slowly fall away as we get older.
This is a great pose to practice or work towards if you are wanting a little playful energy, some heart opening, and to (literally) shift your perspective.
To dive into this pose we need to think about strengthening the core (our deep abs, back, and glutes) as well as our palms, wrists, feet, and ankles, and stretching our quadriceps, hip-fluxers, surface abdominals, rib cage, shoulders, and throat. Basically we are stretching our front body and stabilizing or strengthening our back body.
Some great poses to get us warmed up and ready are
Puppy Pose or Half Dog
Come onto all fours. See that your shoulders are above your wrists and your hips are above your knees. Walk your hands forward a few inches and curl your toes under.
As you exhale, move your tailbone halfway back toward your heels. Keep your arms active; don’t let your elbows touch the ground.
Drop your forehead to the floor or to a blanket and let your neck relax. Keep a slight curve in your lower back. To feel a nice long stretch in your spine, press the hands down and stretch through the arms while pulling your hips back toward your heels.
Downward Facing Dog
Come onto the floor on your hands and knees. Set your knees directly below your hips and your hands slightly forward of your shoulders. Spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under.
Exhale and lift your knees away from the floor. At first keep the knees slightly bent and the heels lifted away from the floor. Lengthen your tailbone away from the back of your pelvis and press it lightly toward the pubis – imagine you are trying to reach it up and back to where the wall meets the ceiling.
We are aiming to have a straight line from wrists to hips, so press evenly through your palms with finger spread wide and rotate your elbow creases to the front edge of the mat. Then allow your shoulder blades to draw down your spine and your belly button to reach for your heart. Engage your knee caps and quadriceps and press into the outer edges of your feet.
With your belly on the floor, stretch your legs back – tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body.
On an inhalation, begin to straighten the arms to lift the chest off the floor, going only to the height at which you can keep your shoulder blades flat against the back of your ribs. Lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and lift your navel. Lift your heart and maybe even your chin for the sky.
Lie on your belly with your hands at your sides, palms up. (You can lie on a folded blanket to pad the front of your torso and legs.)
Exhale and bend your knees, bringing your heels as close as you can to your buttocks. Reach back with your hands and take hold of your ankles. Make sure your knees aren’t wider than the width of your hips, and keep your knees hip width for the duration of the pose.
Inhale and strongly lift your heels away from your body and, at the same time, lift your thighs away from the floor. This will have the effect of pulling your upper torso and head off the floor. As you continue lifting the heels and thighs higher, press your shoulder blades firmly against your back to open your heart. Draw the tops of the shoulders away from your ears.
From Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana), exhale and step your right foot forward between your hands (It’s totally OK if you need to use your hands to help you get there), aligning the right knee over the heel.
Then lower your left knee to the floor and, keeping the right knee fixed in place, slide the left back until you feel a comfortable stretch in the left front thigh and groin. Turn the top of your left foot to the floor and press gently into your toe nails.
Inhale and lift your torso to upright. As you do, sweep your arms up by your ears.
Draw the tailbone down toward the floor and lift your pubic bone toward your navel. Lift your chest and press your shoulder blades against the back torso.
If it feels good, lift your gaze up to where the wall meets the ceiling and take a few rounds of breath.
When you are ready, move back through Down Dog and repeat on the opposite side.
You can add this into so many poses; sphinx, prince, as a balance, or added into a low lunge. Lots of choices here! But basically we are drawing our heel to our glute (or booty). You can do this from sphinx (lying on your belly), from standing (this doubles as a balancing posture), or even from a low lunge or pigeon pose (if you want a really deep stretch. Listen to your limits and remember to keep your knee pointing straight out of your hip socket.
Come to your knees, kneeling with shins and tops of feet pressing into the floor. Press your hands into your low spine as spread the back pelvis and reach your hip bones to the front edge of the mat. Engage through your knees and quadriceps to help you achieve this.
Draw elbows and shoulder blades together as you begin to lift your heart to the sky and possibly drop your head back. You are more than welcome to stop right here, this pose takes a lot of strength. Or you can go deeper into your stretch by reaching your hands back for your heels. Once you’ve taken hold of your feet, continue to squeeze shoulder blades together to maintain that lift in your sternum.
Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, heels close to your booty and toes slightly turned in.
Exhale and press your feet and arms actively into the floor as you push your hips into the air. Keep your thighs and inner feet parallel. Clasp the hands below your pelvis and extend through the arms to help you stay on the tops of your shoulders.
Keep your knees directly over the heels and draw your hip bones to your lower ribs.
Lift your chest to your chin and then your chin to the ceiling to give yourself a little more room to breathe.
When you are ready to come out, make sure you tuck your chin and then roll down slowly.
Begin in the same position you do for Bridge, then bending your elbows, bring your palms to the mat right outside of your ears with your fingertips pointing toward your shoulders.
Press your feet into the floor as you lift your hips. Then press through your palms to begin to lift your shoulders up off the mat. Slowly begin to press the earth away with hands and feet and you reach your hips up and your chest toward the back edge of your mat.
When ready to come down, tuck your chin and lower down as slow as possible. Bending through elbows first to lower shoulders and then rolling your spine down to the mat.
After a couple rounds of wheel come back to your spine very carefully (remembering to tuck your chin as you lower so you land on the base of your skull first). Keeping knees bent, allow yourself a couple rounds of breath in that nice, neutral spine, feeling it flat against the mat. Then allow yourself some windshield wiper twists through the knees, hips and ankles. After that it might feel good to hug your knees into your chest and rock side to side, or to send fingers and toes to the sky for some wrist and ankle circles.
Always do your best to be safe and in control of your body and send me pictures of you best prep poses and Wheel Poses!