Wheel or known as chakrasana comes from the root word “chakra” meaning energy center. It is a backbend of yoga that stimulates the nerves along the spine while strengthening both the leg and arms. In the tradition of AtmaVikasa Yoga, created by my teacher Yogacharya Venkatesha, the wheel is part of the closing sequence and practiced before the headstand pose. The wheel increases energy, stretches your upper and lower back muscles, extends the front of the pelvis and strengthens the arms.
There are many keys elements that will help you understand how to practice this posture safely and correctly. Often people think if their back is stiff or they lack the flexibility that these are the main reasons why the wheel is difficult or not for them. While having a supple back helps it is not necessarily the only thing you need. The posture is compromised by stiff shoulders, tight hamstrings and both weak arms and legs. These can be opened and strengthened as you learn the posture. The key points in the video are: 1) how to place your feet, 2) where to place your hands, 3) how to breathe, 4) the internal focus, and 5) coming out of the posture and neutralizing the effects.
Misconceptions about the Wheel
A common mistake when learning this posture is to try to push up with your buttocks. This compresses the lower back and forces the feet to move out sideways rather than remaining parallel. A good way to begin is to place your hands around your shoulders (keep the palms flat with your fingers facing in the same direction as your toes). This alone is a helpful stretch to open your shoulders. Like a half bridge, exhale, and slowly lift your thighs and hips up. Be mindful to use your legs and feet. Using your feet will give you the strength to control your legs and hips. Press from the heels to the toes and keep them parallel so that your thighs do not roll outward. When the feet fall sideways this rotates the head of the femur outward and allows the low back to sag. By keeping your feet straight you can better control your body. It may feel difficult as you begin, but you will gradually master the ability to create a full wheel and have the balance in your entire body. This technique will also prevent you from overusing the arms and/or trying to fire up with your hips alone. You’ll actually think of your feet as worthy components to lifting upward.
The stretch in the body is an extension that gradually lengthens as you hold the posture. The first couple of seconds are the hardest while both the body and mind adjust. Alison (my student/model) is relatively new to the wheel pose by having learned this just a few months ago with me. Prior to this she had no experience in backbends and was dealing with a lot of fear.
Watch the video and learn what other key elements you can incorporate into your practice so you can stat to ‘perfect’ your wheel!