How To Do Wheel Pose For A Strong & Flexible Spine

RYT-500 and mbg Contributor By Pilin Anice
RYT-500 and mbg Contributor
Pilin Anice, RYT 500, E-RYT 200, is a yoga, barre, dance, and meditation instructor, wellness coach, and model.
How To Do Wheel Pose To Strengthen Your Spine & Open Your Heart

Image by Pilin Anice / Contributor

It's so important, especially as we age, to take good care of our spine. Back pain is a huge problem all around the world—in fact, it's the leading cause of disability. But it doesn't have to be.

There are excellent stretches anyone (yes, anyone!) can do to strengthen and lengthen their spine, such as wheel pose. Here's how to do it, how to modify it, and why it's so good for you.

How to do full wheel (urdhva dhanurasana):

Note: Always warm up before going into full wheel.

  1. Begin lying on your back with feet hip-distance apart and knees bent so your fingertips can just graze the backs of your heels.
  2. Bend your elbows and reach your hands up and back, placing them underneath your shoulders with palms flat on the ground and fingers pointing toward your feet.
  3. Begin pressing your hands and feet into the ground. Without going all the way up yet, lift your hips and shoulders up.
  4. Lean the head back to bring the crown to the mat, without putting any pressure on your head or neck. Keep elbows tucked close to your ears as you press more into the ground.
  5. Straighten your arms and lift your head off the mat. Squeeze the knees together, keeping them parallel and in line with the hips and feet.
  6. Send the hips toward the ceiling and your chest toward the wall behind you. Straighten your arms and legs as much as you can without hurting your back.
  7. Breathe and hold for 30 seconds. Exit by tucking the chin and slowly lowering down, bringing the knees together.

Some tips to remember.

Again, it's really important to warm up the spine before entering full wheel. You can do this by taking a couple of rounds of bridge pose. Cobra, locust, and camel pose are also good backbend options.

If you're having trouble getting into the full extension of the pose, practice getting to step No. 4 and holding there. You can also begin lying on a bolster and work on getting your arms into position. Focus on pressing hands and feet into the ground, until you're strong enough to push yourself up.

To maintain proper alignment, try squeezing a block between your thighs or placing a strap around them to keep your knees from splaying out.

And lastly, backbends are best in sets of three, so try to do this three times (or two sets of bridge and one full wheel).

What are the benefits?

Wheel pose is great not only for your back but for strengthening the entire body. It engages your thighs, glutes, hips, core, arms, shoulders, and chest. Plus, it helps you maintain a healthy and flexible spine.

Backbends are also heart openers, thought to help support the heart chakra. This chest opening action can also be great for your lungs—research has even found yoga can benefit people with asthma.

This pose is also believed by yogis to help combat stress and depression, due to the way it engages the thyroid and pituitary glands.

Bottom line: There are many reasons to incorporate wheel into your practice regularly. It's a full-body burner, opens your heart, and keeps your spine healthy—it doesn't get much better than that.

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