How to Wheel: Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy

In the ‘Hard Yoga Poses Made Easy’ series, we focus on a particular yoga pose or skill that seems (or is) very difficult and we make it a lot easier by breaking it down into actionable, realistic, and sequential steps.

In this tutorial, we set our sights on Wheel Pose.

Wheel looks like it’s just a big ole backbend and all you really need is to just be able to bend backwards a whole lot.

But when you start to piece it together, there’s a lot more going on.

First, the spine needs to not only bend backwards (in spinal extension), but the back needs to be strong enough to support the pose. To establish this primary need for Wheel pose (and life) we start with Locust pose for step 1. Pure back strengthening might feel like a pain at first, but it’s totally worth it.

Supporting the Wheel backbend starts with the back, but it also need to be supported by the traction in the front of the body. It also needs the frontal core and chest to be mobile enough to lift into the arching position, which is why step 2 details Camel pose. It’s a key “traction” back bend and will teach you how to use the front of the body to bend in the back of the body.

This one is pretty sneaky and not many people realize this, but the hips and shoulders need to be quite mobile to come into full Wheel. With tight shoulders, it’s almost impossible to place the hands and palms securely on the mat which keep the wrists protected. With tight hip flexors, it’s very difficult to extend at the hip joint, bringing excess back ending into the low back. To square all of this away, we use low lunge with an overhead shoulder opener.

Getting closer to the actually Wheel shape, we next focus and on bridge pose and working to develop an even backbend throughout the spine, with no individual area of the spine feeling the backbend more than another.

With the alignment learned in Bridge and the skills developed in steps 1-3, you’re ready to start playing with the idea of moving into Wheel pose.

Make sure to keep as little weight in the head as possible when it’s in contact with the ground and start with your chin towards your chest. You’re not going to win any medals for looking towards the ground. Trust me, I’ve tried.

Wheel pose is super energizing and brings a sense of vitality into the body. With so much of our physical movement beginning in and connecting to the spine, this pose is a panacea for any athlete looking to stay athletic for a long time.

Start using yoga to live athletically:

Yoga for Athletes - The Ultimate Guide

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About the Author:

Joe is the Founder of Icewater Yoga. Fascinated by the intersection of yoga and sport, his goal is to help athletes develop a consistent yoga practice. He lives in Claremont, CA with his wife, Jill.