How to Use Your Yoga Wheel Effectively
So you’re developing a regular yoga practice, or at least you intend to! Perhaps you’re a total beginner or maybe an intermediate-advanced level yogi. You’ve got your mat, maybe a block, towel or strap and you’ve just purchased the newest and most interesting piece of equipment to join the yoga prop community – the yoga wheel.
But you’re not entirely sure how to use it; you’re a little hesitant to try it out and you’re beginning to wonder whether you should have hopped on the yoga wheel bandwagon. Sound familiar?
Let’s demystify the yoga wheel and clue you in to the fantastic benefits this piece of equipment has to offer yogis of all levels.
The yoga wheel is an excellent addition to your practice and can assist you in expanding your practice and advancing physically in certain positions, aiding flexibility and assisting in opening and strengthening your body.
A yoga wheel can:
• Release tension by helping you stretch deeper.
• Help with balance
• Massage the spine
• Open your shoulders and back
• Open the front side body
• Assist in inversion poses
• Help with flexibility
All of the above are general ways that a yoga wheel can greatly enhance your yoga practice, but a yoga wheel is also an invaluable tool for mastering specific poses and adding to their intensity.
It’s important to not get carried away with this prop before properly learning how to incorporate it into your practice safely. You shouldn’t just begin with a complicated balancing pose right off the bat. The following are some safe and effective ideas for you to begin with as you develop your relationship with your yoga wheel further.
Yoga wheel Stretches
Spinal stretch/ massage
For this wonderful spinal stretch, you need to lie down over your yoga wheel, centering the wheel at your lower back and sacrum. Make sure your feet are firmly planted on the ground and then bringing your arms above your hear, let yourself roll back and forth on the wheel. You can allow your head to hang right back or let it rest wherever it feels most comfortable. Breath into the back opening.
This is a classic pose for resting that will stretch your hips, thighs and lower back. It’s a go-to pose to counter any back or chest opening too, so remember that when you are finished with your back bends. With your wheel between your knees at hip width, kneel on the floor with your two big toes touching and then lean back on your heels.
Place your hands on top of the wheel and then gently roll the wheel forward away from your body so that your spine is lengthened. Do this until your stomach rests between your thighs with your arms straight in front of you. Allow your head to drop and relax with your forehead aimed towards the mat and breathe in and out.
Reclining Easy Pose
A great seated pose that aids a strong practice, with the wheel as a prop you can also open your chest with a slight backbend to relieve tension between the shoulder blades.
Sit with your wheel behind you, pressing against your spine. Cross your legs and rest your hands on your knees. Gently roll your spine back slowly over the top of the wheel, using it as a support to your backbend. You can let your head rest back onto the wheel.
This is a simple stretch that can be surprisingly difficult, with the aid of the yoga wheel behind your calf muscles, you can grip either side of the wheel with your hands and gently pull yourself deeper as you progress in the pose.
This pose is a great chest-opener that really stretches the shoulder muscles. With a yoga wheel you can get a deeper stretch and hold the pose longer over time. Sit on the floor upright with your back tall. Place your legs out in front of you, extended.
Now place the wheel directly behind your back so that it is aligned with your spine. You can hold it I place with your hands. Breathe in and then on the exhale extend your spine over the wheel into your backbend. You can lift your hips and let the wheel roll back between your shoulder blades, letting your hands release and your arms spread wide either side. Relax your neck and your head and breathe here if it feels comfortable.
You can come into a regular high lunge but use the wheel as a support for the shin of your back leg. This will help you balance and also creates a deeper stretch for your front thigh and across your back leg.
Modify your plank pose by using the wheel as a support for your feet and then practice some mountain climbers (pulling one leg in at a time) for increased strength and stamina.
This pose offers all the stretching benefits of a regular low lunge but with the added extra of a hip opening. Kneel on one knee and bend the other knee with your foot flat on the ground.
Raise your back foot and place the wheel under your foot, resting your ankle on it. Press firmly into the wheel with that foot and then lift your back knee up and roll the wheel away so that you are extending your back leg. Press into both palms on the floor and if you can, let your front knee fall at a slight angle outwards to increase the hip opening. Try to lengthen your spine.
From a plank position you can use the yoga wheel to assist in your handstand practice. Try to roll the yoga wheel in as you pull your knee in to your nose. Stack your hips slowly over your shoulders and try to line up your hips, shoulders and wrists then lift the back foot off the wheel as you come into a handstand for a few moments. Use the wheel as your guide to see how far you can safely go in this inversion.
This pose requires a fair amount of balance. Place your yoga wheel flat in front of you, squat down behind it with your feet close together and your heels off the ground. Grip your fingers over the edge of the wheel and then open your knees wide.
Lean forward and bend your elbows so that your shins rest on the back of your upper arms, close to your arm pits if possible. You can bring one knee up at a time and find your balance, experimenting with where to place your weight.
This is an excellent pose for tight hamstrings. Kneel down on the ground with your other leg forward, knee bent at 90 –degrees with the foot flat. Place the yoga wheel beneath your front thigh so that it touches your calf. Lift up your leg and rest the back of your calf against the wheel, rolling the wheel forward so that your front leg is lengthened out in front of you with the wheel places near your ankle, supporting your calf.
Lengthen your spine and lean forward from the hips with your back straight. Make sure you maintain the pose and don’t over stretch your back. Do the same on the other side.
This is an easy way to start with your yoga wheel, simply kneel next to the wheel and let your side body drape over it, allowing you to lengthen and create space. You can do similar openings and stretches by adjusting your position over the wheel for different stretches and openings (chest and back).
Supported Side Plank
Following on from your side opening, try advancing to a side plank with support from the wheel. Resting your right side along the wheel, place your right hand down into the ground firmly with a straight arm. Extend your left leg out long and straight and lift the arm of the same side up high. If you want more, lift your left leg up off the ground.
Hold the sides of the yoga wheel and then hook your big toes into the inside of it. With your shins parallel to the ceiling, raise one hand and stretch the arm up to your ear and then raise the leg of the same side off the wheel, bend the knee and keep the shin horizontal. Bring everything into the midline and hold.