If you’ve been on social media, you’ll probably have suffered yoga wheel envy at some point! All those yogis doing stuff with that yoga wheel. And you’ve probably wondered if it’s worth getting one, and if you’ll use it. Well, it’s only getting more & more popular, so here are a few things you might as well learn about.
The Dharma Yoga Wheel is the brainchild of Sri Dharma Mittra and his son Yogi Varuna. It was created to help yogis deepen their practice. The average diameter is 12 inches, meant for people between 1.5-1.8m in height. Since we brought the wheel in some months ago, we’ve had some fun playing around with it.
And guess what? We can see why it’s so awesome. At first glance, the wheel looks like it was made for backbends & spinework. But it turned out to be more than just for backbends. And we found that it was more than just a prop.
So what can we do with the wheel? A lot of stuff… deepen a pose, strengthen muscles, release tension, open up tightness, overall body conditioning. Yoga wheels may seem a very ‘yin’ practice, but it can also be quite ‘yang’, especially when used for muscle strengthening. It’s a whole body experience, which can result in both external and internal improvements. All you need is consistency with the wheel!
Here are 5 ways:
1. Deepen your backbends
The wheel (Urdva Dhanurasana) is a very strong pose, and many people shy away from it- the shoulders aren’t open enough, the back is too weak, the head doesn’t “want” to look down & backwards etc. With the wheel, things are a lot easier. You can now get into the pose without all these worries. The support from the wheel helps against compression of the lower back. Being upside down (the wheel is an inversion) stimulates bloodflow and improves lung capacity. And over time, as the body gets comfortable in this asana, and muscle memory kicks in, you can start to transition into other backbend work.
*Added benefit: the yoga wheel also gently massages your spine as you roll it along the curvature.
2. Use it as a chest opener (alongside backbends)
One key aspect of backbends is that you also need to release the front of the chest and let it open up, as you simultaneously work the spine. You remember that feeling of lying over a block, and letting your head sink down into the ground- and trying to get comfortable so the edges don’t poke into your back! Well, this is a much more appropriate prop in that the curvature sits snug against the spine, which immediately means it’s a much nicer sensation! Opening up the chest will also prevent you painfully crunching the lower back. So get down onto the wheel, breathe into the pose, let the body melt in & simply relax…
3. Increase shoulder strength, mobility & flexibility
How many times have we tried to get into King Pigeon pose (Eka Pada Rajakapotasana), only to get stuck cos the shoulders just wouldn’t swivel back? Most people can raise their arms up, close to the ears, but have difficulty bending the elbows towards the back. With the wheel, you can simply hold onto the circumference & gently ease back the shoulders.
There are many variations to this; it’s finding one that works for you.
4. Stretch out the side body
Just get into side plank, slip in the wheel, and drape yourself down onto it! Breathe long breaths, 10x or however long you want to hold. As you slide the side body up & down the wheel, you’ll be thinking- this is too easy? But be prepared for the next day, when your sides ache from the stretched out ribs. This practice opens up spaces in your body that you never knew existed, and will help with general asana practice. We promise!
5. Loosen up the hamstrings & quads
The easiest is using the yoga wheel in the same way as a strap, or towel- lie flat down, stick a foot inside and pull straight-leg towards the face. Or you can use the wheel like a body roller, massaging out the tightness. Or a supported camel pose, with the yoga wheel tucked along the spine. Hamstrings are sooo important- it’s a big reason why yogis have a tough time with many asanas.
But we reckon the most important function is the psychological safety net the wheel offers us!
When we know that there’s a sturdy support we can lean into, the body relaxes, and it’s easier for us to sink, or open up into an asana. It’s a bit like jumping into an inversion – when we’re near / against the wall, we can go upside down more easily; but once we move away from that wall, some fear kicks in & suddenly we can’t seem to jump up the same way. Suddenly we’re afraid.
Take away that fear. Use the wheel. Build muscle memory. Deepen your yoga.
Practise, and all is coming…