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7-Day Challenge To Improve Your Wheel

October 09, 2014 4 min read

Wheel pose, or Urdhva Dhanurasana, is an incredible opening pose in yoga, that for the first few years of my practice I just couldn’t seem to do. Years of practice, lots of assistance from teachers, and breaking down the pose helped me to be able to do wheel, and now it’s a regular part of my practice. If you can’t do wheel, or if you’re just looking to strengthen your wheel pose and get more out of it, then this is the challenge for you. If you break down wheel pose there are three main components to look at: opening your shoulders and chest, core strength extended to your hips and thighs, and softness in your back body. Focusing on these aspects through other poses (cobra, camel, bridge, upward facing dog, and wild thing/flip dog) will help you release any stress that you’re putting on your body when you go into wheel, and help you hold it for longer, and stronger. For complete beginners here is a (hopefully) helpful video of how to easily get into wheel: And a written description:
  1. Lie on your back on the floor with knees bent, heels as close to your bum as possible.
  2. Bend your elbows, place palms flat on the ground beside your head with fingers pointing towards your shoulders.
  3. Keeping your thighs and feet parallel, lifting from your leg muscles and NOT your bum muscles, lift your tailbone off the ground.
  4. Lift up onto the crown of your head.
  5. Lead with your legs to pull your pelvis towards your feet, and your upper body will follow. Now lift your head off the ground, straightening your arms.
  6. Open up your chest by letting your shoulder blades slide across your back, continue engagement in your thighs, isometrically drawing them in, and BREATHE.
Now for the challenge!   Day 1: 30-second cobra pose 30-second bridge pose 15-second wheel What? Doing wheel on the first day!? Yes. Don’t worry if you aren’t there yet, just go for it, and if you can’t hold it for 15 seconds, or even get into the pose, then you’ve just learned your jumping off point. What you need to know: Cobra: Lie on your belly, toes pressed firmly into the ground and fingertips placed in beside your body, mid-chest. Peel your upper body slowly off the floor, keeping your shoulders pulled down away from yours ears, and your glute muscles relaxed. wheelcobra Bridge: Begin by lying flat on your back with your arms along your sides. Bend your knees, feet flat on the ground, and heels walked as close as you can to your sit bones. Lift your hips up, engaging your thighs, pulling your shoulder blades closer together and clasping your hands underneath you. Keep your core and thighs engaged, lifting your hips as high as possible, and avoiding the use of your bum muscles. wheelbridge Wheel: watch the tutorial and keep in mind the steps listed above.   Day 2: 30-second cobra to a 30 second up-dog 30-second camel 30-second bridge What you need to know: Cobra to up-dog: Start in cobra pose as described above, and take a few breaths in this pose. To move into upward facing dog, simply continue lengthening your body. Straighten your arms, keeping a micro-bend in your elbows, as your entire torso and upper thighs lift off the ground. Draw your shoulder blades even deeper you’re your back, and keep your thigh muscles engaged. Press through your toes and fingers, and use your core strength to help hold the pose. wheelupward-dog-e1338737990228 Camel: to increase strength in your low back and shoulders, and open through your chest. Kneel on your mat with knees directly under hips, legs parallel to each other. Put your hands on your hips or low back and gently start to bend backwards. Keeping the weight shifted forward put your right hand on your right foot and left hand on your left foot. Lower your head behind you and hold for five breaths. wheelcamel Day 3: 30-second up-dog to down-dog 30-second camel 45-second bridge 15-second wheel What you need to know: Down-dog: From your up-dog position, send your hips back, making an upside down “V” shape with your body. Press your chest deeper towards your knees, opening up your chest, allowing your shoulder blades to sink onto your back. Press your heels towards the floor, as far as you can without pain. wheeldowndog500 (1) Day 4: 30-second up-dog, to down-dog, to 30 second flip dog, each side 30-second camel 45-second bridge What you need to know: Flip dog: This is also known as “wild thing” and is basically one hand position away from being a wheel. Start in down-dog, and lift your right leg all the way up as high as it can go. Bend your right knee, opening your hip up toward the ceiling and continue until both hips are almost facing the ceiling, your left foot slightly pivoting to help the motion and your right hand lifts. Land your right foot on the other side of the left, flipping so that you now face the ceiling, your right hand extended straight out to the wall in front of you. It sounds a bit complicated, by the motion will feel quite natural once you do it a few times, your body sort of just pulls you into the right position. Now repeat on the left side. wheelwildthing Day 5: 30-second up-dog, to down-dog, to 45 second flip dog, each side 30-second camel 45-second bridge 30-second wheel   Day 6: 45-second up-dog, to down-dog, to 45 second flip dog, each side 30-second camel 60-second bridge 45-second wheel Day 7: 3 full wheels, hold for as long as you can What you need to know: Just to keep in mind everything you’ve done to improve over the course of the week, and that you’re awesome!   Sources and further reading: http://www.yogamagazine.com/wild-thing-or-flipping-the-dog/ http://yoga.about.com/od/yogaposes/a/wildthing.htm http://www.yogajournal.com/article/practice-section/reinvent-your-wheel/ http://www.sensational-yoga-poses.com/wheel-pose.html http://www.fitsugar.com/Tips-Backbend-Wheel-Pose-21476259 http://www.fitsugar.com/Camel-Pose-7550776 http://www.yogajournal.com/pose/poses/upward-bow-or-wheel-pose/ http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5446/The-Key-Elements-in-Doing-Wheel-Pose.html

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