Looking to master the wheel pose? Try these yoga poses first.
Since it is a total-body stretch, the Wheel Pose is considered a more advanced yoga pose. To master this pose, you not only need flexibility in the spine, but you will also need strength and movement in the wrists, arms, chest, shoulders, hips, abdomen and quadriceps. These are attainable through consistent practice with other simple poses first.
The poses and stretches below are designed to strengthen and open up the thighs, spine, shoulders and chest to help prepare your body for Wheel Pose.
By Bianca Williams
Low Lunge Quadricep Stretch
Press your hips toward the front of the mat to deepen the stretch. To back off, simply shift the hips more towards the back knee or back of the mat. The further your hips press forward, the deeper the stretch. The quad stretch comes into play by lifting the back foot and grabbing onto the back heel. The closer you draw your heel in towards your seat, the deeper the quad stretch; the further you press the lifted foot down towards the mat, the gentler the stretch. Stay here for five deep breaths, then slowly release and switch sides.
Engage the legs and buttocks to lift the hips higher, lightly squeezing the knees together to keep them hip-width distance apart. Press the arms and shoulders into the mat to lift the chest up and gently toward the chin. Stay here for five breaths, then slowly lower down one vertebrae at a time.
While engaging the entire backside including thighs, buttocks and calves, begin to gently lift your head and chest off the mat. Pull your shoulders down and away from the ears and lift the heart. Stay here for several breaths, and slowly lower back onto your stomach.
Bring your knees wider than hip-width, and press your hips forward as you engage your glutes and drop your head back. Hands can press into your low back, or find a grip on your heels for the final expression. Remain here for several breaths, then slowly come out of it the same way you came in. Come into kneeling by bringing your seat to your heels and take a few breaths before moving on.
Laying on your belly, bend your knees and reach back to grip your outer ankles. Bring your knees in towards each other, and with an inhale kick into your hands as you lift your chin and chest off the mat. Stay here for several breaths while rocking forward onto the soft part of your stomach. On an exhale, slowly lower your chest and thighs back to the mat and rest.
Downward Facing Dog
From a tabletop position, engage your lower belly drawing the navel back to the spine while pressing the floor away from you, as you straighten into your legs and lift your hips skyward, making an “A” shape with your body. Stay here for five deep breaths.
From Plank Pose, lower onto the forearms. Lift the hips and begin stepping the feet closer up toward the elbows. Keep the spine straight and long, reaching up high through the tailbone. Press the heels toward the floor, feeling a stretch in the back of the legs. Take a few breaths in your Dolphin Pose to help open the shoulders and build strength.
Standing Wall Stretch
Begin with your hands about shoulder distance and give yourself enough space to allow your spine to remain long. Keep shoulder blades gently engaged, so that you create space between your ears and shoulders. Allow the chest to get heavy and press toward the floor. Stay here for five to ten deep breaths, relaxing into the stretch.
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All images courtesy of Bianca Williams/YogiApproved.com.