Urdhva in Sanskrit, means upward; Dhanu means bow; and asana means pose. This pose brings power and energy to the body. Make sure to allow for a few minutes in order to relax after moving into Wheel Pose, allowing the breath to come back to a calm state. Wheel pose allows the spine to move into a deep backbend while simultaneously creating opening in the front-line of the body.
Warm up the spine prior to moving into Wheel Pose. Move into Cat/Cow in order to open the front and back line of the body. Come into a table-top position on the hands and knees. Bring the palms to shoulder-width distance apart and align the hips over the knees. Spread the fingers wide and press the palms and finger-pads down into the ground.
On an inhale, drop the belly and lift the gaze, arching the spine into Cow Pose. Feel the arch of the spine and the stretch in the area of the belly and in the throat. On an exhale breath, draw the pelvic under. move into Cat Pose.Tuck the chin in towards chest and enjoy the sensations of the rounding spine and the stretch along the back-line of the body. Move with the breath and lead with the pelvic bone as you continue to move from Cat into Cow for a few rounds of breath. Accentuate each inhale and exhale.
Move into Downward Facing Dog in order to prepare the shoulders: Tuck the toes and straighten the legs as you move into Downward Facing Dog. Bring the palms to shoulder-width distance and the feet to hip-width distance. Press the hips up and back, shifting weight towards the legs. Bend the knees as much as you need to create a long spine. Stay here and breathe in order to allow the shoulders and the spine to open-up. Draw the shoulders-blades flush to the back and draw the low-belly in on the exhale.
Extend length out of the crown of the head rather than trying to lift high in the pose. Draw the shoulder-blades flush to the back and lengthen the tailbone towards the feet. Draw the low-belly in towards the spine in order to protect the low-back. Stay here with the hips anchoring downward towards the ground, and keep the breath flowing for a full, 3-5 complete rounds of breath.
To move into Wheel Pose, Urdhva Dhanurasana: Come to lay down on the back. Walk the feet up towards the glutes. Stack the knees over the ankles and bring the feet to hip-width distance apart. Bring the palms in-line with the ears, shoulder-width distance apart, with the fingers facing towards the feet. Option to use two blocks, side-by-side against a wall. Prop the palms on the blocks with the fingers grasping the sides of the block for stability. This option can help lifting into the pose if the shoulders are tight.
Another option is to wrap a strap above the elbows in order to keep the arms parallel. If the elbows want to “splay-out”, the support of the strap will help to keep the arms active and elbows parallel to each other. Press the arms into the strap in order to allow the straps to assist with the upward-energy motion in the pose.
Stay here a moment and breathe. Activate in the area of the shoulder-blades. Draw the shoulder-blades flush to the back in preparation to lifting up or stay right here. If this is enough sensation in the back and shoulders, stay right here and breathe.
In order to move deeper into the pose: on an inhale breath, come to the crown of the head to begin. Be careful not to “dump” weight into the head and neck. Keep the palms pressing into the ground and the shoulder-blades active in order to keep the body actively lifting upwards. If this is enough opening in the back and shoulders, stay right here and breathe. This can be the “edge” or “peak” of the pose for you. Create long and smooth inhales and exhales.
Notice any areas of the body that feel tight before lifting up further into Full Wheel Pose. Know that when you “lift-off”, you may notice areas that feel tight. Know that this is normal as it is a more advanced pose. If you feel any pain in the pose, slowly come out.
If you notice tightness in the back-line of the body, be mindful, move with intention, and focus on your breath. Use the breath as a tool. Send the exhale to the areas of the body that feel tight. Keep the arms active, shoulder-blades flush to the back, and keep a slight bend in the knees, rather than straightening the legs, in order to avoid compressing in the area of the low-back, the lumbar spine.
To lift into Full Wheel Pose: Press into the palms and feet and lift up into Full Wheel Pose. Work to keep the arms straight and actively working. Keep the shoulder-blades flush to the back and maintain a slight bend in the knees. Squeeze the inner thighs inward towards each other in order to protect the low-back. Lengthen the chest and sternum forwards, away from the feet. Option to walk the palms closer towards the feet, being mindful of keeping the knees stacked over the ankles.
Option to use two blocks against the wall under the feet. Place the blocks side by side against the wall. Place the feet on top of the blocks in order to help give height to the pose and help to support the low-back.
Be mindful of the area of the chest and in the thoracic region of the spine, in yoga, sometimes referred to as the “thoracic wheel.” Rather than allowing this area to fully “jet-out”, slightly draw the lower rib-cage inward to protect the low-back. This is a very subtle movement but it can make a big difference in the pose and in the care of the low-back.
Come into Supta Baddha Konasana, Reclined Bound Angle Pose. Allow the soles of the feet to touch and allow the knees to fall out wide. Option to bring one palm to the belly and one palm to the chest. Allow the low-back to relax and allow the breath to come back to a natural state. Take a moment and notice how you feel after moving into this deep backbend in a mindful fashion.
Rest in Savasana, corpse pose. Allow the entire body to rest with legs extended and palms at the sides of the body. Allow the palms to rest facing upwards. Shimmy the shoulders underneath you, allowing for more space in the area of the heart. Option to bring a bolster under the knees and a blanket or towel under the head. Allow the benefits of the posture to settle in. Allow the body to rest. Stay her for at least two minutes and up to ten minutes or more.
Backbends and heart openers in yoga are known to help counteract mild-depression. When we feel fear, anxiety and depression, we tend to protect the area of the heart and “close-up” in order to protect ourselves. Find expansion, strength and be open to the idea of allowing vulnerability back into your life after going through challenging moments in your life.
Check with your doctor before performing any form of exercise including yoga and breathing techniques. Always honor your body. If a posture gives you pain, gently come out.
Christi Iacono, owner of In Rhythms Yoga
Christi Iacono is a certified yoga teacher, at the 500 hour level, and she is the owner of In Rhythms Yoga, in Clairemont. IRY is a small neighborhood studio in Clairemont, S.D., located in the Mount Streets. Christi has experienced many positive physical and mental transformations from her regular yoga practice. She enjoys sharing her experience, passion, and dedication with her students. She believes that yoga is accessible to all. Rather than forcing someone’s body into a pose, Christi carefully works with each individual to find the variation that will best serve their body.
IRY offers regularly scheduled vinyasa-based classes on, Sat., Sun. (Yin-Yoga) and Wed. mornings as well as a Tues. evening class.
*Yin Yoga and Trunk Show on Sun., Dec. 21st. Yin yoga is from 10-11:15 a.m. and Tae Clothing Trunk Show begins at 11:30 a.m. RSVP to Christi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Go to www.inrhythmsyoga.com to see the full schedule, instructors and for private lessons.