Friday, July 24, 2009

My Pose for the Month – Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)

For the month of July, I have chosen the Wheel Pose or Urdhva Dhanurasana to be my pose for the month. As I have a tight back, I don’t like doing this pose. During the Ashtanga Led classes, Azmi would ask us to do this pose twice and I would be groaning as I have trouble even going up once. After I lift my hips to push myself off the floor and rest my head on the ground, I am not able to straighten my arms and legs to go to the full wheel pose. When I try to straighten my arms, I would feel pressure on my back and knees and would have to come down. I found out that this is because I am not opening the front thighs and deep hip flexors properly and I may end up crunching my lower back seriously.

This pose is an advanced pose and it is best practiced with the guidance of a teacher.

1.Lie on your back, bend your knees and bring the soles of your feet parallel on the mat close to the buttocks.
2.Bend the elbows and bring the palms of your hands underneath your shoulders with the fingertips pointing towards your feet.
3.Inhale and press down into the palms as you lift the hips up off the floor.
4.Bring the crown of your head to the mat. Pause here for a moment as you make sure that the elbows are staying parallel and not splaying out to the sides.
5.Straighten the arms as you lift the head off the floor. Make sure to keep the legs parallel.
6.Reach the chest towards to wall behind you. Begin to straighten the legs.
7.Once you're fully in the pose, try to walk your hands and feet a little closer together.
8.To come down, tuck the chin into the chest and lower down slowly.
9.Rest and hug your knees into your chest to release your lower back. Then roll up to a sitting position and do a Seated Forward Bend as a counter pose.

Some points to note:

1.The knees and feet tend to splay as you lift into this pose, which compresses the lower back. Your toes will also want to turn out which is a vulnerable position for the knees. To keep the feet from turning out, place a yoga block between the thighs down towards the knees. Squeezing the block with the thighs help the legs stay parallel all the way down to the floor.

2. Hip openers like Lunge, Crescent Lunge, and the Warrior poses can help get you open for this huge backbend. Practicing Utkatasana (Chair Pose) can help bring mindfulness to the internal rotation of the thighs necessary to keep the feet parallel.

Benefits of the Wheel Pose

The wheel pose has an overall tonic effect for the entire body.
It tones the spine by stretching it fully.
It strengthens the spine, upper back, arms, shoulders, wrists, buttocks, thighs and abdomen.
It stretches the chest and the lungs.
It stimulates the cardiovascular system, thyroid and pituitary glands.
It gives a boosts of energy, great vitality and feeling of lightness.
It counteracts depression.
By practicing this yoga pose the glandular, digestive, respiratory and nervous systems are enhanced.

The Wheel pose is not recommended for those having any illness, weak wrists, back injury and during pregnancy.

This video demonstrates how to do the Wheel Pose.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good article, but coming from a teacher's standpoint, it's best to attribute where you extracted your points from (sometimes, stating "advanced pose, best to be practised with a guidance of a teacher' isn't enough).

To address your tight upper back & shoulders, do more upper body opening postures to prepare (e.g. binding the hands in Gomukhasana & Garudasana, Prasarita Padottanasana with interlocked hands or hands in reverse Namaskara). Also, practising more Setu Bandhasana with a block between your thighs will strengthen your quads & hip flexors - interlocking your hands and squeezing your shoulder blades together will open your chest, thus making it easier (in time) to go up in Urdhva Dhanurasana.

In preparation for Urdhva Dhanurasana, when you've lifted your hips up with your head on the mat, try shifting your weight more to your legs & squeezing your thighs together as if there's an imaginary block there - then only lift up with your arms, pulling in your core as you go.

Practice...and all is coming.