If you’ve ever practiced yoga in a studio then you’re probably familiar with yoga props such as mats, straps, and blocks. The yoga wheel, though, is something you may not have heard about.
A yoga wheel is a narrow cylinder made of plastic, wood, or a combination of materials with a diameter of around 12 inches and is a relative newcomer to the world of yoga practices. It’s used to deepen stretches to improve flexibility, provide a more rigorous balance practice, and provide support for difficult postures.
The key is to know how to safely and effectively incorporate a yoga wheel into your practice. Before attempting advanced balancing poses using the wheel, start with postures that keep you grounded while pushing the boundaries of your yoga practice.
The poses listed below are suitable for most beginner to intermediate-level yogis and can help you start to utilize the yoga wheel.
Reclining Easy Pose
Easy Pose is a basic, cross-legged seated pose that promotes a steady breath and a strong mind. The reclined version done with the extra help of the yoga wheel incorporates a controlled chest-opening backbend that works to help relieve tension between the shoulders.
- Sit tall in front of the yoga wheel, directly aligning it with your spine. Cross your legs in a comfortable posture so that your pelvis and legs will feel grounded on the floor.
- Close your eyes and place your hands on your knees in a palms-up position.
- Inhale, then as you exhale, stretch your spine slowly over the top of the yoga wheel, using it to assist your backbend. Allow the back of your head to rest on the top of the yoga wheel.
- Stay in this position for at least five breaths.
Wheel-Assisted Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose is a traditional, restful pose that stretches the hips, thighs, and low back in a gentle, accessible way. When you engage a yoga wheel in the pose, extending your arms forward on top of the wheel’s raised surface, you also get a nice stretch in your chest and shoulders.
- Kneel with your big toes touching the floor and sit back on your heels. Separate your knees so they’re at least hip-distance apart and position the yoga wheel between your knees.
- Place your hands on top of the yoga wheel. Take a deep breath in, then as you exhale, lean your torso forward, using your hands to roll the wheel away from your body while lengthening your spine.
- Continue to bend forward until your belly is comfortably resting between your thighs while your arms are extended out in front of you. Let your neck and head relax, intending to rest your forehead on your yoga mat as your chest and shoulders feel a deeper stretch.
- Hold the pose this way for at least three breaths.
Wheel-Assisted Fish Pose
Fish Pose is a superb chest-opening backbend pose that stretches the pectoral and shoulder muscles. Some people, however, are unable to sustain the normal stance on their own, while others prefer a more intense stretch. Both groups can benefit from the yoga wheel.
- Stay seated on the floor, your torso tall, your legs extended in front of you. Point your toes and internally twist your hips, squeezing your inner thighs together.
- Put the yoga wheel behind your back, aligned and parallel to your spine, and lightly hold it in place with your hands.
- Inhale deeply, then exhale as you lean backward, stretching your spine over the top of the wheel while releasing your hands to allow the wheel to move with your body as you perform the backbend.
- Allow the wheel to support and massage your spine between your shoulder blades as you lift your hips to deepen the posture. Lean your head and neck against the wheel to relax. Extend your arms wide in front of you, in a position that feels most comfortable and encourages balance.
- Stay in your position for at least three breaths before reversing the movement to come to a seated position on your mat.
Wheel-Assisted Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose
The yoga wheel provides a significant assist for yogis working toward more advanced backbends like Wheel Pose, King Pigeon Pose, or even an inbounds Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose.
By using a yoga wheel to support your backbend, you’re capable of moving into positions you might not feel comfortable trying without the added support along your spine or between your shoulder blades. This allows you to gain confidence and strength in the working muscle groups, ultimately helping you get an inch closer to your goals.
- Sit tall with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, directly in front of the yoga wheel so that it’s parallel and aligned with your spine. Position your hands lightly on the inside of the wheel to hold it in place.
- Inhale deeply, lean back against the wheel and release your hands, then as you exhale, press through your heels and lift your hips, reaching your arms up and over your head with your elbows bent, pointing straight behind you.
- Continue extending your spine over the top of the wheel so it rolls between your shoulder blades. Once your arms reach the ground, attempt to keep your forearms flat on the yoga mat and grasp the wheel with both hands to keep it in place. Rest your head and neck on the yoga wheel. Keep your knees aligned with your toes by engaging your inner thighs.
- Hold this position, or if you’re comfortable, extend one leg at a time for a deeper stretch through your quads and hip flexors, making sure to keep your inner thighs and feet engaged to avoid external rotation of your hips and knees.
- Hold the pose for three to five breaths before slowly reversing the movement to release the pose.
Wheel-Assisted Half Pyramid Pose
If you battle with tight hamstrings, you’re definitely not alone. Seated Forward Fold, Pyramid Pose, and Standing Forward Fold are all excellent techniques to stretch your hamstrings and enhance mobility, but the wheel-assisted half pyramid pose provides an additional accessible option.
- Kneel on one knee on the ground with the other knee bent at a 90-degree angle with the foot flat on the ground, as if you were making a marriage proposal. Maintain a lofty torso and place the yoga wheel under your front leg’s thigh, with the front of the wheel touching your calf.
- Lift your front leg and rest the back of your calf against the wheel before rolling it forward with your hands so that your front leg is completely extended and the wheel is supporting your calf near your ankle.
- Flex your front foot and take a proper inhale as you lengthen your spine, then as you exhale lean forward from the hips, reaching your arms toward the yoga wheel or your shins as you keep your back straight.
- Take three to five deep breaths here before repeating two to three times.
- Repeat on the opposite side.
Wheel-Assisted Lizard Lunge
Lunge poses are great for stretching the quads and hip flexors while also developing lower-body strength, and the Lizard Lunge has the added benefit of opening the hips. The wheel-assisted Lizard Lunge is no different, but it brings a balance challenge and a deeper stretch as you extend your back leg in line with your torso.
- Just try to imagine that you’re about to propose marriage, kneel on one knee with your other knee bent and your foot flat on the ground.
- Lift your back foot off the yoga mat and place the yoga wheel under your foot at your ankle for support.
- Inhale deeply and tighten your abdominal muscles. Lean forward as you exhale, placing your hands on the ground under your shoulders, to the inside of your front foot.
- Inhale and press your back foot firmly into the wheel, then exhale and lift your back knee off the ground, rolling the wheel away to stretch your back leg.
- After that, press down firmly through your palms, point your toes and strive to lengthen your spine as much as possible. Allow your front knee to fall outward if you want a more intense hip opening.
- Before releasing and switching sides, hold the position for three to five breaths.
Yoga Wheel Crow Pose
If you’ve done Crow Pose before, you’re aware that it needs a great deal of balance and body awareness. The good news is that the Crow Position on the yoga wheel follows the same mechanics as the original pose, but the bad news is that it demands even more balance and control.
- Lay the yoga wheel on the ground flat. Allow your heels to come off the ground by squatting down behind the wheel with your feet close together. Open your knees wide out to the sides of the room.
- Lean your torso forward between your knees and grasp either side of the yoga wheel with your hands. Tip forward over your hands and gently bend your elbows so your shins rest on the backs of your upper arms.
- From here, nuzzle your inner thighs against your torso and attempt to affix your knees to your armpits, or at least firmly against your upper arms. Lean forward even more, shifting your weight until you’re able to slowly take the weight off your feet, lifting them off the ground and into the air behind you.
- Maintain a steady breathing pattern while maintaining your core engaged and your neck in a neutral position.
- Hold the pose for at least five breaths, or for as long as you want.