Wheel Pose is a more advanced back bending pose. It is known in Sanskrit as Urdhva Dhanurasana and another name is Upward Facing Bow, but it is more commonly named the Wheel.
Practicing Wheel can be just as daunting as finding the right name for it. It takes practice and patience to pop up into Wheel. I still struggle with Wheel, often stopping myself to gain strength in “Wheel-prep.”
Here are five reasons you should keep trying if you struggle in this pose. And, if it's a pose that you regularly practice, these are great reasons to keep on Wheelin'!
1. It stretches and opens up the accessory muscles used in breathing.
In between each rib bone is a muscle called an intercostal muscle. As a group, the intercostal muscles help to open up the rib cage during inhales and shrink back together during exhales. In Wheel, as you backbend up and out of your ribs and chest, these intercostals get an amazing stretch.
2. It strengthens the muscles of the shoulder girdle.
Do you ever struggle to raise your arms into place during Warrior positions? Do you ever feel like you are too slouchy? Your shoulder muscles may be weak or inflexible.
A few important muscles in Wheel are the rhomboids (located between the shoulder blades), the trapezius (the large muscles located from neck to mid-back) and the supraspinatus and infraspinatus muscles (deep muscles which connect the shoulder blade to the upper arm).
Wheel Pose is amazing for strengthening these muscles, which is also going to help your posture on a day-to-day basis.
3. It stretches the hip flexors.
Do you sit at a desk or computer all day long at work, keeping the hips in a state of flexion and forward fold? Those hip flexors are asking to be extended! Once up in Wheel, you should press the front hip bones up toward the sky. Your adductors and psoas will thank you for the stretch.
4. It's a great inversion.
Inversions are said to benefit the cardiovascular, lymphatic, nervous, and endocrine systems. In Wheel and in many other inversions, the heart is above the head.
Some scientists say that when we invert, we give the heart a break because the baroreceptors in the brain sense a flood of blood to the brain, and will, as a result, slow the flow. A slowed flow decreases the blood pressure and heart rate.
5. It's a heart-opener, which helps us maintain emotional stability.
Practicing heart-opening poses may help you feel more empathy for others, patience in frustrating moments, and find equanimity. And overall, accomplishing Wheel Pose will give you a sense of fulfillment and a burst of positivity.
Keep practicing, and remember that a yoga practice is a journey; it may take some time to get there. Do you remember the first time you popped up into Wheel? How did it feel?