Fitness Fix: Improving Your “Wheel” Pose
The wheel pose, a common yoga pose also known as a backbend in gymnastics, is a double challenge. You need both the strength to push yourself off the floor, and sufficient mobility to extend your arms overhead and behind you. “Most people overarch the lower back and underarch the upper back, which limits the action in the shoulders,” says yoga and Feldenkrais instructor Roland Mathews, GCFP. “They need to learn to extend the upper back while spreading the ribs in front.”
Mathews recommends preparing with the following Feldenkrais-based movements. Perform each one slowly and effortlessly two to three times a week, before or between yoga classes.
1. Rolling Fists
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Extend your arms straight out to the sides, palms up, hands in loose fists.
- Keeping your arms in contact with the floor, slowly turn your palms downward, and simultaneously lift your head and upper back a few inches off the floor.
- Reverse the movement, lowering your head to the floor and turning your palms upward while simultaneously lifting your hips a few inches off the floor.
- Slowly repeat the movement 12 to 15 times, resting as needed and breathing easily throughout while focusing on the movement in your shoulders and upper back.
2. Prone Upper-Back Twist
- Lie face-down with your left hand on top of your right, your head turned to the left, and your right cheek on top of the back of your left hand.
- Keeping your hand in contact with your cheek, slowly lift your head and left arm a few inches off the floor as if to look over your left shoulder (don’t strain!).
- Repeat this movement 12 to 15 times, resting as needed and breathing normally throughout.
- Pause for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat the movement on the other side, switching hand positions so the right is on top.
Yoga is about starting where you’re at — physically, mentally, spiritually. But, before you run out to purchase a yoga mat and jump into any old class, a few pieces of advice:
- Let go of your ego. The ego has no place in a yoga class. Avoid the tendency to push your body too quickly or too hard, and avoid comparing yourself to other people in your class (every body is different). Move slowly and be gentle with yourself.
- Start with a gentle/beginner format no matter how physically strong or flexible you are, and take several classes at that level. This will allow you to learn how to do the poses correctly and how to transition from one pose to the next. You’ll greatly reduce the possibility of injury and begin to gain the stamina and flexibility needed to advance your yoga practice. Please refer to bullet point one if you feel you should jump into an advanced class. On that note …
- Don’t just wander into any old class. I once witnessed a first-time student walk into a class that was far too advanced for her, and have often wondered if she ever returned to yoga or if she now has a jilted mindset toward the practice because of that experience. Choose wisely!
- Love the props. The blocks, blankets, straps, wall, and chairs are there to make the poses safer and more comfortable. Again, please refer back to bullet point one if you think you don’t need the props.
- Please let the teacher know if something is uncomfortable or hurts. Your instructor should be able to provide modifications so you don’t risk an injury and you’ll be more comfortable.
- Have an open mind. Yoga is slower moving when compared to other physical practices. It forces you into your mind, which can be overwhelming for some, and the physical practice is quite different from other physical fitness practices since it integrates the spiritual component.
- Try several classes and teachers before saying yoga’s not for you. You may not be a fan of the style, or you may not be connecting with the teacher you started with. If you try several classes of a certain style or with the same person and you aren’t enjoying it, try something else (for an introduction to various styles of yoga, see “Yoga 4 You“).
Read an inspiring story about “Bill,” the 70-year-old yogi.
Your feet strike the ground 1,000 times a mile as you run. Each foot hits about once a second, with an impact of two to three times your body weight. That jarring force ripples through all of your muscles, bones, and ligaments.
With this in mind, it’s little wonder that every runner will suffer some sort of injury at some time.
This book offers a remedy. Created for novice yogis, it’s designed to aid you in springing back from injury.
When most people hear the word “detox,” they think of cleaning up their diet, but another great way to rid your body of toxins is through exercise. And it’s not all about sweat: When you engage in physical activity, your circulation increases, which in turn activates your lymphatic system, a network of vessels that filter waste products out of the body.
Any type of exercise can spur this process, but yoga enhances it by incorporating folding and twisting movements, which gently massage your organs and increase blood flow, says yoga instructor Seane Corn. “The deeper you breathe, the more opportunity you have to release residual toxicity [as carbon dioxide],” says Corn.
She notes that while no single yoga pose will deliver magical detoxifying effects, a consistent yoga practice can powerfully support lymph-system activity.
In our April 2013 Learn This Skill, world-renowned yoga instructor Seane Corn offers advice on how to perform a twisting triangle.