Wheel Pose Anatomy
There are anatomical elements to consider when transitioning from Bridge Pose to Wheel Pose. Yes, stretching and moving slowly with the elasticity and strength training explained below are beneficial, but be aware that you’ve got bones beneath every soft muscle, and the bones you have aren’t going to change.
In Wheel, we’re taking a look at the joint of your shoulder, specifically, the point where the upper arm bone (humerus) is in contact with the top of the shoulder blade (the Acromion). This is the main part, the location you’ll arrive in Wheel with regard to your back bend and opening your shoulder.
You can also consider the amount of rotation in your arms, and which determines the distance the components of your body are, as well as whether you bend your elbows or not.
You can stretch and strengthen your soft tissues as you wish; however, the bones control everything. This is something you should sit with and be gentle and not be judgmental about.
While you’re waiting, here’s a simple progression you could utilize to strengthen and stretch your back rather than slapping your shoulders. This will help you move closer to what your bones can accommodate in a Wheel.
The weights are not placed in your hands in Cobra, regardless of whether they touch the ground. Your breath and your back muscles are what lift your torso upwards. This helps strengthen the back muscles, making the backbend feel more comfortable.
Place a block that is covered in a blanket underneath your ribs, then look back to your feet. Push your thighs to the ground to make sure you are gaining strength. Later, remove the block and return to the position without it, but this time, you should elevate your thighs and lift your heart. The shape will start stretching your frontal plane in preparation for your back for compression by the full Wheel.
Fish pose, either with or without the block, is a fantastic way to increase the depth of the backbend in the middle of your spine. That is where you would like the bulk of the back angle to originate from because it is the strongest part of the spinal column. In essence, you’re lifting with your heart. Try it by placing the block within your shoulders or slightly lower towards your back.
Make use of your Bridge Pose
You can place a block underneath your hips or beneath your lower back to get an enhanced version. Lay your whole body on the prop as if it were a blanket. Straighten your legs, then lift your arms upwards and over your head to achieve the full body stretch. This draping technique will open the soft tissues of the frontal and backplane and should be a good time to spend some time there. In Yin yoga, they are in a position for 2 minutes in each draping shape.
With Your Mat
When you are at an undisturbed bridge (with no block), then tuck your elbows deeply beneath your body or grip the edges of the mat so that you notice your shoulder blades stretching to the ceiling and your heart rising. This is a sign of the back’s middle part holding the backbend and not your neck or your lower back.
Modify Your Wheel
For those with a lower range of motion in their wrists and shoulders, this is a great method to feel straight arms and full chest expansion. As you can see, the blocks are positioned at an angle and rest on a baseboard. Make sure that your baseboard is very safe. As you rise, the thighs like you are holding blocks, and then raise your heart as with all other backbends that your heart is lifting your body.
Utilizing this simple progression every time you practice will bring you closer to your body’s full range of motion within the Wheel. Remember to be gentle with your shoulders. Wish you the best of luck!