7 Ways to Use a Yoga Wheel

If you've ever graced the inside of a yoga studio, you're probably familiar with yoga props, such as mats, straps, and blocks. What you may not have heard of, though, is the yoga wheel. This relative newcomer to the world of yoga practices is a narrow, but wide, cylinder made of plastic, wood, or a combination of materials that's roughly 12 inches in diameter. Set upright, it's used to deepen stretches to enhance flexibility, offer a more challenging balance practice, or provide support for difficult poses. And of course, once you've mastered its use, it can make for some pretty incredible Instagram photos, too.

The trick is understanding how to incorporate a yoga wheel into your practice in a safe and effective way. Rather than attempting a king dancer pose while standing with one foot on top the wobbly cylinder, you should start with poses that keep you grounded while testing the limits of your personal yoga practice. Creators of the Yoga Design Lab yoga wheel offer the following poses that are appropriate for most beginner- to intermediate-level yogis.

1

Wheel-Assisted Child's Pose

yoga wheel child's pose
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Child's pose is a classic, restful pose that helps stretch the hips, thighs, and low back in a gentle, accessible way. When you use a yoga wheel during the pose, reaching your arms forward on top of the wheel's raised surface, you also experience a nice stretch through the shoulders and chest.

Kneel on the floor with your big toes touching, and sit back on your heels. Separate your knees so they're at least hip-distance apart and place the yoga wheel between your knees. Set your hands on top of the wheel. Inhale, then as you exhale, lean your torso forward, using your hands to roll the wheel away from your body while lengthening your spine. Continue leaning forward until your belly rests comfortably between your thighs with your arms stretched straight in front of you. Let your head and neck relax, aiming to rest your forehead on your mat as your chest and shoulders experience a deeper stretch. Hold for at least three breaths.

2

Reclining Easy Pose

yoga wheel-supported reclining easy pose
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Easy pose is a classic, cross-legged seated position that encourages a strong mind and steady breath. The reclined version performed with the assistance of the yoga wheel incorporates a controlled chest-opening backbend that helps relieve tension between the shoulders.

Sit tall, directly in front of the yoga wheel, so that it's aligned parallel to your spine. Cross your legs in a comfortable position, so your legs and pelvis feel grounded into the floor. Place your hands on your knees in a palms-up position and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, extend your spine slowly over the top of the wheel, using it to support your backbend. Allow the back of your head to rest on the top of the yoga wheel. Sit in this position breathing deeply for at least five breaths, although you can stay in the pose for as long as you feel comfortable.

3

Wheel-Assisted Fish Pose

yoga wheel-supported fish pose
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Fish pose is an excellent chest-opening backbend pose that stretches the pectoral and shoulder muscles. That said, some people aren't able to maintain the standard pose on their own, while others would prefer a deeper stretch. The yoga wheel provides a solution for both groups.

Sit on the floor, your torso tall, your legs extended in front of you. Point your toes and internally rotate your hips, squeezing your inner thighs together. Place the yoga wheel directly behind your back, aligned and parallel with your spine, your hands holding it lightly in place. Take a breath in, and as you exhale, lean backward, extending your spine over the top of the wheel, releasing your hands to allow the wheel to move with your body as you perform the backbend.

Lift your hips to deepen the pose, allowing the wheel to support and massage your spine between your shoulder blades. Relax your head and neck, leaning them against the wheel. Open your arms wide, placing them in a position that feels comfortable and encourages balance. Hold for at least three breaths before reversing the movement to come to a seated position on your mat.

If the pose is too difficult to balance, modify the exercise by bending your knees and placing your feet flat on the floor, hip-distance apart.

4

Wheel-Assisted Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose

yoga wheel backbend image 1
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For yogis working toward more advanced backbends, such as wheel pose, king pigeon pose, or even an unassisted upward-facing two-foot staff pose, the yoga wheel offers a significant assist. By using the wheel to support your backbend, you're able to move into positions you might not feel comfortable trying without the added support along your spine or between your shoulder blades. This enables you to build confidence and strength in the working muscle groups, ultimately helping you inch closer to your goals.

Sit tall, your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, directly in front of the yoga wheel so that it's parallel and aligned with your spine. Place your hands lightly on the inside of the wheel to hold it in place. On an inhale, 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. As your arms reach the ground, try to position your forearms flat on the mat and grasp the wheel with both hands to hold it in place. Relax your head and neck on the wheel.

Engage your inner thighs to keep your knees aligned with your toes. Hold the position here, or if you're comfortable, extend one leg at a time for a greater stretch through your quads and hip flexors, being sure to keep your inner thighs and feet engaged to prevent your hips and knees from externally rotating. Hold for three to five breaths, then slowly reverse the movement to release the pose.

5

Wheel-Assisted Half Pyramid Pose

Wheel-Assisted Half Pyramid Pose
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If you battle with tight hamstrings, you're not alone. Poses like the seated forward fold, pyramid pose, and standing forward fold are all great ways to stretch your hamstrings to improve mobility, but the wheel-assisted half pyramid pose offers another 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. Keep your torso tall and place the yoga wheel under the thigh of your front leg so the front of the wheel is touching your calf. Lift your front leg, and rest the back of your calf against the wheel before rolling the wheel forward with your hands so your front leg extends fully and the wheel is supporting your calf near your ankle.

Flex your front foot and take a deep inhale as you lengthen your spine, then as you exhale lean forward from the hips, reaching your arms toward the wheel or your shins as you keep your back straight. Take three to five deep breaths here before repeating two to three times. Repeat to the opposite side.

6

Wheel-Assisted Lizard Lunge

yoga wheel-supported lunge
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Lunge poses are excellent for stretching the quads and hip flexors while building strength through the lower body, and the lizard lunge offers the added benefit of opening the hips. The wheel-assisted lizard lunge is no different, but it adds a balance challenge and a deeper stretch as you extend your back leg in line with your torso.

Kneel on one knee with your other knee bent, your foot flat on the ground, as if you were about to propose marriage. Lift your back foot from the mat and place the yoga wheel under your foot at your ankle for support. Inhale and engage your core. As you exhale, lean forward, placing your hands on the ground under your shoulders to the inside of your front foot. Inhale and press firmly into the wheel with your back foot, and as you exhale, lift your back knee from the ground, rolling the wheel away to extend your back leg.

From here, press firmly through your palms, point your toes and try to lengthen your spine as much as possible. If desired, allow your front knee to fall outward for a deeper hip-opener. Hold the position for three to five breaths before releasing and switching sides.

7

Yoga Wheel Crow Pose

yoga wheel crow pose
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If you're familiar with crow pose, you already know it requires a lot of balance and body awareness. The good news is, the mechanics of the crow pose on the yoga wheel are identical to the original pose, but the bad news is that this version requires even more balance and control.

Place the yoga wheel flat on the ground. Squat down behind the wheel with your feet close together, allowing your heels to come off the ground. 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 farther forward over your hands and bend your elbows slightly so your shins rest on the back of your upper arms.

From here, nestle your inner thighs against your torso and try to affix your knees to your armpits, or at least firmly against your upper arms. Lean forward more, shifting your weight until you're able to slowly take the weight off your feet, lifting them into the air behind you. If possible, extend your elbows.

Breathe steadily, keeping your core engaged and your neck in a neutral position. Hold for at least five breaths, or maintain the pose for as long as desired.

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