Wheel or upward facing bow asks a lot of the body, especially the low back. Check out some of my tips to take this backbend pose and others to the next level safely!
First, let’s look at the subtle differences between these poses. These pictures were taken just days apart, but in Picture 2 I am finding much more openness in my shoulders, hip flexors and chest which is allowing for that more elegant rounding shape.
You may also notice, that with this openness in the chest there is more of a heart opening action going on in picture 2 than picture 1, where most of the bend is happening in my lower back. This dumping in the low back can lead to injury so let’s learn how to avoid this!
When the quads or hip flexors are tight, it can cause a lot of the compression in the low back. We’re often seated, rounding forward most of the day, so it’s no surprise these muscles might be confused when we start stretching them the opposite direction.
If you’re looking to go further with your upward bow practice, I recommend mixing some crescent (lunge) or crescent b (low lunge) poses to your wheel prep routine. Some more advanced options you can try are twisted lizard & king arthur pose.
Always be sure to listen to the body & not push past your edge. These muscles take time and consistency to really open up.
Many backbends are also referred to as heart openers, but the problem is most people bend more into their low back than expanding through the chest which puts added pressure on the discs in the low back.
One of my favorite methods for opening the heart is supported fish (shown above using blocks). You can use blankets, blocks, bolsters or a yoga wheel to do this. This restorative version of fish pose is a great way to gradually unround the shoulders & expand the heart space, which is vital to doing wheel or upward bow safely.
On top of asking a lot of your muscles, spine & rib cage – wheel pose can do a number on your wrists & shoulders if not warmed up properly.
One of my favorite methods for opening my shoulders & chest is puppy pose. Because I have some openness in this space, I like to add blocks to take this pose further.
For the wrists, be sure to stretch the forearms, warm up with some wrist rotations and take breaks when practicing to avoid injury.