Yoga props have been carefully designed and evolved over the years to provide support and help the body attain proper alignment, deeper stretches, and support limbs during many different poses. All types of yoga can incorporate props, but it is most common to see them used in Iyengar yoga, where proper alignment is the focus of every exercise.
One prop that you may not have come across is the yoga wheel.
What is a Yoga Wheel
A yoga wheel is a cylindrical open-ring device that is usually made of either cork or plastic add, often both combined. The outside tends to be padded, either using cork or other material. It was developed in 2014 and has evolved to become the prop we now know. You would likely find a yoga wheel in most yoga studios, and custom yoga wheels will display logos or graphics to fit the studio brand. But how do you use a yoga wheel, and what are the strengths and benefits?
How to Use a Custom Yoga Wheel
As with most yoga props, there are a variety of ways to use a custom yoga wheel, but primarily it was designed to support the movement, particularly in your spine. More often than not. It is used for backbends and extending the spine. There are other uses, including balancing, which is something more advanced yoga practitioners might do to make a pose
more challenging and difficult.
The Benefits of a Custom Yoga Wheel
There are numerous benefits on offer to those choosing to use a yoga wheel as part of their practice.
Safety: bending backwards or performing an inversion can be very tricky, and yet something many people want to strive to attain. It’s no coincidence that the shape of the yoga wheel perfectly fits under the back as you bend against the natural movement of the spine. It provides solid support and an even bend using the shape of the ring. It makes movements like this a lot safer and easier as you are fully supported.
Injury Prevention: being able to perform and exercise safely also helps to prevent the risk of injury. You cannot suddenly fall and will need to come out of the pose slowly and carefully, meaning you are much less likely to hurt yourself.
Flexibility: with the added support of your custom yoga wheel. You will have a lot more confidence when it comes to pushing your body that little bit further. In turn, your flexibility will improve because back bending is vital for the mobility of hip flexors.
Posture Correction: the western lifestyle is considered to be something of a scourge on posture. Because we tend to spend a lot of time sitting at sedentary jobs, the spine tends to slump forward, and then when we go home, we sit on soft chairs and sofas, which also curve the spine inwards. Over time, the mobility of the spine is likely to decrease, especially when it comes to the backward bending motion, which is why yoga is so important, and backbends should form a regular part of any practice. The yoga wheel is uniquely shaped to extend the movement of the spine safely backwards.
Breathing: by expanding the spine and bending backwards, we also move the diaphragm, giving it more space to work. This means we can breathe deeply, and again shallow breathing is a result of sitting in a slumped position for extended periods of time.
Strength Training: using a yoga wheel in your practice will also help you to build strength and get better stamina over a fairly short period of time.
Connective Tissues: your connective and fascial tissues are worn over time, and stimulating them to regenerate is important. A yoga wheel can apply pressure and massage in the neck and spine area, which is where the connective and fascial tissues are most likely to be damaged, causing them to become stimulated and regenerate.
Variation of Practice: it is also important not to become too set in your ways and perform the same set of exercises every day. Using a yoga wheel will help create different movements in the same muscle groups and allow for variation and extension of poses.
3 Custom Yoga Wheel Exercises
Reclining Easy Pose: begin sitting in a cross-legged position, and place your yoga wheel behind you. Breathe in deeply and release the breath as you extend your spine slowly back onto the support of the yoga wheel. It should be aligned so that the top of your head comes naturally come to rest on the wheel, and your mid-spine to the chest area is supported by the curve. This really opens up your chest and lungs, allowing you to breathe deeply. Stay there for five long and relaxed breaths before slowly returning to sitting.
Fish Pose with Yoga Wheel: the pose of a fish is another fantastic backbend that allows the chest to open and the shoulder and pectoral muscles to be stretched. Whether you have difficulty achieving this pose without props or are looking to stretch further, the wheel is a great solution. Sit on your yoga mat with your legs outstretched in front of you. Place your yoga wheel directly behind your back. Lean backwards and extend your spine over the top of the wheel. In order to deepen the pose, lift your legs and hips so that you are supported on the heels of your feet and your yoga wheel. Allow your arms to fall away at the sides outstretched.
Advanced Plank: if you are looking for a challenge with your plank pose, then a yoga wheel can be used under your feet. Place your yoga wheel towards the back of your yoga mat and extend the body into a plank pose. When you are steady on your arms, place one foot at a time onto the yoga wheel. The yoga wheel should sit under your shins, and you should point your toes. This will challenge your balance and requires you to keep your body in alignment without letting your hips or belly drop towards the floor.