When you do anything by yourself, there's always the danger of getting stuck in a rut. My yoga practice is a prime example: I tend to do the same poses every time I get on my mat, with a heavy focus on arm balances and inversions (headstands, forearmstands and handstands). They are fun to me, and I'm determined to find my balance in these bad boys! So I keep at it.
One area I neglect often is heart openers. Opening your heart is a vulnerable experience, whether you do it towards people, in a romantic relationship, or physically.
But for a well-rounded life and true happiness, opening yourself up is essential.
When YogDev, a Vancouver-based yoga props-company, offered me one of their yoga wheels, I took it as a sign from the universe to introduce backbends and heart openers back into my regular practice.
I've been playing around with it for a week, and I'm continually amazed at the many different uses for a yoga wheel!
Here are just a few poses I have used it for, there are countless more:
Doing an unsupported shoulderstand is seriously hard. Resting your lower back against the wheel makes it easier, while still giving you all the benefits of the "queen of all yoga postures".
Camel pose variation
Camel pose is one of the introductory back bending poses. It is often used as prep for deeper back bends. It was my very first back bending pose, and I freaked out. I almost had a mini panic attack!
I learnt that many of us physically close off our throat and heart by slouching, bending forward a lot (in front of computers, hunched over our phones, or when eating), or lowering our chin, and that by opening them up, emotions are stirred up.
I try to practice a variation of camel pose often, and it has gotten a lot better.
Seated forward bend
I'm on the quest of folding myself in half. So I'm stretching my tight hamstrings every day, until I can do this one day! (Or how about that pose? So amazing!)
Ugh. This pose is killer for me. The idea is to lift your butt off the ground with straight legs, which is an incredible core strengthener (check out Kino for the real thing - she does the L-sit at 1:43 min of the video). I can't do it, but even with your legs resting on a prop it works the same muscles. What I usually do is lift up one leg at at time for added difficulty.
Pincha Mayurasana | Forearmstand
I LOVE this pose. Love, it, love it, love it. It is one of the poses I thought I would never be able to get into, let alone balance, and every time I do it I get a thrill of excitement. I still can't hold it for very long (I think 10 seconds was my record?), but by holding on to the wheel and resting my head against it, that time increased to 50 seconds!
Here is proof of that (the video is sped up x 2):
King Cobra Pose
Can you believe that some people can touch their head and toes together in King Cobra pose? It's crazy. Right now it seems impossible for me to ever manage this amazing feat, but who knows. I do find that with the help of the wheel I was able to bend my back more than I ever have before. Yay!
This was the best surprise of the day! I haven't practiced chin stand before (apart from a one-time freak incident when I got into it, over a year ago), because it freaks me out a bit. But resting your pelvis against the wheel makes it feel so much easier and safer! I'm a chin stand convert. This will be part of my regular practice from now on!
King Pigeon Pose
In my mind, the yoga wheel was made for this pose. It is an intense back bend, absolutely beautiful to look at when done right, but very, very difficult. Resting your back against the wheel makes it much more accessible and less scary.
Remember the planking craze from a couple of years ago? I attempted it on the wheel. It was hard! (Note the look of intense concentration on my face haha!)
Aaaaahhh. This felt SO good. Nice stretch for the shoulders.
And now comes the fun part for you: You can win one of these babies! YogDev kindly agreed to send one of my readers their very own yoga wheel.
If you want to buy your own wheel, the timing is great: They are currently on sale for $59.95 CAD! Plus, when you enter the code MVYOGAFANS during checkout, you get an additional $5.00 off.