Yoga is a type of exercise that doesn’t require many props, but there are some that you’ll probably hear about. This is because many yoga schools use yoga blocks, straps, and wheels in addition to the mat.
While straps and blocks seem pretty straightforward and have long been used in studios, a yoga wheel is a relative newcomer, so few people know how to use it.
Yoga wheels can help you improve your flexibility, deepen your stretches, support you in difficult poses, loosen your back muscles, and challenge your balance. The trick is introducing it safely by starting with simple poses you’re confident with and gradually moving to more complex ones.
In this article, we’ll discuss how to use a yoga wheel to benefit your yoga practice.
What Is a Yoga Wheel?
The yoga wheel is a cylinder-shaped yoga prop made of wood, plastic, or cork. It’s commonly used to loosen back muscles, deepen one’s stretches, and assist the practitioner in advanced poses.
The most common diameter of the yoga wheel is approximately 10 to 13 inches, while the width is usually 5 inches.
However, most yoga wheels come in three sizes:
- small (6 to 7 inches diameter)
- medium – average (10 to 11 inches diameter)
- and large (13 inches in diameter).
Taller people should use larger wheels, especially when they perform backbends and heart openings. Otherwise, medium wheels are a great fit for those new to the yoga mat.
The first yoga wheels, also known as Dharma Yoga Wheels, were created by the father and son yogi duo Sri Dharma Mittra and Yoga Varuna in 1978. Back then, they made the yoga wheels from plexiglass. Today, there are many other versions of the yoga wheel, as they have become incredibly popular among yoga practitioners.
What Is a Yoga Wheel Used For?
Since 1978, yoga wheels have gained popularity because many practitioners have recognized them as a powerful tool that helps with stretching, tension release, balance, and core strength.
The following sections explain how to use the yoga wheel for different purposes.
Stretching and Tension Release
You can stretch with the yoga wheel to warm your body for your regular yoga routine or improve your muscles’ recovery time after a workout.
If you were wondering how to use a yoga wheel for back pain, which works by releasing tension from muscles, you should follow our instructions in the sections on chest opening, back massage, and upper back and shoulder stretch.
Here are four simple ways to stretch using the yoga wheel.
Chest Opening – Wheel-Assisted Fish Pose
- Sit on the floor and place the yoga wheel behind your back;
- Put your hands on the wheel lightly and try stabilizing yourself while slowly putting more weight onto the wheel. Make sure to keep your upper back firmly on the wheel;
- Your back and thighs should be straightened while pressing up from the heels – knees bent ninety degrees;
- When you’re well-balanced with your back against the wheel, open your arms and rest them on the sides while your back and neck rest comfortably on the wheel;
- The body should form a T position. Hold the position for 30 seconds. Repeat three to five times.
Back Massage and Stretch – Wheel-Assisted Upward-Facing Two-Foot Staff Pose
- Again, sit on the ground with the wheel behind your back;
- Place the hands on the wheel to stabilize yourself while gently pressing the middle and lower back against the wheel;
- This time, extend the arms above the head and roll backward until you touch the floor with your hands. Elbows should be bent;
- Bend the knees and drop the hips. This will help you roll forward while your arms remain extended behind you;
- Keep on moving back and forth as long as it feels comfortable;
- As you roll up, you can bend your arms so that the elbows and forearms touch the ground to achieve the full upward-facing two-foot staff pose. However, do not force yourself, as this is an intense stretch. Go only as far as comfortable.
Quads and Hips Stretch – Wheel-Assisted Half Pyramid Pose
- Kneel on the ground and place the wheel around three feet in front of yourself;
- Put one heel on the wheel while the other one remains kneeling;
- Extend the leg that is on the wheel forward until it’s straightened;
- Support yourself by placing your hands on the floor;
- With each breath, sink more into the stretch;
- If you feel ready, you can lift your hands from the ground and place them on the hips or above the head. You can also try straightening the other leg and getting the thigh closer to the ground.
Legs and Hips Stretch II – Wheel-Assisted Lizard Lunge
- Kneel on one knee as if you are about to propose marriage;
- Then, lift the back foot and put it on the yoga wheel under the ankle and foot;
- Take a deep breath and lean to the front with an exhale. Put the hands on the ground but keep the shoulders toward the front leg;
- Press your foot firmly on the wheel and lift the back knee from the ground. Roll the wheel backward as your leg extends;
- Press on the ground firmly with your palms, point the toes out, and straighten the spine as much as you can;
- If you feel comfortable, you can open the front knee by letting it fall to the outer side. This will help you make a deep hip stretch.
Upper Back and Shoulders Stretch – Wheel-Assisted Child Pose
- Kneel and place the wheel in front of yourself;
- Put your hands on the wheel but turn the palms to face each other;
- Align your back, hips, spine, and neck;
- Extend your arms until your upper back and shoulders are stretched;
- Relax and take deep breaths while bringing your chest toward the floor more and more on each exhale.
Balance and Core Strength
The yoga wheel can greatly help while you’re learning more demanding poses. You can use the wheel to improve your balance, stabilize your muscles, and gain strength.
Here are some recommendations on how to use the yoga wheel to improve your balance and strength.
Wheel-Assisted Plow Pose
- Lie on your back and breathe in;
- Place the wheel just above your head;
- Lift your legs on exhale;
- Put your hands beneath your butt for support and bend the knees if you struggle with the position;
- Inhale deeply, then, as you exhale, lower your legs toward your head and rest them on the wheel;
- Push the wheel away from your head with your feet, keeping your back straight and the backside of your thighs pushing up toward the ceiling – muscles flexing;
- The wheel will help you keep your balance as you stretch your back and thighs until you eventually manage to perform the pose without it.
Rolling-Lunge – Hamstrings Strength
- Start in a standing pose;
- Put the wheel behind you;
- Place one foot on the wheel;
- Roll the wheel away from your body while inhaling;
- Stop rolling when the front knee reaches the lunge pose (90-degrees bending);
- Roll the wheel forward as you exhale;
- Keep in mind that the primary weight carrier is the front leg.
- Kneel on the ground;
- Grab the wheel with both your hands;
- Flex the muscles of the abdomen;
- When you feel stable, lift one knee from the floor and extend that leg to the back;
- Then, extend the other leg to the back and move even further to reach a plank position, keeping your stomach and back muscles balanced.
Wheel-Assisted Garland Pose
- Stand near the wall for additional support;
- Put one leg on the wheel and put your hands on the wall to achieve balance;
- Lift the other foot slowly and place it on the wheel. When you feel balanced, try to kneel;
- The feet should be positioned outwards, following the shape of the wheel;
- Slowly bring your hands to the chest when you feel ready, and straighten your back;
- Open the chest by pushing the shoulder blades away.
The yoga wheel is helpful for both beginners and experienced yoga practitioners. It allows you to transition to more demanding positions or exercise strength, flexibility, and balance.
To learn how to use a yoga wheel in your everyday practice, follow our beginner-friendly exercises, and you’ll get into the habit in no time.