Earlier this year, one of my students came to me with two goal asanas: Crow (Bakasana) and Wheel (Chakrasana). Last month, she successfully held Bakasana and we are on our way to building up to Chakrasana.
With her in mind, I hope this article helps inspire other yogis to take Chakrasana off the scary asana list and put it on their goal asana list!
On Wheel Pose and Chakras
Wheel Pose or Chakrasana is based on the Sanskrit word cakra, literally translated to “wheel,” “circle,” and “cycle.” The word can be broken down even further to the Sanskrit root cak, translated to mean “to move” such as a wheel moves energy in a circular cycle.
Chakras are energy points or nodes in the non-physical subtle body. Subtle energy channels called nadi, life force (prana), or vital energy move through the chakras. Chakrasana is known to increase energy, stretch the upper and lower back muscles, and develop extension through the front side body.
Building up slowly and with intention into this ultimate backbend is key to keep the body and all the vital nerves in the spine safe.
Benefits of Wheel Pose or Chakrasana
The good and the bad, Chakrasana utilizes and stretches almost every major muscle in your body. As a supreme heart opener, it is excellent for strengthening the heart and igniting love from within.
It stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands, increases energy, and decreases signs and symptoms of depression. Additionally, it develops a sense of self in space and balances the body and nervous system.
Preparation Poses: Strengthen and Stretch
- Bridge Pose – strengthens the leg and back muscles and acts as a gentle inversion that stretches tight and compressed chest and torso muscles
- Bow Pose – strengthens the core and arm muscles, increases flexibility of spine and opens the chest and shoulders
- Extended Puppy Pose –stretches the spine, shoulder, upper back, and arm muscles
- Camel Pose – strengthens the chest, legs, and back muscles and stretches tight hip flexors and increases flexibility for the shoulders and lower back
- Upward Facing Dog Pose – strengthens the arm muscles and opens the chest and core
- Cow Face Pose – stretches the chest and armpits
- Dolphin Pose – strengthens the arms, legs, and core muscles and stretches the neck muscles
- King Pigeon Pose – strengthens the core and leg muscles and stretches the front side body
Building Up Activities
Wall Walks – with backs to the wall, slowly walk the feet away as the arms walk down the wall and walk the arms back up the wall as the feet walk back in toward the wall
Camel Pose Against the Wall – utilize the wall to slowly lower the head and neck toward the floor and utilize the belly button into the spine to slowly lift up
Mini-Chakrasana Push-ups – start in bridge with the hands by the ears and elbows in Chaturanga and slowly micro lift the head off the mat
Squeeze-A-Block – place a block between the feet to keep them from turning out and to lift into Bridge Pose or place a block in between the thighs as a reminder to engage the legs with the lift into Chakrasana from Bridge Pose
How to Do It
From Bridge Pose, place the hands by the ears with the finger tips facing toward the feet. Slowly press weight into the hands and feet, squeezing the elbows toward each other like in Chaturanga and lift with the heart into Chakrasana.
To come out of the pose, slowly tuck the chin to the chest and roll down one vertebrae at a time.
Advanced Yogi Tips
Once Chakrasana gets easier, feel free to lift one leg at a time toward the ceiling and walk the hands and feet closer together. Potentially working for a back walkover: with equal weight in the hands send the heart forward between the arms, lift with the belly button to initiate the rotation.
Send one foot at a time toward the sky in a wheel shape, landing with the feet by the ankles in a foreword fold. In the final variation of Chakrasana, walk the hands and feet together and the wrap the hands around the ankles.
“The heart is like a garden. It can grow compassion or fear, resentment or love. What seeds will you plant there?” - Buddha
Like all heart openers, this is an extremely powerful and potentially vulnerable pose. Feel free to build up into it slowly and come out of it whenever you need! Share below any tips or ways you know to build into Chakrasana.