If you’ve ever thought that you aren’t flexible enough for yoga, you’re not alone. The fear of being the only person in a yoga class who can’t touch their toes or straighten their legs in downward facing dog has kept many people away from yoga.
The wonderful thing about yoga is that everyone can do it! There are modifications for each pose, so people with all abilities can practice yoga.
Yoga props are another way to help you get into a pose. Blocks provide an extra few inches of height and some extra stability. Straps can help you extend your arms and legs a little further. Bolsters are comfortable cushions for yin or restorative poses.
If you want to build strength and flexibility, a yoga wheel is the prop for you. Yoga wheels are circular and hollow. They’re designed to help with stretching and release muscle tension.
There are a lot of yoga wheels to choose from. Most are 12 inches in diameter, with a 5 or 6 inch-wide surface. Yoga wheels are typically made of plastic, with a padded layer on the surface that touches your body. Cork and foam are the most common types of padding.
Once you find a yoga wheel you like, try it out with some of these poses.
1. Utthita Ashwa Sanchalanasana – Lunge Pose
Take your lunge to the next level with a yoga wheel. A rolling lunge will strengthen your hamstrings, and help stretch your hip flexors.
To do this pose, stand with the yoga wheel behind you. Place the top of your right foot on top of the yoga wheel. Inhale, press your right foot gently into the yoga wheel and roll it back. As you roll, your front knee will bend into a lunge. Exhale and roll the wheel forward. Do this 10 times on each side.
During a rolling lunge, make sure your front leg is stable. Keep your knee directly over your ankle and don’t let it fall to the side.
2. Ardha Parsvottanasana – Half Pyramid Pose
If you have tight hamstrings, try doing pyramid pose with a yoga wheel. Half pyramid can stretch your hamstrings and help you build up to poses like full splits.
Kneel on your mat. Place your right foot on the mat, with your right knee at a 90° angle. Set the yoga wheel under your right leg. The top of the wheel should be under your thigh and the front of the wheel will be against the back of your calf.
Slowly peel your right foot off the mat, so your right leg is lifted. With your calf on top of the yoga wheel, roll the yoga wheel forward until your right leg is straight. The wheel should be close to your ankle now. Flex your right foot.
Straighten your spine and take a deep inhale. Fold your torso over your right leg, keeping your back flat. Reach your hands forward as far as they go–to your right thigh, shin, or ankle. Stay here for three to five breaths.
To come out of the pose, lift your torso upright. Bend your right knee so the yoga wheel rolls towards you. Remove the yoga wheel and repeat on the other side.
3. Skandasana – Half Squat Pose
Stand with your feet about hips-width distance apart, facing the wide edge of your mat. Keep your toes pointed forward. Place the yoga wheel outside your right ankle, so the wheel can roll along your mat. Lift your right leg and rotate it so your knee is pointed towards the ceiling.
Set the back of your right ankle on the yoga wheel and bend your left knee. Slowly roll the wheel out to the side, then roll it back in. Engage your glutes and find strength in your left ankle. Repeat 10 times, then switch to the other side.
4. Bakasana – Crow Pose
Crow is another challenging pose where a yoga wheel can help. Arm balances like crow are easier when you have something to support you.
To do a support crow, kneel on the mat. Place the yoga wheel behind you, close to your toes. Lean forward and place your hands on the mat in front of you.
Lift your hips and use the strength in your core to lift your right foot onto the yoga wheel. Keep leaning forward. Rest your right knee on the back of your right tricep.
Once you find your balance, lift your left foot onto the yoga wheel. Your left knee can come to rest on the back of your left tricep. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and press your hands firmly into the mat.
Hold the pose for ten breaths. To come out of the pose, carefully place one foot on the ground, and then the other. Repeat two more times.
5. Salambasana Sarvangasana – Shoulder Stand Pose
Shoulder stand is technically an inversion, because your legs are above your heart. It’s a great one to do at the end of a yoga class. It can strengthen the spine and shoulder muscles, and has many relaxation benefits. Having your legs upside down reverses blood flow, which can help with sore leg muscles.
The pose also increases blood flow to the brain and stimulates the thyroid and parathyroid gland. These glands regulate hormones. Shoulder stand can also help with digestion.
There are so many benefits to this pose, but it can be challenging. A yoga wheel will support your spine and take some of the pressure off of your lower back.
To do shoulder stand, lay on your back with the yoga wheel nearby. Plant your feet on the mat with your knees bent. Bring your knees to your chest and curl up into a ball. Place the yoga wheel at your lower back and hold it with both hands. Extend your legs up to the ceiling.
Hold for ten breaths. To come out of the pose, bend your legs and carefully roll the yoga wheel away from your back.
6. Balasana – Child’s Pose
Use a yoga wheel in a child’s pose to deepen the stretch in your upper body. This can be great for tight shoulders and arms.
Start by kneeling on the mat with your big toes touching and knees spread wide. Set the yoga wheel in front of you so it can roll down the mat. Sink your hips back to touch your feet and put your hands on the yoga wheel. Roll the wheel forward as you drape your torso over your thighs.
Lengthen your spine as you roll the yoga wheel forward. Stop once you can comfortably rest your belly on your thighs. You should feel a nice stretch through your armpits, chest, and shoulders.
Relax over the yoga wheel and stay in the pose for five to ten breaths.
7. Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclined Butterfly Pose
Yoga wheels are great props to help relieve upper back tension. In supported reclined butterfly, you can stretch out your upper back and inner thighs at the same time.
Start in a comfortable seat on your mat. Set the yoga wheel behind you so it is aligned with your spine. Touch the soles of your feet together so your legs make a diamond or butterfly shape.
Place your hands on your thighs with your palms facing up. On an exhale, lean back onto the yoga wheel. Allow your upper back and neck to relax onto the yoga wheel. The yoga wheel will support your spine and deepen the relaxation. Sink into the pose and feel a nice stretch in your inner thighs.
Hold the pose for ten breaths. Take a deep inhale and slowly come back to a seated position.
8. Paschimottanasana – Seated Forward Fold Pose
Seated forward fold helps the entire body relax. However, it can be difficult for people with tight hamstrings. Using a yoga wheel in this pose can help.
Start by sitting on your mat with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the mat. Slide the yoga wheel underneath your legs so it touches the backs of your calves.
Lean over your thighs and hold the yoga wheel with both hands. Scoot your hips back until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Allow your upper body to fully relax onto your thighs.
Hold this pose for several deep breaths.
9. Urdhva Dhanurasana – Wheel Pose
Full wheel is an advanced backbend. It can be challenging to do, but using a yoga wheel will help you build up to it. Use the yoga wheel to add support and stability to your spine.
Start seated, with your knees bent and feet flat on the mat. Set the yoga wheel behind you so it is in line with your spine. Lean back against the wheel and let your back drape over it. Exhale and press through your heels to lift your hips. Bring your arms over your head and place your hands on the mat by your ears.
Allow the wheel to support your upper body. Engage through your glutes and thighs. Press firmly into your palms. Stay here for three to five breaths.
To come out of the pose, lower your hips back to the mat. On an inhale, slowly roll up to seated. Repeat two more times.
10. Utthita Parsvakonasana – Extended Side Angle Pose
Adding a yoga wheel to extended side angle pose is another way to strengthen your arms and side body.
Start in warrior II pose with your right foot forward. In warrior II, your hips are squared towards the long edge of your mat. Your back leg is straight and the outside edge of your back foot is parallel to the short end of the mat.
Your front knee is bent, with the knee over the ankle and the foot pointed forward. Arms are in a T position.
Tilt your torso forward and extend both arms toward the front of the mat. Position your arms so your biceps are alongside your face. Hold the yoga wheel in your arms and keep your torso parallel to the ground.
Hold for three to five breaths, then repeat on the other side.
11. Navasana – Boat Pose
Boat pose is a common core-strengthening yoga pose. Add a yoga wheel to deepen the pose and build more core strength.
To do a boat pose, sit flat on the mat with your legs extended in front of you. Lean back so you are balancing on your tailbone. Bend your knees and bring your toes to touch the mat. Keep your lower back flat and engage through your core. Lift your toes off the mat and straighten your legs. Extend your arms out in front of you.
There are several ways to use a yoga wheel in boat pose. An easy variation is extending your arms and holding the wheel in front of you. This will help you balance and strengthen your arms at the same time.
You can also add movement to boat pose. Twist from side to side, using the yoga wheel as a guide. This will strengthen your core and side body.
Another variation is low boat pose. From boat, place the yoga wheel between your feet. Lower your legs and torso so you are almost flat on the mat, then come back to boat pose. Grab the yoga wheel and repeat a total of ten times.
12. Overhead Triceps Extension
You can also use a yoga wheel as a tool for strengthening. Overhead triceps extension with a yoga wheel strengthens and tones the back of your arms.
Kneel on your mat and hold your yoga wheel behind your head. Keep your elbows pointed up towards the ceiling. Exhale and lift the yoga wheel, straightening your arms. Gently squeeze your shoulder blades together behind your back to keep your elbows pointed up. Inhale as you bend your elbows and lower the yoga wheel.
Repeat 15 times, resting when needed.
If you tried these yoga wheel poses, let us know what you think in the comments!
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As a trained yoga professional and Ayurvedic practitioner, Donna goes far beyond just writing about holistic concepts. With your health and wellness in mind, she happily provides an abundance of thoughtful and well-written information.