Straighten the Arms and Shoulders

Reader: When doing wheel pose, I have trouble getting my arms straight. Is this due to inflexibility in my wrists or is it my shoulders? What can I do to work on straighter arms in the wheel? Thank you, Yoga Guru!

Yoga Guru : Fully executing wheel pose requires healthy external rotation of the arms and ability to descend the shoulder blades down the back and in toward the spine. For many, the inability to straighten the arms is likely due to inflexibility and/or strength at the shoulders. Without seeing you in your practice of course it would be difficult to identify your edge but there are some poses that you can do to fully prepare for wheel.

 

First make sure you are warming up appropriately with some seated poses, six directions of the spine, sun salutations,  and shoulder-opening poses. Once you are ready to begin the backbend series you may want to follow a sequence of preparatory backbends:

Cobra pose and upward facing dog are two of the sequenced poses that help prepare shoulders and arms for a full wheel. In these poses focus on pressing the hands into the floor and working to slightly externally rotate the arms and draw the shoulder blades down the back lifting through the crown of the head. The back is strong and firm in these poses, actively engaging muscles between and below the shoulder blades.

Camel pose can help you learn to breathe into the side ribs expanding, drawing the shoulder blades down the back and into the spine as you are in a position that energetically is similar to full wheel yet you are more supported.

Bridge pose is done by holding the sides of your mat, palms facing upward and externally rotating the arms while opening the chest.  Actively press your arms into the floor while holding on to the sides of your mat as if you are trying to pull it apart from the middle. Once you are ready to go into full wheel make sure you place your hands just at the shoulders, palms pressing into floor and fingers facing your feet and on an inhale lift into the full wheel, straighten the arms and rotate the arms slightly outward.

Nothing can replace working with a teacher or attending a workshop dedicated to backbends and/or shoulders.

Also, one of my favorite websites that describe poses very well and is useful for putting together sequences is: www.yogaartandscience.com

Mary Lauttamus

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