Yoga Wheel: my new yoga toy

I have been wanting a yoga wheel for a while but I am taking my practice slowly and enjoying every minute of yoga so was happy to take my time purchasing all my yoga props. So….I finally purchased a yoga wheel. It was delivered by the time I got home from work tonight along with my favourite incense (the one that immediately sends me into a savasana like state of relaxation). Deliveries are exciting. New yoga toys are definitely exciting.

Why get a yoga wheel?

They are pretty popular as a yoga prop. Check out Instagram or Pinterest and you can see those yoga types using them for things like: forearm stands, locust, king pigeon, support in wheel, strengthening for abs, flexibility and even two wheels on each toes for splits.

I clearly am not at an advanced level of yoga. I find bridge pose hard and camel even harder (I don’t even get close to wheel). I think in my head that this is due to tight quads but I logically realise it is probably much more to do with my ability to open my chest, tight shoulders and work on my backbends. Yes my quads are tight…but without the ability to open the chest and shoulders I won’t achieve the type of poses I really want to work towards. A recent achievement of mermaid pose taught me this as we spent ages on opening the chest, back and side bends. I made it. I was ecstatic but I didn’t think I had made it (yoga is a journey and all that 🙂 ). I want to continue to progress towards king pigeon. I also would like to do bridge without the feeling that I just want to immediately drop my backside onto the floor. Yes I am aiming to get into wheel; in about 10 years if I am lucky. I am sure it was achievable when I was a child. What happened along the way?

So back to the yoga wheels. Forget all the amazing Insta photos. I just want to incorporate it into my practice. All the poses above are a bit beyond me at this time but the yoga wheel doesn’t only cater to advanced poses. It is actually a great beginner tool too!

Yoga Wheel for beginners

One of the best known benefits is for the back. Flexibility and, if you can manage it, strength. It also can aid in opening the shoulders and chest.

So this is my aim for the time being.

I was pretty surprised that yoga wheels are not very wide. How do people actually balance on it!!? After a double check on the internet though the one I got is pretty standard. All I can say is well done to those people who can balance whilst squatting on this little circle thing! I tried to put my feet up on it for plank and….well….I fell off. Not even a hint of wine at that point.

So having adjusted my expectations of what I can currently achieve I focused on the gentle stretching and opening that a yoga wheel can give.

Yoga wheel for backs

I sat with my feet in front (on the floor) and lifted my hips to roll the wheel up and down my back. I even opened up my arms to the floor to open my chest and attempted the hand grab (over head) of the wheel whilst in the same position.

What I found? Answer – my back is tight. I did have a really long week and Friday was a particularly long day. Its not as if I am sat at a desk all day but I drive for around 2 1/2 hours each day. This clearly takes its toll as even rolling over the wheel was difficult and initially a little uncomfortable.

But OMG it was bliss. Incense on, a bit of spine rolling and 20 minutes later I feel blissful. My back feels lighter somehow and I obviously realise the benefits of a yoga wheel for backs (back-ache, back pain, back flexibility).

So – I might be a beginner. I might also have expected to get it out the bag and immediately look like a yoga pro. I’m not. I am a beginner (this feels like a statement of my life at the moment despite being in my forties) and I am just bloody happy that I got to the weekend and feel great. The yoga wheel is going to feature now as a regular part of my practice.

This is the one I bought (amazon link, picture below). The one I originally fancied was much more expensive (amazon link) but looked fab. I managed to sensibly tell myself that I am a beginner so it shouldn’t be all about the looks! If you have one then let me know what kind of things you do with your yoga wheel. If you don’t have one then you are missing out. With my fabulously feeling back I am now going to float into the kitchen to get my wine. Hello weekend bliss!

When you don’t feel like yoga: do yoga

After a busy couple of weeks and a long lie in last Sunday the last thing I felt like doing was heading out to a yoga class. I am not even talking about a vinyasa class where there is an expectation that my muscles will work hard – maybe even ending with sweaty knees and feet (yes it still amazes me that this can actually happen; why would my feet get sweaty!). It was a Sunday Yin class. I dragged myself into my yoga gear and out I went.

The relaxed version when you don’t feel up to it

I wish I was someone who could practice anywhere, on my own and every day. But at the moment I am still early enough into the journey and practice of yoga that I enjoy, and benefit more, from a class environment. So, not feeling like it, I got over the worst bit; which is basically getting into the appropriate clothing and swinging the yoga mat bag over my shoulder. When you don’t feel like something but you know it is going to make you feel great, relaxed, energetic, sleepy or even just content the best self talk is talking you into it.

Yin

My Yin class made me feel sleepy but a good sleepy without the drained feeling my long weekend filled with food and wine. It was just what I needed. Lots of deer pose onto a bolster and even frog was just what my hips and body needed. When we reached shavasana I was almost floating away. Thankfully I didn’t end up in a sleepy haze of occasional snores; someone else did though and it made me smile whilst in my state of yoga blissfulness. To end the weekend it was just what I needed. Having floated back home I lit an incense stick and just melted onto the sofa with a book. I forgot all about not feeling great.

Incense = relaxation

It is odd how I now associate incense with relaxation and yoga. I think back to my youth when people bought incense and listened to Pink Floyd. I am convinced that every generation will do this. I remember the smell was overpowering and so that phase in my life didn’t last long. So now I am into my forties, I would never have expected to buy some incense and light it alongside a little Bhudda and candles in appreciation of the history and practice of yoga. I buy a very mild one though that is purported to be the smell of the Maldives. I am not sure if this is correct, having never been, but it smells lovely and immediately associates my mind with relaxation (see link below if you fancy trying it). The incense in classes, when they use it, has created that association. It is an association I am happy with (unlike my chocolate association with…well with anything).

The harder version when you don’t feel up to it

After my Sunday Yin the week started off busy and I still didn’t feel like doing anything other than dropping into a heap on the sofa when home from a long day and what felt like a particularly long commute. So the though of my booked vinyasa flow did not appeal. But, again, it is the thought of something that is the hardest to get over. So on with the gear and the yoga mat bag and out I went. My self-talk has done wonders this week with my activity levels.

Vinyasa

I passed the teacher who is such a lovely lady on the way in and she said not to worry, she was looking at a slower (almost Hatha) class to focus on getting into mermaid or king pigeon. Bliss! Well bliss that it was not going to end in sweaty knees but maybe not blissful in that I have found it really hard to even catch my foot in any pose like this due to my tight quads.

Unexpected benefits

Just rolling out your mat and lying on it before the start of class feels like unwinding from the day and getting into your own space. I have talked about mats before and it really is important to get one that you love. My one feels great and has enough grip to make me feel secure in most poses whilst also being eco friendly (see link to it on Amazon at the bottom of this post). So this was one unexpected benefit as I felt like I would make my way through the class and no matter how well I did, I was doing well to have arrived on my mat.

The class was surprisingly wonderful. As mentioned, my tight quads (probably could add a list of muscles to that assessment) have never done well in things like Pigeon pose and I have been no where near able to stretch into allowing my foot to place in things like Mermaid (I usually would use a strap). But this time I kept with it and we did a lot of chest openers to really allow the chest and back to stretch into the pose. This was probably most surprising. Not focusing on my quads, but on other areas, meant the final pose was achievable. Lots of downward dog but with a focus on the chest rather than on the hamstrings, on sidewards bends and humble warriors before extended time periods in pigeon. I use props a lot to ensure I relax into things. So having blocks under my bum whilst in pigeon really helps me to feel stable in focusing on the stretch. When I finally lifted into mermaid and, joy oh joy (did an internal whoop whoop and high five) caught hold of my foot, I kept a block in front to rest my hand on so that I wasn’t adding to my pose with the balance. Yoga is like that. No matter what you do you can achieve great progress whilst still having a way to go. I will eventually use no props but it doesn’t matter that I did. The achievement was brilliant for me. This is definitely going in my yoga diary with a little star.

Yoga every damn day

All thoughts of not feeling up to it, ‘I can’t be bothered’ and ‘I just need to go home and rest’ were gone. Instead, whilst both classes at the start of the week were very different, both made me forget about my lethargy. Yoga isn’t for everyone but now that I do it I honestly don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it. I am still doing 3-4 classes a week (maybe only 2 if particularly busy) but my aim is to get to the point where I am doing yoga every damn day. Even when I don’t feel up to it. I know that even when I don’t feel like doing it, I will do it 🙂