If you love the freeing and energizing feeling that you get from Wheel Pose, and are searching for an even deeper backbend, then it might be time to try Forearm Wheel Pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana).
This advanced backbend combines flexibility, extension, and strength for one powerful pose.
Backbends are great for nourishing the spine. They increase mobility and build strength, and the stretching of the chest muscles that they offer can even improve breathing patterns. Beyond these physical benefits, backbends are invigorating. It’s like getting a natural shot of caffeine.
Forearm Wheel Pose builds on all of these benefits, but adds an extra element of challenge and requires more flexibility and extension.
Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana is also a great pose to visualize letting go of tension or stress. As you deepen into your backbend, visualize the weight and stress you carry on your chest and shoulders falling off you as you press into the pose.
It’s the perfect opportunity to get that sh*t off your chest!
Here’s How to Warm Up for Forearm Wheel Pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana)
The key to a safe and expansive Forearm Wheel Pose is adequate preparation. Targeting and warming up the spine, chest, and shoulders is imperative.
Beyond that, the quadriceps and hip flexors need to be warm and lengthened, and the front body, back body, and core need to be active and supportive.
At a minimum, your warm-up should include:
- Puppy Pose with arms on blocks (Uttana Shishosana)
- Three to five rounds of Sun Salutation C (Surya Namaskar C)
- Revolved Crescent Lunge (Parivrtta Anjaneyasana)
- Locust Pose (Salabhasana)
- Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
- Dolphin Pose (Ardha Pincha Mayurasana)
- Hero’s Pose (Virasana)
Here’s Your Step-by-Step Guide to Practice Forearm Wheel Pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana):
Once you’re fully warmed up, you’re ready to jump straight into your Forearm Wheel Pose practice!
1. Start in a Stable Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana)
Let’s try it:
- Start on your back
- Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat
- Align your feet and knees with your hip bones
- The pinkie toe side of your feet should be parallel to the long edges of your mat
- Find a natural pelvis with a lengthened spine
- Engage Mula Bandha, or your pelvic floor muscles, to help support your pelvis and keep it in a neutral position
- Bring your arms overhead
- Bend your elbows and place your palms down on your mat next to your head with your fingers facing your shoulders
- Pull your elbows toward each other so they are not flaring away from your shoulders
- Press firmly into the ground with your hands and feet
- Use the strength of your front body to lift up into full Wheel Pose
- Shift your weight slightly, by pressing your chest toward the back of your mat
- Leave your feet grounded on the mat, keeping your knees and feet in alignment
- Once in Wheel, use your back body, glutes, and inner thighs to find stability
- For a healthy Wheel, try to find opening across your whole spine
- Engage your transverse abdominis muscle, your deepest core muscle that wraps around your core a bit like a corset, to keep your spine supported
- Take a few breaths in Wheel Pose before moving on
Your Intelligent 7-Step Guide to Access Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) Safely
2. Move Onto Your Forearms
Let’s try it:
- Walk your hands in a bit closer toward your feet
- Gently and with control, bend your elbows and lower down onto the crown of your head
- Moving one arm at a time, walk your fingers back toward your feet until your forearm is on the ground next to your head
- Pause for a moment to make sure you are stabilized before moving your second arm into place
- You can bring your palms together, interlace your fingers, or leave your palms face down on the mat – try all and see which feels best on your shoulders
- Once both forearms are in place, lift the crown of your head back off the ground
- Engage your leg muscles to support the backbend
- Use the full circumference of your shoulders and muscles to support the chest opening
- If you feel like you need a bit of extra room to come onto your forearms, you can lift your heels off the mat
3. Find Opening
Let’s try it:
- Press into your feet and shift your weight to bring your shoulders in line over your elbows
- Your shoulders, core, legs, glutes, and pelvic floor need to stay supportive and active for the duration of the pose
- Gaze down at the ground between your elbows or at a point that is eye level behind you
- If, at any time, you feel like you are struggling to breathe, then carefully exit the pose
4. Play With Variations
Let’s try it:
- Once you are familiar and comfortable in Forearm Wheel Pose, there are several leg variations to play with
- Lift one leg at a time and extend it toward the sky, bringing it perpendicular to the floor
- Walk your feet out slightly, and shift your weight even further toward your chest to straighten your legs into a classic Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana
- Lift one leg off the floor and bend deeply in your knee, pressing your foot toward your glute, then point your foot and place the top of your foot on the ground
5. Safely Exit the Pose
Let’s try it:
- To come out of the pose, lower the crown of your head back onto the mat
- Moving one arm at a time, bring your palms back onto the mat
- Press back up into Wheel Pose
- Tuck your chin, and carefully lower your shoulders onto the mat
- Roll through your spine, bringing the rest of your back onto the mat
- Take several breaths in Constructive Rest Pose, leaving your knees bent, walk your feet out slightly wider than your hips and allow your knees to fall together
6. Follow Up With Core Work
It’s advisable to follow deep backbends with some gentle core work. With all the opening created during a deep backbend like Forearm Wheel Pose, core work helps to make sure your spine is stabilized before moving onto anything else.
Let’s try it:
- From Constructive Rest Pose, lift your feet off the floor until your shins are parallel to the ground
- Your feet and knees should be hips-width apart
- Press your hands firmly into your thighs, and your thighs back into your hands
- Pull your belly button down toward the ground like you are trying to make a bowl with your abdomen
Build Serious Core Strength With These 7 Yoga Poses
Follow These 3 Tips When Practicing Forearm Wheel Pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana):
1. Avoid Forward Folding for a Minute
Avoid tucking your knees into your chest or doing a forward fold right away after deep backbends.
Although this used to be common in many yoga practices as a way to bring “balance” to the body, moving from one extreme to the other (deep backbending with forward folding) can create an opportunity for injury in some yogis.
Avoid this potential for injury by doing core work like what’s mentioned above before moving into a forward fold.
2. Find an Opening Along Your Entire Spine
With any backbend practice, you want to find an opening along the entire spine.
Your lumbar spine naturally has the most movement in flexion and extension, so work to find equal opening though your thoracic spine as well.
For a sustainable backbend practice, no part of the spine will be overloaded, and no part forgotten.
Practice This Easy 6-Pose Yoga Sequence for a Happy, Healthy Back
3. Activate Your Glutes
There are different and rather heated opinions about glute engagement for backbends. I fall on the side that glute engagement is helpful for poses like Wheel Pose or Forearm Wheel Pose.
The gluteus maximus is one of the largest single muscles in our body. It seems natural to use such a powerful muscle to bring support to an intense pose like Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana.
The key is not to clench your glutes or use them to force yourself up further into the pose, but rather to assist and provide stability.
Think of your glutes as providing a supporting role to the pose. And as always, you know your own body best. So, if engaging your glutes causes any pinching or misalignment elsewhere in the body, then listen to what your body is telling you and respond accordingly.
Listen to Your Body When Practicing Forearm Wheel Pose (Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana)
If you try this pose and find it to be hard, that’s because it is! So make sure to keep your ego in check, and back off if it’s too much for you.
Backbending practice should be about nourishing your spine and invigorating your body, not making an impressive shape. So listen to your body.
Challenge yourself when appropriate, and back off when needed.
Ready to Give Forearm Wheel Pose a Try?
Prepare for Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana in Open Heart with Leah Sugerman on YA Classes!