Many of us hold day jobs that require us to spend at least eight hours in the office, Mondays to Fridays. I am no exception. At least 70% of this time is spent sitting down, unintentionally slouching, and typing away on the keyboard (at least for me). Over time, the anterior muscles tighten from lack of movement, taking a toll on one’s flexibility, mobility, posture, and muscle and joint health.
Upward Bow or Wheel Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) is one of my favourite poses that thoroughly and effectively stretches the muscles on the front part of the body. It can also, unfortunately, be a painful experience for some due to tight muscles. It is therefore important, and most times necessary, to warm up the muscles first so that this backbend becomes a source of energy and vibrancy instead of pain and misery.
*Note: This is an intermediate/advanced backbend. Those suffering from back injury, carpal tunnel syndrome, heart irregularities, headaches, high/low blood pressure should avoid performing this pose.
In Wheel Pose, the heels, inner feet and palms are pressed on the floor to lift the body off the ground. The heart and chest is pressed towards the sky as the hips extend. The gluteal muscles and hamstrings (semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris) work to bring the tailbone and hips away from the floor. Once in the air, the inner thighs (adductor brevis, longus, magnus, and gracilis) roll the thighs inwards, keeping the knees in line with the ankles.
When the hip flexor muscles (including the illiopsoas, gracilis and pectineus) are tight from sitting for long periods of time, they hinder the extension of the hips in this pose. Poses such as Warrior 1 and 2, or Crescent Lunge, will help to lengthen these muscles.
The rotator cuff muscles, along with the deltoids, engage to adduct the arms overhead. As the triceps push the upper torso away from the floor, the rhomboids and trapezius muscles expand the shoulders.
Slouching in front of the computer for hours at a time tightens the chest muscles, (pectoralis major and minor), abdominal muscles, and rotator cuff muscles. This causes the thoracic spine to be less limber. Warming up with Locust or Cobra Poses stretches these muscle groups and assists in opening up the shoulders and chest in Wheel Pose, protecting the lower spine and back. Downward-facing dog will also help to stretch the latissimus dorsi in order to lift the arms overhead.
The Wheel Pose also:
- Improves the respiratory system by allowing increased amounts of oxygen into the rib cage; therapeutic for asthma;
- Reduces fat buildup in the abdominal area;
- Strengthens and tones the thighs, back and arms;
- Opens the heart chakra, allowing us to maintain emotional stability and find true connection with ourselves and the people around us.
In short, the Wheel Pose is a powerful pose that energies a person mentally and a wonderful tool to loosen up stiff muscles and joints. Try it and shine your heart to the world!
200Hr YTT (Vinyasa Flow), Weekend (Sept 2015)