Since returning to Hong Kong six months ago, I have made a vow to leave the mundane and basic routines behind and step outside of my comfort zone in all areas of my life, including my wellness. I am one who likes to experiment with new and old health trends, dive deeper into my spirituality with off the wall rituals, and move my body using varied methods and unique workouts. So far, the health and wellness scene in this city has yet to disappoint, especially in the yoga realm.
Over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to try some new and fascinating yoga trends including Laughter Yoga, Silent Disco Yoga, and now Wheel Yoga. The Wheel class was unlike any class I have taken before. It was liberating, inventive, and a true game changer for my practice.
Wheel Yoga was first developed by Dharma Yoga founder Sri Dharma Mittra. He found inspiration from a small wheel he discovered on the streets of New York City, where he began to implement into his practice as a warm up tool for backbends and inversions. The wheel was exclusive only to the Dharma Studio until 2014 when his son Yogi Varuna began to develop a wheel for the yogi community. The practice is still fairly new to the yoga community and is slowly gaining traction across the globe with workshops and classes.
The wheel is a yoga tool intended to support and expand the chest, open the shoulders, increase back flexibility, and stretch tight muscles. On top of all the amazing benefits, this might just be the key to finally mastering those backbends and forearm stands. Prior to taking the class, I had never heard of Wheel Yoga, however the name alone drew me in. Not having mastered a full wheel pose or handstand, I was curious what the wheel could do for my practice. Additionally, I was hoping for some back relief since I am constantly in pain due to life as a kindergarten teacher.
Fortunately, the Yoga Room, being quite innovative with their classes, has brought Wheel Yoga to Hong Kong. I have taken classes with them previously; however, this might be my favorite one to date. The class was led by Rachel Solomons, a dedicated yogi who helped bring the wheel movement to the area. Her uplifting spirit and energized sequences truly made the class.
The class was held at the Yoga Room studio in an intimate space that was both inviting and relaxing. To begin the class, we were provided with the main prop, the wheel, a block for assistance, and a brief description of the benefits of the wheel and the areas of the body that will be most engaged: the back (upper, middle, lower), the shoulders, the core, legs, and the hip flexors. Sitting high on the block in lotus pose, the class opened with a few meditative breaths and an Om to start the practice.
Feeling centered and focused, Rachel eased the class slowly into some moves to connect with the wheel. Kneeling on our knees, we placed our hand on the wheel and rocked back and forth, much like a moving child’s pose. We then placed the wheel between our legs, connecting the wheel to our belly and preceded to roll over the wheel into a butterfly pose, stretching out the lower back. Moving the wheel behind our backs, things started to get fun. Synchronizing our breath with our movements, we glided slowly backward and forwards, aligning our spine to the center of the wheel with hands on heart center.
From there, we began to pick with the pace, transitioning into some sun salutations while using the wheel as a prop. I found this part the most interesting as the wheel seemed like a natural enhancement to the practice. As I flowed into downward dog, the wheel rested perfectly underneath my forward (or my third eye if we want to get spiritual). Stepping into a forward bend, we seamlessly moved the wheel behind our calves holding on to the sides, digging into a deeper stretch. Progressing to warrior 1, the wheel was placed behind the calf. Once we felt completely warm from a few sequences, Rachel kicked it up a notch, and I began to see a whole new side to the wheel.
Using the wheel to enhance a backbend.
Using the wheel as a prop in a version of plank position.
The next part of the class was a little bit more intense, focusing on core and back work. To help strengthen the core and balance, we used the wheel for 2 separate plank moves. For the first move, we placed our feet on the wheel and would roll our knees inward, engaging the legs and the lower abdomen. For the second move, we rolled the wheel up while pushing our bodies into a teepee position. After a few runaway wheel moments, we returned safely to a sitting position on the mat where we slowly transitioned into a few heart-opening poses with the assistance of the wheel including bridge pose, plow pose, a shoulder stand, and upward facing bow pose. Feeling fully supported by the wheel and the instructor, this was the first time I felt safe and capable when trying these poses. With a fully open and gracious heart, we ended the class with a moment of silence in my personal favorite, Savasana.
All in all, from the studio to the practice, I loved every minute of it. I will most definitely be back for more. This class was a positive learning experience, allowing me l to realize that poses that once seemed impossible are now a possibility. I foresee the wheel being a monumental prop to my yoga practice, helping me finally achieve backbend and flexibility goals.
Have you ever tried Wheel Yoga or have been curious to give it a whirl? If so, how has it changed your practice?
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Related: 8 Ways to Use Yoga Props at Home
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Photos: Jess Davis