Chakrasana…wash away the weekend’s toxins in Wheel pose …
After a wonderfully sunny and eventful weekend filled with July fourth barbeques and fireworks, I am sure most of us are in the need of one word…DETOX.
Well, you are all in luck, because I have the perfect detox pose for you today…
The name of this pose comes from the Sanskrit term chakra, meaning ‘wheel’, and asana, meaning ‘pose’.
An alternative name for this pose is Urdhva Dhanurasana, stemming from the words ‘elevated’ or ‘upward’, Urdhva’, and ‘Bow’, Dhanur.
The picture above is actually a deepened variation on the pose in which the heels lift off of the gound, while the tailbone presses towards the sky and the feet walk closer to the hands and then the heel release back to the ground after.
Wheel pose acts as a cleansing tonic for the body.
This exhilirating pose has actually become a part of my daily morning practice, after surya namaskar, because it increases confidence, clears my head and soothes my mind, leaving me filled with vitality for the rest of the day.
The pose is very popular in Kundalini and Hatha yoga, in which the pose may be held for upwards of 3 minutes. When held this long, the full respiratory and meditative benefits may be received.
When just starting out, I recommend practicing the pose about 3 times, consecutively, per practice. Push up into the pose and hold for a few breathes, increasing the time you stay up each time. Breathe deeply when up in the pose through the nose using ujjayi breathe, or “the ocean breathe”.
When coming down, release to the ground slowly, close your eyes, and lie down for a few breathes with knees remaining bent and hands on your stomach.
Notice and perceive the sensations through your body and if you see anything mentally. Sometimes, coming down from bow can be a clarifying experience for certain thoughts, visualizations and emotions.
The pose tones your digestive and respiratory systems, helping to release toxins out of your body. Doing chakrasana frequently can help your reproductive system and increases flexibility in your spine, hip flexors, wrists, elbows, biceps, triceps, legs, glutes, and shoulders. The pose improves physical and mental stamina, especially if you hold it for longer periods of time, and can help prevent osteoporosis.
The pose is a mood enhancer and can help treat symptoms of depression, while it aides in the function of the thyroid and pituitary gland.
An advanced variation on this pose is Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana from the Sanskrit words for ‘one’, Eka, and ‘foot’, Pada. It is performed by shifting the weight onto one foot and lifting one leg to a 45 degree angle, or higher, and holding for a few breathes.
For a visualization of how the more basic pose should be done at abc-of-yoga.com… click here.
You can also find variations of this pose in B.K. Iyengar’s “Light on Yoga” in the section on the Viparita Dandasana Series. To order the book from Amazon, click here.
The philosophy behing Chakrasana:
The pose invokes the “Wheel of Life” from Hindi and Buddhist culture. The Wheel of Life is present in everything from Hindi texts, to the theory of the energy chakras, to visual art in Tibetan mandalas. The Wheel of Life, or Devanagari, in Ayurveda represents the balance we must find within ourselves and all the elements in our external and internal world.
However, in Tibetan Buddhism, the Wheel of Becoming, or Bhavacakra, can be understood as the cycle of samsara that we repeatedly experience until enlightenment and nirvana is reached, and we can escape it.
In both interpretations, the visualization of the wheel is represented through spokes. In Ayurveda, the spokes are filled with different elements to be balanced, while in the Tibetan understanding, the spokes represent the six forms of unenlightened existence.
A practice some Tibetan Buddhist monks partake in is the creation of beautifully intricate mandalas of the “Wheel of Life” made with sand, and then the destruction of them. It is a practice of no-attachment to one’s achievements. I was fortunate enough to witness a creation and destruction of a “Wheel of Life” sand Mandala by former monk, Losang Samten.
Visit Losang Samten’s official site here.
The Self is the hub of the wheel of life,
And the sixteen forms are only the spokes.
The Self is the paramount goal of life.
Attain this goal and go beyond death!
– Prashna Upanishad
Note: To [prepare for the pose, warm up with other spinal flexibility related poses (such as Bow and Bridge). You will not want to do this pose if you have had injuries to you back, shoulders, elbows, or wrists, or if you have carpel tunnel, a headache, high blood pressure or heart problems. Always attempt a new pose in the presence of a seasoned yoga instructor!