Urdhva Dhanurasana I (Upward Bow I or Wheel Pose) registers as 7* on BKS Iyengar’s 60* scale of difficulty.
I recently discovered a great tip for students who struggle to fully extend their arms in Wheel. Sometimes, a teacher will suggest that the student place two blocks, shoulder distance apart, against the wall at an angle resembling a wedge. Then, the student places their hands on the angled block and presses up from there. This technique is great for students who, when practicing alone, are still working toward full extension in Urdhva Dhanurasana I. But, I find that having a little help from a friend can take this adjustment to a whole new level.
Instead of placing blocks against the wall, ask a friend to stand above you as you prepare for Wheel. Their feet should be right above your shoulders (your head is resting between their feet). Then, place your hands on their ankles so that the area between your thumb and index finger rests on the top of their ankle (right where the ankle connects to the top of the foot). From here, rise up onto the crown of your head, then extend your arms into Urdhva Dhanurasana.
You may notice a greater level of extension, freedom and support in this variation. Grasping your hands around your friend’s ankles helps relieve pressure on your wrists. Furthermore, holding onto a steady friend gives you greater support than a block placed against the wall. And, most importantly, the encouragement of a friend can make your heart soar! Having someone nearby to offer words of support can make a TON of difference in the pose.
We’ve all had one of those moments. When has the support of a friend in your practice helped you reach greater depths within a pose?