Before we start... beginners, listen up, well actually everyone listen up. Backbends do not come easy for me. I have been practicing wheel pose since the beginning of my practice and it is still a very difficult pose for me to execute. I am not "back-bendy". As much as I wish I were one of those yogis who are naturally gifted in the back contortion profession, I just am not. And, that is okay. I've come to terms with MY backbends and have removed expectations about them. I just let them be. (Don't be fooled, it took awhile for me to accept this and get through periods of posture envy, and body shaming.) Some days my body goes the deepest it's ever gone, and I feel comfortable and strong. Other days, it feels like I'm back at day one with my backbend practice. What has helped me however, keep my backbend practice steadily progressing was a change in perspective (I mean I am upside down after all). I stopped looking at them as "back bends" and started looking at them as "heart openers" (which is what they truly are). I had some serious issues with my heart chakra and exposing my vulnerabilities. In the beginning when I had to practice deep bends it felt like I was about to undergo open heart surgery. So no, heart opening poses did not come easy for me. But, as I discovered, acknowledged and accepted these pieces of myself that needed detoxing and mending... I grew, and so did my "backbend" practice.
I say all that just to declare, be kind to yourself here. Even if you're a skilled contortionist... be kind, take it slow, find comfortable breathing in the pose, and appreciate where you are.
What to Engage in Wheel Pose
(remember all these little muscle activation should be engaged simultaneously to help successfully and safely pull off the asana.)
Urdhva Dhanurasana, as difficult as it can be is excellent for strengthening the spine, wrists, arms, legs, and abs. Stretches the front body (chest and lungs), energizes, is therapeutic for back pain and depression, and stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands. I personally have to do a very heat inducing warm-up before I attempt to do deep heart openers such as this, and I recommend you do the same. Here are a few of my go-to poses to warm up my spine, shoulders, hip flexors and abdomen before I enter Wheel Pose:
Puppy Pose or Dolphin Pose
Crescent Side Stretch
Remember, practice makes progress.
Grow With Your Flow,