,

How to Use a Yoga Wheel: 8 Yoga Wheel Exercises for Relieving Back Pain and Building Strength

Yoga wheels are the trendiest new yoga prop with so many benefits for beginner and advanced yogis alike. A yoga wheel can help improve your flexibility, reduce back pain, and build strength.

Of all the yoga props out there, the yoga wheel is probably the most versatile and beginner-friendly. This is probably why yoga wheels have gotten so popular.

But how the heck do you use a yoga wheel in your yoga practice? What poses can be modified with a wheel? And what are the benefits of a yoga wheel anyways?

Let’s dig in to the details of this innovative yoga prop, including why and how to use a yoga wheel, the best yoga wheels on the market, and our favorite yoga exercises with a yoga wheel!

What is a Yoga Wheel?

A yoga wheel is simply a hollow circular-shaped prop made of cork, plastic, or wood. It is used to enhance your yoga practice and support your body in backbends, workouts, and restorative poses.

The amazing thing about this simple cylindrical tool is that it can benefit literally anyone, whether you’ve done yoga for decades or are just getting started. The wheel can be used a simple massage roller or passive stretching device. It is often used off the mat as a fitness accessory as well.

Yoga wheels come in multiple sizes for different body types and uses. Mini yoga wheels are particularly nice for beginners who don’t want to go as deeply into backbend postures or who prefer a more mild massage.

Larger wheels are ideal for taller yogis or advanced yogis who really like deep heart-opening backbends. Regardless of the size, targeted yoga wheel exercises can help you reach your fitness and yoga goals faster.

Benefits of a Yoga Wheel

As people come up with unique new ways to use the yoga wheel, the list of potential benefits continues to expand. A yoga wheel can help release tension in anyone with back pain. It also helps to gently open up tight muscles in the shoulders, abs, chest, and hip flexors.

Yoga wheels help:

  • Increase flexibility
  • Back pain relief
  • Support Backbends
  • Improve balance
  • Build strength

Increase Flexibility

Whether you are gently holding the wheel between your hands in Child’s Pose or you are full on laying back on a yoga wheel during Fish Pose, this prop dramatically improves flexibility- but in a gentle way.

Because it provides a solid yet comfortable support, a yoga wheel gives you the deep stretch you crave without the risk of going too far and hurting yourself. The yoga wheel can give you a deeper stretch or a more mild stretch depending how you use it.

For example, for a deeper stretch in Child’s Pose, you can use the wheel as a higher surface for your hands. By dropping your head between your biceps and opening between the shoulder blades, you get a deeper upper body stretch.

On the flip side, if you want to increase flexibility without too much intensity, you can use a small wheel underneath your shoulder blades during a gentle reclined Fish Pose. Gentle heart opening poses like this are perfect yoga wheel exercises for beginners.

Thanks to its balanced cylindrical design that flows with the body’s natural curves, the wheel keeps you in proper alignment as you lengthen and stretch.

Back Pain Relief

Pretty much everyone has some sort of back pain these days thanks to our sedentary lifestyles and hunching over devices. Back pain is the most common reason most people begin yoga in the first place (before they discover all the other amazing mental and physical benefits). But these rolling yoga props just took back relief to a whole different level.

A yoga wheel is one of the most affordable and simple forms back pain relief you’ll find, whether on or off the mat. It’s like a free self-administered spinal massage that you can use any time. By simply rolling the wheel along your spine, you get a gentle massage that relieves tension and supports spinal decompression.

Simply lay down and place the wheel under your back at the base of your spine. Prop yourself up onto the yoga wheel and use your legs to gently roll back and forth, allowing the wheel to roll all the way down to your tail bone and then back up to the base of your neck.

Depending on your flexibility and the size of the wheel, you can make adjustments as needed. You will definitely recognize how important it is to have a supportive yet cushioned yoga wheel that won’t be too harsh on your vertebrate.

This rolling motion helps release tension, improve blood circulation, and warm up those tight back muscles before your yoga practice. You can do the same roller movement on your legs and hips for a similar effect.

Backbend Support

There’s no denying that backbends are super intimidating for beginner yogis! These wheel-shaped props make backbends so much more accessible by adding support and preventing you from extending farther than you’d like. A larger wheel offers a deeper stretch, whereas mini yoga wheels offer a more mild spinal extension.

The yoga wheel acts like a scaffold of support to prevent injuries while still allowing you the heart-opening relief of a full backbend. Honestly, I may not have been able to perform backbends after my back injury if it wasn’t for a yoga wheel. The cylindrical shape is so simple yet supportive and acts like an exercise ball, but more firm and versatile.

Improve Balance

As you work on more challenging balancing asanas like Crow Pose, you’ll find that a yoga wheel is the secret weapon that you’ve always dreamed of. You can still practice proper form by flexing your core and holding the arm balance, but you have the yoga wheel to support your shins or toes. We’ll explain more about the wheel assisted Crow Pose below.

In standing poses like Half Moon, a yoga wheel comes in handy simply because it is taller than a block and can be used as a balancing mechanism beneath one arm. The added support helps in stabilizing muscles and allowing you to perfect your form.

You can also practice balancing just by standing on top of a yoga wheel. Some yogis like to practice Garland Pose (Malasana) while balancing on top of a yoga wheel, which is a little easier on the inner thighs because your feet are gripping the circular wheel.

Build Strength

If you want to make your yoga practice a little more challenging and strength-building, a yoga wheel can do that as well! Using the wheel in core exercises and planks adds some major burn to your practice. The wheel also makes yoga poses more active and dynamic for more muscle building and cardio.

Top 3 Best Yoga Wheels

While there are lots of yoga wheels on the market (we reviewed them here), they aren’t all created equal! Some yoga wheels will bend and flex under your weight and not last very long. Others may be too firm and rough on the spine.

We tested out the best and found that the UpCircle Seven Yoga Wheel takes the cake for the most popular and versatile option, but the Inviguri Cork Back Roller is the most sustainable plastic-free yoga wheel.

However, if you are looking for some major physical therapy and spinal relief, Plexus Chirp is specifically designed for those with arthritis and herniated discs. It is also clinically approved by chiropractors and physical therapists.

Most Popular Yoga Wheel: UpCircle Seven Yoga Wheel

UpCircleSeven Yoga Wheel for Back Pain - Deep Tissue Massage - Yoga Back Roller Wheel for Back Pain Relief Stretching Myofascial Release Mobility (Cyan 12", 12)
  • SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE LASTING BACK PAIN RELIEF: Our yoga back wheel is designed for everyday people who suffer from chronic back pain. Use it to help relieve myofascial pain and muscle tension along the spine in your upper back, lower back and neck.
  • STRONGEST YOGA BACK WHEEL ON THE MARKET: Able to withstand 550 lbs! 100% PVC Free so it’s stronger and safer to use! Our ABS yoga wheel will not flex unlike cheaper competitor products so you can perform pain relieving stretches with ease, safety, and support.
  • PATENT PENDING COMFORT: Our yoga wheel features the thickest foam padding available and features a patent pending design. It’s superior quality & design cushions and conforms to your body’s unique shapes, whether it be your back, neck, or hips yet still is soft and comfortable enough to use everyday.
  • STRENGTHENS MUSCLES ALONG THE SPINE & IMPROVES POSTURE: The UpCircleSeven 12 Inch Back Wheel strengthens and massages core and back muscles around the discs that surround your spine. It is great for those who have chronic back pain as it helps reduce back strain by realigning the natural curvature of your spine and promoting a healthy posture.
  • #1 CONSUMER FAVORITE PAIN RELIEVING YOGA BACK WHEEL ON AMAZON: Purchase the best yoga wheel that has helped thousands of happy UpCircleSeven Yoga Wheel users nationwide achieve a more pain free and stress free lifestyle.

UpCircle Seven has become the most iconic yoga wheel thanks to its affordability, functionality, and durability. This padded ABS plastic roller offers incredible back massaging capabilities and is weight rated up to 550 lbs!

Best Cork Option: Inviguri Back Roller Yoga Wheel

Inviguri Yoga Wheel for Back Pain Relief (Set of 2), Extra Wide and Sturdy Design Back Roller with Spine Groove. Moderate to Intense Pressure, Made from Natural Cork.
  • STRETCH & POP. These back rollers are like a Chiropractor, Myofascial Therapist and Physical Therapist all rolled into one (pardon the pun). They have a SPINAL GROOVE so there is less pressure on the spine, and MODERATE to INTENSE pressure on the erector spinae muscles where you need it. Designed by Australian Physiotherapist (Patent Pending).
  • SUSTAINABLE. The trees give thanks because when you purchase this natural cork roller, a Cork Oak Tree was planted over 25 years ago, and will continue to live in the Cork Forests for decades into the future. There is no plastic in the packaging either.
  • STRONG. SGS certified to support approximately 500 pounds (10 inch) and 380 pounds (6 inch), on updated design. We don't recommend for people weighing over 275 pounds unless you are prepared for a lot of pressure. You may need to roll it into your yoga mat to start with for a bit of extra cushioning until you get used to it. Read legal disclaimer in Storefront to determine if this product is suitable for your condition.
  • BACK & NECK PAIN RELIEF. The larger wheel can be used on its own (moderate to deep pressure) or combined with the smaller wheel which will support the neck whilst stretching the back, which is especially useful for those with a weaker neck. The smaller wheel delivers light pressure on the neck for relief of tension headaches, and DEEP to INTENSE pressure on the trigger points in your back.
  • TAKE ANYWHERE & EVERYWHERE. This pain relief wheel is going to become your new favourite accessory that goes everywhere with you. Fits easily into gym bag and luggage, or just add a yoga strap and carry it over your shoulder.

If you’re looking for a plastic-free, sustainable option, the Inviguri back roller is by far the best we’ve found. It is dense and durable, rated for 500 lbs (larger wheel size) and comes in two sizes that can nest together.

This cork yoga wheel has a unique spinal channel for optimal positioning and relief.

Best for Back Pain: Plexus Chirp Pack for BackPain

Plexus’ 3 pack of yoga wheels offers the most versatility and comfort for yogis geared toward therapeutic back relief. It has a patented spinal channel, 1/2 inch thick padding, PVC-free construction, and 500 lb tested core.

How Do You Use a Yoga Wheel?

Thanks to its versatility and shape, this supportive prop can be used in hundreds of different yoga poses and yoga wheel exercises.

You can use it in heart-opening backbend poses to give you a nice stretch without overextending. When placed beneath your thighs or quads, a yoga wheel works as a support system similar to a yoga block. You can also use yoga wheels to just roll around on like a foam roller for releasing tension.

When it comes to more dynamic movements, yoga wheels can also be used to strengthen the core muscles, add weight to arm building workouts, and improve your balance.

If you place the wheel underneath your toes, you can roll back and forth for a nice core workout. The yoga wheel also improves balance and stability- you can even squat on top of it!

Here are a few poses to help you reap all these benefits and more:

Yoga Wheel Poses for Relieving Back Pain

The best thing about a yoga wheel is its ability to provide back pain relief without risking injury. All of these wheel assisted poses are safe and gentle.

Wheel Reclined Butterfly Pose

You may recall butterfly pose from childhood gym class: simply put the soles of your feet together in a seated position and stretch your hips. This modification adds in a yoga wheel to open your heart as you release those hip flexors.

How to Do It:

  1. Start in a seated position and bring the soles of your feet flat against each other, letting your knees drape toward the floor
  2. Bring the yoga wheel behind your lower back, centered on the spine
  3. Inhale and then slowly recline onto the wheel as you exhale, letting your head and neck relax fully backward
  4. Take a deep breath and rest your arms on your knees with palms up

Benefits:

Butterfly pose on its own improves posture and increases body awareness. It targets the lower back, hips, and thigh muscles. With the wheel added, it also becomes a heart-opening stretch that is especially pleasant on the upper back and neck. A lot of tension is held in our necks and hip flexors, so this wheel assisted pose relieves them both at the same time.

Yoga Wheel Spine Massage

If you prefer a more active yet gentle spinal release, try using the yoga wheel to massage your back as you roll over it.

How to Do It:

  1. Start sitting on your mat and bend up your knees
  2. Place the yoga wheel at the base of your spine and lift your entire body on top of it
  3. With your hands and feet flat to the ground, use your legs to gently roll back and forth on the wheel as it massages away any tension
  4. If it is too intense, you can roll your mat or a yoga towel over the wheel for added cushioning

Benefits:

A wheel assisted massage is so nice that it doesn’t even feel like exercise. You can use the yoga wheel for a quick 5-minute release in the middle of the day and you’ll stand up feeling like you just got an expensive massage (for way cheaper of course). The rolling motion allows you to focus on certain areas of the back while simultaneously warming up the vertebrate and targeting pressure points.

Wheel Assisted Fish Pose

Fish Pose (Matsyasana) can be a little intimidating and even dangerous for inexperienced practitioners. But with a proper warmup and the assistance of a yoga wheel, it is so much safer and accessible. You may find yourself craving this back opening pose in your yoga routine.

How to Do It:

  1. Start in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you
  2. Place the yoga wheel behind you and gently roll onto it, allowing your full upper body to drape back and open your heart toward the sky
  3. Exhale and release the neck and head, keeping the toes pointed and feet flat to the floor, letting the yoga wheel hold your full body weight
  4. You can reach behind your head and grab hold of the yoga wheel for a full backbend or extend your arms to the side for a more relaxed stretch

Benefits:

This simple backbend offers all the benefits of a heart-opening pose combined with a light inversion. It helps restore your mood, lengthen your spinal column, and relieve pressure between the shoulder blades. It is much safer and beginner-friendly than a standard fish pose.

Yoga Wheel Poses for Strength

Yoga Wheel Rolling Plank

We all know plank position is the secret to a strong core, but this wheel assisted version takes it to the next level by challenging your movement, focus, and balance. Your abs will be burning after a few sets of this!

How to Do It:

  1. Start in tabletop position with the yoga wheel at the base of your mat
  2. Lift one leg up and place the top of the foot on the wheel, then bring the other to meet it
  3. You should now be in a plank position with legs extended and feet on top of the yoga wheel
  4. On an inhale, roll the wheel forward with your knees bent and core engaged
  5. Hold for a few breaths and then roll it back to plank, repeating as many times as you’d like for a core strengthening challenge

Benefits:

Plank pose is known to help with balance and coordination while building core muscles and improving metabolism. It also strengthens your spine and your upper body. By adding the yoga wheel beneath the plank, you can make the plank dynamic for extra ab strengthening.

Wheel Lunge

How to Do It:

  1. Start in a standing position with the yoga wheel near the back of your mat
  2. Place one foot on top of the wheel and extend your leg backward until your standing leg reaches a 90° angle lunge
  3. Keep the chest lifted and front leg bent with the front knee stacked above your angle just like a standard lunge
  4. Roll back and forth for an added quad stretch and conditioning
  5. Repeat on the other side

Benefits:

This wheel assisted lunge is a great lower body workout to strengthen your quads and glutes. Lunges are known to improve blood flow and joint mobility while adding a bit of balance challenge as well. The yoga wheel lets you flow in and out of lunges for a more dynamic workout that stretches and strengthens simultaneously.

Balancing Garland Pose

Garland Pose (Malasana) just got a whole more fun and interesting. Balancing on a yoga wheel is challenging, but not quite as hard as it looks. Because your toes are pointed outward, the wheel stays fairly stable and supports you as you make adjustments.

How to Do It:

  1. Begin with the yoga wheel in front of you and slowly lift your left leg onto the yoga wheel
  2. Adjust your foot outward to the shape of the wheel as you step your right leg onto the wheel, allowing your butt to reach downward and knees point outward
  3. Bring your hands to heart center and press lightly against your sternum to help with balance
  4. Try to keep your lower back straight and open your chest upward as you look directly forward and activate the inner legs

Benefits:

Malasana is very beneficial for your pelvic region, especially in pregnant women. This position challenges your balance while opening up the hip flexors and groin. It also strengthens inner thighs, increases blood flow, and improves colon health.

Wheel Pike

As you can tell from the previous pose that targeted the core, a yoga wheel is especially great for challenging your abs and making asanas more active. This wheel pike-plank pose will definitely raise your heart rate and tone those abdominal muscles.

How to Do It:

  1. Start in a tabletop position with feet hip width distance and wrists aligned beneath the shoulders
  2. Draw in your lower stomach and lift one leg at a time onto the wheel, adjusting until the top of your shins are on the wheel and you are in a plank position
  3. Begin rolling the wheel forward and shifting your weight more into your hands
  4. Your glutes will reach toward the sky in an inverted “V” shape with major core engagement
  5. Careful not to curve your back or let your hips sink down
  6. Breathe with your movements and continue rolling the pike forward and backward with contracted abs and strong arms

Benefits:

A stronger core helps prevent back injuries and add stability to the front body. The wheel pike in particular prepares your core for inversions and handstands, as well as support in prolonged seated positions. The crunching motion can also stimulate digestion.

Wheel Assisted Crow Pose

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been trying Crow (Bakasana) for years and never quite get there. A yoga wheel is what will finally make this pose possible for you while also preparing you for a future wheel-free expression of this fun balancing asana.

How to Do It:

  1. Start in a seated Malasana pose with your toes pointed outward, knees bent, and butt squatted to the floor
  2. Move your hands shoulder width apart and place the yoga wheel between your legs
  3. Begin engaging your core and shifting your knees into your armpits, resting the shins on the back of your triceps
  4. Lift one foot onto the wheel and then the other, keeping the toes pointed and top of the foot lifted off the wheel
  5. Practice moving the wheel around as you shift your body weight forward into your arms, eventually lifting your toes off the wheel altogether

Benefits:

Bakasana strengthens your hands, shoulders, arms, abs, and thigh muscles. It requires mental strength as well to maintain the arm balance and focus. The yoga wheel can help you ease into crow pose while still feeling supported and elevated. It is perfect for mastering the form, strength, and alignment as you slowly work toward the full expression.

FAQs

Is a yoga wheel worth it?

A yoga wheel may be the best prop you can invest in for your yoga practice. It is more versatile than a block or bolster, and more dynamic than a foam roller. Yoga wheels help improve posture, relieve back pain, strengthen your core muscles, and challenge your balance.

Is a yoga wheel good for beginners?

Yoga wheels are the perfect yoga prop for beginners because they let you practice backbends and heart-opening poses with less risk of injury. The wheel supports your spine as you lengthen and stretch, while simultaneously massaging out the kinks with each rolling motion.

What muscles does the yoga wheel work?

Depending on what pose you attempt, a yoga wheel can work your back, core, arms, or leg muscles.

How do you practice with a yoga wheel?

A yoga wheel can easily be incorporated into any yoga practice through modified poses such as fish pose, wheel assisted crow, plank pose, backbends, and child’s pose. Whether holding the wheel in your hands or laying your spine back on it, this prop helps improve flexibility and reduce injuries.

Is a yoga wheel better than a foam roller?

Yoga wheels are far more versatile and supportive than a foam roller. They tend to be more rigid and specifically shaped for rolling along the spine. You can use a yoga wheel in over 100 different asanas for strengthening, pain relief, flexibility, and conditioning of many types. A foam roller just doesn’t live up to the benefits of a yoga wheel.

About Logan Hailey

Logan Hailey is a writer, entrepreneur, and vagabond yogi who lives in an school bus tiny home. She's a regular contributor on The Yoga Nomads. She travels the U.S. teaching about natural living, organic farming & gardening, and wilderness adventure. Keep up with her adventures on Instagram @ramblinfarmers.

Leave a Comment