Wheel Pose - Chakrasana
Wheel is one of the deep backbends that provides full stretch for the entire front chain of the body through muscles, ligaments, and faschia. Wheel can only be practically exercises when the shoulders and hip flexors are sufficiently open enough to assist in extension of the spine rather than limit or restrain it. This pose can easily cause lower back pain if technique is not correct, if the pose is attempted before the body is ready, or if the condition of the lower back is already compromised with sunken or misaligned vertebrae. This said though, the wheel pose can be a great way to re-align the spine and strengthen the back body while stimulating positive hormonal changes that can elevate your mood and immune system.
The classic wheel pose should find a middle position with equal support from the arms and legs. When the body is more open however you can move more towards the arms by pushing your legs. Or you can walk your hands closer to your feet.
Should the heels lift in Wheel Pose?
Lifting the heels may make it possible to extend more through the thoracic region for the compromise of less stretch in the hip flexors. Stretching the hip flexors is actually quite difficult in Wheel. Lifting into the pose often most easily happens by allowing the feet to turn out and and the practitioner kind of "goes around" the stretch. People with low back discomfort from the pose should try to keep the feet pointing forward to avoid compression and for any person who wants to get a deeper stretch on the hip flexors. Squeeze the inner thighs inwards in the pose. It can be good to lower slightly and then turn the feet and thighs inwards firmly before pressing up again. Finding just the perfect level of strength so that you can still breath fluidly is important for the deeper experience of the pose which is not only for physical results such as increased range of motion.