Heart opening from a humble hero

Hello yogis!

What a great time to talk about moving our practices forward. With September in full swing, back to work, school and Uni routines budding with good intentions, it's all about getting equipped with the right tools we need to make best progress in our lives.

Besides the fresh notebooks, bags, textbooks and pens to get the monthly planner filled, what tools do you need to facilitate a great moving yoga practice?

You may be familiar with the supportive use of blocks for stability, the lengthening capabilities found with a strap, even the feeling that your favourite pair of jazzy leggings gives you the gusto in your best poses. Better still, I'd like to bring up the baby in the corner. Quiet superstar: the Dharma Yoga Wheel.

I must say, with that description, it certainly matches the namesake of the inventor himself, Sri Dharma Mittra. Hailing with over 50 years of devoted experience, "the lotus flower of NYC," and still teaching, training, and invoking the light of Self Realisation through yoga every day makes Dharma (meaning 'right action') a humble hero.

Back in my early days attending classes at the Dharma Center NYC, I can remember settling in on my mat, watching how others were preparing for their practice with the Master. Some were catching up quietly with fellow yogis they hadn't seen in a while, others resting within themselves lying down or breathing mindfully, some getting warmed up with a few poses. I then noticed a few people rolling around, resting into some deep backbending shapes, stretching out, then sending this thick clear plastic wheel down the aisle between mats to an unspecified next user.

Sure enough, I grabbed it and gave it a go. Just a "wheel for warming up the back" they said. And so, that's what it was. I don't remember my first reaction to this crazy thick wheel, but I probably thought I wasn't 'doing it right'. At that time, backbending was not much of a focus in my practice, as I was still working with intense lower back pain.

Fast forward about five years later, upon my return to the DYC in 2014, it appeared Sri Dharma was rolling along any claim to fame of inventing the wheel to his son, Dov (Yogi Varuna) who was now producing the wheel for the masses.

Historically, Dharma requested the creation of the wheel by a PVC pipe cutter - ages ago - so that he could roll up and down the spine to loosen the muscles of his back for yoga. Sure enough, he was stretching out shapes and asana possibilities for countless others to come.

By the time I bought a wheel in 2014, I knew that I needed some help with warming up my back, increasing mobility in my hips and shoulders, and wanted something to help release deeply ingrained tensions in my upper and lower back. Since then, I'm just so glad the Dharma Wheel came rolling into my life.

While I don't use the wheel during my morning asana practice very often, I do find it is the perfect way to unwind, let go, and warm up for later in the day practices after work or sitting for long periods. It also works perfectly in the latter portions of a session for longer held backbending and restorative postures just before savasana. It's a great tool for going deeper into any spinal extension movements overall.

Since the wheel has been available for purchase, there is quite the demand in the yoga world for this super cool tool. They are even beginning to develop a Dharma Yoga Wheel training (which we'd love to host here at HYS). But what makes this wheel so useful, and what else can you do with it?

The DYW is a supportive structure that matches the contours of the spine, helping you relax back into comfortable extension of your own back. The movement itself massages the back muscles, helping you find more release and natural ease into backbending shapes. As one becomes more limber, the wheel helps you define and develop strength in the back muscles in order to support your own backbending postures in class or at home without the wheel.

Over all, the DYW can be used: on its own as a restorative practice, as a strength and stabilizing support within your practice, and as a fun gizmo to play with in perfecting balancing postures, and experimenting with wheel specific postures.

In our upcoming workshop, I will introduce some set sequences for each of these uses and give you the time to really experience the depth that you can receive in your own backbends. We'll also just play around and see where the wheel can help in your own moves.

While I have experienced some deep back and heart opening form the DYW and know that it can be intense for some, there is no other yoga tool I know of that will keep me feeling flexible in my own current ability and supported in what can be a scary position. I trust in the Dharma Yoga Wheel fully, and can't wait to keep getting better at bringing it all home to you all.

Hope to see you on the 25th!

Stay supple,

Anne Marie