This past evening a certain scallywag decided to swab the decks for Halloween by taking apart and examining my own favorite transition within the Ashtanga Vinyasa cannon – chakRasana! Chakrasana means wheel, and it’s essentially a backwards rolling summer salt. It rears its swaggy head two times during primary series and once in intermediate series proper. No matter if you’re completely new to the transition or whether you have done it a million times, it’s always valuable to learn how to deconstruct the motion in stages. I personally count 4 distinct poses within wheel.
My first pose is an unsupported shoulder stand (i.e. sharvangasana). My arms press onto my mat. I notice that the tighter the angle I can make between my chin and chest, approaching 90 degrees, the better. Additionally, as I anticipate the wheel’s rolling motion, I pay special attention maximizing the altitude of my feet. These two details will eventually allow me make the necessary space to apply the lion’s share of my strength, through my palms, towards the floor.
I abruptly move my palms beside my ears while remaining on my shoulders. My elbows are shoulder-width apart at the expense of the heel of my palm being off the floor. My center of gravity naturally pulls down and back despite my best effort to keep my feet high off the ground. I like to think that this natural tendency actually affords a degree of seamlessness in transition. I do not even have to consider moving my legs backwards at this stage. Gravity does all the work creating the illusion of a tumbling roll.
With poise I motion to lower my legs in a strait/extended fashion. When my feet are about two thirds of the way to the floor, I begin to push with one third of my strength through my palms. I do not push with full resolve until my toes are securely planted on the floor. Also, as I start to push I am mostly contacting the mat with the front pads of my palms. As my arms extend I find myself pushing with my palms’ heel-pads too.
In no time at all, I find myself staring 120 degrees backwards from my starting point in sharvangasana, comforted by a pose which somehow feels even more familiar. So there you have it – chakRasana! Everybody’s body is unique. That said, I hope that my personal observations will help you get started on or refine your own Ashtanga wheel. I will be teaching an hour-long accelerated primary on Sunday at YVT. I will make time to include a bonus chakrasana clinic for students who desire personalized instruction.