For exclusive access to all our stories, including sequences, teacher tips, video classes, and more, join Outside+ today.
The Dharma Yoga creator shows off his latest invention—a wheel-shaped prop to assist you in backbends and inversions that he developed with his son, Yogi Varuna.
SEE ALSO Then + Now: 40 Years of Yoga Gear
Meet the Dharma Yoga Wheel
Maybe you’ve seen it at yoga events and festivals—a wooden or plastic wheel the size of a large pizza padded with yoga-mat material. Well, that is a Dharma Yoga Wheel, created by Dharma Yoga founder Sri Dharma Mittra and his son, and it is an amazing tool for warming up and moving safely into backbends, inversions, and other poses. Plus, it is a boatload of fun to use! Here’s the inception story of the wheel and a few poses to get you started, from Sri Dharma Mittra himself:
In 1978, I was walking in Chinatown in NYC and there was a store where they had thick industrial plastic (plexiglass) cut to all sizes. There was a small piece–about six inches in diameter from a larger tube that I thought would be perfect for opening the back and stretching the entire body. I brought that home and started using it at the studio. It soon became very popular with the students.
His son, Yogi Varuna, saw how popular the wheel was with the other students at the Dharma Yoga Center when he became a regular student there a few years ago. After Mittra tried to build a prototype himself out of wood, Varuna and his partner Raquel Vamos found a carpenter to begin production. A website, Instagram followers, and PVC versions followed, and 10,000 have been sold to date.
Monkey Pose, variation
Begin on the floor in Hanumanasana Prep with the right leg forward on the heel of the right foot. Keep the right knee slightly bent and the hands on the ground framing the right leg and supporting much of your weight. Bring the top of your left foot and your left knee to the ground. Use one hand to maneuver the Dharma Yoga Wheel securely under your right ankle. Once you find the balance, go as deep as you can into this variation of Hanumanasana, moving the weight of the body back over the pelvis. The full pose is with the hands in Anjali Mudra, with your thumbs resting against the chest, or heart. Or for a deeper stretch, raise the arms overhead with the palms together and reach back into a backbend.
With a Dharma Yoga Wheel close by, sit on the floor with your knees close together and your hips on the floor in between your feet, in Virasana (Hero Pose). Bring your hips a few inches off the floor and roll the wheel against your seat. Lean back over the wheel in a position that’s comfortable, and let gravity open your back. When you feel ready, and if you are able to take the arms back, reach overhead, bend your elbows, and take hold of the wheel. Walk your hands as close to your feet as possible, and then rest on the wheel in Kapotasana.
READ MORE Feel the Wheel in Pigeon Pose
Double Forearm Balance, or Feathered Peacock Pose
Double Pincha Mayurasana
With a partner, both take hold of a Dharma Yoga Wheel while resting your forearms and knees on the ground. Come up to balance on your forearms, gazing at your hands to keep the balance as you go up. Split your legs with the knees bent, bring your right feet and then your left together. Straighten your bodies as much as possible, even to the point of back bending a little, and gaze up at the ceiling in Forearm Balance. Be sure to let your partner know when you are ready to break the pose. This works best if you and your partner are similar height and body type.
Supported Shoulderstand to Plow Pose
Salamba Sarvangasana to Halasana
Lie down on the floor with the Dharma Yoga Wheel nearby, bend your knees and bring your feet to floor, heels close to your seat. Raise your seat all the way up and position the wheel so your back is against it and your seat rests on it, if possible. You may need to go up on your toes to position the wheel properly. Once the wheel is in position, keep holding onto it during the next few steps.
Raise one leg up and then the other into a supported version of Shoulderstand that incorporates a backbend. Rest in the pose, close your eyes and concentrate at the space between your eyebrows. After a minute or two, slowly bring the tops of your toes to the ground beyond your head. Rest here, in Plow Pose, close your eyes and concentrate at the space between the eyebrows. After a minute or two, raise your legs and return to Shoulderstand. Then keep going, extending your legs out in front of you. Try to bring the soles of your feet to the floor. Rest back against the wheel and breathe. Once you feel comfortable on the wheel, you can raise the arms overhead, palms together, and touch the ground.
READ MORE Protect the Neck in Shoulderstand
One-Legged Upward Bow Pose, variation
Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana, variation
With your knees and forearms on the floor, grasp the Dharma Yoga Wheel with both hands. Gaze at the hands and come up to balance on the forearms, holding onto the wheel. Split the legs with the knees a little bent, look up and, with control, move one foot down to find the wheel. Once the first foot is on the wheel, slowly bring the other down to join it. This is to prepare you for an advanced version of One-Legged Upward Bow Pose. For the variation, raise one leg until it’s perpendicular to the floor and point the toes so it looks nice. Switch legs and repeat everything. To break the pose, split the legs again with the knees bent and bring more weight again onto the forearms. Then come back down and rest in Balasana (Child’s Pose).
About Sri Dharma Mittra and Yogi Varuna
Teacher Sri Dharma Mittra founded one of the early independent schools of yoga in New York City in 1975 and has since taught students the world over. He is the creator of the “Master Yoga Chart of 908 Postures” and the author of ASANAS. He has released two “Maha Sadhana” DVDs and teaches online at yogavibes.com. Learn more at dharmayogacenter.com.
Yogi Varuna has studied with his father, Sri Dharma Mittra, for years. Certified in Dharma Yoga at the 800-hour level, Varuna teaches in NYC and offers workshops internationally. Find his schedule at yogivaruna.com.