Myth 3: In preparation for Wheel Pose, you should pause on the top of your head and hug your elbows in toward the center.
Pausing at the top of your head as you come into Urdhva Dhanurasana is a great idea to help you set up the chest in order to create a fuller curve to your backbend. You might, however, find it more helpful to move your elbows away from the midline rather than hugging them in. To understand this, it’s helpful to look at the natural mobility of the spine. When we come into Wheel Pose, most of the bend happens in the lower back, or lumbar spine, while the amount we can bend in the upper back, or thoracic spine, is limited. Due to the orientation of the facet joints of the vertebrae and the attachment of the ribs onto the thoracic spine, this part of the spine naturally has less mobility. This is a good thing as our ribs house important vital organs like our heart and lungs. However, because of this limited mobility in our thoracic spine, it is actually the opening of the chest that gives a more “C”-curved shape to our backbend. In order to open the chest, what we need to do is move the shoulder blades out of the way by retracting them (pulling them in toward each other). Taking the elbows further apart makes that action more accessible, especially if there is limited flexibility around the shoulder. Once you’re able to draw the shoulder blades together, you can bring your elbows toward each other as you begin to straighten your arms to lift your head off the ground.