Making Wheel Pose Easier
Wheel pose (Chakrasana) is also know as Upward Facing Bow or Urdhva Dhanurasana.
You can use this basic yoga pose to strengthen or "energize" your arms and legs. You can also use it to open the front of your body, in particular the front of your spine, shoulders and hips.
Use Your Legs
I've seen grandmothers with weak arms getting up partially (or all the way) by focusing on using their legs instead of their arms. The trick to doing this is to use your legs to pull your pelvis forwards (towards your feet.)
With your shoulders on the floor you can lift your pelvis and then as you try to get the crown of your head onto the floor you can pull your pelvis forwards using your legs. You'll then end up pulling your shoulders slightly away from your hands.
As you pull your pelvis forwards and up your chest will follow. You can then use your arms to help guide your shoulders off of the floor so that you can place the top of your head on the floor.
With your head on the floor you can rest and reposition your hands if you need to. Then, using your legs you can again pull you pelvis forwards and up, this time pulling your ribcage and your head up and off of the floor.
Once you've lifted your hips you can then use your legs to pull your pelvis forwards, at the same time pulling your ribcage and shoulders away from your hands so that you can get the top of your head on the floor.
Lifting Your Head an Inch Off Of The Floor
Once you can get your head onto the floor you can practice lifting your head an inch off of the floor and then lowering it.
Feel the top of your head while it is on the floor, and then as you lift up, notice the pressure change in the top of your head. You'll be able to feel when your body weight is no longer resting on your head and you'll also be able to feel, via your hair, when your hair leaves the ground. If you are bald or have a shaved head, notice when the skin of your head leaves the ground.
To get your head off of the floor, slowly pull your hips forwards and up using your legs. You may feel your shoulders moving away from your hands. Use your arm strength to assist in pushing your shoulders away. Apply your leg strength slowly and gradually and do the same with your arms so that you can feel the moment when your head leaves the floor. Pause, and then slowly lower your head back onto the floor. Repeat five times and then rest.
Once you can get onto the top of your head, try lifting your head a little and then lowering it. While lifting, use your legs to pull your pelvis forwards. You'll also be pulling your chest and shoulders forwards with it.
Pushing All the Way Up into Wheel Pose
Once you are comfortable with getting your head off of the floor you can then try pushing all the way up into wheel pose... gradually. Starting from the position with your head on the floor, use your legs to pull your pelvis forwards and gradually push your hands into the floor with more and more pressure. You can slowly lift up and then slowly lower. Each time you lift up try to get a little bit higher. As you lower, work at lowering yourself slowly, with control. And then repeat.
I'd suggest doing 3 to 5 lifts and then resting. And then if you still have some juice in you, do it again.
Try pushing slowly up into wheel pose and then slowly lowering.
Shift Weight To Your Arms After You Get Up
Once you get up by using your legs, you can then shift your weight towards your hands so that you can then use this pose to help stretch the front of your shoulders and chest.
Wheel pose with weight towards feet (picture on left) and with weight a little bit towards hands. (notice in first picture knees are more over toes. In second picture they are closer to being over the ankles.)
Shift your weight gradually when doing this.
In the first picture my knees are forwards, I'm using my legs to pull my weight forwards. In the second picture my knees are slightly less forwards. In the third picture my knees are almost over my heels.
Learning To Like Wheel Pose
The nice thing about doing this pose, is that it can feel great afterwards, especially if you use your legs.
After about 9 years of not liking this pose at all I can tell you that it is worth the effort to learn it and it is definitely worth the effort to learn to use your feet to pull your pelvis forwards.
Pulling your Pelvis Forwards While Standing
To get used to using your legs to pull you hips forwards before doing wheel pose, practice doing it while standing.
While standing with your feet about hip width apart and knees slightly bent, push your pelvis forwards and reach your ribcage back. Then return.
Do this two or three times to get the feeling.
If you like, stand in front of a wall, about a foot away, and push your hips towards the wall. Reach your ribcage away from the wall so that you stay balanced. Then return.
Then practice doing this by starting with your knees bent. As you push your pelvis forwards, straighten your knees a little so that you pelvis goes forwards and up. This more closely mimics the feeling of using your legs to pull your pelvis forwards and up while you are on the floor.
Pulling Your Pelvis Forwards While On Your Back
On the floor while laying on your back with your knees bent, you can try the same thing, push your hips up and pull them forwards.
Your shoulders will slide towards your feet as you do so. Release and then repeat to get used to this action.
Using Your Legs to Pull Your Hips Forwards
Try the same action with your head on the floor. Pull your hips forwards and as you do so try lifting your head about an inch off of the floor and then lower. (You can tell if you are an inch or so off the floor just by feeling your head or even by feeling your hair.)
See if you can slowly pull your pelvis forwards and up, and then slowly (and smoothly) reverse the action, placing your head back on the floor.
If you feel strong or able, you can also try lifting up fully into wheel pose.
How to Make Lifting the Head Even Easier In Wheel Pose
The Working Towards Wheel Pose Ebook includes more exercises to make wheel pose easier to learn and do.