This variation of wheel pose with straight legs is a great way to lengthen the spine. The activation of the legs propels the chest forward, bringing the bend more into the upper back and less in the lumbar.
1. Begin lying on your back. Bend your knees, place your feet on the floor with the heels as close as possible to the sitting bones. Feet should be about hip distance.
2. Bend your arms and place your hands beside your head, palms on the floor with fingertips pointing towards your shoulders. Your forearms should be almost perpendicular to the floor.
3. Exhale, and press your feet firmly into the ground as your lift your hips and tailbone up off of the floor. Take a breath or two and then press firmly into the hands, lifting the head up and placing the crown of your head gently onto the floor. Keep your arms, thighs and inner feet parallel.
4. Take a breath or two, and then lift your head off of the floor as you exhale, straightening the arms. Firm the outer thighs and turn the upper thighs inward slightly. Lengthen the tailbone toward the back of the knees as lift the pubis toward the navel.
5. Spread the shoulder blades across the back as you lift up through your chest. Press evenly through your hands and feet. Your head can hang, or be lifted slightly to look down at the floor.
6. Slowly straighten the legs as you lengthen through the spine. Keep the chest lifting and press through the inner arches of the feet.
7. Hold for 5 – 10 breaths, and slowly lower down to release.