Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward-Facing Bow

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Urdhva dhanurasana (OORD-vah don-your-AHS-anna) is often mis-translated as full wheel pose (chakrasana). Upward facing bow pose is a deep backbend that can cultivate flexibility, strength, and patience. This posture is worth the effort with its long list of benefits, including an energy boost and thyroid and pituitary gland stimulation.

SANSKRIT:

  • Urdhva: upward
  • Dhanu: bow
  • Asana: pose

PHYSICAL BENEFITS:

  • Expands chest, lungs, shoulders.
  • Stretches hip flexors, muscles of the abdomen, wrists.
  • Strengthens glutes, hamstrings, lower back muscles.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Promotes courage and compassion.
  • Enlivens the chakras.
  • Increases energy.

PREPARATORY POSES:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Blocks on the wall: Place two blocks on the floor against a wall, about shoulder distance apart. Place your hands on the blocks as you move into urdhva dhanurasana to help elevate your upper body and better engage your shoulder blades.
  • Strap: Use a strap around your upper arms to prevent the elbows from splaying as you press upward.
  • Block: Place a block between your thighs to keep your lower body engaged.
  • One-legged: Try out eka pada urdhva dhanurasana by lifting up one leg at a time.

STEP-BY-STEP:

  1. Lie on your your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, like you’re moving toward bridge pose.
  2. Place your palms on the ground beside your ears, fingertips facing your shoulders.
  3. Press into your feet, especially the big toe ball mound.
  4. Exhale to lift your tailbone and hips off the floor. Squeeze your thighs toward each other so your knees point straight ahead.
  5. Press into your hands to bring the crown of your head to the ground. Pause here for a breath.
  6. Draw your shoulder blades down your back while keeping elbows in line with shoulders. Press into your feet and hands equally.
  7. Exhale to straighten your arms and lift your head off the floor.
  8. Squeeze your inner thighs toward each other and down toward your mat (internal rotation). Lengthen your tailbone toward the back of your knees.
  9. Drop your head all the way back if comfortable.
  10. Hold the pose for up to a minute with a steady, long breath. Lower down and rest, option to repeat.

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If you’re a man thinking of taking up yoga, or you’ve just started, then you must read this. It will save you time, confusion and even a bit of embarrassment.

Eyes Wide Shut Guys, when in down dog, learn to close your eyes and get into the pose. Why? One, to feel your way into a deeper stretch. Two, and perhaps more importantly, if you’re in front of a woman and she’s moving through her vinyasa, you could be making it awkward. You may want to be staring at your belly button, but trust me, those eyes may wander and make someone feel uncomfortable.

Kiss My Asana. When you’re in prasarita (a wide-legged forward bend) and you’re in a full class, please be considerate. Stagger your position with your neighbors, and as recommended in the point above, close your eyes. You also want to make sure you’re giving your female neighbors plenty of space coming in and out of the pose, just in case it looks like you’re trying to be a little too… neighborly.

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