Urdhva Dhanurasana: The Full Wheel Pose

By: Gaia Staff  |  September 21, 2016

Pose Guide

Urdhva Dhanurasana (OORD-vah don-your-AHS-anna), also known as the Full Wheel or Upward Bow Pose, is an easy pose to perform with a backbend that helps you counteract depression and feelings of unhappiness while stretching and toning everything from your chest through your core musculature and spine. During each exercise, make sure to maintain a focus on your breathing.


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


This pose stretches the chest and core musculature, and props may be used to help with the following:

  • To keep feet parallel – If your proportions match the width of a block, you can place a block the long way between the inner soles of your feet, pressing the edge of the big toe as well as the edge of the inner heel into the block to keep awareness to parallel feet. Be sure that the block is wide enough to keep you at least hip width distance with the feet.
  • To keep elbows parallel – Make a loop in strap that is as wide as shoulder tip to shoulder tip. Place the strap around both of your arms, above the elbow (in the direction of the shoulder). Enter into the pose using the strap as guidance to keep elbows parallel. You may also press out into the strap to get extra lift.
  • To draw inner thighs towards one another – Place a block between your upper inner thighs (narrow width) and transition through the pose without releasing the block.
  • To aid in opening the chest and shoulders – At the wall, place two blocks shoulder width apart with the narrow side in contact with the wall. Set up for the pose, placing your hands onto the blocks so that the fingers are draping over the edge with the palm and balls of the hand firmly on the block. This will give you extra height that may be missing if you are tighter through the shoulders and chest. If you are using wooden blocks, create slack in your yoga mat first so that you can wrap the end of the yoga mat over the blocks to prevent sliding. Also helps in opening the hip flexors or low back.


Beginner (1)

Physical Benefits:

  • Expands your chest and shoulders
  • Stretches your hip flexors and core musculature
  • Stretches your wrist flexor muscles
  • Reinforces the muscles that control your shoulder blades
  • Strengthens your gluteus muscles of your hip and hamstrings at the back of your thighs
  • Supports your low back musculature
  • Relieves some forms of low back pain

Energetic Benefits:

  • Therapeutic for asthma, opening the accessory muscles of breathing
  • Stimulates the thyroid and pituitary glands
  • Counteracts depression and aid in infertility


Invocation to Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutra

This mantra, a chant invoking one of the forefathers of yoga, is often used at the beginning of classes or as an introduction to chanting the Yoga Sutra. This mantra reminds us of the healing powers of yoga and, when used at the beginning of your practice, can serve as a way to honor the history of yoga and give thanks to its lineage of teachers and the goddesses we connect with during this pose. Reciting this mantra can help remind us that yoga is meant to purify our minds, heal our bodies and impress upon us the importance of speech and breath during our practices.

The Mantra:

yogena chittasya padena vacham malam sharirasya cha vaidyakena yo ’pakarottam pravaram muninam patanjalim pranjalir anato ’smi


With palms folded together, I bow respectfully to Patanjali, the best of sages, Who dispels the impurities of the mind with Yoga, Of speech through Grammar, and of the body by means of Medicine.

Preparatory Poses:

  • Bhujangasana
  • Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
  • Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
  • Virasana

Follow-Up Poses:

  • Ardha Matsyendrasana
  • Supta Padangusthasana

Contraindications and Cautions:

Although this is a therapeutic, restorative posture, it is still recommended that caution be used if you have any of the following:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Tendonitis of the wrist
  • Low back pain aggravated by extension
  • Shoulder impingement
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache


  • The most common deviation from our foundation is the feet turning outward as we lift up into the full version of full wheel pose. Ensure the sides of your feet are parallel, which may even feel a little pigeon toed. You may also use a prop to ensure your feet stay parallel.
  • Similarly, the elbows like to wing out to the sides as we attempt to recruit more strength to lift up into the full version. The strength actually comes from the engagement of the shoulder blades on your back, with elbows isometrically drawing towards one another. You may use a prop to aid in this sensation.
  • As you transition from baby bridge to the crown of the head, do not put a lot of weight on the head itself. It is merely a balance point and you should not feel compression in the neck or skull.


  1. Lie on your back with the soles of your feet on the floor, close to your sitting bones, feet hip width apart and parallel to the sides of the mat. Place your hands on the floor just above your shoulders with fingers spread wide, finger tips pointing towards your shoulders.
  2. Take a moment to set your foundation. Root all four corners of your feet evenly. Activate your inner thighs so that they are energetically moving towards each other, but maintain hip width distance. Send your arm bones (humerus) into their sockets so that you feel your shoulder blades come on to your back. Your elbows are energetically moving towards one another but remain shoulder width distance.
  3. Press evenly into your feet and lift your hips and lower back off the mat, coming into a baby bridge. Pause. Press into your palms evenly and lift your upper torso off the mat, bringing the crown of your head to lightly touch on the mat.
  4. Reset your foundation (inner thighs and inner upper arms drawing towards each other, firmly rooting hands and feet) and press into your palms once again to straighten the arms and lift your head off the floor.
  5. Let the neck be long, relaxing with gravity. Breathe.
  6. To come out of the pose, slowly begin to bend the arms and legs, tuck the chin towards the chest, and lower your spine to the earth.

Pose Guide

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