Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward-Facing Bow
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.
- Urdhva: upward
- Dhanu: bow
- Asana: pose
- Expands chest, lungs, shoulders.
- Stretches hip flexors, muscles of the abdomen, wrists.
- Strengthens glutes, hamstrings, lower back muscles.
- Promotes courage and compassion.
- Enlivens the chakras.
- Increases energy.
- Bridge pose | Setu bandha sarvangasana
- Reclined hero pose | Supta virasana
- Upward facing dog | Urdhva mukha svanasana
- One-legged upward facing bow | Eka pada urdhva dhanurasana
- Wheel pose | Chakrasana
- King dancer pose | Natarajasana
- Half lord of the fishes pose | Ardha matsyendrasana
- Head to knee pose | Janu sirsasana
- Reclined hand to foot pose | Supta padangusthasana
- 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.
- Lie on your your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor, like you’re moving toward bridge pose.
- Place your palms on the ground beside your ears, fingertips facing your shoulders.
- Press into your feet, especially the big toe ball mound.
- Exhale to lift your tailbone and hips off the floor. Squeeze your thighs toward each other so your knees point straight ahead.
- Press into your hands to bring the crown of your head to the ground. Pause here for a breath.
- Draw your shoulder blades down your back while keeping elbows in line with shoulders. Press into your feet and hands equally.
- Exhale to straighten your arms and lift your head off the floor.
- Squeeze your inner thighs toward each other and down toward your mat (internal rotation). Lengthen your tailbone toward the back of your knees.
- Drop your head all the way back if comfortable.
- Hold the pose for up to a minute with a steady, long breath. Lower down and rest, option to repeat.
Can Yoga Sculpt Your Body?
As a personal trainer and yoga teacher I often get asked this question: Can yoga really sculpt my body? The answer is yes. Yoga is a totally viable form of exercise.
Dr. Dean Ornish’s famous studies found that the relaxation you receive from practicing yoga and meditation are just as important for the prevention of heart disease as the fitness benefits of cardio. I started doing yoga because I wanted the yoga booty. Ultimately what keeps me going, over a decade later, is the sense of inner peace I feel after each and every class. You can’t mimic this same feeling after lifting weights for an hour. In our fast-paced world, this is the mass appeal of yoga.
Yoga lets you sculpt, tone, and mold your body using your body weight, instead of using weights to increase your muscle mass. This builds leaner muscles, with more natural tone and definition. Bone is living and is continually being absorbed and renewed. Weight-bearing exercise, like balancing on one leg in tree pose (vrksasana), puts healthy stress on your bones. This causes new bone to be laid down in the stressed areas, thus strengthening your bones and helping to prevent osteoporosis. Also, yoga moves your joints through a full range of motion. This helps in the prevention of osteoarthritis. As we become older, balance and coordination become a concern. Yoga helps us to keep our freedom into old age.
To really get a workout you need to up the intensity by practicing a more vigorous style of yoga like power vinyasa. You could also try holding postures for a longer period of time, or moving through the same postures several times.
Ultimately, yoga increases your body awareness and helps you to feel more comfortable in your own skin. When you feel good about yourself, you radiate that out into the world.
Yoga teaches us mindfulness. When we are mindful, we make better lifestyle choices. We eat healthier and drink more water. Overall, we are happier, kinder people. As your yoga practice evolves, so will you. Allow it to be an exciting journey into the deepest layers of yourself.
Try different styles of yoga to challenge your muscles in new ways. Keep your routine exciting and fun to prevent boredom.