Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward Facing Bow Pose

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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.

Philosophy + Origin

According to yogic texts, urdhva dhanurasana actually increases the vital life force in the body, specifically around the heart. When practiced regularly and with dedication, even if the “full” pose is never achieved, upward facing bow pose can awaken courage, compassion, and radiance in the mind and spirit.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Blocks on the wall: Place two blocks 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.

CONTRAINDICATIONS:

  • Wrist issues
  • Shoulder impingement
  • High blood pressure
  • Headache
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart problems
  • Back or spine injury or pain

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.

PREPARATORY POSES:

FOLLOW-UP POSES:

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.
  • Stimulates thyroid and pituitary glands.

ENERGETIC BENEFITS:

  • Promotes courage and compassion.
  • Enlivens the chakras.
  • Increases energy.
  • Lifts overall mood.

MANTRA:

Ajna Bija

Ajna, or the third eye, can be awakened and balanced by chanting its seed sound, “kshum”. This bija mantra (seed sound) can produce a more open mind while enjoying a more awakened state.

MUDRA: Ajna Mudra

To practice the mudra associated with opening and balancing the third eye, bring the palms of your hands together. Bend your index, ring and pinky fingers so that they touch at the second knuckle. This mudra is also sometimes referred to as “kaleshwar” mudra.

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