Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward Facing Bow Pose
Urdhva dhanurasana (OORD-vah don-your-AHS-ah-nah) is a deep backbend that can cultivate flexibility, strength, and patience.
Philosophy + Origin
Urdhva dhanurasana is thought to increase 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bridge pose | Setu bandha sarvangasana
- Camel pose | Ustrasana
- Upward facing dog | Urdhva mukha svanasana
- Head to knee pose | Janu sirsasana
- Knees to chest pose | Apanasana
- Urdhva = upward
- Dhanu = bow
- Asana = pose
- Expands chest, lungs, and shoulders.
- Stretches hip flexors, muscles of the abdomen, and wrists.
- Strengthens glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
- Thought to increase vitality.
Malasana: Squat Pose or Garland Pose
A great stretch for ankles and the lower back, Malasana (mahl-AH-sana), which is also referred to as Squat or Garland pose, opens the groin and tones the belly. While comfortable for some, Malasana can be difficult for others. Appropriate adjustments and modifications can help students enjoy the benefits of this posture while strengthening and opening the muscles needed to practice Malasana and other postures.
Philosophy + Origin
There are many beautiful attempts to defend the translation of Malasana as “Garland Pose.” While mala most commonly refers to a garland or rosary, many students have a difficult time understanding how this imagery applies to the pose. Some teachers argue that the shape of the body depicts the bead on a mala, or perhaps the arms look like a mala or garland hanging from the neck. Other teachers will use the story of how this posture is traditionally taken when receiving the gift of a garland from a spiritual teacher. While all very poetic, there’s another lesser-known understanding of Malasana that makes more sense. The word mala can also be translated as excrement. Considering the digestive benefits of this posture, it makes a lot more sense.