Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward Facing Bow Pose
A deep backbend, Urdhva Dhanurasana (OORD-vah don-your-AHS-anna), or Upward Facing Bow pose (sometimes called Full Wheel), cultivates 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. There are many tips for safely practicing and working towards Urdhva Dhanurasana, which means there is a place for everyone to begin. As you practice, the physical benefits you achieve help build a strong foundation for your asana practice as well.
Philosophy + Origin
In some yoga traditions, Urdhva Dhanurasana is called Chakrasana – or Chakra Pose. Not only is the body forming a wheel (chakra means “wheel” in Sanskrit); it is stimulating all the energetic centers. This chakra stimulation accounts for the uplifting and energizing sensations that are felt after practice. 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.
- Place your hands on blocks resting against a wall to help elevate your upper body and better engage your shoulder blades.
- Use a strap around your upper arms to prevent the elbows from splaying as you press upward.
- Placing a block between your thighs prevents your knees and feet from splaying as you press upward.
- Intensify the posture by lifting one leg up at a time.
- You can also deepen the pose by lifting up on the balls of your feet and slowly walking
CONTRAINDICATIONS AND CAUTIONS:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Wrist tendonitis
- Low back pain, especially when aggravated by extension
- Shoulder impingement
- High blood pressure
- Heart problems
- Back or spine injury
For many, lifting into Urdhva Dhanurasana feels impossible. One reason is that the elbows splay when you begin to push into your hands, which weakens the shoulders’ ability to properly engage and help. Using a strap around the upper arms, or receiving an assist where the upper arms are pressed towards the body while the student pushes into their hands, can help properly engage the shoulders and allow people to experience the “lift-off” moment they’ve been working towards.
- Lie on your mat on your back. Bend your knees, positioning your feet so they’re about hip-width apart and as close to your sitting bones as possible. Place your palms on the ground beside your head by bending your elbows and reaching back. Try to position your hands so your forearms are at a ninety degree angle to the floor. Your fingers should be pointing toward your shoulders.
- Start to actively press into your feet, primarily focusing on the inner edges. Exhale and lift your tailbone and glutes off the floor. As you do, keep your thighs and the inner edges of your feet parallel with each other.
- Begin to press into your hands, drawing your shoulder blades down your back while keeping elbows in line with shoulders. Slightly lift your head so you can rest your crown on the floor. Pause and take a few breaths.
- Press into your feet and hands equally. As you exhale, lift your head off the floor by straightening your arms. Encourage your inner thighs down toward your mat as you firm the muscles of your outer thighs. Think about lengthening your tailbone towards the back part of your knees. Drop the head all the way back if it’s comfortable.
- Hold the pose as long as comfortable with a steady, long breath. Lower down and rest, repeating once more, or several times if you wish.
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- Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
- Supta Virasana
- Urdhva Mukha Svanasana
- Ardha Matsyendrasana
- Janu Sirsasana
- Supta Padangusthasana
- Urdhva = upward
- Dhanu = bow
- Asana = pose
- Expands chest, lungs, shoulders
- Stretches hip flexors, muscles of the abdomen, wrists
- Reinforces and instructs musculature around the shoulder blades
- Strengthens glutes, hamstrings, lower back muscles
- Relieves some low back pain
- Stimulates thyroid and pituitary glands
- Beneficial for asthma, infertility, osteoporosis
- Promotes courage and compassion
- Enlivens the chakras
- Increases energy
- Combats mild depression
Ajna, or your Third Eye, can be awakened and balanced by chanting its bija, “Kshum”. This bija mantra 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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