Urdhva Dhanurasana: Upward Facing Bow Pose

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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.

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.

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:

SEQUENTIAL POSES:

COUNTER POSES:

SANSKRIT:

  • Urdhva = upward
  • Dhanu = bow
  • Asana = pose

BENEFITS:

  • 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.


Parsvottanasana: Intense Side Stretch Pose

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ADJUSTMENTS    |     BENEFITS    |     SEQUENCING    |     SANSKRIT    |     STEPS

From lengthening the spine to stretching the legs to calming the mind, there’s a little bit of everything in parsvottanasana (parsh-voh-tahn-AHS-ah-nah) Also known as intense side stretch pose or pyramid pose, this shape is helpful for finding balance while stretching hamstrings.

Parsvottanasana requires a combination of flexibility, strength, and patience. With the help of props such as blocks or a wall, the\is pose becomes accessible for everyone.

ADJUSTMENTS/MODIFICATIONS:

  • Blocks: Place hands on blocks to help keep the torso long.
  • Wall: Place hands on a wall in front of you to work on strengthening the muscles of the back.
  • Heart opening variation: Take the hands in reverse prayer position behind the back to stretch and open your shoulders and chest while also challenging your balance. If reverse prayer isn’t accessible, you can still bring the arms behind the back, reaching for opposite elbows instead.
  • Adjust your stance: If the back heel is lifted off of the floor, shorten the stance so you can push through the heel to activate the back leg. For more stability, widen your stance.
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