5 Steps For Getting Into Urdhva Dhanurasana
Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Facing Bow) is a beautiful but challenging pose for many people. It requires the student to bring several things to the table: open hips, open shoulders, strength, flexibility, confidence, and a general knowledge of integrating several moving pieces in the body at once.
And while the challenges are real, so are the benefits. Urdhva Dhanurasana helps to create space in your chest, shoulders, hips, and core. It’s great for the flexor muscles in the wrists as well as the muscles in and around the shoulders. It has been known to help alleviate back pain, especially in the low back and has also been shown to be helpful in improving ones ability to breathe effectively (great for asthma sufferers!). Urdhva Dhanurasana, like many backbends, is thought to stimulate specific glands in the body (such as thyroid and pituitary), which has been shown to help improve depression and infertility.
Before practicing this pose it is important that you are warmed up thoroughly. Spend some time opening the shoulders and hips or moving through a few rounds of Sun Salutations.
Step 1: Lie down on your back with your knees bent. Your feet should be hip-width apart with toes pointing forward (sides of your feet parallel to the long edges of your mat). Position your feet so that your ankles are under the knee joints. Bring your attention to your low back. Do your best to lengthen your lower back now while still on the floor by pointing your tailbone towards your heels.
Step 2: Add your hands by placing them by your ears with your fingers facing your toes. Your elbows will be bent, but it’s important to not let them splay out wide. Continue to focus your attention on your low back, breathing into that area to create space and length.
Step 3: Lift your pelvis off the ground. Release the glutes muscles. Soften your inner thighs down towards your mat and tone your lower belly. The toning of your lower belly is similar to what you would do if you were trying to wiggle on a tight pair of jeans. Lengthen your side waists at the same time.
Step 4: Lift onto the top of your head. Take time here to plug your shoulders into the shoulder joints. By doing this you will help to distribute the opening evenly into your back once you lift up and it also helps to open your chest more effectively.
Step 5: Lift up off the top of your head and into the full pose. Straighten the arms. Release the glutes muscles. Continue to soften the flesh of your inner thighs down to help avoid compression in the lower back. Continue to lengthen the sides of your waist. Breathe deeply and as evenly as possible.
If you are having a hard time pressing up, try taking your hands wider than shoulder width apart and adjusting your feet so that they are shoulder width instead of hip width apart.
You can sometimes find more space and access the pose more easily by turning your hands and feet out at a 45-degree angle rather than keeping them parallel to the long sides of your mat.
To help build endurance, when you are tired from working in the pose rather than lowering all the way down to a flat back, try to remain just on the top of your head. Take a few moments to breathe in this position and then try lifting back up again. Doing this again and again is a great way to build the strength you need to comfortably stay in the pose for a longer period of time.