Urdhva Dhanurasana / Chakrasana : The Wheel of Power!

How to pronounce

OORD-vah don-your-AHS-anna

Urdhva = upward ; Dhanu = bow

Introduction

Urdhva Dhanurasana or Wheel Pose is a symmetrical back bending arm support pose and part of the finishing sequence in the primary series of Ashtanga Yoga. Urdhva Dhanurasana stimulates the Manipura Charka located at the Naval which gives you the feeling of being alive and active.

Reflections on Urdhva Dhanurasana

Urdhva Dhanurasana is one of my favourite asana as is it both alluring and interesting at the same time. For some beginners it might be quite challenging to practice this asana. As I took some gymnastic lessons when I was 13, performing and holding on to this pose seems fun to me. I named Urdhva Dhanurasana as the wheel of power because practicing the pose revitalizes me. Perhaps this is why kids love doing this exercise too!

How to get in

  1. Lie on the back
  2. Bend the knees, bringing the soles of the feet parallel on the mat close to the buttocks
  3. Bend the elbows and bring the palms of your hands underneath your shoulders with the fingertips pointing towards your feet
  4. Inhale and press down into the palms as you lift the hips up off the floor
  5. Bring the crown of your head to the mat. Pause here for a moment as you make sure that the elbows are staying parallel and not splaying out to the sides
  6. Straighten the arms as you lift the head off the floor
  7. Make sure to keep the legs parallel
  8. Reach the chest towards to wall behind you
  9. Begin to straighten the legs
  10. To come down, tuck the chin into the chest and lower down slowly

For beginners:-

  • Take the hands a little wider before you push up.
  • Try the pose at the wall. Take two blocks and place them leaning on the wall at 45 degree angles Put each hand on a block.
  • Have someone stand behind you and hold their ankles instead of putting the hands on the floor.

For advance:-

  • Lift one leg at a time straight up to the ceiling
  • Come into the pose from standing and/or come up to stand from the pose

Things to look out

  • The most common mistake is the feet turning outward as we lift up into the full version of the pose. Ensure the sides of your feet stay parallel
  • Similarly, the elbows tend to wing out to the sides as we attempt to gather more strength to lift up the back. The strength would thus comes from the shoulder blades on your back. Ensure elbows are to face inwards
  • As you transit from baby bridge to the crown of the head, do not put a lot of weight on the head itself. It is merely a balance point and you should not feel compression in the neck or skull

Breathing

Many student may feel frustrated by their inability to take deep and long full breath in Urdhava Dhanurasana. This is because in the posture, the body is stabilized in a maximal inhalation, and there is very little one can do to expand further if attempting to inhale deeply. Therefore, focus on Ujayi Breathing is preferable.

Joint actions

  • Full-spine extension
  • Hip extension, adduction
  • Knee extension
  • Ankle plantar flexion
  • Scapula upward rotation, elevation
  • Shoulder flexion
  • Elbow extension
  • Forearm pronation
  • Wrist dorsiflexion
  • Hand and finger extension

Lengthening muscle parts

  • Leg: Rectus femoris, psoas major and iliacus
  • Torso: Abdominal muscles and anterior rib cage muscle, primarily internal intercostals and anterior neck muscles
  • Arms: Pectoralis major and minor, latissimus dorsi

Benefits

  • Expands the chest and shoulders
  • Stretches the hip flexors and core musculature
  • Stretches the wrist flexor muscles
  • Strengthens the muscles that control your shoulder blades
  • Strengthens the gluteus muscles of the hip and hamstrings at the back of your thighs
  • Strengthens the low back musculature
  • Relieves some forms of low back pain
  • Therapeutic for asthma, opening the accessory muscles of breathing
  • Traditionally thought to stimulate the thyroid and pituitary glands, counteract depression and aid in infertility

Cautions

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or tendonitis of the wrist
  • Low Back pain aggravated by extension
  • Shoulder impingement
  • High Blood pressure
  • Headache