In the world of yoga, Urdhva Dhanurasana (Wheel) is a great heart opening asana. As essential as it is, it should be done after the body is warmed up. This pose is placed near the closing sequence of the Ashtanga Primary series, after the body have been warmed up with 5 sets Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutations) A and B, followed by a series of standing and sitting asanas.
If you are not practicing the Ashtanga series, do make sure that you are warmed up with a few rounds of Surya Namaskar, followed by a few baby back bends such as Bhujangasanas (Cobra) and Urdhva Mukha Swanasana (Upward Dog) before getting into the final pose.
1. Lying supine on the floor, bending your knees and placing your feet hip width apart, toes pointing to the front.
2. Place your hands next to your ears, elbows facing up and fingers pointing towards shoulders.
3. With the next exhale, engage your thighs, and begin by pushing your buttocks, your lower back, mid back, upper back and sequentially your head off the ground.
4. Stay here for 5 breaths, with each exhale, attempt to straighten your legs and arms by pushing your chest away from the shoulders. This will open up the mid back.
5. Repeat the steps for about 4-5 times, each attempt trying to bring the hands closer to the feet.
Whenever you feel ready, or your teacher says you are, attempt the dropback to Urdhva Dhanurasana. Dropping back is not only a complete sense of trust on yourself, it is also a sense of awareness of your body’s strength and flexibility.
The strength to drop back and come back up requires the strength from your thighs. While flexibility at the middle and upper back requires longer and consistent practice, you may begin by using the wall to assist in your drop back.
To drop back (with or without the wall):
1. Stand in Tadasana (Mountain) position. bring your palms to prayers position in front of your chest, lift your chest and ribs up and away from your pelvis.
2. Gently push your pelvis forward and this oppositional force will allow the head to drop back further. Keep engaging the thighs here. Keep them strong and activated. This will soften the spine and allow a deeper bend.
3. When you see the wall, or mat behind you, slowly release your hands to the side and your strong hands will go towards to floor and be ready to catch you when you land in Urdhva Dhanurasana.
The “Air” time, I called it, is when your hands are still in the air, waiting to land on the floor to hold you in Urdhva Dhanurasana. This is the point where most of us starts to panic and lose our focus to engage the correct muscles. When you are here, think of strong thighs, think of drawing the inner thighs together to keep them actively engaged.
With practice, you will get more and more comfortable with this “Air” time.
Still not confident? Grab a partner or even ask your teacher to support your back when you practice the asana. They will be more than glad to help!
March 2015 (weekday)
200 Hr YTT