Urdhva Dhanuranasa

Urdhva dhanurasana with extended leg
1. Lie on back on mat.

  • Place heels close to the bottom, hip distance apart
  • Hands close to the shoulders, fingers pointing to shoulders
  • Elbows flexed (pointing up)

2. Lift the hips using the gluteus maximus and then push into the hands to lift chest up.
3. Push through the back muscles and bottom to come higher.
4. Contract the quadriceps to straighten the legs and push the body back towards the hands.
5. Arms should be as straight as possible.
6. To come down, bend elbows and lower shoulders to mat, then lower hips to the mat, one vertebra at a time.
The position can be achieved from a standing position:
1. Stand at the front of the mat with hands in prayer.
2. Bend into the thoracic spine, abdominals tight to reduce the impact on the lumbar spine.
3. Push hips forward and flex into the back as you reach hands over the head, sight the ground and reach hands to it.
4. Move hands slightly closer to feet. Rock back and forward into the feet and inhale to come to standing on a forward rock.

Backbending from standing
Verbal adjustments:

  • Tighten gluteus maximus to lift hips higher
  • Tighten abdominals to protect lumbar spine
  • Tighten quads to straighten legs
  • Push into legs to bring chest forward
  • Contract gluteus medius to keep knees at hip distance.
  • Open the chest

Physical adjustments

  • Place hands at top of gluteus maximus, fingers towards spine, lift to bring hips higher.
  • Hips can be supported by teacher when practicing moving into this pose from standing.
Adjusting the pose
Muscles to strengthen:

  • Gluteus maximus  (keeps hips up)
  • Glutious medius (keeps legs together)
  • Tensor facia lata (keeps legs together/turns thigh inward/straightens knee):
  • Quadriceps (straightens knees)
  • Adductors thighs (keep legs parallel)
  • Anterior deltoid (overhead movement of arm)
  • Infraspinatus (externally rotate arms)
  • Rectus abdominus, transverse adbdominals, obliques (protect lumbar spine)
  • Hamstrings (extend hips)
  • Erector spinae muscles (contract to raise the back)

Muscles to stretch:

  • Rotator cuff
  • Posterior and Lateral Deltoids
  • Pectorialis Major
  • Iliospoas (antagonist to gluteus maximus)

Useful poses to strengthen/lengthen muscles:

  • Tadasana: tones muscles arms, shoulders, gluteus and back.
  • Purvottanasana: strengthens back muscles and shoulders.
  • Ushtrasana: spine flexibility; stretches chest, shoulders, quadriceps and hip flexors; tones the gluteus and back muscles
  • Dhanurasana: Tones muscles of back, arms, shoulders and thighs; flexibility of spine; expands front of the body
  • Naukasana: strengthen back muscles; tones gluts and hamstrings; flexibility of spine
  • Bhujangasana: strengthens abs, back and quads; increases flexibility of hamstrings.
  • Sethu Bandhasana: flexibility of spine; stretches hip flexors and quads; tones gluts and back.
  • Trikonasana: tones leg muscles including tensor facia lata; tones and stretches muscles along side of the body; increases flexibility of the hips; expands the hips.
  • Naukasana: strengthens transverse abdominus, rectus abdominus and obliques; tones quads and adductors.
  • Surya Namaskar: poses such as downward dog strengthen external rotation in shoulder and general strength throughout the body, variations which include some form of backbending can begin to warm up the body for backbending.
  • Pigeon pose: stretches hipflexors and gluteus maximus
  • Surya Namaskar: stretches hipflexors, hamstrings, back and arm muscles
  • Gomukhasana: stretches arms and shoulders
  • Eagle: stretches arms and shoulders, strengthens internal rotating muscles in legs.

Options or variations:
NOTE: this pose requires strength in the arms, shoulders and back. Do not perform without supervision if you have injuries of this nature. Ensure you engage your abdominal muscles to protect your lumbar spine.

  • Once in full backbend can lift one foot, bringing it to tabletop in the air, lengthen to straight, as vertical as possible. Then change over to the other leg.
  • Sethu Bandhasana is a variation that can be performed prior to attempting the full pose:
Sethu Bandhasana
  1. Lie flat on back, hands by side of the body, heels close to bottom and hip width apart
  2. Inhale lift bottom and arch back upwards
  3. Exhale to contract and lift the bottom
  4. On next inhalation lift chest and push as high as possible
  5. Interlace fingers and press firmly on the floor
  6. Rotate arms outwards to engage the triceps, come onto tops of shoulders
  7. Release hands and exhale to lower spine one vertebrae at the time to the floor
  • Can place block under hips to stretch and lengthen hip flexors without placing so much force on hips.
  • If hard to stretch into hip flexors, can keep hips lower: body in one straight line from hips to shoulders to strengthen the bottom muscles.
Lower variation

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