Urdhva Dhanurasana or upward facing bow is an intermediate/advanced backbend offering many benefits to the body, mind and spirit. It forms part of the finishing sequence to the Ashtanga Primary Series and is a great pose to include in your own practice. It is also sometimes known as Chakrasana or Wheel Pose because it is said to ignite all 8 Chakras keeping all the energies and processes in the body in harmony and health.
- Wheel pose strengthens and lengthens the vertebrae, which increases elasticity and flexibility of the spine. As we age, our spines compress and stiffen so it is important to move and bend in a way that maintains, stimulates and increases flexibility and strength. Wheel can help with some lower back issues because it strengthens the lower back musculature.
- Wheel pose strengthens and stretches your arms, wrists, abdomen, legs, shoulders and chest, so expect smooth, toned muscles. It can be a tough pose to get up into (hence the use of props), a challenging pose to maintain for five breaths or more and it requires good strength, flexibility and a lot of energy. Often not what you have at the end of a class. HOWEVER, the alignment of spine and energy systems is so powerful that you get a big burst of energy and a sense of lightness and joy. Perhaps it is just the sense of achievement!
- This pose opens up the chest and strengthens the lungs. Wheel is also instrumental in allowing increased amounts of oxygen into the rib cage. Respiration will undoubtedly improve. Studies have shown that wheel induces therapeutic effects in practitioners with asthma. Remember to breathe deeply while holding the posture.
- Wheel enhances the nervous system and improves hormone secretions that keep your body in optimal health. The hormonal balance that is attributed to wheel is said to aid in fertility.
- As you stretch in wheel pose, you remove fat buildup from your oblique area. When practiced regularly, you may notice a slimming effect.
- It works to loosen tight hips, hence, increased hip flexibility.
- Wheel Pose energises you physically and mentally. Yogis believe it counteracts stress, depression and anxiety. This is due to stimulation of the thyroid and pituitary glands when engaged in the posture. You definitely feel good after practicing wheel as mentioned before.
- Wheel is a full body pose that can reduce the onset of osteoporosis.
- Wheel pose is said to ignite all eight of the chakras, keeping all the processes of the body in harmony with each other.
- Urdhva Dhanurasanan pose is a heart opening backbend. Heart openers are intended to cure any broken hearts from our past, while allowing ourselves new opportunity for love. Backbends require a bit of vulnerability, but you will soon be shining your heart and light to the world.
Tips for good practice…and use of props
It is recommended to hold wheel pose for one to three minutes, gradually increasing the time with practice. This is equivalent to 3 to 15 long deep breaths. Don’t worry if you have not incorporated wheel pose into your practice yet. It comes with time and your hips and shoulders need to be open and strong. Better to work up to this intermediate/ advanced back bend than sustain an injury. Use bridge pose as an earlier krama or stage. You use many of the same muscles and concepts but it is more accessible.
At times, the efforts called for in a difficult pose like Wheel may seem impossible. You may even feel like moving on to another pose you like better. Keep trying, build and cultivate patience and persistence and the rewards will be yours!
Yoga poses, particularly advanced poses, have extreme health benefits but also contraindications. You should perform this pose with extreme caution if you have suffered a back injury, have carpal tunnel syndrome, heart irregularities, regular headaches, shoulder impingement or high or low blood pressure.
As you transition 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.
See you on the mat!