3.23.2010

Asana of the Week: Urdhva Dhanurasana

I've decided to start a new weekly feature which will focus on a particular asana-- whatever is challenging, inspiring, or requiring some exploration in my practice each week. The first Asana of the Week is Urdhva Dhanurasana.

Urdhva Dhanurasana has become one of my favorite asanas. I have grown to love the intensity of the stretch, the deep opening across the front of the body, and the sense of weightlessness I experience afterwards as my heart pounds its way back to a normal rhythm. I also love the play space in this position. The options are so many: walk in the hands, walk in the feet, or both. Look down and back between your hands, or gently hang the head. Straight legs. Bent knees. Lift one leg. Drop back. Stand up. There are just so many places to take this asana, and there's always another variation to aspire to.

My love for Urdhva Dhanurasana stems from a long and troubled relationship. I have been practicing this asana, or trying to, since I first began rolling out my mat on a regular basis almost three years ago. It was included toward the end of the sequence I practiced from Linda Sparrow's The Women's Book of Yoga and Health, so I tried it every time I practiced, in spite of the pain and fear.

Early on in my yoga adventure, I had a tendency to think that every struggle I faced on the mat was the result of a lack of strength, be it physical or mental, so I muscled my way through many postures that I should not have attempted at that point in my practice. I was not ready for Urdhva Dhanurasana, and it was not because I was weak. It took me far too long to realize that much of my trouble in UD was due to tension in my shoulders and chest, and because of this, I strained, slipped out of the pose, and hurt my right shoulder a few times before I figured it out. But, alas, I did figure it out. I have been slowly and carefully working on opening my shoulders, and the change in my Urdhva Dhanurasana is enormous.

These days, I practice two or three Urdhva Dhanurasanas every time I hit the mat (with the exception of restorative days), and it's always one of the highlights of my practice. Just in the last couple of practices, I've played with lifting one leg. I haven't tried fully exentending the lifted leg -- I'm still just feeling out where my support is going to come from, but I'm hooked on the energy build of the backbends, and nothing electrifies the entire body like a big backbend.

5 comments:

  1. I love your wheel - it's great. It's crazy how exposed I feel after this posture...opening up those chakras makes me feel super vulnerable.

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  2. Cool feature! I also LOVE UD... it's such an empowering pose... but yes, it's important not to forget the journey!

    Jamie - heart chakra poses are like that aren't they? They completely illustrate the transformation from fear to liberation. :)

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  3. Urdhva Dhanurasan is the fovourite asan in my practice. Proper practice of this asan does really help to increase one's self confidence besides the health benefits. One can go from this version to the ek pada version as well as viparita dandasan version. The options are many. I would like to thank Megan for providing such wonderful explanation. I think that if one can master the bridge pose then he/she can get a grip of these power back bends.

    Regards
    CA. Abhishek Sanyal

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    Replies
    1. You absolutely right, Abhishek. Urdhva Dhanurasana is the gateway to bigger and more powerful backbends.

      And thank you for your kind regards. I appreciate you taking the time to read and leave comments.

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    2. You are most welcome Megan. I should thank you in the first place because by reading through you explanations on various asans, I have learnt quite a few asans in last 2 months. Today I can practice at a strech for 1-1.5 hours. Previously I knew a little bit of breathing pranayams but nothing more. Besides being one of the greatest Ashthanga yogi, I think you are a great teacher too. The way you have documented this blog is really great because you have made Ashthanga reach out to even those who have no previous yoga knowledge. Please accept this as a humble regard and thanks from a student. Looking forward to learn more from you.

      Regards
      CA. Abhishek Sanyal

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