Asana of the Week: Parsva Dhanurasana

Since I've recently proclaimed this as my nemesis pose, I think it's only fair to explore Parsva Dhanurasana (Side Bow Pose) a little more deeply in the spirit of equal regard.

Parsva Dhanurasana is a strong asymmetrical backbend that strengthens the spinal extensors and quadriceps as it stretches the psoas and pectoralis.  Even though it appears that both sides of the body are aligned alike, the muscular actions required to create this shape while lying on one's side are not symmetrical.  The top leg must be used more strongly to pull the body open, toning the quadriceps.  The more the body opens with this action, the more the psoas of the bottom leg is stretched.

Enter this posture from Dhanurasana (pictured right).  Inhale to lift to the center and with the exhale, roll onto your right side.  Rather than "kicking" over by swinging your knees, try to initiate the roll by the pressing the right ankle more strongly into the right hand, using the quadriceps as if to straighten the leg.  Maintain the shape of Dhanurasana as you transition, including the position of the head which is tipped back down the centerline of the body.  Gaze past the tip of the nose to soften your facial muscles and prevent compression at the back of the neck.

Other side
After five breaths on the right side, inhale back to the state of Dhanurasana and exhale onto your left side using the quadriceps to initiate the roll.  Stay for five breaths.  If your neck becomes tired or strained, rest your head on the floor.  If you feel discomfort in the knees, try dorsiflexion rather than a pointed foot.  There is a tendency for the top knee to splay open, but do your best to keep the knees close together, if not touching.  To release, first inhale back to Dhanurasana.  For a challenge, stay in Dhanurasana for five more breaths. When you're done, with an exhalation, release your grasp on the ankles and lower slowly to the mat.

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