UPWARD BOW (WHEEL) POSE - URDHVA DHANURASANA

I feel like this is one of those poses which everyone just tries desperately to get into.  I’m not sure if it’s because we used to do it as children or perhaps it doesn’t seem that challenging when you’re just lying on your back waiting for the cues.  But it is challenging – especially when done correctly.  Obviously this pose is a great old backbend but it’s also really strengthening for the arms, wrists and legs.  As with any backbend you want to ensure that there is equal effort being made through the shoulders, legs and back/belly.  If all of the work is being done by the spine then you will most likely walk away from class clutching your lower back.  And for the Bendy Wendys out there (myself included) it’s so important to really evaluate what is working in this pose for you.  We often don’t ‘feel’ much as there is a lot of flexibility in our lumbar spine so you want to back out a little and focus on working the shoulders, legs and keeping the core engaged.  Your body will thank you for it later.  The variation I am actually demonstrating here is Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana. 

Key alignment points

  • Feet are hips width distance apart.  This is usually the first alignment point students let go of.  If the feet are wider it is easier to press up into the pose but there will be a lot of pressure in the lower back.
  • Hands come alongside the ears, fingers pointing towards the shoulders.  Here you want to squeeze your elbows towards each other so they’re not winging out.
  • Pressing the feet and hands into the floor, lift up and rest lightly on the crown of the head.  Double check that the hands, feet and elbows are still in alignment.  From here press into the hands and start to straighten out the arms coming up into the pose. 

Modifications

  • If you are struggling to get your hands into position alongside the head, you can place blocks underneath them.  This is best done against a wall.  Lie with your head near the wall and place the blocks flush against the wall, shoulder width distance apart.  Then place your hands on the blocks and start to press down into the hands to come on up.
  • If you find that your knees or feet splay open then squeeze a block between your thighs.  This will keep your inner thighs gently rotating inwards while you also firm the outer thighs.  You could also use a strap here by creating a loop and placing the legs through it so they have something to press into.

Variations

  • If you can comfortably hold wheel then you can start to work with variations.  I am demonstrating Eka Pada Urdhva Dhanurasana in this photo.  Pressing down firmly into one foot, draw the other knee into the chest.  Slowly start to extend the leg, working towards straightening it.
  • You can try lifting the heels in wheel pose and walking the hands closer towards the feet