Upward Bow or Wheel Pose  -Urdhva Dhanurasana

Step by step

  • Make sure you are fully warmed up first.
  • Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet hip-width apart, a comfortable distance away from your hips. You want to be able to ground through your feet.
  • Place your hands flat on the mat either side of your head, fingers pointing towards the shoulders, elbows pointing up.
  • Press the shoulders down into the floor - feel how that opens and even lifts the chest somewhat. Press your inner feet down to keep your knees from falling out to the sides and to activate your glutes.
  • On an inhalation, lift only the hips to the ceiling. Stay here for a breath or two.
  • Inhale and press into your hands to lift your body up. You can come either onto the crown of the head first (keeping the weight in your hands) or press up in one movement, straightening your arms as much as possible.
  • Once up in Wheel pose, think about length in the front body and an even arch in your back so you are not hinging in the lower back - you may scoop your tailbone forward slightly.
  • Work up to holding the pose for 5-10 breaths.
  • To come out, exhale and look up to the ceiling as you lower yourself down to the floor, chin to your chest, taking care not to land directly on the top of your head. 

Beginners tips

  • Work on Bridge pose and shoulder mobility poses to help prepare for the front body opening.
  • To prevent your knees and feet from splaying out to the sides, pay particular attention to your inner thighs, engaging them to rotate your thighs inwards, thereby stabilizing your knees.
  • Place blocks (their short edge) against a wall, shoulder distance apart and place the heel of your hand on the edge of the prop. Use the same actions as outlined above in the Step by Step section to come into the pose.
  • Use a strap around your upper arms and a block between your thighs.
  • Read Working on your Wheel for more ways to break down the pose and practice it in stages.

Benefits

  • Strengthens your wrists, arms, shoulders, back and thighs.
  • Opens the shoulders, chest, hip flexors, quadriceps
  • Increases your energy.
  • Creates space in the ribcage and diaphragm helping you breathe fully.

 

Watch out for

  • Depending on your body structure, you may find that your feet feel more comfortable and grounded pointing slightly outwards. However, try to keep them as parallel as is comfortably possible.
  • Keep your upper arms rotating outwards, helping to keep your elbows in line with your shoulders.
  • When coming out of the pose, tuck your chin towards your chest, lengthening the neck to gently lower down on the back of your shoulders and head.

Variations

  • For a variation of the pose, once you’re fully confident and can hold the pose for 10 breaths, explore lifting one leg at a time up to the ceiling.