Banging on about Back Bends – Urdhva Dhanurasana


Upward Bow or Wheel Pose. One of my favourite asanas. I enjoy the practice leading up to full wheel as it allows for some creativity. I like to include gentle back bending in the initial flows; like slight back bends in Crescent Lunge during the Surya Namaskar B to warm the spine and core muscles slowly.

Urdhva Dhanurasana requires a huge amount of flexibility in the hip flexors (Iliopsoas), a group of muscles that are constantly in a state of flexion during our every day life; sitting, walking, driving the car, it all take its toll on our hip flexors. Before performing a strong back bend like Wheel Pose it is important to warm up the Iliopsoas and their assisting muscles, the thigh muscles (quadriceps). This is another reason I like Wheel so much, it gives me the opportunity to include deep hip flexor stretches like Anjayneasana as preparation poses.

To open our chest in this way also requires the flexibility of another group of muscles that is prone to flexion on a daily basis, our pectorals. Even now as I type away my pectorals (chest muscles) are in a state of contraction/flexion. My shoulders are rounding forward and my neck is taking the brunt of my poor posture. How good does it feel to stretch your arms open wide after you’ve been sat at your office desk or driving for a long time? It feels great doesn’t it. Our bodies benefit from engaging our under used back muscles and lengthening through our overused chest muscles and this is exactly what back bending is all about.

Regarding wellness, back bends are the best asanas to counter depression, low self-esteem, fear and lethargy as they lift and open the chest, lungs and diaphragm. A place where many hold tension. It also takes courage to open the chest in this way as in doing so we expose our heart. The human psyche dictates that we should protect the heart, not just physiologically but psychologically too. Therefore opening the chest in this way also opens the heart to the world symbolising the acceptance of oneself and the willingness to share that with others. A brave act indeed.

So in short the benefits are:

  • Stretches the chest, lungs, hip flexors and thighs.
  • Strengthens the arms and wrists, legs, buttocks, abdomen, and spine.
  • Counter depression and lethargy
  • Improve self-esteem
  • Improve confidence
  • Stretches the chest and hip flexors
  • Emotionally releasing
  • Demand strength and will power – empowering pose
  • Energize the body and mind

(If you have any other great benefits that you would like to add then please get in touch through my contact page)

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